Hi. Welcome back to my re-watch of Punky Brewster. If you want to read my prior reviews, you can check them out HERE.
I am watching this show on the NBC App. For some reason, not all of the original run episodes are on the NBC app. As a result, I will only review the ones I can see. If I find the missing episodes, I will blog about them, re-number my episodes, etc.
I will provide a short episode summary here at the top, then a long and detailed summary just below that. There’s a sub-section near the bottom (scroll down) labeled “reaction” if you just want to get right to my thoughts about the episode.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Punky has a vivid dream about a treehouse. When she wakes up, she tries to talk her friends and Henry into helping her make it a reality.
She finds out that nobody really wants to do the work on the treehouse. Seeing Punky sad about her situation, her teacher Mike teaches her how to manipulate her friends and family into helping her build the treehouse. By the end of the episode, the project is completed!
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:
Our episode begins with Henry pouring cereal at the kitchen table. Brandon barks at him and Henry pours a bit of cereal into Brandon’s bowl also. Punky enters the kitchen, greets Henry good morning, and begins to ramble about a fantabulous dream she had the night before.
While playing jacks with a worm in the back yard (as one does) a bird took the worm and flew it up into the tree. When Dream Punky looked up, she found a Tree House up there. She apparently drew a picture of what it looked like, before coming to greet Henry, because she presents him with a picture of what it looked like. Henry tells her that it’s beautiful and that when he was a lad, he always wanted a treehouse. He tells her though that he never got one because he never had a tree.
H: Nobody wants a hedgehouse.
Punky asks if they can build it as they apparently have a tree already.
H: Oh, I don’t know, Punky. It would be quite an undertaking.
P: No, it’s a treehouse. It would be an overtaking.
[DustyReviews Note: In Season 1, Punky had to climb a fireescape and rig a pulley to bring Brandon up behind her, when she lived as a squatter in Henry’s building. She was squatting on the same floor that Henry lives on. If you are confused about Henry’s kitchen door access to the outside and to his apparent ownership of a backyard tree… well, so am I.]
Punky tells Henry she will talk the other kids and Mrs. Johnson into helping with the build. Henry notes that it is a good time to build a house because interest rates are down so he agrees and says let’s go for it. After a couple bites of food, Punky dashes off to school. Henry asks Brandon if he wants “seconds” and the good boy barks a yes.
At school, Cherie is having trouble opening a locker door. Mike does some knocking and a hip bump to the door – a trick he says he picked up at Fenster Hall – and gets it opened for her. She says thank you and then she reverently hands him an apple that she says she was getting for him. When he leaves, Cherie grins after him with a very smitten face. Cherie’s friends approach.
Margaux: Cherie, that’s the third apple you’ve given Mike this week!
Allen: Yeah, an apple a day keeps the bad grades away!
Margaux: I think she’s got a crush on him!
Cherie: I don’t have a crush on him! I just think he’s a great teacher! The fact that he’s incredibly handsome has absolutely nothing to do with it!
Punky approaches everyone and asks if they want to know what she dreamed the night before.
Allen: [flatly] Let me guess. You were playing jacks with a worm again.
She lets him know that the dream had a different ending this time and then she tells them about the treehouse. When she shows Allen the picture, he tells her that she draws great in her sleep. Punky tells all of them that Henry said they could build it this weekend. She asks if they want to help and gets an emphatic yes from everyone. Punky says it will be the best Saturday ever.
Cut to Saturday. Cherie and Allen are struggling to pull nails from what looks like an old wooden fence pallet. Punky and Brandon arrive with more wood. Brandon is pulling it in what looks like a Radio Flyer wagon. Cherie and Allen do not look enthusiastic anymore. Margaux arrives in a somewhat formal looking pink dressed and wearing a pink hat.
Punky: Margaux, why are you dressed like that?
Margaux: Because I have impeccable taste.
Margaux is not dressed to help because she is going to meet Nigel St. Clair that morning, instead. After chastising her friends for not reading Architectural Digest, she tells them that St. Clair is the world’s leading closet decorator.
Punky: But what about the tree house?
Margaux: Hmm. I don’t think you can afford him Punky. [puts on sunglasses] Ciao!
A little while later, Mrs. Johnson comes downstairs and tells Cherie that her Aunt Larnese is coming over for dinner. This means Cherie needs to come inside and help to get ready for her visit. Since her Aunt Larnese is a famous complainer, Cherie plans to bake chocolate chip cookies reasoning that she cannot complain if her mouth is stuffed with chocolate chips. Cherie apologizes to Punky and goes inside.
Punky is sad and turns to Allen. He is already wheeling his bike away. He tells her that he just remembered that his aunt is visiting too.
Allen: As soon as I call her!
When all hope seems lost, Henry comes outside in his work clothes. Punky is elated and tells him that he is the bestest foster dad ever. Henry is suprised that the treehouse build is happening today. He tells her that the painter for the new tenants’ apartment did not show and that he has to paint it and get it ready for them to move in.
Punky: You mean you’re deserting me too?
Henry: Punky, I am the apartment manager. It’s my job.
[Come on, Henry. This is the tone and face Punky makes right before she does something insane, runs away, etc. Pay attention and reassure her! Oh, no, you’re just turning around after that exchange and walking inside? Right.]
As the sad Punky Brewster score plays for the viewing audience, Punky sits down alone.
Punky: Who needs a treehouse? All it was is a dumb dream. A dream that’s never gonna come true.
Brandon the good boy comes over and licks Punky’s sad little face.
[Just kidding. Commercial break.]
[Speculation: Punky’s real dad probably promised her a treehouse right before he abandoned her and her mom. He probably had an argument before he left, with her mom, which Punky overheard, regarding said tree house. The real source of Punky sadness is always worse than you can imagine.]
Back at school, Mike tells the class to get out their grammar workbooks. The students all groan. He asks if they would rather see a puppet show. Moments later, Norman Noun and Vera Verb emerge from Mike’s desk.
As Mike teaches them about nouns and verbs, via the magic of quarreling old married puppets, Punky pulls out the picture of her treehouse and stares at it with melancholy eyes. After class, Mike calls Punky over to his desk and tells her that he noticed she was not paying attention during the puppet show. He asks if something is troubling her.
Punky: I used to believe that people can make their dreams come true. But not anymore.
Mike: Really? Why not?
She tells Mike about her dream about the tree house. Mike tells her that sometimes you have to work really hard to make your dreams come true. She tells him that nobody wants to help her build it. She notes that they love the idea but they hate the work. Mike suggests figuring out a way to make the work fun.
Mike begins teaching Punky the fine art of manipulation. Sitting on the stairs below Mrs. Johnson’s apartment, they hold a large canvass cloth and wait for her to come down. When she does, Mike starts telling Punky “it will never work.” Mrs. Johnson asks what they are up to and they explain that they want the cover of Punky’s treehouse to be camouflaged to not scare away the birds. Mrs. Johnson says that is a cute idea. Mike tells her that the problem is that they need someone to sew it together and they do not know anyone who can sew. Mrs. Johnson says that she can sew. Mike thanks her but says they need an expert.
Mrs. Johnson: What do you think I am?
She takes the canvass from the two of them and says she will show them who is an expert.
Punky: Well, if you insist…
Next, at school, Punky plants herself in front of an on-coming Margaux. When Margaux approaches, she asks what Punky is up to. Punky tells her that she is working on the color scheme for the treehouse and asks Margaux what she thinks.
Margaux: How do I put this tactfully? It’s atrocious. Face it, Punky, you’re in over your head. Leave the decorating to me.
Punky: Well… okay. If you insist.
Margaux leaves with Punky’s blueprints and Punky Brewster smiles an evil smile. Mike – who has been watching – flashes her the OK handsign. She returns it to him.
Mike is sitting alone at the base of Punky’s tree when Allen rides up. He says hello and Allen tells him that he came over to show Punky the new tires he just put on his bike. Mikes notes that he must be pretty mechanical and Allen agrees and states that he is gifted. Mike says he wishes was like Allen.
Allen: You do? Wow! Nobody’s ever wanted to be like me… not even me!
Mike: Well I do. You know, if I were good at mechanical thinks, I could figure out a way to make this elevator work for this tree house.
Allen takes Punky’s blueprint and asks for a moment to think. Suddenly he’s got it. He tells Mike that they need to rig a pulley over one of the limbs and describes setting up something heavy to tie to it. Then he says it should work to let them pull Brandon up on the platform. Mike tells Allen that he’s lost and Allen replies.
Allen: Don’t worry about it. I’ll figure it out.
Mike: Well, if you insist.
Mike flashes a thumbs up to a covertly looking-on Punky and she flashes the same back at him.
Inside Punky’s kitchen, Brandon is wearing a chef’s hat. Good Boy Brandon and Punky are decorating cookies. Cherie comes inside and invites Punky to go skating. Punky tells her that she cannot and that everyone is busy working on the treehouse. Cherie says she would like to help and Punky tells her that she thinks they have all the help that they need.
Cherie takes a bite of Punky’s cookies. Well, she tries. Then she knocks it against the counter and makes a banging sound. Cherie says that she thinks there is something she can do. She then tells Punky to step aside and give the Chef some room.
Punky: If you insist.
Finally, Punky and Mike camp out with paint buckets when Henry comes by. They tell him they are having a terrible time painting the treehouse. Henry offers to do it for her and she immediately says “if you insist.” Henry then says that on second thought, if he does it, she will never learn. She says that it will be all runny and streaky if she does it and Henry again says that’s alright and that she will learn from her mistakes.
Mike then says to Punky that they should be ashamed of themselves.
Mike: A man his age is much too old to be climbing up trees.
Henry: Good point. [long pause] Listen you two, you may have conned everyone around here, but you can’t con me.
Mike: We can’t?
Punky: Why not?
Henry: Because it isn’t necessary. I was planning to paint the treehouse all along.
Henry and Mike do an awkward for me to watch elaborate high five that ends in a hip bump, then they get to work on the tree house.
:treehouse construction montage featuring everyone from this episode::
A little while later, Punky’s treehouse is unveiled. The kids are marveling at their work, when Good Boy Brandon barks at them from down on the ground. We try out Allen’s elevator/pulley contraption for Punky’s dog. It requires a child to sit in a tire swing and drop down to the ground with that child’s weight then pulling the dog up. Allen goes down. Brandon goes up.
Punky tells Henry that the treehouse is a dream come true.
Mike climbs up the tree ladder and knocks on the treehouse floor-trap door. They open it and he peaks his head inside. Punky thanks him and tells him that but for him the treehouse would not have been built.
Punky: You’re a genius.
Mike: No, I’m not.
Punky: Yes you are.
Mike: Well, if you insist.
Punky has a dream about a treehouse… so of course she gets to have one. I guess if Henry had said “Punky, we are barely above the poverty line, we live in an apartment building, and we do not have a yard, let alone a tree” the episode might not have lasted as long or been as interesting.
This yard/kitchen door/apartment in urban Chicago business is something you just are not supposed to put much thought in? Even if the opening credits tell us that Henry lives at least a floor or two off the ground level? Oookay. Is it the case that this tree house is only nominally Punky’s treehouse and technically has to be shared with the entire building? Are Punky and Cherie the only kids in this building? I have a lot of questions.
The moral lesson of this episode is that if possible, you should con people into helping you reach your dreams so that you can avoid a lot of hard work. Alternatively, maybe the lesson is “the best con is the one that someone wants to buy into.” Punky did tailor her cons to match up with the interests of the victim. So that’s something?
Should we be alarmed that a school teacher dropped seemingly all of his personal interests – assuming he has them – to follow a nine year old little girl around and teach her how to con her friends and family? I mean… probably. I feel better about Punky hanging out alone with Mike than I felt about her hanging out alone with Henry’s building maintenance guy in Season 1… but I do not feel better about it by much.
Most unintentionally sad and heart-breaking moment that was played for comedy (a likely running theme for this show going forward):
Allen: Wow! Nobody’s ever wanted to be like me… not even me!
Overall, I think this is a relatively good episode. We managed to avoid Punky spiraling into deep depression and terrible dangerous choices. I never once felt a fight or flight impulse due to the stress of watching. So this is an upper tier episode of Punky Brewster.