An oracle concerning Chicago, which Casey the son of Davey did see:
Post ye a review upon the sites, exalt the voice unto them, make the boner jokes, that they may go unto the comment section.
I have commanded my focus group coordinators, I have also called my network executives for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my high ratings.
The noise of a multitude, like as of a Nielsen family after dinner; a tumultuous noise of the studio audience gathered together: the Lord of ABC mustereth the host of the battle.
Howl ye! For the day of the end of season 2 is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the God of Sitcoms.
For whatever reason, this week’s episode title doesn’t seem to be in reference to anything; I get tons of search results for “up on the roof”, but not “up on a roof”. I ask that anyone out there who’s ever read Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation chime in down in the comments to let us know what this means in terms of this episode; I’ve only read the Wikipedia page for the book.
There it is, the last time we’ll ever see Ritz Discount storefront as well as Balki and Larry’s apartment exterior. Note the double “X” under the window, a double-duty symbol signalling that season 2 is about to be crossed out.
We see Balki painting and singing a variation on the theme song from The Patty Duke Show:
Balki: While Larry adores a minuet / The Ballet Russes and the crepe suzette / But Balki like to rock and roll / the hot dog make him lose control / What a wild duet! / Still they’re cousins…
And you know what? I knew the basic premise of The Patty Duke Show, but because I’ve never seen a single episode, I’d forgotten all about it. Given how “Babes in Babylon” made every single possible Vegas reference, I’m sort of impressed this show had enough restraint to wait this long to mention it.
But then Balki tells Larry there’s dingdingmahmoud in the fridge and Larry asks what it is. You’ll remember that Larry and Balki fought over this very dish back in “Trouble in Paradise”. Even though “Trouble in Paradise” was filmed after this one*, both take the time to explain that dingdingmahmoud is pig snout with saffron. Whichever way you look at it, we as the audience are reminded of two things here. Larry is forgetful, both in terms of basic information, as well as lessons learned (learning not to lie to women: 3; learning to give his blessing to someone seeking approval: 2; learning that Balki is always right: 27). We are also reminded that Larry, the Bacchus of Bismol, does not take care of his body.
Once we get over the hump of Larry asking “what’s that”, and then asking “what’s that” again, there’s an actual good joke about what Balki’s painting.
It’s a Myposian lint painting! Though there’s fuckall on that canvas that would have been done with the paintbrush Balki was using a minute ago, the history of the lint painting is based on a sideways understanding of navel-gazing philosophers. It’s one of those Gogo Dodo/Wackyland jokes, but I liked it. Bonus Mypos fact: Brektos was the spiritual leader of Mypos “in the storybook days”, and the less we think about the fact that nobody on that island can read, the better. But do note that Balki comes from somewhere with a living spiritual oral history; note also the oratory gesture of amazement Balki makes, as sometimes seen in icon paintings.
Balki asks Larry what he thinks of the painting, and Larry once again insults Balki in a manner which he knows Balki won’t understand (“you could hang this under any rug in the world”), and Balki makes the same face (and hand gestures!) I do whenever I get a proof copy of my webcomic back from the printers and see a typo on the very first page I look at.
The show finally gets around to why it was doing this lint painting mess in the first place: so that Balki could talk about how Larry entering photographs in a contest inspired him. I’m going to follow suit and take the long way around to some interpretation here.
We’re right back where we were at the end of season 1, relegating Larry’s dream basically to the end of the season, and making it an all-or-nothing situation. Even after working tirelessly for 3 months, Cousin Larry thinks that all 106 of the photographs he has taken are crap. Despite the fact that Larry’s simply trying to land a newspaper job where he has to, you know, just meet a fucking deadline with adequate photos that are in-focus and related to the damn news story, he’s being a perfectionist about it and trying to achieve high art. Larry says that he wants to take photos that will “make the heart of man leap within him; something that sums up the meaning of life”. Does Balki know what he means?
But then we find out what kind of things Larry’s been taking pictures of. The two examples given are a kitten being carried away by a large bird, and a firefighter catching a baby thrown from a burning building. (One joke here is that Larry’s upset about the kitten’s whiskers being uneven, and man, it’s sad when the jokes I make, like the one 22 episodes ago about how we’d end this season with bad photo composition, come sort-of-true.) The point is, Larry has focussed his work on terrors faced by the helpless and innocent; it’s a huge blind spot considering his lofty goal, yet some part of him knows that he’s falling short. The photographs are meant to be understood as an extension of Larry himself, reflecting his own struggle, but consider this key line:
Larry: I’m feeling sorry for myself; if you were a real friend, you would join in.
Now lectio yourselves some divina on this:
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. (Phil. 3:18-19, emphasis mine)
Balki, as we established at the end of that two-parter a few weeks back, is an angel cipher. He comes from above to rescue sinners from the pit of despair. He makes saint icon hand gestures. Hot dogs make him lose control. And finally, finally, I understand why he keeps mispronouncing Appleton wrong: Larry, much like the Pharisees in John 8, thinks he is doing the deeds of his father. Balki, who can see the unplanted mustard seed of a soul that Larry possesses, has been subtly trying to tell Larry this whole time that Larry is looking to the wrong father.
Ah, who am I kidding, Balki’s a dumb shit who can’t conjugate verbs, Larry’s a sad shit who can’t get a decent job or even woo the woman the show has picked out for him, and what the fuck is that green thing in the background? Their shower curtain or some shit? Anyway, Balki tries to do the Dance of Joy too soon.
Later, Larry’s working in the discount store, and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) comes by to give Larry his mail, and the audience her signature deer-in-the-headlights look. Larry describes to Mary Anne the photograph that he wants to take, of a church steeple at sunset from a specific angle, waxing poetic about the beauty of the shot, and how only he could have found such perfect shot. Mary Anne cuts him off:
Mary Anne: Yeah, churches are nice, see ya!
Ha! Mary Anne’s so dumb that she thought she would get an actual personality on this show instead of just being female exposition sounding board #3. But like any good sounding board, she listens to Larry’s line and gets out of the scene as quickly as possible. But there’s two things I like about this scene: for all that it’s just exposition & joke setup, we actually got a scene with Larry and Mary Anne! It was nice to have a little breather from Goofus and Gallant. Also, Mary Anne’s flippant line is basically the way I feel about religion these days. She’s becoming my favorite, and who cares how many one-off women characters she’s killed? She’s probably dumb enough to be my girlfriend!
Then Larry tries to tell Balki about the church shot, and Balki keeps interrupting him because he read ahead in the script and already knows all about the church, and the sunset, and how you have to get up on the roof of the building across the street to get the right shot. (Oh wow… like, the episode title makes so much sense to me now… these writers really know what they’re doing. It’s like… a thing doesn’t make sense, but then they go back to it, and it suddenly makes sense. I’m learning so much, I’m going to be such a good writer someday.)
Larry and Balki do the Dance of Joy, and then Twinkacetti rolls up and tells them to just kiss with tongues already, he’s been waiting all damn season. He takes his tribute from the cash register and says he’s going home to be with his wife, his children, and his mother-in-laws. He then tells Larry to— wait, what? Mother-in-laws? Anyway, sorry, he tells Larry to call up Mrs. Twinkacetti and lie about the store being on fire so he can bail on his family and go to a snuff party. Larry says no, which harkens back to the one time he had morals and wouldn’t lie for Twinkacetti, but, UH-OH, the house he needs to get on top of is Twinkacetti’s!
But Cousin Larry bounces back quickly, saying that they’ll get the photograph if it kills them. And I sure hope it does! I can quit this blog and start reviewing My Two Dads like everyone keeps demanding of me.
Whoa, we actually get a whole scene outside! And… rather than pursue the situation comedy scenario of Larry lying to Mrs. Twinkacetti just to get up on their roof, they just prop a damn ladder against the house and hope no one will notice. Larry even says that no one is home, despite the show having just established that Twinkacetti would be there. But when Larry sees a plot hole, he just runs straight through, saying that his whole future depends on getting this shot, and that nothing’s going to stop him (hey! nice shout-out to the theme song, Dale McRaven).
Ah, poor Cousin Larry, he’s right that his future depends on the outcome of his situation, but again, he’s looking in the wrong place. Consider: Larry is now standing atop the house of his boss, the show’s default symbol for the excesses of capitalist avarice. It is from here that he hopes to catch but a mere fleeting glimpse of an external aspect of religion. But rather than the beauty of this church making Larry wish to enter it, and let it enter him, so to speak, he sees this only as a way to pursue his own material success.
It’s really windy on the roof, because, you know, Chicago’s the Windy City, so Larry has prepared and brought some sandbags with him. We can’t have the tripod blowing away, can we?
Larry asks for the camera, and Balki hesitates.
Larry puts on his best evil Bilbo face, and Balki refuses.
Larry distracts Balki with his weakness (pop culture references) and steals the camera.
Then we’re supposed to believe that,just because it wasn’t in frame for the past couple of minutes, Larry couldn’t see that a fucking chimney five times his size was in the way of the shot.
While Balki nearly falls off the roof and Larry fucks around trying to climb the chimney, we get a shot of Twinkacetti in his house, telling his friend Ralph over the phone how he lied to his wife. Why did they even set up that conflict about Larry needing to lie halfway through this episode? Larry didn’t need to ask permission, or even lie. I guess when you’re in the final moments like we are, you just dispense with everything that mattered before; kind of like how Neo and Agent Smith just have a friggin’ fistfight at the end of Matrix Revolutions.
Larry remains undaunted by everything God’s thrown in his way so far: the wind, the chimney in the way (symbolic of how greed ultimately blinds one to the beauty of religion), even His only begotten son Balki insisting that they get off the roof. (Note how Larry’s lack of spiritual reception bends physical receptors like television antennae.) This season has been an undending list of Cousin Larry’s sins: he lies, he withholds love from his family members and offers them only insults, he is ruled by the desires of both his belly and his loins, he brings false witness against the innocent, he refuses to give aid to women and children, he defiles Jesus’s birthday by glorying in the exchange of material gifts.
Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. (Isaiah 13:9-10)
Oh well, Larry missed his chance to get the perfect shot, so the logical thing is to just go home, right? Maybe check the weather forecast and come back on a different day?
Nope, let’s just sit on the damn roof until well after dark, long enough for Twinkacetti to come up to the roof and let the ladder fall away, trapping them all, dooming them all because of their sins.
And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames. (Isaiah 16:8)
They all just stand there in the rain and shout at how there was no lesson, there was no physical comedy, it was the shittiest possible third location, we didn’t even get to see Jennifer, or Mrs. Twinkacetti. There weren’t even any boners this week. What did it all mean? What did we accomplish? Nothing!
Okay, finally, we’re at the scene before the credits. Some firemen rescued them all from the roof, and Larry won 10th place with a shot of Twinkacetti’s scared face lit by lightning.
Larry thanks his cousin Balki for not letting him give up, and for helping him get the picture. The hell? He was trying to get you off the roof the whole time, man! Also, what kind of contest has a 10th fucking place? And where they also print all of the winners in the newspaper? And why don’t we get to see the damn photo of Twinkacetti? And was the lesson that Larry is supposed to risk the life of others to achieve his dream, or not? Somebody turn the damn music on already so I’ll know what the hell to think about this episode.
Oh, no, wait, we don’t get a lesson, this episode’s just going to dispense with that in favor of Balki’s catchphrase, isn’t it?
The episode ends with the reveal that Larry has filled the closet with copies of the newspaper his photograph appeared in.
Now that there’s no longer any room in there for the cousins, they leave to go to the “petting zoo” where Larry will be “spit on” by a “camel” and Balki will “chase chickens”.
Join me next week when I’ll… *groan*… have to talk about this season one more time.
Catchphrase count: Balki (3); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Dance of Joy running total: 9
*I mentioned awhile back that I’m not following the DVD order, because ABC evidently didn’t have the correct information on hand for which order these episodes aired in. But when you look at the Wikipedia page for this show, you’ll see that the airing order and the production order are way out of sync too. This episode was filmed before Trouble in Paradise, as well as before Tux For Two, so the photographs Larry’s taking here are the ones he entered into the contest in the latter of those two. But for whatever reason, ABC decided to air this one last. This works well as a season closer, but it’s a indicator that no one was paying close attention (or didn’t care, or knew the audience didn’t care) about internal chronology. I mean, hey, even A&E put two Prisoner episodes out of order on their complete set (the ones with Colin Gordon as Number 2), so whatever. But, anyway, somebody made the decision, and I’m treating this as the last episode.
Balki and Larry will return in “All the News That Fits”.