Punky Brewster (Season 1, Ep 11): Henry Falls in Love (Part 1)

As this episode begins, Punky is sweeping the floor in Henry’s photography studio. A man in what appears to be a military uniform – I do not recognize the branch or anything – comes into the store. He asks Punky, “who might you be?”

I might be Cindi Lauper. But I’m not. I’m really Punky Brewster.

Henry is fetched and we find out this guy has an employer in the limousine outside who needs to know if Henry can take a passport photo. Henry agrees but points out that his employer will actually need to come inside to have her photo taken.

Then we meet the employer. It’s an attractive woman, in her 50s, with red hair. Like Henry, her voice sounds vaguely as though she used to live in Europe. Then things get really weird.

H: Maggie?
M: Henry?
H: Maggie?!
M: Henry?!
H: Snug-ems!
M: Boo-boo!

The episode can only end with Henry forced to choose between Maggie, the love of his life, and sending Punky away to an expensive boarding school.

Henry introduces Maggie as his HS sweetheart. So she aged better than Henry.

During the introductions, we find out that Maggie’s husband is “late” which is a term that Punky does not know. When Maggie asks Henry if he ever married, Henry says that he did, Punky eventually has to point out “his wife is late, too.”

Henry and Maggie continue with the verbal… sweetness. Henry says he wants to bring out the blue in her eyes for her passport photo. Maggie’s driver sidebars that he may be ill.

Ah, and now the drama begins to unfold. Henry tells Maggie that he will have the photo ready in the morning. She says that she needs them today because she is leaving for Europe tomorrow. Henry agrees to finish the photos today and Maggie agrees to come by Henry’s home that evening to pick them up.

Punky notices right away – not that Henry was hiding it – that Henry likes this woman. Back at their apartment, he stares dreamily into the distance while hand-drying a plate.

P: Henry, you’re getting behind here. There’s lots more dishes to be done.
H: [singing] There’s lots more dishes to be done! All those dishes we are drying, and my dear there’s no denying, you’re my heaven, you’re my moon, and you’re my sun! There’s lots more dishes to be done.

Punky looks… confused and concerned. I won’t spoil the next part of her reaction. It’s probably the funniest thing Soleil Moon Frye has ever done on the show.

Alright then. This is going to be a “60 year old Henry gets his heart broken” episode. Punky Brewster always delivers the pain.

Punky asks Henry about what happened with himself and Maggie. We learn that Henry was on the verge of proposing to Maggie when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I guess the shock of the news delayed his proposal because the next day he enlisted in the Navy and eventually he and Maggie lost track of each other.

When Punky suggests that he and Maggie pick up where they left off… Henry starts by pointing out that he and Maggie have changed. Maggie is a wealthy woman of the world “and here I sit… ON THE UGLIEST AFGHAN I’VE EVER SEEN!” This leads to a tirade about the general ugliness of the apartment. He pulls himself together long enough to say aloud “she’s coming here for pictures, nothing more” right as the doorbell rings. “Don’t just sit there, clean!”

She comes in wearing a fancy floor length fur coat. She lets Punky try it on.

Maggie lets us know that she may not be going to Europe after all. Was it possible – even in the 1980s – to get a passport in one day? No. This lady has been watching Henry from a distance and planning all of this out carefully. Anyway, she says Chicago has never seemed lovelier. Henry keeps talking about how great her passport photo is.

Punky, still wearing the coat, asks Maggie to excuse them for a second and pulls Henry into the kitchen. We (the audience) watch Maggie listening to them from her spot on the couch.

P: Henry, she wants you to ask her to the opera!
H: She does?! Oh!

Henry saunters back out and asks Maggie to the opera.

H: Then we can make it a….
P: Date!
M: A date!

After Maggie leaves…

P: HENRY YOU’RE GOING ON A DATE!
H: [arms in the air] YIPEE!


Oh no. That’s too much joy. Henry is not allowed joy. When this goes badly, Punky’s foster dad is going to live inside a bottle of booze.

The next day, we see Punky, Cherie, and Allen – dressed to deal with a Chicago winter – coming in from a 2 hour trip to collect bottles. Punky is telling her friends about Henry and Maggie, how they might get married, and how she might get to have a Dad and a Mom. So… little 8 year old Punky might end up in that bottle of booze, too, when this goes badly.

We see well-dressed Henry and Maggie (some time later) walking down the hall toward Henry’s apartment. Punky and/or her friends made signs directing them. “You’re getting warmer, etc’ and then “Welcome to Looweegees, Home of Punky Pizza, please ring for service.”

Maggie plays along. “Oh I’m afraid we do not have a reservation, do you have any room?”

Punky is dressed as a greeter and she seats them at a dining table in the living room. She then does a wardrobe change in the kitchen and comes back out dressed as their waitress, Sophina. Punky and Cherie (dressed as the chef) serve them apparently not-delicious grape kool aid and “Punky Pizza.” Henry saves the situation by blowing a bubble with some of the bubble gum that was on his pizza. Maggie was highly amused.

Allen comes out next, playing Henry’s violin. “I’m Zoltan, a gypsy violinist.” Henry gives him a dollar to stop playing. Finally we see Punky/Sophina come back out and inform Henry and Maggie that she is “bushed” and she is going to bed. She informs them that the meal is on the house. On her way to bed, she dims the lights… and gives Henry a ring. Henry has a dimmer switch? Did Eddie the (not so) worthless maintenance man install it?

Also… OH NO! TOO FAST!

Henry lets Maggie know that he told Punky about their last night together and he speculates that she wanted to recreate it for them. When Maggie asks why Punky brought him a ring (good eye, Mags) Henry confesses that he had planned to propose to her that night.

He then recites the proposal speech he had planned to give her in 1941. At the end of it… Maggie says yes.

H: You mean, then or now? Will you marry me?
M: I will!

They kiss. Maggie immediately stands up and starts planning their life together. And… here we go! She knows a marvelous boarding school in Switzerland! LOL. I WAS RIGHT! Of course, Punky is listening to this from behind a decorative plant.

For once, Henry handles this the correct way. With Punky still listening, he tells Maggie that he is going to raise Punky even it it means losing her. Good for you, Henry.

Punky goes back to her room, packs her rainbow colored bags, and gets Brandon. We hear Maggie and Henry arguing about “what’s best for Punky” in the kitchen while Punky and Brandon leave through the front door.

TO BE CONTINUED…

REACTION:

The best way to predict what will happen in any given Punky Brewster episode is to imagine the worst possible outcome for any given situation. I hit this one right on the nose early on.

Henry meets his “the one that got away” decades after he lost her. She (Maggie) inexplicably wants him back 40+ years later. After only one date, they decide to get married. Maggie predictably does not care very much for his foster daughter. She immediately plans to ship Punky off to a fancy boarding school. Punky – again predictably – selflessly decides that Henry would be better off without her getting in the way of his romantic future.

For once… FOR ONCE… Henry handles this exactly the right way. Even in the immediate aftermath of his engagement, when forced to choose, he immediately and emphatically chooses Punky. If he had hesitated, I might have thrown a book at my TV. But he did not. Assuming Punky does not freeze to death in the Chicago winter outside, this choice by Henry will go a long way toward rebuilding trust between Punky and Henry (keep in mind that he casually and callously threw away her favorite doll in the last episode.)

As for Punky? That poor girl! Can someone get her some counseling? Seriously. This is episode 11 and she has run away from Henry three times. Can’t this show give us a recurring “Punky meets with her therapist” character?

I’m guessing that Henry Falls in Love (Part 2) will not be featuring a wedding ceremony.

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