Season 4, Episode 17: Prose and Cons

No, please, I’m begging you, show.


We’ve been over this. This is a self-destructive pattern you have. Why do you keep hanging out with these lowlife stories? I saw what it did to Frank, and I see what it’s doing to you.

Like any addict, you’re telling yourself a happy story, set to some upbeat saxophone music. You’re saying that this episode about criminals won’t be like the others.


Harriette knows what’s what, and she quickly hustles Lydia into the elevator before the GeSTOPo–those menacing, somehow indistinct figures–show up.


But even foreigners know how ownership of black women’s bodies works in America, so Balki demands to drive the elevator.


Harriette, deep into contract negotiations for Family Matters, considers the PROSE AND CONS of tearing Balki a new one.*


Larry: Don’t stay off-screen for more than 30 seconds.


Not only can the elevator go really fast, but the acceleration it undergoes matches the rise in volume (not to mention rise in pitch) of both Lydia’s and Harriette’s screams, because gosh darn it physics is a real thing.  We also find that the seventh floor of the Chicago Chronicle, that’s right, you heard right–


this building, is evidently some type of tower silo.


RT (Refuted Testimony) Wainwright, who after a month finally managed to squeeze a few drops out, comes in to congratulate Larry on an article he wrote about a commodities scandal. He mentions that Larry should “try being more assertive”.


Larry considers the PROSE AND CONS of establishing continuity with a previous episode, but decides that 15 weeks is too far back and settles on asking for an office upstairs with Marshall and Walpole. (No.)  For the first time in forever, there’s a brief mention of Balki still making friends with criminals, as he’s the one who found the informant, “Sore Throat”.


He, uh


yeah, he orgasmed there


Balki then becomes one with the ball misunderstands ass/asset, and, you know? That’s not a bad one. I even like that Larry is an adult here and explains to both Balki and RT what happened.

Then the precise midpoint between Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd, and Rick Moranis comes in from the parking lot, congratulating the cousins on the article, and hands them subpoenas.


Hey, speaking of “second cities”, we see that the gentrification of this part of Chicago is coming along apace, having attracted families with children. Look, even Ritz Discount has gotten a new paint job, like unto a whited sepulchre, within full of dead men’s stereos and all uncleanness.

The cousins fortify themselves with hot brown liquid as they prep each other on how they’ll answer questions from Judge Gideon, son of Judge Joash.


Larry’s really getting off on this, because it’s 1) something he can have them practice, 2) something that lets him put books on the table, and 3) might get him on TV.  Balki starts talking about fashion and then, because he has never, ever been afraid of horror movies, not even ONCE, NEVER…


…he makes a joke about Poltergeist II: The Other Side.


What concerns me more is that Larry is having to shoulder this responsibility himself. The Chicago Chronicle has been established as bigger than the New York Times, and apparently won’t pony up money for a lawyer for the cousins?  Bobo the Elder and Bobo the Younger are seriously going to let their paper be represented in court by two guys who break mimeograph machines, break into administrative offices, and ruin fancy dinner parties? What’s more, Larry reports to Marshall and Walpole, and we see now that those shits deliberately left their names off the article so Larry would take the fall.

Balki asks about when he gets to tell the judge what he knows, and Larry asks “what do you know”, and I actually laughed at that.  Balki tells us that Sore Throat, aka Waldo Gillings, is a driver for a crime boss who makes deals from the back of his limousine. Let’s extend broken window theory here: shouldn’t Chicago just outlaw limousines?**

Larry tells Balki that they, as journalists, have to not disclose their sources. But then Larry finds out that the judge knows how much Larry’s raise is going to be. Haha, just kidding, that was a cool callback, though.  Please subscribe and don’t forget to hit that “Like” button!


I vehemently swore that I would not track Balki’s other catchphrases, and I’m glad I did that, because there’s a ton by now (you really stepped in something good, I’ll be snookered, wwwwwow!, you do/I do, get out of the city, both cousins saying “Hiiii” when someone walks in while they’re fucking).  We don’t see much of “swing it on in” anymore, but here, Balki looks closely at Larry’s mouth while he pronounces a word (incarcerated, instead of incinerated, which was actually another good one).  I want to commend writer John B. Collins for–

ah, shit, now Larry’s talking about how they have to stand up for freedom of the press, and Balki keeps standing up




Anyway, Larry mentions the Constitution, so Balki gets on board with the idea.  Then Larry says that the Judge will not throw them in jail, triggering a Gilligan Cut.


Props to the music department for the harmonica version of the “back from the commercial” music, but god dammit, Donald Trump is only today getting sworn in and already the journalists are being jailed.


Larry and Balki have a good laugh about being prisoners.

Balki reminisces about being jailed on Mypos after he kidnapped a baby goat.


Balki: He liked to hang around with me. I gave him a lot of positive ego reinforcement.

Sounds like that goat had…

wait for it

…Livestockholm syndrome!

Anyway, on Mypos is very simple: the jails have no bars, just a circle drawn on the ground. I have to say, I am really impressed with the writing this week, because this is downright experimental in terms of this show’s conflicts.  Usually, there’s some sort of vaguely-defined middle ground that the cousins can reach, but here, they really are speaking completely different languages.  Balki may give lip service*** to Christianity, but what he’s describing essentially is a sketch of ritual magic: that a “barrier” is created to keep some evil power contained.  But is this episode a culture clash about religion, about how the idea of “magic” originated out of Judaism as a way to stigmatize other ways of contacting supernatural forces? No. Or does the discussion of how the “jails” differ mask the deeper issue of how breaches of social contracts are handled? That the American prison-industrial complex**** is so developed that it has beds? That its methods are so effective that my middle school’s architecture was designed on the panopticon principle? That prison is so ingrained in the cultural imagining that you can make jokes in shorthand (harmonicas, numbers on the walls, rape)? No. The ocean between the United States and Mypos is too vast!  Balki was jailed for sticking his peepee in a goat that was slightly too young; the cousins are now jailed for Larry’s commitment to ideas.  Values and their judges: on Mypos, both are bound to the physical world. You can only sin corporeally, and your neighbors mete out punishment. In America, both are largely unseen, perhaps only existing in an abstract sense. Circles on the ground bar more effectively than permeable walls.  To have an episode with no possibility of middle ground, no possibility of a fight between the cousins, is bold to say the very least.


Nah, j/k, the cousins are given blankets and

the guard


the cell door.

The Guard tells them that another reporter is still in jail for not revealing a source, and has been there for three years.  Geez, they hired a whole actor just to relay that information? Me, I would’ve just put a skeleton in the corner with a press pass in its hat, but wearing no other clothes, because that would make the hat funnier.

Which reminds me:


Larry starts worrying about three years in the clink, since he won’t have anywhere to plug in his Waterpik (which he, what, smuggled in up his ass?).


Larry starts shouting that he’ll talk and Balki reminds him of what it means to be a reporter. Um?

Wouldn’t Sore Throat have the possibility of being granted immunity if he gave information on his criminal boss… who is now behind bars anyway? Is he just trying to stay in the good graces of all the other limo crime lords? Where’s Waldo, anyway?


I think I may have mentioned once or twice that I’m more of a Larry than a Balki.  Balki gives Larry’s ideals back to him, and Larry says that he doesn’t believe he has the strength to uphold the constitution. The show has completely forgotten that Larry had eight brothers and sisters, but I haven’t.  He constantly had to make his own way, not just to prove himself, but because his parents’ attention was divided 9 ways.  Those of us who get into that kind of self-sufficient pattern often don’t know how to ask for help.  Some of us may find ourselves in jobs where our superiors either offer no support, or open disdain for us. I don’t like when Larry turns into a baby, but damn if it ain’t earned here. The Chicago Chronicle has distanced itself completely from the cousins.  Kind of makes you wonder what they’re hiding on floors 7-30. I bet Frank knows.

There’s actually a callback to the stand up/sit down bit from earlier, and then Balki remembers stuff from his American history class!  Balki says that people like Nathan Hale and Paul Revere were just regular Joes until they had to be heroes.  Balki even says forefathers without a dumb joke!

Larry has plenty of fetishes: dating women who are one standard deviation above the average height, getting beaten up by men wearing denim anywhere that has a liquor license, wet-and-messy-bismol (I told you I’m more of a Larry), but Balki knows which one his cousin needs now: the outward trappings of being an American citizen.


Balki starts singing “America the Beautiful” (public domain).


what the fuck


The Guard brings two more prisoners, and Larry, desperate for that middle ground between cultures, calls upon Generic Deity:


One of the prisoners is named Dutch, in the grand tradition of criminals being named Dutch going back at least to 1934’s The Big Shakedown. The prisoners are quickly established as rude dudes. I mean, look, that one guy’s wearing motorcycle gloves! Plus he threatened to kill the guard.


Mirroring his earlier request for a new office, Larry begs to be placed in a separate cell because he knows what types of jokes happen in these situations.  I will say that I like that Dutch accuses the cousins of being snitches, which both is and isn’t why they’re in jail.

I will also say that I don’t like Balki saying he’s defending “the right to arm bears”. Dutch threatens to disembowel Balki.


Balki considers the PROSE AND CONS of making a joke about the word “organ”.


You ever watch old Scooby-Doo cartoons? I remember at one point, about the same time that I understood how cel animation worked, that I could tell which bush the monster was going to jump out of, which suit of armor was going to be haunted, and which stone would open up a secret passageway. So I should have known that the only movable item introduced in this episode was going to drive the physical comedy.


Despite the multiple layers of fat that have built up on Larry’s torso, thighs, and yes, even his pinky toes, he begins to shiver, causing Balki to think there’s an earthquake. Well, I know how to handle this, you both take off your clothes and get under Balki’s blanket.

Balki offers his blanket, but before the audience finishes their “awww”, Balki brings the conversation back to the same thing he always does: how awful sheep smell when it rains and they get wet and you have to be real close to them because no way you’re gonna stop fucking them.

*sees the joke coming of the other prisoner stealing Larry’s blanket*


*watches the joke where the other prisoner steals Larry’s blanket*

*doesn’t laugh*


Balki asks if Cousin Larry is going to let them get away with this, a question punctuated quite clearly by the very neatly-drawn anarchy symbol on the wall. Balki then tries to ask for the blanet back.


Larry starts slapping Balki so that he can establish–

*reminds self that prison rape jokes aren’t cool*

–so that he can establishing pecking order.


Dutch and Jacob start trying to push the cousins through the bars.

*considers the PROSE AND CONS of doing a bit where I tie the opening sequence’s revolving door bit to prison recidivism, and like, how cell doors are revolving doors to prisoners, and another 1,000 words on top of that about how this episode doesn’t truly stand as a counterpoint to the Stanford Prison experiment because none of the prisoners is wearing a uniform, which could include jokes like “Zimbardo Zaggy Badbad” and maybe some mess about rehashing plots vs non-replicable studies*

Nah, too much effort.

The guard lets Dutch and Jacob out, because their mother posted bail. That’s almost funny.

Okay, I was cool with the ways Balki was misunderstanding English this week, and I was dreading what kind of dumb physical comedy they might get up to in the cell, but…

The other prisoners stole their blankets and pushed them up against the bars? I’ve seen scarier episodes of Rugrats.  Couldn’t they have ended up in the cell with the crime boss they exposed?


*sees the joke coming that it’s somebody else playing*

*watches the joke that it’s somebody else playing*

*laughs at the idea of the joke*

*doesn’t laugh at the execution*

The Guard comes back and messes up his fourth line.  Cousin Larry, sensing weakness, says he ain’t gonna sing. The Guard then uses his 21” black zinc telescoping corrections baton (with jeweled endcap) to stifle this nascent riot.

Oh, no, wait, Waldo came forward and testified when he heard that the cousins went to jail for him.


Balki points out that Larry did the heroic thing, even though it ended up having no effect.  And that’s great that Larry did that, but I know that Larry’s like me.  Larry understands confounding variables.  He was rewarded… but not for what he did.

Instead of leaving, the cousins just stand around in the cell talking about what hot shit they are.


Then they run away from this pointless episode.

See you next week for “Car Wars”!


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

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

*where “one”=”urethra”

**similarly, if Star Wars VIII doesn’t have the First Order blowing up every desert planet in the known universe, they deserve to lose

***and oh what lips they are

****come on, somebody’s got bingo by now on my academic theory references

Season 4, Episode 12: Crimebusters

Before I review Carl Winslow’s first appearance:

Tomorrow night at 7PM EST, Noiseless Chatter (Phil) (you know Phil) is hosting his fourth annual Xmas Bash!!!! He’s streaming hours of Christmas mess like TV specials, commercials, and music videos. The event 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!!!!

I made some art for the event! Perfect Strangers merchandise doesn’t really exist, unless you count the pair of Bronson Pinchot’s y-fronts that I bought on eBay last month, so here’s your chance to immortalize the non-kissin’ cousins on your wall:


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 leggings. Please wear them to your place of employ.

And please come watch the Xmas Bash!!!! tomorrow night!


Look, show. I know this is the episode where you introduce Carl Winslow. Can we please not have an episode that’s racist? And can we please not have an episode that’s misogynist? Please?


oh shit here comes Harriette don’t you fuck this up

Harriette: Can I use your phone?

Larry: Don’t touch that phone!


*sits on edge of seat grinding teeth audibly, my fingers’ strain on the keyboard creating hairline cracks in the plastic, fearing that Larry’s next line could be the end of me and this show*

Harriette: You want to rephrase that, baby?

Thank god. Balki says that Larry’s waiting on a call–


Balki: Cousin Larry’s on the verge of a very big perversion.

I don’t want to pass up this opportunity to say that I long for the simple days of season 1, when Balki would make what I’d call a thesaurus mistake.  Back in “Baby You Can Drive My Car”, Balki swaps out “excited” in favor of “aroused”.  I ran into the same problem when I would tutor people studying German: I’d read their papers, and see that they had used an online dictionary to translate a single word, and picked out the first translation that came up. Sure, erwecken comes up when you search excite; but go the other way and you see the full spectrum of what erwecken means: inspire, awaken, arouse, suggest. That’s a legitimate language acquisition mistake.  But since then, we’ve moved on to Balki getting things wrong in a homophonic sense*; this is a new low, where Balki has only gotten the first letter and the word ending correct.

Anyway, Larry is waiting on a phone call about a promotion to the investigative team headed by Marshall and Walpole**, the same team that Larry was behind the creation of back in “High Society”. Remember, kids, this was the 80s, where no one working in any business ever scheduled meetings to discuss things.

Harriette, on the other hand, needs to use the phone because she moved into the Caldwell Hotel and hasn’t had phone service hooked up.  Remember, kids, THIS WAS THE 80s, when there was only one phone per office building, and they kept it in the basement, on an employee’s desk.

Now that we’ve gotten the exposition out of the way, Marshall and Walpole (bundled together in their own sleeping bag, I assume) call and Larry excitedly scampers up the stairs to find out if he got the job. (Would they have called him up there to tell him no…?)


Harriette makes fun of Larry’s height, but who cares about that, because Carl’s here!


It’s Carl! Hey Carrrrrl!


Carl has brought Balki some wanted posters, which Balki treats as trading cards.  It’s a nice joke, and it’s good world-building for once.  Balki and Carl have met many times before, and they’re legitimately excited to see each other.  I don’t think Carl would indulge this hobby if he knew that Balki was just picking out new criminals to invite to the apartment.

Given this show’s rap sheet on making shitty jokes about cops and criminals, I’m surprised that there’s another good one here. Harriette comments that there’s powdered sugar on Carl’s mustache, and he hurriedly comes up with the excuse that it’s cocaine.


Hold on, Balki’s been off-screen for more than 10 seconds, here he comes to step on the joke.


Harriette tells him that “this is a family matter” (wink wink) and Balki leaves, because he knows how tricky the “backdoor pilot” move can be (WINK WINK).

Harriette yells at Carl until he yells back that he ate 9 donuts and he’s “paying the price”.


Full disclosure: I watched Family Matters a hell of a lot more than I watched Perfect Strangers as a kid.  Sure, like many white kids, I was into Urkel; and I stopped watching somewhere around when Stefan Urquelle kept showing up.  But Carl Winslow is a familiar presence, and now that I’m an adult, I can see why. Reginald VelJohnson brings a lot of things to the role: excitement, the ability to become serious at the drop of a hat, and believable humility and thoughtfulness. Any time he tries to pull one over on Harriette, it’s clear he knows it’s not going to work, just like it didn’t work the last hundred times. But look: in the span of a couple of minutes, he’s gone from excited, to scared, to weaselly, to upset (at himself), to serious.

Carl came over to let Harriette know that he’s going on stakeout that night, because evidently the phones don’t work at the police station, either.  He leaves, telling Balki that Joey the Fish is “going to be big” and Balki shivers with excitement.


That’s fucked up. I was going to say that I yearn for the idyllic days of season 1, when Balki was just really into whatever idiosyncratic stuff had reached Mypos and appealed to him. But here we see that Balki is already more American than we could ever imagine.  True crime programming was in vogue: Unsolved Mysteries, America’s Most Wanted, and Rescue 911 all began in the 1987-1989 period. Tabloids have been around for about a century now, but note that sharp rise around 1987.


Crime reporting, once a noble job, had become commercialized, the masses yearning for more and juicier details. Frank knows what I’m talking about.

Anyway, Carl and Harriette leave on another joke about Carl being fat (black and fat, how’s that for 80s sitcom intersectionality). He’s so fat, in fact, that his absence creates a void similar to that of a balloon popping: air rushes in, bringing with it Cousin Larry.

Larry: You are looking at Larry Appleton, investigative reporter!

Balki: Your ship has finally hit the fan.

*sigh* Balki already said that the “spit’s gonna hit the fan” back in “The Break In”. So either that episode didn’t happen, or Balki’s got memory problems.  The cousins spend a while getting out the details about Larry’s job: he doesn’t get a raise and still works in the basement. His new title is “assistant research liaison to the investigative reporting team of Marshall and Walpole”, which basically boils down to getting them lunch.

It may be that we’ve spent all of the first act on setup, but it’s pretty snappy dialogue so far, with Balki going down from excited to less excited twice just to hammer it home that the paper finally decided that work in the basement is caught up and upper levels need a gofer as well. But let’s not meet the new bosses, or anything.


Later, at the apartment, Balki tries to boost Larry’s spirits by saying that the team must have started out small as well and calls them Mushmouth and Polevault.  There’s not a reveal that Balki meant it as a joke; he’s just dumb.

Balki: The rest, as they say, is hysterectomy.


This fucker who aced his history final sure is a dumb motherfucker. Am I supposed to believe that he can read the mail and get it to the right people?  Larry says he wants a great story to break that will make him famous all at once.

Carl comes over to use their phone, because he’s expecting an important call from the police station.  So… he’s supposed to be on a stakeout tonight, right? Couldn’t he have… I dunno, stayed at the police station to get this important intel before going to the stakeout?

Larry starts to go to bed, but then stays up when Carl says they’re going to bust a politician. Larry stays, having gotten his “second wind”, so Balki goes off to get the antacid.

Isn’t that something Larry takes when he’s sad? Does Balki have no emotional sense anymore?  This is why I generally don’t talk about Balki’s jokes, everybody. (There is a nice touch that Larry keeps both original and mint antacid on hand.)


Carl tells Larry that he’s planning to catch a politician and a crime kingpin together, but he can’t give any more information, because he knows Larry’s a journalist.  So… why not make friends with other neighbors in the building you moved into?

Balki: Balki and Larry’s Waterworks, which drip do you want to talk to?


*comes very close to throwing my own bottle of antacid at Balki, stopping when I remember that I am looking at a screen*

While Carl talks to Lieutenant Gus, Balki reads “child proof cap” with no difficulties and then just puts his damn mouth on the cap. Only one Winslow child has been mentioned to this point (Eddie), but Carl opens the bottle for Balki like it’s second nature. Bronson Pinchot then fucking murders VelJohnson’s good acting moment by pretending to still not be able to open the bottle.


Carl uses a pad of paper to write down the address of–you guessed it–a restaurant, and then he just can’t leave quickly enough.  The only things keeping him from just phasing out of the room are 1) no Myposian vest and 2) the fact that he has to say he trusts the cousins to keep a secret.


Larry *snicker* rubs his pencil across the pad of paper, so Balki takes the pad from him and the “oh no” music comes on. Do we really need a fucking act break just to come back to see the cousins fight? Can’t Balki just tear it up, throw it in the toilet, eat it?


Yep, here we are, now Larry’s just shouting while Balki doesn’t tear up the top sheet on the pad.

Larry takes the pad because it’s his ticket to stardom.

Balki steals the sheet and then fucking stands there with some sort of chimney sweep instead of tearing up the paper.

Look, I’m going to save us all some time here and try to blow through the rest of this second act, which turned out to also be mostly exposition.  Cousin Larry turns into an asshole and tries to convince Balki that Carl wants them to know the secret, and wants them to report it in the newspaper. He tries semantic trickery when it’s obvious whoever wrote this was trying to have Larry say it’s like they pass information in spy movies. You know, the kind of movies where people rub pencils over impressions on paper, which Larry even mentions.

But… couldn’t Larry just follow Carl? Just say “You win, Balki, I’m sorry. I’m going to go get a burger” and walk out the door? But no, this is just the show now. Larry is an asshole, Balki is an idiot.

I pine*** for the halcyon days of Season 1, when Balki’s “let me get this straight” routine took a minute at most, because it’s funny when you can succinctly point out the flaws in American logic. Remember in “Check This” when Balki summed up the incoherency of the American system of banking in about 30 seconds, flummoxing the proto-Gorpley?


But this shit’s going on forever because Balki won’t tear up a piece of paper

Just like the kid in school your mom didn’t want you hanging around because they were a bad influence on you, I really feel like this show should quit trying to have any plotlines dealing with crime. Balki gets too excited–hell, let’s be frank–he gets aroused at the thought of criminals and the worst of him–and the show–come out. You end up with bad setups, bad jokes, an idiotic version of Balki, terrible handling of serious issues like suicide, and now we’re spending half an episode setting up some sort of comedy setpiece at a restaurant. I’m beginning to wonder if we got two black characters because this show assumes that plot holes won’t be as noticeable against a dark background.

See, here’s another one: Balki says the address of the restaurant, and Larry takes him along.




Okay, if “Side Show” as the restaurant’s name isn’t an inside joke about Family Matters, then it better be circus-themed on the inside.

Alderman Zittrell (they pronounce it zigh-trell) comes in and the other restaurant patrons say hello, Cheers-style. Zittrell says he wouldn’t miss Sergeant Brigetti’s party.


Ah, okay, see? I was just making too big of a deal!  It’s a surprise party! The cops had to get Carl on a fake assignment with Brigetti so that they could surprise him with a party! Everything I thought was a plot hole makes sense now, right?

Part of me wants to question why Carl wasn’t let in on the secret about the party; but what I had assumed was just character work earlier did let us know that Carl’s not a good liar.  So Carl’s in the dark as well. So the fact remains that I have trouble believing that a police officer is going to believe that his bosses will call him not only at home, but at a neighbor’s home, about where to go to make a huge crime bust involving a corrupt politician.  I’m fine with Carl not realizing his own limitations for keeping a poker face, but this whole plot depends on Carl not being a smart cop.  Anyway, these two guys call Carl fat.

And even though we just saw that everyone recognized the Alderman when he came in, leading me to believe that the restaurant was reserved for this very party, these two guys don’t stick out.


Larry posits that all of the people in the restaurant are criminals, and that they shouldn’t draw attention to themselves, so they start fucking against a potted plant.


Larry, like any well-informed citizen, recognizes the alderman, as well as the chief of police. He says his catchphrase twice, once for each politician.


Here’s one of the few well-written parts of this episode: it’s pretty over-the-top how dumb Larry’s plan to record a conversation plays out (putting a tape recorder in a bread basket), and Linn-Baker even puts a pretty bow on the sequence by catching himself before he runs into the plant again.


Then the cousins start arguing again about whether the guard locked the door what “secrets” are. Balki calls Larry out on lying and Larry admits it. They fight all the way over to the tape recorder.


My favorite part of this whole scene is how the thought crosses neither of their minds that any action they take at this point could result in Carl’s murder.


They turn on the tape recorder, at which point “Baby Love” starts playing we hear the conversation louder than the guys could possibly have been talking.  The way the conversation is worded, Larry now believes that Jennifer is going to sleep with both men that Carl will be killed the instant he steps through the door.


To their credit, the cousins do stage a last-ditch effort to save Carl’s life.






Later, at the apartment building that follows European floor numbering for some goddam reason.


Larry apologizes to Carl, but Carl says it made him laugh, so it’s all right. He leaves, but not before making a joke about how he and Harriette use toys in the bedroom.


Haha, the blacks sure do have sex!

So… I gotta ask as this point: why have the Winslows moved into this apartment building? For one thing, it feels like what happened with Jennifer and Mary Anne.  They were “popular” and, rather than every now and then have a scene at the gym where one or both of them worked, they were hastily retconned as stewardesses who lived upstairs. The show has ongoing problems with being a workplace comedy.  The women who had their own lives were pulled into orbit just so they could be nearby when it was necessary for someone to *ahem* leave the room. Harriette had her own existence at the Chronicle–a job that she’d had long enough to have secrets about, and antagonistic relationships with, other employees. But now she’s forced into the same building with the cousins. Is it too much trouble to bring back Mrs. Schlaegelmilch?

Or was the Winslows’ move simply in service of the plot of this episode?  This feels like someone worked backwards from “Larry fucks up an undercover investigative assignment” and then decided they couldn’t do that without Larry finding out about a bust, and they couldn’t do that without a cop being overheard on the phone, and gee, we’ve only got two phones, one at the Chronicle and one at the apartment. I guess the Winslows have to move in!

Let me rewrite it for you: Harriette takes the cousins to Carl’s place of work at Balki’s insistence (you keep the wanted poster and Carl-hides-food gags) and the cousins overhear something about Carl’s stakeout; he shoos them out because it’s police business; at the Chronicle, Larry finds out about his promotion and decides to investigate the bust; Larry and Balki “go undercover” and nearly mess up what turns out to be a surprise party anyway.  I’m leaving out how they discover where to go, but I guess the paper pad could be from the police station, having been used for some other purpose, which would just make it more of a surprise when Larry thinks of the spy-movie trick. But this could leave Carl intelligent and in on the secret, avoid an unnecessary move for a whole family, and there might even be more time for physical comedy at the restaurant.

As it is, though, Balki’s idiocy is an infection. I never thought I’d say this, but I yearn for the early part of season 3, back when Balki would say something wrong just to get a rise out of Larry.  He may have graduated high school, but it’s been downhill since then.  Maybe Mary Anne is a bad influence on him; maybe the microfilm in the office has started off-gassing, and he’s breathed in too many fumes; maybe it’s the fact that


but Idiot Balki has taken over: the poor choices, the mispronounced names. He’s forcing others to be their worst: eating donuts with Carl, pushing antacid on Larry. The promise–the threat–of this episode is that the unchecked faults of a catchphrase character have grown to the point that telephone moon phase Telly Savalas telophase is now inevitable and a new show will split off, with its own cancerous nucleus.

Weep for Family Matters, y’all.

Anyway, this episode’s trying to end and it’s in my best interests to let it.

Larry starts to list legitimate criticisms of his behavior to this point, but Balki keeps that from happening, too. He tells Larry that he’s a good writer (how would he know) and that he’s a hard worker (he knows he’s not) and then he says Maytag and Whirlpool





Balki: Patience is a virgin.



Catchphrase count: Balki (1); Larry (2)

Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0); Carl (1)

*congratulations, you thought of the same joke I thought of. Gold starch for everybody this week.

**or possibly Walpool? Different characters pronounce it different ways. I don’t know if sitcoms ever have someone on the crew that’s there to make sure everyone pronounces things the same way; but if this show did, that person quit out of frustration long, long ago