Welcome back to Perfect Strangers Reviewed, the nation’s ONLY gay cousin humor blog!
Once again, I find that, by reviewing this show, I’ve tapped into to some basic structure of the world: hurricanes Harvey and Irma have passed, leaving their heavy rains not only across the Southeast, but across Chicago as well.
Inside, we are greeted with ill omens from Jennifer, daughter of the Earth herself: “It’s your turn, Balki”.
Larry, Balki, Jennifer, and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) have gathered to play a board game. Which board game it is does not matter, because I see here that the show is talking to me in symbols again. I have named the show as mirror, or lens into the inner workings of the universe, and the show responds by clarifying. What is a sitcom, ultimately, but a lighthearted escape into simplification of human relationships? And would you describe a board game any differently? Humanity laid bare, reduced through the boiling of situation down to two essential choices: competition vs cooperation, difference vs sameness, fun vs frustration. Perky Pat’s got nothing on this!
The show has, in its own way, made symbolic wordplay. As Socrates asked Polemarchus and his buddies to look at the city to understand the individual, Perfect Strangers looks to the board game to generate a scenario.
Welcome back to Perfect Strangers Reviewed, the nation’s ONLY faux-academic- and self-referential humor blog!
Jennifer asks Balki to reveal his pet peeve about Larry. Similar to last episode, when Jennifer accidentally discovered that Larry thinks about her when she’s not there, this is treated as though it’s going to be embarrassing. Given that these guys have half their heated arguments in front of their girlfriends, what’s the big deal? Just say “I wish Larry would wipe off the butt plugs immediately after instead of letting them sit for days” and move on, Balki.
Balki, at the point of tears, says something nice about Larry (he doesn’t give himself enough credit for doing good), and Larry makes this face at Jennifer.
Mary Anne draws a card and is faced with a simplified version of the tough choices she has to make every day: say what bugs her about Jennifer or sing a Barry Manilow song.
Haha whoa then they make a joke about how Barry Manilow songs aren’t good! Wow, I hope ABC had lawyers ready for that libel suit!
Mary Anne matter-of-factly says that Jennifer corrects everything she does.
God damn I love Mary Anne. Yes, she’s so dumb she thinks Monopoly is the Mormon version of the kissing disease. But aside from my own pet peeve that she’s not my girlfriend, she’s still the best character on this show, one designed so that just about anything she does or says is great. I could take her statement one way–the way the show meant it–that she’s too dumb to realize how candid she’s being and the magnitude of her claim, and it’s a good joke. Or I could go the other way and say that Mary Anne (Self-knowledge) is really the most emotionally put-together person and just doesn’t let how terrible Jennifer is affect her.
Also, show, you’ve impressed me! For the longest time, I struggled to put together who Jennifer was through the table scraps of personality you’d offer (see: almost every other episode Jennifer has been “in”). But the one consistent thing we’ve seen so far is that Jennifer is mean and condescending to her best friend of 20+ years. You stuck with it, show, and you managed to wring a plot out of it!
I give the cousins a lot of shit for how they publicly air their dirty louwndree, but at least they walk three feet away to do it. Jennifer seems to not know that when you ask for criticism, you get it. When accused of re-doing Mary Anne’s work whenever they’re on a flight together, she responds with the time Mary Anne left the oven on for three days straight.
Jennifer, don’t pull that thread. Did you seriously let her have the oven on for three days while a batch of cookies turned to fused ash? That’s fucked up! Boy, these four sure do have fun when they get together…
Jennifer: At least I don’t put my makeup on with a spraygun.
OH YOU TAKE THAT BACK YOU BITCH
As they leave, we learn that Jennifer went to the prom with her own brother. Hey, Larry, there’s something else you two have in common!
Larry: This episode’s still ultimately about us, right?
Balki: It okay, cousin, we do a dance or some shit.
Later, Balki’s been sitting out on the fire escape to monitor the screaming, which is a good “fill in the blanks” kind of joke that Perfect Strangers does, what, 2 or 3 times per season?
Another thing you only see a few times per season is the cousins opening the door within 10 seconds of someone knocking on it.
Whoa, I didn’t expect it to be Mary Anne! I thought it was pretty clear this episode was going to be about Balki winning a board game tournament because he was so good at Scrabbleiki.*
She describes her current relationship with Jennifer by way of hyperbole, which Balki misunderstands. But longtime readers don’t need to know about the specifics of the dialogue to know that Mary Anne presages another hurricane. In the Perfect Strangers tarot, Mary Anne is the moon, and Jennifer the earth. Her hair, once simply voluminous curls, has now become a blonde nimbus, a clear sign of bad weather to come. The cousins are water**, tidal forces, etc.
Balki demands that Mary Anne take his room and start taking the underwear out of her suitcases immediately. Cousin Larry doesn’t even put up much of a fight about it this time.
There’s a bit where Mary Anne says “I’ll try to stay out of your way” and then hits Larry with her bag. Larry makes a face like she’s already a bigger annoyance than the person of suspect familiality who constantly invites others to use their toilet paper, but come on, man, you could have given her more than a foot to get by you.
Larry chides Balki for getting them in the middle of the women’s argument. Balki defends his kindness towards his girlfriend (finally! the show tells us) by asking Larry what he’d do if Jennifer came and stayed. Cousin Larry says he would hide a baby monitor besider her bed and masturbate into a Freddy the Frog bank out on the fire escape.
But now Larry is worried that Jennifer will think he’s taken Mary Anne’s side. So go fucking talk to your girlfriend and find out how she’s feeling. What the fuck! How the fuck does Larry have a fucking girlfriend and I have a “recommended for you” section on the PornHub front page?
There’s another knock on the door, and it’s someone other than Jennifer!
Haha I had you going for a second though, didn’t I? You should have seen your face.
Jennifer wants to talk, so Larry offers to take her to a coffee shop. The audience laughs at this, because damn, what a fucking asshole you are, Larry, offering your girlfriend some privacy and your cousin free time alone with his girlfriend. Then Mary Anne is heard from off-screen and suddenly Jennifer thinks talking to Larry is no longer a valid option, so she leaves.
The fuck are you grinning at?
Some time later, early one morning, Larry walks into the bathroom and sees Mary Anne’s tits. Then he does some physical comedy mess with an ironing board and a curling iron. God bless Mark Linn-Baker. Poor guy is given a script that demands he instantly get burned by a curling iron through underpants, pajamas, and a thick bathrobe, and he sells it.
Questions for the ladies out there:
Do you use a curling iron in a room where there is no mirror?
Do you iron your sweaters??
Will you date me???
Linn-Baker’s stunt double, Kevin McDonald of The Kids in the Hall fame, is seen here in the brief shot where Larry’s hair catches fire.
Balki comes in and hands Larry the key to a local gas station’s men’s room. From irons to irony! The one time Larry has a key–THE ONE TIME–and it’s solely for the one part of his body that stubbornly stays locked up.
I have to be honest, though: the restroom key is a great joke, even if they are a couple of assholes for stealing a private business’s property. It would be great, too, if Mary Anne saw the key and misunderstood its purpose, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
It’s really great–and by that I mean it really sucks–that instead of showing us that Mary Anne is causing trouble in their life, you know, by having her interact with them, they’re just talking about it.
Mary Anne comes out of the bathroom dressed like a stewardess. It’s just now occurring to me, what with her highly variable work schedule, and what with how women on this show aren’t allowed to have interests outside of talking to the cousins, she probably has been there all day every day since she moved in.
She takes Balki’s coat, revealing his Spider-Man pajamas, which were kept in pristine condition since the last time a woman stayed over. The audience, those connoisseurs of comedy, laugh for three minutes straight.
I thought Mary Anne was trying to be funny, but…
*noises such as dahh, gmuh, eeuhn, etc., until*
She was going to be promoted! She was going to work in London! She’s been a stewardess for at least four years! R… right?
Mary Anne serves them breakfast.
It goes on for a while.
The only good part is that she gives them their meals in tupperware containers, which back then was the standard way that airlines distributed food…
Cousin Larry starts in about how they should kick her out already. And you’ve done nothing for a whole week? You haven’t talked to your girlfriend?
Balki’s obviously content getting to be his girlfriend’s hero, and doesn’t even feel the need to be serious, responding to Larry with song lyrics. (Props to the one member of the audience who recognizes the song before Balki says the name of it.)
Larry decides then and there that he’s going to kick Mary Anne out, but Balki won’t get out of his way, blocking him no matter what direction he goes. Larry turns it into a dance, tricking Balki to let him past. It’s kind of dumb, but it’s also very Bugs Bunny and Daffy. I’ll, uh, *cough* admit I liked this physical comedy bit.
Even though Balki shushed Larry at the table earlier, he doesn’t bother while Larry stands outside Mary Anne’s door and screams about how she’s got to go.
If this episode is reminding you of Season 4’s “Maid to Order”, there’s good reason: both featured a woman taking over the cousins’ space, both featured each of the trio having their own motivations, both involved absolutely zero talking through of the issue, both involved Larry not getting any, and both were written by Tom DeVanney.
So Larry tells Mary Anne he’s found her a nice sorority to live with and cook and clean for, creating a happy ending for everyone.
Nah, j/k, Mary Anne gives them watches and kisses Balki. Now, Larry doesn’t tell her to leave. What the hell is wrong with these grown-ass people?
Wasn’t this supposed to be the show where the foreign guy always knows how to handle any social situation?
Perfect Strangers Reviewed will be right back. I won’t blame you if you aren’t.
Later, Larry is on the phone with Jennifer, since it was impossible to film in front of a door with “309” on it. Jennifer hangs up on him pretty quickly, and congratulations, show! You finally figured out how to get the women characters to leave without ever having them on stage in the first place!
Balki comes in and, through mixed metaphor*** explains his plan to get the women to talk to each other again: he’s sent Mary Anne upstairs to retrieve her television set.
didn’t… Mary Anne… have
Mary Anne comes in hot, and she also comes in angry. Evidently Jennifer has changed the locks?? Then Jennifer throws the television set out the window! Okay, Dirty Larry and Crazy Mary Anne, both a’ y’all need to drop Jennifer right this minute. This is some thoroughly unhealthy shit.
And since this episode is about Mary Anne and Jennifer, Mary Anne leaves.
Finally, out of the sphere of her influence, I realize I can think straight again. It’s all coming together now. The rewriting of an episode to reduce the number of characters. The details that keep changing, the slipperiness of memory, the dog (or was it a daughter?) who goes upstairs and never comes back down. Mary Anne’s outer garments strewn across the apartment, even though she was given a giant bedroom. Mary Anne causing cousins both great and small to receive a marker of time on their right wrists… yes, all symbols on this show are ultimately religious, but no, I should say, not the mark of the beast, no fake this, but true stigmata. Somewhere in this episode, back when it was called “Maid to Order”, there was still an actual sitcom plot. But Mary Anne, in her travels, or rather, in the space between moon and earth, perhaps because of the vacuum between her ears, picked up some alien infection. The discontinuity of logic, the lack of complexity in conflict, the absence of any mature emotional knowledge, these three, the evil, negative trinity of alienation, blurred reality and despair: the three stigmata of Sitcom Eldritch are a crowd that leaves no room for honest humor. Did the show catch these from Full House? Has it been spreading them to other sitcoms?
The key on the wall has stayed visible on purpose. These men’s room has been reduced to one much smaller, closeted water symbols forced into a water closet where, it is said, many men do their best thinking. The constricted space compressing the sitcom, the pressure creating another shorthand for the rhythms of human relationship, that rare diamond, the call-and-response catchphrase:
Larry says they may spend the rest of their lives with their tray tables in the upright position, and uh, wow, yeah not even touching that one. Ooh, it’s one of those where they don’t tell you the plan, but you see the plan play out in the next scene, ooh, fancy.
Later that night, Jennifer and Larry are in the cousins’ living room, and Jennifer tells Larry he should come upstairs and fuck her.
Larry actually says no and leads her back to the couch.
*noises such as ernh, ngggh, kyuhhh, etc., until*
Didn’t you just learn last week to not stick with a plan? Go stretch that hymen, boy! Linn-Baker, killing it with the delivery again:
Jennifer is surprised when the two other people who live in the apartment enter the apartment.
And here, finally, 89 episodes in, and I find a joke that I actually remember quoting when I was a kid.
Balki: Well… slap my face and call me Zsa Zsa
Jennifer throws Larry on the couch as she tries to leave. Gee, I wonder if she works out?
The elements of Perfect Strangers reduplicate and spread, as Balki once more stands on his tiptoes against a wall and refuses to hand over a key.
Ah, thank you, show, I’ve always wondered how to get two blondes to tickle me.
Even though it’s supposed to be just one key, they keep using the sound effect for a whole ring of keys. Larry throws the sound effect out the window.
Remember how it wasn’t the right thing to do to lock Larry in handcuffs until he worked out his problems with Balki? Well, fuck that, that was because a woman was telling a man to do it. Now that men are telling the women to do it, it’s the perfect solution.
Jennifer makes to call a locksmith, and Mary Anne tells her to call two. It’s a dumb joke but I love that kind of dumb joke.
Then Balki and Cousin Larry start to arguing, and Larry says he’s “tired of this Mypos garbage”. And… well, you know how fake argument bits go. You’re a good gag writer, though, Tom DeVanney, I’ll give you that. You’re definitely firing on all cylinders in this scene.
And, like karma come back around, the perspective that the cousins gained from seeing the women argue in “Trouble in Paradise” is now the same one the women receive from the cousins.
In the end, the solution is for each of them to apologize to the other. Not for, you know, Jennifer to actually put on her big girl pants and address the issue that was raised. Just for each of them to say “I’m sorry”. Mary Anne leaving the apartment is considered to be as bad as Jennifer insulting her every single day.
Welcome back to Perfect Strangers Reviewed, the nation’s ONLY blog that… *noises* …reviews Perfect Strangers.
Join me next week for “Blast From the Past”!
Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (1; I’m only counting this as Larry’s)
Boner count: Balki (1); Larry (0)
*Other Myposian board games: Battleshipiki, Yahtziki, Scattegoriesiki
**Hey, they get me wet!
***Or maybe Mypos really does keep its milk in giant, lake-sized reservoirs?
Kinda wish this mouse would show up in an actual episode.