Season 5, Episode 16: Nightmare Vacation

Hey everybody!  It’s been hurricane all week here in Houston, but don’t worry, you still get your review!

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We open at the Caldwell, and boy, doesn’t season 5 Chicago look dull?  We’ve been here all season, we sure could use a break, huh? Is that a funny enough opening paragraph for an episode about a vacation? Ideally, I’d have gotten some big academic muckety-muck to write a review for me this week, but word got out at the university that I’m into Perfect Strangers so I’m now, as Balki might say, persona non grandpa. I’ve already used up my sick days for this blog, and it looks like I don’t get any vacation, either.

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If you’ve ever watched more than a couple episodes of Full House, you’re probably familiar with how family members were all the time gathering everyone around so they could make an announcement, instead of just talking to them like normal people.  Well, here we are with Jennifer, Mary Anne (Sagittarius), and a very manufactured-feeling scene where Larry tells everyone that they’re going on vacation.

Larry mentions that it’s within their budget and immediately runs off to grab a brochure from his bedroom. In the meantime, Jennifer says about 5 or 6 times that she’s not going.  Nothing has ever led us to believe that Larry and Balki have enough money to take their girlfriends on a vacation.  So how does he know what everyone’s combined budget is?  And why did they give Larry that information and then not immediately tell him that he’s not planning the vacation?

Guys, I’m a little worried.  It’s usually not in the first three lines of dialogue that I start discovering illogic.

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Balki tries to reassure them that things will be different and to give his cousin another chance.  This from the guy who’s clinging to his capric security blanket! Anyway, for whatever reason Balki takes this opportunity to talk about his newest fetish:

Balki: Everything’s coming up noses.

Jennifer complains that she hasn’t gotten her luggage back from their last trip.  Yo, I think it may have washed all the way to the ocean, Jen.

Why is it taking Larry so long to retrieve a brochure? Is it because he’s standing in his doorway, crying, while these people discuss whether Larry’s ego is worth risking death?

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Larry returns and says that, just one week after having learned never to trust businesses that exploit pristine native islands and their residents, the four of them are going to a resort island in the Gulf of Mexico called “Club Paradise”.

There’s a bit where the women say yes and Larry thinks they’re saying no, but it’s no more funny than any of the other hundred times I’ve ever seen it, so should I just move on?

nods

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Alright, they’re there now. The person carrying their bags in calls Larry “Mr. Appleton”. He says it out loud and within earshot of everyone, so there should no longer be any reason for Balki to mispronounce it ever again.

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The characters are talking like the place is a dump, and I really don’t see it.  It’s not as though the characters actually interact with anything in the lobby that seems to be in a state of disrepair.  The worst you could say is that a couch looks kind of old, and that a soda machine happens to be vintage? I don’t know.  I mean, how much time are they planning on spending in the hotel lobby anyway?

Anyway, what the fuck, who cares, Balki makes a reference to Gilligan’s Island so the writers don’t have to come up with any jokes.

Balki demands to ring the bell.

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The same guy who carried in their bags–Mac McIntyre, he calls himself–returns as desk staff. Mac says he’s going to get someone to take their bags to their rooms. He rings the bell and then picks up their bags. Speaking of bits I’ve seen before, I saw this one coming from three miles (ha) away, but it’s actually pretty cute.  The way that actor James Hampton delivers his lines tells me instantly that he probably owns this hotel, or at the very least he and his wife (see? in a handful of lines he’s convinced me he deserves a happy marriage) manage the place together. It’s a bit he does for his guests, and it’s something he enjoys doing.  It’s endearing as hell, but these four schmucks look on in horror. You can’t even politely laugh with this guy?

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Immediately after we do actually get a shot of some actual exposed brick and Mac tells us that Papillon was shot on the island, which is a really decent joke that you and I both had to look up to understand and appreciate.

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Larry suggests they change clothes and then go to the beach and pour all of their money into the local tourist economy to ensure the hasty spread of capitalism.

I love it when shows answer questions you never thought to ask, but once they do, you realize that you really wanted to know. Here’s what the cousins look like when they go into a hotel room together.

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I can only imagine that these four people are popping boners at the idea of being naked on the opposite sides of a wall from each other.  I, too, remember being 16 years old and thrilled by such a thought.

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Anyway, guess the punchline

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YOU GUESSED THE PUNCHLINE HOORAY

Here’s a shittier punchline: Mary Anne looks to her left, but only at the door, not realizing until she walks past it that there’s no wall.  I mean, being so dumb you think a continental shelf is where the hotel keeps its breakfast foods is one thing, but come on, girl, use your peripheral vision!

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Here’s an even shittier punchline: Balki assumes the wall is still there, but that he can see through it, and the women can’t.

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I… I can’t… it’s just… there are no words.

They make a circle around the doorjamb and Balki thinks it’s a different room. Show, I get it, now matter how terrible the gags are, you can always make a worse one.

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Balki sits down hard on the bed and a couple of people in the audience (“whoa!” they yell) just automatically assume that the bed will break or something (what do they think this is, a comedy?).  He also lets slip that Larry says Jennifer’s name in his sleep.

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Look, show, you’re making my job too easy.  I either have to assume that Larry yells in his sleep, or that he and Balki share a bed. Or–and I’ll admit this didn’t instantly occur to me–maybe the show actually made a masturbation joke?  The counter-argument is that this is a kids’ show, and that we should *ahem* take the joke at face value, but whether or not it’s a joke about jerking it, consider:

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Jennifer feels very awkward upon hearing it, and Larry is embarrassed to have it known. I mean, maybe I’m talking out my ass here, I mean, you know, I’ve been essentially single for four years at this point, but if you’ve been dating for two years, wouldn’t it be deeply flattering to know that someone likes you so much they dream about you/wish their hand was your vagina? Would you even be surprised?

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Larry calls Gus–sorry, force of habit–Mac to complain about the situation. Larry relays the information: there are only two other rooms, but that one is flooded and the other has snakes.  So, uh, the two rooms across the hallway from you, then? Snakes, uh, can move, you know. Anyway, why should I expect these four to put this together?

Jennifer, perhaps finally regretting her decision that Larry’s flaccid attentions were preferable to a better job with higher pay (and nice weather, can’t forget that), reveals that she has a third emotion, pouting and running off to the bathroom (Mary Anne follows).

When Balki suggests they leave because the women don’t like the room, Cousin Larry asks him to just support him.  I love that Larry is asking for support from Balki for his plan for the group, but I’m not sure what to make of Larry this week.  I typically point to him as an exemplar of consistent characterization. But… okay, so, I believe that Larry would want to stick with a plan, no matter how bad it was, simply because it was his plan.  But I also find myself wondering why Larry doesn’t threaten to leave, or demand that Mac give them a reduced rate since the hotel cannot provide what he booked.  Wouldn’t he try such a show of manliness?

Psychology sidebar: There’s plenty of conflicting research out there about leadership, some suggesting that good leaders are aggressive, some suggesting that compassionate leaders fare better. Jerks vs nice guys, men vs women, authority vs democracy, orders vs conversations. I linked you a few weeks ago to an article in The Atlantic that tried to make sense about leadership studies, and it’s relevant again here, insofar as to say that leaders who are aggressive for their groups, rather than aggressive to their groups, tend to gain their followers’ respect.  Arguing with Mac would be a gamble, but one with a potentially fruitful payoff.

Usually we get a proto-George Costanza, trying to squeeze more out of the world than he deserves, but this week it, at least when it comes to Larry standing up to a friendly guy, it seems we’ve gotten the Cousin Larry who gets intimidated by 14-year-old waitresses, the Larry who wants strict adherence to a plan and cannot roll with unforeseen obstacles.

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Just like every time I throw a party, the women run screaming out of the restroom because of some “thing” in the tub.  Larry goes to take care of it with a rolled-up magazine…

It was a naked Mac McIntyre in the tub!

Nah, j/k, it’s a big spider and Larry screams like a woman.

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Some different “oh no” music comes on. Oh no! Not a single one of these people basically grew up outside, interacting with all manner of beasts of the earth and birds of the air! If only one of them had an innate commitment to having fun!

National Lampoon’s Perfect Strangers will be right back!

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We come back to find a group of about 4 or 5 people milling around outside Club Paradise. Who cares?

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Inside, Larry vents his sexual frustrations by being aggressive in that stupid hand-slapping game that 8-year-olds play.  Balki responds in kind, readying a nose to come up in.

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Jennifer comes in and complains there’s no golf, no pool, no on-location shots, not a single luxury.

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So… they went out and found all this out while the cousins were standing there playing red hands for hours? I mean, I get that this show couldn’t afford to go to Hawaii–unlike Full House with its top-30 Nielsen spot, la-de-da, look at me, I’m Full House, I have seven regular characters–but, come on, we’ve had fake snow and fake quicksand, even fake water for that basement two-parter. Couldn’t ABC have used the sand that Dave Coulier brought back in his shorts to do a beach scene?

*sigh*

I think I can see why this scene happened.  Let’s inject some more narrative and talk about writing comedy.  I’ll start with my own experience writing a webcomic with a friend.  When he and I write, we come up with far more jokes than make it into the script.  Hell, we’ve come up with entire comedy plots that just end up not working alongside the other stories.  I’m sure this is true tenfold for professional writers.  I’ve read writers’ tales of putting extra jokes into a kids’ cartoon script that they know will be just too offensive for some editor or producer, but whose removal allows other slightly less offensive jokes to make it through. I’m a huge fan of the television show The League of Gentlemen, and in the book of scripts they released, there are tons of great scenes that never made it in. And if you believe the guys who write The Venture Bros., every one of their episodes would be an hour long if they were able to keep everything in.

But what we have here is a room full of writers who asked themselves “what are ways we can indicate that this group’s day on the island turned out to be boring and or/disappointing?”, came up with precisely two, and moved on. We’re left with the unfortunate impression that these four people have no desire to spend time with their significant others on vacation.

Thankfully, Mac comes in with one of those old-fashioned bug sprayers. There’s another “boy, the bugs sure are big here” joke, but it’s better because it’s Mac delivering it.

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Y’all, I never thought I’d say this, but we’ve got ourselves another (if lesser) Fat Marsha.

When I saw Mac’s shirt, with the weird faces on it, I made a mental note that I could do a bit where I reference the original Little Shop of Horrors, and like, the faces were past tourists. And I would have even worked in Balki’s tree-and-birds shirt from earlier. It would have been super funny, I assure you.

At this point, we actually have gotten enough gags to indicate Mac is a cheat and really ought to be brought before the Better Business Bureau, bubby.  The only other building in the area is a refinery, the only restaurant around is Mac’s, and the photos in the brochure were outright lies. But that really is an outstanding shirt.

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I don’t know if the writers had more fun writing Mac, but the “this place is cheap” jokes that he delivers are so much better, plus they’re delivered with more heart than this show has had on display for a long time.  The episode is telling me that Mac is a fraud, amused at the naïveté of the innocents he bilks, but the predominant tone of Hampton’s delivery is that he’s one of those guys who keeps making jokes and hopes eventually you’ll get come around and enjoy them.

Like, look at this comedy gold: Mac brings them drinks in coconuts and says he wants the umbrellas back.

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Every time Balki tells everyone to make the most of a situation, they take it and like it. When Larry does it:

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Jennifer: Fuckin’ fuck you, Larry.

Balki takes Cousin Larry three feet away so they can talk.

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Balki: This story about the most pig-headed pig farmer on Mypos. It doesn’t matter what his name is because he symbolizes you. Every time I tell a story about someone shitty on Mypos, it really about you. The specifics of what he did don’t matter neither. This guy was being stubborn about a thing that was obviously shitty, and you’re being stubborn about a thing that is obviously shitty. You’re that guy, that thing is this thing, stop already.

Shit, it’s not like he grabbed a stick out of a dumpster and called it a Christmas tree, Balki!

Larry apologizes; the women forgive him; Larry promises to never, ever do that (planning a vacation) again; Balki doesn’t even fucking say “thank you”.

Since there’s still six minutes left, Larry says “well, at least it’s quiet”.

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Y’all, these people are the biggest group of idiots I think I’ve ever seen in a sitcom: hurricane winds blow the hotel’s doors open and they just keep sitting there.  I’ve already reached my quota of recording how dumb Balki is this week, but just so you know, he’s vocally dumb in an impossible way in this scene, too.

Mac comes back out, takes their coconuts, and leaves.

Instead of, I don’t know, FOLLOWING MAC TO CERTAIN SHELTER, they all go back to their room.

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The women are blown directly backwards onto the bed, but Cool Hand Balki’s got to milk it for a minute.

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I think Larry locked the window.

God dammit I really want to be done with this episode already.  It’s got the worst Mypos story, the worst kind of telling-instead-of-showing, quite possibly the stupidest iteration of Balki ever, there’s not even any good “Mary Anne is dumb” jokes, I know we’re not going to see Mac after this point, this episode truly is a NIGHTMARE haha bet you didn’t see that coming heehee of course it’s this episode the same week there’s a hurricane here haha oh god haha look a “Pipe Dreams” callback hoho please let this end

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In the writers room, someone says “Well, we had them knocked off their feet by the wind already. What’s a second thing that could happen to indicate that the wind is very strong?”

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Balki pulls himself up along Larry’s legs… I dunno, out of some sense that maybe “suck” is the opposite of blow, and… this move’s called the, uh…  fuck it, I don’t care enough anymore to make a good joke. The cousins are gay. Let’s just finish this up already.

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They fall on the floor. Everybody cowers near the bathroom. One of the walls blows out. Balki says a thing. God damn, finally, it’s done. Pretend I’m making a good joke about transitioning from wind to windy city. Pretend I wrote more jokes for this review than actually made it in.

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stop it

stop talking

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transparent stop sign png overlaid on your face balki

won’t you please just shut up?

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Join me next week for “Three’s a Crowd”!

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Catchphrase count: Balki (1); Larry (0)

Boner count: Balki (1); Larry (1); Jennifer (1); Mary Anne (1)
*What can I say, I want to make sure all Myposian names are recorded here.  Oinki the pig farmer mistook a dog for a pig and bought it and brought it home. He refused to admit that it was a dog.  His children starved for lack of bacon and his family left him.  One: what kind of a pig farmer buys pigs one at a time to cut up and feed to his family? Two: even if such a pig farmer does exist, why did he not kill the dog and feed it to his family if he was so goddam adamant that it was a pig? Three: why did he stop buying other pigs… or other food for his family? This is by far the worst of Milksop’s Fables.

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