Season 4, Episode 22: Wedding Belle Blues

Hey, y’all!  Before I get to the review, I’ve got some big news!

Now that we’re (kinda) halfway finished with this blog, it’s time to celebrate with a livestream!  I think that’s what we do now when we reach milestones for dumb 80s sitcom blogging.  I’ll do one here, and one towards (or at) the very end, sometime in 2024.

So what I’m going to do is stream 6 or 7 full episodes of Perfect Strangers on Friday, April 14, from 8PM EST until triple question marks. The episodes will be interspersed with some choice tidbits, as well as

larryoke

That’s right, you heard right, I have written parody lyrics for a bunch of songs and I then offered my first-born child to a bunch of different people to sing them.  (Shh! don’t tell)

I’m definitely going to show you the best (“Get a Job”) and the worst (“The Break In”), but you all get to decide the others!  Here’s a Survey Monkey survey:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GZDX8Z9

All you do is let me know what your favorite two episodes from each season are.  I’ll do some hot data-wrangling and figure out what the top four (or five?) are and put ’em in a queue.

So do that survey, come to the stream, listen to Larryoke songs.  The episodes will be family-friendly, but the songs won’t be, and neither will the chat. In fact, I highly recommend that you all coordinate beforehand so you don’t all show up with the same swear word.

For now, on to the season 4 finale!

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001

The Caldwell Hotel: where previously indicating death, or uncertainty, now is shuttered to us.  This whole season has been a series of failed attempts to get the cousins into or through a party, stopped alternately by their own individual faults, or their focus on each other.  Sound, as always, is ruled by a different physics here, meaning that we hear “Happy Birthday” loud and clear.  It is an announcement to the world that the cousins have rejected all other festivities in favor of their own, and that they alone choose who attends.  It is we few who are privileged enough to see Balki’s birthday party.

002

Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) are there, as well as Harriette (*sniff*), Gorpley, PaulAndre, PaulAndre’s wife (?), that woman from the basement, that guy from the basement Balki tried to kiss, and a couple of others. I assume Harriette gave Carl his own cake so he wouldn’t eat everything there.  I don’t see Lydia, so she must be off with the clown she “hired” to “perform”.

003

Hey, look! Someone got Balki a plush cat. After 4+ years, Dmitri must have been stiff as a board.  Balki says that at the age of 25, a Myposian becomes a man.

Mary Anne asks what he was before, which is a reasonable question about how stages of development are split up in a foreign culture. I mean, after all, here in America we have plenty of fuzzy age categories: newborns, babies, infants, toddlers, children, adolescents, pre-teens, tweens, teenagers, 20-somethings, young adults.

004

A guy has come to visit! He has slightly darker skin, black hair, and a weird shirt.  Forget that he speaks better English than Balki does now, he’s definitely a foreigner!

005

They touch each others’ faces as a greeting. This man is named Verbos Verazones, and he is from the island of Pathos, which lies to the east of Mypos (another island, Skeptos, lies to the west).  Balki says that Verbos doesn’t “look pathetic”.  First of all, GEE I WONDER WHAT PEOPLE FROM SKEPTOS ARE CALLED?? Second, that is a perfectly written joke about how foreign languages are actually English.

Now that the show has spent a whole minute on the island names joke, Balki and Verbos keep thanking each other in very abasing ways because they are both foreign.

Verbos gives Balki a “mooko cookie”, which was a funny joke until Gorpley is forced to step on it (the joke, not the cookie). But there’s another gift from Balki’s mom!

006

Aww, Balki’s mom remembered that her son is on a sitcom and would need something to choke on when he got the news that he’s going to be married to Kiki Karadopolous.  She’s so sweet (his mom, not the cookie, I can’t vouch for the cookie).

Later, Balki says he got Kiki and Verbos settled “in the hotel” and Larry assumes the flowers are for an upset Mary Anne. Mary Anne was upset because the gift she got for Balki now symbolizes what he’s going to get from Kiki.

007

Balki, in what must be a Myposian tradition, rips the petals off the flowers, turning it into a festive garbage plant.

Balki starts talking about how it’s the end of the season and with this many speaking roles, there’s no way there’s room left in the budget for a third location, so they should have the wedding in the apartment.

Cousin Larry can’t believe that he’s going through with it, but Balki explains that the dowry (a goat) has already been paid.  There’s some high-falutin’ language there (the goat is a standard short-form inter-island marriage agreement), meaning that Mypos, with its Flintstones-era photography and its use of vegetables in sport, has made some effort to keep up with the changing world around it.  Mypos has adopted the language of the business world to legitimize its traditions to the new generations.  Also, you may remember from the episode “I’m Balki, Fly Me” that a woman could cost multiple goats.  This means that Kiki’s not exactly a catch.

Another throughline for this season has been the tortured joke setups.  Balki starts decorating the apartment with yet more items that were packed into that one backpack he brought with him in the first episode.

Larry: I’ve had it with traditional Myposian bull.

008009

Larry pushes Balki. Are you going to be happy with this woman? Huh? Do you even know her? Does she even have nipples?

010

Hey, lay off, cuz! I mean, look, Balki’s been trying to get Myposian stuff into a season finale for a few years now.  He only managed to write the letter E all weird on a banner in season 1; he created folk art using Larry’s belly button lint in season 2; he tried getting a real person from Mypos in season 3, but, as you well know (say it with me now)

biki

And even though this whole scenario brings up a couple of questions (why didn’t Balki’s family come? why isn’t this taking place on Mypos? how did Balki not suspect that being given a bride was a thing that happened often on one’s 25th birthday?) I want to say that I really do like it. It’s not like Balki was ever running away from his origin. He wanted his experience in America to be additive as well as transitive.  But in the past four years, he’s become more American than he predicted, and certainly moreso than his family knows. For all that he holds on to some of his past–medicine, wisdom, cuisine–he embraced his future.  It was a lesson he learned last season around this time, when his Yaya died, but Mypos didn’t stay buried.  Its ghost has come back and thrown his life into peril. But not Yaya Biki’s ghost!  Can you imagine if this show did episodes about, like, actual ghosts? That’s too silly, even for you, show.

Balki is Myposian to the core, and here, his internal struggle is the focus.  Usually we see the cousins mudwrestling about whether the toilet paper roll should go over or under, but only Balki is fighting now. He’s bound by tradition, but must give up his gains (here, Mary Anne). Balki must make a choice between mother/land and love/American style, and that choice may well define who he is from now on.  As if Balki’s identity being at stake weren’t enough, this situation throws the cousins’ relationship–their life–into peril. No matter what Balki does, someone will be hurt.

It’s a good setup! So I assume that by 15 minutes in, the cousins will be writhing on the floor covered in wedding cake.

Ah, one more point: Kiki would be shunned in the eyes of her fellow Pathetics if she returns home rejected. No other man will ever take her as a bride. There’s a joke setup about how she’ll have to wear a “scarlet letter”.

Okay, this is a first for me and this blog. I am going to type out the punchline that I think would be funny before hearing the show’s. You have no reason to believe me that I’m being honest, but here goes.  Punchline: something along the lines that she’s wearing a copy of the book.

The show’s punchline:  R for Returned

Cousin Larry asks if there’s any way out of the marriage. Evidently, Zapotsi Polipopolou got out of an arranged marriage to Michi Boomba only because the earth opened up and swallowed him.

Since Family Matters hadn’t even started yet, there’s no way for Balki to time travel and have his wife rebel against Moses. Too bad.

012

Have you ever watched Clue? I’ve watched it a couple of times, but it’s one of those movies where you have to pay attention to so many things–like who’s not in which scene, and might be a suspect in a given murder.  Well, Clue’s got nothing on this, because it turns out that Lydia wasn’t at the birthday party because SOMEBODY had to ask for a recap in this scene.

She knows all about falling in love quickly and asks if she needs to dress up like a man to repay the favor they did for her.

013

Harriette tells Larry that knowing that Balki’s marriage was arranged is enough for the audience and takes Lydia away.

014

At last, we see Larry’s bedroom and… it’s the most boring bedroom in all of Chicago.  I mean, look, he’s got a Norman Rockwell painting framed and matted, and probably some of Larry’s substandard photographic efforts. No doubt there’s a George Michael poster on the ceiling.

015

Larry and Balki are finally together in the bedroom, and I think you can all understand why the cousins are acting awkward around each other in this scene.  This moment was supposed to happen so differently.  Not with a bunch of people in the living room. Not in the middle of the day.  They each had varying fantasies about what physical comedy scenario would get them here.

Changing lightbulbs, putting a bug bomb in Balki’s room, replacing Larry’s mattress, taking a sign language class so Balki could invite all his new friends to stay over. It would certainly happen eventually, right? But neither wanting their advances spurned, they waited too long. They talk about Balki’s sword for a minute and about how the wife uses it to get the sheep out of the bedroom so her husband doesn’t get confused and go for any ol’ vagina.

Larry sits Balki down and Balki thinks it’s because Larry is going to teach him about sex.  “You learn a lot from watching sheep”. Yeah, haha, if you pay close attention, even from behind you can tell whether they’re into it or not!

017

Larry wants to say goodbye, but he’s having trouble expressing his emotions. For those of you keeping count at home, Larry says they’ve been together three years, even though Balki said four last week.

016

Balki and Larry don’t kiss one final time.

Larry’s surprise for Balki is that he got Mama on the phone to hear the ceremony. Couldn’t buy him some art, ya fuckin’ cheapskate? Balki leaves to say “dazoo odoyeye”* to his mother.

Here, for the second time in this blog’s history, I am going to type out the punchline that I think would be funny before hearing the show’s. You have no reason to believe me that I’m being honest, but here goes.  Punchline: Balki’s mom says “Balki!” in that shrill way of hers and also says “Kiki!”. Why else would they have named her Kiki?

We’ll come back to that, because we’re sticking here with Cousin Larry and Verbos for a minute.

018

UH-OH, Verbos is sad. You’d never guess why, so I’ll just have to tell you: he’s in love with Kiki.

019

I guess I have to assume that this is Jennifer’s bedroom. After all, it has Jennifer’s personality all over it: what your grandparents’ guest bedroom must have looked like when they first decorated it.

Since Kiki is here, this is a wonderful opportunity for Jennifer to let her know what America is like, what Balki’s like, how being in America has changed him.

020

Oh, no, wait, we just get the same exact scene about secret crushes, but with women saying the lines. I’d say this scene is about, oh, 66% the length of the other one.**

021

Kiki says she would sooner throw herself into the ocean than walk around Pathos with an R on her chest and the studio audience laughs.

022

I…

fuck

Fuck you, studio audience.

Fuck you, Robert Blair. Robert Blair is the guy who wrote “Assertive Training”, where Larry tells his girlfriend that she can’t see a friend who’s visiting because it’s some threat to his masculinity. Robert Blair is the guy who wrote “That Old Gang of Mine”, where Mary Anne turns down the career opportunity of a lifetime (not to mention escape from her “friend” who insults her constantly) just so she can be around a guy who, by any assessment, would never realistically be promoted past mailboy. Robert Blair is the guy who wrote “The King and I”, the sole joke of which was that Balki had palsy.

He did okay in season 3 (“To Be Or Not To Be” and “The Graduate”), but Robert Blair is a fallen angel. Look: he’s the guy who “wrote” “Piano Movers”.**

This “joke”–that one man rejecting a woman means the population of three islands will reject her as a person, leaving her with no better option than death–may be the worst thing I’ve seen this show do. I am very relieved to see that Robert Blair is not credited with any episodes after this point. Since you don’t see this as a reader, I want to tell you. You’re going to keep reading the next paragraph right after this one. But I’m having a lot of trouble even hitting play again on this episode.

023

Balki leaves the apartment and runs into Mary Anne and god DAMN it they’re never going to use that fire extinguisher, are they?

Balki: It will take me years and years before I feel about Kiki the way I already feel about you.

What feeling is that?  Mentally superior?

024

Balki asks if they can still be friends, and, um, no. They won’t be. How many times have you remained friends with someone you dumped? Friends have to do things together.

Balki tells Mary Anne to sit right up in front so she and Kiki can count each others’ tears.

025026027

Balki hugs Reverend Bacon and apologizes for his raging boner.

(Balki acknowledges that the usual guy who performs the marriage ceremonies (Mooki, who lives on Mt. Mypos) would die if he came to America!)

Reverend Bacon says he’s used to doing strange weddings because he used to live in California!  Californians are just so dang nonspecifically WEIRD, amirite?

028

Harriette used to be some hot shit on this show.  She had all the dirt on everybody, she wasn’t afraid to tell anyone what’s what. Now, in her final moments, she just says the lines that need to be said to move things along She’s been on the phone with Mama, so she hands it to Balki (the phone, not the cookie, Balki ate the cookie 13 minutes ago, why do you keep thinking it’s the cookie).

Cousin Larry is right by Balki’s side, to give the groom away (that should register as a simple cultural difference, but the audience laughs, their brains long since withered to the size of bibibabkas).  Giving the groom away involves the cousins walking and shaking their asses, symbolizing the tender moments they’ve shared, and also what they’ll never have from one another again. Showing you the whole thing because Mark Linn-Baker is great right at the end.

Butts are funny.

Kiki comes in, approaching the altar to the tune of Richard Wagner’s “Treulich geführt” (“Here Comes the Bride”), but it’s with different instrumentation because Kiki is FOREIGN.

029

We learn from Reverend Bacon that Kiki is the daughter of Atilla and Chichi Karadopolous.  Haha man it’s so good to know that the islands where women can’t hold positions of power in society–or their own personal lives–still has a fuckton of silly names.  Makes it all balance out!

032

While Reverend Bacon talks about, like, love or God or some shit, Jennifer and Larry exchange the admirers’ secrets, whispering very loudly.

031033

Larry suddenly remembers that they all have five-year contracts, and that ratings have been great this year, so he jumps up and yells to stop the wedding.

This whole episode has been a question about how few people can be hurt by any choice. So I have to say that Larry revealing Kiki’s and Verbos’s feelings and trying to call off the wedding is one of the most effective “Larry tries to help but makes things worse” I’ve seen, because now all three of the foreigners end up sadder than they already were. Even Dmitri is wearing black, as if in morning.

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Larry tries to do the Dance of Joy, but Balki says that tradition demands he still get married.

I’m not qualified to get into it much, but there’s been a long-standing debate about how where to draw the line in critiquing other cultures. Critiquing them implies that the critic is from a “better” culture; but this runs the risk of not understanding another’s values, thought processes, and personhood. We are all bound by our culture’s values to some extent, and our individual lives are often stories of negotiation with those values.  Here, we see which side of the debate Larry supports:

Larry: What is it with you people?

Mama calls for her son, saying that Kiki’s parents will not give the goat back (the goat is named “Linki” and is “gifted”).

037

Harriette gets one last confused look in at the strange things white people do behind closed doors.

Balki says that the marriage must take place.

041

Balki gives the penis symbol to Verbos and Mary Anne cheers because she is happy SO GODDAM DUMB FUCKING FUCK

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Let’s tie things back to the first scene up there: Balki has celebrated becoming a man by letting his mother fix his problems for him. Nah, I’m just being a shit. Balki’s mother getting to flout the law makes women’s status in the Tri-Island area much more murky.  Is it okay because she’s doing it to honor Balki’s wishes? Is it okay because she’s a matriarch? Is it okay because she has a mustache? Is it okay because she’s saving a woman from suicide? Given everything we know about Mypos, it fucking ought to be that last one.

But did Robert Blair even consider this question?

038

Later on, Mary Anne takes pity on the scrawniest of my running jokes, saying she wants to imbibe brown liquids with Balki.

So how shall Balki sum up his feelings about not having to leave the woman he might be dating?

Balki: Dead horses couldn’t drag me away.

Larry gave the newlyweds a present: a night’s stay in the bridal suite of the Evanston Econolodge. Larry and Balki take pride in having facilitated the boners of another.

042

The internal balance of the world of Perfect Strangers has been restored. The cousins will stay together, the women have left the room, and nobody that matters had to make any tough choices. But is it still a soft reset in a broader sense? Balki did get his $100 back two weeks ago, but now we find that Mama is still on the phone.  Remember, kids, this was the 80s, where international calls cost by the minute.

Mama’s talking in Myposian, but I’ll translate: she wants to know why nobody thought to have her yell “Kiki!”.

043

She won’t get off the phone until they do the Dance of Joy. She knows it’s a real crowdpleaser, and a great way to end any episode, not to mention a whole season.

danceofjoy.gif

Next week: sex, lies, and videotape

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

Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0); Verbos (let’s just say Kiki doesn’t feel pathetic anymore)

Dance of Joy running total: 14
*”dazoo odoyeye”=”you’ve ruined my life forever”

**the correct wage gap percentage for 1989. BOOM

***evidently Blair would write his scripts very quickly, for whatever that’s worth: https://books.google.com/books?id=ypJVXEF6bWQC&pg=PT132&lpg=PT132&dq=robert+blair+writer+television&source=bl&ots=GzH2Pe9hsM&sig=lOdNwngH5CKOr_MCvcO37CKjnns&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwibv-eWyJPRAhWE6IMKHWULABQQ6AEILjAD#v=onepage&q=robert%20blair%20writer%20television&f=false

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Season 4, Episode 8: College Bound

001

We open in front of the Caldwell, where we find that grifter Carl Lewis has stolen a bicycle.

002

Inside, the red and black Tinas are getting a party ready and continuing their endless checkers game of insults and threats.

003

The party is to congratulate Balki on passing his entrance exams and getting into college. Larry is worried on behalf of his cousin’s feelings and hopes that Balki has not failed the test.

Children of the 90s and up: be aware that in the late 80s, you had one chance to get into college, and if you didn’t make it, you were forced into hard labor.

So, wait–so he hasn’t gotten there to tell you whether he passed or not? Are all of you going to hastily change “gratu” to “so” on the Congratulations poster?

004

Mary Anne (Sagittarius) shows off not only her memory of how long ago Balki graduated from Adult Evening Classes High School, but also the fact that she went to college and wrote her dissertation on hydrocarbons and glycerides; both of which earn her this look:

005

She’s also decided on cleavage as the way to congratulate Balki

and

uh

I’m not going to show you what kind of look that earned from me.

*hastily releases sexual tension by abusing a Scantron sheet*

006

Oh. Look at that. We’re getting a clip show. The entire third season saw this show being selective with its memory, so it’s a somewhat refreshing change to see, between the two-parter and this episode, it actually letting us know what actually happened.  I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you why clip shows existed, or why they suck. You know, or you could look it up. So let’s try an experiment, because otherwise this week’s post will be only 500 words.

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007

LARRY: Yeah, I can’t believe he’s come so far so fast! And if you had seen him when he first walked through my door, you wouldn’t have thought he was college material….

JENNIFER: What would I have thought?

LARRY: Hm?

MARY ANNE: Yeah, what kind of material was he? Burlap?

LARRY: No, he (looks at MARY ANNE) No, he was just a complete, he was, I mean, he couldn’t, well… he smelled.  (pause for audience laughter)

LARRY: Aaaand he kept touching me, and it was like thiiiis whole… world… opened up.

(beat of silence)

JENNIFER: How do you mean?

(A brief look of fear, of having been found out, passes over LARRY’s face)

LARRY: Well, I’d, uh, (speaks quickly) I’d never heard of Mypos before.  And I’d never heard of any distant family. And when he called America the “Home of the Whopper”, it was like the ground disappeared beneath my feet, and I began to question my whole Weltanschauung, Iiiii saw in that one innocent malapropism the full extent of capitalism’s undiscerning hunger, that there was no corner of the world that it could not reach, no peasant whose soul would not be tainted by the idea that the height of civilization meant nothing but to be a consumer, and not only that, but to consume a product whose very name is synonymous with lying and whose nature was already too big for its purpose…

MARY ANNE: (giggling) That’s funny!

LARRY: …how?

MARY ANNE: “Home of the Whopper” instead of “Home of the Brave”. I like that.

________________________________________

While it is interesting to see just how much Bronson Pinchot’s “Balki” accent has changed over the years, this is outweighed by the fact that I swore I would never re-watch any of these episodes.

You got me, show.  You got me good. Fuck you, show.

Cousin Larry sets out the conflict/question of the episode. He claims to have been there to help Balki transition into life as an American, and an adult; he mentions that it was he who gave Balki an introduction into the world of dating.

________________________________________

008

JENNIFER: You know, Balki told me about the time you took him to that singles bar…

LARRY: He did?

JENNIFER: The way Balki tells it, you were both babes in the woods. (turns to Harriette, smiling) So Larry took Balki to a singles bar to meet women, and it didn’t turn out very well.

HARRIETTE: I ain’t surprised, sugar. These two wouldn’t know how to treat a woman if she came with an instruction booklet. And one of ‘em can’t read, neither!  So what happened?

JENNIFER: It didn’t turn out very well.

HARRIETTE: What we talkin’ here, honey? The women turned out to be hookers? They turned out to be hookers with STDs? They turned out to be men?

JENNIFER: Not necessarily.

LARRY: No, you see, Balki had some very strange ideas about how to pick up women. He–

JENNIFER: Whose story is this, yours or mine?

LARRY: It, uhhhh (to HARRIETTE) look, Balki was trying to act black, and he wasn’t even any good at it. I mean, is “mommo” even something you people… I mean, your people… I mean, that is–

JENNIFER punches LARRY in the stomach

HARRIETTE: Thank you, sweetie, go on, what kind of disaster was it?

JENNIFER: Balki had trouble asking a woman out, and so did Larry.

HARRIETTE: Look, honey, you want somebody to pull teeth, go see a dentist.

(HARRIETTE makes as if to stand up)

JENNIFER: Balki got a date with a woman, but when Larry asked out a different woman, her boyfriend showed up, took him out back, and beat him up.

009

HARRIETTE (laughing): And what happened with Balki’s date?

MARY ANNE: We killed her and dumped her body in the Chicago River.

HARRIETTE (laughing harder): Balki didn’t tell me you was so funny! I’m’on tell my husband–my husband works in homicide–I’ll tell him that one tonight, he likes a good laugh. Smile, baby, I know you’re joking.

010

JENNIFER: —

________________________________________

There was a hell of a lot of that singles bar scene, almost four minutes of it!  Lydia demands confirmation that Larry got thrashed by Jerseyman.  Larry hems and haws because, well, yes, getting hit was part of it, but it was all consensual.

013

Larry then brags that he helped Balki by mentioning how Balki helped someone else:

________________________________________

LARRY: For instance the time he invited his friend Gina to, to stay with us while her husband was out of town.

JENNIFER: Gina, isn’t she the one who had her baby while she was staying with you?

LARRY: Yes–

JENNIFER (to MARY ANNE, angry): I told you she was married.

MARY ANNE: Oops!

LARRY: –in the middle of the night! And if I had not been there with one of my fool-proof plans, well, there is no telling what would have happened.

LYDIA: That’s… interesting. The way I heard it, your plan sort of fell apart. (to everyone)  Larry had rehearsed everything, using a stopwatch.

HARRIETTE: Lemme guess, he fucked it up.

014

LYDIA: Did he!  Balki told me that Larry had been arguing about the hot side of the bed, whatever that means, and he always sleeps really deeply after a fight.

LARRY (mumbling): Oh my Lord…

LYDIA: So once Gina starts going into labor, Balki has trouble waking Larry, but once he’s up, he starts freaking out, running into tables, breaking the lamp—

LARRY: I didn’t… brrreeeak the lamp, I–

LYDIA: Either way, Larry, we’re going to have to talk about your hangups with furniture some day. I could do a whole week of columns on that! Where was I? So he’s shouting at Balki, shouting at Gina–

LARRY: It was all happening so fast, I… I just wanted to do it right…

LYDIA (laughing): –running around in circles, throwing jackets–don’t know why I remember that part–

LARRY: She said she was cold, I just thought…

LYDIA: And then they don’t even get to the hospital, Larry slams on his brakes in the middle of the street–

LARRY (speaking in what comes close to a child’s voice): I didn’t mean to kill her!

(a few uncomfortable beats of silence)

MARY ANNE: You didn’t, Larry, we–

JENNIFER waves MARY ANNE to silence.

LARRY (sobbing into hands): I mean… the mis… the miscarriage.

LYDIA: Larry, the baby was fine. Balki told me how you babysat Little F–

LARRY: No. My… my… sister…

HARRIETTE: The piano player?

LARRY: Not Elaine… Margaret.  They… were going to name her Margaret. My dad always wanted to have 10 kids, you know, he wanted to call us the “Apple Ten”, but it was my fault–Dad looked me right in the eye and said it was my fault. I didn’t… he… I was so excited to have another sister, I thought, I thought maybe this one would be nice to me, and I wanted to show her I was a friend. Th-th-that night before, my mom said she was cold, and so I thought mmmmmaybe Margaret was cold, too, and I

HARRIETTE: Honeychile, I already had me three miscarriages, that ain’t nothing. (to LYDIA) Go back to that part about him stopping in the street, that was hilarious.

LARRY: …so I turned her side…

LYDIA: So Larry just slams on the brakes in the middle of an intersection! Can you believe it?

LARRY: …the heated mattress… I turned her side all the way up…

(all four women continue to laugh while LARRY sobs uncontrollably)

(cut to commercial)

________________________________________

JENNIFER – *clears throat* – Jennifer expresses worry about Balki not being there yet, and Lydia starts expressing her own fears about test-taking.  Harriette, sensing weakness, insults her. Lydia retreats to regroup her defenses.

015

Cousin Larry picks up his argument that he has been nothing but a help to Balki.

________________________________________

LARRY: He always needs me to get through these pressure situations. Well, if I wasn’t there to help him, he wouldn’t have gotten through his first day of work.

MARY ANNE: At the discount store?

LARRY: The what?

MARY ANNE: The Ritz Discount store? Downstairs?

LARRY: I don’t… Paoli’s Pizza is downstairs.

MARY ANNE: We used to be on the store’s baseball team?

LARRY: Wwwe work for the Chronicle. It’s a newspaper.

016

HARRIETTE: Wait a minute. I was there. And I wouldn’t call what you did “help”. Now Gorpley was looking for a reason to fire Balki, and Larry was trying to write his first article for the newspaper, when all of a sudden they just start fucking around with this old mimeograph machine.

JENNIFER: So then what happened?

LARRY: Balki cut my lucky tie!

HARRIETTE: Shut up, baby. That was all. They just fucked around with the machine and broke it.  Made this huge mess, paper and ink all over the damn place.

(LYDIA laughs out loud, and then sees that HARRIETTE is looking at her. LYDIA stops laughing and looks away quickly)

HARRIETTE: Mm-hmm.

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Yep, there’s nothing so fun as listening to someone sitting in a chair, unmoving, while they describe a physical comedy scene!

Larry begs the women to think of all the times that he actually helped Balki.

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Ultimately, all of these women know by now that the cousins “helping” each other boils down to them shooing everyone off-screen and playing the Myposian version of “doctor”.

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MARY ANNE: What about the time that Larry enlisted me and Jennifer in helping Balki get over his bad dreams? Or the time when Larry helped Balki cope with the loss of his dog? Or when he taught Balki how to drive? Or when he helped him not get taken advantage of by his night school classmates on two different occasions? Or when he taught him how to ask for more than he wants during negotiations so that he gets the most important things? Or when he helped Balki learn that sometimes couples work things out in their own way, and meddling isn’t helpful? Or when he helped cure Balki of a crippling addiction? Or when he had honest fear for Balki’s life when they let that guy we used to work for stay here? Or when he helped Balki realize that not every interpersonal problem can be addressed right away?

(Everyone stares at MARY ANNE, dumbstruck. We get the impression they are wondering if the idiom “too dumb to live” is descriptive or prescriptive)

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MARY ANNE: Oh! You wanted me to say about a time when Larry messed something up!

(The others collectively let out their held breath)

JENNIFER: Yes, please, thank you.

(MARY ANNE closes her eyes, sets her mouth in a determined line, and begins to vibrate. A pink nimbus surrounds her hair, and the room grows dark, the rosy light reflected in the others’ eyes.  Above her head, a shimmering, ethereal expanse appears, not entirely unlike a vintage projection screen, flickering at first but becoming stable as a three-and-a-half-minute scene of LARRY and BALKI, as viewed from the southern wall of MARY ANNE and JENNIFER’S bathroom, is shown.)

(At the end, the screen begins to flicker and then disappears; the room lightens once again)

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Larry realizes that he’s the one who helped Balki study for his entrance exam, and that Balki probably failed. He spirals, questioning his own value as a cousin, as a friend, as a viable person, and I’m starting to freak out a little too.

What happened to the Larry who had only booksmarts? What happened to the Larry who helped Balki pass his last high school final exam? We established at the beginning of this episode that Balki did graduate high school. I have to believe that we’re still in the same reality, and that lives are not like computers, and that reading a memory doesn’t cause it to be rewritten, re-encoded, risking corruption. I have to hold on to the belief that they’re still in the same apartment–I mean, Larry did nod his head towards the door when he talked about when he first met Balki, right?  I have to believe that Larry can still help Balki, or else 90% of the show’s premise is gone. I have to believe that

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BALKI: Cousin! Home of the Whopper! What this! Boochi boochi! Balki pass test! Dugun duca lula ludla nuna, dounga, luna nudlah jubba jubba jubba!

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So is that how college entrance exams work? Did the teacher grade them and declare, one by one to each student “you got in!”, take their money and register them for classes? No wonder it took him all damn night to get home. According to his sweater, by the way, Balki got into “Dial College”.

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Larry, the proud papa once again, recaps all of the studying that he and Balki did, but:

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BALKI: This help me pass test, Cousin: your lucky pencil!

LARRY: Wwwhere did you get that? I… I ran every pencil I owned through the sharpener… they were nothing but nubs…

BALKI: I know! Isn’t it crazy?

LARRY: I burned the shavings. I burned the erasers. I melted the ferrules… oh my Lord…

BALKI: It just show up on my pillow this morning! Look, cousin, it have your teeth marks and everything!

LARRY: What time is it WHAT TIME IS IT?

BALKI: Oh, come on, Cousin, I’m just kidding! That’s… that’s college humor.

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But who cares about any disagreement about anything at this point, Balki’s in college, so we never have to mention it again. Also, the cousins are now so happy that they do their ritual symbolizing how one of their penises goes into the other’s butthole.

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Evidently, next Friday is Christmas somehow, so join me for “The Gift of the Mypiot”!

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

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

Recount: Larry (1); Jennifer (1); Lydia (1); Harriette (1); Mary Anne (1)

Dance of Joy running total: 13

P.S. Many thanks to my longtime comics collaborator Matt for suggesting this format for reviewing a clip show.

Season 2, Episode 22: Up On a Roof

An oracle concerning Chicago, which Casey the son of Davey did see:

Post ye a review upon the sites, exalt the voice unto them, make the boner jokes, that they may go unto the comment section.

I have commanded my focus group coordinators, I have also called my network executives for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my high ratings.

The noise of a multitude, like as of a Nielsen family after dinner; a tumultuous noise of the studio audience gathered together: the Lord of ABC mustereth the host of the battle.

Howl ye!  For the day of the end of season 2 is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the God of Sitcoms.

For whatever reason, this week’s episode title doesn’t seem to be in reference to anything; I get tons of search results for “up on the roof”, but not “up on a roof”.  I ask that anyone out there who’s ever read Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation chime in down in the comments to let us know what this means in terms of this episode; I’ve only read the Wikipedia page for the book.

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There it is, the last time we’ll ever see Ritz Discount storefront as well as Balki and Larry’s apartment exterior.  Note the double “X” under the window, a double-duty symbol signalling that season 2 is about to be crossed out.

We see Balki painting and singing a variation on the theme song from The Patty Duke Show:

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Balki: While Larry adores a minuet / The Ballet Russes and the crepe suzette / But Balki like to rock and roll / the hot dog make him lose control / What a wild duet! / Still they’re cousins…

And you know what?  I knew the basic premise of The Patty Duke Show, but because I’ve never seen a single episode, I’d forgotten all about it.  Given how “Babes in Babylon” made every single possible Vegas reference, I’m sort of impressed this show had enough restraint to wait this long to mention it.

But then Balki tells Larry there’s dingdingmahmoud in the fridge and Larry asks what it is.  You’ll remember that Larry and Balki fought over this very dish back in “Trouble in Paradise”.  Even though “Trouble in Paradise” was filmed after this one*, both take the time to explain that dingdingmahmoud is pig snout with saffron.  Whichever way you look at it, we as the audience are reminded of two things here. Larry is forgetful, both in terms of basic information, as well as lessons learned (learning not to lie to women: 3; learning to give his blessing to someone seeking approval: 2; learning that Balki is always right: 27).  We are also reminded that Larry, the Bacchus of Bismol, does not take care of his body.

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Once we get over the hump of Larry asking “what’s that”, and then asking “what’s that” again, there’s an actual good joke about what Balki’s painting.

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It’s a Myposian lint painting!  Though there’s fuckall on that canvas that would have been done with the paintbrush Balki was using a minute ago, the history of the lint painting is based on a sideways understanding of navel-gazing philosophers.  It’s one of those Gogo Dodo/Wackyland jokes, but I liked it.  Bonus Mypos fact: Brektos was the spiritual leader of Mypos “in the storybook days”, and the less we think about the fact that nobody on that island can read, the better.  But do note that Balki comes from somewhere with a living spiritual oral history; note also the oratory gesture of amazement Balki makes, as sometimes seen in icon paintings.

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Balki asks Larry what he thinks of the painting, and Larry once again insults Balki in a manner which he knows Balki won’t understand (“you could hang this under any rug in the world”), and Balki makes the same face (and hand gestures!) I do whenever I get a proof copy of my webcomic back from the printers and see a typo on the very first page I look at.

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The show finally gets around to why it was doing this lint painting mess in the first place: so that Balki could talk about how Larry entering photographs in a contest inspired him.  I’m going to follow suit and take the long way around to some interpretation here.

We’re right back where we were at the end of season 1, relegating Larry’s dream basically to the end of the season, and making it an all-or-nothing situation.  Even after working tirelessly for 3 months, Cousin Larry thinks that all 106 of the photographs he has taken are crap.  Despite the fact that Larry’s simply trying to land a newspaper job where he has to, you know, just meet a fucking deadline with adequate photos that are in-focus and related to the damn news story, he’s being a perfectionist about it and trying to achieve high art.  Larry says that he wants to take photos that will “make the heart of man leap within him; something that sums up the meaning of life”.   Does Balki know what he means?

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But then we find out what kind of things Larry’s been taking pictures of. The two examples given are a kitten being carried away by a large bird, and a firefighter catching a baby thrown from a burning building.  (One joke here is that Larry’s upset about the kitten’s whiskers being uneven, and man, it’s sad when the jokes I make, like the one 22 episodes ago about how we’d end this season with bad photo composition, come sort-of-true.)  The point is, Larry has focussed his work on terrors faced by the helpless and innocent; it’s a huge blind spot considering his lofty goal, yet some part of him knows that he’s falling short.  The photographs are meant to be understood as an extension of Larry himself, reflecting his own struggle, but consider this key line:

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Larry: I’m feeling sorry for myself; if you were a real friend, you would join in.

Now lectio yourselves some divina on this:

For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. (Phil. 3:18-19, emphasis mine)

Balki, as we established at the end of that two-parter a few weeks back, is an angel cipher.  He comes from above to rescue sinners from the pit of despair. He makes saint icon hand gestures.  Hot dogs make him lose control.  And finally, finally, I understand why he keeps mispronouncing Appleton wrong: Larry, much like the Pharisees in John 8, thinks he is doing the deeds of his father. Balki, who can see the unplanted mustard seed of a soul that Larry possesses, has been subtly trying to tell Larry this whole time that Larry is looking to the wrong father.

Ah, who am I kidding, Balki’s a dumb shit who can’t conjugate verbs, Larry’s a sad shit who can’t get a decent job or even woo the woman the show has picked out for him, and what the fuck is that green thing in the background? Their shower curtain or some shit? Anyway, Balki tries to do the Dance of Joy too soon.

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Later, Larry’s working in the discount store, and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) comes by to give Larry his mail, and the audience her signature deer-in-the-headlights look.  Larry describes to Mary Anne the photograph that he wants to take, of a church steeple at sunset from a specific angle, waxing poetic about the beauty of the shot, and how only he could have found such perfect shot. Mary Anne cuts him off:

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Mary Anne: Yeah, churches are nice, see ya!

Ha! Mary Anne’s so dumb that she thought she would get an actual personality on this show instead of just being female exposition sounding board #3. But like any good sounding board, she listens to Larry’s line and gets out of the scene as quickly as possible. But there’s two things I like about this scene: for all that it’s just exposition & joke setup, we actually got a scene with Larry and Mary Anne!  It was nice to have a little breather from Goofus and Gallant.  Also, Mary Anne’s flippant line is basically the way I feel about religion these days. She’s becoming my favorite, and who cares how many one-off women characters she’s killed? She’s probably dumb enough to be my girlfriend!

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Then Larry tries to tell Balki about the church shot, and Balki keeps interrupting him because he read ahead in the script and already knows all about the church, and the sunset, and how you have to get up on the roof of the building across the street to get the right shot. (Oh wow… like, the episode title makes so much sense to me now… these writers really know what they’re doing. It’s like… a thing doesn’t make sense, but then they go back to it, and it suddenly makes sense. I’m learning so much, I’m going to be such a good writer someday.)

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Larry and Balki do the Dance of Joy, and then Twinkacetti rolls up and tells them to just kiss with tongues already, he’s been waiting all damn season.  He takes his tribute from the cash register and says he’s going home to be with his wife, his children, and his mother-in-laws.  He then tells Larry to— wait, what? Mother-in-laws?  Anyway, sorry, he tells Larry to call up Mrs. Twinkacetti and lie about the store being on fire so he can bail on his family and go to a snuff party.  Larry says no, which harkens back to the one time he had morals and wouldn’t lie for Twinkacetti, but, UH-OH, the house he needs to get on top of is Twinkacetti’s!

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But Cousin Larry bounces back quickly, saying that they’ll get the photograph if it kills them. And I sure hope it does!  I can quit this blog and start reviewing My Two Dads like everyone keeps demanding of me.

020

Whoa, we actually get a whole scene outside! And… rather than pursue the situation comedy scenario of Larry lying to Mrs. Twinkacetti just to get up on their roof, they just prop a damn ladder against the house and hope no one will notice.  Larry even says that no one is home, despite the show having just established that Twinkacetti would be there. But when Larry sees a plot hole, he just runs straight through, saying that his whole future depends on getting this shot, and that nothing’s going to stop him (hey! nice shout-out to the theme song, Dale McRaven).

Ah, poor Cousin Larry, he’s right that his future depends on the outcome of his situation, but again, he’s looking in the wrong place.  Consider:  Larry is now standing atop the house of his boss, the show’s default symbol for the excesses of capitalist avarice.  It is from here that he hopes to catch but a mere fleeting glimpse of an external aspect of religion. But rather than the beauty of this church making Larry wish to enter it, and let it enter him, so to speak, he sees this only as a way to pursue his own material success.

It’s really windy on the roof, because, you know, Chicago’s the Windy City, so Larry has prepared and brought some sandbags with him.  We can’t have the tripod blowing away, can we?

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Larry asks for the camera, and Balki hesitates.

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Larry puts on his best evil Bilbo face, and Balki refuses.

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Larry distracts Balki with his weakness (pop culture references) and steals the camera.

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Then we’re supposed to believe that,just because it wasn’t in frame for the past couple of minutes, Larry couldn’t see that a fucking chimney five times his size was in the way of the shot.

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While Balki nearly falls off the roof and Larry fucks around trying to climb the chimney, we get a shot of Twinkacetti in his house, telling his friend Ralph over the phone how he lied to his wife.  Why did they even set up that conflict about Larry needing to lie halfway through this episode?  Larry didn’t need to ask permission, or even lie.  I guess when you’re in the final moments like we are, you just dispense with everything that mattered before; kind of like how Neo and Agent Smith just have a friggin’ fistfight at the end of Matrix Revolutions.

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Larry remains undaunted by everything God’s thrown in his way so far: the wind, the chimney in the way (symbolic of how greed ultimately blinds one to the beauty of religion), even His only begotten son Balki insisting that they get off the roof.  (Note how Larry’s lack of spiritual reception bends physical receptors like television antennae.)  This season has been an undending list of Cousin Larry’s sins: he lies, he withholds love from his family members and offers them only insults, he is ruled by the desires of both his belly and his loins, he brings false witness against the innocent, he refuses to give aid to women and children, he defiles Jesus’s birthday by glorying in the exchange of material gifts.

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Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.  For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. (Isaiah 13:9-10)

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Oh well, Larry missed his chance to get the perfect shot, so the logical thing is to just go home, right? Maybe check the weather forecast and come back on a different day?

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Nope, let’s just sit on the damn roof until well after dark, long enough for Twinkacetti to come up to the roof and let the ladder fall away, trapping them all, dooming them all because of their sins.

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And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames. (Isaiah 16:8)

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They all just stand there in the rain and shout at how there was no lesson, there was no physical comedy, it was the shittiest possible third location, we didn’t even get to see Jennifer, or Mrs. Twinkacetti. There weren’t even any boners this week. What did it all mean? What did we accomplish? Nothing!

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Okay, finally, we’re at the scene before the credits.  Some firemen rescued them all from the roof, and Larry won 10th place with a shot of Twinkacetti’s scared face lit by lightning.

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Larry thanks his cousin Balki for not letting him give up, and for helping him get the picture. The hell?  He was trying to get you off the roof the whole time, man!  Also, what kind of contest has a 10th fucking place?  And where they also print all of the winners in the newspaper?  And why don’t we get to see the damn photo of Twinkacetti?  And was the lesson that Larry is supposed to risk the life of others to achieve his dream, or not?  Somebody turn the damn music on already so I’ll know what the hell to think about this episode.

Oh, no, wait, we don’t get a lesson, this episode’s just going to dispense with that in favor of Balki’s catchphrase, isn’t it?

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The episode ends with the reveal that Larry has filled the closet with copies of the newspaper his photograph appeared in.

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Now that there’s no longer any room in there for the cousins, they leave to go to the “petting zoo” where Larry will be “spit on” by a “camel” and Balki will “chase chickens”.

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Join me next week when I’ll… *groan*… have to talk about this season one more time.

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Catchphrase count: Balki (3); Larry (0)

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

Dance of Joy running total: 9

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*I mentioned awhile back that I’m not following the DVD order, because ABC evidently didn’t have the correct information on hand for which order these episodes aired in.  But when you look at the Wikipedia page for this show, you’ll see that the airing order and the production order are way out of sync too.  This episode was filmed before Trouble in Paradise, as well as before Tux For Two, so the photographs Larry’s taking here are the ones he entered into the contest in the latter of those two.  But for whatever reason, ABC decided to air this one last.  This works well as a season closer, but it’s a indicator that no one was paying close attention (or didn’t care, or knew the audience didn’t care) about internal chronology. I mean, hey, even A&E put two Prisoner episodes out of order on their complete set (the ones with Colin Gordon as Number 2), so whatever. But, anyway, somebody made the decision, and I’m treating this as the last episode.

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Balki and Larry will return in “All the News That Fits”.