Time may have finally punctured the interior of the Caldwell, but houses offer their own promises of stability, bulwarks against blah blah blah I can’t even keep that shit up this week, all I really wanted to get at is it’s the exact same shot of Laura and Maxine and that woman running again. For whatever stupid reason I want to keep criticizing the show for it, but at this point my observation is about as novel as wondering why Mickey Mouse only has four fingers*.
There are always bigger problems, so let’s get to those.
Inside, Balki is using cleaning fluid to polish decorative produce. Hey, there’s the tapestry that Balki made for Larry Balki’s sister Yana made him, further proof that Balki never had a sister owns a tapestry! He calls for Larry to come downstairs so they can finish prepping for King Ferdinand’s arrival.
Balki asks why Larry didn’t put on the loincloth that he laid out for him. He tries to tickle Larry back up the stairs, but it doesn’t work this time. Larry says he refuses to wear a loincloth to look like a snout merchant, which is odd, since we’ll know full well that that’s not how they dress. Oh, show, don’t tell me Balki is trying to impress someone in power with false appearances!
The very next joke is that King Ferdinand is defying the Chicago police to arrest a sovereign monarch for stealing local dairy farmers’ cows and walking them down State Street. Balki refers to this as the “Livestock Liberation Parade”.
After all the effort this show made to tell me that Myposians make a differentiation between pteroductyls and floofy ducks, it still makes jokes like pigs working in service positions yet offered as convenience foods; sheep get voting rights but goats get turned into stew; and now the Rumination Proclamation was a landmark event in the history of cattle rights? Obviously different cultures have their own reasons not to spill blood, but are the animals on Mypos not men?
If ever there was an over-written joke on this show, it’s this one, but I’ll give it some credit. It starts off as Balki saying Kind Ferdinand is leading a parade, and Larry replying that it’s he’s just leading cows down the street. They could have left it at that, or put a pretty bow on it by Balki saying Ferdinand never goes anywhere without his attendants. But the writers were evidently spitballing and talking about various types of parades. Perhaps the parade in Washington, DC, two months prior, to celebrate the liberation of Kuwait during the Gulf War, was fresh in their minds, and just knowing goes some way towards excusing the fact that the second punchline undoes the first and leaves us stranded wondering what the fuck it was supposed to mean.
Anyway, I’ll fix the damn joke: Ferdinand had lions and it was a pride parade.
Balki sits Cousin Larry down to explain to him how he must be a-talkin’ which this king comes a-knockin’. The protocol for welcoming Myposian royalty into your home is to stage a knock-knock joke, and that’s clever. It’s entirely in keeping with not only the broad strokes of Mypos, but Ferdinand himself. For the sake of posterity, completeness, and me actually doing my job of this being a humor blog, here’s the full transcript of how the protocol is supposed to go:
King: Knock, knock.
You (lowly peasant): Who’s there?
King: Picture This!
You: First Date.
King: Baby, You Can Drive My Car.
The cousins hear a “knock knock” from the door. How nice of King Ferdinand to follow the American custom of showing up right after the exposition and its requisite three jokes are said! Balki panics, having not readied the virgin sheep.
Ferdinand tells his joke, Larry and Balki share a good laugh over this throner, and then they let him in. As is normal at all levels of society, in all cultures, the King enters and instantly looks to his right.
There have been very few things on this show I’ve outright loved, but Ferdinand’s fashion sense–a First Nation Dusty Rhodes with tassels placed with the precision & care of Liefeld pouches–is near the top. That the lining of his robe is a patchwork quilt is just icing on the cake for a guy like me who makes everything into a symbol. Give me a few weeks on that one.
After six years abroad, Balki now faces his monarch, and abases himself. Certainly Ferdinand will want to hear how Balki has proudly represented his country, whether he has stayed true to his roots, and what wealth of knowledge he can offer to his Mamaland. Certainly after 123 episodes, Balki’s had some time to reflect on his experiences and will have something deep and insightful to say.
Ferdinand slaps Balki and they start dancing and singing in some pastiche of American swing and doo-wop. Those foreigners, huh? So much soul, and it’s just so sad that we white Americans have evolved too far and become too smart to ever be so happy and free. I’ll just have to console myself with another exegetical joke: the upraised fingers symbolize the endurance of Myposian strength. (Also, yes, I laughed.)
I’m beginning to get the sense that Mussolini just rounded up every Albanian of poor genetic heritage he could find in April 1939, loaded them onto a garbage patch, and shoved it away from shore with a gondolier paddle.
King Ferdinand finally takes notice of Cousin Larry and compliments Balki on his choice of mate. Larry prostates himself; wait, no, I’m saying that wrong: Larry becomes prostatic?
Larry is coached by Balki to refer to Ferdinand as “your superfluousness” and I guess I need to keep talking about trying to apply logic to something that doesn’t follow it at all, because that’s what I’ve been trying to do. As in: how can they know that word and not know what it means?
I was never much into Superman as a kid; and even less as an adult on a conceptual level. He’s got basically unlimited powers, but since he’s the good guy, there’s no need to be terribly clever with how he uses them. And even though I’ve read very few stories about the character, I’m fascinated by the idea of Bizarro Superman. What does it mean to be the reverse of something else? Is it negation? Is it mirror imaging? Is it the breaking of rules? Can two rules be simultaneously broken even if they contradict each other? Or is that the ideal on Bizarro’s planet Htrae?
But as I’m on the verge of referencing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quote about the “test of a first-rate intelligence”, I realize I’m missing the point. Shawn Green, veteran/inveterate podcaster, in his initial critique of me, asked me to enjoy the show as the child me had.
Be willing to enjoy the surrealities that first intrigued me as a youth. Just repeat to myself it’s just a show, I should concentrate… on relaxing.
concentrate… on relaxing…
Clarity: sitcoms are, and are not, depictions of the real world.
I am the hollow reed through which troubles blow like the wind. I am the wind that blows through the hollow reed.
Calm: Perfect Strangers may exist as a safe simulation of matter and anti-matter colliding without atomizing the world. The car can drive without its camshaft because I see it doing so.
I am ready now, ready for Ferdinand’s visit. Let nonsense reign.
Oh, he’s no fun, he fell right over.
Balki tries to tickle Ferdinand back to any kind of reality, but Larry informs him that Ferdinand has died. As if the limp form wasn’t proof enough, Larry can tell from the smell of the twenty Hostess Ninja Turtles vanilla pies loosed from the royal bowels.
You know, maybe if they hadn’t made him walk all the way from the damn airport, he’d have gotten to do more than a 30-second vaudeville act. The only time we’re ever going to hear what living in America has done for Balki is the graduation episode where he told us it let him get a paycheck.
In keeping with the show’s commitment to every major event in the history of Mypos taking place in Chicago–the near-sale of its Northern shore, the “ancient” feud, the death of its eldest matriarch, and the blooming of its rarest plant–Larry is now King.
Later, at Cousin House, Larry and Balki catch their breath in the kitchen. Larry suggests they charge admission to the neighborhood children to poke at him, sell the sticks too, but Balki says there’s more Mypos jokes they have to get through, like the Speaker of the Hut coming soon.
After allowing the studio audience time to stop clutching their sides, pick their gum back off the floor, and straighten their clothing over the word “hut”, Larry asks Balki to deliver the rest of the joke: The Speaker of the Hut of Representatives. He also runs a 4day Tires store, which was a California-based chain; what a great reference for a Chicagoan to make!
Balki prostrates himself before the Ritz Discount Royal and Larry has to quickly try to figure out how to game the system to get out of it (“get up” doesn’t work; “you may rise” does). The rule given here: whoever touches the king first after he dies becomes the new ruler.
Balki rushes to call Gusiki to announce the Appleton Dynasty, and when Larry hears that his face will be printed on the money, there’s a moment, held exactly the right amount of time, where Larry considers.
…Larry considers that his face will probably be stamped on cow chips…
…Larry considers having to be around people named shit like Duke of Beef Wellington and James, Earl of Carter, and Marquess Marq and the Funqy Bunch…
…Larry considers that the king’s coffers are probably going to end up being tuberculotic servants…
…Larry considers that the only armies he’ll have are Balki’s, in his sleevies…
…and tells Balki to not make the call. He has (oh His excellency) a plan and sends Balki off to buy a sampler of chocolate-covered goat parts.
Later, at Bedsore Castle, Balki runs in with chocolate and Larry is sitting with a wide-eyed Ferdinand. Larry and Ferdinand wave, and Balki thinks that Ferdinand is alive again.
Larry explains that the writers thought long and hard about having him trick Balki into thinking that Ferdinand died a second time, making Balki king, but they had already come up with “Weekend at Ferdinand’s” for the title and they really liked it so they wanted to stick with stealing that plot.
Larry, a true American, has wasted no time in setting up a puppet state. He explains that they’ll keep Ferdinand “alive” until the Speaker of the Hut arrives in a few hours.
The fuck? There’s plenty of time to just call off the whole reception and have only the Speaker come by! I want to see Larry do the dancing-with-attached-mannequins bit as badly as the next Casey Roberson, but can’t we get there with some semblance of reasoning?
(A note on the high-quality copies of these episodes. In this shot, actor Don Amendolia thinks that he is off-camera and safe enough to readjust his face. In both the METV and VHS rips I have, someone caught it and recropped the shot. The person who worked on getting these ready for Hulu is the spiritual grandson of the editor at Impel trading cards, I bet if there was an episode intended to be shown in black-and-white they’d forget to correct the color too.**)
The Cousins retreat to the kitchen again to let Don Amendolia go take a whiz. Larry wants to wait until the Speaker gets there so Ferdinand can Die In His Arms Tonight, but Balki thinks that Larry’s self-admitted faults–pushiness, greed, shallowness etc.–would make him a good leader.
HAHA BUSH YA BURNT SON
Larry asks if Balki knows the first thing he’ll do as King. Balki, who never metaphysics he didn’t like, guesses that Larry–who is a full three feet shorter than Ferdinand–will put a booster chair on the throne. Not a seat, mind you. A chair.
Larry actually threatens to turn Myops into a toxic waste dump (!), making all the Mypiots glow in the dark.
Balki: No, that will kill the market for Bartok’s products!
Balki admits Larry should not be king and does another one of those “well fuck me silly and call me a prostitute clown” lines. Larry draws out Balki’s suffering until they’re both crying that it’s too late now, it’s too late now…
Thankfully they don’t break into Carole King for a few minutes, and Balki gets on board with the plan to throw Ferdinand’s corpse onto the Speaker. They rush off to embalm Ferdinand with Clean for Life brand products.
That night, at the Whited Sepulchre–
I’m not sure what bugs me more: that almost none of the party guests even try to talk to Ferdinand, or that nobody bothered to come up with a reason Jennifer and Mary Anne aren’t there.
The Speaker of the Hut and his wife arrive, and they look immediately to the right, as is custom.
Their names are Walkitalki and Chattikathi.
Oh fuck on out of here with that.
Balki places his drink in Ferdinand’s hand; and when Cousin Larry waves at a woman, it causes the drink to splash in his face.***
Balki speaks Desperanto (“how’s it hangi?”) to Walkitalki and Chattikathi. Chattikathi actually goes by Cookie, because someone had the good sense to realize no actor is going to want to have to say Chattikathi more than once. And after this point, everyone refers to Walkitalki as Speaker, and this may be the closest I’ve ever seen a TV show come to admitting it told a bad joke.
Lynn Alexander does a lot with what they give her here as Cookie. The whole idea of it being funny for Myposians to not sound foreign has been trampled like so much wheat under Bronson’s immense collection of footwear, but when she says “Super” in what I’m guessing is her own American accent, it’s funny. They all squeal and say one of Balki’s catchphrases (“I’m a dirty foreigner!”) and then Balki shows them how to walk downstage so that the focus is taken off of you and put onto other actors.
Lydia, chatting with Gorpley, leans back too far on the couch, making her butt touch Ferdinand’s hand.
Then Ferdinand’s hand falls to the couch and Lydia sits on it.
She always said someday her prince would come. Well guess what–it was a fingy prince!
Then Lydia straddles King Flirtinhand and begins the ancient Myposian Ritual of Uglybumpiki, while an embarrassed Larry must make lewd gestures in the air two feet away so she doesn’t figure out it’s just angel lust.
Y’all, I love Lydia, and we’re only going to see her a few more times, so here’s a bunch of screenshots.
Walkitalki shouts and runs off to the kitchen. Balki relays to Larry that Walkitalki won’t talk to Ferdinand because they had some theological discussion about Certs mints.**** Evidently, while Larry looks, Lydia continues to flirt with Ferdinand by simply holding his hand and staring at him, while he does absolutely nothing. I’ll have to try out this tactic to get women the next party I’m at.
Because he has so much respect for the dead and his own country, Balki playfully makes Ferdinand’s hand slap Larry a few times. Larry says they have to hurry so they can do the last, crucial bit of physical comedy before the episode is over.
But–haha, joke’s on them, King Ferdinand is too fat! Remember that joke 20 years ago about how he was fat? Now it’s true! Hahaha oh god sitcoms will never not insult viewers’ values, will they?
Balki and Larry walk Ferdinand around by picking up his legs one at a time–not having thought ahead to put the Good Skates on him–and chase Walkitalki around the room. What happened to Myposians wanting to resolve their problems right away (cf. “The Defiant Guys”)? There was a fucking Mypos saying and everything!
You know, I sure do have a lot of complaints for an episode that I’m actually enjoying. Sure, Mary Anne and the wife one aren’t there, I wish there had been more time for Ferdinand to talk, and Balki slapping Larry with his hand can fuck all the way off. But this is a fun 15 seconds of the Cousins chasing Walkitalki and Cookie around the couch.
Usually the various crowds of people not reacting to the Cousins’ antics works to the detriment of the show’s reality, but here, they’re actually real people who talked to Balki long enough to realize how strange Mypos is and try not to stare.
Balki sends Cookie to sample the “sheep dip” which, if you’re like me and have only heard the term in contexts like this, you might be surprised to find out is actually an insecticide bath. He turns Walkitalki towards Larry, who pushes Ferdinand away without looking. Ferdinand falls flat on his face behind the couch so you don’t have to see his nose shatter.
Larry, just leave him there! Force a crisis and let the sovereign nation of Mypos come up with a better form of power changing hands!
Then they just drag the guy.
Larry tells Walkitalki that Ferdinand wants to apologize, and wow, show, you really got me good. You set it up so well! Ferdinand fell forward every time, so no one, not even me, saw it coming that he might fall backwards!
Unlike most cookies on this show, this one isn’t milklogged and doesn’t break in two. If you look real closely, you know, put your face up to the screen and squint, maybe even hit Ctrl and + a few times, you might be able to just make out Ferdinand’s royal scepter.
Two weeks later, Larry is doing a book of crossword puzzles***** and Balki enters with the mail. Larry gets a catalog from a short-man clothier. Balki got a letter from Mama.
We learn that Cookie brought back a nasty case of norovirus and infected half the island. Mama describes in detail the day where the kingship changed hands 20 times in a row (literally a row of people falling like dominoes onto one another).
Nah, j/k, Cookie’s a real party girl and the island has been celebrating with tractor pulls and demolition derbies. Since they can’t possibly have cars, this must involve shooting the sheep up with cocaine and running them into each other until their vital organs fail.
Whew! I’m glad Cookie didn’t enact any women’s rights, though! I was worried there for a second.
Mama also sent photographs of Ferdinand being strapped to a catapult and launched at Italy, where he’ll foul their beaches with his tattered, bloated flesh.
Join me next week for “Fright Night”!
Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Unused Larryoke Countdown #27: “Croaking for the Weekend” – Loverboy
Appearances left: Gorpley (4); Lydia (5)
*Seriously, though, it should be obvious: Mickey’s hands are already proportionally huge as it is. Can you imagine how painful fisting would be with one more finger?
**Those of you watching along on Hulu may be scratching your own heads at why I’m reviewing this episode this week and not “Door to Door”, especially as that episode would have let me make some pithy comment about how the cousins have exchanged one entryway for another. The filming order places “Door to Door” between “New House This” and “Well of Corpse Not”; and I even went as far as buying a TV Guide for October 5-11, 1991, and it had “Door to Door” listed for Oct. 11 as well. It turns out that the cousins harrassing a woman was replaced by the real thing, as Anita Hill’s testimony during the Clarence Thomas hearings was televised instead.
***Luckily Gorpley had not spiked the punch; had the drink been stronger, Larry’s nose might have smudged.
****They ruined this joke. Balki says they were arguing over “whether Certs is really two, two, two mints in one.” The joke would be that they’re arguing over whether it’s a candy mint or a breath mint. I should know, because I wrote that fucking joke a year and a half ago!
*****What’s a five-letter word for life? FRANK
2 thoughts on “Season 7, Episode 4: Weekend at Ferdinand’s”
I actually enjoyed this one way more than I expected to. It’s moronic, but it’s at least funny, and the physical comedy is inventive for a concept that was lifted wholesale from a popular film. Larry splashing himself with the drink was probably the best executed moment of physical comedy I’ve seen on this show. (Though an episode later this season outdoes it.) Larry reconsidering his abdication of the throne when he’s told his face will be printed on the money was genuinely perfect.
One odd thing was that this episode went through the effort of setting something up that should have had a big payoff…and then gave us nothing. When anyone meets Ferdinand, they are supposed to lie on the floor until he specifically says “You may rise.” This is established with Balki, then reinforced with Larry. Later, Balki prostrating himself in front of Larry cements the fact that there’s no way around it; you can’t rise until the king specifically says “You may rise.”
Considering the king is at a party in his honor and is also dead, this should have been a big wrinkle in the cousins’ plan, but I guess that would have required a second draft.
I also harbor a suspicion that this episode was originally intended to take place on Mypos, as that makes much more sense than transporting the entire Myposian government to the cousins’ living room, but the writers decided they didn’t want too many episodes this season taking place on Mypos. Probably rightly, but this one definitely feels like it’s being told on the wrong continent.
>Join me next week for “Fright Night”!
Nope. You’re on your own for that one.
As much as I’m down on the writers, I still try to maintain a generous bent in my thinking, and it’s hard to imagine a comedy writer not seeing the potential in what they set up. And it’s a sign of my own focus this week–on details and trying to match the zanier tone of this one–that I wasn’t thinking in that direction. Perfect Strangers suffers–and more this season than others, I think–by not giving itself enough time for anything but setup. The bit with the string could have worked in far less time. Larry trying to bring Balki on board with his plan takes 4 minutes away from the party scene. Keep Larry deciding whether to bask in regal glory; drop the torture, hell, we’ve seen it enough. Have them drag Ferdinand to the kitchen because the party guests are already at the door. Have Balki stall the excited crowd with the rules until Larry comes out side-by-side with a walking Ferdinand. Everyone drops to the floor, the Cousins share a nervous look, and Larry mimics his voice (poorly, but what does that matter?). Larry gets his stringed hand caught and flails, forcing Balki to improvise that he means he wants to sit while everyone enjoys themselves.