Season 3, Episode 11: The Break In

We open at the Chicago Chronicle, where we find Larry giggling to himself.

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Harriette and Balki arrive in the elevator, but because she finally gave in and let Balki the Kid operate it, they have gone too far down.

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Larry is still laughing over something he wrote (I can relate), causing Balki to come over and start laughing with him. This causes the audience to laugh. Balki voices my own thought (“what are we laughing at”?) prompting the exposition.  Larry spent half his day covering a “stupid dog show” and it really stressed him out, so he decided to write a “funny” article about it.

Are you… are you making fun of me, show?

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Larry’s article is about how snooty and fat the dog owners’ wives are, but Balki isn’t laughing, because that’s mean.  He gives us Rubble Rule #39: Iffi bighi hoch pdooie ocho pidi badhbadhsticky, or in other words, “If you spit into a windstorm, you better carry an umbrella”. And because I’m hung-up on trying to make sense of the Desperanto that Balki spouts, I’m going to focus in on “badhbadhsticky”, because we’ve had “babasticky” a few times now. Sticky=sheep; baba=shit, bullshit (lies). So for “umbrella”,I’m going to guess that “badhbadh” might translate to “skin”, telling us the construction of the tool; or “shield/screen”, to indicate its purpose (like, I dunno, are you supposed to keep sheep dry?).  Anyway, none of you cares about that.

Larry cites Don Rickles as a precedent, and because Rick-les is Wayne Newton’s favorite comedian, Balki is 100% down with the idea. He almost instantly tries it out by insulting Larry’s nonexistent lips.

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Larry plans to send the article to his brother Billy, I guess to impress him with yet another article that didn’t get published. He puts it and the real article in identical, unsealed envelopes.  Harriette returns, bringing with her a man named Frank.

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Harriette: Frank, what’s a 5 letter word for life?

Frank: (thinks)  Hell.

*dingdingding*  We have a motif established!  Frank has also, evidently, gone too far down.

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Mr. Burns rushes in, gets Larry’s name wrong, and even insults his intelligence, but he’s still no Twinkacetti.  He gives us the last two pieces we need for this week’s situation: the Chronicle’s publisher, R.T. Wainwright, sponsored the dog show, and wants Larry’s article on his desk by that evening. He then asks Larry where the file on the “Fornzak” baby is.  And since Larry can’t possibly do one thing, and then do another one, he asks Balki to take the article up to the publisher’s office.  (I’ll let you know when the show gets to the “comedy” side of the sitcom coin.)

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So, if I’m to understand correctly, Balki’s job is to sort mail.  His job consists of making sure the right envelopes go to the right places. He has, we assume, done an impeccable job, since Gorpley has been looking for even the slightest reason to fire him. So! I assume that the cousins will just have to slapfight over the Fornzak baby files or something. They really painted themselves into a corner here.

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Later, the cousins, Jennifer, and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) watch Moonlighting. They spend a while talking about how great the show is, in case you missed the lesson about not watching cable television last week. Balki tries out his new American knowledge:

Balki: Mary Anne, is that your hair or did your head just explode?

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Mary Anne doesn’t get it because she is dumb (so dumb, in fact, she thinks that moonlighting is a technical term used by porn directors). Anyway, back to the A plot: Balki also wants their prospective girlfriends to hear Larry read his jokes about women.

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Larry’s so taken with his own writing that he has multiple orgasms (I can relate).

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Since the audience has forgotten already that there’s another article, or even that other spaces exist in this world, Balki lets us know where the joke article is. These four sure do have a lot of fun when they get together, don’t they?

The mid-episode exposition over, Jennifer and Mary Anne leave, allowing Larry and Balki to touch each other–you know what, gimme a second… okay, I just programmed a hotkey for pasting that phrase in.

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Larry says he should have known it would happen, citing “Appleton’s Law”. It’s basically just Murphy’s Law, and I needed this reminder. It’s comforting to think that simply because good jokes can happen on a sitcom, that if a show runs long enough, it’s bound to happen eventually.

Balki wants clarification on whether insult humor is funny, and all Larry can say is that sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

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Balki realizes that he insulted Mary Anne, but Larry stops him. He explains that they’re long past season 1 when Balki could mess something up and learn a lesson about the way America works; this is season 3, and only Larry gets to be wrong. And this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to him, no doubt. I mean, his life is just over. If only there were some way to undo this damage to his career.

10 minutes into Perfect Strangers and chill and he gives you this look

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Larry guilt trips Balki about doing his job incorrectly, and that breaking into the publisher’s office is the only way to fix it.  Larry makes it seem like he’s doing Balki a favor by coming with him, and that’s super-shitty, but yeah, Balki’s got to undo his irresponsibility, because man, if I were in that situation and couldn’t fix what I’d done, I dunno, I might just give up on life.

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It turns out the building does still exist at night, and here’s proof.

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The cousins are out breath because they took the stairs and have never once gone to the gym or taken a Karate class.

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And here we are, the office of R.T. Wainwright, locked, lights out.  Alone in an empty building, no one there to help them. Things are looking bleak, guys. This may be the end for the cousins.

Larry misquotes the mailman’s oath, but Balki calls him out on his bullshit. Larry drops his mask, admitting his deception and shifting gears to begging. You see, “R.T.” stands for Reigning Tyrant and Larry knows that he’ll be fired if Wainwright reads the joke article.  Larry begins to beg for Balki’s help, offering whatever he wants, he’ll even reconsider the love egg.

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And, okay, yes, that garbage with Moonlighting earlier was blatant product placement.  But then it pays off with Larry saying they’ll do what they do on Moonlighting to get through the locked door, and Balki starts in with that you do? I do! stuff. This is something like the third time that the show has had a setup that seems so out of place which then pays off pretty well.  Maybe I should stop knocking this show so much…

*turns to fourth wall*

Nah….

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Larry tries that credit card trick, another indication that the show has forgotten that these dopes are supposed to be poor.  But they might soon be poor again, because the card breaks, the half with Larry’s name stuck in the door, and the size of the piece of plastic left in Larry’s hand is no mistake: it is of a size with the newspaper clipping of Larry’s first published article. A subtle clue that in a world where no one appreciates your hard work, and never gets your name right, maybe it’s better for that name to just disappear from that world forever. No byline, just… “bye”.

When you’re in an unwinnable situation, sometimes you turn to your drug of choice. The cousins try to physical comedy their way out of this mess.

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It provides a temporary reprieve, allowing them to switch out the article, but –oh no! The elevator dings!

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The cousins turn out the light, but–oh no! They’re on a sitcom so after a second’s delay, another, softer light turns on!

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And the publisher’s office is somehow the smallest room in the entire building, so there’s nowhere to hide!

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Psychology sidebar: have I talked to you all yet about the idea of “averageness”?  Basically, we find others more attractive the closer they come to some sort of societal (read: racial) “average”, especially when it comes to faces. This was first “discovered” in the late 19th century by Francis Galton, who studied the faces of criminals and vegetarians. He found that by creating composite images of multiple faces, the result was more attractive than any of the components.  It was another century before this was tested out with computer-generated composites of faces. Long story short, composites of faces tend to be rated more attractive in general by subjects, and the composites made from higher numbers of faces were rated more attractive than those made from lower numbers of faces.  Anyway, the reason I’m saying all this is that the theory is now officially dead and buried because the security guard here is a walking composite of Dick Van Patten and Lance Kinsey (Proctor from the Police Academy movies), and it’s not a good look.

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Anyway, OH NO!!! Lance Dick has closed the window!

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The cousins say variations on “the guard locked the window” like, seven times, and I sure am glad I’m watching the syndicated version.  Larry calls upon God himself to save them.

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But there’s not enough room for physical comedy, much less the front-to-front kind. These guys are fucked. GAME OVER, man. A bunch of firetrucks and police show up and Larry thinks that by moving half an inch backwards they won’t be seen.

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And, hey, look, it’s Frank! I wonder what Frank’s doing here? Whatever it is, it’s sure to be comedy gold!

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He’s up there to commit suicide, which somehow Balki knows about (possibly from that dialogueless episode of Mr. Ed he watched last week?) So Larry learns an important lesson: that losing your job–even if it’s for something unjustified, like someone mistakenly giving your boss an article that you wrote in a fit of pique because you had to spend all of one day focussing on something that you felt was beneath you–cannot compare to the traumas of mental illness, which can drive someone to give up on life.

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Hey, wait, the music didn’t turn on. We’re still on the ledge. That wasn’t the lesson. Balki insists on talking to Frank, and Larry cautions that one wrong word and Frank will jump.

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Balki: Fingyprints.

*FRANK jumps*

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Nah, j/k, they stay up on the ledge all night talking to Frank about his family.  Frank mentions that his son, Frankie, Jr. is a natural at tee ball, and Balki mentions that he was a Caesarean birth.  (And here I thought on Mypos was very simple….)

Larry starts in telling Frank that the idea of suicide makes no sense because he has a wonderful family.  Yes, that’s right, folks! The best way to handle a severely depressed person is to let them know that, on top of everything else they’re going through, their perception of the situation is wrong!  Yeah! You should smile more often, sweetie! Even though (as Larry so helpfully points out) Frank is one of the leading journalists in the city, Frank is sick of it:

Frank: I’ve been covering crime for 12 years! All I see all day are people doing terrible things to each other. I can’t take it anymore!

*counts number of episodes left on fingers, divides by 52, carry the bonus posts*

*turns to fourth wall*

*gulp*

Balki suggests that Frank goes home to his family, who will be hurt if he kills himself. He goes on to mention that Frank would only become another terrible person that another journalist would have to write about.

Frank says he feels humiliated.

Balki says “if you come out on this ledge again, there’s a good chance we won’t be here”, and the audience laughs.

In the final scene, Larry says he wants to forget the whole thing happened.

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Balki says he never wants to go through something like that again.

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The final joke is how funny it is that Balki and Larry don’t get any sleep because they stayed up all night keeping Frank from killing himself.

Okay, fuck this.

*turns off plastic megaphone*

*writes the rest of the review in my real voice*

I’ve contemplated suicide. I own a copy of Final Exit. I know how I’d do it. I’ve determined that it would take 2 months to get my affairs in order, update my will, post an outline for the rest of my webcomic, and visit people to tell them good-bye.  My one “attempt” consisted of me refusing to get out of bed one morning.

I’m 31 and I know how I want my remains handled: cremation, ashes kept in a Hamburglar cookie jar. I had to face mortality early, because I had (have) kidney disease, and I was on dialysis for 3 and a half years, half of that time living alone, just me, my dialysis machine, and no promise of anything but the same day, the same week, indefinitely.  I got my transplant kidneys quicker than the “median” wait time, thanks to a change in the allocation algorithms. But in the time I was waiting, there was no way to know how long that would be. I can’t tell you how much sleep I missed from my dialysis machine waking me up. Every week, I threw away three 39-gallon bags of plastic & rubber dialysis supply trash. Combine that with the costs to insurance, and the fact that my productivity at my job, and on my webcomic, had seriously declined… for a while, I was producing more garbage than anything else. From a strictly utilitarian viewpoint, it was debatable whether I was worth keeping alive.

And you know what? My situation was at the lighter end of the depressing spectrum. Some people need heart transplants; have cancer; get raped; get emotionally abused. Some never get a break from it. Some people don’t have anyone to talk to. I’ll admit that there was a light at the end of my tunnel, curved though it was, so I can only speak to my own depression.

It sucked! In part because of some of the responses I got to it, from well-meaning friends.  “I love you” is an honest, compassionate thing that people said, but all I could hear was “…but not enough to give you a kidney”.  My family and co-workers will be upset that I killed myself? They’ll get over it. People will misunderstand my reasons? Story of my life anyway. Even the friends who went the “you’re a great person and I’ll miss you” route? All I could wonder was how long I should suffer for their sake. I wanted a reason to stay alive, but it had to make sense. One thing that kept me going was knowing that every day I tried to decide whether suicide was reasonable was one day closer to getting a kidney, and thus daily less reasonable. The other was the friend who told me that she understood my feelings, and acknowledged that even though she disliked the idea, it was my decision to make.  And emotionally, that’s something I was searching for: acknowledgment that I was having a normal, not-crazy reaction to a shitty situation with no outs and little opportunity for fun outside of drawing for about 30 minutes every evening.  I don’t know, ultimately, what kept me from killing myself. Maybe both of those things, maybe neither. I don’t know what would keep others from it. I refuse to try to give advice.

I guess my point here is that suicide and depression are seriously complex fucking issues. I kept my mouth shut about Larry’s eating problems (I’ve had one), and even Balki’s addiction (I’ve had one), but as Ren Höek would say, kee-ripes, man! This episode was a case study in how to tell yourself that you’re helping someone while not giving a shit about their situation.  Balki and Larry tell a depressed guy that he’s wrong for feeling depressed, and then complain to each other about how much it drained them to do so.

Oops! I just wrote 600 words about suicide on a blog that’s supposed to be about boner jokes.  And yes, I was making suicide jokes myself before I went off. So let’s revisit the episode’s opening juxtaposition of laughing while a friend is halfway buried in the earth. Let’s talk about why sometimes jokes are okay, and other times not.

Neither of the cousins really learns that put-down comedy works when a) the recipient is in on it/understands the intent (celebrity roasts), or b) the joke is delivered in a “comedy” setting, like a stand-up routine, or a sitcom, or even c) when the object of ridicule holds a position of power/is actively hurting others.  Larry only goes so far as to explain that you shouldn’t make offensive jokes when you could get fired.

So thanks for reading? And thanks for understanding that when I make a suicide joke, I’ve been there, and one of my intentions is to ridicule the subject’s handling.

*turns on plastic megaphone*

And thanks Balki and Larry for never getting so depressed that they can’t pop boners!

Join me next week for…oh for fuck’s sake… ”To Be Or Not to Be”.

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Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (1)

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

Burns misnomers: Appleman

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9 thoughts on “Season 3, Episode 11: The Break In

  1. “he’ll even reconsider the love egg”
    Your reviews now have better continuity than the show itself!

    “that dialogueless episode of Mr. Ed he watched last week”
    All kidding aside, the suicide episode of Mr. Ed is deeply affecting, and the lack of any dialogue — replaced by mournful, extended closeups of Wilbur and Ed as they silently decide whether or not they can attend the service without breaking down — greatly enhances its emotional power.

    “the recipient is in on it/understands the intent (celebrity roasts)”
    Since I just watched a buttload of American Dad! to make some specific points about ALF, I can say that there’s a pretty good episode in which Roger wants nothing more for his birthday than for his family to roast him. Which means he’s on it. But at the end of the event he breaks down weeping over all of the nasty things they said…showing that he didn’t understand the intent. It doesn’t tie into this episode beyond your observation, but I thought that that was a pretty neat illustration of your point.

    [As I scan this post for typos (and miss them, as always) I see that I referred to the Smiths as “his family” without thinking twice. And I would never, ever refer to the Tanners that way. I think that says a lot in itself.]

    “*turns on plastic megaphone*”
    Thisss…isss…the Central…Scrutinizer…

    “Appleman”
    You were asking about when Mega Man lost its way as a series.

    I’m glad you didn’t kill yourself.

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  2. I have nothing profound to add, but your brand of humor, educational asides and personal anecdotes combine to make this one of the best review blogs I’ve read.

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  3. Larry begins to feel depressed now. He knows the end is near. He has realized at last that imaginary photojournalism careers exist only in the imagination of the imaginer…

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  4. I remember the ledge scene (or at least part of it) for one specific reason: I found the locked window gag so funny that I wrote out transcripts of it, so my dad and I could reenact it. If that wasn’t absurd enough, my dad was born in Poland in 1936, so, while I (as Balki) was giving the performance my all, he (as Larry) just read his lines and seemed confused.

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  5. So they talked a guy down… and then made light of it. I know this is a sitcom, and they shouldn’t get too heavy unless they’re doing a Very Special Episode, but come the fuck on. Can it be draining to help out a person in those kinds of situations? Totally. Are you allowed to admit this out loud? Yep. Can it be done without you coming off as a complete tool? YES.
    Is the show trying to suggest that if Larry and Balki encountered another jumper on the ledge, that they would just roll their eyes and slam the window shut? I sincerely hope not.

    Also, very glad that you didn’t scratch that one item off of your Ultimate To-Do List. It’s terribly selfish of me, but I find surrounding myself with other Makers to be helpful, and having one less person in the world to joke with about the weird browsing histories of writers? I would very sad about that indeed.
    Also also: I really dig your cookie jar idea.I may ditch my own plans for that one instead.

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  6. I think I would like a viking funeral when I die.
    I also think I would like the song, “I’m on my way” from Howard The Duck(why didn’t that movie get an academy award???) played at my memorial service.
    Of course, if my wishes are violated, I’m sure I wouldn’t care. :p

    Like

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