Look, show, nobody’s following their dreams anymore, get a new song or something.
It’s evening in Chicago, and we visit that two-tone pair of cousins immediately after a late Winter rain, which has freshened the air, washing away
and the cans
and the worms
and the dung
and the feuds
and the dreams
and the knife
and the drugs
and the rings
and the ropes
and the pain
and the tricks
and the keys
and the lips
and the soil
and the shows from the days that are no more.
It turns out Norton didn’t take all of the food, and there’s still a chicken leg in the fridge for Larry to eat. Balki is doing his English homework, and reports that it’s going “real good”. Ha! What a stupid foreigner, actually speaking English the way native speakers do!
Balki is surprised that, once again, this week’s opening jokes are once again about Myposian food. Do you give a shit what animal it is this time? Yeah, me neither.
Jennifer rushes in with news that’s so important she can’t wait the full thirty seconds for Larry to let her in. She announces that, after almost five years after she moved to Chicago, her mother is finally coming to visit.
Larry says that he might as well meet as much of Jennifer’s family as he can, since it’s likely none of them will be asked back for the wedding episode. Balki hovers behind Larry, hoping that he can hitch a ride on this plot since he’s already delivered his two jokes for the week.
Jennifer explains to Larry that having standards skips a generation in her family and that mom has never approved of any of her boyfriends.
Larry claims that his years as a reporter have turned him into a “weaver of verbal magic” and that he can put all his lying experience to use to get mom’s heart wet.
The “oh no” moment comes when Jennifer, on her way out, says that she thinks Larry has a better chance with impressing her mother than her former beaux: a baseball player, a surgeon, a congressman, and a Heisman winner among them.
This is Jennifer’s 73rd appearance on this show, and this is the most we’ve ever learned about her all at once. Just thought I’d mention that.
To use an entirely new metaphor here, this scene is a pile of shit. But I think there’s a tiny nugget of gold here, or, well, not gold, pewter maybe? That somebody ate? I’m bad at metaphors. This is (spoiler) the entirety of Jennifer’s story arc for this episode: she’s worried about what her mom thinks, and then she gets over it. It’s got to be the shortest conversation any couple has ever had about each other’s family members; if Larry wanted to impress her mother, he’d ask at least one question about what impresses her or what she likes, or even maybe what her name is. But it’s the far better version of Jennifer we’re given small glimpses of sometimes, like in “Bye Bye Birdie” when she and Larry shared a benevolent social condescension and she teased him about his jealousy. I do appreciate that Jennifer seems to allay her own fears for a different reason than the one Larry gives: that Larry doesn’t share the same negative personality traits that her exes had. This is also a Jennifer who shrugs off Larry’s lying and puffing, which is weird but also further evidence of her confidence in Larry. I’m reading a lot into a single minute, but I kind of have to.
The way the conversation played out could have been a resolution in itself, leaving room for both of them to enter the meeting-mom situation worry-free, only to be faced with some other twist (mom is worse than Jennifer remembers, other restaurant patrons are people that Larry has wronged over the years). But since I spend more time on a single blog post than these two do with each other in a year, there’s no room for Jennifer to address Larry’s fears.
Balki tells Cousin Larry he shouldn’t lie just to–
Oh, wait, no, he just slaps him and tells him to calm down. Larry starts wildly casting for professions he can pretend to be, considering and discarding both priest and clown, a joke that goes a long way toward excusing his neuroticism here. Balki says that Larry doesn’t know what mom’s criteria are and he should not try to second-guess–
Oh, wait, no, he just slaps him again and leaves.
Balki: Oh, popopopo, App-le-toniki babasticky Bartokomouki gullibiliki challabalouki….
From the two years of extensive notes I’ve been taking on the Myposian language, I believe that translates to “this counts as a joke that we can end the scene with”.
Later, at the Chicago Chronicle, Balki is doing what I’ve decided must be the entirety of his job: throwing letters from one basket to another.
Gorpley mentions the only aspect of his biography to make it past season 4 by way of asking Balki to throw away all letters from his ex-wife.* Balki’s excuse for letting one through is that Ex Gorplis tends to attach her mail to bricks she throws through the windows.
Let’s think about the windows in here, the tiny ones, at ground level, up near the ceiling of the basement, and how Gorpley could have gotten her arrested for this. Thought about it? Good, let’s move on.
Balki answers Larry’s phone and tells Jennifer that Larry is upstairs in the Sports Department getting a punchline ready.
Balki: No, I don’t know why he’s never around when your life is falling apart or why Sam Anderson is getting as many lines as you.
Let it never be said that this show did not make attempts at gender parity: a man finally asks to be blessed with the sacred exposition.
This week’s plot-twist-by-phone is that Jennifer’s mother is coming early and Larry has to have dinner with her tonight.
Evidently the Sports Department is one amorphous, multi-limbed blob, because Larry says to the hallway “if you were any kind of sports department, you’d give more coverage to American Gladiators” and it throws a book at his head.
It turns out that Gorpley is here solely to make this scene longer; I see no reason why Balki couldn’t have relayed the information to Larry. When Gorpley shouts up the unnecessary plot twist, Cousin Larry makes one last desperate attempt to summon a better profession out of thin air, becoming a stunt man for a few brief seconds.
Balki helps his cousin to his feet while Gorpley furiously masturbates into a coffee cup.
After seeing Larry wince from touching his own head, Balki touches Larry’s head repeatedly. But Cousin ????? doesn’t know who these men are anymore.
Perfect Strangers Reviewed will be right back after I apply a cold compress to my sanity.
Not that there’s necessarily any real-world evidence to support this, but sitcoms often go the route of surrounding the amnesia sufferer with familiar faces or objects or, in this case, stock footage.
Balki has enlisted Lydia, the show’s resident psychology character, to aid in–
Oh, no, wait, Cousin ????? walks in and is afraid he’ll embarrass Balki by asking why there’s an audience just past their television.
In the first time this has ever been remotely funny, Balki gets ????? to repeat his name:
Cousin ?????: My name is Co-sin Laray App-le-ton.
Balki tells Cousin ???? to relax his jaw, hoping to access cerebral memory through physical memory. I was trying to be real subtle with that gay joke, but then Balki says that Cousin ????? now doesn’t know himself from a hole in the ground, so fuck subtlety.
Cousin ????? asks Balki to tell him who he is. Well spin me off and call me Family Matters! This is a solid setup! Cousin ?????’s new situation is, in its own way, the perfect answer to his problem in the first act: if no person can be good enough for Mother Lyons, he can be no one at all. We have a man here who cannot remember any of his past humiliations, failures, setbacks. He does not know how hard he’s been on himself, and feels no need to lie, because there’s nothing to gain, and nothing to be ashamed of.
Just think of the directions this episode could go! There are as many as five different people in his life who could give him varying stories about who he is, and he could either try to make a whole person out of them, or choose the one he likes best, or even make fun of how stupid some of his past antics have been. And even if this is limited to Balki, there are interesting depths to be mined. Balki knows his cousin’s faults, and his cousin’s meanness, but Balki also notices the good stories people live, and can tell ????? about his dreams and the people who love him.
Or, shit, take Balki out of the equation altogether, narrow it down to just Larry and Jennifer and her mom. Whatever the setup or location, Jennifer telling Larry about the blossoming of their relationship doubles as her telling her mom about it. Larry’s memory comes back at the end and he honestly tells her that nothing he’s the luckiest man on Earth to be blessed with such a patient woman.
But you’ve likely remembered enough other reviews to know that the fact I’m saying all this means that not a damn bit of it happens. What do we get instead?
Well, the fact that the cousins say “My name is Co-sin Laray App-le-ton” a combined total of 19 times in this scene might give you an indication.**
Anyway, what the fuck, who cares, I would have started by asking ????? what he does know, but who cares, Balki tells him that he’s from Madison, Wisconsin, works at a newspaper, and that he gargles the song “Moon River”.
And a tiny success! ??r?? has remembered to repeat the punchline!
Cousin ??r?? says the he remembers working with a “Mr. Portly”. Good try, ????y, but that’s too far back!
Balki massages his eyebrows, the same way he’s always done during blowjobs***, and ?ar?? remembers Gorpley’s name. ?ar?? now believes that his memory is fully back, even though he only repeats the facts Balki told him.
Balki: Your memory bank is no longer overdrawn.
Haha because banks can be overdrawn, right?
Balki offers his cousin his favorite–a coffee enema–and ?ar?? says he likes ‘em strong. In the time it takes Balki to brew a pot of coffee (10 seconds), ?????’s memory is gone completely again.
????? compares Balki’s outfit to the Cisco Kid, and please, please more jokes like this. Balki sets up the rules for the rest of the episode: the doctor said that Cousin ?????’s memory might come and go for the next few hours.
(One brief-but-beautiful nonsequitur here is when Balki tries to get ????? to take a deep breath, Mark Linn-Baker takes a couple of tense, short breaths like he’s trying to dislodge a booger.)
This scene refuses to end, and now the cousins are saying the “my name is” line again. We’re 12 minutes into the episode now, this show doesn’t want to explore anything, it might as well be another 10 minutes of Balki pretending that Art Carney had early-onset Parkinson’s for all that this accomplishes.
After gargling “Moon River”, L?rr? exclaims that he now remembers how many girls turned him down for the senior prom. One did so pre-emptively, and jokes like this and the Cisco Kid crack should have taken up the majority of this episode.
When Balki reminds him of the dinner date, L?rr? begs for help in following the law set down in Leviticus 18:17.
(What a nice cameraman, panning up too high so I would have room for my dumb catchphrase thing.)
Jesus, you’d think that being in very same restaurant where he proposed to his fiancée, but the decor is completely different, would completely fuck with a recovering amnesiac, but whatever.
Before going into Edward’s Chez Fino Caulfield’s, Balki quizzes ?ar?y on the only three facts the show can remember about him this week.
(You know, I can tell you why this restaurant keeps failing: they don’t keep the maitre d’ stand staffed.)
La??? asks why the fuck they’re both in this scene, which tips Balki off that he doesn’t remember as much as he claims.
Balki tries to help ????y purge before dinner.
???r? cautions his cousin to not tell Jennifer about the memory loss, but offers no explanation for why the fuck they’re both in this scene.
?????–who likely has forgotten to send in this month’s check to the bank for that $140,000 house–pays Jennifer a compliment by instantly popping a boner when she comes into the lobby. He says he’d love to have a threesome with her and her mother (whom we haven’t seen, 14 minutes into this episode.)
I mused earlier that it might be interesting if Cousin ????? were a better-adjusted person; it turns out that it’s just as funny and insightful to see that his personality has remained constant. We get a small hint that perhaps he earned all those high-school rejections through him propositioning Jennifer within five seconds of meeting her. It’s creepy as all hell, which was sadly par for the course back then, and the most generous thing you could say about it is, in a better show, it could serve as some statement that ????? is attracted to Jennifer no matter what else he is or does.
????? realizes that all he has to do to palpitate that platinum puss is make small talk with some old hag for two hours; and shows us what other aspects of his personality are constant:
Cousin ?????: We’ll get a wireless microphone and headset and Balki will feed me lines like in Cyrano d–
Balki: No, my contract says I’m in every scene.
The three rush into the dining area and ????? stops them three feet away from Mama Lyons’s table to loudly recap the plan. This is hardest I’ve ever seen this show work to delay the central situation.
Jennifer introduces ?a??? and Balki to Katherine Lyons.
Katherine Lyons: Hello.
You can really tell where Jennifer got her personality, huh? When Balki hugs mom and touches her face, some sicko in the audience yells “whoo!”
Balki shows off his command of the English language by correctly referring to himself and his cousin as “insufferable”.
Anyway, all this scene does is show how awful a choice it is for Balki to be here. Balki keeps feeding L??r? clues for things he can’t remember, which is far more obvious and telling than if he were to just feed him the correct answer and let ???ry play it off like he’s been reading too many names in his line of work. Some (two) of the punchlines are funny, sure, but it’s the same joke over and over again: Balki hints and Lar?? guesses. But aren’t these scenes traditionally done where the “helper” is unseen? Or at least out of the line of sight of the others, making hand gestures that can be misunderstood?? And why the hell even have Jennifer here if she’s not going to be allowed to be part of the conversation??? Why the hell is Balki suddenly okay with lying????
And, in the last time that it will ever be funny, ?arr? repeats “My name is Co-sin Laray App-le-ton”.
Mamma Lyons makes the same face most women do when I say how excited I am to marry their daughter.
I guess if a restaurant changes owners every couple of months it makes sense to just write the name on construction paper and glue it on the old menus.
????? says “My name is Co-sin Laray App-le-ton” again and the scene’s over. That’s it. Nothing came to a head, we went all this way just to turn around and go back to the apartment, two women got paid just to sit quietly while Addled and Coustello do a tired bit.
Back at the Caldwell, L?rry is still reciting facts about himself to Balki, which is all this show really wanted to do in the first place. I’d have preferred a clip show.
Jennifer and Mrs. Mr. Lyons come by the apartment. Mom had stormed out of the restaurant immediately after the previous scene, but since that would have been an interesting direction for the episode to go, here we are with her rudeness unaddressed.
Psychology sidebar which I’ve never done before: anchoring is a clever trick you can use to get lower car prices or prison terms. Very often, and especially for things we don’t have a good numerical benchmark for, numbers can throw us off. Anchoring describes a process where we get attached to the first piece of information/option we’re given and judge the next pieces of information/options according to it, and not according to some benchmark. Say a judge tells a defendant that she’s going to sentence him to 20 years in the state pen for stealing a car; the defense lawyer talks her down to 10. Unbeknownst to the defendant, the usual sentence is only 5 years, but 10 is only half of 20, so he’s relieved. It would seem, then, that the result of any such negotiation would depend a lot on who says a number first. But Larry has achieved a resounding win in the anchoring war here. He was anchored at some point far above politicians and sports celebrities; but he in turn anchored Mrs. Lyons at zero, meaning that whoever he is is wonderful by comparison.
It’s an underlying mechanism that pays off in a way that the show doesn’t deserve after how it fucked around for the majority of its runtime.
Anyway, Mrs. Lyons can tell that no woman has ever touched Larry’s penis and is confident that he’ll always be loyal to Jennifer; Larry calls her “mom” and she tells him to fuck right off.
Balki says that this will make Mrs. Lyons his “aunt-in-law five times removed” and that he’s excited to stick his penis in her pets.
Mrs. Lyons doesn’t even wait to get out of the apartment to ask if “the foreign boy” will be living with them when they marry. GODDAM IT SHOW YOU HAVE A HALLWAY SET
Melanie Wilson stands in the doorway awkwardly for a while so she can brag to her friends that she was in an episode for eight whole minutes.
Join me next week for a special post!
Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (2)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (1)
Appearances left: Gorpley (7); Lydia (8)
Cut for syndication: Tess stabs Larry’s leg repeatedly with a letter opener while shouting “Remember me? Remember me?”
*Dear Sam, I dislike you. Yours, your ex-wife. (I forget how much fun these format experiments can be, I should do more of these!)
**I think the guard locked the windows to the soul.
***Eyebrows are the clitorides of the face
3 thoughts on “Season 6, Episode 17: Speak, Memory”
Hey, I had “amnesia” on my 1980/90s sitcom trope bingo card! Gosh, I hope we get to “accidentally spends too much at an auction and hilarity ensues” and “male actor in drag sure is funny!” (that one was on my card twice for some reason)
Aw nuts. I had head-injury-induced-time-travel.
Balki: Your memory bank is no longer overdrawn.
Could… Could it be? Could Balki be referencing the 1983 New Jersey Public Television adaptation of the John Varley short story where Raul Julia quotes Casablanca and gets turned into a monkey? This could redeem every-