Season 3, Episode 12: To Be Or Not To Be


The show gives us a panning opening shot, from the top to the bottom of the Chicago Chronicle building, showing us that this path remains empty thanks to the heroic efforts of the Carin’ Cousins Suicide Prevention Squad.


Lydia runs in from the parking garage messing with her earrings. Hi Lydia! Hi!!!

She brings the cousins news of the world, heralding the coming of Director Joel Berry. This name doesn’t register with the cousins, so Lydia tells them that he’s trying to find a Chronicle employee whose constitution would be appropriate for a commercial. Which he’d… um… post… tribunes?

I tried.


Harriette comes down in the elevator, and they’ve got the same dress on!  Oh no! They get super catty about it! I guess it is true that women are the biggest obstacle to feminism!


Belita Moreno really sells that she’s supposed to be wearing a tight, uncomfortable dress by hobbling up the stairs. Bye Lydia!!!

Balki tries to convince Larry that fame is now within reach, because, um, yeah, Larry’s long-term dream is acting, let’s go with that. Then Balki starts in with a pretty good Robin Leach impression that goes on way too long. Have you ever worked with that guy? The guy who doesn’t just want to say a quote from the Godfather, he wants to say one of the monologues? And there’s pauses in it, and you don’t know if he’s expecting you to do a call-and-response or what, because you’ve never watched the Godfather? Are you going to do this the whole show, Balki?


Hey, look, Customer #1 from the very first episode has found fame as a Hollywood Director! Director Joel Berry comes in complaining about how he had to look at a loading dock and then he’s all like “what, a basement set is supposed to be a step up from a discount store? What kind of sitcom does that?”

Balki gets excited, thinking that Director Joel Berry might know Wayne Newton. AGAIN with the Wayne Newton! Kinda makes me miss the first season, when Balki’s interests were more varied and he liked both Wayne Newton AND Dolly Parton. But all this thinking about the first season just makes me think about… her *sniff*.

Director Joel Berry does that framing thing with his hands because that’s what directors do and stares at Balki  Director Joel Berry asks Balki to give Larry mail again. Simply because Director Joel Berry has found the only two people in the building doing actual work instead of sucking up to him, he feels that he has found his stars! Now that they have begun their career in acting, Balki and Larry start practicing their Thalia and Melpomene faces.


Hey, by the way, go back up a couple of screenshots. That looks like a publicity/press photo on the wall back in what I assume is Gorpley’s office? Is that by any chance Sam Anderson from another role?


Then Lydia and Harriette appear at the top of the stairs singing Reason #12 You’re Not Going to Get Seasons 3-8 on DVD, So Quit Asking Me Like I Would Know Or Something: “Together (Wherever We Go)” from the musical Gypsy.

And yeah, sure, that’s a joke, let’s go with that to end the scene.


Back in the apartment, both Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) are present to receive the Sacrament of Exposition. Balki makes a joke about Larry being a lesbian, and…


…and, yeah, okay, I’ve seen one or two that look like that.

Jennifer looks at her watch and says that if there’s no more exposition, they’ll be going…


Larry starts in about how if he becomes a big Hollywood star, he won’t forget the little people. He won’t let anyone leave the room and finally Jennifer tells him that they’re seriously 👏 only 👏 paid 👏 to 👏 listen 👏 to 👏 exposition 👏


Larry says that he’s got to prepare Balki for the big commercial shoot the next day.  Oh boy!  “Larry makes Balki rehearse a plan” scenes are my favorite!


It’s been four weeks, but Larry’s finally got his ego back from the repair shop, and it’s running so nice, he’s got it up to about 65, which is a great cruising speed for this model of Appleton.

There’s dialogue here to the extent that Balki sees his upcoming role as very simple–just do what you always do.  You walk in, you say the line in your funny accent, and you’re done.  Larry counters that there’s depth to acting:

Larry: Tomorrow, you’ll be an actor playing the part of a person delivering the mail. Two completely different things. One is a job; the other… is acting.

I’m not even going to let this one come to a boil, I’ll just go ahead and say I’m really not sure if I’m supposed to take this as a commentary on these two actors.  Linn-Baker is the serious theater actor who went on record saying that doing this show is what gave him the finances to pursue that career. Bronson Pinchot is the actor who talked with a funny voice in a movie, which he parlayed into talking in a funny voice on a TV show, and people liked it so much he decided to start buying expensive paintings. But I’ve never once gotten the impression that these actors didn’t like each other.  I’ve yet to read any stories about fallings-out on set, or hard feelings after the fact. But it was Robert Blair’s first writing credit on this show, and this is around the time that most shows start commenting on themselves in a bigger way, so… yeah, I see it? But I’ve been wrong before (ask me about my metatextual interpretation of Die Hard 3 sometime).

Anyway, back to “Larry’s a Jerk” scene 87, take 2:

Larry think’s he’s hot shit because he built the sets for West Side Story in high school, so Balki sings Reason #13 You Should Just Stop Asking About Season 3 Through 8 On DVD, Really: “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie.

They practice, with Balki delivering the mail, and Larry just yells “wrong!” at him. It’s been something like 30 episodes since the last instance, but finally somebody remembered to put in an instance of Larry repeating instructions over and over and using hand gestures.

Larry: Concentrate… on relaxing.




…on relaxing….


Balki stumbles towards Larry, getting more and more wobbly as Larry gives him more instructions on how to walk. It’s like one of those old cartoon bits where somebody is told how to golf.


Larry tells Balki to emphasize “mail” because, yeah, that’s the key word when you’re advertising a newspaper, let’s go with that. The cousins just say “mail” at each other for awhile.


And why hasn’t Larry been doing this with things like his last name?


Then they do the stumble-wobbling thing again until their peepees touch.


In the next scene, they’re rehearsing the commercial and just in case you wanted to see it again, we get more of Balki wobble-walking.  The director asks whether his legs are all right, and Balki informs us that his supple calves got the whole population of Mypos wet on a daily basis.


Larry tells Director Joel Berry that he should remind Balki “less knees, more hips”. You can tell that Director Joel Berry thinks these guys are totes gay, but he’s a professional and keeps it to himself.* So Director Joel Berry tells Balki to forget everything Larry told him about acting. Balki delivers the mail successfully, and is just so very excited about it.


In the next take, Larry tries out this dumb sonorous voice and starts putting in narration about the Chronicle. It’s almost like someone told him that’s the voice you’re supposed to use when you’re acting.


Uncle Joely tells Larry to cut it out, but then Larry just does the same shit again with the voice, and keeps adding to the script.


This is really exciting, right? A whole episode of everything repeated, right down to the director slapping the mail into Balki’s hand. I guess one guy in the audience is laughing really hard, so it must be good!

*sigh* yeah let’s go with that


They try it again, but Larry says “cut” and the director yells at him**.  Larry starts making a big fucking deal about how Balki changed one word, since they’re “sticking to the script”. And, okay, remember how I came around a little back in “Hello, Baby”, when we were shown how Larry’s a little kid too? Larry the Kid now wants the adult to make things fair because Balki got a bigger piece.


Director Joel Berry takes his whole crew one foot off to the side to have a private “creative meeting” and Larry butts in to let them know you have to go a whole two feet to not be heard.


Speaking of repeating things, the women are at the apartment again, but the Chinese takeout boxes have turned from white to red, and if you’ve Googled your Chinese theatre colors & their meanings like I have, you already know how this change symbolizes the basic arc of every Perfect Strangers episode.

Because they all sure do have fun when they get together, Jennifer and Mary Anne decide it’s time to leave. Then the commercial comes on and Larry says “we don’t need to see that”.


I was kind of expecting a “telephone call for Mr. Herman” kind of result for both of the cousins, but Balki gives the spiel and Larry just has a deer in the headlights look.

And seriously? The Chronicle approved their article writers looking like they’re idiots who just stare into space?


Mary Anne asks if Larry was in it. She’s so dumb, you guys!


Jennifer tries really hard to take care of Larry’s feelings. It’s one of those times where sitcom people are far less able to hide their emotions than real people are, but Jennifer’s just happy to have some lines for once. Then they leave.


Larry starts in on the Bismol, which Balki actually comments on as a problem.

Larry is upset that he promised everyone he was going to be a big star, but he ended up being just a bit player. And holy crud do I wish I could ask Mark Linn-Baker how he felt about this episode, because seriously, that is the arc this show has taken so far. Please, if anyone knows anything, speak up.

Balki tries to mitigate Larry’s upset but fails too. He says that his friends (all three of them) don’t see Larry as a jerk. Balki says that they see the other parts of Larry–that he’s a good friend, kind, supportive, that he’s always there. Shit, I wish that they hadn’t originally aired these episodes out of production order, because that would’ve been nice to see.

Larry is happy for Balki since his face will be on every bus in Chicago, because sure, all directors are also photographers, LET’S GO WITH THAT.


But–a surprise! Larry’s face is on the side of that horse from the opening!


Nah, j/k, Larry’s also on the side of the bus. And that’s pretty good advertising, really. I mean, wouldn’t you like to be touched by these friendly fellows? Whatever they’re selling, I’ll take two!

But… does Larry not remember having his picture taken? Or did the biggest newspaper in the US put a ton of money into having a grainy blown-up film frame on the side of every bus in Chicago?

And somehow, after all that repetitive padding, we still haven’t met the run time, so the cousins just stare at the bus for a whole minute, then we get to watch the bus pulling away too.


Oh wait, I spoke too soon–the bus drives right into the side of the Chicago Sun-Times building, erupting in a fireball, starting what, according to Wikipedia, is a six-episode arc about the Newspaper Wars.  Next week’s episode, “My Lips Are Sealed”, is the one where Balki is tricked into telling the Chronicle’s strategy to a mole.


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

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

*I am not a professional.

**Because he’s a professional.

Season 3, Episode 6: The Horn Blows at Midnight

Hey everybody!  I’m really looking forward to some good horn-blowing this week.

Inside the basement of the Chicago Chronicle building, we find reason #3 you likely won’t get anything past season 2 on DVD: Balki shakes his ass and sings the Box Tops’s “The Letter”.  See? All we had to do was put Balki in a new situation and on-topic songs would come.


Shoot, I got too excited and Balki–instead of blowing a horn–throws a bunch of letters onto the table, spilling many onto the floor.


Larry, no horn visible, comes out of the elevator griping about how the Chronicle pays good money to a “psychic” for its “predictions” (not horoscopes) section.  Harriette, obviously having no other work to do as well as no horn to blow, follows him out of the elevator to add her own two cents: that Claire Hayden “happens to be the world’s greatest psychic”. But Balki’s a huge Claire Hayden fan, so he jumps into the conversation, and now the conversation is all about Balki getting the “funny” lines.  When he finds out Claire Hayden is there, in the building, that very day, he says “get back, funky cat”; when he finds out that Larry is driving her to the airport, he says “Cousin, you are one lucky dude”.  Why did Black Balki have to show up today of all days, when company’s coming over?


Instead of slapping Balki, Harriette just lets Larry continue with the exposition.  Evidently, Claire Hayden flies to Chicago once a year to make her predictions.

okay okay okay stop

  1. Balki says he reads her predictions every day.  She seriously does a whole years’ work of writing predictions in one day?
  2. Evidently some of the predictions are about celebrities–there’s a timely joke about Sean Penn–so what if a celebrity dies in an accident halfway through the year she just wrote?
  3. Why does she need to be in Chicago to do this? Can she not just send a letter for Balki to handle? Does Chicago have no psychics? Is the city a sacred earth vortex and she needs to be there? Is the Chicago Chronicle really a more powerful paper than the New York Times, to the extent that it has the exclusive predictions of the “world’s greatest psychic”?

Then Larry makes a joke about her predicting the earth revolving around the sun, Balki gets scared, and I remember that I’m not supposed to ask these kinds of questions. On Mypos, according to Balki, they only teach science up through the Bronze Age–and I’m not even touching that one, we’re only three minutes in here.


Mr. Burns and Claire Hayden come down in the elevator, neither holding a horn. Claire is wearing a large necklace because she is a psychic and psychics are new age and so are big necklaces.  Mr Burns moves three feet away from Claire Hayden so he can talk in a normal voice to Larry about how he can’t stand to be around the woman. Larry leaves to start the car, and Claire pretends to read Mr. Burns’s future.


The show, predicting its audience’s expectations, throws in a little sci-fi whistling sound effect.  Mr. Burns is better at predictions than anyone, so he runs away from this wreck of a plot as fast as he can.


While signing an autograph for Balki, Claire does her little seizure-and-sci-fi-noise thing again.


Claire: I see a terrible storm


Claire: I see a man


Claire: …a small man


*sigh* Balki knows how predictions work, but he also knows he’s on a TV show.  We had a small glimpse of this when Balki said “bummer” a few weeks ago, but there it is, folks, Balki holding out his hand for rain was the exact moment where this show became smug in its assumption that anything Balki does is gold.  Balki can do Balki things whether or not they would make sense for a real person in his situation.  Balki can misunderstand the word “revolve” if it can lead to a couple of jokes.  Balki can love a psychic, but not recognize when she makes a prediction.  Balki is a character. Balki has lost depth.  For season 2, creator Dale McRaven said that people didn’t want to feel guilty. For season 3, people don’t want to think. I guess I should thank my (ahem) lucky stars that Claire’s last name wasn’t Voyant.

Anyway, the prediction: a small man eating a golden ring and sitting on a sheep, a clock striking midnight, a knock at the door, death is at the door. The small man will go away forever.

But–oh no! That pen was Larry’s lucky pen!  Holy shit! Larry’s going to die!


So, you know, whatever, there’s the setup.  But one thing strikes me as odd.  If this woman is a charlatan, what the heck could her game be? Someone asks for an autograph and she tells them that someone they know is going to die later that day?  Or is she banking on the idea that no one in a building the size of the Chronicle’s offices can ever hold onto their own pen for very long, and that statistically, someone on the staff had a good chance of dying that very day?


In the next scene, we see that Balki is getting dumber by the second when he tells the person on the phone to read his lips as he tries to order plane tickets to a place with no rain and no sheep. (It’s called a desert, Balki.)


Larry comes home and hangs his coat. Remember this. This is important.

Balki puts Larry’s coat back on him and tries to shuttle him out the door with a couple of suetcases while Larry complains about Claire Hayden.  In addition to the smugness, another thing stands out to me about this episode: I don’t remember so many up-to-date pop culture references in season 2.  But Larry makes a Witches of Eastwick reference, and there’s a joke about Claire predicting that Anson Williams would win an Oscar in 2025.  (I had to look that one up, but it’s a good joke, and a tidy way of saying that Claire’s full of shit, whistling noise or no.)


Balki picks up Larry, hoping that a little lovin’ will act as a prophylactic against ill omens (this position is called “the stargazer”).  Balki tells Larry they won a free vacation and gives us reasons #4 and #5 we likely won’t get seasons 3-8 on DVD:  “On the Road Again” and “These Boots are Made for Walkin’”.


We get a bunch of messing around with Balki picking Larry up a few times, and then there’s even more padding where Larry keeps trying to get Balki to say what’s wrong.

Balki says that Larry’s going to die and Larry instantly loses it, pacing around the apartment, talking about how many things he’s never gotten to do (have an apartment to himself, touch a boob, start his own quiverfull).  He even asks if it was the results of his physical, since he’s fully aware of his awful diet and sedentary lifestyle.


Balki spills the beans, relaying Claire’s prediction. But he also adds that “Mr. Death” will come and take Larry away.

Cousin Larry, because he promised not to laugh at what Balki would say, starts laughing.  Pinchot leaning over to cradle Larry’s hand makes Linn-Baker laugh for real, which makes Pinchot laugh and say “let it out, cousin”.  I’m surprised they left this in, but I do enjoy seeing these two be real people.  I’d prefer Balki breaking character this way than what the show usually gives us.


Then Larry makes a Jack Nicholson joke.


Larry points out that there’s no storm.  He even takes Balki over to the window to point out that they’re indoors, and that the city skyline is just a matte painting four feet away.


Cousin Larry! No! Don’t you remember that two-parter about snow last season?  Satan controls the weather on Earth, not you!  You’ve really done it now, Larry, you’ve insulted the Dark One himself!


We return from the commercial break to see that it’s raining outside the Caldwell. Yep, that’s a “terrible” storm right there.

Larry says the storm came out of nowhere, but I saw it coming across a span of almost thirty years.


Larry just keeps making fun of Balki’s fear, expanding on the myth of Mr. Death, asking if there’s a Mrs. Death.  Then the knock at the door happens.


Larry goes to open the door, but Balki remembers how there’s a rule on this show that the two of them have to dick around and shout at each other for a full 30 seconds before letting anyone in.

It’s Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius), who in their haste to get to the cousins’ apartment, left their horns at home. After Balki left a message on their answering machine, they bought into this bullshit too! Jennifer is sad.

Jennifer: There’s so much we should have talked about… so much we should have done.


Larry says it’s not quite midnight yet, there’s enough time for him to go to the shop a few blocks down and buy a strap-on, steel wool and raisins, whatever she wants.

Once it’s revealed that Balki’s scared because of a prediction, the women laugh it off.  Balki tries to get the women on his side by shouting, which always worked for him on Mypos.  Mary Anne takes one for the team by telling Balki she believes him just to get him to shut up.


Larry says he’ll call Paoli’s to order a pizza and they’ll stay up until midnight to wait this thing out.  Hell, why not? If he’s going to die at midnight, he won’t have to worry about taking a shit the next day, or gaining another 7 pounds.


Soon, we have our tarot laid out. Mary Anne, the Hierophant, informs the group of the sacred knowledge of the motions of the spheres (it’s five until midnight).  The Magician has whipped up a batch of “Myposian death repellant”, flinging it onto the Fool, who laughs, drinks, makes merry with game (gin rummy), laughing in the face of what fate has decided.  Jennifer remains a blank card. But where’s Death?

Then we finally get a scene that really makes this episode shine. Balki’s means of “repelling death” leads to a conversation about why exactly Larry thinks that he won’t die.  There’s mentions of support systems (Jennifer, Mary Anne, Larry’s family), health insurance, Chicago having some of the “world’s greatest doctors”.  They even get into some WHO statistics on mortality rates! But Balki points out that Larry never goes to the doctor, cluing us into this episode’s core: a critique of the accumulated hubris of the industrialized Western world, whose males believe that they are “supermen” who will never die. About how we ship our dying elders off to hospitals and no longer see death as a natural part of life.  Balki, wrongheaded though he may be about the means of death (what can a nonscientific culture assume but that somebody showed up and killed your family members when you weren’t looking), retains an important perspective: no matter what efforts we make against it, death is truly the greatest mystery, and can strike anyone, at any moment.

Really had you going for a moment there, didn’t I? Nope, you get this mess:


Larry yells towards the window for Mr. Death to come get him, and then Larry is scared of lightning.


Then Balki puts more crap on his head, and then Jennifer is scared of lightning.


Larry sits on Dmitri and Balki screams.  (Dmitri is wearing nothing, the lack of horn signifying how we both enter and leave this world possessionless.)


Larry eats a donut and Balki screams. Larry spits out the donut. Balki shakes Larry again.


The power goes out right at midnight and everybody screams.  It’s so uncanny how everything’s happening just as predicted! I’m halfway tempted to believe this whole 22 minutes was scripted.

Jennifer’s really glad that Larry’s not dead! But when he tries to hug her, he gets the same reaction I do when I use “I’m not dead” as a pick-up line.


Balki experiences some legitimate cognitive dissonance after the women leave. Why did an episode not go his way?

The cousins head off to their respective bedrooms, Larry casually checking his watch and saying “it’s almost midnight”.


We get a scary new camera angle, but still no horns.  Mary Anne’s watch was fast!  She’s so dumb she synced it with an egg timer!

Oh no!  There’s a knock at the door!

Since Mr. Death is obviously just some dude and not a real cause of death, Larry says all they have to do is not open the door.

Larry sobs, and Balki goes to open the door and offer himself as a sacrifice. But 30 seconds have not yet passed, so Larry picks Balki up and swings him around, hoping for one last cuddle before the big sleep.



Oh, no, wait, Jennifer’s just there to awkwardly and hornlessly retrieve her purse. She keeps her comments to herself, inscrutable as always. Is she upset that she didn’t take the opportunity to ride Larry’s rodney? Is she satisfied that all her suspicions were correct – that she and Mary Anne are constantly having to leave so these two can try out positions from the Mypos Sutra?


Now that we’ve run out the clock on midnight, it’s just a matter of running out the clock on the episode, so the cousins just stay locked in that tangled position until the music comes on.

But it does come on, and here’s what we’re supposed to learn:


Balki’s fears shouldn’t have been ridiculed, even though they were wrong, because he was willing to give his life when he truly believed Larry would have died.  Larry has to apologize for putting Balki down and laughing at his fears.  That kind of logic can work in tricky legal proceedings (if I believe you have a gun and are threatening me, it doesn’t matter whether you do, I’m justified in defending myself), but it’s not working on me, show.  Larry was right! Balki was wrong!  Balki’s usually the one that has no filter – repeating things that Larry said that were supposed to stay between them, calling executives err-heads. But when Larry has no filter? When he laughs at a grown man’s fears because they’re irrational? He has to apologize. Okay, fine, he’s not tactful about it, and if we’re willing to suspend disbelief and assume that the cousins have only lived together for as many weeks as we’ve seen them, maybe he should be a little more gentle. I will concede that Larry should know by now a little better how to handle Balki’s shit. But there’s not a single line of dialogue where Balki apologizes for making his cousin afraid that he would die, for making everyone stay up until midnight in the middle of the week, or for making Larry smell like a doo-doo pie.


Anyway, Larry learned his lesson and says “I’m glad you’re my cousin”. Maybe two people in the audience clap and then realize no one else is doing the same and then stop, and that made me have to pause this episode so I could laugh for about a minute straight.


The cousins decide that they won’t sleep that night after all, so they decide to watch TV. Astoundingly, Larry turns on the TV at exactly midnight, because we hear the very first notes of the Twilight Zone theme, reason #6 there’s little chance of seeing this or any subsequent seasons on DVD.  They go to bed instead.


See you next week for “The Karate Kids”!


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

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

Post-mortem (where do I come up with them?): I’m just going to go ahead and assume that Larry got his lucky pen sometime last season while working at Ritz Discount, that the small man who died was Twinkacetti, and that eating golden rings, riding sheep, and playing his saxophone were just his usual manner of winding down in the evenings.


Season 3, Episode 3: Sexual Harrassment in Chicago

Before I make a joke about Balki probably going to jail in this episode, I want to take a few moments to talk about confidence vs smugness in sitcoms, which basically means I’ma talk about Full House some. There’s a pattern I’ve observed in some sitcoms, a path they sometimes follow across their second and third seasons. Once those overseeing and writing a show have figured out what their audiences like and don’t like, they revise.  Elements that didn’t test well are downplayed, or even removed.  Mark Brendanawicz from Parks & Recreation.  Judy from Family Matters. Elements that work are enhanced, given center stage, and often milked.  Sometimes, you get great seasons of television. The second season of Community. The second season of League of Gentlemen.  Seasons 3-6 of The Simpsons.  Other times, shows reinvent themselves and find something new to say or do.  Seasons 5-7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I get the impression the writers thought each of seasons 4-6 was going to be the very last). Seasons 7 and 8 (and to a lesser extent 9) of The Simpsons. Season 3 of League of Gentlemen.  Still other times, you end up with the equivalent of layers of papier mache over a balloon; after deflating, you’re left with a hollow shell I’ll call smugness.

Confidence in a show’s elements allows you to apply them with often pinpoint accuracy; smugness assumes that’s all that people want, and just keeps jabbing with them, blind to any target but mass appeal. Elements repeating endlessly; a storefront clown, waving, laughing at itself, waving again.  Somewhere in the third season of Full House, they started getting smug; catchphrases becoming somehow a personality trait, the girls always getting what they want, characters learning lessons and still getting what they want most of the time (though I will point out the episode “Those Better Not Be the Days”, which was the most Full House ever made fun of its own failings; IMHO, it never did so again). Look at this smug shit:

Full Of Shit

I’ll admit I only watched the first episode of the very last season of Scrubs, but if the rest were anything like it, the show had been reduced to “All Your Favorite Jokes from Scrubs Are Back!”  I’d even say that Community got a little smug in its third season, or at least a little lazy.  Plots repeated, jokes being about previous jokes, rather than about new things. (Arrested Development got away with this by having the same jokes show up in various scenarios, with varying meanings.)

Confidence is knowing you can do right. Smugness is knowing you can do no wrong.  Guess which one led to Oedipus killing Jocasta and blinding himself.

We’ve gotten some warning signs already from that interview with Pinchot that I linked you to a few weeks back.  And the show’s success has filtered down even to its characters living space, the apartment growing a room, the cousins getting (if only barely) better jobs.  I want to see if Perfect Strangers has achieved the confidence that it in some ways (*cough* Linn-Baker *cough*) deserves; but I’m scared that it may very well skip ahead and go straight to smugness.

Anyway, judging by the title, Creepy Balki’s probably going to jail this week, so let’s get started!

Book of Chronicles 3:3

We started the past two episodes in darkness, almost as if the show were taking tentative steps into its third season; now, we begin in the full light of day, at the Chicago Chronicle.

Larry and Balki share a quiet moment

It’s a slow day in the basement, Balki and Larry quietly going about their duties, when a woman–a new character–enters at the top of the stairs.

*cue music*

Olivia Crawford: Here… I am!

Larry exposits that Olivia Crawford is the editor of the Sunday magazine for the Chicago Chronicle, and that he’s always wanted to meet her.

Larry meets Olivia

“Well of course you have!”

Olivia doesn't like a little tummy on a man

Could it be…? Could that be some good foreshadowing there?  She tells Larry that she’s there to get him to write a piece for the Sunday magazine, and Larry getting really flustered and happy. I share his excitement, because what I’m sensing is that we might have season 3’s Fat Marsha here.  Olivia is a good actress, older, confident… ah shit, wait. She starts hitting on Balki, calling him darling, knowing where Mypos is. Ah shit, she really will be this season’s Fat Marsha, won’t she?

Larry and Balki share an expository moment

Larry explains to Balki how important such an assignment is, in case we’ve forgotten that Larry has gotten nothing more than two sentences into the paper during his two weeks at the Chronicle. We go to commercial and come back to Larry, stoked that he has come up with a title for his article: “Is Chicago disappearing?” It’s a piece on how Chicago’s neighborhoods are losing their ethnic character, and that’s pretty meta of you, show. It would have been nice to get an episode about Larry meeting the other foreigners in Balki’s night school classes to get some firsthand knowledge, but I’ll at least give credit that it’s a good assignment for Larry; probably something he’s thought about over the past year (?) of seeing an ethnic person undergoing the slow melting-pot process.  Speaking of ethnic people Larry knows, here’s Harriette Winslow!

Fart Marsha

Olivia hates having to ride the elevator with other people; Harriette hates having to ride it with Olivia inside.  I can get that. Everybody generally only enjoys their own brand.

oh yeah

Olivia very quickly dispatches Larry upstairs to her office to retrieve her “forgotten” car keys.  She compliments Balki on the prowess with which he sorts the mail.  Balki surmises that he developed his muscles from “lifting sheep”, meaning the conversation leads inevitably–as all conversations between Balki and women seem to do–to basic bodily functions.  It turns out that sheep having seven stomachs only compounds the problem of constipation.  And when you’re a lonely adolescent sheepherder, that instantly becomes your problem, if you know what I mean. (If you don’t know what I mean, I mean when you want to stick your penis in a sheep.)

Anyway, before Balki gets to the broken finger part of the story (due to manual disimpaction injury, no doubt), Olivia diverts him to the topic of homesickness.  She knows there’s only so many minutes in a sitcom, and she needs to get laid.  Balki talks about the things he has to remind him of Mypos: Dmitri, a tapestry made by his sister Yana, the nude charcoal drawings of his sister Yana, the–

Wait, did you say “tapestries”?  Olivia collects tapestries!  What a coincidence!  I’m reminded of self-proclaimed psychics and palm readers, and how they know enough generalities of experience, as well as conversational tactics, to get their marks to reveal something that can be capitalized on.  The pretense of commonality established, Olivia wastes no time getting those digits: Balki lives at 535 Windsong, apt. 207.*  There’s a good joke here, too, where Balki relays the important information that he lives in a “brick building”.


Then Olivia starts breathing on his neck and smelling him.  Then she kisses him and we get our very first “wooo!” from the audience this season.  And semi-fake though I take most audience reactions to be (I mean, they get prompted sometimes), “wooo!” is a thing I’ve heard in real life from people observing others kiss.  Do you think our cavemen ancestors did this, back when there was less privacy? Do you think our collective unconcious thinks that thunder means rain, snakes mean bites, and one kiss means you get to watch sex soon?

more like unzip code AMIRITE

Olivia just goes to town on Balki, right there on the mail table.  All those letters are probably just going to other floors of the building, but Olivia’s taking Balki to entirely new places.  But, ultimately, as you already know by this point, Olivia Crawford is the bad guy this week, so I guess I can’t like her. Old ladies sure are gross, aren’t they? They should learn not to want sex after they turn 40… no, 30… no what am I saying, women who want sex are whores!

awww yiss

She had her keys the whole time!  What a liar!  Who knows how deep her evil goes (as if it weren’t enough simply being a one-off character on this show).

Balki penis confused

Balki spends the whole commercial break in shock on the mail table.  Larry comes back without Olivia’s keys.  Balki, in relaying to Larry what just happened, is for the first time in who knows how many episodes, actually humble.  He haltingly asks if “looking at tapestries” is a euphemism for sex, like when they say “lifting sheep” on Mypos.  And this is good!  The show is tentatively broaching the topic of sex through its characters tentatively broaching it.  Larry asks if it’s Laura, from the classified ads department (an apt guess, as this department would be home, as it were, of the SWF).  After revealing that it’s Olivia coming over to look at tapestries, there’s a nice little bit of dialogue I’ll point out just to reinforce the confidence theme:

Larry: Haha… Balki… I don’t mean to hurt your feelings…

Balki (annoyed mimicky voice): But you’re going to…

Larry and Balki share a season 3 moment

Larry, in a nice bit of discernment, differentiates Olivia from last season’s ulterior motive girl by pointing out that Olivia is an executive. Much like Lazarus and the rich man, Larry sees that there is a great gulf fixed between Balki and Olivia Crawford. Larry, understanding that his keylessness means he is barred from entering, accepts that this episode is about Balki and Olivia, not about his ethnic cleansing story. He concedes graciously, saying that he trusts Balki to take care of himself (confidence!).  “You’ve been with women before,” Larry says, laughing over the bygone Myposian boners of summers past. “I’m sure the milkmaids were all over you. I’m sure you had to beat ‘em off with a crook!”


on Mypos very simple to stay virgin

Balki’s a virgin!

are you surprised

Larry’s a virgin!

This can happen sometimes with people who haven’t yet realized their own homosexuality.  “Sex” can be a particular, set-in-stone kind of concept, defined strictly as occurring between, say, mommies and daddies. Anything they’ve done outside that concept has no name, and can only described by the the moon on Balki’s lips, the combined scents of Bismol and potata crumbs on Larry’s breath when he pants, the… whew, sorry, I’ve got to stop there.  Give me a minute.  It’s.  Um. A good joke. The way they don’t explain it.  Larry agrees to stay home that evening to be Balki’s protection.

who could that be

Olivia’s urgent knock opens the next scene, but when Larry opens the door–

at first i was likebut then i larry'd

Larry: Balki and I are cousins.

Olivia Crawford: Oh… how nice.

Y’hear that, folks? Olivia doesn’t value family!  She’ll never be seen from again!  She changes her tune quickly, saying that she’s late for cocktails with the Mayor, and that she’ll just look quickly at the tapestry.  Larry is somehow still certain that she’s being honest.  I guess I’d expect one liar to recognize another, but oh well. Everybody’s got to take their turn holding the idiot ball.

Larry leaves to go to the library to research his article, and then Balki comes out of his bedroom with…  the hell?

Balki Blanket Bingo

It’s the same damn blanket he made for Larry last season.  Either the prop department just decided to be lazy that week, Balki lied about making the blanket for Larry, or Myposians only know that one design to put on a blanket.  Also blankets are tapestries, I guess.  The tapestry purports to show the whole history of Mypos.  It turns out that the Bartokomous family started when Uncle Stavros farted; then they all became retarded.   Nah, j/k, Ferdinand Mypos discovered the island by just trying to walk across the Mediterranean from Italy or some mess like that.  Because, you know, Mypos is such an Italian name. Not Greek at all.

Olivia touches the things

Also there was a Great Tomato Famine. Geez, an alfalfa famine and a tomato famine?  Those poor Mypiots. Anyway, Balki admits that he thought Olivia was a whore (wish I was joking), and apologizes. Olivia wants to know if he still thinks that way about her.

don't be ridiculous

Then Balki compares Olivia to his mom. Haha! She’s old! Old women are gross! Who would ever want to touch any of the orifices of an old woman? Barf! Retch!  Puke-a-roonie!

Undaunted, Olivia tries to force her mucous membranes on Balki’s mypos membranes.


Balki: M-mama never did that.


Balki says that he wants to wait until marriage.  Larry comes back, having forgotten yet another key: his library card. What a trooper, taking one last shot at establishing a running motif of “no entry” to reinforce how Balki won’t enter Olivia, and how she won’t enter the show ever again. It could have even been mirrored by ethnic communities not being able to enter the greater cultural milieu. But Larry blows it by asking “what’s going on here” when it’s completely obvious.

ask me if I'm blind


are you blind?

When the show keeps me from making yet another joke about how Larry asks “what” before “why”, I consider that progress. I consider that the show noticing its own patterns, its own faults, if not yet correcting them, then at least commenting on them, is a good thing. Then Balki makes a joke about Olivia being all over him “like a wet t-shirt”, and that’s a good joke too!

here at the brasserie

Olivia just doesn’t give up, though, suggesting that Balki rendezvous with her at Mickey’s Hideaway the following Tuesday.  But Larry knows all about the place, having stayed up many a night until 2 in the morning just so he can masturbate quickly and silently to their television ads.  Olivia then threatens to get Balki fired, and now who’s blind through overconfidence, doing such a thing in front of a witness?

In the next scene, Larry rattles off a list of other employees who got fired just because they didn’t want to sleep with Olivia.  Ha! A bunch of guys turned her down because sex with old women is gross gross GROSS!


Olivia is once again ushered into the basement by the woman who knows that you can’t be both the person having sex AND the person using it as blackmail.  The cousins have already sent a letter of allegation to the managing editor, but:

all your dick are belong to me

Confidence has turned to smugness.  Olivia felt secure in her position on a higher floor, but in trying to mine the basement for her own desires (eww!), she has eroded the foundation of her power. Jack, the managing editor, comes down to the basement. The cousins offer further proof of Olivia’s tawdry nature: Larry has discovered that there’s a room at Mickey’s Hideaway named after her, and Balki offers to be dusted for her fingerprints. This is–


*wipes tear from eye*  Balki said fingerprints. I’m so goddam proud of my boy right now. Pronouncing words correctly. Refusing to give his body to those with nefarious purpose, and instead offering it freely in service of justice.  What does Olivia have to say for herself?

uh uh uh uh

Yeah, that’s what I thought.  Get off my show, you sex-crazed old bag!

this guy's name is Jack

Olivia is fired, and the audience cheers. Olivia puts down the Chicago Chronicle and starts to leave, saying that she hears they put out in New York.  But! Ha! Harriette won’t let her on the elevator! Black women sure don’t take any nonsense, do they?

no entry

Jack: You two should feel proud of yourselves.

don't encourage them, Jack

Larry is happy to have served his role as detached adult in this episode, until Balki points out that it means he won’t get to have an article in the Sunday magazine.  You can tell Larry’s doing the mental calculations here of just how long it will be until he can get home and crack open a nice cold Pepto Bismol.

haha no success for Larry

And then the show ends with a good joke about how Balki’s happy that, if and when he gets married, he’ll be able to spend his honeymoon in a state of fumbling, awkward bliss.

So.  Confidence vs smugness. Progress vs (self-assumed) Perfection. Humility vs hubris. Ovis aries vs Olivia Crawford.  I’m happy to say that this episode shows some confidence, as well as some progress. Likewise, similar to the cousins’ situation at the end of every episode, it’s clear we have still have some distance left to cover.  There’s some decent jokes, some one-upping of season 2’s tropes, some humility on Balki’s part, and some confidence in Balki on Larry’s part.  With the cousins as the heroes, we have to see every other character from their perspective.  In season 2, we were forced to see Fat Marsha through their eyes, meaning she was, if not a proper villain, an unrestrained other.  We must also see Olivia through their eyes, at least until the final act, when a judge must come down from on high to decide the matter.  She threatened the cousins, but she also threatened the reputation and operation of the newspaper.  Olivia Crawford was a clear bad guy; I wanted so badly to make the joke that she was evil simply because she was doing things a man in power might do. But she was doing clearly unethical things, so I left it alone.  I just wish the show hadn’t added “she’s old” into the mix, and suggested that her age, coupled with her forwardness, were what turned Balki off.  Actress Holland Taylor was only 44 when this episode aired, and Balki 28. If I had seen this as a kid, that difference might have seemed greater to me than it does now.  But I’ve come to learn not to judge my past self by my current standards.  It’s important to look at old media in terms of current mores, and instructive to see where and how it falls short (or doesn’t).  But there’s only so far one can go in criticizing it, I suppose, since there’s nothing to be done about it now, other than hope that the next time is better.  But since I didn’t say this last week, I do feel bad for any sitcom character who’s the least bit overweight, or even a few years older than the other characters; because they always seem to end up having to do an episode about that innocuous aspect of themselves, just because it’s not some assumed media “norm”.

Anyway, I’ve gone on long enough with this review. I’ll have plenty of time for more self-reflection next week, when the cousins and I will be “Taking Stock”. See you then!


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

Coner count: Olivia (1, continuous)

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

*Did they move twice? In two weeks?