Look, you were all the recipients of my beautiful sense of timing that you got a Christmas episode on December 25 last year. Blame me if you want for it not matching up perfectly this year. In my defense, though, Thanksgiving was yesterday, and you can buy Christmas- and winter-themed snack foods at Bob’s Market Meats Produce now, so it’s officially the Christmas season.
The show itself mirrors this time displacement by taking us into the Chronicle on a nice, bright, summer day.
Balki and Lance Dick and Harriette and Lydia and an unnamed woman are standing around so they can look at Balki open a present from his mother.
Why do the cousins always have things mailed to them at work, though? And I also have to question why he’s doing this without Larry there. And who the hell is the woman on the right?
It’s a giant Rolo candy!
Nah, j/k, it’s a Davros cup, made by Davros Praxiteles (they’re not very creative with product names on Mypos). Evidently it takes Davros one year to carve a single cup. Let’s assume that Mypos has equal numbers of men and women. Based on the fact that Balki is 986th in line for the throne, so there are something like 1,970 people on the island–wait, sorry, I’m miscounting, I forgot that
So, 1,969 people still there, and dude can only make one cup per year, we have to assume that this was a fairly pricy gift for Mama Bartokomous. I think it’s safe to assume that Balki’s previous gift of an electric sheep shearer has made the Bartokomous clan the richest on the island, and disrupted the local economy on a scale rivalling that of Musa of Mali’s pilgrimage to Mecca.
Anyway, Gorpley comes out and does his “bah humbug” bit and tells everybody to get back to work. A staunchly insubordinate Balki ignores this order and makes Gorpley look at the cup and listen to his still broken English. Balki then misunderstands the phrase “choked up” and
Larry stumbles in from the parking garage, the joke being that he just had a rough time at the mall because he went shopping on Christmas Eve. I get that you want to do a joke about crowds being rough, show, but talk about your time displacement: is the best way to get that joke across to have it look like someone literally threw him out of the parking garage?
Cousin Larry has bought Jennifer a sweater and everyone “ooo-woos” over it like it’s lingerie. He paid $125 for it. This show has been dumbing down Balki little by little every episode this season, to the point where he now misunderstands the idea of Christmas completely, thinking that Larry has purchased the sweater for himself. So I’m going to leave Balki over there with his dumb jokes and silly voices and comment on this briefest of shots where we find that Sam Anderson is a real actor, too, and knows how to occupy himself when he needs to be in the scene later on. Despite showing us his utter disdain for Christmas and gift-giving, he’s over there admiring the Davros cup, pausing only to roll his eyes at Balki’s idiocy. Kudos to whoever made sure to catch that on camera, and kudos to Sam Anderson for giving us a small clue to where this episode is going for the character of Mr. Gorpley.
Gorpley comes over to comment on the party, which Larry tries to downplay the size of. Gorpley insults Larry and disappears into his office.
Alright, I don’t need to tell you how the rest of the scene goes, right? This is another setup like we had in “The Unnatural” and “Better Shop Around”: Balki tries to change the plan at the last minute. This is what happens when you try to have rules without consequences, Larry. You keep telling Balki not to invite people over without consulting with you. You tell Balki that there’s going to be a plan and that the two of you need to stick with it. But this is what happens when parents have jobs: they feel bad that they aren’t spending time with their kids, and try to be a friend instead of a rule-enforcer. You indulge the kids, you don’t uphold the rules, you put the blame on yourself for being a bad guy, and it sends all the wrong messages. The child is reinforced in their errant ways. Shoot, I’m surprised Balki didn’t invite the rest of the newspaper staff, not to mention Turkey Leg Greg and RT (Reindeer Team) Wainwright.
Later, it’s nighttime at the Chronicle, and it’s snowing (sort of)! Obviously it’s not about to be a blizzard, so I’m going to assume that Larry got to be the Christmas Boy, and Balki got to fuck all of Larry’s sisters (and mother, and aunts), sometime during Season 3.
Speaking of asking for things at the last minute, Gorpley is on the phone, and we’re led to believe that he’s trying to get laid until the punchline is that he wants to spend Christmas with his mom.
Balki has physical difficulties with inviting Mr. Gorpley over, so he tries to wriggle through the letter of the law by asking if Gorpley has anywhere to go. Gorpley’s all like “I’m going to be going up more chimneys than Santa tonight”, and then they have a good laugh about not being loners.
Again, you know how this scene ends, so let’s move on.
At the apartment, Cousin Larry is still using the cheap potholders he stole from Ritz Discount, meaning that he is burning his hands taking whatever the heck those are out of the oven. And even though the food itself is too hot to hold, he just pops one in his mouth like a moron.
Larry is more excited than Shelley Duvall in 3 Women at the prospect of entertaining guests. He’s convinced that the party is going to be perfect because he wrote things down on a clipboard. He needs this. I mean, seriously, we’ve had four parties so far this season, and none of them went well.
Larry: Should I add another log?
Balki’s been saving the old “wouldn’t it be a good idea” dialogue for a special occasion, and Larry’s even excited about that. He’s so sure that he’s going to get laid this year.
You see, we learned three weeks ago that Jennifer is a daughter of the Earth itself. Larry picked up on this. And, like Socrates in The Republic, Larry understands that you can understand the city by looking at the man, and more importantly here, vice-versa. We find that Larry is a proponent of the Gaia hypothesis of the Earth as a self-regulating system. Let me follow suit and try to explain the idea with a closed system first: snowshoe hares and their natural predator, the bobcat. One year, there is an abundance of snowshoe hares, meaning that the bobcats have ready prey; the bobcats survive longer and reproduce more. Thus, the next year, there is an abundance of bobcats. The relatively unchanged population of snowshoe hares is now not enough to feed the bobcats, some of whom inevitably starve and ultimately do not reproduce. The next year, there are fewer bobcats, meaning that the snowshoe hare enjoys a comparatively peaceful time of population growth; the cycle begins again.
Now, take this to the larger scale: the Earth is made up of numerous small habitats, continents, climatic zones, ocean tides, weather patterns. The Gaia hypothesis is that these make up an entire system that has emergent qualities, one of which is to regulate itself. If the use of the term “Gaia” has you thinking that this theory is teleological (that is, that the “system” has some intent), you’re sitting alongside critics of the whole idea, which is why I started off on the more palatable example of bunnies dying. At any rate, we know that Jennifer has no personal goals or intent to speak of, so it’s not an issue here.
But! How can we think of the Earth as a self-regulating system if it is not a closed system? Let’s look to “Daisyworld”, a computer simulation* about a world covered only by two types of daisies: those that reflected the sun’s rays (white), and those that absorbed them (black). To achieve temperature regulation, the two daisy populations balance each other out for any given input from the simulated sun. As the temperature of the sun is increased, black daisies start dying off. We see: introduction of heat imbalances the system, causing it to ditch some portion of what holds the heat there.
So why do I say that Larry is a proponent of the Gaia Hypothesis? He believes that by introduction of a nice, warm sweater, Jennifer’s panties will come off.
Back to the episode, where Balki’s acting like a dummy so he can get Larry good and angry right before the guests arrive.
I’m sure you all have your Christmas traditions: singing carols, roasting chestnuts, opening one–and only one!–present on Christmas Eve. The show has its own: like not answering the door for a full minute after someone knocks.
We get a repeated sequence here where Larry keeps doing shitty accents through the door, and then letting in the expected guests. The only real jokes here:
–Balki kisses the women as they come in, and also tries to kiss Lance Dick
–Larry does a “Mexican” “accent” and Lydia assumes she accidentally knocked on the door of her Latin lover, Ramon.*
Check out that bow! I know what present *I* want to unwrap this year!
There’s a third knock at the door, and the cousins just fight over opening it with every goddamn person there watching. And I thought it was awkward when they brought over all of Balki’s classmates for a graduation party!
IT’S CALLED A PEEPHOLE
Jennifer, Mary Anne (Sagittarius), the maybe-she’s-Latina woman who works in the basement, and some guy show up. Balki tries to kiss this guy, too.
Harriette, the perfect guest, starts making demands of the cousins, but Balki won’t even be upfront with her about Gorpley coming. Once the traditional Christmas beans are spilled**, and the guests see that Balki has pulled a party guest out of the dumpster, they try to leave. Larry convinces everyone to be quiet when Gorpley shows up. But Balki says he’s going to let Gorpley in.
Gorpley is louder through the door than anyone has been up to this point, but somehow he doesn’t hear them all pile on Balki.
And for once–it’s a Christmas miracle!–Gorpley can hear someone who’s shouting three feet away from him!
Everyone gives in at that point, and Balki tells them that even Gorpley contains a spark of the Christmas Spirit which they can stoke into a flame. Sure, okay, but maybe
YOU SHOULDN’T SPEND ANOTHER WHOLE MINUTE NOT LETTING HIM IN
After the act break, we find that Gorpley’s way of partying is to just throw insults around.
Those two images sum up my relationship with the Perfect Strangers fan community.
Then Balki Claus shows up to pass out the presents.
To Harriette, from Lydia: a scarf
Gorpley: Real nice, Lydia, they’re giving them away at the gas station with every fill-up.
(Balki not being aware of this because he’s getting the next present is a nice touch)
To Lydia, from Harriete: a bottle of morning-after pills!
Nah, j/k, it’s the new “Nora Trueblood Adams mystery”
Gorpley: I’ll save you 600 pages: the countess did it.
Harriette gets so angry at this re-use of a joke from season 2’s “Lifesavers” that she tries to attack Gorpley.
Let’s go all the way back to last season, where sometimes jokes are funny, and sometimes they’re not. Perfect Strangers will occasionally set up a punchline in a really clunky way; sometimes it pays off with a good laugh (the photograph of G. Gordon Liddy in Twinkacetti’s office), and sometimes it’s downright terrible (the handcuffs joke in season 1). Here, the clunky setup is that Balki hands Jennifer two gifts at once–the one from Larry and the one from Mary Anne–and then Mary Anne insists that hers be opened first.
Mary Anne has, of course, given Jennifer the same sweater, which she got at 1/4 the price that Larry paid. Jennifer thinks it’s just fabulous; it was just what her system needed to get some more of those pretty white daisies blooming. Larry, however, is the human, capitalist, *ahem* American element which overspends its resources, increasing the temperature of the Earth’s system beyond what it can bear, killing all life on the surface.
When it comes to joke set-ups, I may take the long way around with mine, but they ALWAYS pay off.
Gorpley: Good move, Appleton! Boy, I bet you feel like a real jerk.
Hoo-hoo, save some for his mother to bury, Gorp!
They all pick up Gorpley and take him into the hallway! Yes! Now! Bash his head in with the fire extinguisher!
Seriously, though, do these people want to have jobs when they come back from the holidays?
When Balki tries to protect his boss, Gorpley says that he can’t be harmed. He then catalogs every shitty thing that’s happened to him during past Christmases:
–His wife said she wanted a divorce on Christmas 3 years ago
–His drunk dad showed up on Christmas when he was in high school and stole his college money
–When he was 8, the Gorpleys’ trailer burned down and they spent Christmas at the Red Cross
This sad story convinces everyone to be nice to Gorpley, and I’m a little conflicted about whether I should be upset at the show for this.
Let’s talk about the Christian view of forgiveness and how to treat other people. Christian forgiveness basically involves not giving a shit about why someone did what they did or got the way they are, so long as that person has asked forgiveness for their sins. At its best, it’s an acknowledgment that such things are supposed to be between the other person and God, and that we’re all fuckups. On the other hand, it’s a way to avoid scrutiny of one’s own misdeeds. But that, at its core, betrays that Christianity provides no way for people to forgive themselves.
It came as a surprise to me when I was a freshman (and Christian) in college and found out that some Christians were opposed to the idea of psychology as a valid subject of study. I can see a little of it now: psychology understands some parts of human behavior and thinking by way of evolution. And I mean this in not only the sense that we’ve got some leftover ape habits, but also in the personal evolution sense. The sense that childhood trauma can mess you up, and that you can counter your own self-destructive shit by understanding how you got there. You can forgive yourself that way. Similarly, you can take the view that everyone’s doing the best they can, or else they’d be doing better; whatever stuff they do that’s not healthy for them, or others, they probably came by it honestly. At its worst extension, though, you run the risk of assuming someone’s background, and is that a fair thing to do?
So the question remains: should we need to know what made Gorpley a bitter man to forgive him and show him love? I’ve heard Christians overstep the idea that we should help and love others by saying that it’s important to do so because the other could be an angel in disguise***; this is insidious to me because Christians should really be loving others because the others aren’t angels. On the other hand, knowing what Gorpley’s been through reminds us that he’s human, just like we are.
Anyway, Sam Anderson’s got some great acting going on, swinging his head around like he’s looking for an exit that doesn’t exist while Balki brings him over to the couch. Balki gives him a present.
It’s the head of a reindeer, the traditional Myposian gift!
Nah, j/k, it’s that Davros cup.
Gorpley tries to give it back, but instead of picking him up by the collar and telling him to fucking take it like last season, with the typewriter, Balki tells him that Gorpley accepting the cup is a present to Balki by way of a Mypos saying.
At first, Gollum grimaces at the taste of lembas, but quickly realizes that he feels the Christmas Spirit because Balki Claus touched his soul.
Mr. Gorpley: Do you feel like this every Christmas?
Larry: Except for Balki… he feels like this every day.
Oh for f-
Then Balki starts them singing a song.
*gags self with a turkey bone*
At the end of the credits, the cousins sit at not quite the right angle to see out the window.
Join me next week for “Maid to Order”!
Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
*Current list of Caldwell residents and why they’re not at this party
Mrs. Schlaegelmilch; spending Christmas with her sausage
Mrs. Falby: when you crap your pants on the daily, you don’t really get invited to parties
Eddie Harris & mom: deported after Eddie tried to take over Vince Lucas’s business
Old white man: dead in his fourth-floor apartment since the previous June
Old black man: playing Santa on another sitcom
Ramon: to quote Larry, “fuck Catholics”
The other four people we saw in “The Rent Strike”: making sacrifice to Sol Invictus
**my family is weird
***a (perhaps honest) misreading of Hebrews 13:2; the verse simply says that it’s happened before–not that it will happen again, or you should be nice because it could happen again. Sure, maybe the latter is implied, but still, it’s a little counter to what Jesus practiced, don’t you think? Angels are less in need than humans.