Wow, what a clever title for an episode!
We open at the Chicago Chronicle to find Larry on the phone with Gus, asking that Hank Peterson return his call. Gus, tired of Larry’s constant requests and lies, hangs up on him.
Larry tells nobody in particular that he’s never going to get an interview.
Balki comes in singing reason #35 that it’s been almost 10 years since the last Perfect Strangers DVD release: “It’s a Hap Hap Happy Day” from Gulliver’s Travels. Way back in season 1, Balki’s musical tastes were random, but consistent in terms of a preference for B-listers. But I have a little trouble believing that even Balki would have come across a song from a 1930s Fleischer cartoon movie. He’s also waving around a 20-dollar bill that he found on the ground.* To misquote Somerset Maughan, “it’s not enough that one has failed, but one’s cousin must also have achieved personal success.”
I imagine that Larry’s sort of like me at this point and just zones out when Balki talks. Something about pickles and butterflies. Whatever.
Larry is upset because he promised RT Wainwright he’d interview football player Hank Peterson, but can’t get ahold of him. Larry’s goal is to find out whether Hank Peterson will be playing football again the next season.
Does… the guy have an agent? This is not how getting interviews works. You can’t just walk up to a guy and say “I’d like to interview you”…
Oh wait. I did exactly that with Mark Linn-Baker at that horror convention. Nevermind. Anyway, one of y’all is going to have to tell me how newspapers work. Frank had the crime beat, and then we saw Larry trying to break a story about aldermanly corruption, and later uncovering most of the hierarchy of a money laundering operation. Well, okay, Frank’s dead, bad example. A few months ago, we met Matt Minor, the cuckolded sports writer. Why isn’t he seeking out an interview? And now that I’ve asked that question, tons more start springing up.
Why isn’t Larry asking Matt Minor for help with finding some way to talk to players? RT Wainwright was supposed to be some great journalist in his time–why isn’t he coaching Larry on how to go about these kinds of things? And speaking of other journalists… where the hell are they? I’m not necessarily suggesting that we need to see Larry interacting with a large group of other reporters–THOUGH THAT WOULD BE NICE–but the show always plays it like Larry has to figure out everything on his own. But every time we get insight into Larry’s job, it always plays out this way:
- Larry is given a task
- Larry struggles through the task, getting completely stressed out in the process
- Larry is told whether or not he did a good task.
Balki suggests that Larry help others to make himself feel better by volunteering at Chicago General Hospital. it was at that moment that I knew: whether by switching patient charts or causing a venous air embolism; the cousins are going to kill someone this week.
Balki extols the virtues of charity by utilizing one of the valid argument forms, modus jocendo jocens: If Normal A and Normal B, then Funny C.
Psychology sidebar: can altruism exist? The idea of altruism can be an elusive one, depending on how you define it. Is it simply being of a mind to help other people? Or is an act only truly altruistic if you lose something to enable someone else’s gain? Assume that the human mind is ego-driven: every action taken is for one’s own gain, or for one’s own improvement. But what about when we help out family, or lovers, or friends, or fellow churchgoers? you ask. For the first two of those, I could argue that we’re just securing the livelihood of our own genes. For the second two, I could say those are forms of tribalism: we flock to people who are like us, and then create mental formations of “us” and “them”. In a way, especially when it comes to religious affiliations (or even, as research shows, in low-SES communities), helping others in the group is a kind of investment, or insurance; when you’re in need, the others will take care of you. Fine! you say. But I go to soup kitchens! I care about the welfare of others! I think poverty and hunger should be eliminated! And then I could say that when you help others that you don’t know, who can never pay you back, it’s simply because you’re alleviating your own discomfort at the idea of their suffering. I’m kind of a spoilsport, aren’t I?
But the point I’m trying to make is that Balki, pure, angelic Myposboy is openly promoting egoism, likely because he knows it’s the only thing Cousin Larry will respond to.
Larry says that he never cared about doing things for other people, which gets a good laugh from the audience. Isn’t it funny how this man with barely any friends is an emotional miser? But then Cousin Larry, in a stunningly honest move, says he just cares about himself right now and tells Balki to fuck off.
Balki heads off to the archives “to figure out this Dan Quayle thing”. Let’s see if we can figure out this joke.
*does one minute of Googling*
*tries to now sound smart about it*
As true–and as funny!–as that “one-minute” thing is, it’s actually a little dishonest. I’ve said before on here that I’m a reference librarian; now’s as good a time as any to mention that I also teach information literacy/how to search for information. I not too long ago was reading an article advocating for a teaching approach that incorporates some narrative aspects; that is, tell the students about an information need you once had and describe the steps you went through. This episode aired on January 12, 1990, so I searched for: dan quayle 1989 . Here’s a New York Times profile piece on Dan Quayle from the summer of 1989. The beginning of the article makes reference to “the swift arc of Quayle’s career” and includes a quote from Quayle himself that “‘there’s still… intrigue on exactly who I am’”. I wasn’t satisfied with just this, and knowing that sometimes Balki’s dialogue is nothing but malapropisms, song quotes (I skipped over a Carpenters lyric a minute ago because I’m not transcribing the show, for Christ’s sake) and sound bytes. So I searched for “this Dan Quayle thing” (with quote marks). I got four results, two of them for–you guessed it–Perfect Strangers. So here’s a tip for all of you wanting to enhance your Google search skills: try out variations on phrases. Think about how other people might talk about something. Think about the words they might use, or might have used a quarter-century ago. Think about how people might misspell words. Be persistent. So I tried “this Quayle thing” and got quite a few more hits from newspaper articles. I have to imagine that “this Quayle thing” was repeated more often on television news.
I’m spending an awful lot of time on just one Balki line, aren’t I? This show offers lots of windows into the past, and I get to choose which ones we look through. Don’t see you writing Perfect Strangers reviews.** The Dan Quayle joke dates this episode, to the extent that I had to look it up. But doing the research gave me a better appreciation of the joke. Not that I’m amused that Balki is spouting verbatim the stuff he heard on the television. I’m thinking in terms of the timeframe involved. Even if the joke was written in the summer of 1989, and even if anchors and pundits had been talking about “this Quayle thing” for a year by that point, the idea that Balki is still trying to figure it out months later makes it a good Balki joke.
RT (Running Tackle) Wainwright comes in and tells me to get on with the damn review already.
Wainwright is here to tell Larry that Hank Peterson is having knee surgery at Chicago General Hospital, but that they’re not letting reporters in.
This man just has no interest in Larry becoming a good reporter. When Larry asks “how am I going to get in the hospital?” Wainwright’s answer is “you will be fired if you don’t get in”.
Balki comes back out of the archives, so that Larry can suddenly be interested in hospital volunteer work. Another valid argument form (hypothetical silly-gism) presents itself:
If Larry wants to do a good thing, then he wants to do it for bad reasons
If Larry does it for bad reasons, the lesson will be that he shouldn’t have
Therefore if Larry wants to do a good thing, then the lesson will be that he shouldn’t have
Balki, could I add an ethics callback-type joke here, or is that too much coming right after the argument callback?
System of ethics scoreboard for this week’s episode:
Boy, what an evil guy Cousin Larry is, huh? How dare he help others for professional, rather than emotional, gain!
Balki says they’ll go to the hospital next week, and Larry tells him that next week’s episode is about corporate land-grabbing and they need to do it now.
At Chicago General Hospital, a brain surgery patient appears to have escaped.
In the football player ward, in a rare scene without either cousin, we find Nurse Socket administering anaesthetic to both Hank Peterson and another patient. Once the second guy has passed out–instantly, by the way–she insults him. You’d think if it worked that quickly they could just wait until he’s about to operated on, but what do I know, it’s not like I have a medical degree or anything.
Larry runs in with a pitcher of water (every football player’s favorite drink) and tries to introduce himself to Hank Peterson.
Poor Larry: for the second time this season, a symbol of masculinity is refusing to shake his hand.
Hank succumbs to the anaesthetic before Larry can get any answers out of him. Larry, somehow not knowing how that works, starts slapping and shaking him.
Balki walks in right as Larry is bouncing up and down on Hank’s inert body. Balki rubs Larry’s tummy, because he knows he likes that after.
After a minute of Larry trying to stick around because he thinks Hank will wake up, Nurse Socket comes back and tells Balki to change the other guy’s bed.
About a century ago, hospitals primarily served the poor. If you were well-off, you could afford to be taken care of in your own home. If you’ve been hospitalized recently, you’re well aware of how completely this situation has been reversed. Blame your high hospital bills on pharmaceutical companies, the cost of paying off brand-new equipment, doctors pushing for pricier treatments, out-of-control administrative costs, or even hospitals trying to recoup their losses from treating uninsured patients, but here’s the real reason: they make plaques for “bed changer” of the month. Balki got one.
So, the thing about this other guy, this guy who needs his bedsheets changed, this guy who was just put under, and I assume about to go into surgery, so why not just wait until he goes to surgery to change the bedsheets, this guy…
This guy is overweight, very likely obese. I’m glad I’ve already written almost 2,000 words for this review, because you know what?
No chance I’m giving you a play-by-play on this shit. Not only is the only joke “this man is fat”, but he’s in a position where he can’t defend himself. A fat person is literally being treated as an object. Fuck this shit.
I stated at the outset of this blog that part of why I wanted to examine this show was to see what kind of impact it–among other things–might have had on my development. I don’t know if I saw this episode as a child, but I did see other season 5 episodes, so there’s a chance. But I certainly was audience to innumerable jokes about people being overweight. Hell, this was the very first Garbage Pail Kids sticker I ever owned:
I certainly made jokes about people who were overweight. I can remember being told in preschool not to call another child fat. I’ll admit I’m intellectually curious to know the reasons behind fat jokes; for instance, the history, the evolutionary background, psychological effects on the recipients, the assumptions made by those making the jokes. But I haven’t done the reading on any of that, so I’m not going to get into any specifics, even to guess. I prefer to talk out of my face, not my ass.
Let’s incorporate some more narrative about my process. I watch each episode twice: once to take notes and put down potential directions for humor, or psychology sidebars; and then a second time to write the full review. I dreaded re-watching this one. At this point in my notes, I wrote down a fat joke. I hope I’m not just tooting my own horn by talking about this (no horns on this show, remember?). I want to make a point about this episode.
I tend to believe that offensive jokes tend to be low-hanging fruit on the joke tree and ought generally be avoided.*** The fat joke I wrote? Wasn’t even a good joke. And neither is the physical comedy here. Not simply because I find them offensive, not simply because an actor was making money by being ridiculed on television, but because: was this the best they could come up with for physical comedy in a hospital?
Let’s even take all the scatological stuff out of the equation, because back then, it was essentially true that “you can’t do that on television”. Larry could have had to help a slow old man take a walk around a ward. Balki could have had fun playing with the buttons on an adjustable bed while Larry was trapped inside. Larry could have to read a story to a bratty cancer-stricken child. The cousins could have had to try to restrain an uncooperative patient.**** Shit, I’d have accepted Balki putting a bedpan on his head again. But how the palliative fuck do you get from “hospital” to “Larry gets crushed by a fat man”?
Invalid (heh) argument form: false dilemma.
The only other thing worth noting from that sequence is that Balki once again can’t understand context clues and misunderstands the word “strip”.
Finally some guys come in and get Hank Peterson for his knee surgery.
Perfect Strangers will be right back after I vomit!
Later, there’s some joke about Mr. Vaughn playing “Simon Says” in his sleep, which is just too much for a psychology guy like me.
Larry finally lets slip that he knows that Hank plays for the Chicago Bears, and this tips Balki off that Larry isn’t the most perfect kind of moral.
Larry says Balki’s too rigid and Balki quickly looks at his body. Larry kind of talks over it and I couldn’t be happier. Oh my god, though, Bronson, quiiiit iiiiit.
Larry says that he’ll stay until Hank comes back and Balki says he’s going to “the recovery room” instead. Just the one room, huh?
And here’s that Keyless Larry runner again: Balki inadvertently reveals that he has the key to the recovery room. Just the one room that stays locked, huh? Seriously, what kind of hospital is this?
Then Balki lies about having it, and somehow THIS is not the moral error of the episode!
Balki says he’ll give him the key “when pigs walk” and COME the FUCK ON you COOK NOTHING but PIGS
*rips a hospital gown in half*
Actually it’s pretty creative to have Larry put a sphygmomanometer around Balki’s head and pumps until he passes out (or pretends to, anyway).
But couldn’t Larry explain that his JOB is on the line? Wouldn’t Balki care about that? After four years of learning to be honest has Larry not learned to be honest?
god damn it this shit again
Larry says he’ll work there for a month if Balki helps him. Balki refuses. Larry ups it to six months and the love egg every Thursday night.
Larry, now wearing a doctor’s coat, wakes Hank and lets him sit up, tearing further the flesh that’s trying to heal.
I laughed when Larry asks if he’ll play football again and Hank says “what are you asking me for?”
Hank recognizes Balki and asks if it’s story time.
When Hank Peterson declines to let Larry interview him, Balki says that Larry is a friend of his.
Hank Peterson: Why didn’t you say so?
The storytime gag implies that Hank has been in the hospital for at least a day, since Balki had not been in the hospital earlier in the day nor was he planning on going that evening.
So Balki was withholding knowledge from Larry. Balki being shocked and figuring out Larry’s plan when he mentions that Hank Peterson plays football means that Balki knew Hank and knew that Larry was trying to get ahold of a football player concurrently. The show keeps trying to go for these “twist” jokes at the expense of a coherent plot. Balki should have been the “in”. Sure, the episode would have lasted five minutes, but that would be far preferable in this case.
Hank Peterson tells Larry to stick around until the doctors get there, so they’ll all find out whether he’ll play again.
Larry hastily takes off his doctor’s coat and hangs it somewhere out of the way so he won’t be asked about it. Remember th–
Oh, wait, no, he doesn’t. Oh well, fine, Larry, be a stupid.
Later, at the Chronicle, RT Wainwright comes in with the newspaper containing Larry’s interview with Hank. He congratulates Larry and —
Wait. Who does Larry hand off his articles to for review, if not Wainwright?
Anyway, who cares, the more questions I ask, the longer it takes to finish an episode.
Wainwright says that Balki and Larry make a good team (no, ABC, NO, bad channel) and Balki starts to give the “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” saying, which would make some tiny bit of sense, since there’s, you know, two of them on this “team”. It’s not the appropriate proverb for this situation, but I could see it leading to Balki misstating it. You know “worth two in the field”, “worth two in the hospital”. Or maybe “worth two in the bush-league”, as that would have something to do with sports and serve to acknowledge the cousins’ ineptness. But no!
Balki: A bird in the hand will just keep pecking and pecking and pecking and pecking until your hand starts to bleed.
The fucking fuck? Again, this is one too many twists for a joke. There’s like a minute left in the episode but I’m done now.
Join me next week for “The Selling of Mypos”!
Catchphrase count: Balki (1); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
*Balki has benefitted from Leviticus 19:10 (New International Version), the practice of which was very en vogue in late 1989/early 1990: “Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.”
**Please don’t. We don’t both need to suffer.
***Yes I make jokes about the cousins being gay. Yes, this is low-hanging fruit. Yes, I keep saying low-hanging fruit because I can use it as a euphemism for the male genital cluster.
5 thoughts on “Season 5, Episode 14: Disorderly Orderlies”
This is the first episode since I started reading (which was admittedly only like two months ago) where I don’t remember the A-plot. But damned if i don’t remember the fat joke.
I think jokes like that are perfect examples of Scalzi’s Law in action: yes, technically you can make a fat joke or a gay joke or an ethnic joke and have it be funny in a way that justifies it in spite of the harm it might do, but the failure mode of “clever” is “asshole”, and you’re probably not really as clever as you think you are.
That fat guy is Travis Mckenna he always mooning the camera.
Travis plays fat guys who fart and moon throughout the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s.
I bet his giant butt smells bad and the stains on his underwear.
I love this show! This episode was interesting. I don’t take the script to heart in terms of comparing it to real life. I only take it in as pure entertainment. But I will say, the only thing I took as reality was Mr. Vaughn’s obesity when he fell on Blaki. I thought, I wonder what’s more of a nightmare, being under him or being him. After a second, I thought, definitely being him.
I take this comment as pure entertainment, because in real life it might be rude to imply that obese people must have thoroughly miserable experiences.