Season 3, Episode 8: Night School Confidential


Remember how, three weeks ago, I was bitching about how this season hadn’t really revealed the dimensions of its characters, and I made that nice bullshit tapestry* out of the opening shot of the Chigaco Chronicle? You either have to take the characters higher (move them along a story in the external world) or deeper (find out more about what’s going on inside them, or what’s happened before).  But finally, FINALLY, we’re going get to see Balki at night school.  This means a third location. This means new characters. It might even mean we get to see Gina for a few seconds before someone shoves her into a restroom.  Shit, I’ll take Balki and Larry chasing Balki’s teacher around a desk if it means a new peek into the daily lives of these days.

Also, remember how the season began with Balki complaining how he had nothing to do but go to work all day every day?  It’s episodes like these that make me think the writers might not have had good communication with each other, because the more I think about Schoolboy Balki, the more I wonder how he hasn’t let every single one of his classmates sleep in Larry’s bed by now. Let’s get going, I know this show will give me plenty of reasons to complain.

Balki: Cousin, hold onto your pants!

Larry was already doing that, but go on…


Balki bought a watch! It’s a Rolex! With “solid quartz crystals and genuine Swiss movements”! (don’t forget about that feather-touch control, Balki…)

Balki won’t let Larry touch his watch.  Balki bought Larry App-le-ton (dammit) a Rolex as well!  Balki launches into this Don Pardo-style announcing bit. Larry is annoyed by it and so am I.

And while everything turns to crap in Larry’s hands generally, for the first time in his life it’s not his fault.  Larry, evidently on a diet, had a completely clean, empty plate in front of him, allowing the watch parts to make loud noises as they fell one by one.


So, anyway, Balki bought the fake Rolex** from Leon, “the human discount department store”.  Okay, okay, okay, wait. It’s obvious this is our twice-per-season “Innocent Balki gets taken advantage of” plot, but the solution to “Your Cheatin’ Heart” is now the initial situation here.  Is it because Malcolm likely stole the typewriter, while Leon makes counterfeits?  Anyway, it looks like we have established our new price range for this season: Balki paid $38.95 for the watches.  Did he stop there, or did he leave some money in his Freddy the Frog Saver account?


He bought Mary Anne (Sagittarius) a “priceless pearl necklace” (don’tmakethejoke) that once “belonged to Elvis Presley”.   (don’tmakethejokedon’tmakethejoke)


The cousins state out loud their opening thesis for the next scene:

Larry: Going to the police department was a complete waste of time


Harriette, somehow invested in every detail of the lives of these two yobbos, asks for more exposition.  Larry badmouths the cops, and this is where we first find out that Harriette has a husband, and that he’s a cop, and that he works in the homicide department. Balki thinks she’s talking about a faraway city, so Harriette leaves in her elevator.  (note to self: have elevator installed next to computer)


Then Balki says “the Princess die is cast” and oh fuck you.  Sidebar here: I read and reviewed the ALF comic series once.  No, it’s fine, the doctors say I’m okay now, but here’s what I came out of that with.  Comics ALF was constantly–like, once per page–whipping out some dumb homophonic pun.  F’rinstance, is there a car also in the panel? ALF says something about putting the “Ellen Barkin brake” on.  Is he in a scene with Lynn? He calls her “Lynn-a-mint” or some stupid mess. So this is what we have now.  Whenever Balki gets a line, I’m guessing the writers just wrote it the way a normal character would say it, and then just free-associated off of all of the words in the line.  I guess I should be grateful we didn’t get the runner-up for this line, which was probably “the die is casting couch”. Okay, we’re discussing whether the cousins can do anything about their situation–

Balki: No use crying over spilt curds.


Larry: Do you know what I’m thinking?

Balki: Is it a number between 1 and 10?


Balki: Is it bigger than a head cheese?

Is this man even going to the classes at the school? Does he spend all his time in the bathroom because the door says “Boys” and that’s how schools were divided up on Mypos?


Larry finally gets out his idea: infiltrate the cheap knockoff crime ring (it’s a whole ring now? okay) and use his position as a guy who writes two-sentence articles for the city’s “most powerful newspaper” to expose them.  Balki isn’t buying into the plan until Larry tells him that it will be “just like Miami Vice”.


Balki: Can I be Don Johnson?

Complain though I will about everything else Balki does, at least Pop Culture Balki is consistent.

Larry: We’ll tell him we wanna make a big buy, but we only want to deal with the boss.

Balki: Bruce Springsteen is involved in this?


Soon, at our third location, “Adult Evening Classes”…






…contain your orgasms.


Larry starts in with his Mexican accent (last seen in the episode where Larry was trying to flee for his life from ethnic crimeboss Vince Lucas, but this show’s not racist) and strolls up to a guy asking “where the action”.



There’s a nice little joke about Balki putting down Larry’s accent, and then Leon shows up. I didn’t watch Miami Vice, and I have no plans to.  The only Don Johnson movie I’ve seen is Dead Bang, you know, the one where he’s a troubled cop who pukes on suspects? So I’m just going to assume that these outfits hilariously miss the mark. I remember in Billy Superstar’s Full House reviews how there was some dress that one of the kids didn’t want to wear to school, and how Billy didn’t know what the joke was supposed to be.  I get that Larry is being ridiculous with his choice of clothing (probably because Balki wasn’t there to tell him not to be). But now we meet Leon, and Leon’s dressed similarly, if scuzzier? So… did Larry get it right?


(Also, hey, look, Leon’s played by Lee Arenberg, who was also the Human Flame in Freaked! ALF had Michu Meszaros; Michael Stoyanov was on Blossom.  Wait, did every actor from Freaked appear on an 80s sticom? William Sadler on Hard Time on Planet Earth; Alex Zuckerman on Family Ties; Megan Ward on Out of This World; Patti Tippo on The Nutt House; Jeff Kahn on Blossom; Derek McGrath on Who’s the Boss?; Mr. T on Diff’rent Strokes; okay, looks like Keanu, Quaid, Winter, Shields and Goldthwait all escaped that fate. I was worried for a moment.)

Sorry, while I was busy rabbit-holing, Balki was introducing Larry as a big player in the crime world and shaking his imaginary tits around.

Larry asks if they can set up a meeting with the big boss so he can drop some big money, which Leon agrees to.  Also, before we move on to whatever physical comedy is about to ensue, I’ve got to point out that Larry keeps rubbing his chest and his stomach when he pretends to be a crook.  Is this some sort of sublimated sexual gesture? I mean, I said I wanted some character depth, but this elevator took me too far down.


Anyway, back in the apartment, we find that Larry has decided to fight fire with fire. He’s been cutting up green paper for the past hour, and explains every detail of the plan. And because I’m SO SURE that every detail of the plan matters, and we won’t end up with Balki just turning Larry sideways, I’ll mention them here: The fat stacks of fake cash*** will all have $20 bills on top to fool the criminals. Larry will be wearing a wire, Balki will be wearing a bulky tape recorder, and Larry wants Balki to start recording (over a tape of “Motown’s Biggest Pop Hits”) after he says a certain phrase (“let’s make a deal”).  Can Balki remember one particular phrase?


They spend an inordinate amount of time on whether the criminals will be able to “grab the money” from the briefcase before Larry can close it.


Larry asks if Balki has a better plan.


But just like in “Snow Way to Treat a Lady”, he doesn’t.

Larry: If there were, the Miami Vice writers would have thought of it long ago!



In the well-lit foyer of the schoolhouse, Balki yells for Leon to come out and play.  Leon finally comes in and Larry demands to see the boss.  But then Balki opens his mouth

Balki: The boss… Mr. Big…


Balki: …the top banana man…


Balki: … the headless honcho…


Balki: …the kingpin…the Godfather…


Balki: …the big Cheese Whiz


Larry shuts him up, then Leon goes off and comes back with–oh man, give me a few minutes, I just crapped my pants.


Wow, do you see these guys? They’re tall! One of them’s black! The main guy, Fat Jack, has such disdain for social norms that he has fucking removed the sleeves from his shirt. But I’m not worried about Balki and Larry–they know karate!

Larry keeps trying to give the cue to turn on the tape recorder with the agreed-upon phrase , but there’s only room in Balki’s head for one catchphrase, so Larry has to take him two feet away and whisper (scream) “trrnonetaperecrrdr” over and over again.


Then the cousins talk very explicitly and loudly about the counterfeit watches they’re going to pay $15,000 for, and, uh… everybody seems to have gotten into the school all right, even though it’s midnight.  Why aren’t Fat Jack, Black Jack, and Third Jack just breaking into the classrooms and stealing overhead projectors and desks or whatever? Plus, nobody mentions how Third Jack’s jaw appears to be broken, which is more troubling than any of the plot holes in this episode.  Fat Jack demands to see the money, and Larry successfully pulls off closing the briefcase in time. Fat Jack then just grabs the briefcase and busts it open.  Then he says that the cousins are “dead meat”; yeah, Miami Vice writers, let’s see you top THAT for bad-guy dialogue.  This is it, cousins, show these guys those karate moves!


Balki pretends that he has a gun and-

Balki: I’m packing a heater.


Balki: I’ve got a scratchy trigger finger.


Me too, I give up.

Then that Motown joke pays off big time when reason #9 the DVD releases stopped with season 2: The Supremes’s “Baby Love” starts playing.


But, even though we heard the part of the song with the title in it, the bad guys debate what song it was. Except for the black guy, who corrects them, because he’s black, and because the song was sung by black people, and they all know each other. The joke’s about as bad as that cop handcuffed to the criminal in “Happy Birthday Baby”.

Then we finally find out why there’s been this giant telephone booth in the middle of a school hallway–it’s so that Balki and Larry can spend their last moments calling up a phone sex line.


Fat Jack breaks the phone booth glass and rips out the receiver.  Leon and Third Jack hold the cousins still so that Fat Jack can strangle them with the receiver cord.  Man, two episodes in a row where Larry gets choked, what are the odds…


oh, no, wait, Black Jack is a cop! And then a bunch of cops appear out of thin air thanks to the magic of camera angles.  But then Balki repeats all the nasty things Larry said about cops at the beginning of the episode, so Larry gets arrested.


Later, back in the apartment, Larry reads aloud his one-sentence article in the Chronicle (I’m not even kidding). Then Balki says another couple of dumb Balki lines.  I’m not going to go back and count them, but damn if this episode doesn’t feel like it hit a record for Balki saying things wrong. I mean, to the point where they just relied on him rattling off lists of them. The Rolex fake and broken, time stopped, the world of Perfect Strangers condensed into one stretched moment of Balki lines, detritus from the past echoing endlessly, large men in vests, ethnic accents, discount merchandise, of course not, small men fooling Balki, Motown, imaginary tits, baby love, since i lost my baby, happy birthday baby, hello baby, don’t be ridiculous, baby you can drive my car, baby, Balki, baby, forever a baby, fallen into the basement, no longer growing, Balki Blechtrommelmous, baby


I’m sorry, but this week was wearying. I mean it really wore me down and out.  I’m dead on your feet.  I’m car exhausted. I’m sick and radial tired. I’m Ellen Barkin brake.

Join me next week when I’ll try to escape the past and review “Future Shock”!


Catchphrase count: Balki (3); Larry (0)

Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)





7 thoughts on “Season 3, Episode 8: Night School Confidential

  1. Oh, man, I remember this episode. When I saw the first screencap, I instantly knew what it was.

    This would have been a perfect time to introduce Carl.

    I remember some show or movie from not too terribly long ago (no more than a decade) where some guys were paying a crime boss with a briefcase full of money, and they had to stall for time or whatever, so they insisted he count it to make sure that it’s all there. Annoyed, he opened it, monotoned “I see $100,000 here”, and closed it.


  2. Those were the Fashion Police. They showed up at the last minute to arrest everyone for creating the world’s worst “Beat It” cosplays. Balki’s Miami Vice cosplay wasn’t terrible, so he escaped with a fine and a slap on the wrist.


    • Looking back at the screengrabs… I really think you’re onto something here. Note how all of the criminal types (Fat Jack, Third Jack, Leon) have some expanse of arm showing. The good guys (Black Jack and Balki) have their arms completely covered, so it makes sense that Larry got mistaken for a criminal. For Pete’s sake, look, Larry has at least forearms showing in every outfit in this episode. And it makes perfect sense that, the lack of sleeves were simply an attempt to take on the look of black pop culture (note MJ’s rolled-up jacket sleeves in the “Beat It” video); and the lack of authenticity was revealed by the two good guys forcing the criminals to admit they had no deep knowledge of black music history.

      Also, I guess the long arm of the law prefers long sleeves *snicker*


  3. So did a biographical detail in this episode birth Family Matters? Harriette mentions that her husband is a cop, and we’d indeed find out that Carl Winslow is a cop, but I’m curious as to how that choice was made.

    Do you think when Harriette was created as a character that they knew she was married to a cop, and this just happened to be the episode in which they revealed that information for the first time? Or did Harriette have no backstory whatsoever, and this throwaway line therefore became gospel for this show and the spinoff?

    I’m curious as to which came first. Was her husband already a cop in the writers’ minds, or was she suddenly married to a cop in order to make a joke in this episode work?

    Casey, can you please provide a timeframe as to when you will have the answer?


    • From a writer’s standpoint, I would say that, yes, the story in this episode likely birthed the husband character being a cop. If you take the starting point of this episode as “Balki is conned by a fellow night school student; Larry is so full of himself he thinks he can expose a criminal”, then you need an actual cop character to bail them out. But how does the cop know they will be there?

      No one knows a cop personally, though. Larry doesn’t; Balki doesn’t’; Jennifer: —; Mary Anne thinks “accessory to murder” means strangling someone with a necklace; the cousins’ bosses won’t give a crap; Lydia’s not here yet, but they do air these out of production order, so it’s “established” so to speak that she’s single. But Harriette! Harriette is working class, Harriette has a family to support. Second-tier characters can have relationships with people you never see, and unless it’s used as a running joke (Vera Peterson, Maris Crane, Peggy Bundy’s mom), they can be mentioned once and if next season Harriette’s husband is a butcher, who cares, right? But right now somebody needs to know a cop.

      Or I could actually be inflating this? I’m thinking in terms of sitcom logic: Balki and Larry need a cop to bail them out, so you set up that someone knows a cop in the first act. Then the audience can assume that Harriette passed on word, police departments talked, and they got a guy undercover that quickly. But it could just as easily be that Harriette grew a cop husband just so Larry could be hilariously wrong when he put down the police. I will say this: it’s the only mention of this cop husband in the entirety of (these syndicated cuts of) season 3.

      As far as me providing a timeframe on answering the question of whether this truly birthed Family Matters, yes, I can.


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