Season 4, Episode 10: Maid to Order


It’s a busy day outside the Caldwell Hotel, and the establishing shot is ever-so-slightly wider, letting us see that there is a business a few doors down from Paoli’s called “BOUTIQUE”.  Not only this location likely where Mrs. Falby constantly buys new dresses*, its presence is also a bit of foreshadowing. Two years/seasons ago, we had businesses like “Seoul Corp”, “Two Brothers Trade, Inc.”, and “Constant Imports”.  For one thing, business endeavors often fail, sometimes from lack of demand, or because they don’t convey what need they serve well enough. I mean, if I walk into Two Brothers, am I just going to see Tommy and Terry Johnson trading each other baseball cards? The shift here is also one of audience–pizza parlors and clothing stores serve families–and of beautification.

Anyway, I wonder where this episode takes place…


Oh, of course, on the third floor, where the cousins live in apartment 207 and/or 209.  We find that both the cousins and their apartment are in a state of disarray, in serious need of beautification.  Their dirty dishes have covered most of the available surfaces, and Larry claims to be out of clean clothes, save for a green shirt and red tie.  I’ll never understand fashion. Why did the opposite (red shirt and green tie) work last week?


Larry, you were able to hide that massive gut better when you wore sweaters.  Go back to season 1, do not pass season 2, do not collect $50, and get your old style back.

Cousin Larry takes off his tie when Balki says it’s stylish. Aha, speaking of endeavors that have failed… the cousins and this show have been trying to create situations where Balki and Larry might “accidentally” touch or see each others’ bodies.  Faking back injuries, bringing guests over and offering them beds to necessitate sleeping on the couch, “helping” each other get out of quicksand, shooing their girlfriends out of the room, going all the way to a rich guy’s house under false pretenses so they can find an empty room and wrestle wearing expensive clothes.  We see now that they’ve each been not doing, as Balki calls it, the louwndree, trying to see who’ll just give up and start walking around the apartment nude first.  They’ve also been doing their best to run out of clean dishware–cooking thousands of pastries, cooking 6 or 7 pots of pig snout at a time, buying hundreds of boxes of cereal just to see if they could get all the bowls dirty at once–in the hopes that the stars will align and they’ll just be forced to eat cream filling off of each others’ bodies.

But Larry finally accepts that timing is everything. Balki has been too caught up in studying history to pick up on the crunch they’ve gotten themselves into; he also claims that he doesn’t want to repeat history. I’d argue ABC didn’t either: this show has been making slow steps in the direction of being a family comedy, and the chance for two cohabiting bachelors being misunderstood by their neighbors and bosses has long passed.


Larry’s efforts have turned back on himself: he takes off the tie for his own sake and eats food off his own body. Larry gives in on both levels of this dumb metaphor I’ll stop doing here in a second, suggesting they hire a maid to serve as a matronly presence on the show.

(Larry Appleton, if you remember, grew up with 8 brothers and sisters.  Having eaten his meals out of a shared trough for most of his life, and then living with a cousin who does all the cleaning, he has no idea that washing a single bowl and spoon takes roughly one minute.)

Because Balki is somehow a complete idiot who has also never watched a single minute of any classic television show, and certainly not the Brady Bunch, the opening theme song of which he’s never, EVER sung, not even ONCE, NEVER…


…he doesn’t know what a maid is.


The next day (?), Larry comes home and hangs his coat. Remember this. This is important.

Larry is upset that he can’t find someone who will work for $35 a day to clean their apartment. Balki found one who will work for $35 per week***, and Larry, who’s seen what kinds of people Balki finds, is wary. You didn’t hire the homeless guy from season 1, did you?


I guess I never thought until now about the fact that Balki bringing people home all the time keeps Larry in a position of dealing with “perfect strangers”, but here we are again. Larry’s mad at Balki for not discussing something with him first, but, dude. You’re not willing to sit down with your cousin and work out a schedule of chores. However this episode chooses to say you’re wrong this week, that’s your mistake, Larry.


Anyway, Balki has a “good feeling” about their new maid, Larry shits on his feelings.


Hey, their maid is Doris Roberts! Hi, Doris! You all know Doris. She’s one of those actresses who’s been in everything, and you’ve probably forgotten half of what you’ve seen her in.  I forgot until just now I first saw her on Soap as Father Flotsky’s mom.  Her presence clarifies something for me, though.  When Ted McGinley showed up last season, it felt like it came out of nowhere, that all of a sudden a “real” actor was on the show.  But Eugene Roche’s role didn’t do that for me, and neither did Sam Anderson’s. Here’s the difference: Doris Roberts and Ted McGinley were on other shows that were new when I was a kid. Perfect Strangers’ first two seasons often felt like they existed in a vacuum, and if they had any ties, it was to the tone of older shows that its creators had worked on.

And so are many aspects of this show’s first two seasons. But Dmitri’s still here, and I guess he’s got a washrag in front of him.


Anyway, I’m talking way too damn much about stuff that’s not the episode.  I’m barely four minutes in and my thoughts are all over the damn place. I’ve got setups for metaphors, running jokes… I should really get a guest reviewer to come in this season and tidy up…


Mrs. Bailey comes in and the first thing she says to Larry is to brag how she can get rid of the semen smell in his room. Larry begins to voice his concerns about her mental health.

Mrs. Bailey: I know you’re worried that I’m going to hit on one of you like the last old woman on this show. I don’t need the sex… it’s the work that makes me happy.


She asks them if they have an 8-inch springform cake pan, but the cousins only understood the 8-inch part. In the span of a minute, we see her working on groceries, cooking (a chocolate cake, Larry’s favorite), and the louwndree:


Mrs. Bailey: Your job is to get these clothes dirty, and from the looks of things… you’re the best.

Balki starts demanding thanks for his good job finding a maid, just like any humble shepherd would do; Larry asks what a cake pan is, just like any college-educated American would.


Later, it’s raining at the Chronicle.


Larry comes out of what I assume is the bathroom, giving us one more entrance/exit to fucking deal with.  He and Harriette have a conversation that sounds like it would be more at home in a commercial for a cleaning product.


But, as STOP before it, Maid© has left Larry unhappy.  To wit: she’s getting on his nerves.

Balki comes running out of Gorpley’s office to tell us about how, because Balki’s never once shown love to him…


…and because Balki has never once encouraged others to love him…


…Mr. Gorpley made Balki hold a dart board while he threw darts at it.  This is a feint on the part of the show. The audience sees an unharmed Balki. But puncture wounds don’t have to run deep with our humble shepherd: a note from Mrs. Bailey to remind him to take his vitamins has pierced his signature Myposian mish-mash of clothing.**** Larry, on the other hand, has rejected this extra assistance.


Want some more symbolism? The note on Balki’s breast has a cartoon of a heart with an arrow through it.

Still not satisfied? Baileys are part of a castle’s defenses, meaning that this one–removed from its original, internal source–has become a type of overactive defense mechanism.  What once was protective and helpful has become harmful; Mrs. Bailey’s coming at this from the wrong side of the battlements.


I can do this all day, people! Look, I can even make it into a callback of a deep cut joke of my own!


Anyway, here she is.  Despite the fact that these guys most likely go from apartment, to garage, to car, to garage, to work, she brought them their galoshes.


Gorpley comes out of his office with three jobs for Balki, but Mrs. Bailey jumps to action:


Mrs. Bailey: You didn’t say the magic words.

Mrs. Bailey: And you should smile more.

Mrs. Bailey: Say you’re sorry.


We know from last week that Gorpley’s got some serious mother issues, and this shuts him down to the point of forgetting where he was going.

Mrs. Bailey brought Balki some pig snout puffs.


Balki: Just like mama used to make.

Wwwwait, doesn’t Mama still make them? I mean,


but that doesn’t mean Mama Bartokomous is.


Balki and Mrs. Bailey go off in search of Lance Dick, leaving Harriette to finally say out loud what the conflict is. Thank God, I had no idea.


Let’s breach these walls and see what’s going on tonight…


The guys come back from a George Michael concert with their girlfriends.  Mary Anne (Sagittarius) keys in on a deep philosophical aspect of human attraction: we tend to like others to the extent that they reflect ourselves.

Mary Anne: I think it’s so sexy when someone has two first names.

Jennifer says that she melted when he sang “Careless Whisper”.

Look, I cream my pants over a good saxophone solo*****, same as the next guy, but Jennifer melted over a song about a guy losing his lover because he cheated?

Does this mean she knows about Balki and Larry? You know, fucking?

Larry says if that’s the case, let’s put on some Sylvester and get to feeling mighty real.

Larry makes a plan to get Balki out of there so he can have sex with Jennifer, now that he knows for sure the 3-year pile of tissues has finally been cleaned out of his room. Part of the plan is that Balki will express interest in Mary Anne’s “Great Cities of the World” placemat collection, which is my favorite joke of the episode. Show, even with all the stuff I criticize you for, you do a good job with Mary Anne, and you also do a good job when it comes to funny names you can repeat.

Larry told Jennifer to put on some romantic music, and wouldn’t you know it, she went straight for the nondescript royalty-free synth stuff!


The two couples dance, but Larry can’t even go 10 seconds without touching his cousin. He smacks Balki really loudly on the arm, and Balki thinks Mary Anne did it, and that that is hot for some fucking reason.  Larry starts snapping his fingers, and Balki does the same.

Larry smacks Balki on the head, and evidently Balki thinks Mary Anne has figured out the Myposian courtship rituals all on her own.


Jennifer tells Mary Anne to take a fucking hike already, she’s glazing her panties. Mary Anne agrees to take Balki upstairs and show him her collection.


Placemat is my new favorite euphemism, you guys. Don’t know what it means yet, but I like it.

It feels like only a month ago that Jennifer first expressed a desire for something, but we’re moving quick now. The defenses are down, and that means it’s time for some night maneuvers, let’s see what Larry’s siege tower can do, maybe get–


Whoops! One more springform lost.  Sorry, Larry.




Balki, you’re–





Mrs. Bailey could swear that she remembers something about Jennifer liking a little tummy on a man, so she insists on making chocolate chip cookies for them all.


Larry tells her to take a fucking hike because it’s late.

The girlfriends decide that this must be this week’s “thing” for the cousins and leave. Cousin Larry says he’s still got a boner, but Jennifer has “lost the mood”.  Larry pushes for just screwing in front of the old lady, it could be fun.

Mary Anne’s upset that no one is going to come “look at her placemats”. I have it now. The placemats are her labia majora.


Mrs. Bailey says she hopes she didn’t ruin the evening.

Balki: No, they always leave around this time.


Well, that’s one less joke I have to make this week.

Mrs. Bailey takes the laundry to fold before making the batch of cookies.

Look, I’ve lived alone for 3 and a half years now.  It’s already, what, midnight? You get those cookies in the oven, then you fold the laundry while they bake and cool. Mrs. Bailey really does like to make more work for herself, doesn’t she?

They shout about Mrs. Bailey, who is in the next room, weeping into Larry’s BVDs.

Psychology sidebar: the “psychological contract” describes the ideas held by employers and employees regarding an employee’s role. There’s the written contract, containing job duties, expectations, promotion requirements, that weaselly little part about “other duties as assigned”. But then there’s the one that exists in the minds of the employer and the employee.  Ideally these two contracts are identical, but sometimes one party realizes the other does not have the same language in their psychological contract.  A retail job will explicitly mention “customer service skills” in the written job description; the employee may understand this to mean eye contact, smiling, welcoming someone into the store, while the employer needs someone who can handle customers who are upset about a product they are returning. When these disagreements happen, they break the contract and are referred to as “pinch” points; the course of action is to address them and make sure that one or more of the parties involved makes some notes in the margins of their psychological contract.  Too many tiny breaches of contract, and you get a crunch point, which can often result in termination of employment from either side.  Let’s back up a minute here so I can show you exactly where the pinch point happened:

Larry: What are you doing here?

Mrs. Bailey: I work here!

Sitcoms have their own built-in defenses: here the ones against recurring characters and nuanced resolution are on full display. Cousin Larry’s treating a pinch point like a crunch point. He talks for three minutes straight about the problem, Balki asks him what he’s getting at, meaning that Larry gets to talk for another minute while Mrs. Bailey comes from the back of the apartment to overhear him.


Larry says he’s going to fire her; Balki says she’ll stay. Larry looks at things one way, Balki looks at things another way.

Mrs. Bailey says she’ll leave, citing “things just didn’t work out” as her reason.  Nobody’s willing to argue for anything on this show, are they? They just say: this is what I want, give me it. Larry didn’t get what he wanted? He tells someone to leave. Mrs. Bailey didn’t get what she wanted? She’s told to leave. Balki didn’t get what he wanted? He leaves.


What’s a patriarchy to do?


Three nights later, Larry is vacuuming and Balki still isn’t talking to him. Balki grabs food from the kitchen and heads directly to his bedroom, which is a succinctly wounded, defeatist resolution to the problem posed at the beginning of the episode.  Can’t maintain shared space? Instead of making it work, don’t share it at all.


And it’s usually at this point in the better episodes that I realize the good structure built out of the raw material of this show.  This one was written by Tom DeVanney, who went on to write for, among other things, Family Guy. Some of the good plot ideas involve Larry the Dad and Balki the Kid; some of them involve Larry and Balki on the same level; this one involves Larry and Balki exactly as they are. Balki’s just about to start college, and hasn’t seen his mother in almost three years; Larry’s independent to the point that a full-on mother is a stumbling block to his adult pursuits, like making love to “Royalty-Free Classics v. 5”.  Balki shows his Kid by saying that he’s going to be mad at Larry “forever”, which is too abstract of a concept at this point.

Mrs. Bailey comes by with another chocolate cake and comments on how clean the apartment has managed to remain in her absence.


Balki hears this and excitedly puts his feet on the couch.

Larry says he’s found a family to take care of Mrs. Bailey, the Coopers, they’re really nice, they have a farm–


Haha, gotcha, nah, Larry got her a job cleaning at a sorority house at Northwestern University.  Balki tries to say that he needs her, but the college girls–those in between Larry and Balki’s states–need her more. But we don’t see those college girls, and it’s not really their need this story is concerned with, ultimately. And it’s usually at this point in the better episodes–


–where there’s still some tiny problematic piece that I have to deal with. Here, it’s how the show treats older women.  Mrs. Bailey’s own children likely left home at the same age that Balki is now.  We’ve historically not done a very good job in this country with letting women take on new roles as they age. Many 20th-century women were told that their ideal role–their duty–was to be a mother, wife, homemaker. But these roles have expiration dates, leaving women with virtually no role later on in life, except for that of grandmother.  And then the media tell us that their sexuality is to be avoided. And the media tell us that grandmothers are annoying (indulging the kids, buying them the loud and annoying presents their parents won’t). Old women are frail; old women are sad; old women are grouchy; old women smell; old women are vain and can’t stand the thought of giving up their youth.  Well, what else are you letting them have?

At least, this is what I was taught in my “psychology of women” course; maybe cleaning underwear “forever” is what she really grooves on, and more power to her for finding fulfillment.  I’m just pointing out one piece of many from the media world I grew up in.  It’s (I hope) inadvertent on the part of the writer, and emerges somewhat from the condensed structure of sitcom resolution.  Larry’s the good guy for a change, but his choice of finding more children for Mrs. Bailey to be a mom for shows that lack of willingness to have an employer/employee conversation runs deeper, all the way down to a lack of willingness to question that basic duality to begin with. A smarter show could have had each player realize how their own extreme take on the situation was making things bad for the others; it could even have them part ways and make it okay. Here, we’ve got smart for this show, and I’m guessing probably par for the course for 80s sitcoms as well.


Anyway, Mrs. Bailey’s parting suggestion is for the cousins to try out sedentary urination.

Balki says he’s grateful for what Larry did, so Larry starts demanding an apology and acting like an asshole, even after Balki offers one.


I can’t help but remember all the times when Balki pulled this same shit. At least the show maintains its weird logic: Balki gives Larry saint status and abases himself.

Balki starts crawling towards Larry and Larry’s all like “my dicks up here, dude”.


The cousins go off to eat their cake, and Balki decides that, since it’s his turn to do the dishes, they’ll use paper plates. Not only does he not want to work, he wants to create more waste.


Join me next week for “That Old Gang of Mine”!


Boner count: Larry (1); Balki (1); Jennifer (1!!!)

Catchphrase count: Balki (1)

*poop stains are notoriously hard to wash out**

**so I’ve heard

***a week’s worth of grocery money for the cousins, we are told

****for a fuller discussion of Balki as a wholly external being, see Season 3, Episode 5: Your Feather-Touch Heart

*****as long as there’s egg rolls, that is *winkacetti*

Season 3, Episode 21: The Graduate

Alright, show, you already did the plot where an old woman comes onto Balki, so what’s the deal here?


We find the Caldwell in the midst of the stillness that often follows a heavy rain: the world drawn into itself, processing what it has taken in, paused in appearance only, the Paoli’s Pizza sign the only indication that inside, catalysis is taking place, a silent promise of new blossoms on the coming morn.

Inside, we find Larry quizzing his cousin on American history facts, reading from what is obviously a novel. Hey, black people aren’t the only things that all look alike! Without a dust jacket, all books look alike too, right? But Balki is obviously strained from hours repeating facts about presidents.  He’s likely thinking back to simpler times, when all he had to do was put on a Ronald Reagan mask.


Balki is slow to respond and Larry slaps his thigh with a ruler and jeez, okay, show, I can see you’re quizzing me, too. I didn’t forget about this:


You just hadn’t given me a good opportunity to use it!

Evidently, Balki has one final left, and if he gets 100% on it, he’ll graduate at the top of his class.


Cousin Larry starts throwing shade at former high school classmate Becky Jo Quinn, to whom Larry lost the valedictorian title because he missed Mr. Planchard’s trick question on his geography final. Larry mentions that Balki would be the first in the family to be a valedictorian.

But then Balki confuses valedictorian and vegetarian, and it’s official, folks: they don’t teach English at Adult Evening Classes Memorial High School.


Larry hooks Balki with the idea of giving a speech, and yeah, honestly, we need one from him at this point. I wanted one way back when we met Elaine last season (around this time), and all Balki did then was mix up words. Depending upon where you look, this episode is either episode 19 or episode 21 of season 3, but honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised for this to have been intended as the season finale.  Hell, I’d even believe that it could have been intended as a series finale.  There’s no real reason to have Balki graduate high school right now; the beginning of the season demonstrated that perhaps only a week had passed between seasons.

Whatever kind of finale it was or wasn’t, it’s late in the season and we need some major sign of progress. We’ve had Larry’s birthday (given what we knew about his past at the time, an accomplishment), Larry barely placing in a contest, and Larry getting a shitty job. I’ve complained before about how much the show focusses on Balki’s dreams to the detriment of Larry’s, but have any of Balki’s stuck? He doesn’t play baseball, practice Karate, or go to the gym anymore. Mr. Casselman sits alone in his office, waiting, 100 raisins arranged in rows on his desk, hoping that one day his secretary will tell him that a B.A. Bartokomous is on line 1. Suprides has vague memories of the man who would dance with him, but even those will soon be gone. And since there’s no way in hell this show’s ever going to let Balki pronounce Appleton correctly, we’ve got to have some sort of milestone for Balki. What do the last three seasons mean to Balki?

Three seasons in, though, and Larry is still trying to live vicariously through others, feed off their success, and endlessly plan things in the middle of the night. He wants Balki to get that 100, so that he…

Okay okay okay stop

stop stop stop

just stop

I don’t like to toot my own horn, mainly because I’m trying to live my life by the precepts of this show and threw all my horns away, but I’m a smart guy. Smart, at least, when it comes to making good grades on the types of things they test for in school. Thanks to the awful ways that public school teachers get rated and paid in this country, I put good money in many of their pockets over the course of 11 years (I skipped two grades). Heck, in middle school they even put us smart kids in classes with the kids who didn’t do well on tests one year, which I suspect was a move to balance out the reporting to the school district. So let me tell you how grades on your finals work.  When I was in college, I would overhear people talking about how the grade they’d get on the final would determine whether they got an A versus a B (or a B versus a C, whatever). It always struck me as indicative of poor overall performance that one single grade could have such an impact; why would they expect, all of a sudden, that they’d do so much better than they had up to that point?  Once or twice, right before the end of the semester, I did the math for how poorly I could do and still make an A in the class; in one situation I could have done this with a 30 on the final.

What I’m getting at is… was Larry going over NOT ONLY Balki’s grades but somehow everyone else’s to determine that Balki needs to get 100 on one test to be valedictorian?  I’ll tell you why you weren’t valedictorian, Cousin Larry, it’s because you don’t get how dumb Balki probably is.

Look, Larry, like I said, I’m a smart guy, and I’ve learned a thing or two from this show. The best way to make Balki smart is by having Mary Anne in the room. Go get Mary Anne.

Larry doesn’t go get Mary Anne, he just shouts at Balki some more.  Balki says he’s going to bed because he’s exhausted, and me too.  We’ve stayed up past midnight multiple times this season.  I’m tired of season 3 already, and not just because I feel like it’s re-covering some of season 2’s ground. I’m tired of this self-imposed moratorium on gay jokes. I’m tired of asking for good story and good jokes in the same episode. I’m tired of Larry not realizing by now that Balki’s going to do perfectly on everything because he’s a wish-fulfillment character for the children in the audience.

Then the do that “you do”/”I do” thing again.


Then they just do a rapid-fire quiz about the Battle Between the States, Larry asks Balki who the publisher of the book was, and then the horrible truth comes out: Larry’s geography teacher asked them how many pages were in the textbook on the final.


That’s some fucked-up shit right there, show. You earned another one:


And if I’m remembering correctly from a book I read once, that’s good writing to have characters make reveals in the heat of an argument, or while drunk.

Larry says that the only person who knew the answer was “that tramp Becky Jo Quinn”. Yeah, that little slut! I bet she, um. Slept with the textbook?


Larry asks Balki if he wants to be valedictorian or a nobody, and they puff their chests out and then slump a few times to punctuate each state of being. Linn-Baker adds a nice touch during one slump of shaking his head and mouthing “nope”.  And, okay, good!  This is where Balki needs to be!  Balki is finishing school–possibly the first structured school he’s been to–and he’s really only familiar with its immediate rewards.  What really should just be indicators to the teacher about what students are interested in, or alternately could use a little help with–or potentially what they themselves are not teaching well–become rewards in the eyes of the students, a goal in and of themselves.  Balki doesn’t realize that valedictorian is only important for the duration of the ceremony where you are (or aren’t) it, and that no employer in his future is going to care.  Larry likely knows this by now, even if he’s not admitting it to himself; or maybe he’s used the one question on a geography final to explain and excuse his subsequent “failures”.  Balki’s only just reached this stage due to his circumstance; Larry’s stuck there because of his pomp.

Dad’s trying to live vicariously through his son, I made a pomp & circumstance joke in an entirely organic way, this is shaping up to be a good episode, folks, and we’re only 4 minutes in.

Balki: Alright, Cousin, let’s go for the mold!

well shit


Some music that sounds as close to the Jeopardy theme as ABC’s lawyers would allow comes on and the scene switches to that of the Cousins, asleep. They wake up to find their muscles in excruciating pain to find that Balki is late for his history exam.  But there’s always time for catchphrases:


and physical comedy:


Larry picks up Balki and the coats and heads out the door.


A painful Asian stereotype hands his completed test to Mr. Jones and says “Mr. Jones, I’m finished with my test” since there’s no fewer than 80 different reasons why he might be handing the teacher the test. Let it not go unnoted that this is the third time ever both cousins were off-screen at the same time.


I guess the cousins’ tactic is to distract the whole class from the test by talking loudly and doing physical comedy.


Oh no! Balki only has 20 minutes to take the test. Balki says it will take him 20 minutes to read it, and holy shit, I was laughing about it all season but that’s a true rug pull, holy shit, why don’t they teach English at this school, holy shit, holy shit, look at that portrait of Lincoln, why is it good framing practice to have more matte at the bottom than the top, I just don’t get it, holy shit


Mr. Jones tells Larry to take a hike, so Larry trips over a desk, sticks his foot in a trash can, and then there’s some happy saxophone music over the scene change.


Balki stands over the shoulder of Mr. Jones commenting on the test grading.


Balki got a 100!

The cousins do the Dance of Joy!


But Balki finished 2nd in the class because Larry still isn’t good at math and didn’t account for other people getting 100 too.

Mr. Jones gives Balki the same chance he gave Mr. Henry Fong–to answer the extra credit

Oh, no! It’s the publisher’s name!


Balki pretends to play a trumpet while Larry turns into Dudley Moore.

Balki can’t remember it, and Mr. Jones tells him not to feel bad because no one’s ever gotten one of his extra credit questions.  Larry proceeds to beat the ever-loving whiz out of Mr. Jones, scoring a big one for those of us who have perfect eidetic memories as long as we know what to focus on.

Nah, j/k, Balki remembers the publisher as he walks out the door.


Larry makes a rude gesture at the memory of that dirty whore Becky Jo Quinn, and the cousins leave so Balki can write his speech.  But–oh no!–there’s no graduation ceremony!

Then they find out there’s no prom!

Then they find out there’s no class picture!

What’s next? A years-long recession after Black Monday?


Balki leaves, and like any good parent Larry stays behind to talk up his kid.  This is a pretty accurate depiction of how the American school system works: parents yell at the teachers, who have no control over how the school is run.


Larry gets applause, and it’s completely earned! This may just be one of those episodes that’s a gimme because the story’s so necessary, but I’m actually impressed they let Cousin Larry have a moment (even if that moment was him saying how great Balki was, and even if it’s undercut when the teacher says no and Larry cries).


The teacher says they’ll go talk to the principal, but that she’ll eat Larry alive.

is fat marsha the principal

please lord

Back at the apartment, Cousin Larry dunks a cookie too long in milk and it falls apart, so he ragequits eating the cookie.


Balki realizes he didn’t know about all those useless things like proms and class pictures and your uncle telling you to go into the plastics field until Larry told him about them, but it’s enough for him that he graduated with his cousin’s help. He swears up and down that he’s mature, Larry tells Balki about the graduation ceremony he’s planned, and, well, I don’t have to tell you this was coming:

Balki: Kawabunga!


Hey, didn’t we have a guy doing that to Larry around this time last season?


Larry offers Balki the valedictory speech he wrote years ago, which he didn’t give because Becky Jo Quinn is a filthy harlot whose panties are filled with demons.


Whoa! All the women are here together for the graduation!

Lydia brags to Jennifer that she was voted most likely to succeed.


Gee, I wonder what Jennifer was voted? I mean, when you’re having a conversation, you reciprocate and continue talking about an established topic.  Jennifer, uncomfortable with Bechdel space, brings the conversation back to the cousins. Larry comes in with a boombox to play “Pomp & Circumstance”, and let it not go unnoted that someone was on-it enough to get some older Asian extras to come in to be the Fong family. Henry even smiles at them when he walks by!


Let’s hope that Larry’s smart enough to keep quiet that it was his idea that all the students should pay $100 for gown rentals.

Mary Anne (Sagittarius) comments on what a coincidence it is that they played Pomp & Circumstance at her graduation.  (She’s so dumb, what with her good memory and everything.)

Here it comes, everybody! Here comes Balki’s important speech.


Balki reminisces about his days on Mypos tending sheep, where already American culture was seeping in and destroying his world through such items as Sony Walkmans. It also turns out Balki’s experiencing a little bit of impostor syndrome, fearing that someone will come in and tell him that it was only a dream. But he has a credit card and pays taxes! He even speaks up his classmates, among whom are Ryan Stiles and Jeff Garlin, but tellingly, no Gina or Carol…


Anyway, Balki tells us that, having accomplished his individual dream–achieving the widely-accepted baseline for entering American adulthood–now has a new one: giving back, and doing what he can to continue making America great. Look forward to season 4, where Balki will begin putting down the newer foreigners!


Now that the graduation’s over, it’s party time!


Larry set up a prom for Balki! He got a mirrored ball and everything! He’s also prepared Balki’s first spiked punch bowl, his first upstairs bedroom drunken sex, and even put some mints by the toilet bowl for when he inevitably vomits.


Well, we’re almost done with this season: Balki’s achieved his dream, Larry’s working towards whatever his is at this point. If only Mary Anne were in a prom dress every week, then mine would be fulfilled as well.


And if you thought this week was a party, wait until next week when I review “Bye Bye Biki”! I’m 100% sure that it’s going to be a really fun episode!


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

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

Coner count: I’m grading on a curve:  Jennifer touches Larry’s arm in one scene, and that’s probably as close as she’ll ever come to actual human feeling. (1)

Dance of Joy running total: 11

Season 3, Episode 15: Just Desserts


We open at the Caldwell, and despite the prominence of the red Paoli’s Pizza sign, we find the cousins and the women who still aren’t their girlfriends yet finishing their Myposian meal.


Jennifer says that she’s surprised she didn’t throw up after eating Myposian food*, but who cares about that, because Mary Anne (Sagittarius) is just killing me with those high-heeled boots.

Balki accepts the compliment and lets us know that on Mypos, they use every part of the animal, and



Which animal would that be? And… did you grind its bones to make your dinner rolls?


Balki, in the same foreboding tone he used when he first spouted his catchphrase, tells us that they are now all going to eat bibibabkas, the dessert of kings**. That’s right, everybody, here’s a new Myposian thing that ABC is 100% sure that you’re going to like, so get ready for it to be said a million times in the next 23 minutes. Okay, I’ve actually been looking forward to this episode.  Not because I remember it, but because you can’t do any research on this show without coming across die-hard fans’ love of this episode.  There’s no question at this point that Perfect Strangers wanted to launch a renaissance of the kind of physical comedy setpieces that we all kind of remembered from the golden era of television.  And since ABC told Lucille Ball she could have a new show if she promoted their other ones, Perfect Strangers returned the favor by building an episode around that scene in “Job Switching” where Lucy and Ethel try to wrap chocolates.

We get a strong start to this episode with the history of the bibibabka: the first one was made by Ferdinand Mypos (if you remember, the founder of Mypos) to celebrate having successfully grown a  mustache. It’s one step further to Mypos becoming Wackyland, but I still laughed.


Larry bites into one just like any normal person would, which makes the audience laugh for some reason. They all just say “hmm” for a while, but then Larry starts tripping balls.


Larry: These not only taste good, they make me feel good! Like… listening to music. Like looking at great art! I feel… I feel… taller!

He goes on to say that he sees the basic cousin-ness of all humanity, and invites everyone in the building into his apartment to sleep over.

Cousin Larry tells Balki that he should try to sell the bibibabkas, and that doing so would be a good lesson in free enterprise. Yes! The episodes involving money usually do make some effort towards teaching Balki something about America!  Maybe this will be good after all!


Oh, no, wait, Balki does a shitty “Scotty from Star Trek” voice and I’m reminded that all Balki has learned about America is that he doesn’t have to learn anything about America.  Cousin Larry offers to take a bunch of bibibabkas around to restaurants, and all Balki has to do is “whip up a batch”.

Then Balki lets loose with a string of b-words, and I can tell we’re in for a whole episode of alliteration. What weenie writers, weighing ways to wow us, and winnowing them down to one: forcing phony fun from phrases filled with frequent phonemes. Feh!

Larry, whose lifelong dream has been to break into the food-making business, does some alliteration of his own and says that the four of them should work as a team to make the bibibabkas.  The women quickly agree, because this means they’ll get to stick around past the exposition scene.

After the act break, I feel like some essential part is still missing.  We’ve got the alliteration runner, we’ve got the looming tribute to I Love Lucy, we’ve got that lesson about free enterprise ready to throw out just as soon as we hit 22 minutes, but what else can we add? Ah! Balki’s about to be working! Can we get a song for this episode, Balki?


And here it is folks, the Bibibabka Ditty! Everybody sing along, and don’t forget to thrust your crotch forward and shake whatever kind of tits you have!


When you rolling out the dough


Just make sure to roll it slow


If you make the dough too quick


Bibibabka make you sick

Now the ladies!


When you pour the filling in


Just make sure you wear a grin


When you smile on what you bake


Bibibabka turn out swell

The meth-making scenes in Breaking Bad got nothing on this! But seriously, no wonder it takes all damn day to make these! That song was for constructing just one bibibabka from the requisite parts of two dough patties with cream in between them.  (By the way, the Bibibabka Ditty uses the tune of Chubby Checker’s “Limbo Rock”, but let’s go ahead and assume this counts as Reason #16.)


Larry runs in, excited to tell his news.  Now that the time period specified in the court order barring Larry from entering the Hyatt Regency Hotel has passed***, he went to see the chef at its restaurant.  The chef, in an ecstasy-induced euphoric state, ordered two thousand of the bibibabkas in just two days.  But–oh no!–it took Balki and the women all morning just to make 3 dozen!


Jennifer asks if Larry knows how many dozens there are in 2,000.  My beloved bouffant beauty butts in and gives the correct answer of 166 and ⅔ dozen.   Despite this, they all look at her like she’s dumb, so she explains that her father was a carpenter.  Then they all act like she’s even dumber. Guys, seriously, do you even KNOW how much math and trigonometry carpenters have to use?


Larry says that this is their chance to live the American dream, to control their own destinies… to, you know, appropriate a cornerstone of someone else’s culture and sell it at a profit. Balki, disbelieving, says that his cousin is not the type of person to take such big chances. But then Jennifer and Mary Anne say that they also want to go for starting their own business. Besides, this could mean that they stick around for the whole episode, something they haven’t done since last season.

Larry does that thing where he tries to convince Balki by hooking him with one of his desires; this time, it’s with the promise that this could make Mypos famous for more than being one of the prime animal-sex tourism spots.  When promises of owning a business and global fame don’t work, Larry ditches debate, drops the demagoguery, and detours in a different direction, deet-deet-deeing that dumbass Ditty.


Then the women start singing, and the four of them just dance until the act break.


When we return, Larry is walking around with a clipboard and Balki is wearing a pope hat.  Larry announces that, after 24 straight hours of working, they’ve reached the halfway mark.


Mary Anne reaches for some flour or something, and bumps into Jennifer.  Jennifer gets mad at Mary Anne, which I’m not going to dignify by calling it a “personality trait”. Being mad at Mary Anne is simply the only way to give Jennifer lines that the writers have figured out.  They argue for a minute about bumping, and Mary Anne talks about how great her hat is (she’s not wrong), but really, this is just a systems problem. These women were brought in to rework the layout of the show, yet it doesn’t occur to them to rearrange their workspace.


Pope Balki rushes in and tries to broker a peace between Israel and Palestine.


He’s upset because they are expressing negative emotions in front of the Bibibabkas.


He then caresses a Bibibabka because, as the song says, “if you smile on what you bake/Bibibabkas turn out swell”.  Believe it or not, this actually pre-dates Masaru Emoto’s “research” on the effects of positive and negative emotions on the basic structures of water, which would then be expressed as how “beautiful” the water’s crystalline structures were when frozen.  Masaru even claimed that polluted water could be cleaned through such a process.  I’m going to admit that I’ve basically just read Masaru’s Wikipedia page, but I do remember hearing about this whole water thing in the mid-2000s.  I was dating a girl in high school whose mother was into this kind of thing, and would write happy words on water bottles for her health. And it really wasn’t until I saw Balki expressing this same idea while wearing a mitre that I finally was able to put holy water in the same category.

Larry expresses my thoughts on the whole thing:

Larry: Love, right, okay. Look, we are falling behind.


The women tell him to start pulling all of that sickening weight of his and do some actual work. He responds with this “hey, hey heyheyheyheyhey” bit that made me laugh.

The women complain about the working conditions, and we find out that Jennifer has another personality trait: when she’s tired, she wants to go to sleep.  So our first lesson in free enterprsie is that handshake agreements aren’t a good foundation for building a business. The women say they know that Balki and Larry are desperate to find a way to turn baking into an excuse for touching each others butts, so they quit.  These four sure do have fun when they get together, don’t they?

Larry acts like he’s doing Balki a big favor by helping out with the Bibibabkas. So, without washing his hands, he starts touching the food.


Hey, by the way, where did they get this giant table and all these sheet pan racks on such short notice?

Balki sings the Ditty and Larry makes it painfully obvious how the song fucks up the whole process. He tells Balki the song’s got to go.  You know what? I understand that this episode has to follow this progression, but come on. They’ve been doing this for 24 hours already. Wouldn’t he have already seen the problem with the song?


Balki shows that language is strength by spitting out another alliteration.  Larry says that they need to streamline their work, but the word “mass” prompts a misunderstanding by Balki, who tells Larry to not bring religion into this. Aha! The surface confusion mirrors a deeper one. Balki does not realize that his hat–and by extension, the cultural belief system behind his baking–come across as a religion. The process of making bibibabkas rests on magical thinking, but Balki just sees it as the way the world is. When you know the truth, every other approach cannot be based on facts and must be a belief system. How many times have you heard a religious person argue that atheism is a religion?  As in real life, the introduction of a science (in this case, Business Process Optimization) is discounted.

So the cousins fight about this by alliterating at each other, and I’m not going to gripe about their deadline, or padding, because it’s nice to see the cousins trying to top each other. Remember back in “Dog Gone Blues” when they just bragged about their dogs’ impossible abilities?


Larry lets Balki win the spoken alliteration fight, but gives him a look that says “Once this batch of bibibabkas is baked, baby, I’ll be bout to boff both them beaut buttocks”.


And because everything’s funnier when it’s faster, here we go ONE MORE TIME! Balki just shakes his imaginary tits around until Larry just can’t contain himself and takes his cousin into his arms.


Balki accuses Larry of being evil, and not caring whether Mypos becomes famous for its snack treats, and Larry admits it. Balki quits, and Cousin Larry tells him to get out of his kitchen. I think we know now who’s been paying the majority of the rent.


We get a beautiful shot of the sunrise in Chicago, set to the piece of stock music that came closest to sounding like “Morgenstemning” from Grieg’s Peer Gynt.


These bibibabkas look nothing like what they ate at the top of the episode, but I’m more concerned with the fact that they’re not refrigerated. I seriously doubt that neither Balki’s recipe–nor the corner-cutting one that Larry has no doubt come up with–uses any sort of preservative.

Larry says there’s a valuable lesson here and Balki’s like “yeah, what” and Larry’s all like “I just cut some corners, because business”.


Balki sees that Larry has become the monster that is commodification, and he’s afraid to be touched, lest he take on this leprosy.

Then something explodes in one of the pink boxes.

Where Balki wanted the bibibabkas to grow up in a supportive, happy environment, Larry has not treated the Digimon well, and now it’s turned into that slug that shoots poop out its mouth.

More bibibabkas start exploding inside the boxes. Now that things have gotten serious, Balki’s grammar and pronunciation reach pro levels as he tells his cousin not to open the boxes.


Ah, it’s nice when I can just trust that you all thought the joke, and I don’t even have to say it.

But it turns out that Larry did indeed bring religion into this–he went too far, meddling in the forbidden areas of culinary science. He tried to play God! They called him Madison at the university!

Balki informs us that when you cut corners, “the bibi in the babka goes boom”, which I only mention for the sake of those of you trying to create a Myposian-English dictionary so that you can translate the Bible for them. So, bibi must mean “cream”, and babka either “dough” or “pastry”.


Anyway, then lots of bibibabkas start exploding. So just market it as a novelty gag pastry, guys! Sell it to other sitcoms!

In the pre-credits scene we find out that the hotel chef was upset and swore at Larry… what, because they could only deliver 1000 on short notice with just four people working on them?

Larry keeps talking and Balki keeps asking when he gets to talk and deliver the pat lesson.

Balki: There are some things that just can’t be rushed… like antiques… redwoods… a really good episode of Moonlighting.


Larry starts whining about whether Jennifer and Mary Anne will still be his friend, a bibibabka explodes, and that’s it.


So let’s talk about how “Just Desserts” measures up against “Job Switching”.  I watched that episode before reviewing this one. In some ways, a comparison isn’t fair. I Love Lucy was groundbreaking television, and besides, the television landscape had changed in the 35+ years between that episode and this one.  Perfect Strangers had to compete against many more channels and shows, especially for those who didn’t take ABC’s advice and cut off their cable line. I’ll admit I haven’t watched a lot of I Love Lucy, and “Job Switching” is probably the only full episode I’ve watched in maybe 20 years. But “Job Switching”, at first glance, appears to be a commentary on how the sexes are doomed to their own roles, because they can’t manage to do the others. At second glance, it’s more of a commentary on how men don’t know how to do women’s housework. Lucy and Ethel may have failed at candy-making, and failed spectacularly at candy-wrapping, but the episode made it abundantly clear that the “man’s world” of work was comprised of many different jobs, most of them requiring specialized skill sets, and that candy-making was simply the only one open at that moment that Lucy and Ethel thought they could do. On the other hand, cooking and cleaning are always cooking and cleaning.  “Job Switching” was a delight to watch; my favorite part was the women in the audience losing it every time Ricky or Fred did or said something that made it painfully clear how little they knew (Ricky thinks one pound of rice is a serving; Fred thinks you mix frosting in with cake batter). Also, both pairs of characters were given comedy situations to work within, something I doubt we’ll ever see from Perfect Strangers.  And where the most memorable part in “Job Switching” was simply one of many physical comedy setpieces, making bibibabkas was the whole episode.

And you know what? I get it. The social commentary of the 1970s sitcom had given way to the “audiences just want to laugh” mentality of the 1980s. The self-contained pastry seen at the beginning of the episode had, by the end, morphed in a monstrosity that could no longer contain the cream filling.

I could make this episode punch itself all day with such meta-analysis, but in the end, I actually had fun watching this episode. Balki shaking around really fast, the alliterative dialogue (and you could tell that the actors enjoyed saying it), and even the pastries exploding at the end. Compared to “Job Switching”, “Just Desserts” is nothing but cream filling, but sometimes that’s all I really require of 22 minutes of television.

Join me next week for another episode about food, “Better Shop Around”!


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

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

*yeah, we had an episode about that last season around this time…

**now we know why he weighs 300 pounds

***see Season 1, Episode 2 “Dolly This”