There’s a real fancy flourish to the music as we visit the Caldwell Hotel in the late evening, signalling something new and exciting.
Jennifer, Larry, Balki, and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) all come running into the apartment.
Jennifer is exclaiming about something! I have to pause this here, three seconds in, to collect my thoughts. She doesn’t necessarily like muscles, she hasn’t necessarily ever worked somewhere where she might see them on display, she buys nail polish, she likes to sleep when she’s tired, she likes hot water when she showers, she likes a little tummy on a man, she likes the musical stylings of George Michael, it was implied she’s eaten pizza twice now, she wanted to have sex with Larry all of one time, she likes the outdoors, and she can skate and play tennis. Oh and she’s a stewardess with a possible fondness for good jobs and nice weather. But do we really know who she is yet?
I mean, I could tell you that I like to eat chicken, sing in the shower, dislike rude drivers, think that Six Sigma never did me any wrong, and think birdsong is nice *ahem* in theory, but does that mean anything? Does she have a personality yet? We’ve so far only had Jennifer’s likes and… well, shit, dislikes, let’s see… oh yeah, she doesn’t like Larry talking rudely to her, or Mary Anne being so dumb she thinks nature vs. nurture was a Supreme Court case. But all we’ve got is a mishmash of slight preferences and “not really minding”. But getting excited, well, that’s another story!
So what’s she excited about?
Larry did research for an article on money laundering that is now on the front page of the Chicago Chronicle. Hey, wait a second…
…that’s one of the multitude of assignments that Larry was working on two weeks ago!
You know what? We’ve got a couple of good things going on here. A tiny story-arc between two episodes, and Jennifer acting like a person.
Anyway, Larry’s deflecting the praise and minimizing his effort while Balki’s over there misunderstanding (GUESS WHICH WORD HUH), but this makes it all the more genuine. For all that Larry keeps lying to try to impress his girlfriend, his role at his job has never been one that he’s tried to hide from her. He did lie to his brother Billy, but I’m sure even Larry knows he couldn’t get away with that with a girlfriend who’s going to hear him through the floor at night, weeping into a copy of Artforum. She knows the real struggles–and the real progress–that he’s made at the Chronicle. If only she’d known about how much effort he put into learning to skate for charity to begin with, she’d have been just as impressed, if not more.
I’m sorry, I know we’re only 30 seconds in, but let me have this. Let me believe that Jennifer has a personality trait other than being 1 standard deviation above the average height for Caucasian women in their mid-to-late 20s.
See? She also wears a hair clip! She’s a three-dimensional person now!
Larry explains money laundering to Balki, and here’s a twist: Balki says “Oh, I get it now” and then asks a second question about laundry. Larry’s responds as though it really does have to do with laundry, so there’s your answer about why Balk’s mind stays as white as t-shirts washed with Tide®!
Balki makes the same face I do every time I… shit, I don’t have a painful experience to share this week. Sorry, guys. Life’s been good lately.
Of course, those fine fellows Marshall and Walpole did not name Larry in the (five-page!)* article for doing the lion’s share of the research (such naming is mentioned here as standard practice for the paper). Everyone tries to cheer Larry up, even Jennifer (see?), by saying that after five years working as a stewardess
she only just got a raise to flight crew manager
and now Mary Anne is upset because she’s only ever been promoted to beverages manager
Oh, no, wait, there it is. Earlier, Balki made the same face I just did while listening to that exchange!
This seems to be the show’s approach to continuity now. I’m tempted to say that the show is only concerned with maintaining the canonicity of things that happened within the same season. But then again, there’s the issue of Larry’s relationship to athletics doing an about-face between episodes 1 and 2 of this season. It does appear that the show is taking the “let’s count the seasons as years” approach that I’ve seen occur on many long-running shows. The show is in its fifth season, so whatever has been happening has happened for that number of years, nevermind the fact that this show hasn’t finished its fifth “year” yet. Jennifer and Mary Anne are mere stewardesses now, the show is on season 5, ergo they have been stewardesses five years. It’s logic you only get on sitcoms.
We have always lived in the Caldwell.
At the very least, their fight leads to an organic exit.
Balki tells his cousin that everyone who matters to him at work will know what he did and offer him praise. Larry says all he really wants is a pat on the back and, heh, guess which word Balki misunderstands.
Later, at the Chronicle, we see a bunch of people leave for the day and Larry’s upset that no one commented on his article. I see the problem, though: those are all non-speaking roles! Get it straight, Larry.
Larry retreats to the archives, yet another forgotten name buried in the stacks.
But look, coming in from the parking garage–
It’s Jeffrey Tambor!
This guy’s name is Marvin Berman and wants to talk to Marshall and Walpole, because they wrote the money laundering article.
And finally, we’ve run into a small problem that’s arisen because Harriette’s gone: why did Marvin come in through the parking garage? Why wouldn’t someone looking for newspaper writers come in through the main entrance?** We know that the Chronicle has one security guard–Lance Dick–who seems to only show up when it’s time to make a joke about lax security. But at the current moment, Perfect Strangers and Family Matters are connected, so it should be the case that there are at least two security guards in the building. Not that we’d get to see Harriette in that role, and obviously reminding the audience that Lance Dick even exists would complicate the episode, but, still, damn. It’s way too easy to get into all parts of this building at any time of day. Speaking of, why did dude wait until 5PM to come in and try to find somebody?
Anyway, Messrs. M & W are off to appear on Nightline (Monday nights on ABC!), but Balki is happy to report that his Cousin Larry was actually responsible for the article.
Rather than getting the praise that he knows he deserves, Larry is met with scorn and aspersions.
Blah blah blah, Larry defends himself, Marvin is strapped with explosives, Balki keeps demanding that his pat on the back be counted…
hey wait a second
that’s not Jeffrey Tambor
THAT’S NOT JEFFREY TAMBOR
Later, at the same place, Marvin Berman is tying the cousins up.
Little does he know that this is where the cousins feel most at home…
Balki: Bred’n bawn in bondage, Br’er Marvin! Bred’n bawn!
I’ll admit I’m a little worried now. This show has a terrible track record when it comes to stories about crime; one might even say that when the show does this, it IS a crime (it’s fun to make jokes online, isn’t it?). “Crimebusters” featured messy plotting, “Prose and Cons” had one of the poorest immediate threats to the cousins, and “Can I Get a Witness?” was kind of pushing it for what kind of wacky antics discount store employees would get up to. Here, the story up to this point has me worried that we’ve got another “The Break In”, an episode which, if it were a person, I would not speak very civilly to.
Again, we have a fellow whose problem outsizes Larry’s: Marvin was not given credit for his role in the money laundering scheme. Again, this fellow shows an utter disregard for his own life: if he can’t get what he wants or needs, there’s no reason in living any longer.
Where once Larry truthfully minimized his effort out of actual humility, he is now dishonestly doing so in an attempt to escape danger.
Cousin Larry also makes the best suggestion I’ve heard yet in these 77 episodes: taping Balki’s mouth shut.
Gorpley comes out of the office and, somehow oblivious that it’s after hours***, repeats one of the three lines the writers wrote for him: telling Balki to get to work on the mail. Anyway, the purpose he serves here is so that someone can very briefly show up and then leave to inform the cops of the situation. And, of course, it had to be Gorpley for this role. If Lydia were here she’d probably have sex with Marvin.
It’s been at least a few weeks since I’ve talked about what idiots the audience members are, so let’s do that here. A full three and a half minutes after the reveal that Marvin is strapped with explosives, the audience members gasp when Marvin says he’ll blow up the Chronicle if he doesn’t get what he wants.
I mean, what did they think he was going to do with the explosives? Stick them one by one up the cous–
For once in his miserable life, Gorpley actually managed to care for another human being’s welfare, and called the cops. (The reader is welcome to assume that Carl Winslow is among them.)
Inside the basement, Marvin talks to Lieutenant Gus on the phone, demanding to see the publisher. He makes to set his bomb for 10 minutes, exactly how much time is left in this episode.
Cousin Larry has gauged the audience’s intellect, and does them a favor by asking Marvin what he wants. Just in case you’re an idiot, too, I’ll write it for you: Marvin wants a retraction printed.
Balki reminds him to set the timer, knowing that otherwise I’d catch the oversight and write 300 words about it.
*SPOILER* As I’m sure you can guess, the whole time goes by without a bomb going off. But at least the show finds some ways of having fun until the end of the scene. The conversation keeps going off on various character-driven tangents. Balki gives Marvin advice on what knots to use, they talk about Marvin picking out the office furniture, where Marvin bought his timer, Larry encourages Marvin to develop a plan before the publisher calls. Every time someone goes off topic it actually serves to heighten the tension a little.
Plus you get the cousins tied up, which not only means their keisters are kissing, but also allows for the type of physical comedy this show does best. Another great thing here is Mark Linn-Baker’s scared-for-his-life spitting-out-the-lines delivery.****
Larry convinces Marvin to go to Gorpley’s office to write his demands down; then the cousins make for the loading dock.
When Marvin comes back too soon, Balki suggests he turn states’ evidence, words he learned from the All-New Columbo (Saturday nights on ABC!).
Larry latches onto Balki’s idea and tells Marvin that he’d be a hero. Finally, Larry’s habit of appealing to people’s greed pays off!
Marvin unties the cousins. But then–UH-OH–Marvin can’t turn the timer off!
Marvin threatens to faint, so Balki touches his face, his main way of communicating. Marvin faints anyway.
Larry tries to run to the parking garage–
It’s called a bomb shelter! The basement has one!
Balki refuses to leave this poor man to his doom, however, so Larry comes back.
But then–UH-OH–we’re subjected to that stupid “should I cut the red wire?” trope!
Instead of making an effort to provide some sort of twist on the trope, the show opts for Larry just shouting at an unconscious Marvin. If you ask me, it was the right choice.
Balki, knowing the end is near, embraces his cousin one last time.
Nah, j/k, Balki pulls the correct wire because this is a sitcom.
Later, at the apartment, Larry reads his first front-page story and Jennifer kisses him.
Mary Anne kisses Balki real hard until he faints. I guess his bomb was about to go off!
Let’s tie this one up, shall we? The women leave; Larry gives credit to Balki in his article; there’s a reveal that Marshall and Walpole plan to do a tell-all book with Marvin, cutting Larry out; Larry is upset.
What interests me is that, where “The Break In” failed finally to contrast Larry’s troubles with those of Frank, “Dog Day Mid-Afternoon” succeeds. Balki tells Larry that he that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that loveth Bismol with mint flavor. Cousin Larry is cautioned to be happy with what credit he receives, lest he end up like Marvin.
Balki says that his mother will be proud to see his name in the paper, and because there is a pause after he says it, the audience laughs.
Here’s that nasty-looking mouse again:
Join me next week for a special edition of Perfect Strangers Reviewed!
Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (1)
Boner count: Balki (1); Larry (0)
*between this and the 1,000 words of background on the Burgess Meredith murder trial, the Chronicle’s readers must have very long attention spans
**okay, fine, it’s a problem because Harriette’s gone and we’ve never seen any part of this building but the basement and a couple of offices
***time lost all meaning after Christmas Day 1983, when Gorpley’s niece died in his arms on the way to the hospital
****There’s a little touch of Daws Butler in there, I think.