Season 3, Episode 16: Better Shop Around

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We open at Bob’s MARKET, which, according to the signs, sells Stymens Potikn1 and Ymgluπ Pears. It’s also having its GRAND OPENING today!  Even though this means the end of smaller, family-owned stores like the Shop’N’Spend, I like it when we open at a third location, because the exposition emerges more organically.

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Just as was prophesied in The Revelation of Casey 2:22, hot dogs have made Balki lose control, and he’s just throwing package after package of them into a shopping cart.  Having not learned the explicit lesson of “Karate Kids” (food eaten with toothpicks is free), Balki thinks that the packaged weenies are also free, and moans “no” over and over again as Larry puts the “disgusting little cheese dogs” all back on the counter. There’s your homosexual subtext for the episode, you’re not getting anymore. We’ve got the end of the season coming up, and last week ended with Larry covered in special cream filling. I don’t want you to spoil your appetite.

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Larry tells Balki that good shopping behavior is based on rules. Balki says that they don’t have rules for shopping on Mypos–or for games–and suddenly everything makes sense. But I bet they have a saying for it. Stinki pinki doggie, hokki moodi judi, something like that.

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Anyway, there’s some good composition to some of these shots, with the cousins moving around the store, behind the aisles, customers at the cash register in the foreground.  Somebody thought this out! There’s also a live clown* in the background who moves around sometimes like he’s an animatronic clown.

Larry actually does tell Balki not to fall for attractive packages and to compare prices, and then he breaks it down for his cousin how the birth of the “branded” food product emerged roughly contemporary with the beginning of psychology as a science, as well as with the development of mass communication. He goes on to say that the interplay between the three over the intervening near-century had resulted in devastatingly effective (and affective) advertising, and mass-produced food filled with salt, fat, and preservatives, all of which attempt to bypass the higher brain functions and go right for the older parts, which respond to fear, and to feast-or-famine situations.  Balki, coming from an island nation without such constant bombardment from the corporate world, had not developed defense mechanisms against it, making him prone to desire Disgusting brand Little Cheese Dogs.

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Nah, j/k, Larry doesn’t say all that shit, he just whips out a giant calculator.  He begins to figure out the unit price of *squints at screen* Uncle Beds Intact Ricc, but Balki does the math in his head faster.  And because that was so funny, they do it again with a big bag of rice. So last week, the joke was that a dumb character was good at math, and it was funny because she’s supposed to be dumb. This week, it’s the same joke, but with Balki. Emergent rule #1 of Perfect Strangers: Balki is the dumbest person on screen, unless his girlfriend is there. Emergent rule #2: the dumb characters are smart.

The giant bag of rice is too heavy for Cousin Larry, so Balki must give him a boost from behind. *slaps your hand away from the gay joke* No.This episode is making a serious statement on how, having failed to mass-produce their own food, the cousins are now giving obeisance to the reigning masters of the market. Balki and Larry do the thing where they fight over who gets to talk first. Larry plays his secondary-catchphrase power move:

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But this kind of dialogue always ends with Larry wrong, and in this case, he gets the bag of rice thrown at him.

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Hey everybody! It’s Kimmy Robertson, the store-brand Victoria Jackson!  Balki engages her in conversation to find out more about the talking cash register, which says the name and the price of each product as it is scanned.  I’m reminded mostly of the ALF episode “Come Fly With Me”, where ALF is intrigued by the toaster which says “toast” when it makes toast. I mention this to draw parallels between the characters, and also to say something about the late 80s.  By the airing of this episode, I had (according to the CDC) only just started talking well enough for strangers to understand me most of the time**, but this trend in “gadgets” continued for at least a few years after. Because the cost of the electronics parts necessary to make things “talk” had gone down so substantially, it appeared just about everywhere, even if it made no sense. But if I worked at this store, and had to listen to that all day? I’d probably go up on a building ledge and hope some cousins were there.

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Larry runs off to grab some Bismol, and Balki tells Kimmy Robertson about his day, which reads as a coded cry for help. He talks about how Larry didn’t want to let him leave the house, and how they had a big fight about it, and how it’s always ups and downs with them.

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While scanning the cousins’ purchases, a siren goes off and Kimmy throws a bunch of confetti at Balki. The loud noises, bright colors and quick movements are enough to frighten Balki the Kid, who starts crying.  Store-brand John Goodman explains that the talking computer achieved sentience and chose them to win the GRAND OPENING prize. How did the computer make such a wise choice? Balki, did you tell the computer this was a sitcom?

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We come back from the break to an apartment filled to the ceiling with 25lb bags of rice. Nah, j/k, Balki jumps on the couch. He’s been telling the exciting news to all of their neighbors, you know, all their neighbors, Jennifer, Mary Anne… um. Schlaegelmilch. Eddie? Did those two old men die yet?  He’s so excited by how overwhelming this overtly capitalist plotline is that he knows he won’t be able to sleep***.  He makes a dumb joke about sheep. Where does he come up with them?

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Larry yells at him and tells him that this week, the jokes were from Bob Keyes, and besides, he has a plan for their shopping spree.  Balki says that Larry just wants an excuse to have a plan. And then Larry accuses Balki of just wanting to throw things in the cart, and that they’d end up with 800 lbs of Ding Dongs. (No, stop, put that back. I have a plan and it doesn’t involve gay jokes this week.)  Balki was incredibly childish at the supermarket. Is this… is this a good father/son story?  Balki just pronounced “potato” correctly, there was a live clown earlier, and tonally-appropriate performances from two different one-off characters. Is this… is this a good episode?

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I guess I spoke too soon, because Larry doesn’t even try to explain home economics. It’s just a “this is what I want” vs “this is what I want” situation. Cousin Larry whips out an even larger rectangle to teach Balki the science of shopping. Balki asks about the gowerr-met section, and then gets grossed out by the idea of fish eggs and snails. Balki expresses his disapproval of his cousin’s crazy plan in the only way he knows how (Balki-isms) and then Larry finally explains why he wants to buy gowerr-met foods.  See, this is why I’ve learned to lead with my intentions in meetings at work.

Cousin Larry’s plan is to sell the Gowerr-Met brand food products to somebody named Chef Robert so they can then buy an air conditioner. Geez, Larry, two weeks in a row with the same plan? And don’t they have a landlord for stuff like this? Balki balks, claiming they don’t need an air conditioner. But has Balki forgotten how hot last summer was?

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Thanks for the clue for our fans at home about the timeline, show, but damn, that heat/humidity joke was old THEN. Aww, look, no, you even made Larry almost barf.

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Cousin Larry gets Balki hooked on the idea of the air conditioner by having Balki imagine what it would be like to have cold air in his room.

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Then Larry–NO. NO. We are going to sit down as a family for the season finale in just six weeks, and I don’t want you talking about how full you are from all the gay jokes.

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Larry explains the plan, talking really quickly so the audience will know how complex it is, littered with words like “hamburger” and “pockets” and “melons” so they’ll also know where to laugh. Immediately after this show of prowess, the writers just have Balki make a Sylvester Stallone joke. Look, guys, we’re 15 minutes into a 24-minute .avi file here, can we get back to the store?

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Larry and Balki are wearing overalls because Larry wants to circumvent a loophole (a GRAND OPENING, if you will) in the spree rules. There’s no better way to support a struggling new business than to cheat it. That’s the American way! Jennifer’s wearing some quintessentially 80s denim outfit, but I’m just going to focus on what Mary Anne (Sagittarius) is wearing because she’s so cute.

*sigh* It’s too bad I had, according to the CDC, only just learned how to work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts by the time this episode aired.****

Mary Anne has asked Balki to get her some shampoo. Wise girl, you take care of that luscious glory. Jennifer asks for some nail polish, and what the hell, I’ll count that as a personality trait.

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Larry takes Balki off to the side, and I’m as angry as he is.  This is some “The Unnatural” bullshit right here, trying to change the plan at the last minute. Once again, Larry is trying to defeat a grocery store team, but Balki wants to play.

Balki: But Mrs. Schlaegelmilch needs some salami!

haha YEAH she does!

Larry clarifies that they only have three minutes (just enough time for a physical comedy scene). The cousins aren’t even trying to modulate the volume of their voices. They’re just straight-up having a fight in public–in their overalls, no less. And here I thought I’d left my youth in rural Georgia far behind me.

Larry: Why do you think they call it “a plan”?!

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Balki ponders the mysteries of etymology, but there’s no time for that.  When store-brand John Goodman announces the Cousins to the other shoppers, Mary Anne cheers while Jennifer tries to make her stop. Mary Anne is so dumb she thinks you’re supposed to be happy for your friends’ successes. The beginning of the spree is delayed so that Balki and Larry can fight some more. Geez, Larry, after all that talk about compromise last week…

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The spree begins, the cousins go in different directions, and then they spend a full minute not putting anything in the cart. Somehow Larry’s great idea to wear lots of pockets did not turn into the cousins splitting up. Somehow Larry’s plan involved letting Balki push the cart.

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Finally, they start throwing roasts and hams and turkeys around*****. Balki loses control when he sees the salami, which results in Larry keeps throwing turkeys onto the floor. Wouldn’t the store manager stop them at this point?

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The cousins continue to put no groceries in the cart.

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They finally throw a bunch of bottles of shampoo in the cart. Larry makes for the Gowerr-Met foods, but Balki sees the diapers that Mrs. Falby asked for.

Balki starts putting fish down his pants. It’s always fish down the pants with this guy.

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The cousins finish their grueling trek through this five-aisle grocery store by crossing the finish line right at the last second.

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In the end, the cousins made $635 off of Chef Robert (I see your Bob/Robert thing, show, and I like it), enough to buy the air conditioner and then some.  Larry breaks out the celebratory bismol, and is surprised when Balki says that the outing was fun.

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Larry: Why is it always work for me, and fun for you?

This week’s lesson is that Larry spends too much time making plans, and not enough having fun.

*crosses arms, mutters to self* plans can be fun, I plan these posts

Balki keeps telling Larry that he never has any fun, and Larry just keeps saying “but I’ll have an air conditioner”. Larry, come on, just explain how much fun it is to stand in front of an air conditioner and have the cold air blow on your wiener.

The lesson is kind of pat, but it’s still better than some of the other lessons this season. And it’s the kind of lesson which flows from an episode like this. Dad wants semi-luxury item for the house, son sees others’ needs (like how Mrs. Falby keeps shitting herself) and wants to spread the wealth. Cross that with the axis of planning/fun, and it’s a solid single dad episode of Perfect Strangers. But it wouldn’t be a complete episode of season 3 Perfect Strangers without a Mypos saying:

Balki: Iff hodhi vyzhe zwikki, po po stikki pikki tikki

Translation: if you let your hair down, you might be surprised what you find in it.

What, like rats and bugs?

Anyway, in an attempt to start having fun, Cousin Larry gives Balki the money so Balki can teach him how to have some crazy fun. Larry feels like a weight has been lifted from his shoulders. Isn’t it fun to be self-destructive?

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Larry asks Balki what he’s going to do with the money and again, we find the complexities of English still fall short to convey actual meaning because “plan” can mean different things. Special note: Dmitri has a little shopping cart in front of him, indicating that Balki’s reticence to become a part of the capitalist machine is now completely gone. I’ll let Dr. M know.

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Balki wants to rent a sky-writing airplane for Mary Anne’s birthday and have it say “Happy Birthday Mary Anne from Guess Who!”

Larry asks for the money back because, seriously, the idea was for everybody to have fun, not for Mary Anne to think that a whole band is in love with her. They fight over the money and, okay, fine, just ONE more gay joke, but that’s it.

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The cousins are gay for one another and have sex with each other because they are gay.

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Catchphrase count: Balki (2); Larry (1)

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

*things I’d never thought I would say, but then I started this blog

**the joke you thought? that joke

***yes, we had one of those episodes about this time last season

**** see **

***** see ***

P.S. I feel like in the very last scene that Balki still has fish down his pants, and I wonder if a joke was cut.

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7 thoughts on “Season 3, Episode 16: Better Shop Around

  1. Huh. I’d always thought this episode aired earlier in the series (probably because there was an early episode where they also went shopping).

    Is this the first Chronicle-era episode without the Chronicle?

    I laughed at “Balki loses control when he sees the salami”.

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  2. Whoever indexed the episodes that I downloaded seems to agree with you on the episode order; they had this as episode 5.

    And yes, this is the first unless you count “Weigh to Go, Buddy”, “Taking Stock”, “The Karate Kids”, “Night School Confidential”, “Future Shock”, and “Just Desserts”.

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  3. Ha. It’s amazing how all of these episodes just kind of blur together in my mind that I can’t remember when they were shown at work and when they weren’t.

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  4. “Larry actually does tell Balki not to fall for attractive packages and to compare prices, and then he breaks it down for his cousin how the birth of the “branded” food product emerged roughly contemporary with the beginning of psychology as a science, as well as with the development of mass communication. He goes on to say that the interplay between the three over the intervening near-century had resulted in devastatingly effective (and affective) advertising, and mass-produced food filled with salt, fat, and preservatives, all of which attempt to bypass the higher brain functions and go right for the older parts, which respond to fear, and to feast-or-famine situations.”
    Happening simultaneously, and also intermingled: the rise of photography, which became the new Real over painting. Painting then decided that, if it was not the realest Real, it needed to be something else, and formed an often-awkward dalliance with psychology that continues to this day. Essayist Clement Greenburg destroyed fine art for the masses in the mid-twentieth century when he declared that fine art was only for the very intelligent and all others need not apply. One was only able to “get” art if one understood psychology. Meanwhile, illustration broke away from fine art to form an alliance with advertising. Fine art has never forgiven illustration, and painters often look down on illustrators for this very reason. Also forming an alliance with advertising was photography, who later formed a tenuous friendship with fine art. Illustration remains the redheaded stepchild because of its connections to advertising, because illustration and advertising are used to peddle goods, whereas fine art is used to explore the soul and the universe around it.
    Really, none of this pertains to this episode at all, but I’ve noticed that you enjoy history porn and butterfly effects, so I thought I’d chime in (because truthfully, I like that shit too, and have so few people that are available for those kinds of discussion).

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  5. Thank you for the background! This helps fill some gaps in my 19th/20th Century art knowledge (I have many, many more); this also does a lot to explain what comics have been up against for the past 80 years.

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  6. Oh God, yes. If your work is considered to be in any way, shape, or form “consumable” then you are looked down upon. It drives me batshit crazy. Some of the hardest-working people I know are illustrators and comic book artists, yet they get zero respect from the fine artists. There’s no reason to be a dick to another artist.

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  7. Also, I had forgotten how shady Larry can be. How does he know Chef Robert? Did he just go knocking on a bunch of back doors (down, gay joke! No! BAD gay joke!) on a bunch of restaurants? And what chef would keep buying random crap from Larry? From Robert’s POV, all of Larry’s stuff is falling off the back of a truck. Possibly sketchy pastries cooked in your home? Sure! Various and sundry “gourmet” items? Why not? And he really paid Larry $600+ for that stuff? Does he want his customers to get food poisoning? Because that’s how your customers get food poisoning.

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