Awake, my readers! Awake, pen and postage meter! Awaken, Chicago! I will give thanks to You, O Nation flowing with honey, but not milk, because somehow putting them together makes you throw up, but anyway; Balki will sing praises to America among her peoples.
Balki stands at his table and bellows out “I’ve been working in the mailroom”, but because that wasn’t actively annoying enough, he’s putting the full force of his arm into every stamp.
Balki: Someone’s in the basement with Balki…
spoiler it’s Larry it is never not Larry there’s no question anymore
If you thought the show already did the joke about Larry not being able to tell Balki about the plot until he had sung a song, uh… well, you’re right, they did, and I stopped doing that stupid bad memory running joke weeks ago. I have to imagine, that if the Chicago Chronicle ever, oh, idunno, blew up or something, Balki would make the entire staff sing “John Brown’s Mailbag” before letting them out the emergency exits.
Larry holds a note out forever until he almost passes out, and, yeah, I guess that’s technically a new way to pad out an episode. Mr. Gorpley runs out of his office and whips the both of them with a rusted bicycle chain until all three of them are crying.
Nah, j/k, Gorpley’s not in this episode.
Larry tells Balki that he met the mayor at a lunch counter and the mayor told him to fuck off. At this point in Perfect Strangers, I’ll settle for even the remotest of jokes to enjoy, and Larry getting unceremoniously frog-marched out of a diner by a corrupt politician’s hired goons warms my heart.
Balki reveals that he got a job offer from Mr. Beekman* to be head of the mailroom at the Wilcox building. We just saw last week that Balki, when faced with the merest hint of power over others, would force them to eat squirrel-bladder macarons and forsake their mother tongue. Can you imagine what he’d do to employees of his own? You can? Good. I don’t have to come up with jokes for it.
Cousin Larry is momentarily surprised, because he can’t remember a single moment for years that he and Balki spent more than five minutes apart. When Larry asks about the job, and the pay, Balki just wants to talk about how he fed some pigeons, about how the noonday sun glinted off their supple, moist cloacae as they shared fluids.
Balki says he isn’t sure if he’s going to take the job or not. (I’m sure! I’m very sure!) Larry thinks that Balki is holding out for more money, but Balki assures him that’s not it, that he’s worried there won’t be some suicide-risk schlub working there who he can “accidentally” walk in on while the guy’s rubbing one out in a restroom stall.
I know it’s a mistake start wanting something out of an episode of Perfect Strangers only three minutes in, but goddam do I wish this had been an episode where the Chronicle staff turned out in force to encourage Balki to get the fuck up out of there.
Myposians believe in not rushing into any decision, which must be why he applied for the job without any thought or prayer at all. But on Mypos very simple: when you have to make a big decision, you climb Mt. Mypos to wait for a sign from Destiniki.
After pausing for a few minutes for the audience to laugh themselves into the aisles, pick themselves up, and exchange pleasantries as they make their way back to their seats, Balki tells us that Destikini has a guitar-playing daughter named Dominikinikiniki.
It’s a stupid joke, and one which I, white male aged 18-35, representative of all humanity, can safely say not many of you got.
But it’s an interesting one, because it gives us insight into the Myposian Pantheon. We started this season with the image of a torn–haha, whoops, sorry, force of habit!–we started this show with a Balki who had a smattering of pop culture knowledge, everything the same level of quality to him because it was all from America. Slogans had done their work on Balki, as he saw America not in terms of freedom, or moral character, but as the Home of the Whopper.** America, as we learned, turned them out, babe, it dropped a bomb on Mypos. Turned loose, turned wrong, Myposians rapidly took on aspects of foreign cultures: swing music in their purification rituals, comics characters on the royal stationery, and now an apocrypha of novelty singing acts. If Balki ever makes it back to the island, they’ll all be lighting prayer candles to a Koosh ball.***
So, Balki, does Destiniki (or Dominikinikiniki) give you a handjob and the ejaculate spells out the answer to your problem?
Destiniki just taps you on the shoulder and whispers to you, and there’s your answer. Despite Balki’s clear enunciation, Cousin Larry mispronounces it as Desenexos, because the writers wrote two different fake deity names that week, and by golly they would work them both in. And then Balki confirms that Desenexos is a Myposian God****, because it was his turn for a punchline.
Larry: Now that you’re in Chicago the chances of you finding a mountain to climb are pretty slim.
Gee, I wonder what they’re going to climb in this episode?
Another indication of Myposian religion being taken over by mass *AHEM* production: after a day of hard work, Balki is now unclean, so he now goes outside the camp and, lest every bed on which he lies becomes unclean, and everything on which he sits becomes unclean, and every saddle on which he rides becomes unclean, bathes in Ovaltine.
RT (Religious Teachings) Wainwright comes out of the elevator to talk to Larry about the memos he slips under his office door every day. (This may sound to you like Larry’s a wimp, but at least he’s not coming in through the Room’s Transom anymore.)
Wainwright tells Larry that the idea to have someone live on a billboard until the Bulls’ losing streak is a good one. But–
Maybe this episode was written at the beginning of the 1990-91 season, when the Bulls had three losses in a row, but come on, if it weren’t for “Horse This”, I’d say this was perhaps the furthest Perfect Strangers has ever gotten from the reality it wants to inhabit. If I’m reading these Wikipedia pages correctly, the Bulls’ record of wins to losses had been steadily increasing ever since Michael Jordan joined the team in 1984. The show barely tries to work aspects of Chicago into its plots, but does it have to put the city down when it does? In season 2’s “Faster, Fat Marsha! Grill! Grill!”, Black Hawks fans were depicted as raging boors; and now, the show pretends that the nation’s fifth-best basketball team***** couldn’t get its shit together.
By the time this episode aired, though, the Bulls had won 17 of their last 20 games. The episode’s production code tells me it wasn’t shuffled around out of filming order. And we’ve heard how quickly these episodes were shot, and by all indications on the fansite, episodes were filmed about a week ahead of airing. Someone who knows what a basketball looks like will have to tell me if it’s more important to get your team out of a slump towards the end of the season than it is at the beginning, because otherwise I don’t see any reason this episode shouldn’t have come sooner in season 6, when it had a chance of being less inaccurate.
Anyway, what the fuck, who cares, Wainwright says he’s already notified the media about the plan to plant someone at the billboard on top of the MacIntosh building. Yeah, okay, don’t scoop your own story or anything. He tells Larry to either do it himself or recruit someone.
Larry wonders briefly how long Frank might last up there, but then realizes the show’s budget is going to be blown on extras next week and settles on Balki.
Before we leave the Chronicle, can I just point out that this would have been the place to stick Lydia, instead of the riveting scene last week where she walked quickly away from Balki?
I’m starting to wonder if Caldwell Avenue’s slick streets are really the result of constant rains in Chicago, or if Balki just throws his cooking oil out the window on a daily basis.
Larry hangs his coat. Remember this. This is important.
He finds Balki laden with more gear than he came to America with, and far less than he carried the last time he went mountain climbing. While Balki’s fucking around with the backpack (yeah, yeah, his internal balance is thrown off, just as the job offer threw off his external balance, ain’t you smart), let me ask you: what the hell is that in the background? The Myposian Hair Dryer of Sanctification?
Balki is planning to take a 12-hour bus ride to Mt. Woolaroc. I’m not sure if the writers simply didn’t have the means to walk across the street to the gas station and buy a road atlas, or if they just didn’t care (actually, I’m sure! I’m very sure!), but they could have sent Balki to Charles Mound about three hours away. It is honestly a long way from Chicago to any proper mountain, but I have trouble believing that Mypos has taken on the US definition of mountain height.
Anyway, the same audience who saw a topless, muscular Bronson Pinchot a couple months ago thinks he’s hot shit for standing up with a bunch of prop gear.
Larry tries to convince Balki that Mt. Woolaroc is legendary for the bad decisions made there, getting in a dig at Shelley Long’s career. Keep her name out of your mouth! I actually liked Don’t Tell Her It’s Me and Troop Beverly Hills, and if you haven’t watched Outrageous Fortune, please do.
When Balki starts to wonder where he’ll go to have a deity whisper sweet plot points in his ear, Larry repeats the words “high” and “sign” for three minutes straight so the audience will feel smart when they figure it out before he says “billboard”.
(Psychedelic sidebar: if you’re wondering why the album on the shelf, last seen in “Climb My Own Grandpa”, is flipped over to its backside, just ask the axis 😎)
The plots, like penises, meet.
Again, the tempter takes Balki up onto an exceeding high building, and shews him all the 77 community areas of the city, and the zip codes of them, and says to him–
Shit, do I even need to be clever about this and talk about how so much of the Pentateuch is a statement on the evils of cities as the end result of organization devised by man? That sky “scrapers” symbolically promise violence against God’s domain? All the Bible verses about not worshiping in “high places”? This crimson affront is obviously owned by Satan, because who else would be evil enough to sell someone ad space at the top of a 50-story building?
Any ideas how this episode will end? I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count. I could skip ahead 10 minutes and you wouldn’t miss a thing.
Seriously, though, was it not scary enough for the cousins to get stuck (oops SPOILER) on a billboard that the writers thought they had to add windmill blades and stick it 500 feet in the air?
Anyway, enough with the complaining, because this is another episode that has a beautiful central concept. I’m impressed that we’re getting two great scenarios in as many weeks. “See How They Rut”, by having Balki campaign for election, was a great way to throw him headlong into American attitudes and political strategy. This week, the show does itself one better as “Climb, As it Turns Out, Just the One Billboard” presents what I think might be the show’s best culture clash yet.
Again, my status as the ideal representative of everyone else’s pop culture upbringing tells me that you’re all familiar with the image of the cartoon bearded guru sitting blissfully enlightened at the peak of a mountain, and of pilgrims seeking out his wisdom. Even if you didn’t, I have to imagine that the writers read the same old issues of MAD that I did, and the choice to exchange the foreigner’s mountaintop with a billboard (or skyscraper) is inspired all on its own, and moreso when you unpack it. The pilgrim seeks an increase of spirit, the advertiser seeks an increase of money. The hermit’s retreat from the community for a forty days’ fast is turned (loose, wrong) into the most public of endurance stunts. I think I’m belaboring all this, but I’m just trying to savor the moment, because it may be the last good idea this show has.
Anyway, what the fuck, they can’t be more than 15 feet off the roof of the building, and there’s room for the ladder in front of them, but Larry’s freaking out while Balki wonders whether pigeons fuck up here, too.
For no fucking reason whatsoever Balki whips out a 1990 Hasbro WWF Hulk Hogan action figure (with gorilla press slam!) and waves it in Larry’s face and screams.
Let’s zip through the handful of plot points we get here: Larry lies to Balki about the news crews that they wouldn’t really be able to recognize from that high up, Balki gets his answer from Destiniki, and Larry kicks the ladder away once he realizes Balki won’t stay up there, all interspersed with them fucking around.
Oh, and we also get the 1990s’ last innocent Pee-Wee Herman reference.
In the next scene, a man climbs up onto the billboard with his bare hands, tears of rage blowing off his face, the image of a splintered ladder rung piercing his two-year-old’s head repeating in his mind, and throws the cousins off the building.
Perfect Strangers Reviewed will be right back after this screenshot.
Now that they’re stuck for a while, the cousins move quickly past Larry’s dishonesty to the real issues they’re upset about. Balki doesn’t reveal whether he actually got the job just yet: he accuses Larry of being so selfish that he can’t stand when others are doing better than he is. Larry, at least semi-justifiably, asks why he should take Balki’s decision-making seriously when even Balki doesn’t? He calls Balki out on not being an adult, not thinking for himself, and they discuss what kind of considerations should be addressed when considering a major life change.
It’s really a great scene, and it’s too bad that I came up with it and not the Perfect Strangers writers. Instead, the show spends the next few minutes with a drawn-out version of the usual admission of lying from Larry, and at this point in the episode, the show completely throws away Balki’s story.
Anyway, the cousins don’t kiss, but make up. Quick question, though: why did neither of these fuckers think to bring any straps up there with them, both of them knowing that one of them could be up there for days and need to sleep?
You know, we haven’t had a Myposian food joke yet this week. Did you remember to pack one, Balki?
Larry turns on Balki’s radio so they can tune into the Bulls-Knicks game; the Bulls are up, but–
Ah, finally! A “two days later” that actually has some significance to the plot!
I refuse to believe that bachelors would be doing their laundry after only two days, but it does allow for a gag where Balki keeps his two lips fresh.
The cousins take turns saying “yak links” until Larry decides to turn on the radio and see how the Bulls are doing.
The radio announcer tells us that Michael Jordan is lying on the living room floor of another sitcom, taking slow, shallow breaths, in desperate need of a common herb.
Oh no! Now the team doesn’t have the player that wasn’t winning games for them anyway!
What’s more is that the Bulls will be taking a five-day break after that night’s game. Larry–who still owes $140,00 on a house–throws a perfectly good radio away.
So, like, why the fuck should I believe that the cousins are in some dire situation? Cousin Larry cited a fear of heights earlier in the episode, but it hasn’t come into play at all. I was only 6 years old when this episode aired, so I can’t speak to how litigious America was in 1991, so I’ll overlook the fact that the owners of the Wilcox building don’t have someone stationed on the roof to ensure the cousins’ safety. But I’d have to imagine that–at the very fucking least–some other reporter from the Chronicle would come up there to take a photograph. If the whole idea was to sell more paper, how is Wainwright not inflating this story to front-page status every damn day?
The radio announcer called the cousins jerks for pulling this stunt, but apart from that, Perfect Strangers is once again asking the viewer to completely ignore whoever might be looking at the cousins if it at all threatens whatever slapstick bullshit it wants to do.
Anyway, what the fuck, who cares, the phrase finally gets caught in its final form:
I’m so glad the people who made this billboard thought ahead and put foot straps on the windmill blades.
Bronson, who needs to be able to take off his shoes at a moment’s notice if a talk-show hostess happens to walk on set, does not use the foot straps.
While Larry screams for help and the giant deodorant can pumps CFCs into the atmosphere by the gallon, Balki casually talks about how, at Myposian festivals, they publicly roast overweight people alive.
At the Chronicle we find out that, evidently, all the newspeople were on the ground, looking through their reporters’ telescopes, because the cousins were saved before their upper body strength gave out. Also, in an ironic gut-punch to rival that of Frank Darabont’s The Mist, the Bulls won the game (haha fuck you, Michael Jordan!).
That’s right, you heard right, the Bulls won the game that had maybe started five minutes before the cousins were rescued, and nobody thought to wait a mere two hours to see if the cousins would be hailed as heroes.
RT Wainwright comes out of the elevator and tells them they brought great fame to the United States’ #1 newspaper. Wainwright gives Balki courtside seats for the rest of the Bulls’ season. Balki fucks around like he’s not going to give Larry the second ticket, like he has any friends left after last week.
Nah, j/k, after six years, Balki’s learned that teasing Larry helps intensify the orgasms.
I’m sure the Bulls will be excited to play games a few feet away from the guys who publicly gave up on them winning!
Join me next week for “A Catered Affair”, where Larry will agree to perform sexual favors for Chef Roberto Beekman in return for catering for his upcoming wedding.
Catchphrase count: Balki (2); Larry (1)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Cut for syndication: Tess hides plutonium rods in Balki’s backpack.
*It’s tempting to assume that this Mr. Beekman may be the same one who owns the Beekman Funeral Home and the Beekman Club. But I posit that the owners of Two Brothers Trade, Inc. were Bert and Burt Beekman, and that they’ve moved up in the world.
**Did Balki generate his own catchphrase as a bit of American virtue-signalling? Discuss.
***Assuming, of course, that they haven’t all drowned in Cousin Bartok’s waterbeds
****The healer of “foot phonegoose”
*****1989-90; they would be second at the end of the 1990-91 season (I’m going off the percentage of wins across all divisions; somebody tell me if this isn’t how you do it)