Punky Brewster (Season 1, Ep 7): Parents Night

This installment of self-inflicted emotional turmoil, also known as Punky Brewster, begins with Henry trying to photograph Brandon the dog eating from his bowl, while the pupper is wearing a chef’s hat and a bandanna. Just as Henry is miming to Brandon eating from the dog bowl, Punky barges into the room to inform him that he forgot his lunch.

“Boy, it looks like I got here just in time.”

Apparently Henry and Brandon are working on a magazine advertisement. And Henry is hopeful that it could lead to additional work… and money.

Punky reminds Henry that Parents Night for her school is that night. After several back and forths of “what is it? when is it?” Punky asks if he’s gone senilly. “That’s senile.”

I can feel it coming. I’m going to be anguished over the next 20 minutes. This is clearly of some profound importance to our emotionally brittle orphan. And Henry seems to not understand how important it is, focusing rather on how busy he is with work. But Punky at least helps Henry out as she leaves his studio by putting Henry’s lunch in Brandon’s bowl. Brandon puts his pupper snoot in the bowl and digs in. Henry gets his pictures.

We finally get to see Punky’s class at school. Her teacher is trying to see which kids in Punky’s class know “what scientific force keeps things stuck to the ground.” Margaux apparently knows the answer. She raises her hand enthusiastically. The teacher goes out of her way to call on other students who do not have a hand up. When Punky finally gets called on, Margaux protests that Punky’s hand was not up. Punky says “that’s because it was being held down by gravity.” So our girl is wicked smaht. We saw evidence of that in the last episode, too.

When the teacher asks who discovered gravity, she finally relents and lets Margaux answer. Margaux credits Albert Einstein and “his theory of gravitivity.” Oh man. What a dummy. Punky surmises that Isaac Newton’s brother was Fig Newton. Not only is our girl wicked smaht, she’s got jokes, too.

Punky’s friend Allen gets some more screen time in this episode. This kid is a star. Huge smile. Charismatic. Really terrific. Everyone agrees. Some of her other classmates are total disasters. Anyway. Allen didn’t know who invented gravity but he bet that whoever did it was a really nice guy. When Punky explains that she learned about gravity from Henry after dropping a bag of apples on his head, Allen says that he dropped something on his dad’s head once and learned a bunch of words he can’t use.

Even though I have liked her before now, I’ve gotta admit that I’m turning against Margaux. If you’re going to be a know-it-all, you have to deliver.

And then she drops the bomb on Punky that “Henry can’t be the best dad there is because he isn’t your real father.” Well, that settles it. We are enemies, 8 year old Margaux.

Punky is a savage, though. “That’s not true. Henry cares about me. He went to court and fought to get me. All your dad had to do is kiss your mom and wait around for nine months.” Then Allen chimes in, “I bet after he kissed her he barfed.” LOL.

But now I’m anxious. The bar for Henry has been set high.

Punky is hanging out alone with Eddie (he is improperly installing a door bell at Henry’s apartment) and she is pacing around the living room. Apparently Henry is on the verge of being late to return home and set out for Parents Night. When he comes home, he tells her that he cannot make it. His deadline was bumped up to the following morning and apparently he has to work all night just to finish the advertisement.

I want to reiterate that I was opposed to Henry getting custody of Punky from the very beginning. I have been consistent on this topic. And I have not moved.

When Mrs. Johnson and Cherie show up, Henry asks her to take Punky to Parents Night. “I talked to her. She understands.” I’m so filled with helpless parental rage. Henry leaves. Punky tells Mrs. Johnson that she does not want to be the only kid there without a parent. She also says “Margaux is right. Foster parents don’t care as much as real parents.” *SOBS* Why are you making my heart hurt so much, Soleil Moon Frye?! No. The villain is Henry Warnimont. And the City of Chicago. And the state of Illinois. And whatever government lab created Punky Brewster and turned both her and her Punky Power loose on the world. They all failed that little (alien?) girl.

Henry is back at the studio threatening Brandon about him not eating his kibble. (Maybe there aren’t enough bits? Don’t you dare threaten Brandon, you monster!) Mrs. Johnson shows up to inform Henry that Punky is under the impression that foster parents do not love their kids as much as real parents. And that he is fueling that belief by not showing up.

We see Punky sad and alone on Parents Night in her classroom. Margaux and the other kids go over to hang out with Punky. Margross points out that Punky is by herself and then she takes a victory lap.

Uh oh. The little blonde haired villainess says that she would have been willing to eat the class goldfish had Henry shown up. I feel like that one will come back to bite her. Punky starts telling a lie about Henry being unable to attend because he’s an astronaut. [File this away: Little (alien) Punky is interested in space.] “What’s he doing, wearing an orthopedic space suit?” I don’t like Margaux today, but that was a solid diss. And then Evil Margross busts Punky’s lie by asking Mrs. Johnson what Henry is currently doing. Not knowing that Punky had lied about it, Mrs. Johnson tells her the truth.

Henry finally shows up. He finds Punky in the janitor’s closet by herself. She does not want to come out so he goes in and sits with her. Punky tells Henry that her dad left her, her mom left her, Henry ditched her, and that it feels bad. *SOBS*

So Henry and Punky sit on mop buckets and he tells her the story of what happened when his wife died. “I was shattered. I couldn’t stand the pain. I built a wall around my feelings and I never let anyone close to me. Then I met you. You made me feel again.” He tells her that he does not want her to build a wall around herself the way that he did.

“I love you.” “I love you, too.”

For some reason, the teacher is having each family explain how they met. Allen is still stealing scenes. “I’m not too sure how I met my parents. I woke up one day. They were there.”

Punky loudly announces that Henry is there. Then she goes to the fish bowl, holds it up, and says “Hey Margaux, I hope you like sushi.”

ROLL CREDITS

Reaction:

I had a feeling this would be a tough one to watch when I saw the episode title. It delivered. I do have to admit that Henry putting a priority on making money for Punky, instead of attending this event with her, seems pretty plausible. It’s also plausible that Punky would not tell him the specifics of why him being there was so important.

If you think about it, her not telling him was a way to test whether Margaux was right. Better late than never… I guess. Side note: Kids are VICIOUS.

I really liked Mrs. Johnson in this episode. I’m not sure exactly when/how she swung by his studio, though. Were the girls waiting back in the building? Did she drop them off at Parents Night and then walk over to where Henry was working? Were the girls just standing outside the door of his studio not knowing why she went in there? Making the choice to make less money (“put more water in the soup tomorrow”) is not always an intuitive choice. But in some cases it is the right choice. You can tell that Henry jumped into taking on a foster child without thinking a lot of the little things through.

As for Punky? Soleil Moon Frye was such a star. At 8 years old, she could sell me on a huge range of emotions. I haven’t read the history of how this show was put together, yet, but I have to think someone met her, decided she needed a show, and then went looking for a pilot. In that order. This show is putting me through the emotional ringer but I can’t quit because I’m invested now. And most of that is the lead actress.

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