We open at the Caldwell Hotel. Note the scant few trees in the vicinity, a fading memory of the natural beauty that once covered the land that would become Chicago. Buildings layered over concrete, asphalt layered over ground, names like rock strata revealing immigration history, Bartokomous upon Appleton upon Twinkacetti… Chicago, Checagou, Shikako, Shikaakwa…
Layers of clothing, made necessary by reliance on indoor air conditioning….*
Larry, Jennifer, and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) enter the apartment in a huff and Jennifer asks a question that only a person in a sitcom would ever ask:
Jennifer: Okay, whose idea was it to go to the zoo in the middle of winter?
Speaking of laying it on thick, Balki appears this week the total child, having worn his souvenir elephant nose to a grown-up restaurant. We don’t even get any sort of indication that Balki liked the animals because he used to be sheepherder. Nope, Balki is simply a child: everyone has given into his demands, no one has demanded that he act like an adult in a formal setting.
Jennifer tells Larry that the beaver exhibit will be closed for maintenance if he puts on his alligator mouth mask.
Balki answers a knock at the door, and here’s a one-two punch of great jokes in this, the 87th episode of a show about a foreigner living in the United States:
The mailman mispronounces Balki’s name (“balk-eye bar-took-a-mouse”), and when he asks Balki to sign his name, Balki does sign language.
Balki uses half the page to sign his name. Also, someone will have to tell me if it’s always been the case that Balki was left-handed.
SWEATER ALERT: it’s been a whole 20 episodes since we’ve seen Larry in a sweater!
Balki has received a plush box with tassels, no stamps or nothing on it. Inside is a hat with dolls and a bird sticking off it and Cousin Larry, without missing a beat, insults the hat.
Balki tells us that it’s the hat of the Official Negotiator of Mypos. The return of Sweater Larry is accompanied by the return of Insult Larry, a signal that one of the themes here IS layers**, that clothes make–if not the man–then the man’s function. Balki is being asked to take on a new responsibility–that is, to take on the mantle of the Official Negotiator–and must put away childish accessories.
When Mary Anne (who is so dumb she thinks that the postal service builds fences) sees something visually complicated, with possible moving parts, and which bestows on its wearer specific duties that require skill, she asks the dumbest possible question: “does it come with instructions?” She’s so god damn dumb, y’all!
Included with the hat is a letter from King Ferdinand, on his “Garfield stationery” (which is a good joke in keeping with season 1 & 2 Balki). Even though we just two weeks saw Balki reading a letter from Bartok without any trouble–guess what–he’s reading haltingly again. (The text we can see on the letter reads “Mypos Rex”–a Latin honorific using Greek letters. But Mypos is not Greece, no.)
A company called Worldwide Amalgamated wants to buy 500 acres of land on the north shore of Mypos, and there’s going to be a meeting to negotiate the deal the very next day.
Balki says he has to prepare, and this isn’t something I feel I can do justice to through a textual description, so
Balki mimics having intercourse with the hat, a figurative nod to the fact that any true negotiator’s going to screw you over, but who cares, HONGI BONGI HONGI BONGI HONGI BONGI
Mary Anne and Jennifer are a little dumbfounded by it, but oh man y’all, look how this kind of shit barely even registers with Larry anymore.
Evidently doing this is more important than even being polite to both your and your cousin’s girlfriends, who decide that this is the time to leave.
Here it is again, you thought it was gone for good but just like the sweater it’s back, it’s Larry asking “what is that” before asking “why is that”. Balki is doing a “ritual of purification” to “make his negotiating hormones kick in”. I’m “putting stuff in quotes” because that shit’s “not worth the effort” to point out just “how fucking dumb it is”.
We’ve seen already this week that Balki rides roughshod over the wishes of others and likely has no real skill at negotiation. He can’t even handle simple
can’t handle simple verbal interactions with
YOOM BAGONGA NINGI
interactions with a mailman, who himself had
KONGI FONGI HONGI BONGI IKI WIKI OH YEAH
HONGI BONGI HONGI BONGI HONGI BONGI HONGI BONGI
HONGI BONGI HONGI BONGI HONGI BONGI HONGI BONGI
Cousin Larry remembers back when every so often there’d be funny dialogue on this show.
Balki says on Mypos negotiation very simple: the woman work in the field, she have her baby, then she negotiate fair price for baby with general in Mypos army.
Larry reminds his cousin that he lives in America and to sit his hongi ass down. He explains that Americans are lying, cheating bastards who will take everything they can get while giving up as little as possible. You know, *ahem* kinda like Cousin Larry himself.
Psychology sidebar: I’m honestly not even sure how to label the “get them before they get you” type of mentality, the idea that perceived future untrustworthiness on the part of others justifies preventive, untrustworthy behavior on one’s part. Not that Larry’s explicitly saying this here, but if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ll agree it’s not a stretch to assume Larry thinks this way. I haven’t studied much about the psychology of trust, but in trying to figure out what to call this phenomenon, the closest thing I’m finding is pluralistic ignorance. If you’ve got a better concept, in the comments, tell me it. Anyway, there’s two cousins, and they’re both dumb, so it fits, right? Har har har
Anyway, Larry gives Balki a mini-history lesson: Manhattan was bought for $24 worth of beads and then makes a joke about the Japanese buying everything. And now I’m suddenly remembering how many other jokes about that I heard when I was a kid. Aside from the fact that you’re likely already familiar with the idea, you can forget me doing a bunch of research like I did with the Dan Quayle line last week. Why?
Fuck this show is why. Geez, the one time Bronson perfectly delivers a line…
Cousin Larry says that Balki needs someone to help him with American negotiating techniques.
GEE I WONDER WHO
Larry tries to avoid the ceremony, which ends up consisting of Balki saying “you are my official negotiating advisor”. That was a good twist, show! Well done.
Balki asks for Larry’s advice and Larry doesn’t have any.
That’s it! That’s the end of the scene! Somehow!
Ooh, a tall building, I’m soooo impressed, Worldwide Amalgamated.
Here’s a bit of staging that I feel you only get in sitcoms. At the very beginning of this scene, Larry is already in a conference room, being told that “Mr. Stanhouse” will be there soon. Only after that does Balki slowly enter to thunderous laughter. Whether studios knew that audiences would cheer the favorite character every time they came on stage, or whether audiences knew it was expected of them, it’s an odd thing and breaks whatever realistic rhythm the show has (left). When I was marathoning Family Matters, it was certainly clunkier, even if that was partially due to Urkel receiving 20 times the applause Balki does. It’s a little smoother here, and more than a little made up for by the secretary’s genuine reaction to it. But when you constantly have to sit through 10 seconds of the characters just staring at each other, you develop kind of an allergic reaction to it.
Larry does a little last-minute coaching, which cleverly reveals that the cousins expect to be offered somewhere in the area of $50,000 for the land. I do like to point out when the show manages an economy of dialogue like this. It makes up for the time it just spent establishing that not only is Larry in this scene, but Balki, too, is also in this scene as well.
JR (Just a Richguy) Stanhouse introduces himself as the senior executive vice president in charge of corporate acquisitions. Larry tries to match this long string of syllables with some fancy-ass title for himself, all while the camera stays trained on Balki’s new hat.
Haha whoa Balki hugs the businessman instead of shaking his hand! I never in a million years would have guessed that this is how Balki would introduce himself to an important person! What a refreshing disregard for decorum!
There’s a bunch of other guys in suits but who the rooty-toot fuckafoo gives a poopy shit about them, it’s HONGI BONGI TIME
That’s right, you heard right, kids, this was the 90s, when Tim & Eric skits were legitimate prime time fare.
Anyway, these professionals who are in the business of negotiating have begun this meeting by reacting to the ritual with abject disgust. They’re making the same face I am right now, because the audience just laughed at Balki taking off the hat.
They talk for a minute about the bombed-out, sheepshit-smeared landscape that is North Mypos, and then Balki calls JR “Mr. Outhouse”. God damn it and I was beginning to like this episode. Like, getting people’s names right is just a normal human skill. Everybody’s generally good at saying names right. Sometimes with foreign names people convince themselves they can’t say it right and deliberately mispronounce it. But come the fuck on, man.
Balki asks why Worldwide Amalgamated wants those 500 acres so badly, and JR spews some jargon-laden bullshit about investing capital that only Mary Anne could understand. Basically, I think it’s the equivalent of shrugging and saying “gee, we have all this money and we have to do something with it.”
Stanhouse informs the cousins that he’ll be paying them a “negotiator’s fee” to the tune of 10% of the final purchase price.
Sales tactic #1: free gifts. This tactic operates based on the norm of reciprocity, which we discussed a couple of months ago. Basically, doing something for someone will generally evoke a like reaction from them. I smile at you, you smile at me. I babysit your kids, you water my plants. Salesmen offering you some sort of freebie are tapping into this phenomenon by “giving” you something, which can result in you doing something for them: buying their product.
When Stanhouse says that Worldwide Amalgamated will pay $28 million***, Larry tries to jump clean over the table to suck his dick.
Perfect Strangers will be right back after Larry finishes sucking dick!
Balki says only the camping leader–er sorry, the head negotiator–can agree to a deal, and pulls Larry off the table. (This move is called the Linear Relationship.)
Balki says he will need to meditate on the offer for a couple of weeks, but Stanhouse replies that there’s plenty of islands that are actually on maps he could buy instead. He gives them until 10 the next morning.
Sales tactic #2: limited time offers. By offering a deal for a limited time (or by offering a limited quantity of something), the salesman fabricates a sense of urgency and scarcity. There’s no reason a sale can’t last longer; somewhere there’s likely a warehouse with more. When I was a kid, television advertisements would offer a “free gift” if you called before the end of the commercial. Nowadays, you’re more likely to see this tactic being used by places like Amazon (only 4 left in stock!; or a countdown clock telling you how long you have to order to get the item by a certain day). Hell, I once had someone from a dating site give me an ultimatum that I had to choose right then–after one phone conversation–if I wanted to date her exclusively or not. When someone gives you a tight deadline to decide on buying something, it’s usually better to say no. You’ll get another chance.
The “oh no!” music comes on. Oh no! Balki might have to spend time not doing the Hongi Bongi!
Later, at the apartment, we find that Balki has been on the phone for hours with King Ferdinand, learning about whether any of the land is currently in use, what does it border, if people are going to need to move, are there any ports, and will Mypos still retain use of them, current exchange rates, as well as the needs of both Mypos the state and Mypos population, how King Ferdinand plans to spend the money. He and Larry have used the resources at their disposal as employees of the most important newspaper in the United States to research the average sold price of acreage in various Mediterranean islands, what other land nearby might be on the market, whether there are other companies buying land that might offer a better deal…
Oh? They’ve been doing research on Worldwide Amalgamated instead? Oh.
It’s because Balki doesn’t trust someone else’s intentions. I mean, next week Larry will probably successfully convince him to push an old lady down the stairs as a way to help alleviate the savings and loan crisis. But okay.
Larry makes a joke about George Steinbrenner (the connection being that the Mypos land is worthless, and Steinbrenner buys worthless things). I feel like not only has Sweater Larry returned, but Wry Observation Larry has been gone for too long as well. Most of the time Larry’s dialogue is funny because he’s overreacting; sometimes it’s along the lines of “geez, Balki, what horrible thing are you about to do now?” But I think Larry is at his best when he’s dumping these little jokes into conversation. Larry was created to be a cynical character, and twice this episode he’s made cracks that stem from an mindset of “lots of shitty things happen in the world, but what can you do?”. Plus Mark Linn-Baker makes it feel natural, as opposed to Bronson, who just hops around fucking a hat.
Like I say, Balki wanted to research Worldwide Amalgamated, so he brought home books, magazines, and *sigh* microfilm. Why did Larry let him bring it home???
Quit touching it with your greasy fingers, Balki, you’re going to damage it!
Larry finally asks whether the money could help Myposians in need, fix broken fingers, build a second toilet, buy lubricant because the sheep hate it when you go in dry.
Sales tactic #3: the “yes set”. Larry is getting Balki to say “yes” to his questions. A salesman will ask a number of questions that will obviously have “yes” as the answer. Think of a car salesman: “was it easy to find our location?” “she sure is a lovely car, eh?” “doesn’t that air conditioning feel nice?”. It’s kind of impolite to say disagree and say “no”, and once the buyer has started repeating the answer, it’s harder to stop.
Anyway, in case the Garfield stationary, the Japanese buying spree, and the George Steinbrenner reference didn’t collectively hit you over the head with the fact that it’s 1990, Balki talks about buying the Raiders so he can make a “Bo knows” joke. Well, I say it’s a joke; Balki says “Bo knows” and then puts another word after it, as the template demands.****
Here’s another for our “The Simpsons did it second” file: Larry plans to get an expensive haircut as his first purchase.
Balki is so happy that he makes the same face I do when I’m passing difficult stools. Ultimately, he can’t say yes, because he peeked at next week’s script and knows they won’t have all that money.
Cousin Larry just about bursts a vein talking about how great it will be to pay lots of money in tax, but before he does, there’s a knock on the door. Balki waits about 30 seconds to answer it.
god damn it this shit again
It’s a package from King Ferdinand containing the Myposian Assless Chaps of Business Research. Nah, j/k, it’s a letter from JR which Balki reads with barely any pauses.
I seriously doubt that anyone other than Mark is giving you much direction at this point. You can’t go back and forth on this in the same episode.
The beginning of the letter is a misdirect, making Larry think that Worldwide Amalgamated is withdrawing their offer. Larry says he’s going to jump out the window and suicide. What a caring sensitive person he is!
Anyway, have upped their offer to $35 million.
Sales tactic #4: risk removal. Any buyer knows that they’re taking a risk when they buy a product. Businesses can offer ways to alleviate this mental stress, typically by offering “money-back guarantees” or “free trials”. Businesses count on the consumer to be too busy to remember whether 30 days have passed. Lawyers sometimes advertise that they take only contingency fees: they don’t make money unless you do. Risk removal strategies often involve a show of confidence from the salesperson that you are making the right choice (and as far as they’re concerned, you giving them money is always the right choice).
Have I mentioned yet that I love damn near everything Mark Linn-Baker does on this show? After wheeze-laughing in Balki’s face, he dances off to his bedroom…
…presumably to masturbate into his wallet.
A variation on the opening theme for The Cosby Show plays as we return to the Worldwide Amalgamated building.
Everybody is at the table except for Balki, he’s 20 minutes late. Gee, I hope he got into college…
Balki finally comes in, wearing black, singing “I Walk the Line” and shaking his imaginary negotiating tits.
Oh, no, wait. This episode already has a song. Larry tries to sing it but Balki shuts him down.
We see now that he may not have been joking about those negotiating hormones. Balki no longer needs the hat–think of it as training wheels–and has integrated its function into himself. As truth is gathered, Balki rearrange, inside out, outside in, inside out, outside in, perpetual change.
Balki tells the story of Tamiki Island. A company bought some of their land and stored toxic waste on it, causing the people there to get sick and die, and the–
–oh, hold on, the story is interrupted so that Larry can speak to a female executive like she’s the help–
–and the company was called Syfert, which is owned by Worldwide Amalgamated. Oh man, like, wow, what a clever name, huh? Cipher, do you get it? This show is so smart.
Balki turns down the offer, Stanhouse demands that his toadies find him another island, and the WWA get straight outta conference room.
Later that night, we see that the cousins have stayed up late counting toxins with the security guard…
Nah, j/k, Balki says that they saved the lives of everyone on Mypos…
But you know what? Fuck that. Balki uncovered the news story of the decade–that Worldwide Amalgamated ruined the lives of a whole island and is now actively trying to do it again. Larry, do you even fucking want a Pulitzer? Jesus.
But King Ferdinand’s not losing any sleep if his neighbors from Skeptos or Pathos die vomiting out their internal organs, is he?
*turns a chair around backwards*
*gets real with you*
It wouldn’t surprise me if this is one of the better-remembered episodes from season 5. You’ve got Balki wearing silly hat #53 in a series, as well as a song that’s repeated throughout the episode. Shit, all that the last scene needed was the executives ejaculating all over the table and it could have been Bibibabkas 2: Bibi Got Back. The Hongi Bongi Songi appears to approximate the song “Ooby Dooby”, written by Dick Penner and Wade Lee Moore and made famous by Roy Orbison. I’ve expressed worry before about Mypos becoming Wackyland, but here Perfect Strangers just dove in and managed to come up with a pearl. It’s also a nice way of crafting a foreign land that’s indistinct. If Balki’s just wearing sheepskin, spouting ikis and ookis and cooking pig duodena all the time, it comes across as thrice-abstracted Greece. But thrice-abstracted Greece where the ancient negotiation rituals only date back 30 years, you get something else entirely. You get a whole island of Roger Rabbit Balkis.
However! It’s utter tonal discord if you try to put this episode next to, say, “Wedding Belle Blues”, and “Because They’re Cousins”. Mypos (and its partner islands) can’t both be fucked up in its gender roles and prize family connections above all else and have a materialistic King; each one of those manages to make the former worse.
But it seems as though this is the direction the show is heading right now, towards a Mypos that’s just funny because it sees Americana through a different lens.
Much like a person who flushes without looking first, Perfect Strangers doesn’t seem to care at all about its own consistency. Even though I don’t think the show could get away with this specific type of zaniness every week without it getting old fast, “The Selling of Mypos” does have a lot to recommend it. It’s a plot that actually involves Balki’s homeland, it’s our one episode this season that’s not about about Larry lying, Larry gets some good lines, Larry dances, and plus, you’ve got the…
Hey, wait a minute. I sure am saying “yes” to a lot of things in this episode…
Sales tactic #5: selling the sizzle, not the steak. When it comes to the essentials of life, like food, transportation, schools, or healthcare,
the purchasing process risks becoming mundane. Every car will get you from point A to point B, sure, but can you do it with air conditioning? with a sunroof? in style? It makes me wonder if
YOOM BAGONGA NINGI
maybe this episode is the only thing fans remember from season 5, if it
KONGI FONGI HONGI BONGI IKI WIKI OH YEAHHHH
might not just be the sizzle that gets them to buy the DVD full of the mere slabs of meat that were “Good Skates”, “Lie-Ability”, “Almost Live Fr
HONGI BONGI HONGI BONGI HONGI BONGI HONG BONG-ee-ee kidiki
Bong bong bong bong bong bong bong bong bong bong bong bong bong oh yeah
Join me next week for “Nightmare Vacation”!
Catchphrase count: Balki (1); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
*I’m laying this on mighty thick, ain’t I? Hee hee hee
**after all, “layer” is an anagram of “Larry”
***the same amount from “The Lottery”
****oh, come on, take a WILD fucking guess what the word was