Punky Brewster (Season 1, Ep 10): Bye Bye, My

We meet Punky this week, tearing her room apart, looking for “My.” “My” is the name of Punky’s treasured doll. She gave it that name so people would know to whom the doll belonged. Makes sense. It is clearly important to her. We eventually find My’s body in Punky’s bed and My’s head in Brandon’s mouth.

After retrieving the head, Punky asks Henry to perform surgery. Henry lets us know that this will be the 5th doll surgery he has performed so far. And he suggests letting My… die.

The doll has no head! Hurt feelings is the least of its problems!

Henry, how would you like it if your head fell off and the doctor said “Sorry, I don’t have time to put it on right now. Maybe next week.”

The next day, we see Allen, Punky, and Cherie dressed up as doctors. Brandon is dressed up as a nurse. They are going to reattach My’s head. I guess they’re tackling this project without Henry. Allen gets fired after he does a poor job attaching the body to the head.

Big deal! I want to be a fireman anyway!

Allen is the best.

In the next scene, the three kids meet Mrs. Johnson and Henry in Punky’s living room. Mrs. Johnson tells them to meet her downstairs for their Walk Pool to school. They run off. Punky hands My to Henry before leaving. Mrs. Johnson makes note of My being on her last legs. She suggests that Henry buy her a new doll. So far, the only toy Henry has purchased for Punky is… an encyclopedia. Either way, Henry agrees and we see him leave the apartment, My’s head and body in separate hands.

On his way out, Eddie the maintenance man is working on some electrical wiring. That’s a recipe for a burned down building when Henry returns.

I’ll fix this fuse box.
Good. And I’ll get you a pail of water to stand in.

Foreshadowing? Does Eddie suffer the insult with a smile and a plan for revenge?

Oh no. Henry throws Punky’s doll away as he leaves. “She won’t even miss this beat up old thing.” WHY DID THIS BUFFOON GET CUSTODY OF AN EIGHT YEAR OLD GIRL? Eddie saw, though, and even he seemed to know this was a bad idea. Maybe he saved the doll?

When Punky gets home from school, she sees Eddie and asks if he has seen her doll. Eddie lets her know that Henry threw My away this morning. Punky takes the news better than I would have thought. Mrs. Johnson – who was standing there too – says that Henry belongs in the Bonehead Hall of Fame.

We see Henry in his photography studio… using a magnifying glass for something. A potential customer walks in and Henry’s initial reaction is to be rude to her. She plows forward and lets him know that she is the principal of an elementary school. She wants to know if Henry would be interested in photographing all 400+ of her students. Given how excited he was in the last episode about $80, he should be thrilled with this.

Once he figures out that he could make $5,000, he starts flattering “Mrs. Miller” by complimenting her outfit. Uh, that’s kind of creepy, boss. Mrs. Miller is no dummy. She lets Henry know that their previous photographer was too grumpy. She’s looking for someone who is really great with kids. “Well, fortunately you have come to the right man!” He proceeds to lie about how good he is with children, how the neighborhood kids call him Uncle Henry, and how his 8 year old daughter thinks the sun rises and sets… on him.

Punky barges into the studio and announced to Henry and Mrs. Miller that Henry killed her best friend. I guess she did not take the news earlier as well as I thought.

Henry reacts as we might expect from him at this point His first instinct is to tell Mrs. Miller “I made a mistake, this is not my daughter. I never met her before in my life.” Mrs. Miller, the actual grown up, asks why Punky is so upset. Punky lets her know that Henry threw away her favorite doll. Welp… there goes that $5,000. Mrs. Miller is angry. Honestly, I hope she gets custody.

After Mrs. Miller storms out, Henry is angry at Punky. He storms back into the studio.

HOW COULD YOU DO THIS! YOU JUST BLEW A FIVE THOUSAND DOLLAR ACCOUNT!
And you broke my heart!

Hey, State of Illinois, it’s not too late to fix this mistake. Move this girl back to Fenster Hall. The security guard there did not throw away her favorite doll. The one downside of that place was the open window next to where she sleeps… and Henry has already replicated that in his apartment for her. Anyway, Angry Henry charges forward.

WHO TOLD YOU ABOUT THIS? WAS IT A TALL SKINNY IDIOT?!
No, it wasn’t Eddie.
I’ll kill him!
Sure, why not? You’re getting good at it.

Henry then explains to Punky that he threw away the doll because he got her a new one. He shows it to her. And… it’s… nightmare fuel. Wilma, the multi-lingual ugly robot doll, got a horrified look from Punky. Even Brandon is unimpressed.

In the next scene, Mrs. Johnson and Cherie are asleep on Henry’s couch. Henry is very dirty. He spent most of the night digging through a Chicago trash dump. But he apparently eventually found the doll. This scene ends with Mrs. Johnson puppeteering a very sleepy Cherie off the couch and out of the room.

Henry, doll apparently in hand, in a bag, goes to wake Punky up right away so that she can know the good news. She humorously gags at his stench as she wakes up. When Henry pulls My from the bag, he tells a story about taking the doll to the best doll surgeon in the world. He even put fake bandages around her head so that he could present Punky with a big reveal of unwrapping said bandages.

It soon becomes clear to Punky and the audience that Henry failed to find the doll and then drove around town looking for a new version of the same doll. Punky calls him out. Henry fesses up… then yells at Punky again.

WHY IS THAT BEAT UP OLD DOLL SO IMPORTANT TO YOU!
Because my Mom gave her to me.

Duh, Henry.

He apologizes and says that he hopes someday she can forgive him. She forgives him right away. The live studio audience cheered, they hugged, but I’m still furious, to be honest. This tale has one more twist:

Henry, I just hope that you’ll forgive me.
For what, dear?
Throwing your favorite pipe down the trash shoot.
[long pause]
I forgive you.

So when your foster kid – who by all evidence is an extraordinarily high character girl – is already plotting and executing revenge against you, justifiably, for parenting mistakes, after only a couple of months, that cannot be a good sign, right?

Alone in her room, Punky names the new doll Henryetta. Brandon forcibly takes the doll from Punky’s hands and begins chewing on her in his bed. If that doll represents Henry, then I suppose we are all Brandon.

REACTION:

I am supposed to believe that it never occurred to Henry, until the end of this episode, that Punky is attached to the doll because it came from her mom? I am further supposed to believe that nobody – not even Punky – mentioned that obvious fact to Henry at some point along the way? Even Eddie looked as though he knew Henry tossing the doll down the trash shoot was a bad idea.

Speaking of Eddie, are we working toward a tragic end for him? Is the Walk Pool going to come home from school and find him electrocuted and dead in the hallway? Will some weird set of circumstances have led one of the kids to believe he or she killed him? I am on episode ten and I just feel like that’s the kind of show I am watching.

I am trying to decide if I even like Henry. On the one hand, he upended his life and took in an orphan who really wanted him to take her in. On the other hand, that was probably not in the best interest of the girl. He continues to make the same kind of mistakes over and over. He’s short-tempered. He lies with relative ease. He’s a dissonant combination of financially poor and cheap… and Punky seems to continue bearing the brunt of that combination.

This episode felt like a breach of trust that will not easily be overcome. Henry seemed to (finally) understand how big a mistake he made at the end of the episode. You could see it as he absorbed the news that Punky threw away his pipe and then skulked away. Punky throwing Henry’s pipe down the trash shoot, in retaliation, felt like the crossing of an important emotional bridge on her part. It might be wise for Henry to continue going to the dump as often as possible until he can find the real “My.”

Oooh. But what if Henry couldn’t find My at the dump because Creepy Eddie had already pulled My from the trash?

The sunshine in this episode, to the extent that any peaked through the clouds, was Allen. I’m glad that he’s getting more screen time.

Mrs. Miller looked familiar so I looked her up. She was portrayed by Lois de Banzie. Lois de Banzie made a career out of guest-starring on TV shows. One of her first roles was a guest appearance on “Perry Mason” in the 1950s. Through the years she appeared on everything from “The Fugitive,” “Fantasy Island,” “Newhart,” to “Diagnosis Murder.” But if I had to guess from where I knew her face, it is probably either “Naked Gun 33 and 1/3” or “Arachnophobia.”

Overall, this was a decent episode of a dramatic sitcom. Punky Brewster leans into inflicting trauma on its viewers more than it leans into presenting shallow problems and laughs. As awful as Henry continues to be, his character has been pretty consistent. I also find it pretty plausible that a cranky old man – in the unlikely situation he were given an 8 year old girl – would do something as dumb as throw her favorite doll away.

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