Season 4, Episode 11: That Old Gang of Mine

Before I get to this week’s review, I want to plug a couple of things.

Next Saturday, December 17, Phil (the ALF dude) is hosting his fourth annual Xmas Bash!!!! He’ll be streaming 7 old Christmas specials and a bunch of other audiovisual holiday cheer. The event also raises money for the Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth. Click this sentence to get all the details about the Xmas Bash!!!!

Second plug: I made some art for the event! There’s virtually no Perfect Strangers merchandise, so here’s your chance to get a Christianized version of those little chub-sportin’ cherubs:


I’m selling this art as prints through Society6, and all of the profits ($10 per print) will go to the Trevor Project. If you click around enough there’s options for having it framed. The art is also available as leggings and as a duvet cover. Please buy the duvet cover. Please have sex underneath it.

And please come watch the Xmas Bash!!!! on the 17th!


We open at the Caldwell, only to find the absolute quickest exit the women have ever made from the apartment.


15 seconds in and they’re gone! This season, it’s Mary Anne (Sagittarius) who has a new job. Let’s do some comparison here, shall we?

Last season, Jennifer–who admitted to liking Larry with the same enthusiasm as someone agreeing to, well, like Larry, I guess–spent a third of an episode telling Larry that she wasn’t sure she should take a new job in Los Angeles.  When you spend your life not necessarily liking things because they are good, choosing which is the better intangible (nice weather or Larry’s penis) is a tough choice.  Here, Mary Anne–who has almost always taken the lead in showing affection to Balki–has wasted no time accepting a promotion.  Sure, there’s a difference between being hasty and being thoughtful, but tell me who’s the dumb one again.

Larry says Balki must be feeling pain at her exit.


But Balki didn’t fully learn his lesson about the stages of grief last season, and is currently in denial.  In the face of his cousin’s protests that Mary Anne’s feelings for him won’t change, and that she’ll stop by when she’s in town, Larry stresses that she’ll be living in London.


Again, THANK YOU, props department, for the fancy British typeface and the clipart airplanes that also act as proof that Larry and Balki steal office supplies.

Cousin Larry says he had a traumatic experience in 5th grade, when he was in love with Caroline Smeiser. They were the perfect pre-pubescent couple until

Larry: One day, she dropped a bomb on me.

Balki: She was a terrorist?

Holy shit! Not only was his country needlessly bombed during the Vietnam War, Mypos’s army uses child soldiers?

Then Balki just keeps talking about different kinds of bombs, becoming markedly dumber over the course of a minute:

Balki: A water bomb?…. A flea and tick bomb?…. Lip bomb?


Get a fucking context clue, Balki!  Like, I’m beginning to worry, here.  And not just about Balki, who’s barely even said his catchphrase this season.  I’m worried about the show.  I wondered a long time ago about how this show could keep up the central idea–a sheepherder whose ideas of America didn’t match up with the reality that his cousin knew.  But these guys have been through a lot by now. They’ve interacted with everyone from their neighbors, to criminals, to businessmen, to celebrities. They put people in prison, got a woman fired, put a grocery store out of business, risked the lives of themselves and their loved ones. Balki’s graduated from high school, even!  He can’t be this dumb, and the show shouldn’t keep pushing him in that direction.  If they were still in the discount store, I could accept that any episode I’m watching could happen at any time. But no matter how slowly these guys progress in their lives, they do progress. Every time Balki’s dumb in the same way as he was in season 1, it feels like a step backwards.  I’m worried about you, show. You’re acting like the past isn’t long gone and that audiences will still feel the same way about you and stop by on Friday nights. Anyway, go ahead, Larry, finish your story.

Caroline Smeiser’s father bought a cattle ranch in Texas and she wrote Larry every day, and then every week, and then every Christmas, and then never.  Hey, Larry, don’t give up hope yet! Maybe the pattern is asymptotic, and you’ll hear from her soon!


Balki said that it sure was a sad story, but it wasn’t long enough to get them to the commercial break, so Larry needs to explicitly tie it into the plot of the episode.

Larry says that Mary Anne may be so dumb that she’ll spend three hours flipping through television channels trying to find King’s Cross station when she gets to London, but there is where she’ll stay.

This makes Balki sad.


If the top of the episode gave us the quickest setup and quickest women’s exit ever, this scene ramps up the internal/external disconnect.  From the outside, we see two windows, one with the shade drawn, but one with a view to the outside world; between them, a straight, orderly fire escape.  On the inside, everything’s out of order in Balki’s world. He sits in the dark, his posture poor, his head pointing a different direction from his body. He sits in the kitchen, not eating, listening to the refrigerator–sounds that aren’t even meant to be heard. His view of the outside world is incorrect now: the fire escape askew, the only object that we can see worth looking at–which was nowhere to be found without–is out of his field of vision. This last, I should point out, is a deep and layered symbol: this type of window is often called a Catherine window (Catherine and Mary and Anne, all Catholic names, “Mary Anne” doubly so, referencing the matrilineage of Jesus himself), but is also known as a Rose window, a shade that Mary Anne has decided that she wants the world to see her through.  It’s an external symbol for the audience in one more way–Balki has, we could say, taken off the “rose-colored glasses” and faces his despair head-on–but it is also a symbol of Balki’s inner world.  Only he knows that the window is there, but no longer where he can enjoy it. Perhaps he looks at the moon, far away in the sky, a little moon, a lunette, half a circle, a window to nowhere, to empty space where planes don’t fly.


Poor Balki can’t do anything these days but think about Mary Anne. He makes the same face I did when I typed out the words “I’ve lived alone for 3 and a half years” last week.

Larry tells him to take up a hobby–like how he took up photography and joined a photography club when Caroline Smeiser dumped his gibbous ass.


Balki ponders whether that actually did any good for Larry.

Larry says there must be something Balki has always dreamed of doing. It turns out to be “sheep vaulting”, which is the #1 spectator sport on Mypos.  Balki tells the story about how a famous sheep vaulter (Tony Tomopolous) landed on a sheep and killed it during a jump.  And, yeah, I believe that. After all, we’ve learned that Myposian child soldiers spend their time off the battlefield watching headless chickens and underfed dogs run around until dead.

What I don’t believe is that, even though it’s been established that there are no cameras on the island–just a guy who draws really well–there’s a Myposian version of “Wide World of Sports”.

Balki: The thrill of victory, the agony of the sheep.

Oh, fuck you, show, with your stupid Manglish.  You can’t–you’re making a rhyme based on–the guy didn’t have a victory if–


Larry mentions Mary Anne and Balki cries some more.

The next day, at the Chronicle, Harriette (dressed here as Ed Grimley) and Lydia run out of the elevator to ask where Poochie Balki is.  Larry explains that he took the day off beginning a new hobby.  Larry suggested things like coin collecting, model building, and historical walks, which is deep cut all the way back from the Vegahhhhhs episode.

Lydia says that Larry’s advice stinks, and yeah, come on: what happened to Balki playing baseball? What happened to Balki liking music? What happened to playing with squeaky toys? What happened to Balki taking in prisoners? Even Harriette agrees with her.


(and then insults her)

Balki rides a 1988 Harley Springer Softail into the basement office.


After the commercial break, Balki’s just sitting there, fucking revving the bike.


The archives is through one of those doors! Think of the smoke damage!  I blanched when they were tearing up those books at the beginning of the season, but this is unforgivable!  The archives of the newspaper of record for the city of Chicago–probably the whole world–is irreplaceable stuff!


Balki says that he’s joined a club called the “Motor Psychos”. I feel like Balki’s outfit is trying to embrace two almost-discordant things here. Yes, many pop culture objects and trends in the 80s were indeed people working through–and mashing up–the 1960s. I mean, if Peggy Bundy’s animal print outfits weren’t supposed to evoke the popularity of same in the 1960s, then I don’t know what their purpose was.  Similarly, yes, there was some actual overlap between that rockabilly fashion sense and being into motorcycles*, but leather and animal prints diverged paths a long ways back. Thanks for indulging me in talking about something I don’t know much about. All you missed was the cousins repeating the words “Motor Psychos” over and over.

Before I move on, I’d like to point out that this motorcycle gang has given this new initiate into their gang a brand new motorcycle.


The women in the audience yuk it up at the fact that there’s a hole in the knee of Balki’s jeans.  Larry notices that Balki is stealing his usual bit of pretending to be something he’s not; he knows the dangers.


Larry comments on Balki’s tattoo, and Balki says that it’s “a loaner”. Larry thinks for a second about how that joke doesn’t make sense, no matter which of two ways you try to interpret it.


Balki says that Larry should join so they can ride their hogs together, and somehow there’s not a joke about riding real hogs in this, the show about the guy who thinks that every word of American slang has something to do with the agricultural lifestyle he left behind.


Balki leaves to go to his initiation, and even though the motorcycle is relatively quiet (like, quieter than the cousins whispering about Mrs. Bailey), it’s enough to drown out Larry.

I’m cracking up because that is the absolute stupidest name for a bar I’ve ever seen.


There’s a story there. Like, somebody opened up a bar called “Wild Bill’s” first, and then somebody opened “Wild Bill’s Saloon”, and then someone was forced to pick “Wild Bill’s Bar”… you’ve all dealt with coming up with a unique username.  There’s a really shitty Yosemite Sam-a-like with the widest possible hat brim on the sign, too. I mean, like, worse than daycare cartoon character ripoff shitty. But I guess we are overdue for a bunch of big men with no sleeves to beat up the cousins, though, so let’s get to it.


Balki runs into a likely candidate, who is SO BIG that any information traveling from his nerve endings gets tired before it reaches his brain, and he doesn’t notice instantly.


And there’s that Balki walk again, last seen in “High Society”! Here it’s a symbol of how he fell down.

The giant biker’s name is Cobra; I’m going to assume that he is the younger brother of Snake, whom we met in season 1.

Balki thought he was getting 1000cc, but finds himself faced with a catch-22 instead: he must have an “old lady” to have the initiation.

…wait for it…


…yep, there’s the joke: Balk tried to kidnap an old woman from a rest home.


Cobra offers Fran as Balki’s old lady. But no Motorcycle Maiden she: Fran sniffs and puts her leg up on the table.


Larry shows up to save his cousin and THANK YOU to the wardrobe department for allaying my earlier fears. There’s some decent biker outfits here. I’m grooving in particular on the requisite biker with granny glasses and engineer’s cap. Today’s television and film makers have forgotten about this guy.


Balki tries to do the Dance of Joy, but Larry knows that the gayest dance you can get away with in a place like this is the one Pee-Wee did.

Can I please, PLEASE get a good shot of the Motor Psychos patch?

Cobra calls Larry a “pocket yuppie”; Larry proves him right by complimenting his Bolo tie. Then we get another clunky joke setup (#45 in a series, collect ‘em all!) that has an actual good punchline.  Let me show you how this plays out so you’ll know what I mean.

Cobra: The kid stays. He makes us laugh.

Larry: Well, you know, if it’s laughs you’re looking for, uhh, I could send you some comedy albums. You like Steve Martin? Robin Williams? What about Jay Leno? He rides a motorcycle!

Cobra: Jay Leno’s funny! But! …he’s no Garry Shandling.


I laughed out loud at that line, but I kid you not: I had to go back just to remember how they got from point A to point D.

Cobra Patchman has his assistants hang Larry’s jacket–with Larry in it!

Balki says that Cobra’s just a big meanie and that he doesn’t want to be in the Goonies anymore. So they hang Balki.


Also, THANK YOU 1950s Biker Cap Guy, now I can sell t-shirts!


A biker runs in saying that a beer truck overturned, so they all run away to… lick it up off the ground?




if you–




Look, guys, what works in the bedroom doesn’t always work in a new setting!


Reaching for a piece of wood worked when they were in quicksand, so they try it again here, struggling to grab a chair. I’ve probably said it a dozen times by now, but physical comedy on this show seems to work better when the cousins are restrained.  Balki gets the chair, he gets down, and–


Balki starts saying “do it for me” and Larry protests, knowing exactly what he means.

Balki: Please, Mr. Scarecrow, which way to the Emerald City?


The setup, the implications, and the payoff are all funny.  Something that funny coming out of left field is rare for this show. And now, back to Gay Joke Theatre:


Do beer trucks, in addition to carrying cases of branded boxes of canned and bottled beer, also carry kegs? Was it delivering to this very bar?


And I saw it coming that the bottle would not break in Larry’s hand, but I’m enjoying this. Balki’s dumbass pastiche of biker clothes, the fact that somebody in wardrobe earned their paycheck this week, the Wizard of Oz joke, the quick plot setup. Plus, this episode sets its sights incredibly low: Balki joins a biker gang and Larry says “no, don’t do that”.  This gives us room for visual humor, physical comedy, and funny guest stars like the guy who played Sloth breaking the beer bottle on his head.


The cousins can just stand there and babble about what Larry was trying to do and I don’t even care that it doesn’t advance anything. This episode is just enjoying where it is at any given moment.


Gee, I don’t know, sometimes things are funny and sometimes they’re not, I guess. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


The bikers recognize that Larry is Balki’s old lady and proclaim that it’s initiation time. Larry points to the restrooms and says “there’s Elvis”** and even though the tallest guy is standing in the back of the group, they all just stare for awhile as the cousins run away.


They run into the apartment and verify that they’re safe from the bikers. Balki milks it so that Larry is scared for his life longer than necessary, like the kind shepherd we know him to be.

Larry digs into the alternate meanings of “old lady” and Balki cries, thinking of Mary Anne. How she was so dumb she thought a V-twin was just a W; so dumb she thought a sissy bar was a place where gay guys went to drink; so dumb she thought dual sport meant trying to play baseball and football at the same time; so dumb she thought riceburner was, you know, kind of a racist term…

There’s a knock at the door, and even though Larry was scared that someone would come through it and kill him not 45 seconds ago, he opens it up right away.


It’s Mary Anne!

She compliments Balki’s outfit while Balki rubs her face. Mary Anne came back because she missed Chicago and Balki.


Both women have now turned down success in favor of these guys. Successful jobs… guys with jobs in the basement… god damn, do I really have to talk about sexism again? Two weeks in a row?  Well, what the hell, this was basically this season’s Fat Marsha episode, let’s lean into it.

America was once a novelty–the country that reached all the way from one ocean to another.  As early as the 1890s, Frederick Jackson Turner saw the societal potentialities that such a country had open to it; his “frontier thesis” was that America was defined by its frontiers.  Whereas the initial colonization of America had freedom from the Church of England as one of its goals; the frontier promised freedom from church itself.*** Though even Turner wondered at how the dynamic would change one the frontier was lost, it was a promise made anew with the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.  The 50s gave way to the 60s, where the reality of biker gangs was noticeable enough to become fixed in the media through such films as The Wild Angels and Easy Rider.**** However, by the time of the airing of “That Old Gang of Mine”, the Interstate system was three years away from completion.  You could argue that the frontier, and perhaps America itself, was pretty much completed. Perhaps it had already entered a period of decadence, now that biker gangs were off the open roads and had found a new home in the city.

The world had grown smaller; but the world had grown wider.  New opportunities were opening up. Job promotions weren’t limited to one country, or even one continent, or even one gender.

Claiming freedoms often obscures intent, like the aforementioned split from the Church of England.  You can basically assume a silent (men’s) within lots of stuff throughout history; black (men’s) voting rights after the civil war; (men’s) right to protest the Catholic church; the beginning of the (men’s) university system in the Middle Ages.  I’ve never liked the word “herstory” because I am (a guy who is) into etymology and pretty anal retentive to boot, but it’s a valid damn point.  The show is right to reject the outdated and corrupted idea of freedom represented by the bikers; it leads to crime and stupid business names. In one sense, the show is trying to say that civilized society comes down to a nicer type of necktie.  But this show is also staunchly committed to carving out an inoffensive middle ground, and the polar opposite it presents makes the whole message clear: women should not be allowed freedoms.

On the biker side: the bikers are free to dress as they please, talk as they please, take what they please. But they are also so free that Fran belongs to whoever wants or needs her.  Whose old lady was she before? It doesn’t matter, Balki needs one now. Women shouldn’t be allowed these freedoms, whether it’s to reject keeping their knees together as a true lady would…


…or whether it’s having control over their own bodies, even if they are still part of the capitalist machine…


…or whether it’s accepting the next stage of global social & labor evolution, sprouting wings and flying halfway around the world. Wild Angels, indeed!

The cousins don’t have specialized skills. Couldn’t Balki sort mail in London? Couldn’t Larry write two sentences a month in California? Jennifer and Mary Anne, we are left to assume, are the Chicago natives, and they were willing to move. Larry and Balki are the newbies to the town and they’re way more tied to the city they never explore.  Larry may have gotten a degree in photography, but Mary Anne (Summa Cum Laude) studied in a field where she had to write a thesis. She’s flown around the globe multiple times; she doesn’t know the meaning of the word “frontier”. Why not support her success?

Best I can tell, no conversations were ever had about whether the men should move to where the women would work. Okay, okay, I’ll grant you this: the show had not clarified Larry and Jennifer’s relationship last season, and that very episode did.  And while it’s never explicitly said what Mary Anne and Balki are to each other



the fuck




I guess… no matter how serious you are, if the woman leaves, that’s that? And it’s just a rejection of you? Don’t get me wrong, we learn anew each week just how fragile Larry’s ego is, but god DAMN.


Season 2’s “Get a Job” made the statement that men should fear women controlling them. “That Old Gang of Mine” reinforces that men should be in control of women. A woman owned by everyone is as bad as a woman owned by no one. One man should own one woman.

Join me next week for “Crimebusters”, which will probably turn out to be a subpar remake of the 1982 film “Night Shift”.


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

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

*That overlap was called “Elvis”; and I feel that its late-80s version is best understood by looking to Nicolas Cage’s performance as Sailor Ripley in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart.

**he was last seen on a toilet, to be fair

***The downside of this thesis, you could argue, is that it pushed all of the criminals westward, resulting in the sinful state of California, where you could *shiver* turn right on a red light. By the way, take a wild guess where the Hells Angels started.

****Disclaimer: I’ve watched neither of those, but I did see Werewolves on Wheels, which I’m sure was essentially the same plot

*****If you can read this, Jennifer didn’t necessarily fall off

Season 3, Episode 22: Bye Bye Biki


Oh man, I’m so excited. Season 1 ended with a party, Season 2 ended with a nailbiting setpiece atop Twinkacetti’s roof*. I don’t know exactly what “Bye Bye Biki” has to offer, but I’m sure it’s going to be a real showstopper!  You know why? Because once you get enough episodes under your belt, you can not only make callbacks, but you can start stacking them on top of each other.  Think about the time Michael Scott burned his foot on his George Foreman grill, and then used it at a cookout. Think about basically any later Firesign Theatre album. Think season 3 of Arrested Development.

Consider the possibilities of what jokes I can mix!  Maybe somebody else drinks some Bismol and I can talk about how Larry shouldn’t drink after them because of his immune system!  Or maybe Jennifer will get a hot tip from Gus about eyeliner! Or maybe Mary Anne will be so dumb that she thinks that a callback joke involves humorous use of vertical service code *69!

Speaking of dirty jokes, I’ve also been saving up my “Larry and Balki are super-probably totes gay” gags during the past few weeks’ moratorium.


Ain’t no party like a gay callback party, y’all!


We open outside the Caldwell, where we find the window open. Last season ended with a double X, a sign of death and deletion.  Here, the windows signal two levels of uncertainty. The open window to a fire escape signals an exit; but as with any sitcom, renewal is always a concern, and we don’t know yet whether the escape would be up, or down, that ladder.  Also the little pattern below the other windows is a symbol of how Larry gives Balki handjobs!**

Larry is urging his Cousin Balki to leave his room so they can get the “good donuts” at work!  Good donuts! Haha, yeah, good donuts are the ones you can stick your penis through! Larry’s gay! Also he’s fat! Also crullers are the bad donuts, which is a callback I’m making to “Happy Birthday Baby”!

But Balki is still putting his clothes on, probably because they were boinking right before this.


But the phone rings and Larry, having finally learned patience, hangs his coat. Remember this. This is important.

Is it a hot tip from Gus?  Is he going to tell Larry to forget the donuts so he can get some photos of Mr. Casselman cheating on his wife with Fat Marsha?


Oh, no, wait, it’s Balki’s mom, screaming “Balki” into the phone. Well played, show, I see you’re trying to beat me at the callback game.


Oh, no, wait, it’s not Balki’s mom, it’s his “Yaya”, which is Myposian for grandmother.  So Balki just talks Myposian at her for a minute while Dmitri does Dmitri in the background.

Balki ends the call by saying “bye bye, babe” in a deep voice. Larry assumes that Yaya Bartokomous is coming, and is confused when Balki corrects him. I guess we can add incest to the Quiverfull aspect of Larry’s family of origin. Ooh! Ooooh!  This explains why Larry’s got no immune system to speak of!  Or at the very least, he does have a fragile one, which is nothing to sneeze at.  (I’ve been holding onto that one for 38 episodes.)

Anyway, Balki’s maternal grandmother, Yaya Biki, is coming to visit. Also, she’s 106 years old! Around this time last season, we established that Balki is Jesus, so they must be counting years the way they did in the Old Testament, where one season is a year.  So Yaya Biki’s only, you know, Larry’s age.


While Balki finishes covering up his nakedness, he talks up his gramma some more. Every morning she wakes up, takes the sheep 6 miles up a hill, then comes back and makes breakfast for 26 men; after which she does aerobics.  I guess that’s supposed to be impressive compared to the 11 men thing from way back, but what, she doesn’t have a baby in the middle of all that?


In the next scene, the cousins are right back home. Balki finishes hanging some garlic wreaths because the walls have come down with a cold.


Cousin Larry comes in, and his first instinct is to look to the right, and behind him. He shdh at the garlic, and then he hangs his coat. Remember this. This is important.


The next joke is that Larry almost runs into a cow which is standing right behind the couch.  It’s a good thing everyone looks to the right and behind them when they enter their home, or else there was no way that joke would have landed.  I have three jokes for the cow.


The cow is Yaya Biki.

This will be the first cow Larry hasn’t had to share with eight brothers and sisters.

Balki and Larry will have to eat grass to try to hide the cow from Twinkacetti.


Thank you. Mooving on.


Oh, no, wait, I have more.

This is an udderly ridiculous situation.

Larry, can you get pasture Cousin’s most recent flagrant breach of the lease terms?


Okay, really, I’m done.

I bet that chew cud be upset with me for milking this cheesy bit.


Mark Linn-Baker does a nice line reading saying “Balki”–it’s half scared Larry, half Balki’s Yaya over the phone.


Balki pops up from behind some plants he probably pulled out of a dumpster and asks what’s up.

Cousin Larry beats around the bush for a bit trying to soften the blow of telling Balki he’s upset about the cow. In one way, that’s growth for Larry that he’s not instantly upset. But Sarah Portland talked in the comments about her Myposian roommate a couple months back, and now that I can see this through her eyes, Larry, you’ve got every right to eat that whole cow. You’re fat, Larry.


Speaking of developments in character growth that really aren’t, and that shouldn’t have been necessary, we see that Balki has made his Yaya a blanket. For once, it’s not the same damn green one they keep trotting out any time Balki needs a blanket.


But it’s always two steps forward, one step back with this show, because we then find that Yaya Biki watches Letterman.  And I think it’s time I talked about character creep.


No, no, stop, not that. I’m borrowing here; I first encountered the idea of “creep” in a project management course, where we read about “scope creep”. The Letterman line is another one of those jokes that erodes the rustic feel of Mypos for easy yuks. And this points up a bigger problem for the show at this stage. Again, Sarah Portland hit the nail on the head with this one three months ago when she said that the show tries to have Larry be the stable one and Balki the manic one, while it’s obvious now that the opposite is true.  Larry is the adult character, so it’s fun to have him act like a child. Balki is the foreign character, so it’s fun to have him speak in an accent-less deep voice. Mary Anne is the dumb character, so it’s fun to have her say something smart. Jennifer is the desirable character, so it’s fun to give her absolutely zero personality.  But in the same way that the show ends up undercutting its lessons by tacking a joke onto the end of them, it’s eroding these characters, and the statements it has made about them. It’s fine if you want to show that Larry’s still a little kid inside to illustrate how he’s trying his best to put on the vestments of adulthood, but at least let him still have a base of cultural knowledge that Balki can benefit from!

Anyway, holy cow, we’re a third of the way into the episode and not a damn thing’s happened. Seriously, I hit play again right after I wrote that paragraph and Balki’s just pointing at a chair he bought. I can only imagine that Larry and Balki are not having sex right now because they’re worried their leather pants would offend the cow.


Goddam, finally, we go to the Chronicle building. I was worried there for a minute I was going to have to write a good callback joke about how the sound effect of the cow lowing was on the flip side of the LP they used for Little Frankie’s crying back in season 2.


Balki is teaching Larry, Harriette, and Lydia how to sing a Myposian song. Hey Gorpley, here’s your chance! Come out and fire this guy!


This is a nice visual indicator of the acting skills of these three. Harriette is happy to do something for Balki, but Larry and Lydia are both thinking to themselves “is this really a song?”.

The last word of the song is “babasticky”, and the song is supposed to be “For she’s a jolly good fellow”*** and maybe the “babasticky” is meant to convey the impossibility of denial part at the end of the song?  I’m trying to make sense of this language, but who cares. Larry and Balki are primarily concerned with the language of love.


Harriette: W-wait, wait, hold on, honey

*sigh* You’re right, Harriette. I’m kind of forcing the gay jokes. I’ll get us back on track with some callbacks. (You are Harriette, right?)


Balki repeats the exposition about Yaya Biki coming, and tells us that there’s going to be a party.  I’m glad he did that! If this scene had been Harriette and Lydia at the party, we would have had no explanation whatsoever as to how they knew to show up.

Harriette insults Lydia on her way out, and then the phone rings.  It turns out that Carol is actually dating a guy named Jim.


Haha, nah, j/k, Yaya Biki changed planes in New York and her heart stopped. She’s dead. That’s really sad. Huh.

I guess she must have sexually harassed one of the Delta terminal’s desk staff and threatened to have him fired!


Mary Anne (Sagittarius) and Jennifer are there to recreate the scene from the end of Season 1, even down to there being potato chips and Mary Anne wearing a lot of eyeliner. Balki has even regressed to saying “potata chips”.


Usually it just takes 18 minutes for the cousins’ roles to be reversed, but here we see one two seasons in the making: Cousin Larry makes the party guests leave. He makes his own callback by telling the women that Harriette and Lydia are wearing the same outfits, and that they should go upstairs and change.


Mary Anne drops her guard for a sarcastic split-second; she knows what’s up (Larry’s penis up Balki’s butthole, usually).

Larry has some difficulty saying that Yaya Biki is dead, and the guys in the audience think the way he hesitates about it is HILARIOUS.

Balki sits down and says he’s been running around “like a chicken with its head glued on” and damn. I… did not expect that I would ever need to make a callback to how Myposian youths amuse themselves by watching animals die.


Larry says that Yaya Biki bought the farm and Balki is so happy that he makes the same face & arm motions that I did when I found out that my apartment building’s fire alarm is just two decibels shy of bursting my eardrums.

But on Mypos, unlike in 1980s America, farms were still a thing that got used instead of subsidized, and a misunderstanding is as good an opportunity as any for Balki’s catchphrase, isn’t it?


Larry says that Yaya Biki is dead. Alright, the Biki plot is out of the way and we’ve got 10 minutes left.  The women are gone, the door’s locked, let’s drop those trousers and party down!


Balki decides to go out and buy more chips, and wow, when has Balki not been upfront with his feelings?


Balki comes back with the CEO of Unichip, Inc., demanding that he count all the potato chips in Chicago.


Nah, j/k, the cousins come back from the circus. Balki’s wearing a balloon hat, and so is his familiar, Dmitri. Did… did Dmitri time travel?

Balki: Doesn’t this balloon hat lend itself well to a joke about phalluses? We’re really gay, Cousin!


Heehee! This move’s called the “Bozo Bucket Bonanza”!

Balki’s obviously really into having fun right now, and nothing’s more fun than the fun they sure do have when the four of them get together, so Balki suggests they invite the women to watch a movie. (Pizza is the only thing Larry eats.) (Larry is fat.) (Larry does not poop.)

Balki: I’ll make some popcorn and we can practice catching it in our mouths!

Hee, hee, “catching” is a gay sex word. Larry and Balki are ‘mos!


Then they argue about whether Balki is happy.  I thought Balki never lied, and that Larry would believe anything Balki says?

Larry finally (after three friggin’ weeks?) asks Balki if he’s really happy that his Yaya Biki died. Balki admits he’s not happy, and explains to his cousin that his Yaya had asked him to go on with his happy life when she dies. He’s holding on tight to that highest of Myposian ideals: the Promise He Made.


If Balki playing with squeaky toys indicated the shallowness of a lesson, Balki dropping popcorn kernels one at a time into a pan tells us the depth of his sorrows.

Larry says that you have to mourn someone when they die.


Larry: I had an uncle whose wife died…

So… your aunt?

Larry says that this uncle wrote a letter to his dead wife, and that it made things a little better. Look, show, this is a comedy, can we just have a goofy seance at a third location?

Balki doesn’t want to say goodbye.  Larry leaves to visit the womenfolk.


Balki keeps trying to start talking to the chair, and again only the men in the audience laugh.

Balki talks to the chair he bought, about how he wanted his Yaya to see more of the country than LaGuardia’s filthy bathroom stalls. Yaya Biki had told Balki stories about the Statue of Liberty, how she was bringing light to the world.


Balki: So I — so I’ve got Yaya Biki sitting here.  And you — I was going to ask you a couple of questions.  But — you know about — I remember three and a half years ago, when you sheared that sheep. And though I was not a big supporter, I was watching that night when you were shaving that thing and they were talking about hope and change and they were talking about, yes we can, and it was dark outdoors, and it was nice, and people were lighting candles. They were saying, I just thought…


I just can’t. I can’t, you guys. I can’t follow through on that Clint Eastwood joke. It was going to be really great, but what

what does it





I’ve been trying so hard to keep this blog funny, I’ve been trying to make gay jokes and I wanted to really make you all laugh with some stellar callbacks about there not being any party horns and, like, Moonlighting, and suicide… I even had a Biki with the good hair joke all ready to go, but it’s all just been a giant clown nose to hide my pain.


Susan’s gone, you guys. We never really got to know her, but she always seemed like she had such great potential. And not just Susan, but all those others! Tina, Carol, Gina, Linda, Gorbachev, Suprides, Eddie, Donald Twinkacetti, Edwina Twinkacetti, their children, Wistful and Woebegone… They’re all gone.  I’ve been trying to keep myself happy by honoring the promise I made**** to make this the funniest sitcom review blog around.  But I’ve got five more seasons of this; if I’m any good at it, I’ll pick up new readers. And will they even know what I mean 50 reviews from now when I say that  ennifer: — ?



It’s obvious now that I remember more about seasons 1 and 2 now than season 3 does.  I love this show, my awkward, frustrating, clumsy child; but it’s growing up. This show outgrew its clothes. It learned to use the toilet (well, after breaking it, anyway). It’s not going to remember its beginnings, but I will. We’ve probably all gone through phases where we had to demand that our parents stop seeing us as babies, or children, or teenagers.  It’s hard.  My show’s changing, and I have to change with it. It’s been scrubbing the specificity off its characters’ pasts all season, and I see what I’m supposed to learn from that. I can’t make a callback to everything; everything can’t be a running joke.

Balki, to Biki, regarding the Statue of Liberty:

I remember the first time I ever saw her. I was sailing into New York Harbor on the steamer, and the sun was coming up, and… there she was. Just like you said. Bringing light to the world. And it was the most wonderful day of my life. And… you… made that day possible.

I knocked this show so hard all season long for watering down its own lessons (with poop water, no less) that it took me by surprise when there was a lesson for me waiting here at the end.


Balki’s realizing that he is the new generation, that he has to leave behind his past and forge his new life in the greater world.  Man, the scene where Luke finds his burnt uncle and aunt got nothing on this!  The lesson here is that Balki has to honor his past by enjoying the opportunities it gave him, rather than feeling like he had to keep up every aspect of his culture.


And me?  I have to roll with the changes. I know I’m capable. I know I’m funny. But as much as this blog is about me, it’s just as true that it isn’t. I don’t know where Perfect Strangers is going now; I’ll talk more about this in the season review, but I don’t think it did either. I’m in a dialogue with the show, and I have to follow it where it goes.  It’s still my dream, and some weeks it seems to take over my life. But the show and I are long past “hello”, and I can’t keep talking to it like it’s a baby.

Or like it’s an empty chair symbolizing a dead body in legal purgatory, sitting in the Delta baggage claim and stinking of fish parts.


As the camera pulls back towards the windows, we ask: will it escape down the ladder, or up?

Season 3 est mort.

Vive Season 3.



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

Boner count: how dare you, Balki’s Yaya Biki died


**it’s complicated, send me a DM and I’ll explain it

***public domain, not reason #whatever

****to Satan

*****Psychology Sidebar: the “five stages of grief” model was developed by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in the late 1960s


NAH, J/K, y’all mofos oughta know by now I always roll three deep with callbacks. I stack jokes better than Balki stacks motor oil cans. I can get ex-girlfriends back with the mere mention of egg rolls and saxophone music. My stuffed sheep even has tiny callback jokes! You butter believe it!

Season 2, Episode 20: Get a Job


We open with a shot of the Ritz Discount from ground level, teasing us with whatever’s down that side street.  So mysterious, like back when I played my first Zelda game, Link’s Awakening, and you could see cool stuff on certain screens that you couldn’t get to yet because you didn’t have the Power Bracelet yet. Like, you know, maybe there’s a better sitcom down that street. Maybe there’s even a building where no sitcoms take place. But I won’t be able to get there with just my bare hands.


Balki and Larry are so sure they’re going to get a raise that they’re offering to take Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) to a classy restaurant.  Jennifer is wearing an outfit we’ve seen her in before, but Mary Anne has chosen to dress up as a strawberry Starburst for the occasion.  You’re rocking that dress, Mary Anne, but you’re getting a little wild with the eyeliner.  We’re towards the end of the season, here; don’t become another Tina.

Anyway, Larry had demanded a raise from Twinkacetti the previous day and is 100% certain that he’ll get it when Twinkacetti comes in that morning.  Larry has forgotten that you’re not supposed to be certain of anything while they’re still showing the producers’ names on the screen (and, besides, you’re only ever supposed to be certain that love of family trumps all).  But Twinkacetti comes in, rushing towards his office.  He pauses briefly to establish character


Twinkacetti: Uh, I’m mean or something. Yeah. Ruff!

before closeting himself away in his office.  Larry and Balki confront him, so he pops back out briefly.

Twinkacetti: Okay, whatever’s the opposite of what you wanted, just go do your lesson about how Balki’s better.


But Larry doesn’t give up, so Twinkacetti finally just decides he can masturbate to the S&P (Skene glands and perinea) 500 later and tells the cousins that they don’t get a raise because he hired another employee and lowered their salaries.


Evidently, Larry’s been working all through season 2 to grow a pair, because he finally stands up to Twinkacetti.  He calls Twinkacetti out on how he overworks them, underpays them, and insults them. Cousin Larry also goes on about how discount shops just aren’t the best setting for sitcoms, and how they’ve pretty much done every story they can with this setup, so he quits.  Balki backs him up on it, pointing out that they’ve also already done the “Larry stands up to Twinkacetti” plot. I like where this episode is headed!  The show needs to break out of this rigmarole at this point; I mean, look, I was fucking talking about Zelda games up there with the opening shot. Let’s move on already.


Twinkacetti:  Whatever, I just landed a role on A Fine Romance and it’s gonna be better than this trainwreck.


Larry and Balki pretend to laugh triumphantly, but it quickly sinks in that their courage has left them unemployed. They have made a mistake.  In other words, Larry and Balki have a good laugh about their boner. (Nailed it!)  But Larry quickly regroups and remembers that this show is about pursuing the American dream, and that they can do whatever they want.

Balki wants to be the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and Larry tells him to save that dream for season 6, they’ll need it by then.


And here’s the most I’ve ever gotten excited about a third location.  I’m even in love with how brutally fake those signs are. I’m actually curious how they did both the neon, as well as the slight 3D, effects.  And I don’t know why the idea of these guys working in a burger joint thrills me, but it does. The tacit promise of a grease fire, probably.


That jukebox.  Awww yiss things are getting good.  Larry makes an actually decent joke about how meth-heads probably come to the restaurant, but it’s a little punctured by the fact that the restaurant doesn’t look anywhere near as awful as it’s supposed to. I mean, it’s no Tony’s Mambo Room, but still.


Then we meet “Fat Marsha” Manning herself.


She’s a party girl.


I’m in love.


She instantly comes on to Balki. In the next breath she comes on to Larry. Then she comes on to Balki again.  The show is placing the cousins in a setting, and with people, which 1) Larry has been trained to think of as low-class and which 2) Balki will accept, if not because he has no sense of American social strata, then because he’s open and loving.  And bravo for doing that, since it functions as the the counterpoint for “Tux for Two”.


The show is trying to tell us that Larry is coming face-to-face not only with a gross restaurant, but a gross woman.  That shot is instructive, I think. The white-collar hopeful is completely put off by the blue-collar woman. Even Balki knows something’s wrong!

But I get the impression that actress Susan Kellerman is rejecting some aspects of the role that the show gave her.  Sure, she’s sexually harassing potential employees seconds after they enter her the business she owns, which is maybe not a great step up from working under a guy who insults you. The difference, though, is that Fat Marsha fucking owns it.  She’s made it on her own in the big city: part of her backstory is that she lost something like 200 pounds (!) after opening the restaurant.  You get the sense that Twinkacetti is miserable with his station in life, and that this only feeds his negative personality.  But Fat Marsha is having the time of her life; sure, she’s coming on strong, but I’ve come to learn that flirting is just a way of relating to others for some people. On top of Kellerman putting such verve into the role, I think the fact that the other female characters get so little personality makes this all the more effective.


Fat Marsha smacks Larry on the ass.


Balki looks at Larry’s ass as if this move has never occurred to him.


Fat Marsha trains the cousins on making burgers; she comes on to Balki again, leading to the best joke of the episode.

Fat Marsha:  Do you ever arm-wrestle naked?

Balki: Oh! No… that would be cheating.


Man, why can’t I get rewarded like this when I come up with good punchlines? I like boobs!


Heehee!  Man, I love Fat Marsha.

She leaves for the gym (Reuben’s Perfect Body, I assume), having only taught the cousins how to make and serve a plain burger – not how to make gyros, fries, steaks, or even work a cash register from the current decade.


Balki the Kid shows up, excited primarily at how they’re in a new environment with new toys he can play with.  He’s so excited about ringing the bell that he starts this shit again.


Balki shakes his pretend tits and sings “9 to 5” for the 50th time while making fries. I’m going to try to say this just once and get it out of my system: since I’m on immunosuppressants and have just the one white blood cell these days (I have to lie down occasionally so it can travel back out of my legs), I am deeply, deeply disturbed by how these guys keep touching multiple surfaces and then touching food that people are going to eat. Like, gag me with a spoon.


Larry takes an order from Lewis, patriarch of the Arquette clain, who likes his food as awful as possible.


Balki forces Larry to adhere to the rules of the hanging wheel that you stick the order tickets on, denying a restaurant patron an order of fries. I was going to make a joke about him being power-mad, but I think this is Roger Rabbit Balki rearing its head again–he can only break character like that when it’s funny.

And now, for the final aspect of the crazy situation that Larry and Balki find themselves in:


Angry hockey fans flood the restaurant! And… and… oh yes



We come back from the commercial break with a bunch of burly, angry men in blue just shouting at Larry.  It’s the episode of Perfect Strangers I didn’t know I needed.


This guy shouts at Larry.


This guy shouts at Larry.

They’re all shouting at you, Larry! Balki, meanwhile, has lost track of the order wheel.  Larry grabs Balki’s ears and then touches a bunch of food.  Like, gross me out the door!


This guy over here keeps demanding a chili dog, and we finally realize just how bad the job at the discount store has been for Larry.  If he had gotten a chance to interact with more than one customer every 10 episodes, he’d have enough customer service skill to be able to try at least one tactic to calm this guy down.  Even Balki’s a little scared of the guy; I guess there’s not enough Myposian virtue in the world to overcome a guy shouting about a chili dog.

So they serve him what, if I remember correctly, was the result of my last mineral oil enema. Because he’s lower-class, Chilidude leaves, if not satisfied, then at least not shouting.  On his way out, Chilidude has an altercation with Jerseyman.


Remember where you are. This is Burgerdome. The Sitcom Gods are listening, and will take the first man that screams. Larry tries to intercede.


Larry: No, no, look at his face! He’s got the mind of a child! It’s not his fault!




Then Balki runs in, and what, Balki, were you going to tell them that they’re family and family always sticks together? The only lesson Chilidude’s ever had to learn is to stop putting a space between the words “Black Hawks”.


Fat Marsha comes in and blows a whistle to calm down the hockey fans, and that’s my favorite non-dialogue joke this episode.


Fat Marsha: What’s this? What’s this?! You think I don’t know the law? You think I don’t know the law? Wasn’t it me who wrote it? And the law says: “bust a deal, you get no meal”.


Before they leave, it’s revealed that both Chilidude and Jerseyman are in a sexual relationship with Fat Marsha. Larry sits down before Fat Marsha can touch his butt again, so she sticks her finger up Balki’s butt as much as she can through his pants.


Balki and Cousin Larry come back home maimed and finally, for once, we got to see the maiming. You have no idea how much I appreciate this, show.


The cousins do a little post-mortem on how bad the whole experience was, and Balki refers to a commercial where a woman checks the waistbands of men’s underwear. I can’t find the commercial, but I’m sure it was real.  Does anyone remember it?


Hey, it’s Mrs. Twinkacetti! But lest you think that this episode equals “The Rent Strike” for named female characters speaking, Mary Anne only says “bye” in her earlier scene, so “The Rent Strike” is still at the top.

Mrs. Twinkacetti has brought her husband by to ask the cousins to come back to work, because it turns out that the new guy was stealing from the discount store. (Nobody uses the word “fired”, so I think it’s safe to say they let Pugsley and Wednesday “play” with him.)  Larry tries to shush Balki when he brings up their new jobs (maybe that lesson about lying stuck?), but then he realizes that Balki’s trying to haggle for higher pay. They get their jobs back, as well as the raise they asked for, and they even get Twinkacetti to agree to stop calling them losers. Just for that last part alone, you really couldn’t have had this episode anywhere but towards the end of the season.  I mean, that’s half of Twinkacetti’s lines gone right there!


Don’t you just love Belita Moreno?  I love Belita Moreno. The best part of this scene is how she keeps having to tell Mr. Twinkacetti what to do.

The cousins try to do that Roxbury Guys bit.  I feel you, guys; women make that same face every time I try it, too.


The music comes on, but Balki and Larry realize that they don’t feel happy, so they engage in a little bit of self-deception, telling each other that someday they’ll graduate night school and land a photography job, respectively; they may have trials here below, but they’re bound for Canaan land. (The joke is that they’ll never achieve these their dreams, that all hope is falsehood sold by the elite to keep the slave class docile, life is drudgery. We like to have fun around here.)

Now they are so illusioned by their own brains’ chemical imperatives to not be sad, they do the dance of joy!


No, you don’t get a gif of it this time.  You get a gif of Fat Marsha, because that’s what I want to leave open in a browser tab all next week.


Okay, now that we’re done with the jokes, let’s have a little talk about women and girls, since we had four of them this time around (okay, there’s a fifth one in the restaurant, but she just wanted fries). Every time I want to talk about Jennifer and Mary Anne in a collective sense, I have to overcome the urge to refer to them as “the girls”.  Part of this is because Balki and Larry call them that; part of it is this weird mental holdover of my own. I don’t know why I feel the need to mention this, and I hope I’m not back-patting.  I have to imagine that this show was one of thousands of places I heard fully-grown women referred to as “girls”, and thirty years later, it’s still something I’m trying to exorcise from my system. I didn’t mention it at the time, but the #1 gross-me-out sexist moment on this show so far was back in the Christmas episode, where Larry kisses Jennifer under the mistletoe, walks away, and jerks his thumb over his shoulder to signal to Balki that it’s his turn; a move that says “get in there”. I like joking about how they don’t give the women any lines or traits of their own, but that instance was a little too much for me, and I wasn’t sure how to express that.  So let’s talk about othering.

I’ve mentioned before how I, as a child, I was intrigued by characters who were the wild “other”, who managed to carve out an existence removed from typical social interests.  Usually this came in the form of the “wacky neighbor”, but when you remove the “neighbor” part, as here with Balki, it better articulates the “wacky” aspect as simply an unfettered Inner Child.  There’s no doubt that’s what appealed to me–getting to be silly in situations where one is supposed to be proper (sidebar: what in the 80s was cathartic is now de rigueur in terms of the man-child, but that’s another topic for another day).  For adults, Balki was the “other”; for children a compatriot (which, by the way, now that I’m thinking about it, props to mid-80s ABC for creating a long-running family sitcom with no family in it).  But this show presents a more sinister “other”: the woman. In the pop culture world, even today, man is more often than not presented as the norm, something that the audience is supposed to relate to regardless of their gender. Despite Larry and Balki’s differences, women are the same impenetrable, inscrutable type of being, and the not knowing scares them.

There’s a lot going on here with sex and power and personality, way more than I’m qualified to talk about, but I’ll say a few things.  Jennifer and Mary Anne are often basically the same person; “Trouble in Paradise” aside, the main difference is that Mary Anne has no brain, while Jennifer is, I dunno, taller. But they have something that Larry and Balki want to possess.  I’ll give the show credit for having Larry’s outdated attempts at domination through puffing meet with failure, but it’s still the men who are making the first moves.  Yes, the nature of a show about two men may be forcing that perspective, because it’s their desires at the forefront, but that begs the question of why we primarily get that perspective.  Even in the Christmas episode, when Mary Anne kisses Balki, it’s played for laughs; Mary Anne is so thoroughly “the dumb one” that her forwardness really can’t be separated from that.

This episode began with the cousins trying to use luxury to woo women.  They were then forced into a world that was ruled by a woman ; ruled so thoroughly, in fact, that she had no fear of having her own personality and owning her sexuality.  Chilidude and Jerseyman symbolize, perhaps, that Larry and Balki would then be placed in competition with each other to be the sexiest, most desirable partner for the mate with the most economic power.  So they flee back to their familiar, comfortable habitat, where the only woman with power is Mrs. Twinkacetti; and it’s clear that her power, as well as being played for laughs, serves as punishment for the evil ways of her husband.  But, the point that I’m trying to make is, women as portrayed on shows like this end up being the other, and others are scary.  Larry was fearful of Balki’s arrival, which almost cost him his job.  And potentially, waiting inside every Jennifer or Mary Anne is a Fat Marsha or a Mrs. Twinkacetti, so the goal is to keep trucking along with the 9 to 5 in hopes that one day you can advance enough to win a woman who, because she symbolizes new life, also symbolizes your own mortality if you cannot impregnate her.

Anyway! I could have threaded a lot of that previous paragraph into the recap, but this seemed important enough to be serious about. Plus, I wanted to make some Mad Max jokes. But goddam I made an episode about the best one-off female character into a depressing quagmire of gender portrayals.    Let’s just all scroll back up to watch that gif again.

And next week, good grief, it’s an episode about Larry’s sister: “Hello, Elaine”.  Miss me with the sexism, okay, show?



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

Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0); Me, for Fat Marsha (not telling)

Dance of Joy running total: 8