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 3, Episode 1: All the News That Fits

Here we go, everybody!

The event: Season 3 of Perfect Strangers

The context: 8PM, Wednesday, Sep. 23, mere days after both the release of Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason, the announcement of Pat Robertson’s intent to run for president, and a radiation leak in Goiânia.

The competition: Highway to Heaven on NBC and The Oldest Rookie on CBS – both cancelled by Summer ‘88

Perfect Strangers was poised to be the best thing to come out of September ‘87. Nothing – I repeat – nothing was going to stop it now.

I’ve picked up a serious second wind here, so I’m raring to go! Let’s get ready to see what’s the same, what’s changed, and whatever other surprises season 3 has to offer! Are you excited? I’m excited!

Caldwell that ends well

What you see here is still actually the exterior of the Caldwell Hotel.*  The double X wiped clean from the facade, a storefront seen vaguely down on the corner. It’s different. It’s the same. It’s familiar, but with a new gleam.

It’s like when your aunt got that facelift and boobjob.


Balki wears suspenders over a jersey

…ah shit. Balki’s sad, everybody.  It’s conveyed in less than a second that Balki’s sad because Larry either didn’t go along, or take him to, a Blackhawks game. I think I got whiplash.

Larry's home

Larry, jubilant, enters stage left, bragging about having had coffee with the mayor.  And then he spends forever gradually revising the story downwards to what actually happened, and I liked it better when Garry Shandling used to do this same kind of joke, because it was actually funny when he’d do it.  Larry gives us the sweet, sweet continuity we all crave by saying that just the previous week, he was working at the Ritz Discount. He then claims to be the “city editor’s right-hand man” at the Chicago Chronicle; but then he dials that back too, saying that he just runs errands.  Essentially, Larry Appleton is a gofer; he got the kind of position that comes open when the boss ends up doing too much of the grunt work.  He’s another pair of hands, and that’s fine!  It’s perfectly in keeping with what we know about Larry–and about season openers in general–that he wouldn’t have the success he’s looking for instantly.  And part of me wants to knock Larry (or the writing staff) for not having Larry just take this shitty kind of job half a season ago. BUT I’m willing to overlook it for two reasons: I can’t think of a sitcom that changed settings mid-season, and both season 1 and 2 ended with Larry learning important lessons about not being a perfectionist.

Larry and Balki share a tender moment

Larry asks “is that a hockey puck”, bringing us back to the real concern — Balki’s sad — as well as putting a needed check on progress by assuring us that the show still didn’t trust its audience to see what people on the set are holding.  Turns out that Balki went to a game alone, and the puck landed in Larry’s seat. Balki lays the guilt on thick, having even brought home an Italian beef sandwich for his Cousin. Balki then expresses his feelings in Old Testament poetic style:

Balki Bartalktoomuch

Balki: I’m just lonely… and I guess a little hurt. I’m just lonely, and hurt, and… I guess a little disappointed.  I’m just lonely, and hurt, and disappointed, and… I guess… a little angry.

Balki says that he has no life. He’s jealous of Larry’s success, and feels that his existence working for Mr. Twinkacetti pales in comparison.  Balki still has no frame of reference for what “real” success would look like; success is success is success. When you’re from Mypos, every success is a small success, thus every success is a large success. For instance: you had a good potato crop this season. Your grandmother didn’t break more than one finger this month.  You didn’t get maimed by a ram when you took one of his ewes from behind.

Larry reads the newspaper

Larry, now a willing tool of the corporate world, suggests that Balki find a new life by finding a new job in the newspaper! Arbeit macht frei!


Larry tells Balki to come by the Chronicle office and they’ll work on Balki’s job search.  Balki apologizes for being angry, but then fucking waits until Larry takes a bite of his sandwich** to tell him that he stuffed it full of peppers, which Larry is allergic to. And, uh, Balki’s just out to straight up kill Larry this season, isn’t he?  He was pretty damn sad that Larry wasn’t at the game to get killed by the flying hockey puck.

Oh, also, Dmitri reflects Balki’s situation here by also not having a life.

All the News That Fits Up Your Butt

And here it is, folks, the Chicago Chronicle. We’ve traded dilapidated, forgotten storefront for the dreary functionality of Ionic columns. I studied abroad in Germany about a decade ago and there were cheerier buildings in East Berlin.

Mr. Feldman is not deadMr. Feldman is still not dead

Our first glimpse of the interior of the Chronicle is of elderly Mr. Feldman who, as he shuffles by Larry’s desk, tells us that he is “not dead”.

A Harriette appears

Then we are introduced to Harriette Winslow! She lets us know that Larry works in the basement of the building, which also includes the mailroom, storage, archives, and the garage. Well, there’s a change for you!  Harriette delivers the exposition instead of receiving it from a male!  Boy, those black women just don’t know their place, do they?

My name is Mr. Burns

Then we meet Larry’s new boss, E. Ronald Mallu.  Sorry, I meant to say Bill Parker. Christ, this fucking autocorrect!  Larry’s new boss is Harry Burns.  Mr. Burns gets Larry’s last name wrong, gripes about how the mail has piled up, and then leaves.  We then complete our view of Larry’s workspace with Balki’s entrance at the top of the stairs.

Isn't this just begging for an action figure playset?

I instantly see the physical comedy possibilities of having a space accessible by both elevator and stairs, but I’m just going to have to let myself down now if I think this show is ever going to get as wacky as Fawlty Towers, or even one of those hallway chase scenes***.  Anyway, who the hell puts a single desk in the middle of a large open space, facing neither of the entrances to said space?  Larry should have listened to his older brother Thufir Appleton more.

Larry and Balki share a tender moment

Even after learning that Larry does not oversee the whole space, Balki is still very happy for him.  I can’t tell what face he’s making because the quality on this episode is too poor.

Larry and Balki share a tender moment

Cousin Larry has gotten a copy of the prepublication want ads, but that doesn’t matter because we all fucking know where this is going, right?

Don't look, Ethel

Burns returns, still griping about the mail.  And who’s that with him?

It’s Sam Anderson, whom we’ve seen before as the guy at the bank!  I guess he did such a good job of rolling his eyes at how stupid Balki is that they hired him back.  Then, he was (checks IMDB) Harrison Harper; here, he’s Sam Gorpley, head of the mailroom.  Gorpley has evidently been dragging his feet on hiring someone for the mailroom, but Mr. Burns needs this mail sorted TODAY!

Balki is excitedBalki is excited

Balki starts clapping with one hand, trying desperately to signal that his philosophical pedigree qualifies him for this task.  Mr. Burns tells him where the restroom is, and I laughed at that.

Four more lines of dialogue are all it takes to get Balki a job.  You’ve got to be efficient when you’re introducing a lot at once.

UMDigging up that classic tropeBosses chasing their hot secretaries

Someone named Lance comes out of the elevator and Mr. Burns starts chasing him, asking if he’s “finished that column”. Exeunt Lance & Mr. Burns.

Dance of Joy DENIEDLarry and Balki share a professional moment

Saltant gaudens Balki and Larry, except Larry doesn’t do it. They instead shake hands, which is how cousins are supposed to express their happiness in official-type buildings.

Gorpley instantly cries nepotism and, like, okay, but isn’t it a bigger no-no to hire without an interview or any sort of papertrail?  Nepotism’s the least of Mr. Burns’s worries.

Hot Tip

We get a one-two punch of character development for Mr. Gorpley when he refuses to tell Balki a single thing about what his job entails; and then when Harriette Winslow returns with a hot tip that Gorpley wanted to give his nephew the job.

I take it the mail has been piling up for days. Why the hell couldn’t Gorpley have brought him in if all it takes to get a job there is talking to your boss for 8 seconds?  Anyway, I want to point out the reassignment of character roles here.  Last season, Twinkacetti could be both antagonistic towards the cousins, as well as completely indifferent to their concerns. Here, those traits are split between Gorpley and Burns, respectively.  I anticipate that Harriette Winslow may be intended to take on some aspects of Mrs. Twinkacetti–speaking her mind, brooking no nonsense with those antagonistic to the cousins–as well as the speaking-truth-to-power aspects of Susan that I get the impression were lost in syndication, or at least from the original scripts.  Now all we need is a little kid for Larry and Balki not to play with, and we’ll be set for personality types!

ow ow OW

Anyway, Gorpley will fire Balki for a single mistake (big surprise there), but Balki doesn’t seem to care yet, because he’s too busy making the same face I used to, back when I had a Wal-Mart-bought chair whose metal frame suffered a tiny bit of “flashing” which was placed perfectly for it to scratch my finger any time I needed to readjust the chair’s position. Then he plays with the elevator button, and, um… isn’t this the basement?

he never knew when to quitHarriette can't even

A new day at the Chronicle finds Balki singing “Return to Sender”, reason #1 why we’ll never get DVDs of Seasons 3-8 of this show.  He plays around with shit, and usually I’d complain about him being an overgrown child.  But here, at least, there’s a reason for it.  Whenever I haven’t had much stimulation in a while, and then I do, I get a little too excited by it.  Like, if I haven’t been out to eat with friends for a long time, I end up talking too much, making too many dumb jokes, by the end of the evening. It’s like a sugar high!

how much money do you think Balki still owes Twinkacetti at this point?Balki at work

Balki carries two mailbags from point A to point B.

Balki at work

Balki dumps out the mailbags at point B.

Balki at work

He then picks it up to carry it to some point C, just so he can walk funny. Fuck you, show.

Work it, BalkiBalki presents

Gorpley gives Balki another job–addressing 400 Christmas cards by hand, months early.  Pat Callahan comes in and–fucking fuck this autocorrect–Mr. Burns comes in and gives Larry an assignment to cover some kids protesting their ballpark being paved over.  Larry tries to turn the assignment into a photo job, but Mr. Burns hands him a pencil. Then he leaves to chase Lance, shouting that he “needs that column”.

Photo Credit: Larry ApplelastnameLance in my pants

Larry leaves, but not before he fucks up the who-what-when-where-why thing. I’m a little disappointed the joke wasn’t that he put “fff” in front of each of them like back in “Snow Way to Treat a Lady”.


Cousin Larry is surrounded by crumpled paper.  God damn, how long is this episode? Has Balki fixed the radio yet? Can I go to sleep, please?

Balki uncrumples a piece of paper, declaring the writing “pretty good”; but much like the second half of Brazil, Larry’s holding on so hard to that dream of being great!  Balki hands off his Christmas card assignment, so Gorpley gives him another: making 100 copies of a flyer in 10 minutes. But the copy machine is broken, so Balki has to use the mimeograph machine.

Gorpley you piece of shitGorpley you piece of shit

I have never, ever identified so much with Balki as I do now. This is how I feel week after week after week with this show.  I make my final boner joke, and then I have to write “see you next week…” after every one.

Larry has five minutes to turn in his article, but Balki doesn’t know how to use a mimeograph machine.


physical comedy


physical comedy


physical comedy


physical comedyphysical comedy


physical comedy


physical comedy

Instead of suing for workman’s compensation as well as getting Gorpley fired in one fell swoop, Balki gives Mr. Burns one of Larry’s article drafts. Burns thinks it’s “pretty good”.


Gorpley comes in and tries so hard to achieve his dream of firing Balki. Larry’s having none of it, but who cares about that–Harriette’s upset.

Ship name Larriette

She threatens to tell his wife what he was doing with Ms. Passarelli in the elevator at the previous Christmas party. Let it sink in just how gross it is that he did that in front of her, and how messed up it is she didn’t stop him. Gorpley relents, but what the hell kind of lesson are we supposed to be learning here?  You can only fight corruption with juicier corruption?

Larry: Congratulations, Balki, you’re gonna be here next week!

Balki: We’ll both be here next week!

Harriette: I was here last week. Wudn’t no big deal.


And now I identify the most with Harriette Winslow.  So, see you next week for–

Balki and Larry share a tender moment

jeez louise end already willya

Balki and Larry share a tender news story

Okay, the show pulls it out by having the cousins do this bit where they gasp excitedly each time Larry turns a page of the newspaper while looking for his article.  Plus there’s a bit where, when they find it, Balki struggles to read it out loud.  Again, the main thrust of this show is supposed to be having, following, and achieving one’s dreams, so my ears perk up at any indication of how far the characters have progressed.

Dmitri delivers mail to no one. Larry just totally creams his trousers after reading his two-sentence article out loud. They scrapbook the newspaper article, and there’s another good visual gag about how short the article is; Larry keeps cutting the piece of paper smaller and smaller.

I’m doing this partially because I guess it’s a tradition now, but also because the show is now in a completely different setting; but I want to look at the last line of the episode and see if it’s indicating where we’re headed, and what this show is about.

Balki: You’re going to have to buy a bigger scrapbook… but not for a long, long time.

sweet, sweet byline

And to follow su-it with this episode, that’s “pretty good”! Progress is often slow and incremental, and there are numerous reinforcements of this idea sprinkled throughout the episode. Balki slowly adding adjectives to his spiel about how he felt going to the hockey game alone. Mr. Burns taking all episode to get Larry’s last name correct. What I’m assuming will be a running joke with Mr. Burns chasing Lance.  Harriette mentioning that she had been saving the Christmas party story for something big.  Larry literally working in the basement of his dream workplace. The knowledge that I have 121 episodes left to review.

Hey, you know what? If Larry can find success writing two sentences and be proud of himself, I’ll try it out:

Balki instantly gets a job two minutes after entering a building. Harriette Winslow watched Mr. Gorpley chow some mound in an elevator.

Yeah, I think that covers it.


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

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

Burns’s misnomers: Applegate, Applebaum, Appleby, Appleman

*IMHO anyway. Same *basic* layout, even if there’s a couple of different layouts you’ll see this season alone. Plus, do we really think that not only the cousins, but Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) moved to the same building and unpacked everything within one week?

**The USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline recommends that leftovers be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking.

***You know it from Scooby-Doo, but if I remember correctly, I think Moliere invented it? Maybe one of his contemporaries. Or maybe it was during the Commedia dell’arte period. It was fully 15 years ago that I took a theatre class my freshman year of college.

n.b. These episodes were recorded off of MeTV, which by coincidence I’ve only ever heard of from a friend who watched the channel in Chicago.  Look forward to fuzzy screengrabs, as well as shots where somebody’s face is blurry because PowerDVD no longer lets me advance frame by frame. I’ll try VLC next week. Also, probably not many gifs unless it’s something I can make a boner joke out of.

Season 2, Episode 4: Lifesavers

A new week, a new episode, a new angle for Ritz Discount!  This store is committed to holding onto its dilapidated string pennants and unappealing window displays.


Twinkacetti spends some time enjoying throwing away junk mail from Mother Teresa and the Christmas seals, just in case you forgot he’s very greedy and refuses to spend money unless it’s to lose it while gambling.  Nah, I’m just kidding.  I’m with you, Twinkacetti.  Mailed letters asking for donations doesn’t fit with the aspect of my liberal self that wants to preserve the environment and cut down on waste; I mean, if you really want to recycle those things correctly you have to tear out the envelope’s little plastic window yourself!


Twinkacetti saves a magazine called “Motorcycle Maidens” for his “private moments”; the way Ernie Sabella delivers the line makes it seem like he’s surprised to see it, implying that the magazine is junk mail.  But, in all seriousness, magazines about motorcycles and half-nude women have been around for a long time: Easyriders, Biker, Outlaw Biker… if I kept listing them you’d accuse me of having used a random name generator.


Larry and Balki come in to deliver some exposition about how a “runaway taxi” almost ran over Balki, but Larry pushed him out of the way, saving his life.  Evidently, saving someone’s life is a pretty big deal on Mypos.  Since we already established that women cook dinner right after giving birth on Mypos, I’m assuming that both babies and adults have a pretty high mortality rate.  So, it’s natural you’d want to elevate anyone who manages to keep another person alive in addition to themselves.  At any rate, Balki thinks that Larry is a hero, referring to him as the “Primo do Polos” (not sure of the spelling there, but that seems to translate into “first of the city”).


Oh man, Mypos is so backwards they even prostrate themselves the wrong way! Those wacky foreigners!

Twinkacetti comes out of his office, still reading “Motorcycle Maidens”.  But, in all seriousness, pornography addiction is a real problem and–


HOLY CRAP THE MAGAZINE ACTUALLY SAYS “MOTORCYCLE MAIDENS” ON THE COVER! (checks Google, Google image search, eBay, WorldCat, and one of those trademark search websites, finds nothing) HOLY CRAP!!!  This show is really killing it on the props, you guys.  Anyway, life-saving, hero, Primo do Polos.  Larry encapsulates what I assume is his thesis for this episode:

Larry: My custom is bigger than your custom.

Famous last words, Larry.  In the next scene, we set up the Balki’s antithesis by way of Susan! Hey guys it’s Susan! I missed you, Susan!  I was afraid there were only going to be two hair colors on this show from now on, but it’s Susan!


What’s wrong, Susan? You seem like you’re uncomfortable with your role of being the silent receptacle for Larry’s expository lines.  Is there anything I can–



Anyway, Balki has taken on the role of personal servant to Cousin Larry.  After Susan leaves, Larry continues to voice his rationale for why he’s letting Balki do this, and then asks “who am I talking to?” And I like it when I see little jokes that the writers put in for themselves, to semi-apologize for the fact that you have to get all that exposition in there somehow.  I’ve thrown a few of these jokes into my webcomic as well, so that made me smile.


One of the rules of Myposian personal servitude is for the servant’s head to never be higher than that of the Primo do Polos.  Evidently, it’s also the right of the Primo do Polos to pad the episode by forcing a joke to be said twice.  Balki has ironed Larry’s clothes, holds a light for him to read, makes him “Sheep Wellington”, and also spoils the mystery novel Larry is reading.


And this is good!  This is a much better Balki than last week’s!  An event triggers something specific to Balki’s culture, and Balki makes simple, heartfelt but misguided gestures to do what he has been told he should to honor good people. I have a good feeling about this episode.  The show gives us the reveal that we’ve all been expecting: that Balki’s servitude is a lifelong commitment (like I said, they probably don’t live long on Mypos).

Later, Balki tiptoes around the apartment while Larry sleeps on the couch; he ties a string around Larry’s foot, tying the other end to the side table.  He then tries to check for Larry’s breath on a reflective surface, and when it doesn’t work–015016 017

Larry then keeps walking back and forth, just to the end of the length of the string, building the tension for when he inevitably will fall over. And both of these bits of physical comedy work, because we have no idea what Balki is up to.  It’s a playful little series of reveals.


Larry even asks “why” about the string, rather than what it is, and you’re really an episode after my heart, aren’t you, “Lifesavers”?  Balki tries to follow Larry into the bedroom, and Larry chases him out, yelling that there is no hard evidence that droit du seigneur was ever actually practiced.


Later, in the shop, Balki sings “Material Girl” while cleaning. They’ve been leaning hard on this running joke, so I hope it’s going somewhere.  He is alone in the shop because he turned off Cousin Larry’s alarm clock.  Larry is proud of never being late, the punchline of which is that he was born three weeks early.


Twinkacetti bursts out of his office wearing the same hat from earlier, when he was jerking it to Ms. Helen Wheels.  This time he’s got the newspaper in hand, so whattaya wanna bet? Stock Market section?

Larry tries the old loophole trick of using his unlimited powers to demand that the servant no longer serve.  Anything he says goes, right?


But Balki is now the Nebulopolos (plural: Nebulopoli) because he has failed as a servant.  You walked right into that one, Larry!  Typical American blindness to other cultures.  You really should have found out all the rules of Myposian servitude, you know, seen if you could sic Balki on your enemies, go the Nightcrawler route and have him help you create gruesome photo ops.


Balki puts a bag on his head, and continues sweeping, now singing “Nobody Knows”, and whether writers knew it or not, it’s at least remotely appropriate, given that the song originated as a slave spiritual.  Balki continues working like this even after the commercial break, so you know this situation has become serious.  Twinkacetti suggests the solution I saw coming about 10 minutes ago–to set up a situation where Balki has to save Larry’s life. Hire Twinkacetti’s friend for $50 (always with the $50 on this show), have him pretend to rob the apartment, let Balki scare him off, and everything’s reset for next week.


Or, you know, we just end the whole series right here because Balki knocked over a bunch of cans of paint thinner and they all died inhaling the fumes.


A real burglar shows up and some guy in the audience just cracks up when he finally sees that both Balki and Dmitri have bags over their heads.  I like that.  Larry confuses the burglar and then wakes Balki up, trying to get him to come to Larry’s rescue.


Once Larry realizes that the fake burglar isn’t a fake burglar, but is in fact a real burglar, as evidenced by his real burglar gun, which fake burglars do not have, he starts babbling. Real Burglar (who is so confident in his abilities that he wears a bright red hat on the job) tells Larry to shut up, whereupon it is revealed that Larry didn’t talk through the entirety of 3rd grade.  I mention this only because I’m interested in exactly how fucked up Larry is.  Real Burglar pushes Larry onto Balki’s lap, trying to get them to do that buttsex thing he hears all the other burglars say this show is about.


Balki is upset on Larry’s behalf that anyone would automatically assume he’s a bottom, so he steals Real Burglar’s gun.  This is a kind of comedy version of Chekhov’s Gun: if the gun appears in the bad guy’s hand first, it will end up in the good guy’s hand (or vice versa, and extra points for each reversal).  Balki then shows us the Myposian form of shaming: slapping someone’s hand, saying “shame on you”, and cursing at them in your native tongue.  (Let’s add Balki Ricardo to our growing list of Balkis.)


By the end of the episode, the writers must have realized that they pushed Balki too far in the adult direction, so when Balki and Larry get back from the police station, we find that the police gave Balki ice cream and let him take his own “fingyprints”.


That’s right, you heard right, “fingyprints”.


Larry hangs his coat. This is important. Remember this.


Cousin Larry thanks Balki for saving his life. Saving people from certain death is just what you do when you care about somebody.  Awww, they care about each other so much it turns the music on.  Larry says that they are now even, which stands as the synthesis of the culture war subtext (taking care of your loved ones transcends all culture).

I’ll be honest:  I’m relieved that this week’s episode showed some improvement over “The Unnatural”.  I’m sure this kind of sitcom setup wasn’t new even back in 1986, but it allowed for a reasonable piece of Balki’s culture to show itself.  It let Balki be a bumbling, caring person, and it also let him do it as an adult.  And call me biased because I identify a little more with Larry so far, but I’m glad that it was Balki who learned a lesson this time.

Also, no third location this week.  Maybe Rafael Mauro (the actor who played Real Burglar, but you might know him as the car washer guy from the smelly car episode of Seinfeld) demanded his $50 up front.

See you next week for “Babes in Babylon”!


Boner count: Larry (0); Balki (0); Twinkacetti (at least 1)

Catchphrase count: Larry (1); Balki (1.5)