We begin with a “last week on Perfect Strangers” and
That giant man did not walk by the Chronicle building last week!
When last we saw our heroes: everyone’s inability to remember which way a river was going before they got on it has likely doomed them to a watery grave. But really it’s Larry’s fault, I promise. All he wanted to do was blaze a trail through the undergrowth! And also avoid hiking through the woods.
Remember, folks, you can help drowning people more by not jumping in the water yourself.
I was so focussed on what last week’s cliffhanger had done to Mary Anne (Sagittarius)’s hair that the joke of her spitting out water took me by surprise.
Jennifer comes in carrying Larry–look! For the second time ever Jennifer got a joke! Both times were about Larry being weak, but I’ll take it. Go in that direction, show. That’s the way out of the mysterious Ennifer Woods.
So, unfortunately, all four of these people survived. But more importantly: did they save the cheesecakes which Larry brought for some goddam reason??
Larry says they have to get out of here; Balki says they have to figure out where “here” is; Mary Anne is silent; Jennifer begins to freak out about being lost and all of a sudden this is a Sartre play.
I’ve mentioned before that Larry’s is the most thorough and consistent characterization on this show, even if sometimes they take shortcuts to explain it, or even if he swings wildly between being asshole and baby. At this point in the show’s run, no matter what episodes you’ve seen, you’ve more likely than not since one of Larry’s ideas turn out horribly. So what we’ve got here is a sequel. This two-parter cashes in on what the audience expects to happen. Okay, sure, the show is telling you what you should expect, to the point that it explicitly tells you it’s doing essentially the same two-parter as a couple of seasons ago. But other shows do this, even now. Tammy shows up? You know it’s bad news for Ron Swanson. Tammy shows up again? You know how it went last time. Community’s paintball episodes. The Roseanne Halloween episodes I mentioned a few weeks ago. Heck, I do it in my own webcomic where every school dance is ruined somehow. A narrative is enhanced because it’s interacting with itself. Characters have memory, seek patterns, and try to avoid negative outcomes. Also we get established canon, which is nice when this show can’t even remember that Balki once sold sleeping bags.
Unfortunately for these three, they’ve been fooled into thinking they’re on vacation with a white dwarf. They’ve noticed too late that they’re caught in Larry’s gravitational pull. The accumulation of Larry’s failures–one of which was his weight gain–has become too heavy for his core, collapsing in on itself, exploding in a supernova and leaving a black hole.
What I’m getting at here is that all Larry wanted was to do some sightseeing at Jennifer’s headwaters, you know, she what goodies she had in her bear bag. But now she’s redshifting, because there’s no G spot in a black hole.
Balki decides that “here” is a good place to camp, and starts assigning tasks: gathering food, gathering fuel, and third thing in list is Myposian joke. Larry disagrees, saying that if they just go thataway they’ll “run into the other fork of the river” and meet up with everyone else. So, assuming Larry’s correct, and that show understands how shapes work, they are on the middle part between the two distributaries of the river. So, yes, theoretically, and assuming the distributaries stay roughly straight, they’d basically go straight from one bank to the other. But I don’t trust this show after that bullshit at the end of last week. The women side with Balki, because after all, if ABC spent $20,000 on white carpet and skiing lessons, who knows how much all these rocks and dirt and trees cost, so let’s not waste it.
The cousins give their little signal to each other that it’s time to rub two sticks together to create some heat.
Just like when they were in the cabin, Larry and Balki move three feet away from the women so that Larry can say he wants to look like he’s saving the day. They argue for awhile.
Man, it looks like Asshole Larry has come back with a vengeance. He’s been making his voice go deep multiple times this episode, and he’s laying it on thicker than the hair on Queen Isabellki Zaggy Badbad’s upper lip. He’s guilting Balki into believing that he’s robbing him of a future with Jennifer, and how there won’t be any tiny invalid Larries around who beg for stories of Balki’s homeland.
Then they get into an argument about how family trees work.
Larry makes the hard sell by saying, essentially, that nobody is always wrong. And somehow that works on Balki; maybe it’s the eternal spring of faith in his fellow man that Larry hooked into. At any rate, who the fuck cares what the women think? Since there’s no snow to shovel, they’re just short of being bumps on a log over there.
Jennifer, you were talking about being really into the outdoors, and enjoying camping, could you–?
Oh. Okay. Anyway, they decide to just hike in the direction Larry thinks is the correct one. Larry, how many minutes do you think this episode will use for padding, total?
As we’ve all learned by now: never believe Cousin Larry, folks. Not even once.
It is a nice change to have shots of trees instead of the same handful of shots of the Chronicle or Caldwell buildings. But I laughed out loud at how this establishing shot just randomly zooms in on some shorter trees. Why the hell would I care which trees these people are behind?
They come back with Balki singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” in Myposian, and I’m not even going to bother to try and transcribe it, because, hey! Larry quickly stepped onto a rock!
Hey, look, don’t ask me why that’s so great; the audience cheered so I just assume it was a showstopper. Larry sees the other fork of the river, but more importantly, Mary Anne’s hair has fully recovered.
I’ll say another thing about sequels. Some of my favorite ones are the ones that manage to strike the perfect balance of hitting the same beats, and then topping them. Lots of people knock Ghostbusters II for reversing the team’s hero status from the first film; but they had to be re-established as underdogs and fight not only city functionaries, but also ghosts: and doing so involved popular icons brought to life in both cases. Maybe that’s not the best example. Take Die Hard and Die Hard 2. I’ve forgotten half of the callbacks the second film made to the first, but there were multiple times throughout the film where something was doubled, down to the point where there were two black cops who believed in John McClane when no one else would. (Further films I can’t remember all the details of, but which fit this category: 21 Jump Street/22 Jump Street, and Crank/Crank: High Voltage.) At any rate, we’re hitting all the same points: pointless first and second acts in the first episode where the cousins “practice” with their “equipment”; Larry drawing out his ffffffs; distancing themselves from others so Larry can show off; the cousins admitting to each other that they have no plan mere feet away from four ears connected to no brains. I’m sure there was a scene cut for syndication where the women stacked books.
And now, instead of circling back around to the cabin through the show because Larry picked the wrong direction, we have circled back around to where the group dropped their lifejackets earlier.
Cousin Larry is evidently not a proponent of Leave No Trace, and this wanton disregard for nature has angered Arial, the forest nymph; she begins to strangle Larry.
Balki calms her down, saying that he hasn’t touched Larry enough this episode yet.
The women leave to go gather firewood, and Larry starts whining like a baby. He whines for a full five minutes about how he’s going to miss what’s happening on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and how he went boom-boom in his pants and how the monster under his bed is going to eat all of his crackers while they’re away from the apartment and how Jennifer won’t want to play Mother May I? with him anymore–
Balki: Jennifer won’t be mad forever…. Every time her life gets threatened, she gets a little cranky.
I’m still trying to keep an accurate count of Jennifer’s personality traits, and I SUPPOSE that one’s distinct enough from “likes to sleep when she’s tired”.
Cousin Larry says he’ll go for help so that he will be the one to rescue Jennifer instead of Ranger Smith.
But that would be too quick an ending, so Larry falls into quicksand. Balki “tries” to pull Larry “out” of the quicksand (wink, wink). The “oh no” music comes on and we cut to commercial. Oh no! I hope the women collected enough firewood and that Mary Anne won’t be so dumb that she uses dollar bills as kindling!*
They cry for help, but Larry pulls Balki close enough to play footsies and everything’s alright with the world again.
Balki starts talking about a scene from a Tarzan movie that could help them get out, and to his credit, you can sense actual amused fear in his voice that he won’t get the line out before his mouth sinks under the quicksand.
We break now from this hot physical comedy to bring you this special news bulletin:
Larry calms him by saying they should just try out this new texture on their penises, and they relaaaaax.
Larry tries to grab for a branch, and Balki sings reason #23 that, aside from meeting all three parts of the Miller Test, this season will not be released on DVD: “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. After another five minutes of Balki grabbing a stick and the cousins grunting, they’re finally done sploshing.
THAT WAS YOUR SECOND ACT, FOLKS.
Later that night, Jennifer doesn’t know what the hell nuts are, and Mary Anne has achieved 2000s-era sarcasm. Tell me again which one is the dumb one.
Larry has fallen asleep, and Balki explains to Jennifer that Larry wanted so badly to not fuck up this trip that he fucked it up.
Balki says they should try out a solution that he learned from classic television, but then he confuses Father Knows Best with The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as well as Leave it to Beaver.
And then Jennifer corrects Balki on old TV shows, making this the scariest campfire story I’ve ever heard.
Basically, after five minutes of that reality-breaking hogwash, they decide to make Larry think he’s saved Jennifer from a snake bite. They start start discussing where to draw the fake snakebite marks on Jennifer–
Larry: How about on her tits?
Larry goes off to sleep separately from the others, you know, over there, on top of the quicksand.
But Mary Anne’s still into it and wants to draw on Jennifer. That sounds fun, let’s just do that the rest of the episode!
And then there’s a bear because episodes like this are a type of “setting bingo”. I’ve mentioned before how I reviewed the full run of ALF comic books (I tell you, my transplant scars healed faster), and there was a story where Alf and Willie were in the woods that went basically the same way. Characters go to the woods, characters encounter every danger possible in the woods–dangers of the physical terrain, sitting around the campfire, encountering the local wildlife. Just a sequence of things happening in that setting because they can happen in that setting is a very cartoon way of writing. And what I mean by that is it’s a way of writing for audiences who don’t think very hard about what they’re watching.
The women wake Larry up, and Balki is gone, so Larry thinks they’re trying to boost his ego. Larry thinks that Balki is in a bear costume, even though three weeks ago we saw Balki believe that a sheep mask he bought at Eckerd was enough to fool him. But the bear turns out to be a Real Bear, and Balki comes back with firewood, which he was gathering in the middle of the night for some fucking reason. They all realize that someone, somewhere, somehow, sat atop a sheep and ate a golden ring, and that Larry’s final hour has come.
Dig up! I mean, lead the bear into the quicksand!
Larry starts trying to fight off the bear, yelling about how he hates the woods and all it stands for. Ah yes, finally, the capping off of the subtext this two-parter forgot it was doing! “Man and nature with nothing between” has evolved into “Man vs nature” thanks to Larry “Double-Mantled” Appleton. Man, that whole house vs woods/woman-as-nature motif in the original Evil Dead got nothing on this!
The sedated bear doesn’t give a shit and just lumbers off-stage to eat some fish or whatever its trainer gives it.
Eminent domain over both nature and woman now established, Larry orgasms and passes out.
When the cousins get back to the apartment, they just sit around wondering how Jennifer feels and what Jennifer thinks, without it ever once crossing their minds to ask her.
The final joke is that we find out that Larry rubbed poison ivy in Jennifer’s eyes and then rubbed it all over his own body.
See you next week for “College Bound”!
Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
*tinder/tender, you illiterates
9 thoughts on “Season 4, Episode 7: Up a Lazy River, part 2”
So is it ever explained how they found their way out of the woods?
My apologies for not mentioning it; the show barely does. Forest rangers found them. Just think: the other Chronicle employees’ vacation was ruined because they had to spend their time and effort worrying about these four people who sure do have fun when they get together.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Can I get a “whut-whut!” for Addams Family Values?
Whut-whut! If only all marriages could be as perfect as Gomez and Morticia’s.
“Up a Lazy Writer: Part 2”: Why do we actually like these novelty setting episodes? As you pointed out, they mostly just feature a parade of terrible things that could happen to the characters, and they’re all sort of loosely linked by the story, but not really. I guess they’re all supposed to add up to “worst camping trip EVAR,” but nothing is interconnected. So why do we watch and remember these episodes? Are we really so sick of the weekly slog of predictable episode tropes that we need a break via a different setting? Is it supposed to be amusing that these people act the same, despite the situation? Is the modern situational comedy the perfect example of Einstein’s theory of insanity?
And while I’m feeling all feminist and crap, why does nobody seem to ask the girls if they have any ideas on how to solve the problem of being lost in the woods? They seem to be just a few lines better than set-dressing, but what’s new there? Four actors primarily on the stage for part of one episode, and almost all of a second, but are the lines shared equally? My guess is no. Or if they are, the funny or smart lines are mostly going to Larry and Balki. Why should we give a shit about Jennifer or Mary Anne if they never get anything interesting to say or do? Giving all of your good lines to just one or two characters when you have plenty to choose from? That’s some ALF bullshit right there. Full House fell into that trap in their later years and Family Matters as well. Is this the Curse of TGIF?
LikeLiked by 1 person
TGIF: Target Group Isn’t Female
Seriously, Jennifer only gets to be smart about TV here because 1) Balki offers the plan, so he can’t be the one offering corrections to it; 2) Larry’s asleep; and 3) Mary Anne’s so dumb she thinks that prime time is at 8:09, 8:11, 8:21, 8:23, 8:29…
The audience cheered because Mark Linn-Baker stumbled off the rock the first time.
Amusing behind the scenes story: the bear loved Linn-Baker and wanted to hug him, so it was hard for the director to get the shot.
Did they kiss?