Hey, y’all! Before I get to the review, I’ve got some big news!
Now that we’re (kinda) halfway finished with this blog, it’s time to celebrate with a livestream! I think that’s what we do now when we reach milestones for dumb 80s sitcom blogging. I’ll do one here, and one towards (or at) the very end, sometime in 2024.
So what I’m going to do is stream 6 or 7 full episodes of Perfect Strangers on Friday, April 14, from 8PM EST until triple question marks. The episodes will be interspersed with some choice tidbits, as well as
That’s right, you heard right, I have written parody lyrics for a bunch of songs and I then offered my first-born child to a bunch of different people to sing them. (Shh! don’t tell)
I’m definitely going to show you the best (“Get a Job”) and the worst (“The Break In”), but you all get to decide the others! Here’s a Survey Monkey survey:
All you do is let me know what your favorite two episodes from each season are. I’ll do some hot data-wrangling and figure out what the top four (or five?) are and put ’em in a queue.
So do that survey, come to the stream, listen to Larryoke songs. The episodes will be family-friendly, but the songs won’t be, and neither will the chat. In fact, I highly recommend that you all coordinate beforehand so you don’t all show up with the same swear word.
For now, on to the season 4 finale!
The Caldwell Hotel: where previously indicating death, or uncertainty, now is shuttered to us. This whole season has been a series of failed attempts to get the cousins into or through a party, stopped alternately by their own individual faults, or their focus on each other. Sound, as always, is ruled by a different physics here, meaning that we hear “Happy Birthday” loud and clear. It is an announcement to the world that the cousins have rejected all other festivities in favor of their own, and that they alone choose who attends. It is we few who are privileged enough to see Balki’s birthday party.
Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) are there, as well as Harriette (*sniff*), Gorpley, PaulAndre, PaulAndre’s wife (?), that woman from the basement, that guy from the basement Balki tried to kiss, and a couple of others. I assume Harriette gave Carl his own cake so he wouldn’t eat everything there. I don’t see Lydia, so she must be off with the clown she “hired” to “perform”.
Hey, look! Someone got Balki a plush cat. After 4+ years, Dmitri must have been stiff as a board. Balki says that at the age of 25, a Myposian becomes a man.
Mary Anne asks what he was before, which is a reasonable question about how stages of development are split up in a foreign culture. I mean, after all, here in America we have plenty of fuzzy age categories: newborns, babies, infants, toddlers, children, adolescents, pre-teens, tweens, teenagers, 20-somethings, young adults.
A guy has come to visit! He has slightly darker skin, black hair, and a weird shirt. Forget that he speaks better English than Balki does now, he’s definitely a foreigner!
They touch each others’ faces as a greeting. This man is named Verbos Verazones, and he is from the island of Pathos, which lies to the east of Mypos (another island, Skeptos, lies to the west). Balki says that Verbos doesn’t “look pathetic”. First of all, GEE I WONDER WHAT PEOPLE FROM SKEPTOS ARE CALLED?? Second, that is a perfectly written joke about how foreign languages are actually English.
Now that the show has spent a whole minute on the island names joke, Balki and Verbos keep thanking each other in very abasing ways because they are both foreign.
Verbos gives Balki a “mooko cookie”, which was a funny joke until Gorpley is forced to step on it (the joke, not the cookie). But there’s another gift from Balki’s mom!
Aww, Balki’s mom remembered that her son is on a sitcom and would need something to choke on when he got the news that he’s going to be married to Kiki Karadopolous. She’s so sweet (his mom, not the cookie, I can’t vouch for the cookie).
Later, Balki says he got Kiki and Verbos settled “in the hotel” and Larry assumes the flowers are for an upset Mary Anne. Mary Anne was upset because the gift she got for Balki now symbolizes what he’s going to get from Kiki.
Balki, in what must be a Myposian tradition, rips the petals off the flowers, turning it into a festive garbage plant.
Balki starts talking about how it’s the end of the season and with this many speaking roles, there’s no way there’s room left in the budget for a third location, so they should have the wedding in the apartment.
Cousin Larry can’t believe that he’s going through with it, but Balki explains that the dowry (a goat) has already been paid. There’s some high-falutin’ language there (the goat is a standard short-form inter-island marriage agreement), meaning that Mypos, with its Flintstones-era photography and its use of vegetables in sport, has made some effort to keep up with the changing world around it. Mypos has adopted the language of the business world to legitimize its traditions to the new generations. Also, you may remember from the episode “I’m Balki, Fly Me” that a woman could cost multiple goats. This means that Kiki’s not exactly a catch.
Another throughline for this season has been the tortured joke setups. Balki starts decorating the apartment with yet more items that were packed into that one backpack he brought with him in the first episode.
Larry: I’ve had it with traditional Myposian bull.
Larry pushes Balki. Are you going to be happy with this woman? Huh? Do you even know her? Does she even have nipples?
Hey, lay off, cuz! I mean, look, Balki’s been trying to get Myposian stuff into a season finale for a few years now. He only managed to write the letter E all weird on a banner in season 1; he created folk art using Larry’s belly button lint in season 2; he tried getting a real person from Mypos in season 3, but, as you well know (say it with me now)
And even though this whole scenario brings up a couple of questions (why didn’t Balki’s family come? why isn’t this taking place on Mypos? how did Balki not suspect that being given a bride was a thing that happened often on one’s 25th birthday?) I want to say that I really do like it. It’s not like Balki was ever running away from his origin. He wanted his experience in America to be additive as well as transitive. But in the past four years, he’s become more American than he predicted, and certainly moreso than his family knows. For all that he holds on to some of his past–medicine, wisdom, cuisine–he embraced his future. It was a lesson he learned last season around this time, when his Yaya died, but Mypos didn’t stay buried. Its ghost has come back and thrown his life into peril. But not Yaya Biki’s ghost! Can you imagine if this show did episodes about, like, actual ghosts? That’s too silly, even for you, show.
Balki is Myposian to the core, and here, his internal struggle is the focus. Usually we see the cousins mudwrestling about whether the toilet paper roll should go over or under, but only Balki is fighting now. He’s bound by tradition, but must give up his gains (here, Mary Anne). Balki must make a choice between mother/land and love/American style, and that choice may well define who he is from now on. As if Balki’s identity being at stake weren’t enough, this situation throws the cousins’ relationship–their life–into peril. No matter what Balki does, someone will be hurt.
It’s a good setup! So I assume that by 15 minutes in, the cousins will be writhing on the floor covered in wedding cake.
Ah, one more point: Kiki would be shunned in the eyes of her fellow Pathetics if she returns home rejected. No other man will ever take her as a bride. There’s a joke setup about how she’ll have to wear a “scarlet letter”.
Okay, this is a first for me and this blog. I am going to type out the punchline that I think would be funny before hearing the show’s. You have no reason to believe me that I’m being honest, but here goes. Punchline: something along the lines that she’s wearing a copy of the book.
The show’s punchline: R for Returned
Cousin Larry asks if there’s any way out of the marriage. Evidently, Zapotsi Polipopolou got out of an arranged marriage to Michi Boomba only because the earth opened up and swallowed him.
Since Family Matters hadn’t even started yet, there’s no way for Balki to time travel and have his wife rebel against Moses. Too bad.
Have you ever watched Clue? I’ve watched it a couple of times, but it’s one of those movies where you have to pay attention to so many things–like who’s not in which scene, and might be a suspect in a given murder. Well, Clue’s got nothing on this, because it turns out that Lydia wasn’t at the birthday party because SOMEBODY had to ask for a recap in this scene.
She knows all about falling in love quickly and asks if she needs to dress up like a man to repay the favor they did for her.
Harriette tells Larry that knowing that Balki’s marriage was arranged is enough for the audience and takes Lydia away.
At last, we see Larry’s bedroom and… it’s the most boring bedroom in all of Chicago. I mean, look, he’s got a Norman Rockwell painting framed and matted, and probably some of Larry’s substandard photographic efforts. No doubt there’s a George Michael poster on the ceiling.
Larry and Balki are finally together in the bedroom, and I think you can all understand why the cousins are acting awkward around each other in this scene. This moment was supposed to happen so differently. Not with a bunch of people in the living room. Not in the middle of the day. They each had varying fantasies about what physical comedy scenario would get them here.
Changing lightbulbs, putting a bug bomb in Balki’s room, replacing Larry’s mattress, taking a sign language class so Balki could invite all his new friends to stay over. It would certainly happen eventually, right? But neither wanting their advances spurned, they waited too long. They talk about Balki’s sword for a minute and about how the wife uses it to get the sheep out of the bedroom so her husband doesn’t get confused and go for any ol’ vagina.
Larry sits Balki down and Balki thinks it’s because Larry is going to teach him about sex. “You learn a lot from watching sheep”. Yeah, haha, if you pay close attention, even from behind you can tell whether they’re into it or not!
Larry wants to say goodbye, but he’s having trouble expressing his emotions. For those of you keeping count at home, Larry says they’ve been together three years, even though Balki said four last week.
Balki and Larry don’t kiss one final time.
Larry’s surprise for Balki is that he got Mama on the phone to hear the ceremony. Couldn’t buy him some art, ya fuckin’ cheapskate? Balki leaves to say “dazoo odoyeye”* to his mother.
Here, for the second time in this blog’s history, I am going to type out the punchline that I think would be funny before hearing the show’s. You have no reason to believe me that I’m being honest, but here goes. Punchline: Balki’s mom says “Balki!” in that shrill way of hers and also says “Kiki!”. Why else would they have named her Kiki?
We’ll come back to that, because we’re sticking here with Cousin Larry and Verbos for a minute.
UH-OH, Verbos is sad. You’d never guess why, so I’ll just have to tell you: he’s in love with Kiki.
I guess I have to assume that this is Jennifer’s bedroom. After all, it has Jennifer’s personality all over it: what your grandparents’ guest bedroom must have looked like when they first decorated it.
Since Kiki is here, this is a wonderful opportunity for Jennifer to let her know what America is like, what Balki’s like, how being in America has changed him.
Oh, no, wait, we just get the same exact scene about secret crushes, but with women saying the lines. I’d say this scene is about, oh, 66% the length of the other one.**
Kiki says she would sooner throw herself into the ocean than walk around Pathos with an R on her chest and the studio audience laughs.
Fuck you, studio audience.
Fuck you, Robert Blair. Robert Blair is the guy who wrote “Assertive Training”, where Larry tells his girlfriend that she can’t see a friend who’s visiting because it’s some threat to his masculinity. Robert Blair is the guy who wrote “That Old Gang of Mine”, where Mary Anne turns down the career opportunity of a lifetime (not to mention escape from her “friend” who insults her constantly) just so she can be around a guy who, by any assessment, would never realistically be promoted past mailboy. Robert Blair is the guy who wrote “The King and I”, the sole joke of which was that Balki had palsy.
He did okay in season 3 (“To Be Or Not To Be” and “The Graduate”), but Robert Blair is a fallen angel. Look: he’s the guy who “wrote” “Piano Movers”.**
This “joke”–that one man rejecting a woman means the population of three islands will reject her as a person, leaving her with no better option than death–may be the worst thing I’ve seen this show do. I am very relieved to see that Robert Blair is not credited with any episodes after this point. Since you don’t see this as a reader, I want to tell you. You’re going to keep reading the next paragraph right after this one. But I’m having a lot of trouble even hitting play again on this episode.
Balki leaves the apartment and runs into Mary Anne and god DAMN it they’re never going to use that fire extinguisher, are they?
Balki: It will take me years and years before I feel about Kiki the way I already feel about you.
What feeling is that? Mentally superior?
Balki asks if they can still be friends, and, um, no. They won’t be. How many times have you remained friends with someone you dumped? Friends have to do things together.
Balki tells Mary Anne to sit right up in front so she and Kiki can count each others’ tears.
Balki hugs Reverend Bacon and apologizes for his raging boner.
(Balki acknowledges that the usual guy who performs the marriage ceremonies (Mooki, who lives on Mt. Mypos) would die if he came to America!)
Reverend Bacon says he’s used to doing strange weddings because he used to live in California! Californians are just so dang nonspecifically WEIRD, amirite?
Harriette used to be some hot shit on this show. She had all the dirt on everybody, she wasn’t afraid to tell anyone what’s what. Now, in her final moments, she just says the lines that need to be said to move things along She’s been on the phone with Mama, so she hands it to Balki (the phone, not the cookie, Balki ate the cookie 13 minutes ago, why do you keep thinking it’s the cookie).
Cousin Larry is right by Balki’s side, to give the groom away (that should register as a simple cultural difference, but the audience laughs, their brains long since withered to the size of bibibabkas). Giving the groom away involves the cousins walking and shaking their asses, symbolizing the tender moments they’ve shared, and also what they’ll never have from one another again. Showing you the whole thing because Mark Linn-Baker is great right at the end.
Butts are funny.
Kiki comes in, approaching the altar to the tune of Richard Wagner’s “Treulich geführt” (“Here Comes the Bride”), but it’s with different instrumentation because Kiki is FOREIGN.
We learn from Reverend Bacon that Kiki is the daughter of Atilla and Chichi Karadopolous. Haha man it’s so good to know that the islands where women can’t hold positions of power in society–or their own personal lives–still has a fuckton of silly names. Makes it all balance out!
While Reverend Bacon talks about, like, love or God or some shit, Jennifer and Larry exchange the admirers’ secrets, whispering very loudly.
Larry suddenly remembers that they all have five-year contracts, and that ratings have been great this year, so he jumps up and yells to stop the wedding.
This whole episode has been a question about how few people can be hurt by any choice. So I have to say that Larry revealing Kiki’s and Verbos’s feelings and trying to call off the wedding is one of the most effective “Larry tries to help but makes things worse” I’ve seen, because now all three of the foreigners end up sadder than they already were. Even Dmitri is wearing black, as if in morning.
Larry tries to do the Dance of Joy, but Balki says that tradition demands he still get married.
I’m not qualified to get into it much, but there’s been a long-standing debate about how where to draw the line in critiquing other cultures. Critiquing them implies that the critic is from a “better” culture; but this runs the risk of not understanding another’s values, thought processes, and personhood. We are all bound by our culture’s values to some extent, and our individual lives are often stories of negotiation with those values. Here, we see which side of the debate Larry supports:
Larry: What is it with you people?
Mama calls for her son, saying that Kiki’s parents will not give the goat back (the goat is named “Linki” and is “gifted”).
Harriette gets one last confused look in at the strange things white people do behind closed doors.
Balki says that the marriage must take place.
Balki gives the penis symbol to Verbos and Mary Anne cheers because she is happy SO GODDAM DUMB FUCKING FUCK
Let’s tie things back to the first scene up there: Balki has celebrated becoming a man by letting his mother fix his problems for him. Nah, I’m just being a shit. Balki’s mother getting to flout the law makes women’s status in the Tri-Island area much more murky. Is it okay because she’s doing it to honor Balki’s wishes? Is it okay because she’s a matriarch? Is it okay because she has a mustache? Is it okay because she’s saving a woman from suicide? Given everything we know about Mypos, it fucking ought to be that last one.
But did Robert Blair even consider this question?
Later on, Mary Anne takes pity on the scrawniest of my running jokes, saying she wants to imbibe brown liquids with Balki.
So how shall Balki sum up his feelings about not having to leave the woman he might be dating?
Balki: Dead horses couldn’t drag me away.
Larry gave the newlyweds a present: a night’s stay in the bridal suite of the Evanston Econolodge. Larry and Balki take pride in having facilitated the boners of another.
The internal balance of the world of Perfect Strangers has been restored. The cousins will stay together, the women have left the room, and nobody that matters had to make any tough choices. But is it still a soft reset in a broader sense? Balki did get his $100 back two weeks ago, but now we find that Mama is still on the phone. Remember, kids, this was the 80s, where international calls cost by the minute.
Mama’s talking in Myposian, but I’ll translate: she wants to know why nobody thought to have her yell “Kiki!”.
She won’t get off the phone until they do the Dance of Joy. She knows it’s a real crowdpleaser, and a great way to end any episode, not to mention a whole season.
Next week: sex, lies, and videotape
Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0); Verbos (let’s just say Kiki doesn’t feel pathetic anymore)
Dance of Joy running total: 14
*”dazoo odoyeye”=”you’ve ruined my life forever”
**the correct wage gap percentage for 1989. BOOM
***evidently Blair would write his scripts very quickly, for whatever that’s worth: https://books.google.com/books?id=ypJVXEF6bWQC&pg=PT132&lpg=PT132&dq=robert+blair+writer+television&source=bl&ots=GzH2Pe9hsM&sig=lOdNwngH5CKOr_MCvcO37CKjnns&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwibv-eWyJPRAhWE6IMKHWULABQQ6AEILjAD#v=onepage&q=robert%20blair%20writer%20television&f=false