Perfect Strangers Episode Guide

EPISODE 42 - The Pen Pal

First Air Date: January 27, 1988
Nielsen Rating: 17.1 HH

TV Guide Description: Balki invites parolee Vince Lucas -- the racketeer they sent to jail with their testimony -- to stay at the apartment, but Larry fears for their lives after overhearing what Vince has in store for them.

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

Bronson Pinchot: Balki Bartokomous
Mark Linn-Baker: Larry Appleton
Belita Moreno: Lydia Markham

Guest Cast:
Jo Marie Payton-France: Harriette Winslow
John Del Regno: Vince Lucas

Dimitri Appearances: Dimitri can be see on the bookcase throughout the episode, wearing a banditís mask over his eyes and a halo over his head.

"I know itís been a long trip down from up the river . . . "
"Cousinís Larryís so excited the cat ate his tongue!"
"Now I understand what got your dandruff up!"
"Let me relieve you of your mind."
"He just wants a new fleece on life."
"If we both ended up dead Iíd have to live with it for the rest of my life!"
"Cousin, I can read you like a scroll."

Donít be ridiculous: Not said in this episode.

Other catchphrases used in this episode:
"Damn, Iím good."  (This expression, in different forms, is sometimes used by Lydia)
"Oh, go on with you!"
"We really stepped in something good this time!"
"Are you crazy??"
"Oh, po po!"
"Get out of the city!"
"Well . . . "

Other running jokes used in this episode:
Lydia and Harriette verbally fight with each other
Larry panics
Larry grabs Balki by the shirt / vest
Balki laughs at his own joke

Songs: "Itís Not Unusual" - sung by Balki as he cooks in the kitchen

Interesting facts:
This is the second time a non-regular guest character would return in a sequel directly relating to their first appearance (the first was when Balkiís friend Gina first stayed with the cousins while pregnant and then had them babysit her child a follow-up episode).  The previous episode in which the small-time hood Vince Lucas was introduced painted him as a serious, nothing-funny-about-him, steely crook, which makes his turn in this return appearance all the more hilarious when we see his lighter, warmer side, something completely unexpected!  John Del Regno is superb as the less serious but still somewhat menacing Vince.
- Bob Keyes, who wrote the episode Can I Get a Witness? in which the character Vince Lucas was introduced, also penned this episode.
- Oddly enough, Vince would not be the only criminal in Perfect Strangers history to threaten the cousinsí lives and then return as a friendly personality.  In Season 5, a disgruntled accountant named Marvin Berman (played brilliantly by character actor George Wyner) sets up a money-laundering scheme for his boss but receives no credit for it, so he threatens to blow up the Chronicle basement (with Balki and Larry in it!).  Later that season Marvin returned for another appearance in which he pals around with the cousins instead.
- Lydia makes the comment that she has a fear of polyester in this episode.  Lydia would reveal quite a few oddball phobias throughout the series.
- An unusual peculiarity occurs in this episode and thatís the very notable laughing of a particular audience member.  The female voice of note has such a distinctive laugh itís impossible to miss.  This same womanís laugh can also be heard during Bronsonís Saturday Night Live appearance.  This mysterious laugher has yet to be identified.
- During the episode Vince is seen wearing Larryís red striped pajamas and blue robe.
- The framed photo that Larry shows Balki which Vince took of them is actually a studio publicity shot that was used on one of the postcard mailers sent to fans who wrote in to the show.

Bloopers and Inconsistencies:
The flashback scene is unusual in the sense that the clip shown was not included in the original episode theyíre flashing back to!  After studying the flashback clip it appears it was filmed during the original shoot and took place sometime before Jennifer and Mary Anne arrived (if the scene was recreated and filmed during this episode it would be amazing, as the set and extras and clothing are all identical!).  It was possibly a scene originally shot for the episode but cut out or it could have been filmed specifically for use in this flashback sequence.
Bloopers and Inconsistencies:
A very funny blooper from this episode in which Mark and Bronson break up laughing over hitting their heads on the counter and stove can be seen on our YouTube Channel, along with other bloopers from the series!  This same blooper can be seen in the Friendship commercial for the series, which also featured outtakes from the show.

The episode begins in the Chronicle basement at the end of the work day.  Harriette is standing at Larryís desk putting on her coat as Larry covers his typewriter and asks if she has any big plans that night. "Well, I was thinking about going to a nice restaurant, having a romantic dinner, maybe dancing Ďtil dawn . . . but I guess I should go home to my husband."  Lydia enters from the archives and is surprised itís quitting time already.  "I got to reading some of my old advice columns and lost track of time. Damn . . . Iím good."  "Youíd better be good!" Harriette warns, checking her watch, "You got about five minutes to finish tomorrowís column."  "Iíll make it!" Lydia assures her, "I have not missed a deadline yet."  "Thatís because you get other people to do your work!" Harriette comments sharply.  "Once in five years I asked you for a tiny bit of advice to fill out a column," Lydia retorts.

Larry tries to intervene but the women are will into it now.  "Fill out a column?" Harriette says in shock, "You took my tiny bit of advice and turned it into a five part series!"  The phone rings on Larryís desk and he happily says, "Iíll get that!"  As he steps aside to take the call, the women continue their verbal sparring.  "Why, Harriette, I may be neurotic, I may be panic-prone, and yes I will admit I have a fear of polyester, but I am not a thief!"  "Okay, youíre not a thief," Harriette agrees, "Youíre just out of your mind!"  Larry hangs up the phone, looking shocked.  "I canít believe this is happening!" he sighs.  "Lighten up, Larry!" Lydia insists, "Weíre just having a friendly fight!  We do this all the time!"

"No, no . . . that was the D.A.ís office," Larry explains, "They called to tell me that Vince Lucas has been paroled."  "Who is Vince Lucas?" Harriette asks.  "Heís a very dangerous criminal," Larry explains, "About a year ago Balki and I were supposed to be witnesses against him.  On the day of the trial Vince called me over to correct any misunderstanding Balki and I might have had about testifying."  We cut to a flashback sequence of the courtroom where Vinceís trial took place.  Vince is motioning for Larry to come over to him, which Larry does.  "Obviously youíre not getting what Iím telling you," Vince begins, "Maybe itís the world we live in.  A person doesnít know who to believe any more.  A lot of people go around making idle threats.  I donít.  I make good on my promises.  If you and your pal testify, Iíll get you.  Even if I go to jail, Iíll get you.  No matter how long it takes, Iíll get you.  Someday youíll be in a dark place, youíll sense someone behind you, youíll feel a twinge of pain, thingsíll start getting gray, youíll have an out of body experience . . . permanently.  Now, you understand what Iím saying?"  "Youíll get me," Larry repeats nervously.

"So, Balki and I testified anyway and Vince was sent to prison," Larry finishes as the scene morphs back to the present day.  "Thatís good!" Harriette comments.  "And now Vince is back on the street," Larry adds.  "Thatís bad," Harriette agrees.  "Lydia, what should I do?" Larry implores.  "What should you do?" Lydia asks incredulously, "A convicted felon who has vowed to seek revenge upon you was paroled today and you donít know what to do?  Get the hell out of town, Larry!"  "Iíve got to tell Balki," Larry deduces, "Do you know where he is?"  "I havenít seen him all afternoon," Harriette answers.  "Oh my God!" Lydia sighs dramatically, "Vince has got Balki!  Poor little guy!  He didnít even have a chance!  I hope he didnít suffer!"  Off Larryís shocked look, Harriette suggests, "You go and find Balki and Iíll stay here and slap her."  Larry heads to the parking garage, commenting that he has to find Balki before Vince does.

At the apartment, Balki is seen stirring something in a pot over the stove as he sings the Tom Jonesí hit "Itís Not Unusual."  There is a knock at the door and Balki goes to answer it, pausing a moment to gyrate strangely with the song.  When Balki opens the door we see Vince standing there, smiling.  "Balki Bartokomous," he states, " . . . Iíve been looking forward to this day."  "Me, too!" Balki exclaims and he and Vince embrace warmly like long-lost friends, ending with a simultaneous sigh.  "So . . . how was prison?"  "Well, Joliet was nice, but it was no Leavenworth," Vince answers.  Balki goes into the hallway to get Vinceís bags, saying, "Well, let me get you settled.  Iíve got everything you need all laid out for you.  Iíve got sheepskin in case you get cold and a brand new Masters of the Universe toothbrush and the shower cap is complimentary."  "I canít believe youíre doing this for me!" Vince exclaims.  "Oh, go on with you!" Balki smiles, giving Vince a playful shove backwards (which for a moment Vince doesnít know how to take!).  "Well, I know itís been a long trip down from up the river," Balki continues, "so why donít you make yourself comfortable and weíll be having dinner in about thirty minutes."  Balki motions to his bedroom then follows Vince there carrying his bags for him.

Just as Balki and Vince disappear into the bedroom, the front door opens and Larry rushes in, calling, "Balki?"  Larry runs in, looking around frantically until Balki comes out of the bedroom.  Larry runs to him and sighs, "Oh, Iím glad youíre alive!"  "Well, Iím glad to be alive," Balki agrees as Larry closes and puts the chain on the front door.  Balki tries to get his attention as Larry then gets a chair to put under the doorknob.  "Cousin, if you just stand still for a moment I have a surprise for you!" Balki says.  "I have something important to tell you!" Larry says emphatically, grabbing Balkiís shoulders.  "Well, can it wait?  I have a surprise for you!" Balki repeats.  "You can surprise me later," Larry insists.  "Well, I want to tell you my surprise now!" Balki says.  They argue until Larry puts his hand over Balkiís mouth.

"I found out Vince Lucas was paroled today!" Larry says, then lets go of Balki and runs to the couch to push it in front of the door.  "Help me move the sofa in front of the door!" Larry orders.  Balki tries to argue but Larry cries, "Help me!"  Larry starts pushing on the couch with his head down as Balki leans casually on the other end.  Of course the couch doesnít move anywhere despite Larryís efforts.  Vince walks out of Balkiís bedroom, wearing Larryís bathrobe.  Balki looks excited as Vince stands, unseen by Larry whose head is still down.  "Hey, Appleton!" Vince calls.  Larry is suddenly stock still, then slowly looks up in shock.  "How's it goiní?" Vince shouts, rushing forward and throwing his arms around Larry in a hug as Larry screams in horror.  "Surprise!" Balki shouts happily.

Vince steps back to say, "Larry, I wanna thank you!" then hugs him again before adding, "You know, itís not everybody who would let an ex-con move in with them!"  "Are you kidding?" Balki asks, stepping toward them, "Weíre gonna be the envy of the neighborhood!  Cousin, we really stepped in something good this time!"  Larry is still standing in complete shock, his eyes bugging out.  "Cousinís Larryís so excited the cat ate his tongue!" Balki smiles, then continues, "Okay, weíre gonna have dinner pretty soon."  He takes Vinceís hands to look at them, saying "Let me see!"  After examining Vinceís hands Balki says, "Okay, we know where we have to go!" and motions with his head toward the bathroom.  "Oh yeah, right!" Vince says, "Weíll talk later."  He turns to Larry and smiles, saying, "Gee, itís good to see ya!" then heads to the bathroom.

Larry is still standing, staring at Balki in complete shock.  "Balki, could I talk to you privately?" Larry finally asks in a deceptively calm voice.  "Well, of course you can!" Balki answers.  Larry grabs Balki roughly and literally flings him over the kitchen counter before jumping over himself.  Balki lands on the kitchen floor in a heap and Larry lands on top of him, then pulls Balki up into a sitting position before putting his hand on Balkiís face and peering over the counter to make sure Vince is still in the bathroom.  "What is he doing here?" Larry asks emphatically.  "More to the point, what am I doing here?" Balki asks.  "We are hiding until I figure out what Vince is doing here!" Larry explains, still hanging onto Balkiís vest.  "Well, I invited him," Balki explains, "and he accepted.  Isnít that nice?"

Larry pushes Balkiís head back against the wall under the counter with a thump.  "Are you crazy??" Larry cries.  "You seem upset," Balki observes calmly.  Larry bangs Balkiís head against the wall a second time.  "Yes!  Yes, Iím upset!  Thereís a killer in the bathroom!"  Larry sits back against the stove but reaches over and tips Balkiís chin up to cause Balkiís head to hit the wall again.  In turn Balki reaches over playfully and tips Larryís head back so it bangs against the stove.  "Oh, Cousin, heís not a killer!" Balki sighs, "He was a thief, and a loan shark and . . . there was the occasional assault with a deadly weapon but he was not a killer."  "Oh well, what the heck?  Give him my room!" Larry says in exasperation.  "Well, I didnít think it would be fair without asking first," Balki says, missing Larry's sarcasm.

"Cousin, on Mypos when a criminal is released from prison he is given to one of the nice families on the island so that he can learn to be a good person and for the family that gets him itís a great honor.  And I donít want to brag but . . . my family, we had two arsonists stay with us."  Larry is still staring at Balki in disbelief.  "This is America!" he states, "We donít take convicts into our homes!"  "Oh, po po, Cousin!" Balki says, "Now I understand what got your dandruff up!  Let me relieve you of your mind.  Vince is a changed person . . . he studied photography in prison . . . "  Balki helps Larry to his feet.  " . . . and heís got a job all lined up.  Heís going to be a photographerís assistant but the job donít start for two days and he doesnít have a place to stay for those two days."

"How do you know all this?" Larry asks.  "Iíve been writing him ever since he went to jail," Balki explains, then eyes Larry questioningly, "Havenít you?"  "No!" Larry cries, "No!  Is that part of this Mypos thing, too?"  "You canít just send a person to jail and forget about him!" Balki insists, "Cousin, believe me, Vince is not here to kill us.  He just wants a new fleece on life.  And we have to help him."  "You really trust this guy?" Larry asks incredulously.  "Illicitly," Balki insists.  "Well . . . " Larry sighs, "itís just a couple of days, I guess I can go without sleep that long."  "Cousin, please, believe me . . . nothing is going to happen.  After all, if we both ended up dead Iíd have to live with it for the rest of my life!"

The second act begins in the Chronicle basement.  Balki is counting out reams of paper then goes to get his jacket.  "Cousin, where you want to go to for lunch today?" Balki asks.  "Well, why donít we go to McMannís?" Larry asks.  "Okay!  Vince will be here any minute!"  Upon hearing Vinceís name Larry looks nervous.  "Vince?"  "Yeah, Vince" Balki confirms, "Our V.I.P.  Very Important Prisoner."  Balki laughs at his own joke.  "Oh wait a minute!" Larry backtracks, "What am I thinking?  I canít go to lunch today."  "Why not?"  "Why not?  Because today is a holiday and Iím supposed to fast."  "Well, how come you eat breakfast?" Balki asks.  "Well, because the actual holiday doesnít kick in until after noon," Larry explains, checking his watch, "and uh . . . oh darn it! . . . itís five minutes after.  Maybe next time."

"Wait a minute!" Balki stops Larry, "Cousin, I can read you like a scroll.  Youíre not fasting!  Youíre avoiding Vince!  You still donít trust him.  Cousin, the way youíre acting I wouldnít be surprised if he is the last prisoner we ever get."  "Balki, itís hard to trust a man who might kill me in my sleep," Larry explains.  "But Cousin, youíre not even trying!  I donít think you really believe Vince is a changed man."  "Bingo!" Larry confirms.  "Donít change the subject!" Balki scolds.  "Balki, the man threatened to kill me!" Larry reminds him.  "Well, he threatened me, too, but I trust him!"  "How do you do that?" Larry asks.  "Cousin, itís easy . . . you just trust him a little bit and then you trust him a little bit more and then you trust him a lot more.  You can start small.  Loan him your car."  At this suggestion Larryís eyes bulge again.

Vince enters from the parking garage, saying, "Hi guys!  Boy, life is good!  You know they let me in the building without a strip search?"  "Hi Vince!" Balki smiles, "Ready to go to lunch?"  "Oh, you bet," Vince says heartily, "I could kill for a chili dog right now."  Balki turns to Larry and asks, "Cousin?  Coming?"  Larry finally smiles and says, "Yeah.  Sure.  Why not?"  He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his keys, saying, "I tell you what, Vince . . . why donít you drive?"  "Aw thanks!" Vince says sincerely, "Itíll be good to drive again."  As they head for the parking garage Vince asks, "Hey, you guys ever see the car chase from ĎThe French Connectioní?"  As they exit Larry turns back to eye Balki nervously, but Balki simply turns around to look behind them to try to figure out what Larryís looking at.

That night at the apartment Vince is on the kitchen phone talking in the dark while Balki sleeps soundly on the couch behind him.  "No, no trouble, Mr. Denagree," Vince says into the phone, "Iím still starting work tomorrow.  I just need some photography advice.  I want to take a picture of the guys Iím staying with, you know, frame it and give it to them as a gift for being so nice to me.  But I want it to be a surprise."  At this point Larry comes out of his bedroom on his way to the bathroom but hearing Vinceís voice he walks toward the living room instead in time to overhear Vince saying, "But the problem is every time I try to get a shot off this one guy Larry is watching me.  Well, I thought about shooting them in their sleep but I really wanted their eyes to be open."  Larry is looking more and more shocked as Vince continues.  "Yeah, youíre probably right . . . it wonít be much of a surprise but itíll get the job done.  Iíll just sit them down tomorrow morning and shoot them both.  Thanks, boss, Iíll see ya later."

Vince hangs up the phone and Larry ducks around the corner of the hallway as Vince walks back into Balkiís bedroom.  Larry runs into the living room and turns on the lights, jumping over the couch onto Balki and urging him to wake up.  "Weíve got to get out of here!  Vince is going to kill us!"  "Now Cousin, you had a bad dream, go back to bed," Balki urges, rolling over and knocking Larry onto the floor.  Larry grabs Balkiís collar from the floor and pull him closer.  "Balki!  Iím serious!  Vince is going to shoot us first thing tomorrow morning!"  "Are you sure?" Balki asks, "He told me himself heís not a morning person."  Balki rolls back over again to sleep but Larry sits on the arm of the couch and pulls Balkiís head back by the hair.  "Iím not making this up . . . I believe in what you are trying to do with Vince, I really do, but itís not working.  I just heard Vince on the phone planning our murders!"  "Cousin, are you sure?" Balki asks, "This never happened on Mypos.  Our two arsonists were perfect guests.  Of course, we couldnít barbeque while they were there."

Larry moves to the other side of the couch and pulls Balki into a sitting position.  "Balki, Iím sure the criminals on Mypos are a darn fine bunch of people.  Unfortunately, Vince is a lemon."  "No, I think heís a Pisces," Balki corrects.  "I mean he hasnít reformed!" Larry clarifies.  "But heís been so nice to us," Balki says in confusion.  "Lots of killers are nice!" Larry remarks, "Lizzie Borden was homecoming queen!"  At this moment Vince comes out of Balkiís bedroom and approaches them, sitting on the chair opposite the couch.  "Oh, hiya guys," Vince offers.  "Vince, youíre up!" Balki notes.  "Yeah, been up for a while, I couldnít sleep," Vince explains, "I had a nightmare.  The same one Iíve had ever since I went to prison."  "Well, we all have bad dreams," Larry offers, wishing to end the conversation quickly, "Why donít we turn in and think happy thoughts?"

"You know, itís a funny thing but . . . you two are in my dream," Vince continues.  "Get out of the city!" Balki exclaims, "We were in your dream?"  "Itís just the three of us in this room with no doors," Vince explains, "Just like solitary except . . . I donít have the straitjacket on."  Larry is staring wide-eyed again.  "Did you ever have the dream where you couldnít run?" he asks.  "But the dream always happens the same way," Vince continues, "I talk real nice to you, tell you a few jokes . . . then when weíre laughing and having fun . . . I grab you!  Then with my bare hands I squeeze your necks tighter and tighter, feeling the bones crack under my thumbs, feeling the life drain from your pathetic little bodies!"  Vince has been saying this with great energy and enthusiasm, leaving both Balki and Larry staring at him in shock.  Looking up at them he notes their expressions and offers, "Sorry."  He then asks, "Did you ever have a nightmare that was so real that you felt that you were living it?"  Slowly Balki and Larry both nod their head "yes."

"Well . . . " Larry says calmly, turning his head slightly then repeating, "Well . . . " again in the same tone.  Finally Larry turns to Balki and his eyes widen more than before as he repeats, in the same calm voice, "Well . . . . . . itís been fun reminiscing like this but I think Iíll turn in."  Larry starts to get up but Vince stands as well and holds his hand up.  "Before you go, Larry," Vince begins, "I got somethiní I was gonna wait until the morning to do, but since weíre all up I might as well do it now.  Iíll be right back."  Vince walks into Balkiís bedroom as Larry assures him, "Weíll be right here!"  Larry looks at Balki and in an instant they have jumped up and raced to the front door, fumbling to open it.  They pull it open but the chain is still locked so they have to close the door again and try to get the chain free.  They manage to do this but Vince returns at that moment and they quickly shut the door and stand with their backs to it.

"Whatís goiní on?" Vince asks, now holding a little bag.  "Oh no, nothingís going on, is there, Balki?" Larry asks.  "No, no . . . nothingís going on," Balki agrees, trying to think, "We were just . . . measuring ourselves!"  Balki places his hand above Larry head to mark a spot on the door and as Larry turns to look Balki says, "Oh Cousin!  Youíve shot up an inch!"  They both turn back to Vince, smiling nervously.  "Whatcha got there, Vince?" Larry asks.  "Youíll see," Vince promises, motioning toward the kitchen, "Now . . . this ainít gonna hurt a bit.  Stand over there."  Balki and Larry hesitate a moment then walk in unison toward the kitchen counter as if they are walking the last mile.

Vince starts to open the little bag as Balki and Larry reach the counter and turn.  Seeing Vince is occupied, Larry seizes the moment.  "Nowís our chance!  Grab him!"  They rush at Vince, Larry grabbing his arms and Balki grabbing his back as they struggle for a moment.  The camera flash Vince had been preparing goes off in Larryís face, blinding him.  Larry stumbles back in shock.  "Iíve been hit!" he announces as Balki holds him up.  "Getting shot isnít as bad as I thought," Larry reports, "Just a flash of light and then your mind shuts down."  "Cousin, Vince donít have a gun gun . . . Vince has a flash gun . . . just like yours."  He tips Larry toward Vince, saying, "Look."  Larry looks down at the flash in Vinceís hand then looks up and comments, "Very nice."  "But why would I have a gun?" Vince asks, "It would be a violation of my parole."  "Well, Cousin Larry thought that he heard you on the phone telling someone you were going to shoot us," Balki explains.  "I was talking to the guy Iím gonna work for!" Vince explains, "I wanted to shoot a picture of you.  You know, frame it and give it to you as a way of paying you back for all the things youíve done for me."

Balki cringes with embarrassment and Larry is beside himself.  "Oh . . . oh, Vince, I feel awful," Larry sighs, "I am so sorry.  I donít know what to say."  "You guys thought I was gonna shoot you?" Vince asks.  "Balki didnít," Larry explains, "He had faith in you.  He trusted you right from the beginning, this is all my fault.  Vince, can you ever forgive me?"  "You thought I was gonna shoot you with a gun?" Vince asks.  "Yes," Larry admits.  Vince erupts into raucous laughter.  "This is great!  A gun, I love it!  You know, I havenít laughed this much since the ĎNewhartí show . . . not the new one, the old one with Suzanne Pleschette.  This is great!"  He continues laughing then calms down a bit.  "You know . . . I might actually be able to sleep now.  Goodnight, guys, Iíll . . . shoot that picture in the morniní."  Vince heads back to Balkiís bedroom then stops, seeing that Larry and Balki have their backs to him.  "Booga booga!" Vince shouts, startling them and causing him to burst into laughter again.  "You guys kills me!" he laughs, going into the bedroom.

Sometime later, Balki is sitting at the kitchen counter playing with some toy frogs when Larry comes in.  "Balki!  Guess what came in the mail today!  Vince sent us the picture he took of us."  "Oh Cousin, isnít that nice?" Balki asks, "Just goes to show you what a little trust can do."  "Okay, I admit it," Larry offers, "I was a little skeptical at first.  But from now on Larry Appleton will go out of his way, will bend over backwards, will walk that extra mile to help his fellow man back on the straight and narrow path."  "Oh Cousin, thatís nice," Balki smiles, "I think Willie will be happy to hear that."  "Willie?  Willie who?" Larry asks worriedly.  "Oh, Willie the Weasel," Balki explains, "He and Vince were roommates in prison and so I invited him to come and stay here when he gets out.  You know, the thing is Iím not sure when heís coming because he said after he goes over the wall then he has to lay low until the heat dies down, so I guess that means weíll see him . . . early Fall?"  Larry look shocked and Balki continues playing with the frogs as the show ends.

Continue on to the next episode . . .