THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Punky decides to run away in order to solve Henry and Maggie’s argument over whether she should be sent to boarding school. She believes that if she is gone, Henry will have a chance to be happy. As a result, she sets out during a blizzard and nearly freezes to death, only avoiding that fate on account of Brandon getting help from a homeless boy named Zack.
Zack calls Henry while Punky sleeps because his number is on Brandon’s collar. Henry and Maggie arrive just after she wakes up. The two adults suggest to the homeless teenage boy that he should call his own parents, as well, or failing that he should go to Fenster Hall. Zack jokes that he would be the first kid to ever be dropped off there in a limo. After her experience, and after learning that Henry and Maggie want to spend more time getting to know each other before getting engaged, Punky returns happily with Henry.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
Soleil Moon Frye is narrating the “last week on Punky Brewster” details!
Punky somehow got Cherie’s attention off camera and had her come downstairs to update her in the hallway. Cherie was jubilant about Henry’s engagement but disappointed about the “boarding school” fight. Punky tells Cherie that she has to “split” and she shares a plan to head west. Punky wants to buy a ranch with the $8 in her pocket.
Everything is cheaper if you pay cash.
Cherie states that she will never get to see Punky again, but our rainbow clad orphan says…
P: Sure you will! You can come down to my ranch and we can punch cows together.
C: I’ve never punched cows. Do they punch back?
P: Of course not. Punching them doesn’t make them mad. That’s how you get milk out of them.
The two girls exchange gifts, say goodbye about 8 times, have a tearful hug, and then Punky heads outside.
Henry and Maggie notice that Punky is missing. They find a note on her pillow directing them to another note in the toy chest. Soleil Moon Frye of course does the voice-over narration of the notes. Punky’s toy chest note lets the two adults know that she does not want them to fight over her. So she is getting out of the way. This note then directs them to yet another note in the closet. “Now that I’m gone you guys can travel all over the world.” The note concludes by telling Henry that…
As a foster dad, on a scale of one to ten, you’re a ten thousand. I’ll always love you, Punky.
Henry and Maggie take turns blaming themselves. Henry eventually settles on blame for neither of them. He lets Maggie know that Punky had been abandoned by her mother. Maggie – now less a Disney villain than in the previous episode – suddenly understands why Henry did not want to send her away to boarding school.
Henry rushes out to find Punky while Maggie stays behind in case she calls or returns home.
We see Punky outside and it is snowing… a lot. The camera shot is going back and forth between one that looks like it is from Punky’s eye level, looking out on the snowy empty streets and sidewalks in front of her, and another shot from way overhead where she looks very small and alone. If the director of this episode had a goal of getting me in my feelings… it’s working.
Oh Brandon. I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was going to be this cold. I wish Henry would have fallen in love in July!
Punky finds a pile of tires and expresses a desire to take a nap. Some foreboding string music starts playing. The stakes are high. If Henry does not find her, and she sleeps outside through the night, she is going to freeze to death. I do not *think* the show will kill off its protagonist in Episode 12, but this show is not above an extended hospital stay or maiming her a little bit.
While Punky is closing her eyes atop a tire, trying to sleep, Brandon wanders off and finds an indoor place for her to shelter in nearby. He directs her to this place by yanking her scarf off and dragging it to the open door. Punky follows, sees the door, and goes inside. The foreboding music continues to play. Punky looks around inside and begins to realize that somebody else must be staying there.
What if that somebody catches us here?
WHAM. The camera shot freezes on Punky’s terrified face as we see a gloved hand grab her roughly by the shoulder.
Time for a commercial break. Just IMAGINE being a kid and watching this show during the 1980s! I am SO SORRY Gen-X kids.
When we come back, Punky karate chops the hand off her shoulder. Because of course she does. The person who grabbed her is a homeless teenager named Zack. As usual, Punky immediately impresses a new acquaintance. Our initial impression of Zack – as the audience – is sympathetic. After all, he did assure Punky that he is not a weirdo. I think that’s TV code for “I won’t molest you.”
Henry returns to the apartment to check in with Maggie. She is not there, obviously. Just after his arrival, Mrs. Johnson and Cherie come in to the apartment, too. Cherie lets everyone know – after confirming that neither herself nor Punky will be spanked for this – that Punky is heading west. That is not immediately helpful information, Cherie.
In the homeless guy’s tent, the two homeless kids are getting to know one another. We find out that Punky named Brandon after the guy that played Superman’s father, “Marlo Brandon.”
Zack inquires about why Punky ran away. After finding out her reasons, he does not understand why Punky would run away from a home where 1) her dad is the nicest guy in the world, 2) she has her own room, and 3) he dad plans to marry a rich woman who likes to buy nice things. In that context, Zack has a point
Conversely, we find out that Zack ran away from home because “bad things were happening at my house.” Zack advises her that she should go home. But Punky and Brandon both fall asleep. Is this the story of how Punky acquires a brother? Does Punky get this guy set up with a place to stay in Fenster Hall? Was television in the 1980s just letting every kid know that life is hard and that everyone is one bad day away from sleeping in a tent, during a blizzard, with a total stranger?
When Punky wakes up, Zack is making cocoa. A minute later, Henry and Maggie arrive. Zack called them while she was sleeping. Henry’s number was on Brandon’s collar. Zack tells her that she should not have run away. She replies that he ran away and “you’ve got a great life.” He, uh, disabuses her of the notion that homeless teenagers have great lives by citing some examples of negative personal experiences.
Henry and Maggie inform Punky that they are not getting married. They tell her that they have other differences, not related to her, that they need to work through, first.
Maggie then suggests to Zack that he should also call home. And they offer to drive him – in a Rolls Royce – to Fenster Hall. He suspects he would be the first kid to ever show up there via that mode of transportation.
Punky and Henry discuss going home, too.
H: Home is where the heart is.
P: You know what I think? I think home is where Henry is.
I knew she wasn’t going to die in the snow. I did. I think. But that did not make watching an 8 year old girl, near death, in a blizzard, any easier. I AM SO ANGRY AT THIS SHOW. Also… dogs, bruh. We do not deserve them. Henry better get Brandon some extra kibble because he definitely saved Punky’s life. Side note: I am pretty sure that if Zack had given Punky any trouble, Brandon would have ended Zack. I feel confident in that. Brandon is a lowkey savage.
The goodbye between Cherie and Punky was sweet. Painful and sweet just like every single thing about this entire show.
Let’s talk about Punky’s plan. She wants to head west. She’s keenly interested in the western U.S. and outer space. The show keeps dropping hints about both. She knew that the windiest city in the country was in Montana. She has said before that she plans to be a rodeo girl someday. She also wants to buy a ranch. There’s some clue about her past in all of that.
I am glad that the show finally addressed running away from home in general. Punky has run away multiple times. She ran away right after she first met Henry (before sneaking back in because it was raining.) She ran away after the incident in the grocery store. She ran away – in a blizzard – for altruistic reasons. Let’s convince Punky Brewster to stop solving her problems by running away, okay? Okay. Good. We agree.
If Zack ends up at Fenster Hall, and we eventually have an episode where social workers forcibly rip Punky away from Henry, will Zack be there when Punky returns? Will he be dating the teenage girl that Punky bunked with in the 2nd episode? I guess we can watch and find out!