Perfect Strangers Episode Guide

EPISODE 17 - A Christmas Story

First Air Date: December 17, 1986
Nielsen Rating: 15.7 HH

TV Guide Description: Larry is crestfallen when a blizzard closes the airport and strands the guys in Chicago on Christmas Eve.

Co-Producer: James OíKeefe
Created by: Dale McRaven
Written by: Dale McRaven
Directed by: Joel Zwick

Cast:
Bronson Pinchot: Balki Bartokomous
Mark Linn-Baker: Larry Appleton
Ernie Sabella: Mr. Donald Twinkacetti
Belita Moreno: Mrs. Edwina Twinkacetti

Guest Cast:
Rebeca Arthur: Mary Anne
Melanie Wilson: Jennifer Lyons
Jay Gerber: Marvin (Christmas tree salesman)
Erica Gayle: Marie Twinkacetti
Matthew Licht: Donnie Twinkacetti

Dimitri Appearances: Dimitri can first be seen sitting on the chair by the sofa wearing a thick white wool coat.  He is later sitting on the partition to the kitchen wearing glasses and Balki picks him up and carries him out the door when they decide to try driving instead.  Finally Dimitri can be seen sitting just behind the Christmas tree in front of the stereo with a little package in front of him in the final scenes.

Balki-isms:
"Five onion rings!"
"On Dancer, on Prancer and on Donna Dixon! On Comet, on Cupid, on Reagan, on Nixon!"
"Iím busting my buttocks trying to make a nice Christmas for you and all I get is Bah Hamburger."
"Youíre acting just like Ebenezer Stooge."
" . . . when the tableís upside-down you act like a big baby."

Donít be ridiculous: Said once.

Other catchphrases used in this episode:
"This is America . . . "
"Yes!  Yes!"
"Now youíre making Balki mad."

Other running jokes used in this episode:
-
Balki watches television and comments on it
- Balki picks up Larry and carries him around
- Mary Anne giving Balki a back-breaking kiss (first time)

Songs: "The Twelve Days of Christmas" - sung by everyone (except Mr. Twinkacetti) at the Ritz Discount Christmas Party
"Over the River and Through the Woods" - sung by Larry as they head out the door to attempt to drive to Madison
"The First Noel" - sung by carolers on the street outside the apartment

Notable Moments:
Balki makes and gives Larry the tapestry which would later hang in their house.

Interesting facts:
-
By far, this episode is the one that seems to really touch people and watching it has become a yearly Christmas tradition for many fans.  There is something very familiar about being unable to get home for Christmas and not being with family for the holidays that goes straight to oneís heart.  So many people can also relate to Larryís story about the potholder and the meaning behind a truly thoughtful gift.  It is also one of the few Christmas-themed sitcoms to address the true meaning of Christmas and reference the birth of Jesus directly in a very sweet and open-minded way.
- One of the reasons the character development is so strong in this episode is because it was penned by series creator Dale McRaven.
-
This is the second and last time the Twinkacetti children, Donnie and Marie, would be seen.
christmasgrab03.jpg (46598 bytes)- The snow effects on the transition shots of the building were added on to the regular stock footage usually used . . . either with a matte painting effect superimposed over the original footage (notice the lack of snow laying on the lower half of the frame where movement is taking place).
- When Balki comments that "Thatís no angel . . . thatís Little Jo Cartwright!" heís referring to the series Highway to Heaven starring Michael Landon (who played Little Jo Cartwright on Bonanza years before).  The funny thing about this is that Highway to Heaven aired on NBC opposite Perfect Strangers on ABC, so Balki watching that show while it was actually on was especially funny.  In addition, the music playing that is supposed to be on the television is incidental music used often on Perfect Strangers (one example was when Balki hits the baseball in The Unnatural).
- During the first scene in the apartment there is instrumental Christmas music playing in the background until just after the girls enter.  It was unusual for background music to be used in such a way in this series but it adds a nice effect as Balki and Larry reminisce about how important Christmas has been to them.
- Rebeca and Bronson worked out a way in which she could give him such a back bending kiss while he could still hold his own weight (note the position of Bronson's right leg acting as support).  However in one article Rebeca explained how when they went to shoot the scene in front of the studio audience they fell right over, and her ski suit was so tight she couldn't stand back up again!  "Now it never fails," she explained, "that whenever Bronson and I kiss, we start laughing."
- Larryís sister Elaine is again mentioned in this episode. She would be making an appearance in person later in this season.
christmasgrab04.jpg (37710 bytes)- This is one of the few episodes in which we get to see Larryís red Ford Mustang featured so prominently in the opening credits.
- Balki Clause made a brief appearance (sans costume) in the first season episode Check This and would make another appearance in the fourth season Christmas episode The Gift of the Mypiot.
- Balkiís reference to actress Donna Dixon is particular cute since she starred in Bosom Buddies which was another popular Miller / Boyett series.
christmasgrab05.jpg (46347 bytes)- In the final scene when Larry tells the story about the potholder the angle goes from a medium shot to a close up.  If you look closely you can see this was achieved by simply using the original medium shot footage and technically zooming in on it, which is why the shot seems slightly grainy.  Itís likely that this was done to focus on Markís performance and create a more intimate moment when a close up take was not available for editing.
- This episode ends with Balki and Larry looking out the window at some Christmas carolers.  The shot is filmed through the fire escape from the outside.  This was one of several times a sentimental episode ended with a final shot looking in from outside.

Bloopers and Inconsistencies:
-
When the girls first arrived you can see the shadow of one of the cameras moving left to the very far left of the screen.  (Spotted by Cousin Quidget)
-
When Larry dials the phone for the bus company he punches in eight numbers instead of seven (maybe he had to dial a "1" first?).
christmasgrab06.gif (62320 bytes)- In the scene outside the Christmas tree lot when Larry is sitting in his car he doesnít have snow in his hair for the long shots but in the close up his hair is covered with snow.  In the same shot, when Balki says, "Let's go home," his lips aren't moving at all.  This dialogue was either taken from another shot or recorded in later.
- When Balki and Larry decide to try driving to Madison Balki has Dimitri with him. They abandon the car and take nothing away from it when they leave and yet Dimitri is sitting in the apartment during the final scenes.  How did Dimitri get back to the apartment?  (Note they also leave the car sitting there with its driverís side window still open!)
- The tapestry which Balki made for Larry would later turn up in the episode Sexual Harassment in Chicago where Balki would say it was made by his sister.  It was later hung in the house the characters shared in the last couple of seasons, displayed prominently next to the staircase.
- Larry seems to have nothing but fond memories of Christmas with his family in Madison.  And yet in the final episode of the seventh season, Get Me to the Dump on Time, Larry recounts being traumatized by not being woken up for Christmas by the rest of his family and missing the festivities one year.  Maybe he blocked this incident from his mind or perhaps his anxiety about missing Christmas in Madison in this episode stems from that incident.  Only a television character psychiatrist (or a good continuity person) could tell for sure!


Synopsis:
The episode begins at the Ritz Discount storeís Christmas party, which is a small gathering of Twinkacettiís family plus Balki, Larry, Jennifer, Mary Anne, and four unidentified men and one woman.  Everyone is gathered around a small table with refreshments and are singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas."  "Seven swans a swimming," Mrs. Twinkacetti sings, then she points to people to sing each line in order.  "Six geese a laying," Mary Anne sings.  "Five onion rings!" Balki sings.  "Four calling birds," Larry sings.  "Three French hens," Jennifer sings.  Mrs. Twinkacetti points to Mr. Twinkacetti, who is standing glumly with a black eye and doesn't bother singing the next line.  "And a partridge in a pear tree!" everyone finishes together.  "Um . . . on behalf of Donald and myself and our children, Donnie and Marie, we'd like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and a healthy new year," Mrs. Twinkacetti says sincerely.  Everyone clinks their plastic cups full of punch.  "All right, all right," Mr. Twinkacetti growls, "You've had your fun, you've had your food, the party's over.  Appleton, you and the turnip clean up."  "We'll put the food away," Jennifer offers as she and Mary Anne help.

Mr. Twinkacetti walks to the counter and Mrs. Twinkacetti follows him.  "I think it was a lovely party, don't you?" she asks.  "I don't even like these people," Mr. Twinkacetti complains, "And you spend a hundred dollars feeding them meat!"  Donnie and Marie are near the front door playing with some store merchandise.  "Donnie and Marie, put that stuff down and get in the car!" Mr. Twinkacetti yells.  "Oh yeah?  Try and make us!" Donnie challenges.  The children run out the front door and Mr. Twinkacetti chases after them, yelling, "That's it!  That's it!  No presents!  No candy!"  Mrs. Twinkacetti approaches Balki and Larry.  "Boys, I'd like to thank you for working so hard all year," she says, handing them each an envelope, "and, I uh . . . want to apologize for my husband.  He really wasn't mugged on the way from the bank with your Christmas bonuses."  "Then who give him that black eye?" Balki asks.  Mrs. Twinkacetti laughs uncomfortably and says, "Never mind about that.  Uh . . . Merry Christmas, boys!"  "Merry Christmas!  Thank you!" Larry and Balki reply as she walks out the door.

"Boy!  A Christmas bonus!" Balki smiles with some confusion, "I can always use another envelope."  "Balki, there's money inside," Larry explains.  "Money?" Balki asks excitedly, "And . . . and Mr. Twinkacetti just said we could . . . we could leave off work ten minutes early.  When will it all stop?"  "Balki, it only gets better," Larry promises, "You haven't seen anything yet.  Wait 'til we get to Madison.  My Mom will open the front door and there'll be the smell of . . . "  " . . . hot apple cider on the stove," Balki finishes for him, then continues as Larry tries to tell it, " . . . and date nut bread baking in the oven."  "Right," Larry says, "There'll be a roaring . . . "  " . . . roaring fire in the fireplace and the whole family will be standing around the piano singing carols," Balki fills in.  "I guess I've talked about Christmas in Madison a lot," Larry surmises.  "Only since June," Balki confirms, "But I like hearing about it."  Larry puts an arm around Balki's shoulder and says, "Balki, I have a feeling this is going to be the best Christmas ever."  "I can't wait," Balki smiles.

We see the apartment building and it has started to snow outside.  Balki and Larry are packing for their trip, although Balki is watching television as well.  "Give me a break . . . thatís no angel!" Balki scoffs, "Thatís Little Jo Cartwright!"  Balki starts to tie up his knapsack when he happens to look out the window.  "Snow!" he gasps, running to look, "Cousin, come and look!"  "In a minute!" Larry calls, walking from the bathroom to his bedroom.  Balki runs into Larry's bedroom, calling, "Come and look!  Come and look!  Come and look!"  Balki picks up Larry around the middle and carries him to the living room window, setting him down to look at the snow.  "Isn't it beautiful?" Balki asks.  "If you think this is good, wait'll you see the snow in Madison," Larry says.  Larry walks to the kitchen to pour out some hot cocoa from a pan on the stove.  "I can't believe even the snow is better in Madison," Balki says, sitting at the window.  "Oh yeah," Larry says, "You're gonna love Christmas morning.  My Mom always tries to trick us by setting the clocks back but you can't fool nine kids.  Oh!  And do you know what this year is?"  Larry hands Balki a cup of cocoa as Balki guesses, "1986?"

"Well, yes . . . it is," Larry nods, "What I meant was this year . . . I'm the Christmas Boy."  "Well, of course you are.  Don't be ridiculous," Balki agrees, then asks, "What is that?"  "It's my turn to hand out the presents," Larry explains, "I've waited nine years for it to be my turn again."  Larry and Balki walk to the couch and sit down.  "Boy, I love Christmas with my family," Larry smiles.  "This is the . . . the first Christmas I'm going to be away from my family," Balki notes, "and, uh . . . I'm going to miss my little nieces and nephews laughing and the smell of baklava in the kitchen and the joy of decorating the Christmas turtle."  "Well, of course you're gonna miss all that," Larry says sympathetically, "Anyone would."  After a moment, Larry asks, "Did you say Christmas turtle?"  "Well, of course," Balki replies, "On Mypos, at Christmas the whole family goes down to the seashore and we catch a big sea turtle and we bring it home and we decorate with, eh . . . glass balls and, eh . . . angels and little strips of tin foil, but you wouldnít know about those things.  Anyway . . . the day after Christmas we take him back and put him in the ocean and he swim away.  But . . . the same turtle keeps coming back to us every Christmas and . . . Iím gonna miss Bernie."

"You know what I can't understand," Balki continues, "Why do American decorate trees instead of turtles?"  "Well, one good reason is a tree wonít slowly crawl out of the living room," Larry explains.  "Thatís what the Christmas lettuce is for," Balki says, "I'm gonna miss those things."  "Well hey, buddy," Larry sighs, "I know Christmas isn't gonna be the same for you but it can be just as good.  Sometimes you have to adjust to the changes in your life and move on."  Balki sighs and nods.  "Thank you for inviting me to share your Christmas."  "Well, I wouldn't have it any other way," Larry assures him.  There is a knock on the door.  "Come in!" Larry calls as he and Balki set down their cups on the coffee table and head for the door.  Jennifer and Mary Anne enter and stand in the doorway.  "Hi," Jennifer says, "We're on our way.  We just thought we'd say goodbye."  "Well, have a wonderful trip," Larry offers.  "Oh, we will!" Jennifer says, "With the storm coming in the skiing's gonna be terrific."  "Yeah, I always heard it was better with snow," Mary Anne adds.

"Have a Merry Christmas," Jennifer smiles and turns to leave with Mary Anne.  "No, hold it!  You can't go yet!" Larry stops them, then points to the doorway above where a sprig of mistletoe is hanging, "It's, uh . . . mistletoe."  The girls giggle shyly.  Larry kisses Mary Anne very sweetly then turns to Jennifer, bending her over backwards in a kiss that leaves them both stunned and speechless.  Larry motions that itís Balkiís turn and Balki sweetly kisses Jennifer on the cheek.  He turns to Mary Anne, who bends him over backwards in a passionate kiss.  "Merry Christmas!" Mary Anne says cheerfully and the girls leave while the guys remain stunned.  "How did you make that happen?" Balki finally asks.  "Mistletoe," Larry points out, "It's an old tradition.  You hang it over the door and women have to kiss you."  "What a gimmick!" Balki smiles, "Why donít we hang it up all year long?"  "Unfortunately, it only works at Christmas," Larry explains.  "Then Iím takiní it with us!" Balki says, reaching up to take it down.

"Well, you all packed?" Larry asks.  "Letís go to Madison!" Balki says excitedly.  "All right," Larry says, closing the front door, "Let me call first.  No point in sitting at the airport if our plane is late."  Balki starts setting their bags by the front door as Larry dials the phone.  "Hi, yes.  I'm just calling to be sure that flight twelve to Madison is on time," Larry says into the receiver.  After a moment he looks startled and says, "What?  W . . . what are you talking about?  Well, yeah . . . yeah, but . . . but it's Christmas Eve!  People have places to go, I . . . yeah, well sure.  Merry Christmas."  Larry hangs up the phone as Balki approaches, holding their coats.  "What is it?" Balki asks.  "The airport is snowed in," Larry replies.  "Is that bad?" Balki asks.  "Our flight's been canceled," Larry explains, "We canít get home for Christmas!"  On their shocked looks the scene fades to black.

Act two begins a short time later.  Larry is on the phone outside the kitchen with his mom in Madison explaining the situation.  Balki is standing next to him holding a phone book.  "Hello, Mom?  It's Larry."  "Hi, Mrs. Appleton!" Balki calls out.  "That's Balki," Larry explains, "Mom we . . . "  He pauses and looks to Balki, telling him, "She says hello."  In the receiver, he continues, "Mom, the airport is closed but don't worry.  We'll be there, I promise.  It'll just be a little later.  Mom, please, whatever you do . . . don't let anyone else be the Christmas Boy.  Especially Elaine.  You know how much she loves to . . . . Elaine, get off the extension!  All . . . all right, Mom.  I'll see you as soon as I can.   Yeah, love you, too."  Larry hangs up the phone.  "Cousin, I found the bus company," Balki reports, "It really is easier when you let your fingers do the walking."  Balki walks his fingers across the book.

Larry picks up the phone receiver and dials the number.  "Balki, we're gonna get there," Larry promises, then when someone picks up the phone he says, "Yeah, hi.  I need your . . . hmm?  Yeah, Merry Christmas to you, too.  I need your next bus to Madison.  The road is closed?  What do you mean a blizzard?"  After a moment Larry insists, "I know what a blizzard is!" and hangs up the receiver.  "Cousin, we're running out of ways to get there," Balki says worriedly, "What we going to do?"  "Balki, we're going to get there," Larry insists, looking in the phone book, "This is America.  We have one of the most sophisticated transportation systems in the world."  Larry dials the phone again and when someone picks up he says, "Hi, I'd like to rent a snowplow.  What do you mean you've given them all to the police?  Your . . . your . . . your ad says 'Serving the public for over forty years.'  I am the public!  What?  Yes . . . hello?  Hello?"  Larry hangs up the fine and sighs, "Great.  If I don't get home, Elaine is gonna get to hand out the presents.  And it won't be my turn again until 1995!  There's got to be a way to get there!"

Balki thinks about it, then says, "Too bad we can't just take your car."  "Hmm," Larry hums, and then they look at each other, Larry shouting, "Yes!  Yes!  I've got three hundred dollars worth of snow tires on my car!  Of course!  We'll just drive there!"  "But . . . but Cousin, if the . . . if the plane and the bus can't get there, how you going to get through with a car?" Balki asks as they gather their bags.  "Balki, blizzards stop wimps," Larry says, "Not men like us!  Men with a mission!  Just think . . . there'll be no traffic, we'll just breeze on in."  "Okay, let's breeze," Balki agrees, picking up the last bag.  They head for the door.  "Are you sure we can make it?" Balki asks.  "Of course we can make it," Larry insists, "It's just snow!"  "Right!  It's just snow!" Balki agrees.  Larry opens the door and they leave as he sings, "Over the river and through the woods, to Appleton's house we go . . . . "

In the next scene we see Larry's Mustang rolling slowly through the snow as Balki attempts to push it.  But Balki's feet are slipping on the snow and they aren't going very far.  "Come on!" Larry shouts encouragement, "Come on, Balki!  Balki, what are you doing?  Don't stop now!  Push harder!"  Balki stops pushing and walks to the driver's side window to ask, "Why am I doing all the pushing?"  "Because I'm the better driver," Larry explains.  "Is that why we're on the sidewalk?" Balki asks, "This car isn't going anywhere 'til Spring.  Let's go home."   "I can't believe this is happening to me," Larry complains as he climbs out of the car and kicks at the tires angrily, saying, "And they call these snow tires!"  "Look, a Christmas tree store!" Balki points out, motioning to the lot behind them.  "What good is that gonna do us?" Larry asks.  "Well, we're not going to get to Madison so we're going to have to have our Christmas right here in Chicago," Balki notes.  "I don't see how," Larry whines.  "Just watch," Balki says.

Balki and Larry walk onto the lot and knock on the door of a mobile home there.  A man named Marvin opens the door with a napkin tucked in the collar of his shirt and a turkey drumstick in his hand.  "Yeah?" he asks.  "We want a tree," Balki explains.  "What, are you kidding?" Marvin asks, "I sold the last one four hours ago.  I'm havin' dinner."  "Come on, Balki," Larry says, "The man's eating."  "Please, I want a tree," Balki repeats.  A woman's voice calls out from inside the mobile home, saying, "Marvin!  In or out, just close the door!"  Marvin steps out into the cold and closes the door behind him, commenting, "I knew we should never have moved in with her mother.  Look guys, I'd like to help ya but I got nothin' here."  "What about that tree?" Balki asks, and he hurries over to a dumpster and pulls out a sparse, sickly-looking tree.  "Balki, when they chopped that tree down it was a mercy killing," Larry comments.

"I think it will perk up once we put it in water," Balki says hopefully.  "Oh right . . . letís buy it and throw it in Lake Michigan!" Larry suggests.  "Youíre in a bad mood, arenít you?" Marvin asks Larry.  "Heís leaning in that direction," Balki confirms.  "Look, you guys want this tree, you got it.  It's yours," Marvin says, "I'm freezin' to death out here!"  Marvin hurries back into the mobile home and Balki says, "Thank you!"  "Balki . . . this'll never be a Christmas tree," Larry sighs.  "Cousin, it's not perfect but . . . but it will be pretty when it's decorated," Balki smiles.  "No matter what we do, it's not gonna be Christmas," Larry says sadly, "It's just not there."  "What's not there?" Balki asks.  "The Christmas feeling," Larry explains.  "Cousin, you're going to get the Christmas feeling when we take this home and decorate it, it'll be beautiful," Balki promises, "You'll see."  "Fine.  You do that," Larry says, "Have yourself a merry, little Christmas.  I'm going for a walk."  "I'm going with you," Balki says.  "No . . . I wanna be alone," Larry insists.  Larry pulls the hood of his coat up over his head and walks around the corner of the lot while Balki takes the tree and heads for home.

Itís already dark when Larry returns to the apartment.  His coat is covered with snow.  He looks around to see that Balki has put up cheap Christmas decorations all around.  A fire is burning in the fireplace.  The shabby little tree stands decorated by the window.  Larry takes off his coat and walks to the closet to hang it up.  When he opens the door, Balki pops out, dressed as Santa Claus.  "Ho!  Ho!  Ho!" Balki exclaims, "I'm Balki Claus!  Merry Christmas!"  Balki suddenly looks serious, and starts to recite, "It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house . . . "  Larry shuts the closet door and throws his coat over the chair, looking frustrated.  After a moment, Larry gives in and opens the closet door.  Balki continues "The Night Before Christmas" without missing a beat.  " . . . not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."  Stepping out of the closet to walk to the back of the couch, it's clear Balki has something bulky stuck under his coat for the belly.  "When what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a little, tiny sleigh and eight tiny reindeer."  Balki kneels down behind the couch and mimes the reindeer running with his hands.

"On Dancer, on Prancer and on Donna Dixon!" Balki continues, "On Comet, on Cupid, on Reagan, on Nixon!"  Larry watches this with an unhappy expression.  "Feel free to jump in any time!" Balki encourages.  "Where did you get that Santa suit?" Larry asks.  "The same place I got all these great decorations," Balki answers, leading Larry to the tree, "Downstairs in our very own Ritz Discount Store.  Look!  What do you think?"  "I think the proper thing to do is to cover the tree with a sheet," Larry says, "Let it rest in peace."  "Cousin, it's no Christmas turtle but wait 'til I turn on the lights," Balki says, then tells Larry, "Cover your eyes."  Balki walks behind the counter to turn on the lights.  Larry is just standing there.  "Cover," Balki urges, motioning for Larry to cover his eyes, "Cover."  Larry sighs and puts a hand over his eyes.  Balki plugs in the lights and they start to flicker.  "Okay, okay!" Balki says.  Larry looks at the tree just as the lights give a final flicker and go out.  Balki jiggles the plug, then walks over to the tree to check.

"The . . . the lights don't work," Balki notes, fiddling with the bulbs.  "They always work in Madison," Larry sighs, turning away.  "Okay, wait, wait!" Balki says, stepping to the kitchen table which is covered with a sheet, "There's more!  I finally found a food store that's open on Christmas Eve!  We're going to have a big Christmas dinner after all!"  Balki removes the sheet with a flourish, "We've got potato knishes, gefilte fish, matzo ball soup and brisket."  "I'm not hungry," Larry states, walking away.  "Okay, we sing Christmas carols!" Balki suggests.  "I don't feel like singing," Larry insists.  "Okay, we'll string popcorn," Balki tries, "We do any of the things you do in Madison."  "Balki, you want to do something to help me celebrate Christmas?" Larry asks.  "More than anything in the world," Balki assures him.  "Then leave me alone," Larry states, and he stands in front of the fireplace with his arms crossed, looking sullen.

"Okay . . . now youíre making Balki mad," Balki warns, taking off the Santa hat and beard, "I am busting my buttocks trying to make a nice Christmas for you . . . and all I get is bah hamburger."  Balki opens the front of the Santa suit to reveal he has the cushion from the chairs stuck into his pants.  He takes it out and puts it back on the chair.  "You're acting just like Ebenezer Stooge," Balki scolds, "I'm sorry you can't have Christmas at home with your family.  What about me?  You think I don't miss Christmas on Mypos with my family?  Passing the Christmas bota bag . . . roasting radishes over an open fire."  "Roasting radishes?" Larry asks.  "You're the one that told me that . . . that I have to adjust to changes in my life and move on.  You give real good advice but when the tableís upside-down you act like a big baby.  Maybe itís time you grow up."  "I donít wanna," Larry pouts.  "Well, youíre gonna have-tuh," Balki states, "Just because this Christmas is . . . is different doesn't mean it can't be good.  And thatís another thing you told me.  Why am I telling this to you?"

"Balki, I know what you're saying and I know it's true, but it's just not that easy to let it go," Larry explains, walking to the couch and sitting down, "Maybe you can and . . . and I admire you for that but I can't.  It . . . it just doesnít feel like Christmas."  Balki kneels down next to Larry and suggests gently, "Okay . . . maybe the feeling will come if we open presents."  "No, no, no, we always open the presents on Christmas morning," Larry whines.  Balki grabs Larry by the shirt roughly and pulls Larry's face to his.  "Look!" Balki snarls, "Iím Santa Claus and I say we open the presents now!"   "Okay," Larry agrees.  Balki lets go of Larry's shirt and smiles, then says, "You can be the Christmas Boy!"  Larry smiles like a happy little kid, and walks to the tree to get a big package which he sets on the coffee table in front of Balki, who has moved to sit on the couch.  "That's yours," Larry explains, as Balki looks excited.  Larry then gets a small, bundled package from under the tree and sets it on the coffee table as well, sitting on the couch again.  Balki is anxiously shaking his hand, ready to open his present.  "You go first," Larry says.  "Okay," Balki agrees, then adds, "I was hoping you'd say that."

Balki unties the ribbon and opens the box, looking thrilled.  "Oh!" he gasps, as he sets the box on the floor and pulls out a boom box, "A home entertainment center!"  Larry points that thereís something more in the box and Balki reaches in to pull out a cassette tape.  "And . . . a Wayne Newton tape!  You read my letter to Santa!"  "Well, yeah, I did," Larry admits.  "Thank you," Balki offers sincerely.  "You're welcome," Larry smiles.  Balki motions for Larry to open his gift.  Larry pulls the tie from the package and opens it, reaching in to pull out a beautiful tapestry.  "Balki, this is beautiful," Larry says in awe.  "I make it myself," Balki says.  "You made this?" Larry asks in amazement.  "I started it the night I come here to America and you took me in," Balki explains, "And every night after you go to sleep I work on it for one hour.  So . . . happy birthday."  Larry looks at Balki in confusion.  "Thatís what we say on Mypos . . . because Christmas is not just Christmas turtles and presents itís also the birthday of baby Jesus."  "Yeah, I guess I . . . forgot that, too," Larry admits.  "Well, the sheepherders never forget it," Balki says, "We were the first ones to get the news, you know."

"Thank you, Balki, thank you very much," Larry says sincerely.  Balki notices that Larry's eyes are tearing and asks, "Are you okay?"  "Yeah," Larry says, "I was just remembering a . . . a Christmas when I was six years old.  It was the first time that I realized that my dad buying presents for my mom and saying they were from me wasnít enough.  I . . . I wanted to get her something myself but I didnít have any money.  So I made her a . . . a potholder.  And it was really pretty ugly.  But when she saw it she . . . she cried and she hugged me and she told me it was the nicest Christmas present anybody had ever given her.  And I didnít really understand what she meant . . . Ďtil now.  Balki, this is the nicest present anybodyís ever given me."  Balki places a hand on Larry's arm.  Larry suddenly brightens and says, "Wait a minute.  Something's happening."

"What?" Balki asks.  "Yes!  There it is!" Larry realizes.  "There what is?" Balki asks.  "It's the Christmas feeling," Larry explains, "It's back."  Just at that moment, the lights on the Christmas tree come on and stay on.  "The . . . the Christmas lights come on," Balki observes, "Itís a Christmas miracle!"  "You know, Balki, I thought I was missing Christmas with my family and my friends," Larry says, "But Iím not.  Youíre here."  They embrace warmly.  As they part, they hear children caroling singing "The First Noel" outside.  They get up and walk over to open the window, looking down at the young carolers and sharing a smile with each other.  "Merry Christmas!" Balki offers.  "Happy birthday," Larry adds.


Script Variations:
There are some major differences between the first draft of the script dated October 8, 1986 and the finished episode:
- The Ritz Discount party only includes the Twinkacettis, Balki, Larry, Jennifer and Mary Anne.  It's described as being super cheap with only a bag of potato chips and two six-packs of soft drinks for refreshments.  Everyone finishes singing Jingle Bells instead of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  After telling Balki and Larry to clean up, Twinkacetti says to his wife "Come on, Edwina.  The quicker we get to your mother's, the quicker I can hit the egg nog."  Edwina sweetly threatens him with "When I'm ready, Donald."  Twinkie becomes milktoast and says "Didn't mean to rush you, beloved.  I'll get the children in the car."  The interaction between him and he kids is the same but as he's chasing the kids out the door Balki comments "Mr. Twinkcetti is sure in the Christmas spirit.  He can't wait to play with his children."  Larry adds, "Yeah, and he went all out on this party.  A bag of potato chips and a six-pack of discount grape soda."  Mary Anne asks, "When does this party get rolling, anyway?"  "I'm afraid it's already rolled, Mary Anne," Larry answers.  "Oh, was I late?" Mary Anne asks in a disappointed tone.  "No, you were here and having the time of your life," Jennifer replies.  The girls then leave.
- As Larry is talking about the sights and smells of the Appleton home at Christmas he adds "Brother Billy crawling under the tree switching the names on the presents."  Balki says "I'm going to miss my family, too.  But it was my choice to come to America, and I guess I'm going to have to live with it.  This confuses Larry.  Mary Anne enters and says "Balki, the radio says there's a snow storm on the way so we need to get an early start tomorrow."  Balki says, "I'll be ready, Mary Anne."  She leaves and Larry asks Balki "What is she talking about?  An early start for what?"  "Mary Anne and Jennifer . . .  (pointedly) . . . my closest friends . . . invited me to go skiing with them.  I've never been skiing, but - - Wow! - - this is going to be some fun."  "But . . . you're not going with them," Larry says.  "You bet your Herbalife I am," Balki answers.  "I can't wait to hit those slopes.  I just hope I don't hit them with my face."  Larry is disappointed.  "But, I thought you were coming home with me.  I made our plane reservations, I called my folks.  I've talked so much about you they think of you as an adopted member of the family.  They even have a stocking with your name on it.  It was going to be a surprise." "How thoughtful," Balki comments.  "I mean, I guess I can understand why you'd rather go skiing than go back to Madison Wisconsin with a family you've never met.  I just thought . . . "  "Why did you think I was going home with you?" Balki asks.  "We talked about it.  Remember, we talked about how much fun it'd be to get sleds and slide down the hill behind my house?  And we talked about helping to decorate the house with mistletoe and pine branches . . . "  "I remember, and it sounded like fun.  But . . . you never invited me."  Larry says, "Now that's just plain ridiculous."  Balki points out, "You never said, 'Balki, would you like to spend Christmas with me and my family?"  "Of course I did.  Remember last month I said . . . (Balki shakes his head) . . . Well, maybe it wasn't last month.  But I remember a couple of weeks ago . . . (Balki shakes his head) . . . I distinctly remember . . . (Balki shakes his head again)  Will you stop doing that!"  Balki says, "I remember you never said, 'Balki, would you like to spend Christmas with me?'"  Larry says, "Okay, maybe I never said those exact words, but our conversations were riddled with heavy insinuations that you were invited.  I just assumed . . . "  "On Mypos we have a very strange custom.  We never plan to sleep in someone else's house, unless they invite you.  They usually say something like, 'Balki, would you like . . . ?"  Larry finished the sentence with him: " . . . to spend Christmas with me and my family?"  Balki says, "Well, I don't know.  I have plans . . . with people who actually asked me . . . in advance."  "Oh, don't do this to me," Larry sighs.  "What do you want me to do?  Beg?"  Balki folds his arms, waiting for Larry to beg.  "Okay.  Please, Balki, will you spend Christmas with me and my family?"  Balki says, "I thought you'd never ask.  Now we do the Dance of Joy."  And they do the Dance of Joy.
- In this version Balki does not get as excited when he sees the snow, instead he says "Cousin Larry, we should be leaving for the airport."  Larry assures him they have plenty of time, that he already has their tickets and seat assignments - - they're sitting next to the emergency exit - - "and I've ordered kosher food.  It's the only thing they make fresh."  When they sit down to reminisce about Christmas Larry also says "We all run downstairs and there's my dad in his ridiculous Santa suit.  My mom has homemade cinnamon rolls."  The girls show up and Mary Anne says, "It's still not too late to go with us, Balki.  You can sleep on the sofa."  "In your room?" Larry asks, interested.  "No," Jennifer answers.  Larry points up and tells the girls there's mistletoe and they get their kisses.  After the girls leave Balki says, "We don't have mistletoe."  "I lied," Larry smiles.  "Uh-oh!" Balki says, "Santa's keeping a list and checking it twice.  You're in big trouble.  Me, on the other hand, got free kisses, and I'm on nobody's list."  Larry says, "You know, I feel sorry for Jennifer and Mary Anne.  It'll be fun skiing, but to me, if it isn't Madison, it isn't Christmas."  Balki asks, "Will I get to help decorate the Christmas turtle?"  "Of course you will," Larry answers, then asks, "Turtle?"  "Yes," Balki says, then embarrassed he says, "Oh, what a dopey guy I am.  They've probably already decorated it."  "I doubt that," says Larry.  "What's a Christmas turtle?"  Balki look at Larry as if he is crazy.  "You're pulling Balki's hair.  The big sea turtle you decorate and put your presents under.  What do you call it?"  "I'd call it a Christmas turtle," Larry agrees.  "One we don't do that in this country.  Or any other country in the civilized world.  We decorate trees."  "Nooo!" Balki gasps in disbelief.  "You know, I saw that in a movie once.  I thought Walt Disney made it up.  Why would you decorate a tree?"  "Well, I suppose someone hundreds of years ago started doing it and it caught on.  It's fun.  And a tree won't slowly crawl out of the living room."  "Good point," Balki admits.  "Well, it won't be the same.  But I guess if you don't have steak, eat the potatoes."  "I was searching for those very words," Larry says.  "Just out of curiosity, how does it work with a turtle?"  Balki then explains about the Christmas turtle but does not call him Bernie.  After saying the turtle comes back every year he adds, "We don't even have to redecorate."
- In the next scene when Larry is trying to figure out how to get to Madison he says "That's it!  No busses.  Hundreds of people are stuck in the airport with no way out.  Hundreds of people are stuck in the snow on the highways around Madison.  Why does everything happen to me?"  Balki is already resigned to having Christmas in Chicago and says "Christmas is supposed to be a happy time and you should try not to be so upset."  "Upset?  Just because I'm not having Christmas this year?  I'm not upset."  "Well, then you're definitely on edge," Balki observes.  They hear children caroling "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" outside on the street as Larry says, "I'm not on edge!"  Larry throws the window open and yells out, "You kids stop that racket!  Not everybody's celebrating Christmas!"  The kids stop singing.  Larry adds, "You with the blonde curls, stop that sniveling."  Balki runs to the window and yells out "Don't listen to him.  He's on edge."  He turns to Larry and says, "You should be ashamed of yourself, yelling at children."  "They started it," Larry says.  "You're very cranky," Balki comments.  "Okay, I'm cranky, I'm on edge, I'm upset.  Who wouldn't be?  I'm missing Christmas."  Balki gets their coats and hands Larry's to him.  "You're throwing me out?" Larry asks.  "I'm taking you out," Balki explains.  "We're going to make our own Christmas."
- Balki takes Larry to the Christmas tree lot.  Larry says, "I don't want to be here.  I want to be in Madison.  Right about now they're having the family snowman contest."  "Then we'll make a snowman," Balki says.  "Not the same.  The snow here is gritty," Larry says.  Most of the tree buying scene is the same except the salesman doesn't have a nagging mother-in-law.  After Balki gets the tree Larry says, "No matter what you do to that tree, you can't make it pretty."  "Yes, you can," Balki insists, "That's the difference between you and me.  I see a glass half full of water.  I'm an optimystical.  You see a glass as half empty.  You're a pessimystical."  "I see a tree with no branches," Larry replies, "That's an ugly-mystical."  "There's no such word as uglymystical," Balki scolds, "We're taking this tree."
- When Balki jumps out of the closet dressed as Santa he says, "I'm Santa and you, Larry Appleton, are on my naughty list for kissing without mistletoe.  But I'll let it go this time."  When Balki finally has had enough he says, "You've finally gotten my goatskin."  Balki also says he'll miss roasting potatoes on an open fire, not radishes.  Part of the dialogue in this version goes like this: "And don't you think I'm disappointed I can't go have Christmas with your family and light your Yule log, whatever that is?" Balki asks.  "Well . . . I didn't think about that," Larry admits.  "No, you didn't.  You were too busy thinking about yourself.  You were too busy being a big baby.  Everything you say about Christmas sounds like you're eight years old.  Maybe it's time to grow up."  "But Christmas is for kids," Larry says.  "It's for grownups, too," Balki points out.  "When I left Mypos, I knew some things were never going to be the same.  That's the way it is when you grow up and go out on your own.  Grownups have to make Christmas wherever they are."  After Larry says it doesn't feel like Christmas, Balki ad-libs angry Myposian and says, "You Americans.  You have to feel everything."  "I'm trying," Larry insists.  "Deep down inside where it doesn't show, I'm really trying."  It's then Balki suggests opening the presents.  After Larry opens the tapestry Balki asks "Do you like it?"  Larry says, "Yes . . . I do."  Balki says, "Well, I'm happy about that.  I hoped you would . . . but I couldn't tell.  You looked like you were getting tears in your eyes."  Larry then tells the story about the potholder, which is almost exactly the same as is in the final show.  The rest is also the same.

Continue on to the next episode . . .