Welcome to the 100th episode of Perfect Strangers! Let’s party!
Nah, j/k, let’s review the episode.
We open at the Chicago Chronicle–and not at the entrance, but at the top of the building, a sign that here, finally, the show has reached its pinnacle. Say whatever you want about the arbritrariness of the number 100*, but it’s an important milestone for television shows. It’s generally understood that when television shows reach 100 episodes, they become candidates for syndication. It not only means that the program was successful enough to last for ~5 seasons; it also means that broadcasters could just shove it unthinkingly into a timeslot (say, between December Bride and Mama’s Family) for 20 weeks and watch the easy views roll in.
The aggregate comic talent in Perfect Strangers has gotten it this far, so I have no doubts that episode 100 will be a shining example of what made the show so great.
We find an unnamed Chronicle employee walking by–would you look at the intricate world-building this show does?! Who is he? What function does he serve at the newspaper? Why can’t we follow him instead of watching Balki marinate Larry’s socks in pig’s blood to cure his athlete’s foot?
Gorpley threatens to sue Larry for running into him. Classic Gorpley! Empty threats… *wipes tear from eye*… classic.
Larry makes sure that Gorpley isn’t allowed to have a story this week by ignoring what he said and announcing his purchase of a racehorse. Larry–who is still paying off a $140,000 house–bought the horse for only $2,200 since the previous owner was trying to liquidiate his assets ahead of a divorce, so let’s all get ready for when Balki starts talking about milkshakes or whatever dumb shit.
They have a deep discussion about how, over time, legal systems patch up their own holes, which keeps husbands from depressing their income as a means of avoiding alimony payments. Nah, j/k, Gorpley’s only character trait at this point is that he’s divorced, so he says that.
Folks, there have been some incredibly low points over the course of 99 episodes. Balki withholding information about his baseball skill. Balki saying “fingyprints”.The cousins saving Frank from suicide by telling him he has a wife. Balki winning a bowling tournament despite severe cataracts. Balki making exploding pastries. The audience yukking it up over a woman’s suicidal wishes. The cousins shaking Lydia while cameramen stood and watched. Images burned into my memory that no amount of therapy will ever erase, tiny points of heat, killing my nerve endings. If only these were physical injuries, I would rip off my shirt and you would read the words “PIANO MOVERS” in scarified flesh.
I ought to be numb by now.
Why does it hurt so much?
If I’ve learned anything from looking at the view statistics for this blog, it’s that you all don’t just sit down and read all the posts in order, like you’re supposed to. So, in order to make this review at least semi-contained, not only did I have to watch that sequence, but now I have to write about it.
The cousins singing and dancing “U Can’t Touch This” is confusing in a way that sitcoms rarely are. On the surface of it, it seems to cry out for comparison to the times in Family Matters that the children would practice their dance moves in the living room, or how an episode would suddenly be nothing but a music video for two and a half minutes. Heck, if any of y’all out there also showed up to the Noiseless Chatter Xmas Bash!, you might have caught part of the 1978 Good Times episode “The Traveling Christmas”, about a third of which was musical numbers. But, in those shows (and likely others), the sequences don’t feel out of place, because of their place in African-American culture.
Here, though, why are the cousins shaking their imaginary sexual prowess around? The most generous interpolation I can come up with is to say that this is an extension of Balki the Kid, demanding the parent play out a script for the 100th time (cf. “Balki Rider”’s scarecrow routine) because the toddler seeks mastery and control over a scary world. But this doesn’t become a running joke. Nor is there any dialogue to that effect, though as we’ve learned, there may have been in an earlier script. Balki does often wear funny clothes… but the joke isn’t that someone found real-world success wearing something that Balki would wear. Ultimately, “U Can’t; What This?”** is the end result of a trajectory begun in the very first episode where Balki sang “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” while dusting. The show all but pauses for a whole minute (Larry briefly tries to stop Balki before joining in) just for Balki to sing.
Balki asks if there’s a plot this week, and Larry remembers to tell him about the horse he just bought. The horse is named “Larry’s Fortune” and how he needs $1,100 from Balki to finish paying the owner.
Balki: Oh, I seen this episode before. How many repairs does the horse need? Are we going to install a chandelier on it?
Balki tells us about the horse he used to own named “Trotsky”, but the audience hasn’t been trained well enough to laugh at the pauses and misses their cue by about a second. Trotsky was so strong, he could plow 40 acres in half a day and still have energy left to plow 40 milkmaids. There’s actually a line I really like here–it doesn’t make up for “U Can’t Touch My Hole”, but I liked it–where Balki talks about Trotsky giving children rides because Balki’s back was “out that day”.
Balki once again decides not to pay off the national debt of Mypos and agrees to give Larry the $1,100. But what interests me more about this scene is the sheer amount of “Balki misunderstandings” they pack into it. I won’t detail them for you–you either enjoy them as part of the fabric of the show or put up with them like I do–but again, these reviews are supposed to be self-contained, so… *sigh*
We’re 100 episodes in, folks, and Balki still hasn’t learned context clues. Larry has to push through two misunderstandings (of Christing prepositions, for Christ’s Christ) to get Balki to pony up (heehee) the money. And on Balki’s third misunderstanding, he starts that furrowed-brow-staring-off-into-space thing as the scene changes. It’s one thing–and a terrible thing–for the show to have Balki degenerate into an actual idiot; but it’s another entirely for Bronson to undercut the joke. Yes, that’s right, you heard right, the food is bad and the portions are too small. These complaints can co-exist. Fight me.
But I am beating that *ahem* dead horse, so let’s move on.
The savvy reader has likely already noticed that the racetrack shares a name with a famous cemetery.
We find Mary Anne (Sagittarius) has become so bored with waiting a whole week between her lines that she tries looking through her Winston Cigarettes-brand binoculars the wrong way.
Reaching the 100th episode is a somewhat bitter-sweet feeling. We’ve been losing characters since the second episode (“Wigging Out”), when Linda and Gorbachev disappeared to make room for an episode about how dogs weren’t allowed in the building. The biggest loss of all was Susan, our dear, sweet Susan, with her perfect shoulders and limitless capacity for receiving exposition. We’re going to keep losing characters–the final episode, as I understand, features Balki, and Balki alone, singing a medley of Wizard of Oz songs–so I think it’s better if we’re prepared for it. Gorpley and Lydia may have been reduced to their basic elements, but friends, after this, we’ll only see them 10 more times. Let’s treasure these moments.
Meanwhile, we get some insight into Larry and Jennifer’s relationship now that they’re engaged. Larry, a true gentleman, has waited until engagement to come up with a pet name for Jennifer. Once again, the audience takes a couple of seconds to realize that when Larry calls her “kitten”, it must have been meant as a joke.
Jennifer casually mentions that the $1,100 was meant to pay for their honeymoon; so, you know, there’s some stakes for the episode, I guess, I mean, if you’re interested in there being a reason to care whether Larry makes money or loses money. I’m surprised that Jennifer’s not angry about it, but there’s really no doubt now that Larry will, ahem, grow a leg during their honeymoon. That he’ll, heh, find out if Jennifer’s a timber topper. That he’ll use his penetrometer to find out if, despite her sloppy track, she still has a good bottom. Okay, I’ll quit.
No matter where they go on their honeymoon, there’s sure to be a mounting yard. And Larry knows he’ll get a good post position. Okay, really, I’ll quit this time.
Larry may have blown their honeymoon savings, but he knows he’ll get a blanket finish with his break maiden regardless.
Balki runs in and Mary Anne, who is so dumb she thinks a sex allowance is the money your parents give you for prostitutes, thinks he is far away.
Balki reports that the horse jockey is shorter than Larry and I am so fucking tired of that joke. The mean height for US males is 5’9”. Bronson Pinchot is 5’9” and Mark Linn-Baker is 5’7”. The standard deviation for height is 3 inches, and Mark is within one standard deviation. Fucking DROP IT already.
Then, finally, here in the 100th episode–a horn! Larry is understandably nervous.
Balki uses his Myposian spyglass to scope out the stock footage of a racetrack.
Before we watch Larry’s Larry’s Fortune not win the race, I have to wonder: why is Larry betting on his horse? Did the previous owner tell Larry that the horse had a history of winning? Did the odds look to be in Larry’s Fortune’s favor? Has Larry even been in the same room with the horse? Isn’t he losing money by paying a stable fee, paying the jockey, paying for food, paying for admission to the track?
What the fuck, who cares, Larry’s Forehead–despite somehow having the same number as the winning horse, is *AHEM* dead last. And even though we see the horse running, everybody talks about the horse as though it is not at all running, of course it isn’t, why are you still being ridiculous after 100 episodes.
Lydia tells Mary Anne that she’s going to have sex with a man she met at the racetrack. Like, I’m not even exaggerating for effect here. That is simply and exactly what happens.
Larry claims that he himself could have run faster; Balki, after considering his cousin’s untoned ass, disagrees.
For some reason, the women are standing three feet away, on both sides, from the cousins, which feels really strange and must have something to do with where the cameras are.
Larry says he “lost big”, even though we are given absolutely no indication of how much money he bet on it. If you want stakes in this episode, you’ll have to come up with them on your own.
In the stables, where they don’t even let the horses smoke, Larry shouts at Larry’s Burthen for not winning.
Balki whips out his California voice, which seems now to be the go-to “accent” for when Balki needs to say something biting to Larry. It’s another thing that–like the musical numbers–confuses me as to its purpose. Used to, if Balki got angry at something, he’d turn Balki Ricardo for a minute and that was that; it was tied directly to his foreign heritage, and was ultimately just the venting people do to get it out of their system instead of directing it at someone. You could argue that criticizing Larry in another voice functions in the same way a ventriloquist doll’s quips do, but it still leaves us with a condescending Balki. Ultimately, just like “U Can’t Write Jokes”, it seems to be there just for the easy laughs.
A veterinarian shows up and Balki hugs him and cycles through every other word that begins with “v”, just like he did in the season 4 episodes “Fly, Come on Me” and “The Gradual”.
Dr. Tierney says that Larry’s Forelimb has some made-up horse disease and that they should kill him.
This week’s lesson: when things are obviously on their way downhill, you just have to cut your losses and move on.
This concludes Perfect Strangers Reviewed. Thank you for reading.
Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Not even Black women voters can save me from this show.
Folks, we’ve had some strange visitors to the apartment over the course of 99 episodes. We’ve met Italians, hobos, Myposians, Pathetics, Skeptics, criminals, ancient sexpots, and even the black guy who now works at the CVS near me.
I ought to be prepared for anything.
But folks, here’s your 100th-episode celebration: a horse slowly expiring in the cousins’ living room.
Cousin Larry–who I guess has no sense of smell–puts his hand on the counter for the horse to lick, and when it doesn’t lick it, he does the spit take anyway. It’s not edited well.
The oh no! music comes on. Oh no! Another rival for Jennifer’s affections!
Perfect Strangers Reviewed will be right back after I go get my prescription for anti-psychotics filled.
Larry demands that Balki come out of his room, but Balki wasn’t in his room, he was outside the apartment waiting for this exact moment to come in.
I was upset at the show last week for thinking that it had could subvert a running joke which had never found its feet; but here, I was happily surprised that Balki’s response to “What is that horse doing here?” is, simply “what horse?”
Larry’s Foreigner begs him for a threeway, but when Larry declines, he says that he needs 48 hours to cure the horse. Based on the vague description that Dr. Tierney offered–”it’s a lung disorder”–Balki is certain that a Myposian remedy for sheep (which includes yak tail and buzzard bones) will work just the same.
Larry starts wondering aloud how they got to this point, how in the world the promise of a horse voiding its bowels as it breathes its last could possibly be a sitcom plot.
There’s supposed to be a gag here where the horse licks Larry, but it doesn’t happen. (Echoes from season 4: “I thought the horse would do more….”) Somehow, this leads Larry to allow the horse to stay in the apartment.
Larry: I don’t understand how I could have lost this argument.
Psychology sidebar: if you’re not already cognizant of the trope of science consisting of experiments with mice in cages, you’re probably one of those lost souls who isn’t reading this blog in the right order. Anyway, one genre of mice-in-cages experiments is operant conditioning, where reinforcement is used to elicit, and then strengthen, responses in the test subjects. Positive conditioning would be, say, giving a mouse food if it presses a lever; it will learn to press the lever to get food. Negative reinforcement would be, say, shining harsh lights at the mouse until it presses a lever. When parents give in to their child whining to get their way, they have positively reinforced the whining. But the darker side is this: the child is the one conditioning the parent. When the parent gives in, they do so to stop the whining. Larry lost this argument a long time ago: he gave in every time Balki wanted to play baseball, to invite any- and everybody to sleep over, to sign them up for moving furniture, to sing a song with him.
The next morning, we find that the man who grew up with horses, rode horses, cared for horses, the man who fucked sheep while horses watched, this same man has now been trying to get a horse to drink through a straw. But who gives a fuck whether Balki’s knowledge of horses came from real life, or from silent episodes of Mr. Ed? The audience sure fucking doesn’t, because they’re too busy laughing at Balki saying “pureeing”.
Instead of putting some fucking sugar in the medicine, he calls for Larry to come pretend to drink it, something Balki could never have done himself.
Larry–who isn’t going to even drink the stuff–takes out some piece of herbage and throws it away. Here it is, folks, my 100th gay joke where I just post a screengrab and say the word “gay” somewhere near it:
Larry’s Doorjamb finally starts drinking, and then the women come by.
They say they’ve baked the horse a carrot cake, but *winks* we all know where it really came from, don’t we?
Jennifer has also purchased Larry’s Torsion a custom-embroidered throw blanket:
There’s a joke about it bringing out the highlights in the horse’s mane and here’s a fun fact: there are no highlights in the horse’s mane.
Mary Anne says that the horse looks better after the bubble bath they gave it the previous day, but since Larry has learned (?) not to be possessive, he doesn’t get upset that she touched Larry’s Foreskin.
Balki refuses to let the horse eat any cake, insisting on the liquid diet, guaranteeing that its shit will spray everywhere. Balki refills the bucket, and Larry throws away another piece of frondescence*** (which, I’d like to point out, must have been in the bucket already, because it’s not seen while Balki is refilling; and thus Larry did not throw all of it out the first time).
Larry gags on it–
–on the medicine, that is, and what the fuck is the story at this point?
Uh, okay, here’s another scene, I guess the next day, since Larry’s wearing a different shirt. Like always, he instantly looks to his left as he walks in.
1990 was such a wild, brave new time for the American sitcom, wasn’t it?
Balki says that the medicine has not been helping Larry’s Abortion, and Larry insists on giving it one last dose.
Balki, having not seen the numerous pieces of parsley littering the living room for the past two days, now sees Larry throwing it out of the medicine. Balki says that the parsley is the “secret power ingredient”, and…
You know what?
Fuck you, show! Fuck you with a horse dildo! If parsley was the key ingredient, why were you feeding him all this other expensive shit? Why were you trying to feed a horse parsley through a straw?
Balki says that parsley flushes toxins out of the pancreas and oh my god ffffffuck I don’t want to hear that naturopathic mess, organs flush out toxins you dumb shit, what the fuck does the pancreas have to do with a lung disorder god dammit I guess we better notify the American Association of Equine Practitioners that parsley heals horse lungs fuck do I hate this show.
You’ve all seen videos of tuberculosis patients on their deathbeds, right? How the doctor gives them an antibiotic and they hop out of bed, put on their clothes, and go right back to work at their jobs?
No, of course you haven’t, and that’s why nothing fucking happens while Balki tries to chart the passage of the parsley through Larry’s Contortions.
The cousins walk back to the kitchen, and the sad music comes on. Good god what does this show think will move me?
Just when things look their bleakest, Larry’s Fortune jumps to his feet and he and the Cousins perform the entirety of C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)”.
These reviews are supposed to be self-contained, but fuck if I’m going to lay out for you just how wrong it is that one piece of parsley–not even the goddam woo-woo Myposian ingredients!–healed a horse. I had a whole bit planned out for this 100th review where I playfully pretend that the red lamp, which has been with us since the very first episode (“New Apartment Who Dis?”) but does not show up in this one, has become a self-aware Tsukumogami, and that this prankster spirit reanimated the dead horse, but fuck that, fuck this, fuck everything (but especially this), because the Magic Shortbus just drove up.
Just your all-around general scientific sidebar: sometimes, when you’re trying to figure out the relationship between independent and dependent variables, there are just plain too many of the former. I’m skipping a lot of the explanation here–and that’s because I’m just past what I know–but regression analysis is used to determine the relative impact of each independent variable on the dependent variable.****
Perfect Strangers has thrown a lot of shit at its three walls to see what will stick; obviously, some things (or some combination of things) has led to enough success that it reached 100 episodes. But it appears that ABC had no solid interest in figuring out which of those elements kept viewers tuning in, because here we are, repeating not only “Larried Sick” from season 2, but “Grandma Got Run Over by a Plotline” from season 3, and season 5’s “How Balki Got His Bird Back”. Perfect Strangers has simply become a showcase for abridged music videos, lists of words that sound like each other, and magically happy endings that would make season 2’s “Lunks Like Us” blush. At least we can rest assured that
Also, you know, “regression analysis” is a pretty good phrase for putting the show down when it goes backwards like this. Had to be said.
There’s another scene at the racetrack where Larry sold the horse to someone else and Larry’s Horse wins because it ate a piece of parsley and somehow there’s not a doping investigation and Larry doesn’t make money off of it again.
But I’m not going to talk about that, because fuck you, show.
Join me next week for “Family Feud”!
Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Appearances left: Lydia (10); Gorpley (11)
Cut for syndication: Tess fills Larry’s Maalox bottle with horse semen
*Look, even Scrooge McDuck uses a base-ten numeral system, so fuck off with all that “what if we had twelve fingers” bullshit.
**Look, if you had read these reviews in order, you’d get that joke. Now scroll back up to where the two asterisks were and keep reading. That’s how footnotes work.
***That means “leaves”, Shawn.
****Here’s a terrible example: if 1,000,000 people buy the new iPhone, let’s say 200,000 buy it because a friend recommended it; 300,000 buy it because they had a coupon; and 400,000 buy it because the read a review in Consumer Reports; and 100,000 buy it because of an advertising campaign; thus advertising is not worth the money.