We open at the Caldwell Hotel and find that
Damn, you hear about how Republicans are constantly trying to turn the clock back 50 years on this country, but Trump hasn’t even been sworn in and it’s the 50s already.
And gee willikers, another party? Was this part of some attempt to make it look like there were lots of people on this show for the promotional spots? Anyways, you’ve got poodle skirts, pompoms, guys with grease in their hair, and a Wurlitzer playing Reason #26 that this episode isn’t on DVD: “At the Hop” by Danny and the Juniors.
Evidently, the cousins waited until all their guests arrived to go change into their 50s outfits: Elvis and Pink Archie.
While they’re sizing up each others’ new ‘dos, I’d like to point out that all of the posters on the walls (no doubt Larry’s) are of male teen heartthrobs.
Harriette tells them that a 50s party was a great idea, which raises a couple of questions: why did they invite her? Why didn’t they invite Carl, who enjoys food? Has Balki seriously not made any friends at Dial College?
Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) arrive, and you see the joke, right? The show just lets it stand on its own and everyone has a good laugh.
Oh, no, wait, Larry steps on it, and then Mary Anne steps on it, and then Jennifer openly ridicules her best friend.
Here’s Lydia with
Chuck Panama Ramon Lamont Cassidy, and Larry decides to show his ownership of Balki with the triple handshake move.
Lamont is a hypnotherapist, and for the first time all season Balki finally misunderstands something in a reasonable way. I wanted to give Larry credit for taking the time to treat Balki like an adult and explain a new concept to him, but then I remembered that the audience was losing their shit over worn-out jeans a few weeks ago, so they probably needed it explained to them.
Lamont tells the cousins that he breaks people of behavioral patterns (smoking, overeating, etc.). Balki, quickly understanding that this would mean the end of Perfect Strangers, decides he wants the party tricks. And then
there’s a couple of jokes about Lydia and how much she likes *whispers* sex. Lydia agrees to be hypnotized because she falls asleep so easily, and the show makes a sex joke out of it (she’s easy), which in this context is terrible. I mean, honestly, the fact that Lydia* dating a hypnotherapist shows that she’s seeking someone with similar interests to hers: someone who has dedicated his professional life to helping others through their psychological issues. Or, potentially, she wants someone who can help her with her own problems. They probably met at a conference, or through personal ads in the Chicago Chronicle. But nope, let’s have Harriette put down Lydia for being a whore in front of her new boyfriend, and then let’s imply that Lamont rapes her.
Lamont tells her that she will think she’s Charo because that’s the one celebrity the writers could think of that Balki could misunderstand (take a wild guess; you’re right). And, you know what? It’s still early in the episode, so they take a few minutes to explain that joke.
Lamont rings a bell and Aurebela “Belita” Moreno must do the TV version of a Spanish accent.
Lydia: you didn’t make me do the rooster, did you?
Lamont shushes her because that’s a sex joke, too. This whole Charo bit makes me think of when Chuck and Bob from Soap practiced their act where Bob (the dummy) would try to identify items blindfolded. The guy hypnotizing his girlfriend isn’t convincing.
Balki’s just excited and tries to get his Cousin Larry to do it, rubbing his tummy, promising him later pleasures if he’ll just comply now. So Balki just picks him up and Larry agrees despite vocal protest that he can’t be hypnotized.
Because the best thing to do at a dance party at your apartment is have your oven going, Balki leaves briefly to take out the pizza rolls.
And even though Balki was fine right in front of Lamont a minute ago, he now gets hypnotized from across the room. So I have to ask: would a whole audience get hypnotized at a hypnotist’s show? Lamont tells Larry that he will think he’s Elvis.
Then Larry starts acting like Marlon Brando while Balki just shakes his crotch in the kitchen, which was pretty much my experience the last time I had a roommate.
I’m laughing out loud at the fact that the other woman who works in the basement is holding her purse just waiting for her opportunity to leave.
Even though this show has serially stolen from 1930s-1960s pop culture in the assumption that the audience will say “ah, the good old days”, it still feels the need to explain that Larry’s doing Marlon Brando. Oh well, it gave Jennifer a second line of dialogue and further insight into her character: she knows what Marlon Brando sounds like.
Lamont calls Larry “too rigid”.
That handshake’s paying off!
Before we get to the next scene, I’d like to play a game. Elvis died in 1977, and despite recording albums and starring in 30-odd films, all he really left behind was a limited set of jokes you could make about him. Remember four weeks ago, when I pointed to the then-recent sharp rise in tabloid journalism? Remember five weeks ago, when Larry was able to distract a group of bikers with an Elvis “sighting”? “That Old Gang of Mine” made light of a group of men** for trying to keep a particular brand of machismo alive in the modern city, but by the time I started getting a grasp on comedy (no thanks to this show), Elvis sightings were already the object of ridicule. Which, in retrospect, seems really strange. I mean, despite the fact that white people really shouldn’t have needed a pretty boy to legitimize black music, and despite the fact that he got in bad shape and was well on his way towards being a has-been, the man had talent. The man had presence. Was it a generational thing–that younger people thought of Elvis as stuff their parents were into? Or that they only knew the later part of Elvis’s career and already thought of him as washed-up? Or was it a class thing? Elvis sightings in my mind are always made by poor and/or Southern and/or uneducated whites. But think of all the musicians you loved who died in 2016. How does the idea that they didn’t die, and could make a new album, appeal to you?
Anyway, Phil wrote extensively about Elvis as a laundry list of cartoony features when ALF did its Elvis episode (only a month before this one). So I won’t go into that. What I will do is offer you the chance to play Elvis Joke Bingo!
YES I KNOW PHIL MADE A JOKE ABOUT ELVIS BINGO IN HIS REVIEW SHUT UP
Also Phil was wrong about ALF giving us “a time-capsule of the precise moment at which the historical Elvis was supplanted permanently by a cartoon” because “That Old Gang of Mine” is proof positive that Elvis and his followers were already considered a joke before that episode aired. So there, fuck Phil and fuck you, too, this is a fun idea and you’re all going to play bingo and have fun. Click on this sentence to play Elvis Joke Bingo.
If you get Bingo at any point during this review, whisper it silently into the nearest unplugged telephone. I will hear you.
The next day, Balki is in the kitchen and the phone rings, causing him to be Elvis again. He answers the phone by saying “Graceland”. Gosh golly, if only Lamont had said “this bell” instead of “a bell”! What an irresponsible hypnotist!
Then he hangs up on her. Who the hell was it?
Whatever, who cares, Balki says out loud that he is going to fry a peanut butter and banana sandwich, a thing that Elvis was well known for announcing before he did.
Later, he comes to the Chronicle to return Balki’s wallet, since I guess that’s the address Balki has on his driver’s license. I want to ask why he didn’t question why he was suddenly in Chicago without any of his regular entourage, but I kind of like the idea that Balki’s idea of Elvis is so used to waking up in unknown places that it didn’t cause any cognitive dissonance.
Larry goes upstairs to the “city desk”***, but lets Balki know that they’ll go over his tax return when he comes back. Then Balki dances, as Elvis was known to do in unfamiliar public places after he had finished his stated business there.
Gorpley comes in and Balki assumes that he’s there for a rehearsal of Jailhouse Rock? So he shakes at the top of the steps, he shakes his way down the steps, and he tries to get Gorpley to dance. Gorpley then kills Elvis on behalf of all black musicians everywhere.
Oh, no, wait. Balki just ignores everything Gorpley says that doesn’t fit with what he wants, until Gorpley starts counting. This is so that Balki can start singing Reason #27 This Ain’t On DVD: “Blue Suede Shoes”. I don’t like that Balki’s idea of Elvis is that Elvis is a joke writer for Perfect Strangers.
We find out that Gorpley is from Minneapolis, but then a phone starts ringing a few times so we can see the full extent of Sybil Bartokomous’s illness.
And then there’s another decent Balki misunderstanding about “running something over in the car”. (I should also point out that Larry used a similar phrasing earlier in the scene, and Elvis did not misunderstand it.)
Here we are, at our third location, the Internal Revenue Service Building, where Balki–that’s right, you heard right, the guy who can do math in his head at the grocery store–is getting help with a form that consists of writing down numbers and variously adding, subtracting, or multiplying them. Balki hugs Ronald Yeats, Auditor. I really have no idea how they’re going to work the Elvis stuff into this scene, so I’m pretty excited, aren’t you?
And even though
there are many more living members of Balki’s family. Another clunky joke setup reveals that Balki has an Uncle “Sam” which is short for “Salmonella”. I’m not as excited now.
Show of hands: how many people have an office with a desk, but you put the chairs for anyone coming to see you at an angle perpendicular to the desk?
Huh. Just me and Mr. Yeats. Alright.
The guy’s phone rings, and Balki starts in on his quivering bit. I know that it’s just easy physical comedy, but I really do like the fact that Balki’s idea of Elvis is that he has some sort of palsy.
Balki says he’s going to buy Mr. Yeats a Cadillac, and Larry has to ask who he’s pretending to be (!!!). I remember in season 3 they would recap about 6 minutes in, but we’re 13 minutes in here. Anyway, the dialogue here is mostly to get across more Elvis references, so mark off “Priscilla” on your card.
Psychology Sidebar: Dissociative Identity Disorder is the clinical name for what you’ve likely heard referred to as split/multiple personality, or possibly as schizophrenia by people a generation or two older. The naming is important here, because the key to understanding it is in the word “dissociative”. There are a number of dissociative disorders; this one involves the emergence of one or more “alters”. There’s still a lot of disagreement in the psychological/psychiatric communities as to why DID happens, how DID happens, and how to treat it. Is it biological? Probably not. Is it caused by therapists? Mmmmmaybe. Does it have to do with trauma, either as a child or an adult? Probably! I mean, the idea of dissociation is that you encountered something that was simply too much to bear and literally checked out and let “someone else” handle it.
You could argue that Balki undergoes some sort of trauma every week. A lot of that’s caused by Cousin Larry, or by losing a dog, or not getting to play a game, but you know me, I have to sound super-smart when I talk about this show. Balki has come to America and, with a few exceptions, has consistently resisted the American (*cough* Capitalist *cough* I’m so smart *cough cough*) corruption of the values he grew up with on Mypos. There’s a couple of mechanisms (purposes?) suggested for dissociation: detachment and compartmentalization. Detachment says that you (the main you) leaves because cognitive dissonance is too much. Compartmentalization says that you put the two mental states causing the dissonance far apart from each other (hey, I don’t like my peas touching my mashed taters either). For the sake of argument, let’s say that this is the first year that Balki has made enough money to be required to file a tax return. He grew up with a barter system; and in America he’s mostly been using his extra money to do nice things for his family and friends. Now, finally, his relationship with money is becoming formalized in a way it never has been before.
Sure, yes, Lamont Cassidy was the catalyst here for the Elvis persona. But! We’ve so far seen Creepy Balki, Black Balki, Balki the Kid, and Roger Rabbit Balki. We’ve seen him explicitly make malapropisms just to tease his cousin, but for every step forward, he takes one back. He forgets what sleeping bags are, he gets names wrong, he forgets having been on a plane. It’s quite possible that “Balki” is now an alter. At any rate, what I’m getting at is that, on the surface level, haha bells make Balki Elvis; but on a deeper level, taxes scare Balki. To him, Elvis is a personage who was so rich that other people handled his financial affairs for him.
One goal of some treatments of DID is to create a unified personality, so that the patient can handle anything in their personal life without having to flee from it. Cousin Larry calls upon that Great Healer:
Larry: You think you’re Elvis!
Larry tries snapping, and I saw the “no rhythm” joke coming, but I still liked it. Then I didn’t like when Balki just started dancing again. Here’s Reason #28 etc.: “Suspicious Minds”.
Larry hurriedly writes down the phone number and runs out of the room and rushes back in to pick it up.
Mr. Yeats comes back, and Larry tries to leave. Mr. Yeats is all “what the fuck, I haven’t even talked to you yet”.
And because Mr. Yeats is a true professional, he calls his secretary to let her know that he’s expecting a call from his wife (ya couldn’t have done that when you passed the secretary outside?).
Anyway, here we are in a situation where Balki threatens to embarrass Larry in front of some important government functionary, a story that couldn’t possibly have been told unless Balki got turned into Elvis.
Larry super not obviously pulls the guy’s phone cord out from the wall. If I were the auditor and knew I was in a sitcom, my first guess would be “Larry’s fucking my wife”.
And since there’s only, you know, four minutes left in the episode, the writers must have felt pressed for time. So instead of any more funny dialogue about people misunderstanding each other, the clock chimes, Balki turns into Michael J. Fox, Larry calls himself “Colonel Larry Appleton”, and Balki grabs some guitar-shaped something off the wall and gives us Reason #29 yada yada : “Heartbreak Hotel”.
Later, at the apartment, Lamont and Lydia come by. Larry tells them that there’s only one way to get Balki out of the bedroom, and he pauses before, letting the suggestion hang in the air for a moment. Linn-Baker lets you know that Larry has moved past embarrassment to resignation of the zany situation he’s been forced into this week. He even pauses throughout his next line:
Larry: Ladies and gentlemen… the grand showroom of the Las Vegas Hilton… is proud to present the one… the only… Elllvis!
Balki used to be a nice boy. He used to vacuum the couch. But now his mind is totally destroyed by music. He’s so crazy now, he even believes that people are watching him dance to imaginary guitar notes, and so, continuing to dwindle in the Vegahhhhsss realm of his own Elvis thoughts, he not only dreams imaginary guitar notes, but, to make matters worse, he dreams imaginary films that he has starred in, like Love Me Tender.
Lamont snaps his fingers.
Lamont asks if Balki thinks that he’s one-dimensional enough to easily convey that he’s back to normal.
Lydia leaves, saying that Lamont is going to help her get over her fear or pompoms. I’m conflicted. I want to point out that she wasn’t afraid of them at the top of the episode (and look at that! I did!), but I also want Lydia to have multiple neuroses. So let’s say that she developed this fear sometime in the past day.
Belita hams it up, though, and I think she half breaks down laughing on her way out. Sometimes jokes work, sometimes they don’t. Meanwhile, Balki is looking over his outfit in a rare subtle moment from Pinchot.
Larry explains the plot of this whole episode (hey, I needed it too, this one was confusing, huh?) and says that he was able to convince Mr. Yeats that Balki had been hypnotized. Also that Balki sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, so if you don’t have Bingo by now I’m afraid you’ll just have to generate a new card and read this whole review again.
Roger Rabbit Balki emerges to handle the end of the episode, and sings “Heartbreak Hotel” again just to make Larry shit his pants a little.
Join me next week for “Prose and Cons”!
Catchphrase count: Balki (2); Larry (1)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
*we learn here that she is a nationally-syndicated columnist
**well, not really, the funniest thing the bikers did was… get excited about beer?
***must be some big desk hahaha kill me
2 thoughts on “Season 4, Episode 16: The King and I”
This was another episode that I recorded on an audio cassette. I remember it – except for the tax part, oddly.
I never wondered why Balki didn’t get hypnotized the first time but did the second time. I did wonder, though, why “Elvis” mistook an apartment for both Graceland and the Las Vegas Hilton.
Embarrassing fact: When I was in elementary school, I had a friend introduce me in the same way that Larry introduced Balki (except he didn’t do anywhere near as good a job).
I’ve actually been to Graceland, and it does have a room that’s done up exactly like the cousins’ apartment. Elvis was pretty wild back then!