Season 3, Episode 15: Just Desserts

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We open at the Caldwell, and despite the prominence of the red Paoli’s Pizza sign, we find the cousins and the women who still aren’t their girlfriends yet finishing their Myposian meal.

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Jennifer says that she’s surprised she didn’t throw up after eating Myposian food*, but who cares about that, because Mary Anne (Sagittarius) is just killing me with those high-heeled boots.

Balki accepts the compliment and lets us know that on Mypos, they use every part of the animal, and

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um

Which animal would that be? And… did you grind its bones to make your dinner rolls?

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Balki, in the same foreboding tone he used when he first spouted his catchphrase, tells us that they are now all going to eat bibibabkas, the dessert of kings**. That’s right, everybody, here’s a new Myposian thing that ABC is 100% sure that you’re going to like, so get ready for it to be said a million times in the next 23 minutes. Okay, I’ve actually been looking forward to this episode.  Not because I remember it, but because you can’t do any research on this show without coming across die-hard fans’ love of this episode.  There’s no question at this point that Perfect Strangers wanted to launch a renaissance of the kind of physical comedy setpieces that we all kind of remembered from the golden era of television.  And since ABC told Lucille Ball she could have a new show if she promoted their other ones, Perfect Strangers returned the favor by building an episode around that scene in “Job Switching” where Lucy and Ethel try to wrap chocolates.

We get a strong start to this episode with the history of the bibibabka: the first one was made by Ferdinand Mypos (if you remember, the founder of Mypos) to celebrate having successfully grown a  mustache. It’s one step further to Mypos becoming Wackyland, but I still laughed.

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Larry bites into one just like any normal person would, which makes the audience laugh for some reason. They all just say “hmm” for a while, but then Larry starts tripping balls.

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Larry: These not only taste good, they make me feel good! Like… listening to music. Like looking at great art! I feel… I feel… taller!

He goes on to say that he sees the basic cousin-ness of all humanity, and invites everyone in the building into his apartment to sleep over.

Cousin Larry tells Balki that he should try to sell the bibibabkas, and that doing so would be a good lesson in free enterprise. Yes! The episodes involving money usually do make some effort towards teaching Balki something about America!  Maybe this will be good after all!

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Oh, no, wait, Balki does a shitty “Scotty from Star Trek” voice and I’m reminded that all Balki has learned about America is that he doesn’t have to learn anything about America.  Cousin Larry offers to take a bunch of bibibabkas around to restaurants, and all Balki has to do is “whip up a batch”.

Then Balki lets loose with a string of b-words, and I can tell we’re in for a whole episode of alliteration. What weenie writers, weighing ways to wow us, and winnowing them down to one: forcing phony fun from phrases filled with frequent phonemes. Feh!

Larry, whose lifelong dream has been to break into the food-making business, does some alliteration of his own and says that the four of them should work as a team to make the bibibabkas.  The women quickly agree, because this means they’ll get to stick around past the exposition scene.

After the act break, I feel like some essential part is still missing.  We’ve got the alliteration runner, we’ve got the looming tribute to I Love Lucy, we’ve got that lesson about free enterprise ready to throw out just as soon as we hit 22 minutes, but what else can we add? Ah! Balki’s about to be working! Can we get a song for this episode, Balki?

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And here it is folks, the Bibibabka Ditty! Everybody sing along, and don’t forget to thrust your crotch forward and shake whatever kind of tits you have!

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When you rolling out the dough

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Just make sure to roll it slow

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If you make the dough too quick

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Bibibabka make you sick

Now the ladies!

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When you pour the filling in

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Just make sure you wear a grin

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When you smile on what you bake

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Bibibabka turn out swell

The meth-making scenes in Breaking Bad got nothing on this! But seriously, no wonder it takes all damn day to make these! That song was for constructing just one bibibabka from the requisite parts of two dough patties with cream in between them.  (By the way, the Bibibabka Ditty uses the tune of Chubby Checker’s “Limbo Rock”, but let’s go ahead and assume this counts as Reason #16.)

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Larry runs in, excited to tell his news.  Now that the time period specified in the court order barring Larry from entering the Hyatt Regency Hotel has passed***, he went to see the chef at its restaurant.  The chef, in an ecstasy-induced euphoric state, ordered two thousand of the bibibabkas in just two days.  But–oh no!–it took Balki and the women all morning just to make 3 dozen!

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Jennifer asks if Larry knows how many dozens there are in 2,000.  My beloved bouffant beauty butts in and gives the correct answer of 166 and ⅔ dozen.   Despite this, they all look at her like she’s dumb, so she explains that her father was a carpenter.  Then they all act like she’s even dumber. Guys, seriously, do you even KNOW how much math and trigonometry carpenters have to use?

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Larry says that this is their chance to live the American dream, to control their own destinies… to, you know, appropriate a cornerstone of someone else’s culture and sell it at a profit. Balki, disbelieving, says that his cousin is not the type of person to take such big chances. But then Jennifer and Mary Anne say that they also want to go for starting their own business. Besides, this could mean that they stick around for the whole episode, something they haven’t done since last season.

Larry does that thing where he tries to convince Balki by hooking him with one of his desires; this time, it’s with the promise that this could make Mypos famous for more than being one of the prime animal-sex tourism spots.  When promises of owning a business and global fame don’t work, Larry ditches debate, drops the demagoguery, and detours in a different direction, deet-deet-deeing that dumbass Ditty.

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Then the women start singing, and the four of them just dance until the act break.

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When we return, Larry is walking around with a clipboard and Balki is wearing a pope hat.  Larry announces that, after 24 straight hours of working, they’ve reached the halfway mark.

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Mary Anne reaches for some flour or something, and bumps into Jennifer.  Jennifer gets mad at Mary Anne, which I’m not going to dignify by calling it a “personality trait”. Being mad at Mary Anne is simply the only way to give Jennifer lines that the writers have figured out.  They argue for a minute about bumping, and Mary Anne talks about how great her hat is (she’s not wrong), but really, this is just a systems problem. These women were brought in to rework the layout of the show, yet it doesn’t occur to them to rearrange their workspace.

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Pope Balki rushes in and tries to broker a peace between Israel and Palestine.

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He’s upset because they are expressing negative emotions in front of the Bibibabkas.

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He then caresses a Bibibabka because, as the song says, “if you smile on what you bake/Bibibabkas turn out swell”.  Believe it or not, this actually pre-dates Masaru Emoto’s “research” on the effects of positive and negative emotions on the basic structures of water, which would then be expressed as how “beautiful” the water’s crystalline structures were when frozen.  Masaru even claimed that polluted water could be cleaned through such a process.  I’m going to admit that I’ve basically just read Masaru’s Wikipedia page, but I do remember hearing about this whole water thing in the mid-2000s.  I was dating a girl in high school whose mother was into this kind of thing, and would write happy words on water bottles for her health. And it really wasn’t until I saw Balki expressing this same idea while wearing a mitre that I finally was able to put holy water in the same category.

Larry expresses my thoughts on the whole thing:

Larry: Love, right, okay. Look, we are falling behind.

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The women tell him to start pulling all of that sickening weight of his and do some actual work. He responds with this “hey, hey heyheyheyheyhey” bit that made me laugh.

The women complain about the working conditions, and we find out that Jennifer has another personality trait: when she’s tired, she wants to go to sleep.  So our first lesson in free enterprsie is that handshake agreements aren’t a good foundation for building a business. The women say they know that Balki and Larry are desperate to find a way to turn baking into an excuse for touching each others butts, so they quit.  These four sure do have fun when they get together, don’t they?

Larry acts like he’s doing Balki a big favor by helping out with the Bibibabkas. So, without washing his hands, he starts touching the food.

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Hey, by the way, where did they get this giant table and all these sheet pan racks on such short notice?

Balki sings the Ditty and Larry makes it painfully obvious how the song fucks up the whole process. He tells Balki the song’s got to go.  You know what? I understand that this episode has to follow this progression, but come on. They’ve been doing this for 24 hours already. Wouldn’t he have already seen the problem with the song?

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Balki shows that language is strength by spitting out another alliteration.  Larry says that they need to streamline their work, but the word “mass” prompts a misunderstanding by Balki, who tells Larry to not bring religion into this. Aha! The surface confusion mirrors a deeper one. Balki does not realize that his hat–and by extension, the cultural belief system behind his baking–come across as a religion. The process of making bibibabkas rests on magical thinking, but Balki just sees it as the way the world is. When you know the truth, every other approach cannot be based on facts and must be a belief system. How many times have you heard a religious person argue that atheism is a religion?  As in real life, the introduction of a science (in this case, Business Process Optimization) is discounted.

So the cousins fight about this by alliterating at each other, and I’m not going to gripe about their deadline, or padding, because it’s nice to see the cousins trying to top each other. Remember back in “Dog Gone Blues” when they just bragged about their dogs’ impossible abilities?

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Larry lets Balki win the spoken alliteration fight, but gives him a look that says “Once this batch of bibibabkas is baked, baby, I’ll be bout to boff both them beaut buttocks”.

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And because everything’s funnier when it’s faster, here we go ONE MORE TIME! Balki just shakes his imaginary tits around until Larry just can’t contain himself and takes his cousin into his arms.

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Balki accuses Larry of being evil, and not caring whether Mypos becomes famous for its snack treats, and Larry admits it. Balki quits, and Cousin Larry tells him to get out of his kitchen. I think we know now who’s been paying the majority of the rent.

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We get a beautiful shot of the sunrise in Chicago, set to the piece of stock music that came closest to sounding like “Morgenstemning” from Grieg’s Peer Gynt.

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These bibibabkas look nothing like what they ate at the top of the episode, but I’m more concerned with the fact that they’re not refrigerated. I seriously doubt that neither Balki’s recipe–nor the corner-cutting one that Larry has no doubt come up with–uses any sort of preservative.

Larry says there’s a valuable lesson here and Balki’s like “yeah, what” and Larry’s all like “I just cut some corners, because business”.

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Balki sees that Larry has become the monster that is commodification, and he’s afraid to be touched, lest he take on this leprosy.

Then something explodes in one of the pink boxes.

Where Balki wanted the bibibabkas to grow up in a supportive, happy environment, Larry has not treated the Digimon well, and now it’s turned into that slug that shoots poop out its mouth.

More bibibabkas start exploding inside the boxes. Now that things have gotten serious, Balki’s grammar and pronunciation reach pro levels as he tells his cousin not to open the boxes.

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Ah, it’s nice when I can just trust that you all thought the joke, and I don’t even have to say it.

But it turns out that Larry did indeed bring religion into this–he went too far, meddling in the forbidden areas of culinary science. He tried to play God! They called him Madison at the university!

Balki informs us that when you cut corners, “the bibi in the babka goes boom”, which I only mention for the sake of those of you trying to create a Myposian-English dictionary so that you can translate the Bible for them. So, bibi must mean “cream”, and babka either “dough” or “pastry”.

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Anyway, then lots of bibibabkas start exploding. So just market it as a novelty gag pastry, guys! Sell it to other sitcoms!

In the pre-credits scene we find out that the hotel chef was upset and swore at Larry… what, because they could only deliver 1000 on short notice with just four people working on them?

Larry keeps talking and Balki keeps asking when he gets to talk and deliver the pat lesson.

Balki: There are some things that just can’t be rushed… like antiques… redwoods… a really good episode of Moonlighting.

WOULD YOU SHUT UP ABOUT THAT SHOW

Larry starts whining about whether Jennifer and Mary Anne will still be his friend, a bibibabka explodes, and that’s it.

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So let’s talk about how “Just Desserts” measures up against “Job Switching”.  I watched that episode before reviewing this one. In some ways, a comparison isn’t fair. I Love Lucy was groundbreaking television, and besides, the television landscape had changed in the 35+ years between that episode and this one.  Perfect Strangers had to compete against many more channels and shows, especially for those who didn’t take ABC’s advice and cut off their cable line. I’ll admit I haven’t watched a lot of I Love Lucy, and “Job Switching” is probably the only full episode I’ve watched in maybe 20 years. But “Job Switching”, at first glance, appears to be a commentary on how the sexes are doomed to their own roles, because they can’t manage to do the others. At second glance, it’s more of a commentary on how men don’t know how to do women’s housework. Lucy and Ethel may have failed at candy-making, and failed spectacularly at candy-wrapping, but the episode made it abundantly clear that the “man’s world” of work was comprised of many different jobs, most of them requiring specialized skill sets, and that candy-making was simply the only one open at that moment that Lucy and Ethel thought they could do. On the other hand, cooking and cleaning are always cooking and cleaning.  “Job Switching” was a delight to watch; my favorite part was the women in the audience losing it every time Ricky or Fred did or said something that made it painfully clear how little they knew (Ricky thinks one pound of rice is a serving; Fred thinks you mix frosting in with cake batter). Also, both pairs of characters were given comedy situations to work within, something I doubt we’ll ever see from Perfect Strangers.  And where the most memorable part in “Job Switching” was simply one of many physical comedy setpieces, making bibibabkas was the whole episode.

And you know what? I get it. The social commentary of the 1970s sitcom had given way to the “audiences just want to laugh” mentality of the 1980s. The self-contained pastry seen at the beginning of the episode had, by the end, morphed in a monstrosity that could no longer contain the cream filling.

I could make this episode punch itself all day with such meta-analysis, but in the end, I actually had fun watching this episode. Balki shaking around really fast, the alliterative dialogue (and you could tell that the actors enjoyed saying it), and even the pastries exploding at the end. Compared to “Job Switching”, “Just Desserts” is nothing but cream filling, but sometimes that’s all I really require of 22 minutes of television.

Join me next week for another episode about food, “Better Shop Around”!

______________________________

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

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

*yeah, we had an episode about that last season around this time…

**now we know why he weighs 300 pounds

***see Season 1, Episode 2 “Dolly This”

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8 thoughts on “Season 3, Episode 15: Just Desserts

  1. Why is it in this particular trope, the person who suggests that they make a thing to sell always A) promises way too fucking many of that thing in too short a time, and B) decides that they are supervisor and don’t actually have to do anything?
    Nobody ever does any R&D first. Find out how long it takes to make a thing so you know how long it will take you to make 2000. Do your food service math and find out how much you need to charge (typically 40% labor cost, 40% supply cost, 20% profit). Nobody in that apartment building has a commercial kitchen, which that pastry chef probably knows (gross). Along with the question of refrigeration, I want to know how they managed to cook 2000 bibibabkas with one home oven. According to some quick math, they would have had to be baking the dough pieces for 42 straight hours (assuming two dozen pieces at a time, for about 30 minutes per batch).
    Balki and Larry are presumably paying retail prices for their supplies (also, their equipment?), and no one is being paid for labor. Their profit margin is going to be skewed all to shit. If they keep going that way, their business is going to fall apart after their first delivery, providing they can even get it done in time.
    I know that none of this real-world stuff gets factored into these sitcom situations because it’s funnier not to, but I swear these kinds of things ruin enterprise. If I had a dime for every time someone said to me, “This thing you made is great – you should make a bunch and sell them,” I would be… not rich, but I would maybe have enough to pay my internet bill. Yes, that lap quilt I made is cool – but the supplies for it cost me about $100 retail. Then there’s the back-breaking, labor-intensive work that I put into it, about 20 hours over three days. I’d have to charge $1000 per lap quilt in order to make sure that I paid myself and still had some left over to buy more supplies for the next quilt, as well as paying the chiropractor to fix me.
    So people watch these sitcoms, then run to their creative friend and go, “You should make these to sell!” When the creative friend points out that it’s not possible, the Larry friend then scoffs at the creative for being a downer. No. fuck you, Larry. I’m not going down that road with you.
    There’s one thing that the small-business tv-trope gets right, though: after busting butt for hours, the tired labor force calls bullshit and leaves. They weren’t going to get paid, anyway. Then the Balki character yells at the Larry because this fun thing to make is no longer fun, and the quality is shot to hell, and there was no way this was ever going to be a profitable business in the first place. In the meantime, there were some songs sung, and probably some kind of fight in the labor division involving glitter or flour or something to that effect.
    *
    Now that I’m thinking about it, does this “let’s make these to sell!” tv trope occur in tv shows outside of the US? Because enterprising people come from everywhere, but the idea that you could make a profitable business in your garage and become a billionaire is something that Americans really like. Seems like that trope is far more likely in occur in American shows than in shows from other countries, simply because it’s such an American attitude.

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    • I’m wondering now whether the Russian version of Perfect Strangers used this plot. I’m also wondering why Larry didn’t try to use Balki’s connection with Mr. Casselman at Unicorn to sell the bibibabkas. Lastly, I’m wondering what songs you sing when you’re making your glitter quilts.

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  2. I remember this episode! I really loved it as a kid.

    So is there really any rationale for why cream-filled pastries would explode?

    I mean, if they weren’t specifically called bibibabkas, would they still explode?

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    • The only explanation is that corners were cut. But your second question reveals to me that Balki implied that exploding bibibabkas is something he’s encountered before.

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  3. I legitimately like that Larry tucked his tie into his shirt so it wouldn’t get dirty…rather than just take the tie off, since he’s at home anyway and nobody cares how formal he looks.

    I legitimately dislike that the pastries explode.

    Please provide a timeframe for when you will fix this episode.

    Seriously though, I remember this one well…though I’m pretty sure I forgot about it the moment it was over and only had the memory triggered when I saw the screengrabs. I probably did laugh as a kid, but my god is the idea of exploding pastries a terrible resolution for a show that’s meant to take place in our-exact-reality-plus-one-country.

    I would have been happier if they came out to find that a load of cats snuck in through the open window and ate all that shit instead. Balki could still find some kind of Myposian superstition justified by that. Y’know. Larry introduced negativity to the baking process, so the babatwinkies were cursed, or some garbage.

    I’m reminded of an otherwise pretty good episode of ALF, where he burns the textbook and thinks he’s cursed. At one point he calls a live TV show to ask for advice, and all of his bad luck travels through the phone lines or whatever and causes the studio lights to fall down and almost kill the guy.

    …and that’s not how it should work. If the show takes place in the reality we know (ie: it’s not something clearly elastic, like Married with Children or Get a Life, and otherwise relies on us recognizing the laws of this universe), you can’t break that reality on the grounds only that you didn’t have a better idea.

    ALF’s issue should have been confirmation bias. He shouldn’t ACTUALLY have been followed around by a cloud of black magic. He should experience bad things, yes, but he should read into those bad things a pattern that doesn’t necessarily exist outside of his head. Once he stars zapping down lighting fixtures with his thoughts we’ve crossed a line.

    Ditto the exploding pastries. I understand wanting a big physical moment at the end of the show. I understand wanting a shock. I understand wanting to ruin the fucking desserts.

    But you can’t suddenly change the rules and say we’re in an episode of Looney Tunes for the final minute and a half of an episode that was otherwise grounded. They might as well just have shown a card that said the bibiruths died on the way back to their home planet.

    Casey, promise me they will never do this again.

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      • Explosive finale aside, I should say that this episode doesn’t sound half bad, and I definitely enjoyed it when it first aired, so, credit where credit is due, for sure.

        This and “Get a Job,” then? Are they the only two you actually enjoyed, or am I forgetting something? If things don’t pick up, you’re going to have an uncommonly short top 10.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Query: is it the supernatural part of the exploding pastries that you don’t like, or that you think it’s not possible? Because there are definitely some exploding foods out there… but they explode because of science, not karma.

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