Carl Lewis, drawn by the previous episode’s promise of food being multiplied to feed the Caloric Uncounted, circles the Caldwell in search of leftovers.
Balki enters slowly, at his wits’ end–which is evidently not far–his fingers lodged firmly in a Chinese finger trap. The long-term readers among you are likely wondering why this poses any problem to Balki, so I’ll remind you that there is something tighter than Cousin Larry’s sphincter: this show’s relationship with symbols. Balki feels trapped by “foreign” gags, not knowing the way out of the bit of childhood fun he himself has served for years.
N.b. Speaking of aging, this episode marks, perhaps, the last moment that Perfect Strangers could pretend that it was still popular; it would air reruns the next two weeks, during which time it shifted from 9:00 to 9:30, bumped to dead last by the premiere of Dinosaurs. TGIF: The Goodwill is Falling.
Larry accidentally gives away that he’s kept security cameras around the apartment just to watch Balki, and calls out from the bedroom that Balki only need push his fingers together. (I’d say that’s a symbol of the cousins having to work together, but I’ve seen the rest of the episode and it doesn’t apply.)
Larry–instead of lowering his interest by making an additional payment on the principal still owed on his $140,000 house–has purchased a Red Green costume and pauses for audience laughter. Balki cannot stand for anyone else to get a sight gag about hats, and says he’s proud of Larry for enlisting.
(I bet you’ve forgotten that we’ve never had any jokes about Myposian army helmets.)
After a hot hug session, we find the Cousin Larry now is stuck in the finger trap, because God forbid we get to the exposition. Balki tries to get Larry caught in his heinie’s finger trap.
Cousin Larry explains that he is going hunting with RT (Rifle Trigger) Wainwright. He describes how, in his childhood, when the Appletons would go hunting every year, his brother Billy would steady his shotgun atop Larry’s head, carrying his shells in Larry’s mouth, and Elaine would force him to drink fresh deer blood.
Nah, j/k, Larry’s never been hunting before, and remarks that pointing a gun and pulling a trigger can’t be that hard. Ha! It’s funny because never in his life has Larry developed any skill with a device that you have to aim and shoot.
Balki starts in about how he doesn’t condone the killing of innocent animals, so I guess every time he deep-fries some macaque eyeballs, he’s made sure that the beast had committed aggravated murder.
Balki: It’s only a sport if the animals have guns too.
In a way, though, that’s fair. The little bit I do know about modern hunting, out here on the furthest periphery of interest, does indicate to me that it’s less of a sport than it once was. Many hunters  use some version of “deer cane” (which is what gets put on the package instead of “deer cocaine”), which appears to be a souped-up saltlick, and which lures the deer to you, up in your tree stand where the deer can’t see you. Both of these technologies have allowed good ol’ boys like the ones abundant in my part of the world to “hunt” deer even when they [they good ol’ boys] have aged and gone to fat. What happened to the days when you had to dress in actual leaves and imitate deer calls with wax paper folded over a comb? What happened to dressing up like a belipsticked and be-eyelashed female deer and shaking your hindhindquarters?
Since there’s no way we’re getting to the hunting scenes for another five minutes yet, the show has waited until now to reveal that Larry is going to hunt ducks. At the mere mention of the word, Balki starts breathing heavily and launches into a slowly-I-turned bit about “filthy, disgusting, immoral ducks”. I’m not sure what could be more immoral than, say, not only creating life solely for the purpose of lifelong exploitation (breeding sheep), or more filthy than keeping pigs in your home, or more disgusting than three-island-wide shunning of a spurned woman, but go on, Balki.
Balki goes on to say that the ducks are a general nuisance, eating crops, shitting in the wells*, and ruining hens with their corkscrew penises**. After exhausting every possible way of dealing with the ducks peacefully, Mypos decided to send its child soldiers to war. This is a rare–and I assume unintentional–bit of thematic continuity here with season 1’s “Checking Account This”, where Balki was set upon by murderous pigeons; and when he was afraid of being trapped in a sleeping bag with a goose back in “Up a Lazy Cheesecake, Part 1”. Every full season has found some way for at least one of the cousins to throw a dead bird around, and now, here towards the end of season 6, it’s promising us a bloodbirdbath. The jawbone of this ass typically slays a thousand common household phrases, but I look forward to Balki sinking his teeth into a live mallard’s neck in front of a studio audience.
Balki shakes, possesst with holy rage, and says “filthy, disgusting, immoral ducks” about 50 more times before tearing open the throw pillows they’ve never owned before.
When Balki starts begging to go, Larry tells Balki to fuck off, because he’s not getting anywhere near his plotline this week.
Potential continuity aside, uncontrolled anger is a surprising thing to see from Balki, and God help me that makes it interesting. It’s a role reversal from the norm, and I don’t have to go very far back to find an episode that “Duck Soup” is, at this point, a mirror image of. Larry went “overboard” with Balki’s campaign (in “See How They Run. Run, How They, Run”), and now we are told to expect Balki to ruin Larry’s plan to impress Wainwright through his exuberance.
It’s also the first in a long time we’ve found out something about the history of Mypos that isn’t out-and-out wacky. Yes, “duck” is a funny word, and the show finds ways to joke within the idea of fighting off an invasive species (threatening the ducks with orange sauce), but it’s an aspect of Balki’s foreign culture that’s long overdue. Americans hate Jerry Lewis, Germans hate overt politeness***, and the Chinese evidently hate loose index fingers.
Oh, wait, no, evidently it’s not enough that it’s a cultural trait: Balki starts talking about how, as a child, he found an injured baby turtle that he nursed back to health, only for Bippi (he named it Bippi) to be plucked from the ground by a swooping duck, dropped from a great height onto the jagged slopes of Mount Mypos, and its viscera slurped from its torn, mangled body. It’s such a harrowing story that Balki makes sure to say “Bippi” a whole lot to even things out.
Balki just does a turtle mouth opening and closing a few times. Finally, something Dana Carvey in Master of Disguise looks good in comparison to!
Cousin Larry says he’s sorry that a duck et his sweet little Bippi, but that Balki cannot come. Balki must think that it’s impossible to go hunt ducks on his own, so he persists, claiming to have been the best duck hunter on Mypos (just as he had the best legs, was the best goat-milker, and was the best at Myposian baseball).
Larry: You have shotguns on Mypos?
Balki runs off to his bedroom and then comes back with probably the millionth thing he had packed into the hammerspace of that “America or Burst” box: a sling.
Balki says, moreover, the sight gags that delivered him out of the paws of Olivia Crawford, and out of the hands of Fat Jack, would deliver him out of the webbed feet of these ducks. It’s called the bonkaduck, and I really hate that I had to type that word.
Larry decides to challenge Balki to show it off, which means we’re not going to see him use it against any ducks. Instead, Balki drags Larry over to the window, talks in yet another New York-ish accent, and proceeds to kill the homeless man from season 1 while Larry commentates.
Somehow this convinces Larry to take Balki along, and that it will propel his (his Larry’s) status to that of Wainwright’s favorite employee. What a fickle man, this Wainwright.
You did it, show! You got through the first half of an episode without a phone call to add a plot element!
And, for once, the show picks out a spot that arguably does exist in Chicago, assuming that this is intended to be Wolf Lake. Balki, not fine with stealing the origin of Larry’s outfit, has decided to one-up his cousin.
Lambo, fiercest duck hunter in all of Mypos, begins his day of battle by shouting loudly enough to scare away every single animal in the vicinity.
Balki pretends to see ducks and starts swinging his scrotal symbol around and then, suddenly, there are no ducks anymore because Wainwright shows up. That’s understandable, though, right? If you have a joke as great as Balki swinging something over his head and shouting yiyiyiyi, and there’s nowhere else to put the third instance of it, you’re duty-bound to just shove it in sideways.
RT (Ringed Teal) Wainwright must have snorted some Editor Cane on the ride out there because this is the most mood-swingingest I’ve ever seen the guy, babbling about how he’s relying on them to kill ducks because “the pride of the Chronicle is in our hands”. Larry tries to hide Balki’s bloodlust, so somehow it didn’t come up until that very moment? This is something that will never stop bugging me about sitcoms; we’re left to assume that they exist in a world where it’s nearly criminal to talk while in a moving vehicle.
Wainwright tells them to kill ducks and wanders off.
Even though Balki saw some ducks about 20 seconds ago, suddenly Larry is worried that they won’t see any ducks. Balki whips out a duck call and proceeds to make a “mating call”, which approximates what it would sound like if female ducks’ copulatory vocalizations sounded like humans’. What a great kids’ show!
Balki warns that the ducks will rape Larry if he makes eye contact with them. That’s not my joke.
Cousin Larry points at some stock-footage ducks that are 1) a mile away and b) flying away from them. Larry aims his gun, but the slingswinging Balki forces Larry’s gun up before he can fire.
Balki says “I cannot let you kill them ducks” and then the “oh no” music comes on, as in “Oh no! They forgot to come up with a conflict this week!”
Perfect Strangers Reviewed will be right back after I point out how Balki had that bonkaduck hanging right below the gun to form the perfect layered phallic symbol.
RT (Really Tweaked) Wainwright runs in and shouts that they should have waited until the stock footage showed some close-ups before they started shooting. He threatens Larry with vagueries if they “go home losers”. So apparently the eight-minute scene in the apartment had no room for Larry to mention that the Chronicle was participating in some sort of duck-hunting contest.
Wainwright leaves, so let’s get back to the worst fucking disagreement the cousins have ever had. The cousins argue about whether European and American ducks are the same, and the show thinks it can get away with this by having them repeat “them ducks” and “floofy ducks” over and over.
Perfect Strangers, after spending its entire first half justifying Balki’s presence in the second, has trashed that premise in a matter of seconds. It bugsbunnily fooled me into saying “Balki Season” so that it could reveal it was Larry Season all along.
Did you enjoy seeing Balki being angry? Did you enjoy the role reversal? Were you curious to see where this might go?
WELL FUCK YOU
You want to know what differentiates Myposian ducks from American ducks?
Balki tells us they have a 6-foot wingspan, leathery hides, and giant claws, and that “duck” is short for “pteroductyl”. Bippi, as it turns out, weighed 300 pounds. I had a nice running joke going about how Mypos got bombed back to the stone age during Vietnam, but now it’s not funny anymore. Think about this: when Balki saw the stock footage of the ducks, he must have thought they were much farther away than they really were, so why did he think a gun had that kind of range? Are Myposian shotguns far better than ours?
The extent of my knowledge of dinosaurs is this “Definitely Dinosaurs” parasaurolophus toy I had as a kid, so I’m doing some haphazard searching on Google for this one. Many pterodactyls had wingspans of around 15-20 feet, but a weight of only 100-200 pounds. Could they have picked up 300lb turtles? Why were the pteroductyls wasting effort on turtles when Myposian children don’t have a hard outer shell? Why was Balki okay with Larry cooking a floofy duck four years ago?
Anyway, what the fuck does it matter? This show clearly doesn’t reside in reality anymore. It tried to stretch Balki past his usual three jokes, and it snapped back so hard that the episode landed in the same territory almost every show from back then did, where the child character questions the parent about whether it’s okay to kill animals.
And now it’s just funny faces and Larry doing the “filthy, disgusting, immoral ducks” bit. I never thought I’d reach a point where I didn’t want people to know I watched this show and wrote about it, but here it is. I’d sooner admit to eating my boogers than watching this episode.
Larry finally says that some aspect of his job is on the line here. It’s fine enough for some employee to go on some outing with their boss to impress them–it’s usually a golf episode or something, right?–but here it’s to the point where I guess Larry’s going to be fired. Look, Wainwright’s nowhere near these idiots, and we can reasonably assume he moved farther away after Balki made so much noise. If Larry can get Balki to shut up, he’s blameless. If he can’t get Balki to shut up, and the ducks don’t get close enough, he gets to put the blame on Balki.
The most logical thing here would be for Larry to shoot Balki in the face, or at the very least take him back to the car and lie to Wainwright about what happened.
This is another episode credited to Terry Hart, the same guy who did “Little Apartment of Horrors”, “The Selling of Mypos”, “This Old House”, “The Men Who Knew Too Much”, and “The Break Up”. This is, to me, a surprising grouping, but perhaps the unifying thread is that these episodes largely exist outside of a knowledge of what had come before. Some of them exist solidly outside of reality itself, where putting a plant on your tongue cures a cold, and where kissing three times in as many years means you’re ready for marriage. It might be incorrect of me to assume that credit for these episodes means that Hart also generated the concepts for them, but I will say I appreciated some of those concepts. It was, for lack of a better word, refreshing to see the cousins outside of Chicago in the Los Angeles two-parter, even if it was one long chase. “This Old House” briefly re-introduced a setback into the cousins’ lives. And even this week, we got a setup that could have led in some very interesting directions. But here’s what I think: after a couple of seasons of working on this show, Hart knew he didn’t have to put a lot of effort into the writing. Last year, Ron Trembath of Trainwreck’d Society interviewed Hart about his career, and here’s a quote from Hart on his time writing for Perfect Strangers, when asked about what made the show work [emphases mine]:
The foundation of a good TV comedy series is a good writing staff. Drama might work with one talented writer (the British sometimes demonstrate that, and maybe Aaron Sorkin). Comedies need bright, funny writers around the table – which Perfect Strangers had. But a lot of shows have great writers, and still fail. My belief… second only to good writing is casting. There are great actors who can’t do comedy – especially half hour comedy. Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot were (are) talented actors who could do comedy. As Cousin Larry and Balki they delivered dialogue with perfect attitude and timing. They were also amazing physical comedians. There were episodes where their physical comedy added minutes to the show and we’d end up with “as broadcast” scripts under 30 pages. I suppose this is where I use the cliché “good chemistry.” It was a fun, silly show. Great show and actors to write for…and very few late night rewrites. It was a good time. The writer/actor relationship is the core of successful TV comedy.
I had already suspected that the writers left room in the scripts for the cousins to fuck around and fill out time. I’ll admit I’m reading a bit into those quotes (and reading very cynically) but this is a strong indication the writers must have known this point that they didn’t have to put as much effort into the scripts as they might have had to with other shows. Why write a joke, when these fuckers will milk it for free?
Anyway, what the fuck, who cares, Larry wants Balki to call the ducks back, and even though these ducks have been established to have no relation to pteroductyls, Balki uses the duck call to tell them to stay away.
Two days later, Balki is using a fishing pole to catch worms.
The stock footage comes back, and the cousins add minutes to the show by fucking around with the duck call some more.
No, it doesn’t end with either of them getting their fingers stuck in it.
And, no, it doesn’t end with Wainwright shooting them both and pasting feathers onto their naked bodies.
It ends with Balki tickling a man holding a loaded rifle, and Larry firing a shot directly into his loaded boss’s loaded butthole.
Oh no! I guess they didn’t win whatever it was they were trying to win!
Later, at the Chicago Chronicle, Gorpley shows up and recaps the previous 15 seconds. You can usually rely on at least a good put-down from Gorpley, but all he says here is “don’t shoot”. As if that wasn’t underwhelming enough, Gorpley also asks if he can take the stapler from Larry’s desk. Has that conversation ever actually taken place, instead of your co-workers just stealing your supplies after (or in what should be Gorpley’s case, before) you’re gone?
While clearing his personal items from his desk, Larry breaks the timeline by saying that he was one month away from his three-year anniversary at the Chicago Chronicle. Sure, fine. Whatever.
RT (Rectal Trauma) Wainwright shuffles in from the parking garage and says that some “union” (which Larry was never a member of until right now) will not allow him to fire Larry.
The episode ends with some fucking joke about Balki breaking into Wainwright’s office and leaving a bowl of slugs on his desk. It was actually a callback to some other dumb joke that I didn’t want to mention but I’m not going to go back and mention it because fuck this show.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode of television that got progressively lazier like this one has. I wish I had gotten Dr. David James Poissant to review this one instead.
Catchphrase count: Balki (1); Larry (3)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Cut for syndication: The opening scene originally featured Balki in the hallway, asking Tess for help with the finger trap. Tess, wearing brass knuckles, punches Balki in the balls.
Appearances left: Gorpley (6); Lydia (7)
*Cover your wells, you fucking idiots!
**The ducks cucked the buck cluckers!
***I’ve heard that when Wal-Mart first opened in Germany, it quickly learned that its customers were put off by door-greeters
5 thoughts on “Season 6, Episode 22: Duck Soup”
That throwaway joke about the union not allowing Wainwright to fire Larry should have taken away all urgency from every other subsequent episode in which Larry is afraid he’s going to be fired, and yet, in many subsequent episodes, Larry is afraid he’s going to be fired.
Can we all agree that no sitcom should last more than 6 seasons?
I have so many things to say about how long sitcoms should be, but I’m saving them for my end-of-season review(s). In the meantime, I’ll say this: sitcoms should know when they’re ending.
Is that He-Man atop your pterodactyl? We’re the same age. Why don’t I remember these toys? They look so 80s!
That fellow is named Druze! Definitely Dinosaurs were released in 1987, and my parents never got rid of my toys so the Parasaurolophus (and Romur, the Cavester™ wearing yellow) stayed on my chest of drawers for many years.
This has to be one of the worst episodes of the series. Most are at least enjoyable on a superficial level if you check your brain at the door. In Great Balls of Fire, which isn’t great storytelling by any stretch of the imagination, I laughed out loud several times. The fire pole gag where Balki attempts to help Larry up is about as dumb as you can get, but at least the comedic timing was good. Jennifer’s out-of-the-blue passion for firemen was funny and added an element of sexual tension that Mark plays well against. Here, not only is the writing bad, but Bronson’s off-character, cringe-worthy performance and the lack of anything resembling humor, mean there’s nothing left to prop up a tedious and uninspired plot.