Season 3, Episode 21: The Graduate

Alright, show, you already did the plot where an old woman comes onto Balki, so what’s the deal here?

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We find the Caldwell in the midst of the stillness that often follows a heavy rain: the world drawn into itself, processing what it has taken in, paused in appearance only, the Paoli’s Pizza sign the only indication that inside, catalysis is taking place, a silent promise of new blossoms on the coming morn.

Inside, we find Larry quizzing his cousin on American history facts, reading from what is obviously a novel. Hey, black people aren’t the only things that all look alike! Without a dust jacket, all books look alike too, right? But Balki is obviously strained from hours repeating facts about presidents.  He’s likely thinking back to simpler times, when all he had to do was put on a Ronald Reagan mask.

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Balki is slow to respond and Larry slaps his thigh with a ruler and jeez, okay, show, I can see you’re quizzing me, too. I didn’t forget about this:

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You just hadn’t given me a good opportunity to use it!

Evidently, Balki has one final left, and if he gets 100% on it, he’ll graduate at the top of his class.

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Cousin Larry starts throwing shade at former high school classmate Becky Jo Quinn, to whom Larry lost the valedictorian title because he missed Mr. Planchard’s trick question on his geography final. Larry mentions that Balki would be the first in the family to be a valedictorian.

But then Balki confuses valedictorian and vegetarian, and it’s official, folks: they don’t teach English at Adult Evening Classes Memorial High School.

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Larry hooks Balki with the idea of giving a speech, and yeah, honestly, we need one from him at this point. I wanted one way back when we met Elaine last season (around this time), and all Balki did then was mix up words. Depending upon where you look, this episode is either episode 19 or episode 21 of season 3, but honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised for this to have been intended as the season finale.  Hell, I’d even believe that it could have been intended as a series finale.  There’s no real reason to have Balki graduate high school right now; the beginning of the season demonstrated that perhaps only a week had passed between seasons.

Whatever kind of finale it was or wasn’t, it’s late in the season and we need some major sign of progress. We’ve had Larry’s birthday (given what we knew about his past at the time, an accomplishment), Larry barely placing in a contest, and Larry getting a shitty job. I’ve complained before about how much the show focusses on Balki’s dreams to the detriment of Larry’s, but have any of Balki’s stuck? He doesn’t play baseball, practice Karate, or go to the gym anymore. Mr. Casselman sits alone in his office, waiting, 100 raisins arranged in rows on his desk, hoping that one day his secretary will tell him that a B.A. Bartokomous is on line 1. Suprides has vague memories of the man who would dance with him, but even those will soon be gone. And since there’s no way in hell this show’s ever going to let Balki pronounce Appleton correctly, we’ve got to have some sort of milestone for Balki. What do the last three seasons mean to Balki?

Three seasons in, though, and Larry is still trying to live vicariously through others, feed off their success, and endlessly plan things in the middle of the night. He wants Balki to get that 100, so that he…

Okay okay okay stop

stop stop stop

just stop

I don’t like to toot my own horn, mainly because I’m trying to live my life by the precepts of this show and threw all my horns away, but I’m a smart guy. Smart, at least, when it comes to making good grades on the types of things they test for in school. Thanks to the awful ways that public school teachers get rated and paid in this country, I put good money in many of their pockets over the course of 11 years (I skipped two grades). Heck, in middle school they even put us smart kids in classes with the kids who didn’t do well on tests one year, which I suspect was a move to balance out the reporting to the school district. So let me tell you how grades on your finals work.  When I was in college, I would overhear people talking about how the grade they’d get on the final would determine whether they got an A versus a B (or a B versus a C, whatever). It always struck me as indicative of poor overall performance that one single grade could have such an impact; why would they expect, all of a sudden, that they’d do so much better than they had up to that point?  Once or twice, right before the end of the semester, I did the math for how poorly I could do and still make an A in the class; in one situation I could have done this with a 30 on the final.

What I’m getting at is… was Larry going over NOT ONLY Balki’s grades but somehow everyone else’s to determine that Balki needs to get 100 on one test to be valedictorian?  I’ll tell you why you weren’t valedictorian, Cousin Larry, it’s because you don’t get how dumb Balki probably is.

Look, Larry, like I said, I’m a smart guy, and I’ve learned a thing or two from this show. The best way to make Balki smart is by having Mary Anne in the room. Go get Mary Anne.

Larry doesn’t go get Mary Anne, he just shouts at Balki some more.  Balki says he’s going to bed because he’s exhausted, and me too.  We’ve stayed up past midnight multiple times this season.  I’m tired of season 3 already, and not just because I feel like it’s re-covering some of season 2’s ground. I’m tired of this self-imposed moratorium on gay jokes. I’m tired of asking for good story and good jokes in the same episode. I’m tired of Larry not realizing by now that Balki’s going to do perfectly on everything because he’s a wish-fulfillment character for the children in the audience.

Then the do that “you do”/”I do” thing again.

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Then they just do a rapid-fire quiz about the Battle Between the States, Larry asks Balki who the publisher of the book was, and then the horrible truth comes out: Larry’s geography teacher asked them how many pages were in the textbook on the final.

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That’s some fucked-up shit right there, show. You earned another one:

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And if I’m remembering correctly from a book I read once, that’s good writing to have characters make reveals in the heat of an argument, or while drunk.

Larry says that the only person who knew the answer was “that tramp Becky Jo Quinn”. Yeah, that little slut! I bet she, um. Slept with the textbook?

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Larry asks Balki if he wants to be valedictorian or a nobody, and they puff their chests out and then slump a few times to punctuate each state of being. Linn-Baker adds a nice touch during one slump of shaking his head and mouthing “nope”.  And, okay, good!  This is where Balki needs to be!  Balki is finishing school–possibly the first structured school he’s been to–and he’s really only familiar with its immediate rewards.  What really should just be indicators to the teacher about what students are interested in, or alternately could use a little help with–or potentially what they themselves are not teaching well–become rewards in the eyes of the students, a goal in and of themselves.  Balki doesn’t realize that valedictorian is only important for the duration of the ceremony where you are (or aren’t) it, and that no employer in his future is going to care.  Larry likely knows this by now, even if he’s not admitting it to himself; or maybe he’s used the one question on a geography final to explain and excuse his subsequent “failures”.  Balki’s only just reached this stage due to his circumstance; Larry’s stuck there because of his pomp.

Dad’s trying to live vicariously through his son, I made a pomp & circumstance joke in an entirely organic way, this is shaping up to be a good episode, folks, and we’re only 4 minutes in.

Balki: Alright, Cousin, let’s go for the mold!

well shit

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Some music that sounds as close to the Jeopardy theme as ABC’s lawyers would allow comes on and the scene switches to that of the Cousins, asleep. They wake up to find their muscles in excruciating pain to find that Balki is late for his history exam.  But there’s always time for catchphrases:

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and physical comedy:

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Larry picks up Balki and the coats and heads out the door.

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A painful Asian stereotype hands his completed test to Mr. Jones and says “Mr. Jones, I’m finished with my test” since there’s no fewer than 80 different reasons why he might be handing the teacher the test. Let it not go unnoted that this is the third time ever both cousins were off-screen at the same time.

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I guess the cousins’ tactic is to distract the whole class from the test by talking loudly and doing physical comedy.

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Oh no! Balki only has 20 minutes to take the test. Balki says it will take him 20 minutes to read it, and holy shit, I was laughing about it all season but that’s a true rug pull, holy shit, why don’t they teach English at this school, holy shit, holy shit, look at that portrait of Lincoln, why is it good framing practice to have more matte at the bottom than the top, I just don’t get it, holy shit

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Mr. Jones tells Larry to take a hike, so Larry trips over a desk, sticks his foot in a trash can, and then there’s some happy saxophone music over the scene change.

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Balki stands over the shoulder of Mr. Jones commenting on the test grading.

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Balki got a 100!

The cousins do the Dance of Joy!

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But Balki finished 2nd in the class because Larry still isn’t good at math and didn’t account for other people getting 100 too.

Mr. Jones gives Balki the same chance he gave Mr. Henry Fong–to answer the extra credit

Oh, no! It’s the publisher’s name!

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Balki pretends to play a trumpet while Larry turns into Dudley Moore.

Balki can’t remember it, and Mr. Jones tells him not to feel bad because no one’s ever gotten one of his extra credit questions.  Larry proceeds to beat the ever-loving whiz out of Mr. Jones, scoring a big one for those of us who have perfect eidetic memories as long as we know what to focus on.

Nah, j/k, Balki remembers the publisher as he walks out the door.

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Larry makes a rude gesture at the memory of that dirty whore Becky Jo Quinn, and the cousins leave so Balki can write his speech.  But–oh no!–there’s no graduation ceremony!

Then they find out there’s no prom!

Then they find out there’s no class picture!

What’s next? A years-long recession after Black Monday?

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Balki leaves, and like any good parent Larry stays behind to talk up his kid.  This is a pretty accurate depiction of how the American school system works: parents yell at the teachers, who have no control over how the school is run.

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Larry gets applause, and it’s completely earned! This may just be one of those episodes that’s a gimme because the story’s so necessary, but I’m actually impressed they let Cousin Larry have a moment (even if that moment was him saying how great Balki was, and even if it’s undercut when the teacher says no and Larry cries).

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The teacher says they’ll go talk to the principal, but that she’ll eat Larry alive.

is fat marsha the principal

please lord

Back at the apartment, Cousin Larry dunks a cookie too long in milk and it falls apart, so he ragequits eating the cookie.

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Balki realizes he didn’t know about all those useless things like proms and class pictures and your uncle telling you to go into the plastics field until Larry told him about them, but it’s enough for him that he graduated with his cousin’s help. He swears up and down that he’s mature, Larry tells Balki about the graduation ceremony he’s planned, and, well, I don’t have to tell you this was coming:

Balki: Kawabunga!

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Hey, didn’t we have a guy doing that to Larry around this time last season?

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Larry offers Balki the valedictory speech he wrote years ago, which he didn’t give because Becky Jo Quinn is a filthy harlot whose panties are filled with demons.

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Whoa! All the women are here together for the graduation!

Lydia brags to Jennifer that she was voted most likely to succeed.

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Gee, I wonder what Jennifer was voted? I mean, when you’re having a conversation, you reciprocate and continue talking about an established topic.  Jennifer, uncomfortable with Bechdel space, brings the conversation back to the cousins. Larry comes in with a boombox to play “Pomp & Circumstance”, and let it not go unnoted that someone was on-it enough to get some older Asian extras to come in to be the Fong family. Henry even smiles at them when he walks by!

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Let’s hope that Larry’s smart enough to keep quiet that it was his idea that all the students should pay $100 for gown rentals.

Mary Anne (Sagittarius) comments on what a coincidence it is that they played Pomp & Circumstance at her graduation.  (She’s so dumb, what with her good memory and everything.)

Here it comes, everybody! Here comes Balki’s important speech.

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Balki reminisces about his days on Mypos tending sheep, where already American culture was seeping in and destroying his world through such items as Sony Walkmans. It also turns out Balki’s experiencing a little bit of impostor syndrome, fearing that someone will come in and tell him that it was only a dream. But he has a credit card and pays taxes! He even speaks up his classmates, among whom are Ryan Stiles and Jeff Garlin, but tellingly, no Gina or Carol…

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Anyway, Balki tells us that, having accomplished his individual dream–achieving the widely-accepted baseline for entering American adulthood–now has a new one: giving back, and doing what he can to continue making America great. Look forward to season 4, where Balki will begin putting down the newer foreigners!

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Now that the graduation’s over, it’s party time!

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Larry set up a prom for Balki! He got a mirrored ball and everything! He’s also prepared Balki’s first spiked punch bowl, his first upstairs bedroom drunken sex, and even put some mints by the toilet bowl for when he inevitably vomits.

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Well, we’re almost done with this season: Balki’s achieved his dream, Larry’s working towards whatever his is at this point. If only Mary Anne were in a prom dress every week, then mine would be fulfilled as well.

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And if you thought this week was a party, wait until next week when I review “Bye Bye Biki”! I’m 100% sure that it’s going to be a really fun episode!

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

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

Coner count: I’m grading on a curve:  Jennifer touches Larry’s arm in one scene, and that’s probably as close as she’ll ever come to actual human feeling. (1)

Dance of Joy running total: 11

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4 thoughts on “Season 3, Episode 21: The Graduate

  1. I remember this episode! But I totally misremembered the ending. I thought the graduation ceremony was just a private one for Balki in the apartment. I don’t remember them doing it at night school, and I don’t remember the prom afterward.

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  2. I assumed that Balki was not going to be valedictorian, and after being a jerk, Larry would learn once again not to live vicariously through his cousin, but nope! Everything worked out just as Larry planned! This is the correct way to do things moving forward apparently!

    Like

    • I think I’ll have to go all the way back to Professor D’s review to explain this one. Mr. Henry Fong was not dedicated enough to capitalism to remember the name of the company that created the educational product.

      Like

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