Season 3, Episode 20: You Gotta Have Friends

Welcome back, everybody!

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We open at the Chicago Chronicle, where Balki is pretending to be able to read the newspaper.  Usually Balki’s doing the work of eleven men, so I guess him fiddle-farting around means Gorpley’s not here this week.

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Cousin Larry, on the other hand, shows off his athletic prowess by carrying a stack of books and archival storage boxes down the stairs.  But before he can turn three linear feet into three square inches on page D26, Balki runs up the stairs and starts shouting at him.  Larry is adamant that he’s got it, but then Balki forces the issue, causing Larry to turn around on the landing.  Larry spills the books, but Harriette knows that stacking books is for dumb white blondes trapped in cabins and stays out of the way.  The lesson the episode demanded is that Balki should be wrong for not believing in his cousin, but because Larry said “I’ve got it” instead of “I have got it” (the latter being more appropriate for newspaper writing), he was wrong.  The music comes on, the cousins hug, Balki says something funny.

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Join me next week for “The Graduate”!

_____________________________

Catchphrase cou–

What?

Shit.

Larry is doing research for a feature article on old people. Balki says that he loves “the Elderly Brothers” (which got a laugh out of me) and then gives us Reason #16 that you’re more likely to find an Everly Brothers CD in Best Buy than the Complete Perfect Strangers: “Bye Bye Love”.  Balki then tells his cousin that they’re going to see a movie that night: Benji the Hunted.  It’s a nice character detail for Balki that he’d want to see it (especially as it featured a lead character that, after coming ashore, makes his way through the American “wilderness”), but I’ve talked before about how I don’t really care for dogs, so I’m with Larry on not wanting to watch an almost entirely dialogue-free children’s movie. Larry says that he has to spend all night on his research (this show keeps making fun of me, but yes, that is why I’m watching this Sausage Party and not the one that came out last week).

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Balki insists that he’ll stay home with Larry and read him the stuff he’s supposed to take notes on.

Look, I’ve tried that method before, and even without someone who reads as haltingly as Balki, it’s a terrible thing to agree to. But Balki is dead-set on being annoying while Larry needs to concentrate, so he starts playing with the pencil sharpener.

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He does it for awhile.

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It’s annoying. Instead of just saying that he wants the apartment alone to himself so it can be quiet, Larry tries to make it about Balki missing the movie.  I want to comment on this because it’s advice I know the show will never give you. I decided years ago (after reading Claude Steiner’s Scripts People Live) to be upfront and explicit about what you want and why.  This way, if it doesn’t match (or works against) what someone else wants, you won’t end up butthurt and feeling ignored because they didn’t somehow magically realize what you wanted.  In other words, if you make something about the other person, it stays only about that other person.

Balki: If you need a helping hand, Balki will be there to jump in with both feet.

It’s a good thing I’ve got a moratorium on gay jokes until the end of the season, because, uh… I don’t even know what I would have done with that one.

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And despite the episode earlier this season where the cousins endlessly practice closing a briefcase, Balki picks up Larry’s and spills everything on the floor.  Balki is the entropic force, making everything convert its potential energy into kinetic, likely to result in chaos by ⅔ through the episode.

At the apartment, Balki shows off his own athletic prowess by running in and jumping on the couch, something he wasn’t allowed to do back when that was his bed.

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But the fact that Larry hasn’t even loosened his tie (not to mention that he’s surrounded by papers, is writing, and is asking repeatedly to be allowed to finish) doesn’t register with Balki, who keeps shaking Larry’s arm. Like, didn’t we establish early on this season that Balki had a superior work ethic?

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But he keeps following Larry around the apartment, talking about the innovative cinematographic choices of Benji the Hunted, and sits on Larry’s files.  Larry then asks Balki to “hang on” and to “let me finish”, but Balki seriously cannot contain himself at this point.  Gee, if only there had ever been a situation that these cousins were in where they came to the conclusion that talking about something instantly after it happens was not a good idea when one of them had an important time-sensitive work task ahead of them.

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Balki went to the Night Mart, where they let you make your own hot cocoa. Again, glad I’ve got this moratorium, because, yeah. No idea.

Balki keeps following Larry around the apartment, talking about the deep understanding of food chemistry necessary for stirring hot cocoa, and sits on Larry’s files.  Though I’m glad we’re getting to see a side of Balki not on display since the courtroom episode, I’m with Larry on this one. Balki following Larry around and sitting in the wrong place is entertaining enough, but certainly this would be a much more interesting episode if they both just sat quietly around the apartment while Larry writes.

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Larry: I am up to my neck in senior citizens here.

Haha, people get shorter when they get old!  Even without osteoporosis, the stuff between your vertebrae starts degrading. Old people! Ha!

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Balki agrees to shut up for a minute. Not allowed to talk, he just stands there and makes gurgling sounds.  We’re five minutes into an episode here. Balki’s gurgling, and Larry’s doing research. What the hell is this episode about? I guess…  I guess I can make another old people joke? Old people are also known for their ability to go on for five minutes without getting to the point. Reference can be made to this for comic effect.

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Um.

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Hey look, the cousins got rid of their green shower curtain. Now it’s white.  Um. There’s a little hallway light right outside of Balki’s bedroom door that the cousins should really leave off so they can keep utility costs down.

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I see what you’re doing, show. You have forced me into a corner where I now have to say that I want Balki to talk. Perfect Strangers has literally stopped because Balki is not allowed to talk.

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*sigh*  Efforts to contain the entropic force are often short-lived, so I, as Larry does, ask:

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what

just

what

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Balki: I made a new friend! I made a new friend!

Well, let’s see it. What is it this time? A Cambodian refugee? A crack baby? Walter Mondale? Balki has found a friend who doesn’t know how to make hot cocoa “the Balki way”.

*Larry reminds me of the moratorium*

*starts making gurgling sounds*

Larry repeats things back to Balki in a half-hearted attempt at active listening, but really, Larry, I thought you wanted to spend more time on your work, and less time on Balki’s story?

Balki: You can say that again!

He did say that again, Balki, that’s exactly what he did.

Balki: I paid for his hot chocolate and his Dang Dongs.

Larry: You paid for his hot chocolate and his Dang Dongs.

Balki tells Larry that he paid for his hot chocolate and his Dang Dongs; and then Larry says that Balki paid for his hot chocolate and his Dang Dongs. Balki then confirms that he paid for the friend’s hot chocolate and Dang Dongs.

This is actually a good Balki-ism to me, again, because I grew up with this kind of thing:

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So, in addition to the afourtimesnowmentioned hot cocoa and Dang Dongs, Balki also bought for his friend some Double Stuf Oreos, scooter pies, Twinkies, and 2 gallons of cookies’n’creme ice cream (Balki grunts the ‘n’ and I laughed out loud at that).  Okay, we get it, Balki’s new friend is fatter than Larry. But wouldn’t it have been a hell of a lot cheaper to just make him some bibibabkas?

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But then Balki reveals that the New Friend took him to a fancy restaurant, Larry says “back up” and Balki walks backwards and fuck you Balki, I’m taking back that ‘n’ grunt. Look, everybody, I could keep doing bits about shit being repeated, or about how absolutely nothing is going on, but seriously. I have a job and other projects, and there’s something serious I have to try to address about this episode, so I’m just going to give you the short version: Balki had to pay for the friend’s meal at the restaurant. Then Balki had to pay for the friend’s cab home. I would have loved for this to be an episode about Balki having an imaginary friend, but Balki thinks he has met World Famous Athlete Carl Lewis (USA). Larry tries to let Balki down easy by explaining the whole story back to him, but that lightbulb in the background refuses to turn on.

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Either Carl is this season’s Carol, and I make a good callback joke not only to that, but my video game level reskin joke from last week; or we’ve revealed this week’s Larry Faux Pas.  Either way, Balki has trouble opening a jar of pickles and tells Larry that he doesn’t trust people enough.

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Both cousins are completely right, and I’d like to tease out something that isn’t being said here: all black people look alike. Every single one of them.  I honestly thought that the guy in Night School Confidential was supposed to be Carl Winslow until I looked at the credits. Shit, they could have used the customer from the first episode of this show and the audience wouldn’t have known. This kind of thing makes it very difficult for white people!  I dated a rich black woman for years, and you know what? Turns out I was dating three middle-class black women and one elderly black man.  I think I’ll miss the one that brought me lunch at work the most.

Balki says that Carl Lewis will leave him some tickets at will call for an event the next day, so the cousins then argue about that. Balki gives up on the pickles and leaves, saying he’s going to go hang out with Mary Anne and drink coffee for awhile, not knowing that she’s so dumb she’s going to get confused about which brown liquid she’s drinking.

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Then Balki comes right back in to borrow money, which is a very thorough condemnation of the Reagan-era “trickle-down” economic theory. Look how quickly the working white man’s money has disappeared into the mouths of blacks and women!

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Here we are at our third location: the will call ticket window of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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The guy at the window says that there are no tickets, not under the name Balki, not under the name Bartokomous, not even under Balki’s street name, “Aristoddler”. Ticketman, since he’s behind the bars, represents the prison-industrial complex, which exists first and foremost to keep alive the idea that black people are only a drain on society, and never give anything in return.

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Balki calls his cousin Larry a “Doubting Thomopolous” and weaves a tale about why Carl Lewis wouldn’t have left the tickets.  Larry counters that he’s a realist. That’s why he’s shooting for the one woman in the city for whom “uses nail polish” is a personality trait.

Cousin Larry keeps threatening that he’ll go home, and it’s obvious he’s not going, and they’re repeating shit again goddammit just show me Carl Lewis already so I can take a screenshot and compare it against other black actors who might appear on here someday. Balki is just left to think about what he’s done.

While he’s thinking, I’ll think too. I’ve made this week’s episode out to be pretty racist, but I want to make sure I explain my reasoning. Larry is having genuine concern for Balki, but is it racist in nature? Nothing is ever stated explicitly about black people being criminals in general here. And the tale Balki weaves is ludicrous enough in itself to not need an “all black people look alike” element; it’s an athlete buying up tons of snack food the day before an event! But, in “Couch Potato”, there’s a joke about Balki not being able to differentiate between Michael Jackson or “his sister”. It’s already a stretch for me to think that Balki would have trouble differentiating between people with similar facial features; incest jokes aside, there are probably tons of familial interconnections all across the tiny island of Mypos. He’s got to be good at it. But even Larry has to lean in close to the television to determine that it’s Diana Ross.  Maybe Larry’s projecting his own beliefs and insecurities onto Balki? On the other hand, maybe con artists realize they look enough like a celebrity* to be opportunistic when one comes to town. So I’ve been going back and forth on this one.

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But when we cut back to the Caldwell in the middle of the night, you hear a siren in the background.  And even with that, I’m slightly torn. Were television shows so committed to the idea that audiences needed to be kept informed aurally that nighttime exterior shots needed sirens? We’ve never had one before, but then, it’s an episode that might be about a criminal, but then…. You see?

Anyway, I’m beginning to like this bit where Larry talks to someone over the phone and they insult him.  It’s like those symbols in comics dialogue, where you get to imagine the dirtiest stuff possible for the person to be saying.

Grumpy Gus: I suggest you stick common household objects into your peehole, that being one of the tenderest holes on the human body!

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Larry: Oh well, that’s real nice.

Then Larry does that rubber/glue thing because we have to show somewhere towards the end of the show that Larry’s a kid.

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Balki: That’s called the Fosbury Flop.

And Larry shutting the door is called padding. I know Carl Lewis is out in the hallway. I know Balki’s not going to call up Jim’s Place and cry.

I remember when there was a special, between-seasons Thanksgiving South Park short with Jay Leno in it that I had to sit through an entire crappy movie to see. They did that crap with the news when I was younger, too, tease you with a good story so you’ll sit through all the ads for Chevy cars. Story at 11. Pfft. It’s 1AM on this show already. Gimme my damn Carl Lewis.

Balki takes the opportunity to put down Larry being short. Sounds like he must have seen Carl’s legs out there on the track.  You know what they say… once you go track, you never go back.  Balki tells us that, right after Larry left, Carl ran out of the stadium, picked Balki up and carried him back in, much to the delight of the paying fans. He even gave Balki a press pass!  Ooh, I bet you’re jealous now, Cousin Larry!

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Balki puts Larry down for being a bad listener and jumps on the couch again, but Larry assumes that Balki is lying to cover up how embarrassed he is. Larry sits down and explains how he once told school chum Bobby Caruso that Henry Aaron** was a friend of his dad’s; to keep up the lie, he had to forge Aaron’s autograph over and over for his friends. And that’s a good reveal!  Okay, maybe Larry really was projecting his insecurities and past lies onto Balki!

Anyway, does Balki see what Larry is getting at?

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But Larry won’t give up his argument.

Larry: This is Cousin Larry you’re talking to.

Man, when you hear that in a conversation, I don’t care if you’re telling the truth, you just drop it and leave.

Balki talks about how he’s never lied in his whole life, not even to the sheep.

*rubs hands together*

*realizes that moratorium ain’t got shit to do with sheep*

Balki fucks sheep.

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Larry lies about believing Balki, then makes fun of him, asking if they had hot cocoa after the track meet. And since I do want to give credit where credit’s due, I will say that you’re doing a pretty good job with the callback jokes, show.

Cousin Larry, having successfully survived another midnight, makes to go to bed. But!

A knock at the door!

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Whoa, show, you got me good! You had me thinking Carl Lewis was going to show up and here’s Ben Vereen!  He was so great as deacon Ernest Frye!

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Anyway, ”Carl Lewis” has stopped by to give Balki the autographs he forgot in the limousine.

Balki.  Buddy.  You just spent most of a day trying to convince your cousin that you met Carl Lewis, and you left the documented evidence in the car. Forget that, you left Carl Lewis in the car! Since when has Balki not wanted to share something good with someone he loves?

Cousin Larry just stares, while Balki says that he thinks Carl Lewis and Jerry Lewis are brothers. And now I’m thinking back to that joke about him putting the vinyl records in the wrong sleeves based on last names and… I don’t even.

For the sake of the viewers at home, Larry keeps repeating “you’re Carl Lewis” so they’ll know not to switch the channel to Beauty and the Beast. Balki tries one last time to get Carl to sleep over, but ABC paid for him to appear for 1 minute, and that’s what they got.

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Then Larry says “mnahennannmb” and guys, seriously, you all need to know the warning signs of a stroke.

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Cousin Larry says “that was Carl Lewis” one more time and then walks stiffly over to the couch like he crapped his pants & is trying to keep the shit from falling down his pantlegs.

For the 53rd time this season, Larry says that someone off-screen thinks he’s a jerk, and Balki finally accedes that this is true.

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Larry confesses his sins and says that he’ll believe whatever Balki tells him from then on.

Haha hoboy there must be a pretty damn good joke coming here! Hold onto your pants!

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Balki: What if I said I had dinner with the Mayor.

Balki: What if I said that NASA wants me to be an astronaut

Hounyhmn that he is, Balki is getting off on this.

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Balki: What if I said that I bought a handful of magic beans…

I’d say that ABC was trying out these ideas on the audience to see what direction they should take the 4th season.

And did someone say… “long-lost triplets”?

Damn, how did I manage to talk so much about an episode where almost nothing happens? Join me next week for “The Graduate”!

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

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

*or not at all; see the film Color Me Kubrick

**Hank Aaron was playing baseball 7 years before Carl Lewis is born, so there is footage out there which is, definitively, of Hank Aaron.

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8 thoughts on “Season 3, Episode 20: You Gotta Have Friends

  1. Real-world answer is that they probably couldn’t predict when exactly the episode would air when they filmed it.

    In-the-reality-of-the-show answer: Balki saw it at a second-run theater?

    Like

  2. Wait, you don’t like dogs? How did that escape me?
    Hooray, we’re both in the “People Hate Me For a Dumb Reason” Club! (I get the extra special ultra membership in that club because, along with dogs, I also do not like bacon.)
    *
    “Damn, how did I manage to talk so much about an episode where almost nothing happens?”
    Yeah, I was actually thinking that, too.
    When the plot of an episode never wavers outside of it’s “TV Guide description” (“Balki meets Carl Lewis”), you assume that you won’t have much to say, but it never fails: those will be the longest reviews ever written. (Flashbacks of myself writing 4000 words on Wesley Crusher’s Sweater of the Week.)
    Me reading: “Shit, dude. How long is this episode?” *reaches end of review* “Ohhhh, nothing happened this week, that’s why it’s so long.”
    *
    “I decided years ago (after reading Claude Steiner’s Scripts People Live) to be upfront and explicit about what you want and why. This way, if it doesn’t match (or works against) what someone else wants, you won’t end up butthurt and feeling ignored because they didn’t somehow magically realize what you wanted.”
    I am trying this technique now and getting piss-poor results. The cat still has not moved, and I’m having to type everything around his furry ass.

    Like

  3. Naw, man. Had to be THIS film. It feeds into the character development of Balki the Kid. Ten bucks says somebody on the writing staff saw it and walked out thinking, “OMG, Balki MUST say he saw this movie! It’s too good a coincidence not to have him get excited over seeing it!”
    If this show had aired five years later, it would have been Balki talking about the feelsy scene at the end of Homeward Bound where Peter thinks that Shadow is dead.

    Like

  4. Bacon is overrated. I look at it in the store and say “who wants meat that’s less than half meat?” With dogs, to begin with I’m allergic; but it’s really a smell, hygiene, and mess issue. Every time people tell me about how much they love their dogs, they also talk about how their dog climbed up on the kitchen counter, or what their dog chewed to pieces. Say what you will about Dave Coulier, but his dog destroyed the original Mr. Woodchuck. I collect rare old toys and dogs seem like an unnecessary risk. The only furry ass *I* want around is–

    wait–

    *gurgling noises*

    Like

  5. For me, it’s about an animal with the wrong kind of energy. Dogs just have too much of it, and I get overwhelmed. When I encounter a dog I like, you know that dog has to be some kind of magical beast, because it just doesn’t happen.

    Like

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