Season 7, Episode 13: Two Angry Men

I’m just going to call it Cousin House unless someone has a funnier name.


Larry is on the couch reading about the falling stock prices of Stuffed Bear, Inc. when Balki runs in, shouting “cousin” before he even would have seen Larry. (Switched places from last week, Larry wearing a shirt with a vague plant motif, do you see blah blah blah.)


Balki is excited to announce that he’s been given his first official duties as an American citizen: to participate in his local community, to stay informed of the issues affecting his community, and most importantly to respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.


Haha nah j/k he’s been called for jury duty, and tells Larry that they’ll be serving together. What a great citizen he’s turning out to be, opening other people’s mail! Larry wonders how in the hell they got picked for the same day.


Psychology sidebar: humans are terrible at probability. We act like outcomes with a set chance of happening–say, a coin flip–are impacted by a series of trials: that is, if we get tails three times, it’s suddenly more likely than 50% that the fourth flip will be heads. Or that it’s wild to find someone who likes exactly the same books and bands as you, casually forgetting that there are 300 million of us in this country and a finite number of books and bands that you were equally likely to have come into contact with. Look, even Spotify’s random setting isn’t truly random, because they found that users felt “true” randomness wasn’t random enough. (Never, ever ask me my opinion on the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.)


But we’re in a sitcom, so it has to be explained. Balki has been spending his lunch and coffee breaks every day for weeks to harass a public servant at the courthouse about putting his and Larry’s names at the top of “the list”. Balki says that he and Dave are now best buds. Really? Not only is Balki basically telling Larry that they’re not best buds, but also that he didn’t think it was worthwhile to tell him about what he assumed was the blooming of a new friendship in his life. Also, I’ve been in Dave’s place before. When you’re assigned to sit at a reference desk for hours every day, the people who think conversation is a monologue will find you. I’ve lost days of my life to these people. I’ve never hated Balki more than right now.

Dave agreed to be Balki’s accomplice for yet another federal crime in exchange for the promise that Balki would never, ever visit him again. Larry wonders why he never thought of that.


Balki goes upstairs to decide what to wear to jury duty. Which of his five shirts, three vests, four pants, or two suits will he wear?

Hey, speaking of clotheshorses, here’s Jennifer! She got them a great deal on plane tickets for their upcoming trip to Bermuda.


Jennifer looks forward to that good weather she’s heard is so nice, and Larry wishes only for three days’ freedom from Balki. It’s a small thing, but it’s a nice trend so late in the game.


The show is lurching into self-awareness here in its final stretches. After years of the Cousins’ metamorphosis into a flesh-and-blood Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, a breaking point was reached where it was impossible for the outside world not to see how obvious they are. For all that Balki used to serve as a corrective to Larry’s fears about himself–and for all that I joke they’ve switched places–Larry and Balki have swung further and further apart. Balki has finally drifted into wacky neighbor territory, where nobody of any mental capacity really wants him around. It’s an exciting development for Perfect Strangers, and one I had no reason to expect. It would be the equivalent of a ninth season of Full House where the Tanners got barred from every public event in San Francisco because they kept grabbing people’s microphones, Becky divorces Uncle Jesse, and Joey is sued by Laffy Taffy for stealing jokes.

I didn’t really see the relevance of this scene with the plane tickets, so you can imagine the sheer momentum of my jaw as it dropped hard enough to put a dent in my floor when Larry says that jury duty and Bermudy duty land on the same day!


I’ve got to ask: did jury duty used to work that way? That you couldn’t get out of it, even if you had a prior engagement, like being out of the country? And did it used to be that you’d get assigned to a case, hear it, and decide it all in one day? Either my experience on a jury was vastly different from everyone else’s, or television has gotten away with bad writing for years. Kind of a toss-up, really.

Jennifer says that their hotel room will have a waterbed, and this time it won’t be because there’s a leak in the roof right over it. Speaking of TV things I don’t understand: I’ve been promised for decades now that waterbeds are supposed to lead to the most stellar sex possible. Can someone who had sex in the late 70s chime in on this one?

Larry runs out, buys three car stereos, stashes them in Balki’s closet, and calls the police.


I’m hoping Sarah Portland will tell me why in the world this building has columns starting halfway up the side.


Judge Slin tells us that the jury must decide if Bob Taylor actually did rob Jerry’s Gas and Shop. Slow down, show, this is too many names to keep track of!

Oh man.


Look at these people.


They are already so fucking done with the Cousins’ bullshit.

Larry is the jury foreman and, like any responsible person who had previously been thrown in prison on the basis of biased interpretation of the law, starts demagoguing and tells everyone to send this guy to their chair for stealing a whole box of SweeTarts.


After counting 9 “guilty” votes and 3 “not guilty” votes, Larry is tactful enough to pretend he didn’t recognize Balki’s handwriting–


–and asks who the three people were.


Balki reminds Larry of the magnitude of the decision before him, and I can understand why Balki feels such gravitas. We had it hammered into us early on in this show that a single white lie gets you hellfire and brimstone, so I have to imagine that robbery gets you an eternity trapped in the sudoric folds of Satan’s scrotum.

Whoever the two other “not guilty” votes are, they must not be the ones who got any lines, because no one pipes up to argue their opinion.  Larry starts to recap the case, and since the police care so little about keeping the evidence in any sort of order, it’s all right there in a box.


Something I’m sure you’re all familiar with from courtroom dramas: when the police arrested L. Bob Burglar, they stripped all his clothes off to keep them as evidence. (It’s a pretty amazing jacket; someone obviously had fun putting those leather patches on the elbows.)

Balki says that the defendant was wearing brown pants, and that no one would wear brown pants with that jacket. I wish I had any idea whether they shaved some words off that line, and Balki meant that the robber was said to have been wearing brown pants the night of the crime, or if Balki just doesn’t understand that sometimes people change their pants on special occasions like going to court. Every single thing that Balki says or does now is some variation on how stupid he is, so I’ve lost all sense of which kinds of stupid he is or isn’t.


Larry hands Balki gun and then they start fighting over it, so add that to the list of kinds of stupid.


The last piece of evidence is a piece of paper that says that Bob had $214 on him when he was arrested. Larry says he doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence that the robber stole the same amount.


Academic-type sidebar: The principle of least effort states that I could end my sentence now because you know how to look it up on Wikipedia. But the principle also suggests you’re going to keep reading because that’s easier than opening another tab. Basically, any time we want something, we’re going to have in mind the minimum acceptable level/type of the thing we want, and we’ll put forth just enough effort to get that thing, and when we get the thing, we stop.

For instance, grass is remarkably inefficient at using the amount of sunlight it receives. It has no idea that cows could get more energy if it weren’t so photosynthetically lazy; it evolved only to the point where it would reliably get eaten and shat out. College students–it pains me to say as a university librarian–search in article databases until they get something that looks like the information they need. Gee, I wonder if maybe this principle could be applied to sitcom writing?

The principle of least effort also explains why we’re so lazy with language. It’s actually very realistic that Larry has described the very definition of coincidence. Whenever I take a shit, about 50 million people around the world are doing the same thing, but that doesn’t make it meaningful. You should all start adding “mere” to “coincidence” in these contexts. Also, yes, correlation does imply causation, otherwise no one would be bringing up the correlation in the first place; say “correlation does not prove causation”. This is the kind of thing I spend my time thinking about because I don’t have a waterbed.


Look at this, what the hell, they’re acting like schoolchildren! Look, it’s great that the show has realized that Larry and Balki have strayed so far from believable that anyone who meets them immediately feels in danger for their lives, but it shouldn’t have ten people act as one, or what’s the point? Also: I’ve served on a jury, and I bet a lot of you have too. But further than that, I’ve been in plenty of meetings as a university librarian. Even in the most inconsequential of groups–I led an open house committee for a few years, to plan an annual event where we let students play games in the library and gave away prizes–no group of people is this categorically mum. I can’t imagine anyone sitting and listening to these two talk for this long.

Balki gives us the rest of the facts of the case: Bob Taylor claims that the Real Robber, while fleeing Jerry’s Gas & Ass, threw the jacket–money and gun included–at him. Balki is willing to believe that Bob didn’t question this at all and wasted no time in putting the jacket on, not patting the pockets, and standing around until the cops came. I guess on an island where animals regularly come back from the dead and the local salvation myth is based on episodes of Lost in Space, everybody has learned not to question testimony.

Anyway, Balki is laying out the facts for this statistically-eventually-likely group of deaf-mutes who can read lips, and somehow it’s supposed to be more convincing than the actual testimony or argumentation in the courtroom.

Larry tells Balk his mens is so far from sana they might as well go ahead and take it off life support. Balki starts crying.


In some alternate universe, maddeningly close to us, Larry learns a lesson about how preponderance of evidence is all well and good in civil cases, but in criminal cases proof beyond a reasonable doubt is required. Larry demands they all vote again so he can get home and (heh) start that course of performance with Jennifer.

Balki votes “not guilty” again.


After spending all evening making sure Bob Taylor’s lawyer got in a considerable number of billable hours, the Cousins come home and commit juror misconduct by shouting the details of the case at each other. Balki storms off into the kitchen, and Jennifer comes down the stairs.


Larry assures her that the trial will be over early the next morning, and they can still make the flight to Bermuda, so he can, you know, habeas her corpus. So he can set up a program of enhanced intensive supervision. So he can submit his briefs for review.


So he can see if her precedent is on all fours. Okay I’m done.


Jennifer plans to pack only a string bikini, and Larry pops a huge boner at the thought of his wife washing neither her hair nor her vagina for days. Jennifer implies that she plans to not wear the bikini or leave the hotel because she anticipates Larry getting lost in her Bermuda triangle. So why not just go a few blocks down to the Motel 6? Balki and Mary Anne would never know the difference.

Larry comes–


–sorry, wrong screenshot, Larry comes into the kitchen to find Balki contaminating one whole goddam cheesecake through reforking.


Larry asks Balki to give his interpretation of the facts. Come on, show! You just proved to me you don’t give a shit about any one of the ten extras you hired getting a single line, why could this scene have not taken place in the deliberation room?

Surprise! The big reveal is that Balki is stupid! He says that Bob blinked 27 times during his testimony and crossed his hands right over left.

Balki then explains that on Mypos, those are the surest indicators of innocence, because criminals blink twice as much and openly masturbate throughout a trial. Larry allows that nonverbal communication is a powerful thing, something that can either confirm or disagree with someone’s words. But he asks Balki whether he would say that Americans share any of the same leaky channels that Myposians do, and more specifically whether he remembers their gesticular miscommunication in “The Ring”. Balki, at a rare loss for words, ponders how to articulate his answer–the universalities of human body language as evidenced by common facial expressions–in a way that Larry can understand. Larry goes on to say that a hung jury will almost certainly result in a new jury which will not include Balki.

Nah, j/k, none of that shit happens.  Larry repeats what Balki said and then calls him stupid. But!


Balki having a different cultural code of nonverbal tells is the kernel of a pretty good idea that could have let the episode go in some worthwhile directions. What’s interesting to me is that Balki is pointing to proof of innocence, where my pop culture upbringing has led me to believe that people only give themselves away when they lie; that difference itself fits with the Mypos of the early seasons. Any small amount of Larry pressing Balki to elaborate might lead to a joke where Balki has to acknowledge that no one on Mypos lies, so whatever he fixated on the first time he saw someone declared innocent became something he looked for every time after.

Or, hey, psychology sidebar: we’re incredibly bad at reading people we don’t know well. The fundamental attribution error is when we assume what someone does or says has everything to do with who they are, and nothing to do with their circumstance. Being on the stand would be a pretty extreme situation for most of us, and who knows how we might fidget? And we all grew up with different parents, who had different ways of facially (or otherwise) displaying emotions, and someone who displays them often can misinterpret someone who doesn’t. But more than that: if you asked five of your coworkers to tell you how they thought you were feeling, it’s likely you’d get five answers.*

If this show could be bothered to spend as much money on turkeys as it does on talking roles, we could have gotten a scene where Balki’s error becomes the story. Every single juror–even Larry–could be revealed to have based their opinions entirely on different nervous tics, wardrobe choices, or even how Bob reminds them of a kid they didn’t like in elementary school. Then you’d get an actual discussion of facts vs doubts, instead of this facts vs feelings mess that the writers think works as character-driven conflict.

I still believe that, deep down inside most episodes of Perfect Strangers, there’s a good story that could have been realized. Back in the early seasons, there were some stories that I felt must have started out better and suffered from the dual demands of physical comedy and pat lessons that let the Cousins off the hook. This one seems more to be a good story idea that Perfect Strangers stepped on on its way to page 24 and neglected to do more than check the bottom of its shoe.

Perfect Strangers doesn’t understand which things to throw out and which to keep, and the vast but vile landfill it would have to sift through to find one shiny trinket is far too much work. If you want a callback to critical theme, scroll up to the top of this review. I’ve got enough work getting through the next 8 minutes of this episode.

Balki says that all of the evidence was circumcisional, and Larry corrects his error by way of demonstration. Then he takes Balki up in a balloon for 80 days to rule out circumnavigational, pulls out a compass to show him circumscribing, and man I swear that joke sounded better in my head. Anyway this might be the only time that Balki was ever openly hypocritical, enjoy it.

Hey, you know what would be a great direction to go at this point? If you said “have the Cousins re-enact the crime but then stop before they really start”, a career in sitcom writing awaits you.

Larry finally lets slip his real reasons for wanting a swift end to deliberation:


Larry: All I care about is my balls slapping Jennifer’s asshole!


Larry: I mean– justice’s asshole!


Balki finally found a bridge to an emotion other than drooling, and picks Cousin Larry up by his collar, and there’s absolutely no way this revelation could have impacted 10 other people with stakes even vaguely similar to either of their own.


Larry starts babbling about Jennifer’s itsy bitsy teenie weenie amount of personality and how desperately he wants to see it. Balki shares his own disappointment: that he didn’t get to ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl at whatever carnival operates only in the daytime.


The next day, at the Cook Covnty Criminal Covrt Hovse, Balki is repeating “27 times” to a tired fellow juror. This, this is where the episode should have gotten to 6 minutes ago.


We also learn that Balki eats a whole clove of garlic every day and then doesn’t brush his teeth. I had taken those aspects of his personality as given, but it’s still nice that the show confirmed it. This guy calls on the other 9 to help him unleash a little juror furor on Balki.


It’s really obvious that they only paid two of these extras to talk, so it’s actually pretty scary when a group of silent adults rushes Balki.


Larry stops them, claiming first right of murder, and sticks up for Balki’s right to be an idiot. Sure, fine, this is an idea I can get behind in the broad sense, but certainly not in the specific. When a potential criminal’s punishment is on the line maybe isn’t the best time to argue that citizens have the right to be completely uninformed about how their country works.

Then, I don’t know, Larry joins the mob in chasing Balki–


–and then one second later tries to stop them again because who fucking cares what order pieces of the plot occur, or where they even take place?


Balki shushes track 23 from volume 1 of “Sitcom Sounds” (“Subdued but riled mob (mixed sexes)”) and speaks. His listeners held their cigarettes poised to hear, their smoke ascending in frail stalks that flowered with his speech. It was the speech, mark you, of a finished orator, full of courteous haughtiness and pouring in chastened diction.

Nah j/k he talks about sheep what the hell did you think was going to happen?


Finally, Bailiff Dick comes in and tases them all. (Ken Thorley, who you likely remember from one of the dozens of similar roles he did back then, has a great shouting-at-mobs voice.) I support the Black Lives Movement, but I still think the funniest part of this episode is this peace officer coming in and not even batting an eye at the obvious imminent murder of a member of a minority group.


The real robber–who, you’ll remember, while running away from the scene of the crime threw away his gun and the entirety of the money he stole and likely did not see the arrest, and who couldn’t know that someone else was on trial for his crime–turned himself in. Juror # this guy apologizes to Balki for almost murdering him and Balki forgives him. Perfect Strangers is determined that you believe that lying is the worst sin a person can commit.


Larry tells Balki he imagines that being attacked by a mob probably wasn’t the experience he was looking for.


Balki: No, in my fantasy it was eleven Cousin Larries.

Larry: Well, the important thing is you got everything you wanted.


Balki: Not… everything, Cousin…

(They kiss)

So, our angelic Balki has gone from saving innocent souls from dog prison to saving them from human prison.  Justice was served, even though no one, individually, served justice. Breaker Morant got nothing on this!

There’s more: Larry gets rewarded for his shitty behavior too. Bailiff Dick tells him that airlines have to honor tickets for flights missed because of jury duty, and goes off to get him the proper paperwork.

Wow, what a great piece of information that literally no other character on this show could possibly have known!

Balki gloats that he and Mary Anne will have the house to themselves.


The Cousins have a good laugh about how this will give Balki the opportunity to gaslight her about their relationship with absolutely no distractions.


So, this week’s lessons: you can be annoying to everyone on the basis of no logic whatsoever and pure dumb fucking luck will save your ass. A white man can prize his own interests over those of the American justice system and still be rewarded. You can make a habit out of bringing in 10 extras and only pay one of them to say three lines**. You can write a single draft of a major TV network sitcom and still get it on the air.


Join me next week for “Missing”!


Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (0)

Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (1)

Unused Larryoke countdown #18: “I Fought the Law and For No Apparent Logical Reason I Won” — The Crickets

*see Heidi Grant Halvorson’s No One Understands You and What To Do About It

**see also season 7, episode 1, “Ten Horny Men”


2 thoughts on “Season 7, Episode 13: Two Angry Men

  1. I kept thinking that we must have missed this episode, maybe Hulu didn’t have it or something. Until the part about Jennifer’s bikini.*

    so yeah, pretty memorable season 8 episode there, writers.

    *I am ashamed to say that I failed to realize how complicit we ALL were in the objectification of women–women too–until very recently. Because if you didn’t laugh, you weren’t one of the guys, ya know?

    Liked by 1 person

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