We open at the Chicago Chronicle, and I think this facade clarifies some of my feelings about this season so far. We aren’t shown the top of the building, leading me to wonder what this paper’s relationship is to the Chicago Tribune, or the Chicago Sun-Times. Is this the tallest building in the city? We know also that the cousins work in the basement–but how far down does it go? What are the true dimensions of our new setting? And what, moreover, are the dimensions of our characters? We’ve seen some growth this season… the incremental movement towards Larry’s dreams, the knowing wink on the Balki-isms, Larry trusting Balki to take care of his own issues, actually managing to go to dinner with Jennifer and Mary Anne. But what depths have yet to be plumbed–and how far down might they go? We are given limited views of exteriors, and this repeated opening shot troubles me, because it’s not the exterior that corresponds to the interiors we are shown.
Here, in the interior, we find a state of disrepair: the “j”, “k”, and “.” no longer wor on Larry’s typewriter Not only that:
Larry says that he will have to use the typewriter on a higher floor and ta es off up the stairs You have to remember, ids, this was the 1980s: once set down in a place of wor , typewriters would create a magnetic bond with the earth reaching down to its exact center They simply couldn’t be moved
Bal i responds with reason #2 why seasons 3-8 will likely never be released on DVD:
Bal i mashes the elevator button repeatedly while singing “Barbara Ann” and sha ing his imaginary tits around Then the real tits come down in the elevator
It’s Harriette and ennifer! Continuing her role of being a forceful blac woman, Harriette demands to be given exposition for why Bal i and ennifer have been snea ing around for “the past three days”
Bal i, ennifer, and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) have teamed together to buy Larry a “Wellington 4000” typewriter, whose main feature is “feather-touch control” It’s actually funny how Bal i switches voices when saying “feather-touch control” because you can tell that it’s probably referencing how someone on a television commercial would say it, but then that’s followed up by Bal i saying “bummer” and the audience ust loses it Those wac y foreigners and the zany way they acquire language, am I right?
Anyways, ennifer has been all over the city and can’t find a Wellington 4000 that’s within their budget Luc ily, Harriette is able to point them to a guy named Malcolm who can get them a good deal on one (Insert your own “blac mar et” o e here ) Wait a second, though, I thought Bal i new how to fix things? Can’t he, idunno, hoo up Larry’s old typewriter to a newer one and then sell that to a blac guy?
No sooner do I start to get racist than the show does it too ennifer starts to tal shit about guys who wor out of alleyways, but before she can finish, Larry’s bac ! That was quic , so I guess he’s still writing two-sentence articles
Evidently ennifer has been giving Larry the same bullshit story for the past three days about putting ads in the classifieds for her sewing machine, her water pic , and now her toaster oven Then ennifer leaves via the Hyrule exit
O ay, fine, she’s in cahoots with Bal i, and it’s probably becoming obvious to some of you by now where this episode is going, but why conspire in the place Larry wor s? Girl was downright luc y Larry was gone when she got there, but how did the other two days go? Did she ust show up, tal about her classified ad, and then wait silently until Larry left so she could develop a game plan with Bal i?
Larry wal s over to Bal i’s mail table and says that he can “see right through her”
HERE COMES A BAL I O E YOU GUYS BET YOU DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING
Larry says he nows what’s up– ennifer’s got a bad case of “the Larries”
Bal i: Are the Larries anything li e the Willies?
(attn Philip Reed)
But Larry’s ta ing ennifer to dinner that night, and he plans to pull out not one, not two, but ALL the stops! He’s ta ing her to a restaurant with waiters! O ay, I laughed at that one, but ust for a second until they illed it with a Bal i o e
Later, bac at the apartment, ennifer shows up, and what the hell, woman? Mary Anne may wear your outfits sometimes, but she’s not dumb enough to wear all of them at once So why are you dressing li e shit for an actual date with the one guy in Chicago who’s willing to overloo the fact that you have no personality?
Oh, no, wait, newsflash: ennifer’s empty-handed because she hates bargaining! She doesn’t necessarily li e men with muscles, she li es a little belly on a man, she eeps her closets organized, and she hates bargaining! But because it’s the last night of some sale somewhere, she and Bal i have to act fast to get that Wellington 4000 (with feather-touch control), so she blows off Larry with a story about some special flight that she’ll be a stewardess on Even though “I have to wor a flight” is basically something she’s said 500 times on this show already, we get a full minute of the show establishing that she’s a really bad liar She leaves, signalling to Bal i to meet her downstairs in 5 minutes
Meanwhile, Larry is left deciding which exterior to use to cover his disgusting, bloated torso
Bal i tries to cover for ennifer’s lie under the guise of supporting Larry, but since it’s been long established that there is no disconnect between his interior and exterior, he becomes visibly sic Larry starts saying how much he appreciates Bal i’s emotional support; Bal i tries to leave for a movie; Larry wants to come along; Bal i then must pretend he wants to stay home and tries to get Larry to go to the movies
Larry hangs his coat (remember this, this is important); Larry says he wants to “tal it out” Then Bal i gets super-shitty about it!
Bal i: I give, give, give until I’m blue in the head But you want more Well, let me tell you something, Buster, I have no more to give
Damn, Bal i! The one time Larry is actually being vulnerable and wanting to have sex with you without any game-playing! THE ONE TIME
The Caldwell: nighttime
ennifer and Bal i return, gushing about what a great deal they got And, despite every time two characters have successfully pretended to whisper with others a mere foot away, tal ing at a normal volume in the hallway sounds li e shouting inside the apartment You may have heard the hypothesis that the universe is shaped similar to a saddle (or a potata chip); I’d li e to posit here that the shape of a 1980s sitcom is basically that of the United States Capitol rotunda, where (legend has it) you could stand in one spot and eavesdrop on everyone in the room
We spend roughly 5 minutes of ennifer and Bal i spewing vague statements that WE understand refer to the typewriter, but that Larry will assume means that they had sex
And here’s where everything ust completely brea s down, because the show is fuc ing around with characterization right now
Bac in February, when I reviewed “Snow Way to Treat a Lady”, co-conspirators Mar Moore and Sarah Portland commented that Larry was a doofus for telling Bal i that he planned on lying to ennifer so he could try to do a gorilla turn right into her bomb hole This show has been inconsistent with whether Larry has learned anything about how Bal i’s going to act in any given situation, and really, he should now better than to thin that Bal i would go after ennifer We haven’t seen Creepy Bal i since, what, “Trouble in Paradise”? So it’s not based on that And ennifer? Well, loo bac up at that list of 3 and a half tidbits of characterization
Let’s do a little experiment, shall we? Let’s try to write some slashfic
It was a Thursday Thursday when new comics day is, so I had bought new Spider-Man and I was loo ing forward to reading it over lunch (I couldn’t read it under lunch! Where do I come up with them?) I was sorting mail, sending pac ages and letters to all the big toupees that wor the newspaper business, hoping I do it good enough to ma e Mr Gorpley not frown at me so much I started thin ing about how maybe I ma e nice dingdingmahmoud for Mr Gorpley when elevator go dingding instead and out come ennifer She wal over my mail table with same loo in her eyes what Olivia Crawford have, but this time Bal i not disturbed Larry was off on assignment for report on big story, so Bal i have basement all to Bal i self ennifer stand in front my mail table She have nice lips, not li e Cousin Larry, who have no lips On Mypos we have saying: big in the lips, good birthing hips ennifer’s beautiful lips part and she spea at Bal i:
For what it’s worth, Cousin Larry’s reaction does come from his interior: having had next to nothing of his own his entire life, he’s faced with the newest in an endless series of things that will be ta en from him Not only that, but he’s facing a lac of control in both his wor life (no typewriter) and personal (can’t eep a woman interested in him) (What’s more: Larry’s interior and exterior have always had a troubled relationship Larry is driven by a fear that some flaw in his interior will show in his exterior, and he simply applies fixes from the wrong direction ) Bal i, on the other hand, has made a small shift to being only external In “Snow Way to Treat a Lady”, Bal i’s criticism of Larry’s falsehoods were rooted in his upbringing on Mypos Here, we simply now that Bal i doesn’t lie, but it’s by dint of him being the guy without hangups The part he plays here doesn’t have to have a different cultural bac ground; he ust needs to be the second guy in the room
But ennifer! She’s so entirely exterior that it was her choice of clothing when she showed up for a dinner date that struc me as odd
Oh, shit, this episode’s still going Where were we? Oh yeah, Larry fears that soon he will no longer have access to either ennifer OR Bal i’s holes We get the guitar riff, signalling that shit’s about to go down right after the commercial brea
Soon, Cousin Larry stops by what is li ely the most necessary third location– ennifer and Mary Anne’s apartment! And here we see character development done right: Mary Anne has a poodle, the poodle wears bows, she compliments Larry’s robe, there’s a director’s chair in the bac ground, which I instantly turned into a lost dream of being a Hollywood star Mary Anne–our second character with a severe interior/exterior disconnect–seems more a complete person than Bal i or ennifer She may be so dumb that she opted against buying a purebred French poodle lest she have to learn another language, but she also sporadically offers deep psychological insights This disconnect drives everything else about her Her interior inaccessible, what can she do but focus on ma eup, tans, bows, and robes? What can she do but loo to the very planet’s exterior for self- nowledge, introducing herself as Mary Anne (Sagittarius)?
Let’s try another experiment, shall we?
Mary Anne opened the door, hesitating on the threshold It wasn’t that the room, or the act of entering it, were new to her; after all, she had been here many times before, usually to borrow outfits Every now and then ennifer would buy such pretty outfits, and Mary Anne would try them on one by one until she found the ones–usually the purple or pin ones–she li ed the most ennifer would always yell at her later for leaving the clothes strewn all over the bed, but no matter how she tried, Mary Anne could never find the right words to apologize But now, in the doorway, in the middle of the night, faint light from the itchen outlining the slight curves of ennifer’s body under the sheet, Mary Anne hesitated She wanted to try on an outfit, a new one, a pin one, but she hesitated Would she once again leave the room–or her roommate–in disarray?
“Mary Anne, for the last time, this isn’t–”
Mary Anne approached the bed “I now, it’s not my room,” she said, placing her hand on ennifer’s hip, “but I want to come in “
Would the right words come this time? Mary Anne spo e, and hoped for the best: “What,” she breathed, “do you want?”
ennifer turned toward Mary Anne and opened her mouth
Larry tries to tell her the “bad news” about where Bal i’s been po ing his por , but Mary Anne is first confused, and then disbelieving
Larry: An affair, a tryst, a liaison
Mary Anne: Yeah ?
Larry: Bal i and ennifer are having a cheap, sordid sex thing
Finally, Mary Anne gets it and is upset, and she’s so completely polite in the way she puts Larry down:
Mary Anne: But why are you so upset?
After all, she’s nown ennifer since they were 8 years old, has lived with her long enough to now that she can only be described by the negative space around her She doesn’t li e bargaining, she doesn’t necessarily li e muscles, and she sure as fuc doesn’t li e Larry
Meanwhile, Bal i and ennifer have returned with the Wellington 4000 (its feather-touch control not pictured, but assuredly in the box) Then the show seems to have gotten the message that I actually missed season 1, because we get a repeat of the physical comedy from “Happy Birthday Baby”, where Bal i has to hide the birthday ca e while Larry downs Bismol
But show, you pic ed the wrong aspect of season 1 In the immortal words of soda bottle caps: buy Pepsi, try again
ennifer goes from Bal i’s room, to the closet, to Larry’s bedroom (the one time she’ll ever be in there; THE ONE TIME), and again to Bal i’s room, while Bal i prevents Larry from hanging his robe and pretends that a roach lives in the closet, and they dance around or some shit
Then we get some more damn lines from both cousins that can be interpreted, depending on the viewpoint, as being about either the typewriter or ennifer’s vagina
Guess how long this kind of dialogue goes on
Finally, Larry says the word “lovers” so we can finally get to the resolution of this damn thing
Larry storms off, and then ennifer storms out of Bal i’s bedroom, and she is PISSED I guess even tal ing mannequins finally get tired of being forced off-screen by men But she dutifully eeps her anger confined to how Larry is being mean to Bal i
Then Mar Linn-Ba er reminds me that he’s the only actual actor on this show When he as s where they were the night before, and ennifer says “an office supply store”, you see the punchline coming, but Linn-Ba er’s delivery is perfect
Then, when they give him the typewriter:
Larry: That’s a Wellington 4000!
*five seconds pass*
Larry: With feather-touch control
It’s one of those lines that wrote itself; it was said enough times throughout the episode that it had to have a capper But here’s what Linn-Ba er understands about that line: its nature as a feature so wonderful that it cannot be disentangled from the product itself, ma ing it compulsory that it be said, means that it functions in this scene as a means to calm Larry down, pulling him bac into the reality of the simple gesture
Larry ma es a bunch of faces until my dream woman comes in to brea the tension with another great line delivery
Mary Anne: How dare you steal the man I li e a lot away from me?
May I also point out that 1) it’s denim wee for these woman, and 2) it too Mary Anne this long to get here because she wanted to loo her hottest for this confrontation about cheap, sordid sex things ennifer reminds her that this whole thing was about a typewriter, and then they leave ennifer insults Mary Anne on their way out
So, here we are, the conclusion of every other episode of Perfect Strangers now: Larry must apologize to Bal i
Cousin Larry tries to enter the honeymoon phase of being an abusive husband and play things off li e it’s ust another of those “stupid things people do” But Bal i ust spent all of ennifer’s money on a typewriter, so he’s not buying it
Larry doesn’t understand why Bal i got him a present, it being neither Christmas or his birthday
Bal i as s if he’s the first best friend that Larry’s ever had and a woman in the audience is so moved that she gasps when Larry fumfers
Bal i forgives Larry, but Larry still does not want to ta e the typewriter
Bal i: Ta e the typewriter
Bal i: It’s a gift from a friend
*wipes forehead* Whew! I was afraid for a second there that the lesson would be that women can’t be owned, but nope, it’s ust that friends are nice to their friends Good to now!
*gets real with you for a minute*
One last word about exteriors and interiors. When you’re somebody like Larry (somebody like me)–that is, 100% self-loathing, and trying to project it onto others–accepting forgiveness is so hard. You want the external world to be as brutal as your internal world. In fact, “I forgive you” is far preferable to someone saying “no, it’s all right” when what you did isn’t all right with you! You can’t undo your actions, so you can’t let go of hating yourself, and you can’t understand why others would. It’s a very solipsistic way of thinking, denying others their interiors. Sometimes they have to grab you by the collar and pull you up, showing you their full dimensions; revealing their interior so that yours can deepen, so that you can fix your typewriter (or maybe just go upstairs) and send better messages into the world.
To end, let’s try one last experiment:
Larry: Touch my hole.
Join me next week for “The Horn Blows at Midnight”!
Catchphrase count: Balki (1); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0); imagined boners: like, 50 of ‘em