We return to the Caldwell Hotel’s basement, a storehouse of memory, its chambers filled with the decorations of holidays past, the idols of childhood, the actions of former residents: things one may not have room for in their everyday life, but nonetheless wish to hold onto, to be enjoyed periodically. This mirrors the basement of the Chicago Chronicle, where the newspaper’s archives are held. The Chronicle basement is quite literally Larry’s proving ground, where he toils endlessly to build cachet, to make a name for himself, to impress Marshall and Walpole. Here, at his apartment building—and no matter how far we move away, or how we decorate our dwellings, every home is a surrogate for the original—he struggles to prove himself to one above him, his father.
And finally, Cousin Larry’s psyche is explained: his need for approval has birthed a recurring script in his life. Seeking (and not receiving) esteem from his father/from his girlfriend/from his investigative team; and getting himself stuck forever at the ground level. Ritz Discount. The Chronicle basement. At the Caldwell. Forever, in his own version of Plato’s cave.
The storage closets are anything but random, as last week the battle was over memory itself. Do Larry’s memories match his father’s? Do Balki’s match Larry’s? Do theirs match mine? Did Larry experience the childhood trauma of a father who withheld approval, or were these false memories implanted by suggestion? The answer, finally, was the former, as both father and son broke a sewage pipe.
Last week’s father-son competition of memory, coming to a head in the form of a simulated ballgame, has spilled over (haha) onto the rest of the cast, and the rising water threatens to drown not only their stored memories, but the memories of their lives as well.
Will I finally get a reconciliation between the show’s memory and my own? Can father and son achieve a shared memory? Barring that, can they work together to create one? Can Larry break the script before the water reaches the fusebox? Can—
Hey, wait a fucking minute. Can’t they just turn off a bunch of switches in the fusebox to draw other residents to the basement?
Anyway, they’re all banging on the door and yelling, which they’ve been doing for an hour straight.
Something that I always like to see is how new character traits come out when people are put in difficult situations, especially when they’re paired with characters they otherwise never interact with. Here, now that Lydia is standing right next to the other women, we find out that Lydia and Mary Anne share a desire to leave behind a beautiful corpse. Lydia does not want to die wearing her current outfit.
Larry has a spark of inspiration and runs off to grab something from storage. The “memory storage” symbology continues unabated:
Cousin Larry says that if they’re all going to die, they might as well take turns making out with a plastic head and go out smiling.
Here’s the second example ever of one of the characters referring to a story we’ve never seen: Balki thinks that the head is related to Larry’s awful ventriloquist act. For all that Larry’s hobbies are hardly ever seen (or remembered; he used to be a lacemaker in season 2), it’s too bad that this is only mentioned in passing. Think of the jokes I could make! Hands up butts! Capitalist mouthpieces! Et cetera!
Larry plugs the leak with it, which is funny on its own simply because you’re all already imagining it popping right off, right?
Everybody cheers how Larry gave the pipe head, but then nobody seems to notice the mysterious metallic noise swelling, sound rising to a scream, etc.
There’s a terrible joke here where Larry falls down in the water, and Balki, trying to rescue him, grabs the fake head. Balki screams, and the joke is supposed to be that he thinks Larry’s head came off. This one’s in the running for the worst joke of the series.
After the commercial break, in what I can only guess is some misguided attempt to make Balki dumber by the minute, we find Balki dumping water into a large bucket.
Mary Anne (Sagittarius) says that they’re four inches away from death.
George Walter, ever at the ready to be an insufferable asshole, whips out a ruler and corrects her. So she overcompensated to avoid parallax error! Cut her some damn slack, Dad!
Larry says it’s time to find something large and heavy enough to knock the door down. Balki, having picked up on the pervasive phallic symbolism in the previous episode, suggests a large wooden beam, which also serves to outdo Dad’s ruler.
There’s a nice gag about Larry being short, and it also accomplishes further making George Walter into a sack of shit, since he is able to see the fact that he’s keeping his son from helping.
(We also get a “swing it on in” reprise from Larry, which I always appreciate.)
Then Gorpley explains the joke about Larry being short. Which reminds me… why did this episode go to such lengths to have four more characters be in the basement and then not put them to use? Is it simply that Larry has to threaten more lives in each two-parter?*
Before they can ram the door with it, Larry and Dad disagree about whether they should count to three, or say “ready, set, go”. This old man is nitpicking while the lives of six other people are on the line. Can you imagine what it must have been like for Larry’s mom to have sex with this man? If you can, please describe it in the comments.
After the mens’ strength doesn’t budge the door, Larry suggests the women help.
George Walter: No, son, this is your sitcom, if you start letting them help, they’ll want their own story arcs. I saw it happen with your sisters.
The women’s help doesn’t make a difference, but we do learn about another of Jennifer’s many personality traits. She has mass, meaning she has weight. Too much weight, in fact, for the staircase’s landing to support.
The landing falls in the smoothest way possible into the water.
After the act break, Dad still refuses to give any praise without immediately walking it back.
Mary Anne knows where the camera is, so she steps forward to deliver a line. She bemoans that this will be the last party they’ll ever have, because she is dumb. So dumb, in fact, she thinks that electrocution is when you speak clearly into a microphone.
Larry and Balki walk a few feet away and Larry confides his worry that, because of the shrinkage from the water, everyone thinks his penis is really small.
The cousins have a heart-to-heart about how fathers. Balki says that fathers don’t always say what they feel, as though that excuses it. But Balki actually makes a good suggestion: that Larry should start by telling Dad how he feels.
Psychology sidebar: the norm of reciprocity is a way of referring to how people are likely to respond in kind to how they are treated by others. If someone wrongs you, you’re far less inclined to be nice to them if the opportunity presents itself. On the other hand, if someone has scratched your back, you’re happy to scratch theirs the next time they have an itch. The norm of reciprocity can be discussed in terms of favors, or altruism, or even the morality prescribed by religion. I often think of it in terms of “strokes” (from Eric Berne’s “Games People Play”) in that you can tap into the norm of reciprocity by wishing someone a good day, or even simply smiling at them.**
Larry asks Balki for some privacy with Dad, so Balki ducks down to give them the traditional Myposian father-and-son tugjobs.
Larry tries to talk about his feelings, but must first overcome the obstacle of his father correcting his grammar constantly. Larry brings up a time in the 6th grade when he made a 96 on a test and Dad asked what happened to the other four points.***
George Walter says he criticizes because he wants Larry to be the best possible Larry. He reveals that he brags to everyone about his son.
There’s some really sad violin music going on here, and I think I
Yep, just had a booger stuck. I’m good now, let’s move on.
The Appleton men touch dicks together, symbolizing how they will no longer use them to fight.
It’s nice that they’ve worked everything out, but this is seriously the third time in a row where Larry’s had a problem with a family member and the answer has been “talk it out”. If we ever see another member of Larry’s family, there better be some blood.
Dad, suddenly inspired by family love, says they can still find a way out. Balki says that MacGyver (Monday nights at 8 on ABC!) would make a bomb and get them out.
The link between father and son restored, George Walter digs up a memory. Larry blew up the garage with his chemistry set which–*gasp*–just happens to be in the basement! Sorry, y’all, I don’t know enough to do a chemistry sidebar. So the garage blew up but the chemistry set was spared. Gotcha.
Larry puts together chemicals while everybody watches, and I seriously laughed out loud when the camera cut to Jennifer and Mary Anne, staring blankly.
Cousin Larry can’t remember the exact combination, and here’s the answer for last week’s question of what would be remembered. Like manna from heaven, one of the writers remembered to use Mary Anne! One of the writers also seems to have remembered that Mary Anne has a degree in chemistry. Or maybe they just remembered that she’s supposed to sound smart sometimes. I’ll take it.
She offers Larry the solution (heehee) and, by way of explanation when everyone stares at her, says that she used to summer in Beirut. Implying that she took part in the Lebanese Civil War puts this one in the running for the best Mary Anne joke in the whole series.
Jennifer makes herself useful by suggesting a necktie as a fuse. Lucky for them, Gorpley–for absolutely no sensible reason at all–has tied his around his forehead.
Dad offers the lighter that Larry gave him when he was a child. To get this very sweet moment after the tough–
Chicken fight! CHICKEN FIGHT!
The bomb doesn’t go off, and then three seconds later it goes off. That’s called suspense, folks!
The door now open, everybody wastes precious seconds cheering, letting the water rise to the fuse box, electrocuting them all.
Nah, j/k, Dad says what will now be his eternal catchphrase.
The next day, Larry gives Dad his still-drying shoes and Dad starts in on that “how many shoes have you dried, what color were their eyelets, etc.” shit.
Larry: Just fuck off already with the nipples bit, Casey. It was funny the first couple of times, but you should really just drop it.
Balki has made Moogli Boozack Monk for “uncle” George Walter (pig bladder stuffed with cheese) to take back with him to Madison. Just hands him a damn plate like he’s going to take that with him in the car.
Larry tells him that he’ll have to shit every fifteen minutes if he eats them.
Dad says goodbye to Balki. But then he says “goodbye” to his son, but you can tell he’s saying so much more. “I love you, son.” “Our relationship has deepened, son.” “Neither I, nor any immediate member of your family, will ever be seen again on this show, son.”
And here’s the answer to last week’s question of what would be forgotten.
Larry: You Mypiots may not have television, or radio, or indoor plumbing, but you really know how to talk to each other.
So there you have it: Yaya Biki did not watch David Letterman, and the King of Mypos does not have indoor plumbing.
Balki spouts some garbled mess (in English) and passes it off as Myposian wisdom.
The final joke of the episode is that the basement is still flooded, because not even one out of seven assholes called the janitor.
Join me next week for “Hello, Ball”!
Catchphrase count: Balki (1); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
*I’m counting the bear from “Up a Lazy River, Part 2”. Human expansion into animal territories can negatively impact the animals’ habitat and resources. Care About Bears ™
**Kurt Vonnegut cautions the limits of the norm of reciprocity in his 1976 novel, Slapstick. According to one character, someone telling her that they love her is the same as if they “were pointing a gun at my head…. It’s just a way of getting somebody to say something they probably don’t mean. What else can I say, or anybody say, but ‘I love you, too’?”
***The reader may remember Larry’s strict grading in “Teacher’s Pest”. Or the reader may not remember. I guess that’s why I’m mentioning it here, really.