Season 4, Episode 7: Up a Lazy River, part 2

We begin with a “last week on Perfect Strangers” and



That giant man did not walk by the Chronicle building last week!

When last we saw our heroes: everyone’s inability to remember which way a river was going before they got on it has likely doomed them to a watery grave. But really it’s Larry’s fault, I promise.  All he wanted to do was blaze a trail through the undergrowth! And also avoid hiking through the woods.

Remember, folks, you can help drowning people more by not jumping in the water yourself.


I was so focussed on what last week’s cliffhanger had done to Mary Anne (Sagittarius)’s hair that the joke of her spitting out water took me by surprise.


Jennifer comes in carrying Larry–look! For the second time ever Jennifer got a joke!  Both times were about Larry being weak, but I’ll take it. Go in that direction, show. That’s the way out of the mysterious Ennifer Woods.

So, unfortunately, all four of these people survived. But more importantly: did they save the cheesecakes which Larry brought for some goddam reason??


Larry says they have to get out of here; Balki says they have to figure out where “here” is; Mary Anne is silent; Jennifer begins to freak out about being lost and all of a sudden this is a Sartre play.

I’ve mentioned before that Larry’s is the most thorough and consistent characterization on this show, even if sometimes they take shortcuts to explain it, or even if he swings wildly between being asshole and baby.  At this point in the show’s run, no matter what episodes you’ve seen, you’ve more likely than not since one of Larry’s ideas turn out horribly.  So what we’ve got here is a sequel. This two-parter cashes in on what the audience expects to happen.  Okay, sure, the show is telling you what you should expect, to the point that it explicitly tells you it’s doing essentially the same two-parter as a couple of seasons ago.  But other shows do this, even now. Tammy shows up? You know it’s bad news for Ron Swanson. Tammy shows up again? You know how it went last time. Community’s paintball episodes. The Roseanne Halloween episodes I mentioned a few weeks ago. Heck, I do it in my own webcomic where every school dance is ruined somehow. A narrative is enhanced because it’s interacting with itself.  Characters have memory, seek patterns, and try to avoid negative outcomes. Also we get established canon, which is nice when this show can’t even remember that Balki once sold sleeping bags.

Unfortunately for these three, they’ve been fooled into thinking they’re on vacation with a white dwarf. They’ve noticed too late that they’re caught in Larry’s gravitational pull. The accumulation of Larry’s failures–one of which was his weight gain–has become too heavy for his core, collapsing in on itself, exploding in a supernova and leaving a black hole.


What I’m getting at here is that all Larry wanted was to do some sightseeing at Jennifer’s headwaters, you know, she what goodies she had in her bear bag. But now she’s redshifting, because there’s no G spot in a black hole.

Balki decides that “here” is a good place to camp, and starts assigning tasks: gathering food, gathering fuel, and third thing in list is Myposian joke.  Larry disagrees, saying that if they just go thataway they’ll “run into the other fork of the river” and meet up with everyone else.  So, assuming Larry’s correct, and that show understands how shapes work, they are on the middle part between the two distributaries of the river. So, yes, theoretically, and assuming the distributaries stay roughly straight, they’d basically go straight from one bank to the other. But I don’t trust this show after that bullshit at the end of last week. The women side with Balki, because after all, if ABC spent $20,000 on white carpet and skiing lessons, who knows how much all these rocks and dirt and trees cost, so let’s not waste it.


The cousins give their little signal to each other that it’s time to rub two sticks together to create some heat.

Just like when they were in the cabin, Larry and Balki move three feet away from the women so that Larry can say he wants to look like he’s saving the day.  They argue for awhile.


Man, it looks like Asshole Larry has come back with a vengeance.  He’s been making his voice go deep multiple times this episode, and he’s laying it on thicker than the hair on Queen Isabellki Zaggy Badbad’s upper lip.  He’s guilting Balki into believing that he’s robbing him of a future with Jennifer, and how there won’t be any tiny invalid Larries around who beg for stories of Balki’s homeland.

Then they get into an argument about how family trees work.

Larry makes the hard sell by saying, essentially, that nobody is always wrong. And somehow that works on Balki; maybe it’s the eternal spring of faith in his fellow man that Larry hooked into.  At any rate, who the fuck cares what the women think? Since there’s no snow to shovel, they’re just short of being bumps on a log over there.


Jennifer, you were talking about being really into the outdoors, and enjoying camping, could you–?



Oh. Okay. Anyway, they decide to just hike in the direction Larry thinks is the correct one. Larry, how many minutes do you think this episode will use for padding, total?


As we’ve all learned by now: never believe Cousin Larry, folks. Not even once.


It is a nice change to have shots of trees instead of the same handful of shots of the Chronicle or Caldwell buildings. But I laughed out loud at how this establishing shot just randomly zooms in on some shorter trees. Why the hell would I care which trees these people are behind?

They come back with Balki singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” in Myposian, and I’m not even going to bother to try and transcribe it, because, hey! Larry quickly stepped onto a rock!


Hey, look, don’t ask me why that’s so great; the audience cheered so I just assume it was a showstopper.  Larry sees the other fork of the river, but more importantly, Mary Anne’s hair has fully recovered.

I’ll say another thing about sequels. Some of my favorite ones are the ones that manage to strike the perfect balance of hitting the same beats, and then topping them.  Lots of people knock Ghostbusters II for reversing the team’s hero status from the first film; but they had to be re-established as underdogs and fight not only city functionaries, but also ghosts: and doing so involved popular icons brought to life in both cases. Maybe that’s not the best example.  Take Die Hard and Die Hard 2.  I’ve forgotten half of the callbacks the second film made to the first, but there were multiple times throughout the film where something was doubled, down to the point where there were two black cops who believed in John McClane when no one else would. (Further films I can’t remember all the details of, but which fit this category: 21 Jump Street/22 Jump Street, and Crank/Crank: High Voltage.)  At any rate, we’re hitting all the same points: pointless first and second acts in the first episode where the cousins “practice” with their “equipment”; Larry drawing out his ffffffs; distancing themselves from others so Larry can show off; the cousins admitting to each other that they have no plan mere feet away from four ears connected to no brains. I’m sure there was a scene cut for syndication where the women stacked books.

And now, instead of circling back around to the cabin through the show because Larry picked the wrong direction, we have circled back around to where the group dropped their lifejackets earlier.

Cousin Larry is evidently not a proponent of Leave No Trace, and this wanton disregard for nature has angered Arial, the forest nymph; she begins to strangle Larry.


Balki calms her down, saying that he hasn’t touched Larry enough this episode yet.


The women leave to go gather firewood, and Larry starts whining like a baby. He whines for a full five minutes about how he’s going to miss what’s happening on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and how he went boom-boom in his pants and how the monster under his bed is going to eat all of his crackers while they’re away from the apartment and how Jennifer won’t want to play Mother May I? with him anymore–

Balki: Jennifer won’t be mad forever…. Every time her life gets threatened, she gets a little cranky.

I’m still trying to keep an accurate count of Jennifer’s personality traits, and I SUPPOSE that one’s distinct enough from “likes to sleep when she’s tired”.

Cousin Larry says he’ll go for help so that he will be the one to rescue Jennifer instead of Ranger Smith.


But that would be too quick an ending, so Larry falls into quicksand.  Balki “tries” to pull Larry “out” of the quicksand (wink, wink).  The “oh no” music comes on and we cut to commercial.  Oh no! I hope the women collected enough firewood and that Mary Anne won’t be so dumb that she uses dollar bills as kindling!*


They cry for help, but Larry pulls Balki close enough to play footsies and everything’s alright with the world again.


Balki starts talking about a scene from a Tarzan movie that could help them get out, and to his credit, you can sense actual amused fear in his voice that he won’t get the line out before his mouth sinks under the quicksand.

We break now from this hot physical comedy to bring you this special news bulletin:


Larry calms him by saying they should just try out this new texture on their penises, and they relaaaaax.


Larry tries to grab for a branch, and Balki sings reason #23 that, aside from meeting all three parts of the Miller Test, this season will not be released on DVD: “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. After another five minutes of Balki grabbing a stick and the cousins grunting, they’re finally done sploshing.




Later that night, Jennifer doesn’t know what the hell nuts are, and Mary Anne has achieved 2000s-era sarcasm. Tell me again which one is the dumb one.

Larry has fallen asleep, and Balki explains to Jennifer that Larry wanted so badly to not fuck up this trip that he fucked it up.


Balki says they should try out a solution that he learned from classic television, but then he confuses Father Knows Best with The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as well as Leave it to Beaver.

And then Jennifer corrects Balki on old TV shows, making this the scariest campfire story I’ve ever heard.

Basically, after five minutes of that reality-breaking hogwash, they decide to make Larry think he’s saved Jennifer from a snake bite. They start start discussing where to draw the fake snakebite marks on Jennifer–


Larry: How about on her tits?

Larry goes off to sleep separately from the others, you know, over there, on top of the quicksand.


But Mary Anne’s still into it and wants to draw on Jennifer. That sounds fun, let’s just do that the rest of the episode!


And then there’s a bear because episodes like this are a type of “setting bingo”. I’ve mentioned before how I reviewed the full run of ALF comic books (I tell you, my transplant scars healed faster), and there was a story where Alf and Willie were in the woods that went basically the same way.  Characters go to the woods, characters encounter every danger possible in the woods–dangers of the physical terrain, sitting around the campfire, encountering the local wildlife. Just a sequence of things happening in that setting because they can happen in that setting is a very cartoon way of writing. And what I mean by that is it’s a way of writing for audiences who don’t think very hard about what they’re watching.


The women wake Larry up, and Balki is gone, so Larry thinks they’re trying to boost his ego. Larry thinks that Balki is in a bear costume, even though three weeks ago we saw Balki believe that a sheep mask he bought at Eckerd was enough to fool him. But the bear turns out to be a Real Bear, and Balki comes back with firewood, which he was gathering in the middle of the night for some fucking reason.  They all realize that someone, somewhere, somehow, sat atop a sheep and ate a golden ring, and that Larry’s final hour has come.


Dig up! I mean, lead the bear into the quicksand!


Larry starts trying to fight off the bear, yelling about how he hates the woods and all it stands for. Ah yes, finally, the capping off of the subtext this two-parter forgot it was doing!  “Man and nature with nothing between” has evolved into “Man vs nature” thanks to Larry “Double-Mantled” Appleton.  Man, that whole house vs woods/woman-as-nature motif in the original Evil Dead got nothing on this!

The sedated bear doesn’t give a shit and just lumbers off-stage to eat some fish or whatever its trainer gives it.

Eminent domain over both nature and woman now established, Larry orgasms and passes out.


When the cousins get back to the apartment, they just sit around wondering how Jennifer feels and what Jennifer thinks, without it ever once crossing their minds to ask her.


The final joke is that we find out that Larry rubbed poison ivy in Jennifer’s eyes and then rubbed it all over his own body.

See you next week for “College Bound”!


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

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

*tinder/tender, you illiterates

Season 3, Episode 2: Weigh to Go, Buddy

We open at the R– ha!  Can you believe it? Two weeks in and I’m still writing “Ritz Discount” on my checks!


Larry is reading a book, and Balki is folding clothes because ABC knew those two things were what people kept tuning in week after week to see in season 2.  Balki is donating clothes to the local community clothing drive, claiming that cheerful giving is the path to happiness.  Ah, BUT, Balki is giving away Larry’s old clothes!

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Larry fails to button his high school chorus jacket. Remember this. This is important.


It’s good that Larry tried that jacket on, because otherwise we would have been stuck with 20 straight minutes of Larry trying to convince Balki that in America, what you’re supposed to do is take clothes from poor people. Larry weighs himself and finds that he has gained a whopping 7 pounds. The discovery surprises a new catchphrase out of Larry.


Okay, um, 7 pounds?  If we’re going by a strict rule of one sitcom season equals one year, then Larry’s somewhere between 25 and 26 years old.  If we could all only gain 1 pound per year, we could maybe stop taking up the medical world’s time with our diabetes and our heart problems and let them get on with the important stuff, like, you know, improving the “target delivery” of boner pills (heh).  At any rate, it makes perfect sense that Larry has gained weight around his midsection.  Our ancestors had an evolutionary advantage for survival because of things like opposable thumbs, speech, and accumulation of fat stores in the midsection. Developing a gut in middle age allowed our ancestors to give their children food without themselves starving. Larry’s been taking care of a child for at least a year at this point, during a time of near-poverty for the both of them, so yeah, he’s got a dadbod.

At any rate, three seasons in, this show has stayed strong in its commitment to Balki providing homespun cures for Larry’s modern American ills.  So gird yourselves, folks, this looks like it’s going to be a tonal repeat of last season’s “Larries and Germs”.


Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) come by in uniform to drop off clothes for Balki to take to the charity drive.  They will be in Australia the entire week, and bingo! I get why they’re stewardesses now. With Susan, who had no personality trait other than “red hair”, the writers had to resort to her making faces and running out of whatever room she was in just so we could keep our focus on the cousins. With people who have a job–a job that takes them out of the country–you just have to have the character say “My job!” and then they can leave.  In this transition, however, the writers forgot that they stuck themselves with two characters.  Sure, Mary Anne’s dumb and all (so dumb she thinks a charity drive is something you do when you feel really sorry for a car), but Jennifer… well. Um. She likes to organize her closet?

Anyway, the ladies make Larry’s situation worse by mentioning that their old clothes are too big for them now! Balki tells them what a grotesque fat fuck Larry has become, and Mary Anne says that if she gained 7 pounds, she’d die.


Jennifer says that she likes “a little tummy on a man”.  Okay, now she has two personality traits, she likes her closet organized, and she likes a little tummy on a man.  Hey, Jennifer, do you think you could maybe offer to help Larry lose some weight at the gym where you work?


Jennifer, can you…? Oh well.


Larry starts panicking. Between spoonfuls of lard, he reasons out with his strong American reasoning skills that the women will be gone for seven days, and that he wants to lose seven pounds, so he will need to lose one pound per day.  For what purpose? So that he can secretly have a smaller abdomen that Jennifer will never see, because they will never have sex?


Larry offers up an apt metaphor for how far we’ve come since last season by running in place.  He claims that he has an iron will, and that this will help him lose weight.  Balki, right on cue, offers up the “Mypos diet”, and yet again, I feel like I don’t even need to watch the rest of this episode, much less review it, because I can just about tell you what happens.

But then Larry lands a solid callback joke:

Larry: What do you do, cut down on the pig snout?

And I am given hope that maybe they’re going to bring something new to the table here. The cousins argue with each other some more, Larry runs in place some more, and eventually the scene ends.


Larry gets up in the middle of the night and raids the fridge.  We learn that Balki now has his own room, even though from everything we’ve seen in this episode and the last (same general layout, similar artwork on the walls, the women living in the same building), it’s the same apartment.  I guess if Twinkacetti is out of sight, every detail concomitant with his existence (including, somehow, Larry and Balki’s poverty) is out of mind.  But two good things here: Balki has armed himself with his shepherd’s crook (something that should have shown up in the season 2 episode “Lar and the Real Burglar”), and Larry tries to hide by pressing the button inside the fridge to turn its light off.  Well, okay, the second one’s funny, but not very smart.  He’s basically increasing the odds that Balki caves his skull in with the shepherd’s crook.


Balki scolds him and Larry instantly asks for help.  Balki starts laying on the guilt trip pretty thick, and you’ll forgive me if I’m confused at this point.  Isn’t Balki supposed to be the compassionate one?  Shouldn’t he kindly acknowledge that, for once, Larry has given in to Balki’s way of doing things 6 minutes into an episode and just help the guy out?


Larry, his corpulent form now filling fully half the volume of the apartment, renounces the “Larry diet”, but Balki still holds out, claiming he’s hurt by Larry’s earlier jabs at the weight of the King of Mypos (300 lbs, holds world record for eating jelly donuts).  You know what? If I had to go through this shit every time I repented from my evil American ways, I’d never ask Balki for help more than twice.  Anyway, Larry wants to know if he has to eat anything strange.


Balki actually gets a sutble joke for once, too.

Balki: You’re not allergic to fish or soup, are you?

I guess if the writers can forget that they already did this episode last season, they can’t be expected to remember little details like how Larry consumed “fish parts”

Larry, his face slick with excess grease, asks Balki to promise that he won’t let him (Larry) eat anything not on the diet, and Balki has an orgasm.  The hell?

Okay, this episode’s really impressing me with some of the jokes.

Balki: I just performed the Mypos Ritual of Promise.

Larry: Am I still a Presbyterian?

And then:

Balki: I will never, ever break my promise.

Larry: You won’t?

Balki: What did I just say?

A joke was made, and then, when the show tried to do that repetition shit, Balki shut it down faster than somebody looking at porn when their mom walks in the room!  Season 2 is over, people!


(I’d also like to mention that the music at the end of act breaks has now gotten a little more in line with what you’d expect from a mid-80s sitcom.)


After four days, Larry finds that he has lost three pounds.  I was going to gripe about how you should weigh yourself at the same time each day, you know, like right when you get up, after your first piss of the day, ideally with no clothes on. But let’s just say I don’t share Jennifer’s tastes.


Balki is so happy for Larry’s success that he makes the same face I do when I close the freezer door and then hear everything inside tumble, knowing that it will all fall out when I open it again.  Larry discovers that Balki has tinkered with the scale and that Larry has actually gained 2 pounds, even with the Mypos diet.  Balki says that you “bloat up a little bit” in the first few days of the diet, but that it goes away after a while.


Larry calls up Paoli’s Pizza, and I’m thrilled that there’s some internal continuity between the exterior shot and this scene, because it lets me point out what a lazy sack of crap Larry is!  If he’s not even willing to walk downstairs to buy a fucking pizza, no wonder he’s gained seven pounds!  He’s calling for something like the fifth time so he can shout at them.


There’s a knock at the door, but–on no!  It’s Balki! He tries to send Balki back outside, but then–OH NO! It’s the pizza guy!

So Larry just shoves Balki into his bedroom, pays off the pizza guys, throws the pizza into the hallway, pushes Balki back into the bedroom, lots of slamming doors… shouldn’t this count as exercise?


Balki smacks the pizza right out of Larry’s mouth and picks his 500lb cousin up up by the collar. Larry then tries to do one of my biggest pet peeves. He starts acting like Balki’s upset because he would have to give up his Myposian promise.  I see people do this at work and in my personal life all the time. You start having others’ concerns for them as a way to deflect the fact that you’re projecting your own wants onto them, or that you’re secretly embarrassed about the lack of justification for wanting what you do.  I’m sure there’s a psychological term for it, but I only took a minor in college, so let’s just call it “the ol’ project-deflect”).  I know it’s a pop psychology book, but in Scripts People Live, Claude Steiner gives some advice that has served me well for years: be upfront with what you want (and why) 100% of the time. It’s honest, gives you a good chance of the other person reciprocating the gesture, and you’re far less likely to feel cheated or ignored if you don’t get what you wanted.  Plus, here’s Larry’s argument for breaking promises:


Larry: This is America! People break promises all the time! This is why we have all that Indian land!


Don’t be surprised when the underclass foreign “other” doesn’t respond well to you rubbing eminent domain in his face, cuz.  Larry tries to leave to go to a restaurant, and Balki turns him sideways. Balki throws Larry on the couch, intending to snuggle the pounds away, but a loud “crunch” reveals a bag of cookies under the cushion.  Unintentional though it probably is, I do want to point out that Larry hiding snacks under the couch cushions is a symbol of American greed; while Balki hiding snacks (season 1’s “Larry’s Birthday Or Whatever”) is a symbol of Myposian generosity.


We then get a whole scene of Balki finding Larry’s snacks around the apartment, using Larry’s face as a detection device.


a bar of “solid milk chocolate” under the couch


a bag full of–let’s just say pork cracklins–in one of those things that’s shaped the same as an umbrella holder, but it holds fire pokers instead


Sixlets in the candlestick holder (come on, you know it’s Sixlets, Larry leads too shitty a life to have actual M&Ms)


a box of, shit, I dunno, confectioner’s sugar on the bookshelf


a donut on top of the lampshade

Larry: We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us.


The cousins fight over the donut.  This is why the women left, people, so Larry and Balki could fight over a donut.  Holes are easier to work into the script when there’s no risk of them talking, I guess.


Then Balki quits fighting him and Larry is disappointed. God damn, Larry, you just want someone to be codependent with you, don’t you? Balki sees that playing Larry’s game will land them in couples’ therapy by the end of the season, so he just says he’s done.


Balki: I haven’t got time for the pain.

Balki does some weird gesture with his hands and says that he is the only Mypiot in history to ever break a promise (remember, this is probably not too signifcant – they die young there).

The music comes on, prompting Larry to apologize. He says he’ll do anything to make it up to Balki… anything except the diet…or that thing with the love egg turned up all the way.


Balki starts pretending to cry again because he’ll have to wear some kind of hood made out of goat hair if Larry doesn’t go back on the diet, so Larry goes back on the diet. And you know what? I bet that jerk brought a damn goat hair hood with him. He brought everything else. I mean, come on, we all saw how endless Balki’s (and Dmitri’s) wardrobe was last season.  The apartment itself grew a room this season, probably just for Balki’s clothes.

In the scene before the credits, everybody waits around for Larry to come publicly humiliate himself by breaking the scale.  Wardrobe did a good job on giving him a slimmer shirt so it would look like he’s lost weight, but still. You don’t do this clothed.


Larry: The important thing is not whether I’ve gained or lost weight; it’s whether I’ve grown as a person. The inner me is stronger.

Good, so it won’t matter if Larry has gai-


Oh fuck you. You had me going there with those good jokes, show. But then you slipped in the same kind of bullshit ending that you pulled with season 2’s “Larry Likes Hunks”.  A character learns a lesson about not getting what you want, and then the character gets what he wants; the dopamine rush will ensure that the lesson does not stick.  Then Balki gets on the scale and that’s a decent unspoken joke but fuck you anyway, show. I hope you gain 7 pounds and die.


Join me next week for “Sexual Harrassment in Chicago”! Bet you can’t guess what that one’s about!


Catchphrase count: Balki (1); Larry (1)

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

P.S. Full House would, four months later, do basically this same plot with Joey in the episode “Sisterly Love”. I’d never, ever recommend that anyone actually watch any of these shows, but please see Billy Superstar’s review of that episode if you want to compare.