Season 2, Episode 21: Hello, Elaine

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.

caldwell hotel

Anyway, we see the Caldwell Hotel at night, which is fitting for this, the twilight of season two.

nude baby photos of Larry

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.

nude baby photos of Larry and the piano teacher

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?

perfect strangers

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–

NOOGIES

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.

the sweater is the family resemblance

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.

i turned myself to balki face me

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?

perfect strangers reviews

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?

perfect strangers reviewsperfect strangers reviews

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.

perfect strangers reviews

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.

did you wash your hands young man

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 loves balki

Larry: Tonight, both sides of the bed are the hot side.

balki loves larry

Balki: Ohhh, Cousin, you are too kind. But first we talk about how Elaine go to New York.

gotta go gotta go gotta go

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.

hmmm he never asks for a second appearance of my character

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.

MODERN STONE-AGE FAMILEEEEEE

Balki continues to try to convince Larry about the beauty of dreams, but Larry covers his ears and starts singing the Flintstones theme. Balki syas that songs are his bit and starts tickling him.

1 you're like a dream come true2 just wanna be with you3 it's plain to see that you're the only one for me

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?

Leroy's Self-Serve Jazz Establishment and Bagel Bakeryopening licks to Ren & Stimpy theme

All right!  A bunch of guys who will certainly beat Balki up when he tries out that “hey mommo” crap again.

good thing it's not real smoke or Larry would die

Yep. Balki is cruisin’ for a bruisin’ here.

get down!

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:

bangles

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!

opening chords of the 1700s overture from Renne et Estimpe

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–

balki ricardo, okay, fine, but who's fred

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.

perfect strangers

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

perfect strangersperfect strangers

and then Balki hugs them

balki hug

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)

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9 thoughts on “Season 2, Episode 21: Hello, Elaine

  1. “it came at the end of a bunch of Myposian”

    Who doesn’t?

    “Up on a Roof”

    If this isn’t the episode where they get sunroofs in tuxedos I’m going to kill myself.

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  2. “And… shouldn’t the looking-through-the-baby-pictures bit be for when, I don’t know, Jennifer meets Larry’s family?”
    Yes, but that will come later. The show writers clearly ship Applemousse, and as a loving but closeted gay couple in the 1980’s, Balki will want to see Larry’s baby pictures so that, when they open a cute little B&B in Vermont later, he’ll know which ones he wants to frame and place on the fireplace mantle.
    Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) are obviously beards. They’ll only need to see Larry’s baby pics in preparation to meet his family at a later date, when they’ll have to be convincing enough that the Appletons are convinced that Larry is straight. Fortunately, Balki selected the less-intelligent “girlfriend” for his cover, because Larry needs Jennifer’s street-smarts to get them through that kind of meeting. Balki, as the stranger in a strange land, will probably not have to coach Mary Anne (Sagittarius) through meeting his family because it will probably not happen. She just needs to look cute in the staged photos he will send back home.

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  3. Pretty much just them in the apartment. It’s kind of strange to have such a talky episode and not five straight minutes of the cousins throwing burnt ducks around.

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  4. I do have to confess that I’m pretty disappointed Elaine showed up and worked with her brother through a very human concern as opposed to tying him to a chair and throwing acid in his face.

    I’m starting to think the writers didn’t even know what Elaine meant to us. 😥

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