Judging by this week’s title, this must be the bi-monthly episode where a woman character drives the plot! Also, I guess this might be a callback to the season opener’s title? For those of you who jam a knitting needle into your ear after reading each one of these reviews and don’t remember the name, Elaine is Larry’s sister. I’m super-excited to get a glimpse into Larry’s family of origin and how badly it stunted his development.
Anyway, we see the Caldwell Hotel at night, which is fitting for this, the twilight of season two.
The cousins are looking at a photo album, and Balki coos over the baby pictures of both Elaine and Larry. Because the photos don’t actually exist, Larry and Balki just talk about them. A couple of the photographs are what you’d expect to be embarrassing – Larry after Elaine shaved his head (they remembered! all the way back from “The Unnatural” they remembered!) — Larry with a broken arm. And… shouldn’t the looking-through-the-baby-pictures bit be for when, I don’t know, Jennifer meets Larry’s family? Anyway, I guess they had to reestablish who Elaine was for the audience. I’m the only person who’s paid this much attention to the show in over 25 years.
Also, they don’t turn the pages of this photo album, meaning that there are two pictures of Larry years apart, and one of his piano teacher, on the same page, which seems weird to me. I’m the only person who’s thought this much about the show… ever. But what’s weirder than that is 1) how calm Larry is, and 2) how Balki’s handwriting changed since the first season. I mean, hasn’t it been long established that Larry was the runt of the litter, and served as general punching bag for the rest of the Appleton clan? Wasn’t Larry horrified at the idea that Elaine would get to be the Christmas Boy on his year?
Elaine comes in and hugs Larry and Balki. She keeps calling Larry “noogie” until it registers with Balki that it’s his cue to ask about the name. And then Elaine starts laughing, and now Larry looks nervous. Yes, this is it, we’re going two for two on episodes where Larry gets hurt on-screen, here it–
She… just gives him a noogie. You know, like every noogie you’ve ever gotten from a sibling. Oh gee, Larry, what a terrible childhood you must have had. Elaine sits down and tells Balki she wants to hear all about his time in America. Wow, okay, this is good. Certainly after 26 episodes, Balki’s had some time to reflect on his experiences and will have something deep and insightful to say.
He… just confuses “sushi” with “tennis” somehow and they move on to more exposition. Either the joke is that Balki’s got a long way to go, the show needs to get on to the plot, or the show just doesn’t want to acknowledge that Balki should have grown at all. The plot, by the way, is that Elaine has decided that, instead of going to college, she’s going to New York to continue to study piano.
The idea of New York excites Balki so much that he makes the same face I did when I went to New York and… actually New York was pretty cool. I went to NYCC and the original Sbarro’s, and just walked around some nice neighborhoods. Larry gets upset and tells Elaine that not going to college is going to throw off her whole life schedule, and didn’t Larry learn a lesson about that last season?
Elaine gets upset and says she needs to use the restroom, and Balki, ever the polite host, explains to her that their restroom is indoors. The hell? I mean, I get that we needed to reintroduce Elaine with that expository scene, but did we really need to be reminded that Balki shits outdoors this late in the second season?
Then Larry realizes that he may finally have found the key to getting what you want when you’re in a buddy sitcom. Since Balki’s always right, and everyone knows to trust Balki, all Larry really needs to do is find the right words to manipulate Balki. He’s been watching. He’s been learning. The leverage point is family, and the lever is a guilt trip. Larry uses Balki’s own power against him so that it can be directed to his own ends. He sends Balki and Elaine off to a restaurant so that Balki can convince Elaine to go to college.
When they return, it’s quickly (for this show) established that Cousin Elaine has brought Balki over to her side, but that Elaine doesn’t want to talk to Larry about it. She’s scared to talk to him? After all that we’ve heard about her this season? About how she used him as a ski jump? Geez. Cousin Elaine sends Balki on a guilt trip, and I’m finally starting to see the family resemblance; maybe Balki’s not so distant a cousin after all.
Larry comes out of the bathroom, and he’s acting pretty full of himself, fully expecting Elaine to apologize to him, having seen the error of her ways. I’ll admit, I feel pretty great about things after a good shit, too. Elaine decides to let Balki explain her decision, and excuses herself to the bedroom. Hey, if Elaine’s in Larry’s room…
Larry: Tonight, both sides of the bed are the hot side.
Balki: Ohhh, Cousin, you are too kind. But first we talk about how Elaine go to New York.
Balki runs off to the bathroom, and I’m sure I could develop this really great analysis of how closing the bathroom door functions as a symbol of wanting to shut out whatever Larry has to say (when Larry came out of the bathroom, the door was already open), but I’m frustrated as hell at this point, because the show just made clear that this week’s lesson is going to be that Larry has to let Elaine follow her dreams. Dreams, people. The whole reason Balki’s in America. The whole reason Larry came to Chicago. This is not a lesson Larry should have to learn. Anyway, you’re not getting any more deep analysis out of me about the bathroom, other than that characters keep going there because they, as well as the show, are full of shit. Moving on.
There’s a nice little joke after the commercials where Elaine pours Larry a cup of coffee and Balki references those old Yuban ads.
Elaine calls Larry childish, which gives us this episode’s best line:
Larry: If I were to run off to the Yukon to pan for gold, that would be childish.
Elaine decides to just leave, leaving more time for Balki and Larry to fight, which is what the show is all about anyway. Larry calls New York “Helltown”, and I’m actually glad he does, because it gave me a chance to read a little bit on New York in the 80s. I grew up hearing New York be the butt of the joke in terms of being an awful, rude, scary, dirty city, even well into the 90s (mostly from The Simpsons and The Critic), but never with such hatred as is in Larry’s voice for that line. I guess I knew that crack was big in the 80s, and that New York was awful in the 80s, but I never put the two together.
Balki continues to try to convince Larry about the beauty of dreams, but Larry covers his ears and starts singing the Flintstones theme. Balki says that songs are his bit and starts tickling him.
Since this week’s lesson can’t reach Larry through his ears, Balki decides to go for one of his other 5 orifices. Balki gets Larry to agree that a third location would be a perfect neutral ground to listen to Elaine play the piano. It’s always restaurants with this show, isn’t it?
All right! A bunch of guys who will certainly beat Balki up when he tries out that “hey mommo” crap again.
Yep. Balki is cruisin’ for a bruisin’ here.
He… just shakes hands with the owner of the restaurant. Listen, show, I’m not long hair (so quit letting me down like this). Leroy then calls Larry “Noogie”, which got a legitimate laugh out of me, I don’t know why. Elaine claims to have read about the bar in Rolling Stone, saying that “they have great jazz”, which is now going to be the selling point I use for just about everything. By the way, this very well could have been the issue of Rolling Stone that Cousin Elaine read before coming to Chicago:
So, headcanon: Elaine bought it for the “On Campus” section, with its “Breaking Into the Music Biz” article, and decided to just forge her own way.
Larry explains that he’s afraid that Elaine can’t make it in New York, so Elaine tries the Hail Mary pass of making Larry actually listen to her play the piano. All right! Elaine may not be one of Larry’s abusive siblings, but we’re in Leroy’s Jazz Bar now, and Elaine’s about to let loose with some rockin’ tunes!
She… just starts in on some classical music. Yes, waltz into a jazz bar with a predominantly black clientele and play some compositions by dead white guys from hundreds of years ago, just to please your older white brother.
They all come back, having been beaten black and blue. Nah, j/k, everybody loved them because they’re white on a sitcom. Ultimately, Larry stops being a dick about things because Elaine’s a good piano player, not because she has a dream. Because, you know, God forbid a woman be granted the same privilege you squander week to week, Larry. But then Larry says that it doesn’t matter what he thinks, because she’ll do what she wants to do, and he’s okay with that. So… wow. Bravo. Elaine goes to bed. Roll credi–
Oh, wait, no, that can’t possibly be an okay way to approach women’s agency, because Balki Ricardo shows up, with an “ay-yi-yi” this time. Balki points out that she wanted Larry’s blessing. You know, that lesson Larry learned back when Balki was trying to date Carol? Balki then says some more stuff about dreams, Larry gives in, and Balki retrieves Elaine from the bedroom. Larry says he hopes that Balki knocking on her door didn’t wake her; no, Larry, the shouting you guys do all the time did.
Then Balki gives the greater lesson of the episode: that neither of these siblings is being honest with each other, and that both keep trying to use Balki to relay messages. So the music comes on and Larry and Elaine share a touching moment reminiscing about the time Larry broke his arm falling out of the tree Elaine got stuck in when they were kids. They each reveal that the other was their favorite, and then they hug
and then Balki hugs them
and now I’m going to go hug all my coworkers, because they all have beautiful dreams (except for you; you know who you are, and you’re sick).
So, okay, I guess I was just making too much of the show’s previous mentions of Elaine. For what it’s worth, the show was consistent with what it said about her; it’s just that the earlier contexts had different implications. Oh well. First dungeon bosses are always the easiest. There’s still seven other siblings to get to. Plus at least one of his parents probably touched his butthole.
See you next week for the season 2 finale, “Up on a Roof”!
Catchphrase count: Larry (0); Balki (maybe there was one? He kind of mumbled what sounded like “don’t be ridiculous”, but it came at the end of a bunch of Myposian, so I’m not sure)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)