Well, here’s something we didn’t get last season: a two-part story. I assume Season 3 did not have one because there were just so many important stories to tell. Stories like: Balki buys a counterfeit watch; the cousins are in a commercial for the newspaper; Balki talks about Carl Lewis for 20 minutes. With all 22 episodes crucial to the development of these characters, there was simply no space to tell a longer story! But if all those episodes about death in Season 3 were still somehow unsatisfying, here’s the reason: Larry didn’t risk everyone’s life at once. And with a show as tightly-scripted as Perfect Strangers, you can be sure that a two-parter won’t take any detours. We’ve established that
…but are you ready for everybody on this show to die?
I’m ready for everybody on this show to die!
A flourish of synth flutes promises exciting adventure as we enter the Chicago Chronicle building. SEE that same bus drive by for the 10th time! WITNESS some unimportant guy leaving the building!
THRILL as Harriette tells Balki that he can never operate the elevator again because buttons are just too much for his shepherd’s comprehension.
Balki gives us some ominous foreshadowing by telling Harriette that Larry “doesn’t do well out of doors” and won’t be going on the company camping trip. But then Larry comes in and says–
wait hold up
The Biggest Newspaper in America (With a Friendly Touch) has to employ at least 1,000 people, right? And they’re all going on… Okay, stop, Casey, you’re not even one minute in and you’re asking questions. Just go with it.
Larry has decided that he will be camper 1,001 because Jennifer finds camping romantic. Wait, each of these 1,000 employees gets a +1? No, nope, stop. Anyway, so Larry thinks this will be a romantic trip. That’s a tortured path from point A to point B. IF girlfriend uses nail polish and sleeps when she’s tired THEN she’ll want to bone on a two-inch sleeping bag pad with all of her boyfriend’s coworkers listening in
Balki starts getting chills as canon is established: he remembers how badly the ski trip went. Cousin Larry assures him that like any woman who’s wife material, she has the ability to completely repress traumatic memories.
Jennifer comes in for lunch with Larry, who immediately invites her camping. She admits to having PTSD from the experience, Balki shares some tips on how to cope with the abuse Larry puts you through, and Larry does the heyheyheyheyhey thing again.
Jennifer makes the same face women do when I say the word “overnight”, so Larry volunteers Balki to be the “camping leader”. Let’s see how Balki likes it when his time and energy are impinged on!
To prove he trusts Balki as a leader, Larry says he’ll let him pick where they eat. Balki suggests Bosko’s House of Liver and Waffles. You know what, forget camping, let’s just have the episode there.
Jennifer, taking baby steps towards being a real character, notices that Balki’s line got a laugh, so she repeats the words “Liver and waffles?”
Balki also suggests Eels on Wheels and Jack’s Escar-gogo, where the snails have nipple tassles. Balki then walks out shaking his imaginary snail tits.
This is the funniest the show has been in a long time, keep going, I like funny lists.
Oh well, here we are at the Caldwell.
Balki comes in trying to talk about Mary Anne and Larry has bought a bunch of camping equipment and laid it out in the best configuration for one specific wall of the apartment to look at. Larry then details every single item he bought, including a double-mantled high-intensity camping lantern with optional bug light*. Balki misunderstands Larry to have said “Bud Light”, even though Larry is holding up a thing that is an actual light while he talks about it.
Balki: I thought the idea of camping was just man and nature with nothing in between.
*rubs hands together*
Good, good! I’m going to enjoy this culture clash while it lasts. I’m guessing in a couple of minutes they’ll practice lighting the camping stove and burn off their eyebrows. Man and nature, sure, says Cousin Larry, but there will be women here (not to mention 1,000 other people).
Balki says that women do all the heavy lifting on Mypos and pumps his crotch a few times, but Larry insists that comfortable equipment is what gets American women hot.
Somehow, Balki has become stupid this week: he asks what the sleeping bag is, despite
Hey show, since sleeping bags are so crucial to getting Jennifer to fuck Larry, howsabout the cousins get in there so I can make some gay jokes?
Yep, there they go!
There’s actually a good joke when Balki misunderstands “goosedown in this bag”, revealing yet another traumatic experience with birds, and then Larry starts drawing out his ffffffs again. I can take a dumb Balki if it means good jokes and a callback.
Then Gus calls because his ears were burning, so the cousins hop over and give me more sweet, sweet screenshots.
Why the hell couldn’t this scene have taken place in the tent in the woods? No, Casey, hold up, the only padding here is the goosedown. This scene is important because it establishes how technology (the sleeping bag), when overused (it keeps you warm down to 60 below), and then misapplied (in an apartment), only makes other technology not work. This is all foreshadowing for how the double-mantled high-intensity camping lantern with optional bug light will end up working so well as to disrupt the entire forest ecosystem, the lack of pollinization causing flowers, undergrowth, trees to die, sending shockwaves throughout the state, the whole country, disrupting trade worldwide; we will regret our earlier laughter at these antics, knowing that–
Jennifer: Look, we’re halfway through this episode, you guys wanna stop being gay so we can move on?
Ah, the great outdoors! The fresh air, the rainbow of greens surrounding you, feeling like you own the world when you view the landscape from a vantage point atop a mountain…
…the, uh, shantytown built along the banks of the river. Anyway, here we are at Raft Rental National Park
Hot whiz is that a nice outfit, Lydia! You’d blend right into the background *lowers glasses* in my apartment. Harriette insults her and Lydia chases after her, whining
And… wait, Harriette’s able to leave the building? The building that houses the United States’s #1 newspaper, and where she operates the only elevator? I hope RT Wainwright won’t have to take Frank’s Exit to get home.
Mary Anne (Sagittarius) realizes that she’s never camped out, and somebody on the writing staff thought that was a joke. We find that out of 1,000 employees, only 9 agreed to go on the company camping trip.
Larry doesn’t like the idea of riding mules to the campsite and projects his upset onto the women. Comfort=orgazzies, right? So what’s more romantic than rafts?
Balki: Shearing a sheep with the woman you love?
I can attest to this! The way this works is that once you’ve shorn the sheep, you can see its genitals clearly. And then you both have sex with the sheep.
Balki says he’s the camping leader, and Asshole Larry starts splitting semantic hairs (they’re not at camp yet). Because Balki’s dumb this week, he believes his cousin.
The Brawny Man’s younger brother, Brawny Dude, who’s been trying not to laugh in the background through this whole scene, rents them a raft.
Like, look, I get that we need to have the requisite scene where Larry convinces Balki to let him do his Asshole Larry plan, but unfortunately there’s like 5 minutes left to kill. So what should we do with that time, Balki?
That’s what I thought. Rather than put that time towards a subplot for any of the six–count ‘em–six other speaking roles on this episode, we have the cousins doing physical comedy, the I do/You do bit, and then repeating each other so that Larry can trick Balki into singing reason #22 these scenes are not 1s and 0s on a DVD on your shelf: “Proud Mary”.
Quit thinking you’re ready for being a (camping) leader into a block of family programming. If you’re not willing to use all of your characters, then go sit behind Full House.
Later, sublimity itself:
Jennifer: Oh look! Stock footage of a deer!
And, uh, I guess these four sent their equipment on the mules? Which means they have to have interacted with the rest of the group, who by that point had been waiting likely 20 minutes for them. Which means that some additional conversation must have been had about whether to raft or not. And none of the other Chronicle members present wanted to raft.
Remember how these guys used to be poor? And how they both have shit jobs? And how Balki’s pay raise was hinted to be something on the order of like 2 cents more per hour?
Speaking of, ABC does appear to have spent money on a raft, four wigs, and someone with a decent sense of composition.
Jennifer remarks that it’s beautiful out here. Haha, yeah, we ought to leave it out here–hey wait
Does Jennifer have a personality trait now? Does the life she leads all but stifle her inner flame of humanity? She lives on the third floor of a building, in a major US city. Her work may take her to other cities, but she may very well be spending the majority of her time in the air. How much further can one get from the earth itself? Perhaps Jennifer has little to connect to–and thus little to say–because she is so far removed from her element, and is attracted (?) to the only other being she could find who doesn’t fit in anywhere? Is she…
is Jennifer the little mermaid?
I’ma call her Arial!
Larry has brought three cheesecakes for some goddam reason.
Balki says “here comes the end of this episode”.
Larry says they’ve still got a couple minutes to kill and repeats what he has said about the cheesecakes. He has brought three of them. For some goddam reason.
Balki points to a fork in the river. I’ve held off on asking questions of logic all episode now, but, okay, if you find yourself in this situation, this is a very simple question to answer.
All you need to remember is:
- Which side of the river did you come onto it from?
- Did the rest of the campers plan on crossing the river at any point?
This is a wide enough river that you’d need a bridge for a group of the size we saw earlier, if they planned on crossing. You may quibble with this and say: what if the group crosses the bridge before reaching the fork? Let me address this. The cousins would certainly know whether 1) the group had planned on crossing the river, 2) that there would be a bridge if that was the plan, and 3) whether or not by this moment they had passed a bridge.
Okay, well, what if the bridge came after the fork? Sure, okay, I’d say maybe there’s bridges on both forks, but maybe there’s not. Maybe there’s just one, down one fork. Okay, so there’s a 50% chance, and we’re back where the episode says we are, right? No. For one thing, if there was a bridge crossing after the fork, the other campers would be in the middle portion, increasing the chances that they’d be visible from either of the distributaries. For two: not a one of these four people is remembering anything about a damn bridge.
Fine, maybe I’m padding with this (I stopped just short of drawing a flowchart, which could have been funny because it has its own branches), but I feel that this is important to address. What we are left with is that all four of these people have forgotten which side of the river they came in on.
The last two-parter demanded that I suspend my disbelief quite a bit, but this one has worn out my suspension completely.
We’ve established that Mary Anne has perfect memory, Jennifer is an outdoors person, and that Balki basically grew up outdoors.
Larry is the only person who could have believably forgotten.
But the show has made this a fight between Larry’s map and Mother Nature “whispering” in Balki’s ear. This episode started out with a good culture clash where Larry bought a bunch of equipment and Balki just wanted to use his own waste to start the campfire. Maybe that plot was overdone by then?
Balki gets wet, Balki chokes Larry, and then Mary Anne recognizes the sound of a waterfall coming up.
I really wish them all shouting “Niagara Falls?” juxtaposed with Larry attacking Balki was a reference to one of the best Vaudeville bits of all time, but these guys are in too much danger to spare a thought for comedy.
I could go on about how probably you’re going to know whether there’s a waterfall nearby when you go camping (like, the guide would have said whether you’re on the right side of the river for seeing it or not), but time’s running out.
This is the first episode I’ve encountered that I felt was in major need of a rewrite.
GIVE ME REWRITES, COMMENTERS
The lives of these people depend on it!
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
*feather-touch control available on the Deluxe model
8 thoughts on “Season 4, Episode 6: Up a Lazy River, part 1”
Heh, I remember this as another “epic” event from my childhood.
Remember when “Saved by the Bell” did the rafting trip episode? They didn’t actually show it; it wasn’t about that; it was just a plot point. And it was the best damn episode of the series. Certainly much better than this.
That moment when you realize that Casey spelled Arial like that on purpose, and you groan.
They arrive at the camp site, having agreed to take their things in by mule. They set up and all is going well. However, their new camping light does indeed destroy the ecosystem, bringing about Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.” (Balki has read it, but Larry has not. He pretends that he has to impress Jennifer, but only ends up quoting the incorrect parts. She is not impressed, but does not consider it a deal-breaker at this stage, as nothing Larry has done has been a deal-breaker thus far.)
Part two deals with the post-apocalyptic-style fallout of living without a viable ecosystem in a world that has not had time to properly acclimatize to such a thing. There are episode callbacks to attempting to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, starving and cold, and a scene in the local grocery store where our heroes attempt to toss as much food into their cart as possible, while frantic others do the same. Hilarity ensues, at least as much hilarity CAN ensue in a post-apocalyptic setting. At one point, a lone bee is found. They do The Dance of Joy. But when Balki claps Larry on the shoulder during said dance, he crushes the bee by accident. “You did/I did” occurs. They frantically hide the body from the girls (physical comedy), so as not to reveal that they’ve once again fucked up all of the shit.
However, we’ve reached the end of 22 minutes at this point, so the episode is left as a cliff-hanger, making the audience wonder how our intrepid duo is going to survive.
Because this is a sitcom, the next episode opens at the Chronicle, with no mention of the collapse of the ecosystem, or society in general. Sitcoms only do stand-alone episodes or two-parters. Three-parters are rare and really only occur in sci-fi/fantasy shows, and arcs are reserved for dramas, so the show must reset itself by week three. It is a move that will baffle the Perfect Strangers fandom, and will become a hot-topic issue among regular attendees of the annual CousinCon for years.
My rewrite is that this episode doesn’t exist, and we just open part two with the cousins and ladies arriving for the outing. One or two lines of expository “Nice of Gorpley to invite us out for a camping trip, eh Luigi?” bullshit would make up for the loss of anything else established by this episode.
Larry and Balki already have a side conversation when they’re renting the raft, which is where Larry could reveal that he’s in over his head, whether he’s actually aware of it or not at this point.
I honestly don’t understand the impulse to make this a two-parter if all part one does is tell you over and over again that the real story begins in part two. It’s like a twenty-five minute trailer.
Also, out of curiosity, do they explain why Lydia and Harriette don’t bring a +1? Harriette has a family, so it’s a bit odd her husband or (even more likely) one of the kids doesn’t tag along. Lydia hops from bed to bed so this could make for a bit of comedy with her suitor of the week.
In fact, that could spin the story a whole other way. Maybe the suitor is a hyper-skilled individual who keeps making Larry look bad while the latter tries to prove himself to Jennifer. No matter how capable Larry ends up being, the other guy is better.
That could either end with Larry one-upping the other guy at a crucial moment, ending with a small triumph, or with Jennifer telling him at the end that it’s *okay* that Larry isn’t as handy / clever / skilled / intelligent / handsome / moneyed / charming / funny / sweet / thoughtful / polite / healthy / responsible / courageous / humble / talented / young / fit / socially adjusted as the other guy; Jennifer is with *him* and he needs to stop gauging himself against some arbitrary standard nobody else actually expects of him.
Or maybe Lydia’s dating some foreigner from an even sillier country than Mypos, and Balki keeps side-eying him whenever he says something like, “In Urqstul is very simple…” Balki might find himself looking down on someone from an even more backwater civilization, and experience prejudice from the other side. Valuable lesson there. Or maybe Urqstul *is* backwater, but still more advanced than Mypos, and then Balki feels even more insecure because he doesn’t have the comrade he thought he’d have, and he realizes he’s still the bottom of the social ladder.
Point is, there’s no reason for this episode to exist, but the setup could certainly take us to some interesting places. So *start* with the setup, then get right to the story.
Which probably ends up sucking. (Sorry for the potential spoiler!)
Also, how lucky is it that the only other people to show up for this fucking trip are the only two tolerable coworkers they have? This doesn’t change the dynamic they have in the office at all! There, they choose to associate with these two regularly. Now they’re in a situation in which they’re forced to interact with whoever shows up, which could lead to some conflict…but, no, the only people that show up are the ones the cousins talk to anyway. This show is *trying* to blow its potential!
On the third day of camping, Cousin Larry gave to me:
– Three cheesecakes
– Two dizzy blondes
– And part one of a two-part stor-ee
Yeah, interesting that we ended up with two episodes to tell one story. Two-parters are for when you needed double the time to tell the story, yet the entirety of this first episode does nothing but talk about the trip. They use twenty minutes to establish that they’re going on a trip with coworkers, then they’re separated from the herd as soon as humanly possible.
Seems like one writer said, “let’s do a camping trip episode,” and another one said “I wanna do some physical comedy with the sleeping bags.” Writer #3 suggests that they can’t fit both into one episode for some dumb reason, and everyone is relieved, because this means they don’t have to come up with another independent storyline.
The writing for this show isn’t half as lazy as the writing on ALF, but sometimes it seems like they’re competing for the title.
But, Sarah! You haven’t seen the second part yet! Just think of all the physical comedy that could happen! Getting out of life jackets? Deflating rafts? Resuscitating drown victims? (“I think she needs a CB radio!” “Don’t you mean CPR?” “Well of course I do, don’t be ridiculous!”)
Plus, I mean, hey, we’re going to have two–count ’em–two types of wet cheesecake next week.
Also, please let me know the address so I can send back my feminist card.
I don’t deserve such beautiful readers.
I don’t deserve such a shitty show.