Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Punky Brewster, Season 1. Spoilers ahead.
THE QUICK & CLEAN SUMMARY:
Punky, Cherie, and Margaux learn that a shipment of Butter Lettuce dolls has arrived at the local toy store. When Henry is only able to purchase one doll, instead of three, the girls draw names from a hat to decide who gets to own the doll. Punky wins. When her two friends, and their mothers, turn on her, Henry teaches everyone to share and get along with one another again.
THE EXTRA DUSTY REVIEW & RECAP:
This episode begins with Cherie, Punky, and Margaux asleep in Punky’s living room. Margaux, of course, is wearing a sparkly pink sleeping mask.
Brandon – with no cast anymore – wakes up and walks into the kitchen to find a yawning Henry.
Mrs. Johnson abruptly opens a back door into Henry’s kitchen and startles him.
H: Mrs. Johnson, you just aged me ten years.
Mrs. J: Who would ever notice?
She asks Henry how it went and then tells him to wake up the girls because she has good news. Henry sends Brandon to wake the girls. The very good boy returns to the living room, licks Punky repeatedly on the face, then pulls on a rope which had been holding up a blanket fort – causing said fort to collapse atop all three girls. The screaming girls are now awake. While they scream, Brandon barks, and both Henry and Mrs. Johnson laugh from the doorway.
After the girls are calm, Margaux asks Punky for moisturizing cream.
Mother says, you’re never too young to look young… and it works, too. I’m 8 1/2 and I don’t look a day over 7.
Brandon makes a face that strongly implies his thoughts: “Yikes, Margaux.”
The girls tell the adults that they had a lot of fun. Punky shares with us that they became “blood sisters” though they used ketchup because blood is too icky. The girls even have a secret ceremony – which they readily share with the adults.
The three girls put ketchup on the tips of their index fingers, touch those fingers together, and say the following:
We are bound together, through all kinds of weather, we’ll be friends forever.
Mrs. Johnson is tearing up while a more skeptical Henry seems to realize that his foster daughter might be moving the direction of their show toward a “Charmed” prequel series. For his part, Brandon the Very Good Boy, seems sad that the girls did not share the finger ketchup with him.
Mrs. Kramer (Margaux’s mom) arrives. I almost forgot that elementary school aged kids usually do not have primary caretakers in their 60s. She is young and dressed somewhat affluently – big jewely, big shoulder pads, popped collar, and all in pink. She looks like an extra from a show like ‘Dallas.”
H: Welcome to our humble abode.
Mrs K: Well put.
Before Margaux leaves with her mother, Mrs. Johnson remembers to share her surprise with the girls. She has learned that a new shipment of “Butter Lettuce” babies has arrived. [These appear to be the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls of the Punky Brewster universe.]
Punky likes the dolls because they are all different and unique, Cherie likes them because you get to adopt them and be their mommy, and Margaux adds “and everyone who is anyone simply must have one.”
Margaux’s mom cannot go to the toy store. She has a hair appointment with a famous hairdresser, Mr. Freyto (sp?). Mrs. Johnson cannot go either. Henry says that he cannot drive to “Dollyland” because his car is in the shop.
H: If I had a car, I’d be happy to get those dolls.
Mrs. K: Here, take mine.
Just like that, with Mrs. Kramer’s keys shoved into his hand, it is now Henry’s job to find three dolls for the three girls. Mrs. Kramer puts Henry’s hat on his head and drags him out the door while the girls cheer. <sarcasm>There is no chance he will fail at this job in spectacular fashion.</sarcasm>
Alone in Henry’s apartment with Mrs. Johnson, the girls have made a list of all the Butter Lettuce accessories. The doorbell rings and the girls believe Henry has returned. However, rather than Henry, Mrs. Kramer has returned first from her appointment with famed stylist “Mr. Freyto.”
Her hair is, uh, different. See below.
A disheveled Henry returns holding a bag. He describes a mob scene. A man in line in front of him was body slammed by a woman who looked like Lyle Alzado (a 1985 audience would know the reference to the former NFL defensive lineman.)
Henry tells the girls that he was only able to purchase one doll. [cue 10 seconds of dramatic music]
Henry decides that the best way to pick the doll’s new owner is to draw names from his hat. Punky offers up Brandon as the party who gets to draw the name. “He won’t cheat. He doesn’t even care.” Brandon, the Very Good Sleepy Boy lifts his head up, then lays it back down.
Henry puts the hat in front of Brandon. He picks up a piece of paper and Henry reads off the name. “It says Punky.” The other two girls immediately say that they want to go home. Mrs. Johnson says “I knew we shouldn’t have used his hat” and Margaux’s mom claims, “…or her dog. This whole thing was rigged from start to finish. Mr. Warnimont, you’ll be hearing from my attorney. I’ll see you in court.”
Later, we find Punky trying to play cards with Brandon and Dorinda – her new Butter Lettuce doll. Henry asks about whether she might want to play with Cherie or Margaux and Punky tells him that they do not want to play. They’ve been ignoring her.
Mrs. Johnson rings the doorbell. Cherie and Margaux are in the apartment hallway behind her. Henry states that he has not seen Mrs. Johnson for days. She clarifies that this is not a social visit. She wants to pay her rent, however, she also wants to claim deductions on said rent.
She comes inside to discuss the deductions and write the check to Henry. Punky then says hello to her friends now standing in the doorway.
M: Cherie, did you hear a voice?
So… it’s going to be like that, is it? The two girls continue. They are going to go get ice cream. Punky asks if she and Dorinda can come, too.
M: Dorinda, you can come if you want to. But not if you bring your wicked stepmother.
P: [very hurt] I’m not wicked. I won Dorinda fair and square.
P: We swore we’d be friends forever. I guess ketchup isn’t thicker than water after all.
Henry must have been observing this villainy. As Margaux and Cherie are about to leave, Henry tells them to come back inside and re-enter Punky’s living room blanket fort while he and Mrs. Johnson go to the kitchen to have a little chat. “There’s a tornado coming.”
Henry asks Mrs. Johnson how they can expect their children to get along if they do not also get along themselves? Then they hug it out and say that they are friends again. When the two of them go back to the living room to see if they can get their children to be friends again, Henry heads in the direction of Punky’s room. He finds Punky there alone with Brandon. She is explaining to her pupper that “Rocky Road is bad for Dorinda’s teeth” anyway.
Henry checks on Punky. She hugs him and tells him that the way her friends are treating her hurts.
P: I might have expected it from Margaux. But Cherie is supposed to be my best friend.
Henry advises her to go talk to them. When she protests that they are the ones being mean, he counters that someone has to make the first move. Punky’s foster father then pretends to talk to Dorinda the doll. The doll is allegedly sad because “she says it’s her fault that you’re fighting with your friends. You got along great until I came along.”
Meanwhile, Mrs. Johnson is talking to the other two girls inside the blanket fort tent in Punky’s living room. She asks each of the girls how things might have turned out had they won the doll.
M: There’d be no problem!
Punky emerges from her room to talk to the other two girls. Cherie finally overrules Margaux’s effort to prevent them from listening. Punky tells Cherie that ever since they started fighting, she has felt bad.
M: I’ve been fine!
Punky plows on and says that she and Dorinda have decided that the three of them should take turns with Dorinda – passing her off from one to the other at the end of each week.
M: It’ll be just like having joint custody!
Then the three girls touch their finger tips together and do their weird little friendship chant. Mrs. Johnson is teary-eyed again. Henry is also teary-eyed because he is hopeful Mrs. Kramer will drop her lawsuit.
The girls look at Dorinda’s adoption papers and see that there is only room for one name. After some futile attempts to combine their names, into one joint name, they suggest “Brandon.” He responds by grabbing the rope of their blanket fort tent and pulling it down on them.
After the heaviness of recent episodes, a more relatable episode about fighting over a doll, and then learning to share, was a good change of pace. Fighting over an impossible to acquire “must-have” toy is also a timeless American tradition – dating back maybe to the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls that this episode was based on. This is one of the most relatable episodes of Punky Brewster to date.
My primary takeaway from this episode is that Margaux must have some redeeming qualities of which I am currently unaware. Even Punky conceded in this episode that one of her two “friends forever” is not that great a girl.
We do find out some of the *why* of Margaux, though. She appears to be just like her mother. How does someone like Margaux end up at the same school as Punky? As best I can tell, everyone at this school, except Margaux, exists only slightly above the poverty line. Margaux’s mother created the impression in this episode that their family lives well above said poverty line. Maybe we will find out more in future episodes.
Brandon appears to have recovered from his near death experience quite well. He had a lot of work to do. He pulled tent ropes and even picked a name from a hat. He was a very good boy.