Season 3, Episode 18: The Defiant Guys

Welcome to another TGIF (These Guys is Funny)!

We open at the Caldwell, where a fully-dressed Larry asks Balki if they have any more dental floss.  That is one of the things that always runs out first, isn’t it?  Especially when all you eat is the Paoli’s Meat Gobbler pizza and you get all those fennel seeds stuck between your molars.

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Balki, on the other hand, is in his Mypos jammies eating Sugar Oatsies, which I assume is also made by Unicorn. When I’m buzzing the Kellogg factory, I know I’ll need the pep that you can only get from oatsies, so I reach for Sugar Oatsies! Balki says something about being out of dental floss, but take a look out that window.  Don’t the cousins live on the second floor?

Larry: Oh great, just when I could really use the confidence that a good flossing gives me.

When I really need the confidence that a good flossing gives me, I reach for Stringacetti Brand Dental Floss – “Men do those things for their teeth”.  I actually kind of like this weenie version of Larry.  But Larry’s dressed already because Mr. Burns is taking him to lunch.  I know some of you out there are older than me, so please tell me: was lunch at like 9 in the morning back then?

Larry thinks that somehow, unlike every other low-stakes situation he’s ever faced, he’ll manage not to screw this one up by wearing his lucky tie and his lucky socks, and his–

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oh no Larry found a lump

Nah, j/k, Larry can’t find his lucky pen, you know, the same one that almost got him killed early this season?  The cousins talk about the function and use of pens for awhile, and Larry even hands Balki a cup full of pens. Certainly something that we spend so much time on is going to have a huge impact on the rest of the episode, right?

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Then, for the third time this season, Larry does not have the right keys, but hasn’t Larry already become synonymous with not achieving one’s dreams? Does he even still need a symbol for it?  It’s revealed that this time, Balki is the culprit, having given Larry’s car keys to Jennifer.*

But did Balki take all the empty Bismol bottles out of the backseat???

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Balki brags about how he got to feel a thankful Jennifer’s breasts brush momentarily against his chest, but Larry is more upset about how he now must take the bus with the unwashed masses.

ABC, deep into its fight against such evils at satellite dishes and *shiver* basic cable, knew that some portion of its audience may well have been changing the channel from TBS.  Those of you who were children of the late 90s or even *shiver* the aughts may not know that the TBS Superstation used to begin its programs at 5 minutes past the hour or half-hour.  This was a clever tactic on the part of Ted Turner, seen here in this undated photograph:

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It was clever because it kept viewers tuned into the Superstation, where they could actually see such classic television as The Andy Griffith Show, Gilligan’s Island, and as much Woody Woodpecker as they could stomach.  At any rate, ABC knew that it had to hook those viewers quick, so writer John B. Collins (no relation) here has Larry recap the situation Balki has put him in:

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Larry: Because of you I can’t floss, I wasted precious time looking for my lucky pen, and now I have to take the bus!

But Balki says that Larry can’t leave yet, because they have to talk about having made him angry.  And props to Larry for having better presence of mind to say very clearly how he’s feeling and that he doesn’t have time. That’s better than I do when I’m pissed off at you terrible shit-suckers who read this blog!

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Later, at the Chicago Chronicle basement, some Hispanic woman comes on screen, hands Balki a mailbag, and leaves, and then a black guy walks in front of the camera.

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Get those ethnic people out of the basement! An old white woman is coming down the stairs!

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Balki tries to tell Mrs. Van Weezer, Society Editor, about his bad day, but she doesn’t give crap one about the cousins! Finally, a REAL woman!  She’s there to make sure that Balki mailed an RSVP, and goes so far as to namedrop herself in the process. Hoo! She’s quite the rage! But we wouldn’t want to set up something in the first act that would cause her to be angry later on, would we, Balki?

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Look at Balki’s face, he’s so grateful that such an important personage gave him such a good catchphrase setup.

Mrs. Van Weezer, Society Editor, calls Balki a cretin, and he mistakes it for a regional joke, and for once, his misunderstandings work. I’m grateful, too.

But it turns out that Balki did not remove a card that was paper-clipped to the outside of envelope, on which Mrs. Van Weezer, Society Editor, shit-talked the Porterfield family.

*leans back in chair, smiles wanly*

Here it is, sitcom logic’s finally going to work against Balki. Who cares that paperclips would fall off in a full mailbag inside a mailtruck, Gorpley’s finally got grounds to fire Balki.  Mrs. Van Weezer’s gonna edit this guy right OUT of her society!

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(just in case she doesn’t die by the end of the episode, I’m calling this as her catchphrase)

Harriette ushers an upset Larry into the basement. Balki continues to try to reestablish rapport, but Larry just keeps moving too quickly for me to get a clear enough screenshot for you to see Lydia in this scene.

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Not only did Larry get off the bus at the wrong stop, he’s late turning in yet another two-sentence article, and his fountain pen leaked. I, uh, kind of thought that the fountain pen thing was going to be the physical comedy setpiece for this episode, and we’d end up with both the cousins covered in ink, then hugging and saying “hi” to whoever walked into the room. You’ve got my attention now, show.

Balki says they have a saying on Mypos, and Larry glares at him, prompting Balki to skip straight to the English translation.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve had opportunity to praise the show for demonstrating progress when it comes to the cousins’ idiosyncrasies, which means I’d also forgotten the tiny bit of whiplash that comes after it. Here, somehow, the Mypos saying includes a reference to the works of Tennessee Williams, but it’s basically about not waiting to talk through things INSTANTLY when someone is upset with you.  Yes, of course! It’s always a good idea to make someone talk about their upset feelings when they’re deep within them! It’s a neuro-psychological impossibility that the brain’s glucose levels might be too low to think about more than one thing, or that the person prefers to schedule a time to talk about something. It was simply my ex-girlfriends’ faults that they didn’t want to post-mortem arguments the second after we had them. Their fault!

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Then Harriette lets Lance Dick and his tiny tie into the basement, and the audience laughs when Harriette expresses honest fear that inept white men carrying guns might, on an aggregate level, be more likely to use deadly force against brown people than other whites.

Lance Dick gives Balki his belt, and lets Balki wear it because I guess there’s no lockers? Or regulations in the city of Chicago? Is security this lax in a giant city?

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Even though there’s just the one elevator in the world’s most important newspaper**, Harriette week after week has nothing better to do than ask Balki what he and Cousin Larry are fighting about. It turns out that Balki isn’t the only one in an abusive relationship:

Harriette: My husband has two moods: angry… and angrier.

I can’t wait until we get to meet this angry man who carries a gun! Sounds like he’d be a good lead for a family sitcom! I mean, come on, how many black people were on the TBS Superstation back then?

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Harriette says that what she does with Carl Winslow: Angry Black Man is she locks him in the car and drives him around until he talks about the problem. Literal wisdom from the streets, folks.

Amazingly, Jennifer has had more impact on the plot by not being there at all, meaning that Balki can’t use the old Car Winslow trick. Then the elevator call alarm starts buzzing and Harriette yells up the shaft for the person to jump out of a window.

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Bye, Frank!

*leans farther back in chair, laces fingers behind head*

Yup, Balki’s going to be so, so very wrong this week, taking that awful advice. He’s going to get both him and his righteously angry cousin fired.

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Larry comes back and Balki contemplates a plan that I have to just comment on without any subtext because of that moratorium I established last week. *ahem* When I need to get my cousin to talk to me–and fast!–I reach for Lance Dick brand Genuine Security Man Handcuffs. Lance Dick Handcuffs… “Cuff that Cuz!”

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Balki handcuffs them together, and Larry asks “what are you doing”.  Balki’s response makes me wonder if someone on the writing staff just didn’t understand that you put that kind of line as stage directions.

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After pretending to not be angry at Balki anymore doesn’t work, Larry starts checking all of Balki’s pockets for the key.

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Larry gives in, finally accepting this key thing as his defining symbol. Balki says he wants them to be friends, and Larry says that you have to ask permission when offering someone else’s possessions.  Balki says he’ll never, ever, do that again.

Show.

Hear me.

I will hold you to this.

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Of course, since there’s 11 minutes left, they don’t get out of the handcuffs yet.  The uncles Mr. Burns enters and now the girls the cousins have to hide what they’ve done.  Yeah, guys, that’ll work, he won’t feel your hands on his butt.  Mr. Burns is here to give us that sweet halfway-point exposition: R.T. Wainwright actually wants to meet Larry because Burns told him that Larry has potential. Burns manages to put Larry down a little bit, but it’s just not the same. I miss Twinkacetti. I miss… her. *sniff*

The cousins fight over the handcuff key and it breaks.

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When I have a business lunch with an employee from the basement of my building, I need a restaurant that understands my physical comedy needs. That’s why I eat at Chez Paul, one of Chicago’s finest third locations.

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Hey, look, everybody, it’s the “other arms” bit! Hello, comedy bit!!!

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Larry:  We’re not together, but we’d like to sit near each other

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The Maitre D’ has heard that one before, and seats Balki and Larry on opposite sides of a divider.

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And there he is–R.T. (Really Tall) Wainwright himself! But–oh no! He likes to sit at a different table when he comes to Chez Paul!  Larry launches into this thing about air currents and smoking sections and boy oh boy does that date this.  I remember the Pizza Hut I went to as a kid had dividing walls and fans that did nothing if you were seated too close to someone smoking.

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Anyway, Mr. Burns tells Larry to cut that shit out.  They move to another table, and, okay, really?

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Like, how can Balki standing behind Larry, or sitting behind Larry, possibly work? Mr. Burns has met Balki. I know, I know, you’ve all told me before that I’m putting more thought into this than the writers. I’ll move on.

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Larry tries to impress Wainwright with his verbal prowess by rattling off a list of spoonerisms, which is almost a running joke in this episode?  Balki sits down at the next table and OH NO

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It’s Mrs. Van Weezer! It’s bad enough she has to eat there knowing that black people are sitting behind her, but now she has to *shiver* look at a foreigner (possibly even smell him, thanks to those air currents).

Wainwright asks Larry what got him into newspapers, and before Larry can get the word “photographer” out, Balki pulls him onto the floor.

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After the cousins verbally confirm everything that has happened visually up to this point, Balki drags Larry to the restaurant entrance. Then they talk about the situation some more, and then they go back to the table and say “HI” together like they do every third episode or so.  Larry quotes the Perfect Strangers writing staff creed:

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Larry: Balki’s such an interesting man that if he’s gone for more than a minute, life gets boring

Burns, one of the few people on this show who reacts to these cousins like a normal human being, covers his face in shame.

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In the process of introducing Balki, it’s revealed that Mypos is in the southeastern Mediterranean. Wainwright calls bullshit, as he was a war correspondent and knows all the Mediterranean islands.  Evidently, Mypos was used for target practice.  God damn, Larry, you’re worried about trying to take a photo of a dead baby for the Chicago Chronicle? You’ve got one of the biggest human rights violations stories of the 20th Century sharing an apartment with you! Do like Charlie in Firestarter and go to the Rolling Stone with this!

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Instead of that, Balki feeds Larry and wipes his mouth. Burns suggests that Balki and Larry are the product of incest.  Burns, all you need is a vice and you can fully replace Twinkacetti. Please, pleeeeease, pinch a waitress’s butt, fart, pull your penis out, anything, man, we’re coming up on the end of the season. I know you don’t have any eyebrows, but that doesn’t guarantee you won’t go the way of the Tina.

Wainwright asks if something is wrong with Larry’s left hand. Larry strokes his water glass and says he likes to save it for “emergencies”.

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Wainwright’s heard that one before.

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The handcuffs are  revealed and Burns says Larry better have a good explanation, as though it were some kind of crime. But I can understand the reaction, given this show’s track record for handcuffs jokes.

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Later, at the Chronicle, we find that those four sure did have fun when they got together, and that they ended up bonding over embarrassing situations. Like the time when Wainwright was a war correspondent and was too high to report on islands being used as target practice.

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Wainwright thanks Burns for introducing him to the cousins and then tells him to get the fuck off the set and never come back.

Larry tries to apologize to Balki, and then the music comes on. But Balki says that Larry’s wrong…

*leans further back in chair, because here comes the Mypos logic*

…that it was actually Balki’s fault.

*falls out of chair*

Larry tells Balki that he might need to adjust his proverbs to account for the higher levels of complexity and nuance present in modern American society.  Complexity like dealing with three old people at once. Nuance like the symbolic key breaking, whatever the hell that meant. The lesson basically is that because there’s more going on in any given day than just sleeping, eating, and screwing livestock, talking “right now” just doesn’t work.

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Harriette comes in and says that the cousins look like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, in case you didn’t get the reference this week’s episode title makes. I guess, yeah, if you just look at the handcuffs, sure, okay.

You know what? I liked this episode! And it wasn’t just the other arms bit, or the fact that Larry was right.  Okay, Larry being right was part of it. But there’s more than that. The lesson was one that was true, and was demanded by the plot of the episode. Sure, it was the easiest, most accessible example possible, but it’s one of the realest ones this season.  Every generation must answer life’s questions anew. Sometimes you gain the understanding independently and realize how right your parents were; sometimes received wisdom just doesn’t work in the face of cultural change.

The episode ends with Harriette telling the cousins that Lance Dick will not be reachable for the weekend because his wife just had a baby.

When I’m staring down a long weekend with no hope of wiping my butt in privacy because I’m handcuffed to my cousin, I reach for a hacksaw, because locksmiths only exist in science fiction.

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See you next week for “My Brother, Myself”

__________________________

Catchphrase count: Balki (3); Larry (0, but where was his season 1 catchphrase when we needed it most?)

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

*Baby, you can drive my car, ‘cause baby, I love you… as long as you love me.

**and don’t think I didn’t notice how Mrs. Van Weezer didn’t use it

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9 thoughts on “Season 3, Episode 18: The Defiant Guys

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed it overall, but I can’t help but think that the episode would have been a little smarter if it concealed from Balki the fact that Larry was having lunch with R.T. Freshenfruity. WE should still know about it — maybe a quick phone call with Jennifer? — but to Balki, Larry should have just been in some kind of angry anxiety spiral.

    That would allow him to handcuff his cousin with the intention of helping him, at which point Larry could say, “You idiot. I’m stressed out because I’m having lunch with the boss today!” Balki could say, “Perhaps you should have told me this a few seconds sooner.” That kind of thing…make Balki seem oblivious as opposed to actively destructive.

    As it stands it just looks like Balki’s being an asshole. Okay, on Mypos there’s less going on in a day, but surely he understands by now the American concept of meetings, appointments, and things along those lines. He knows that Larry had one, and pulling a stunt like this immediately beforehand is wrong. He knowingly fucked his cousin. (You’re welcome.)

    A few other thoughts:
    – I mentioned a few weeks back that the discount store was conducive to a “customer of the week” approach to plotting, whereas the Chronicle is conducive to a larger pool of recurring characters they can tap into at any time. Yet, oddly, the plots seem to be more “customer of the week” than they ever were before. Or, colleague of the week, I guess. Frank. The psychic. The society editor…they’re always pitted up against someone new to us that, ostensibly, they actually work with every day. It’s odd.

    – Speaking of which, replacing Twinkacetti as the boss is fine, since they don’t work in his shop anymore. But why does it feel like they replaced him with at least four bosses?

    – You ducked out before we got to it in the stream, but there was (I think) a commercial with the cousins talking about Harriette’s departure from the Chronicle. It mainly was meant to promote Family Matters, but I have a feeling it’s the only in-show explanation for where she’s gone, so it might be worth seeking out at some point.

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    • Do you have a link to that commercial? Because it seems weird that they’d do that. Within the universe of the shows, Harriette didn’t leave the Chronicle. It got a new self-service elevator (I believe that’s how they worded it instead of “the elevator became self-service”), so Harriette was canned, but she went to a boss at the Chronicle (played by Mark Lynn-Baker, even though it’s not Larry), argued with him, and got a new job.

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  2. You’re right, Balki’s being either a dumbass or an asshole, and the show’s playing it as naïveté. It would work if they didn’t keep breaking his naïve mode for jokes–something I’ve been seeing all season long. For what it’s worth: the show plays around with how knowledgeable Balki is about anything on any given day, and to an extent I suppose I’ve gotten used to it (read: started zoning out any time Balki talks). The most generous thing you could say about it here is that Balki consistently believes that everyone else is on board with the way he thinks–so why couldn’t a meeting be delayed to resolve an issue? The bosses would understand, right? And after all, Harriette told him–well, I will have more to say about that for my season 3 write-up. But I agree with you; it would have been more believable to have Balki’s reason be “Larry’s always wrong, so any tactic I use to prove that is worth it”.

    –“Customer of the week”. I will have more to say about this for my season 3 write-up.

    –Re: Twinkasplitti: it feels that way because they replaced him with three bosses, and you just can’t count. Also because, lipless though he be, Larry would kiss any ass he could to get out of that basement; he’s a ready slave for whichever boss gives him his big break. I will have more to say about this for my season 3 write-up.

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    • It’s because in the real world, we have a Law of Threes: everything is restructured, and your one boss becomes three. Conversely, two of your coworkers will get fired, and the aforementioned bosses will make you do those jobs as well. One into three, three into one. Perfect Strangers is simply striving to be more realistic.
      I recommend the documentary “Office Space” for more information.

      Like

      • Well, Olivia Crawford got fired, and Frank is most certainly dead at this point, so I think it’s fair to say that Perfect Strangers is a 100% realistic depiction of 1980s Chicago basement labor.

        Like

  3. “Hey Dude” also did a handcuffing episode, and it also referenced “The Defiant Ones”. Its set-up was better (I think). Ted tries to play a trick on Brad with “trick handcuffs”, but it turns out that they’re actual police handcuffs. A replacement key won’t arrive for a while, and a local locksmith can’t get to the ranch for a while, so Brad and Ted have to spend the night together without killing each other. I wonder if the writer was inspired by “Perfect Strangers”.

    Like

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