Welcome back to my episode-by-episode rewatch of Punky Brewster. Spoilers ahead.
THE QUICK & CLEAN SUMMARY:
Punky’s frenemy, Margaux, tells her that if she does not have a boyfriend at 8 years old, she will end up all alone. That night, Punky has a dream wherein she is now elderly, unmarried, and everyone else in her life is married or in a relationship. She is alone.
Henry comforts Punky after her nightmare. As the dream happened after midnight, the episode ends with Punky giving Henry a Valentine’s Day card.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
This show almost killed our protagonist in the previous episode. Surely we’re due for some good clean levity… right? RIGHT?
We start the episode at Punky’s school. Margaux – the little hellion who told told Punky that foster parents do not love their kids as much as real parents – appears to have a boyfriend. Willie. Willie is a huge nerd in a sweater vest and glasses. She informs him that “as a real treat” he is allowed to carry her books for her.
Cherie, Allen, and Punky watch this play out. Cherie asks Allen if seeing Margaux and Willie gives him any ideas. Cherie has a thing for Allen? Of course she does. Allen is great. And he proves it by saying “yes” and handing Cherie his books before walking off.
Just then, a new boy walks into the school hallway. Conrad. He looks like a young 1980s pre-teen heart-throb. If you’re not old enough to know what I mean, he looks like a member of the Malfoy family from the Harry Potter series. Very blonde. Handsome. Smug. Allen and Cherie point him out to Punky and suggest that he might carry her books. Punky lets us know, in no uncertain terms, that she can carry her own books.
Conrad approaches Punky by her locker. He offers her gum, a jaw breaker, and some goofy glasses. She declines all three. Cherie pulls Punky aside.
C: He wants to be your boyfriend.
P: I don’t want a boyfriend.
♪ All the women, who are independent, throw your hands up at me…♪ ♪
Just then, Punky’s teacher walks out into the hallway where all the 8 and 9 year olds are coupling up. She reminds them that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and that they are all supposed to bring a Valentine for everyone in the class.
Side note: Keeping my Harry Potter references going, Punky’s teacher kind of gives off a not-evil Delores Umbridge vibes. Or maybe even more accurately, “not-evil Delores Umbridge in search of a mate,” vibes.
After Punky’s teacher leaves, the kids talk about giving “an extra special” Valentine for the person they like. Conrad tells Punky he has something extra-special for her right before he kisses her on the cheek and walks away. Punky, also sweetly, says that she has something special for Conrad…
In the next scene, Conrad is sitting outside the Principal’s office with a black eye. I guess independent Punky threw hands up at his face.
He goes into the principal’s office just as Henry arrives. Punky’s teacher flirts with Henry. Henry is not having it. Punky explains to Henry that the black eye was an accident.
I was trying to split his lip. But he moved his head.
The teacher interjects and says she believes Conrad was carried away by the spirit of Valentine’s Day. Conrad comes back out and apologizes for what he did. Punky says she is also sorry for what he did. After a more sincere apology from Punky, Conrad suggests that they kiss and make up. The two adults have to restrain Punky as Conrad runs away.
Later that day, Punky, Margaux, and Cherie are at Punky’s kitchen table filling out their Valentine’s cards. Margaux tells “socially backward” Punky that she has got to have a boyfriend. Punky says her plans for the future are to grow up and be an astronaut.
Margaux tells Punky that if she does not start making plans to “have a man” right now, she is going to wind up old and alone.
[Note: <sarcasm> There is no chance that telling a foster kid, who was separately abandoned by both her parents, that she will end up alone, will tear away at that small bright piece of humanity to which she clings. </sarcasm>]
That night, Punky has a dream. Henry is 140 years old. Punky is elderly herself…. and so is Brandon! Our good boy is wearing some very distinguished reading glasses. Elderly Punky’s elderly woman attire is still very colorful.
Elderly Cherie and Allen arrive at Punky’s apartment. In addition to gray hair, Elderly Cherie has put on a lot of weight. She also seems to be carrying around fried chicken legs? So that’s something. Allen has longish white hair and a long white mustache.
Eventually Elderly Margaux arrives, too. She’s decked out in pink (dress, scarf, hat) but has a young face. When asked why she has not aged, she says that she had Willie specialize in plastic surgery. She stays only long enough to talk trash about Punky being unmarried. Cherie and Allen do not stay long, either. They leave to go upstairs and see Cherie’s grandmother. Cherie accidentally admits that she is glad her grandmother did not end up old and alone. She apologizes to Punky for the slip-up by giving Punky a Ding Dong.
As Punky’s dream nears a conclusion, Henry tells her that he “found someone.” At this point we see Punky’s 3rd grade teacher, in a wedding dress, enter their living room. They leave together and Henry says he will be living with Mrs. Morton from now on.
Draped in her colorful shawl, Punky closes the door behind Henry.
People come and go, but you can always count on your dog.
Dream Brandon’s love interest (complete with curly human wig) scratches on the door. When Punky opens the door, Brandon hops off the chair and the two dogs run away together down the apartment hallway.
Please don’t leave me. I’ll be all alone! All alone. All alone. All alone.
Punky wakes up from her dream shouting “all alone.” Brandon comes and puts a paw on her. Henry runs into the room.
Punky tells Henry about her dream and what led to it. Henry explains, of course, that Margaux is wrong. He cites himself as an example of someone who is doing well as a single elderly person. He also tells Punky that though there is no rush, because you cannot plan love, she might feel differently about boys when she is older.
Punky asks if it is after midnight, and when Henry says yes, she hands him a hand-made Valentine’s Day card.
- Margaux is the worst. The WORST. How did she end up that way? What horrifying home life is she dealing with? Why are they friends with her? This is Punky Brewster so I am sure we will eventually find out and all of the answers will be beyond imagining.
- If Henry cannot afford an actual therapist for his foster daughter, can we please, PLEASE, get Punky in to at least see a school counselor on a regular basis? A girl who 1) was separately abandoned by both parents, 2) has run away multiple times, and 3) has lashed out violently toward other students should be in THERAPY. Why has no one mentioned this? I know that counseling existed in the 1980s. I’m pretty sure that young suburban couple who wanted to adopt Punky from Fenster Hall, back in episode two, would have enrolled Punky Brewster in therapy. [Her dream made me feel profound sadness. Every episode of this show leaves me feeling miserable.]
- How seriously do you think Punky took Henry’s declaration of happiness, despite his old and single status? She is an extraordinarily perceptive girl… so, not at all seriously, right? He is the personification of old and cranky. He got engaged to a woman he had not spent time with, in forty years, in last week’s episode – after one date! His life is so devoid of sunshine that he grabs hold of any he can find – even when he should not (*cough* Punky *cough*). And he claims to have friends? What friends? Episode 13…we have not met ANY of Henry’s friends.
This traumatizing show about a little girl slowly slipping through the cracks of society might be too much for me. Well, I am going to continue watching. But… ugh. This ran for four years? And they turned it into a cartoon? I see you Gen X. I understand you better than I once did.
Rounding out my observations:
- Elderly Allen was a delight.
- Elderly Cherie was… cringe. In the year 2020, the “overweight elderly black woman who loves fried chicken” bit might not have made it past the writers room table.
- Young Cherie doing the unwitting chipmunk impersonation was adorbs.
- My “Punky is an alien” theory moves forward: 1) she mentioned future plans to be an astronaut, and 2) she utilized the ever-mysterious but tangible “Punky Power” in her dream.
- Conrad seemed way too old to be in Punky’s grade so I looked into it. Conrad was portrayed by Chad Allen… and I was right! Chad Allen is two years older than Soleil Moon Frye.
The aforementioned Chad Allen (Conrad) is best known for portraying Matthew Cooper on the TV series “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” He was also a regular on “My Two Dads” playing Zach Nichols. And prior to that he was a cast member on the series “Our House.” Or you might remember Chad Allen as the autistic “Tommy Westfall” from the series “St. Elsewhere.” He played a prominent role as the show wrapped, and in particular, he played a major role in the shocking finale.