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.
^That’s my usual rule. Unfortunately, The Perils of Punky Part 2 is not on the NBC App. So… I am apparently forced to pay for it via Amazon. I will make that financial sacrifice because I care about you, the reader, and not leaving you hanging. While I am here on Amazon, looking at the entire catalog of Season 2 episodes, I can see that the NBC App will be limiting our Season 2 access by seven (!) episodes (15/22.)
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.
QUICK NOTE (and a minor spoiler) BEFORE THE QUICK SUMMARY:
This episode refers to Native Americans as Indians. This was the common nomenclature in the U.S., for Native Americans, for decades / centuries – including through the 1980s when this show as made. For ease of transcribing / story-telling, I reefer to Native Americans that way in the recap when the characters do.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Punky and her friends start their journey to defeat the evil spirit. Early on, they run into a man who has been torn to pieces. The man has been in that state so long that he cannot remember how he got there and thus he does not remember his own name. Punky guesses the evil spirit did this to him and names the man Mr. Pieces. The kids leave him and set off to find the evil Spirit.
First, they find a tomahawk in an empty room within the cave. Worrying that it belogns to the evil spirit, Punky leaves it. Next, they find a giant spider. While her friends are stuck to its web, Punky and Brandon literally fight it. The tomahawk appears to Punky, magically, and she chops the spider, killing it. However, the trauma from this ordeal causes Margaux to disappear. Soon after, Allen, Cherie, and then Brandon disappear, too. Alone and now face to face with the Evil Spirit, Punky despairs. Princess Moon appears to her and tells her to fight the evil spirit with love. Punky’s love leads her to feel pity for the spirit. Then she directs it to use its powers to feel the love of the whole world – when it does as she directs, it explodes, freeing all her friends, Brandon and even Mr. Pieces.
The kids reappear around the campfire and it *appears* the episode was just a Punky ghost story. Henry and Mrs. Johnson enter the cave and tell them the forest service is looking for them. The fire and the cave art go unexplained. When the kids leave the cave, Punky says bye to Princess Moon – and Princes Moon appears once more and says goodbye to Punky
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:
Good luck, Princess Moon (Frye!)
[In all seriousness, I would listen to nine year old Soleil Moon Frye doing narration any time.]
[Margaux still seems like the obvious choice to be carried away by a creature.]
Inside the cave, the kids find arms and legs stuck to a wall. They limbs seem able to move and are not overtly ominous. Allen leans on a rock and asks where the rest of the guy is and a head pops out at him from that rock, yelling “hey!”
Margaux: Arms can’t move by themselves. Heads can’t talk without a body. You aren’t real!
Body: Yes I am, pull yourself together.
Margaux: Look who’s talking!
Punky asks the man what his name is and he tells her he cannot remember due to how long he has been down in the cave. Punky decides to call him Mr. Pieces. He tells her that many years ago, he was minding his own business, digging for gold, when he heard an evil laugh. They explain to him that it was an evil spirit. Punky tells him they are on their way to fight it.
Mr. Pieces: Good for you. I wish I could get my hands on that evil spirit. Take that! And that! [we see punches being thrown by the detached arms, stuck to the wall, far from the head.]
Mr. Pieces: But ah, who am I kidding! I can’t fight. I don’t have any guts!
[The kids make appropriately disturbed faces]
Allen asks how he passes the time and Mr. Pieces demonstrates some whistling. He says he wishes he could go bowling. The children say goodbye and he wishes them luck.
The children follow Brandon down a narrow path and sit on a ledge staring down. The music turns ominous and Allen nearly falls over the side. Margaux and Cherie catch him, pulling him back up. Punky encourages everyone to go on. The cave shakes but they continue on the ledge safely. As they leave, we see large green eyes on the cave wall once more.
The kids all find a larger room within the cave and go inside. Pink smoke is emanating from a hole in the middle of the room. Next to that hole, Punky finds a tomahawk. Cherie wonders aloud if the tomahawk belongs to the evil spirit. Punky decides to set it down and they all run out of the room.
After they leave, the camera stays on the place where she sat down the tomahawk. The pink smoke billows and the tomahawk rises on its own into the air. It spins in the air and follows after the direction of the children.
In the next room, the music starts to swell ominously as the children come upon an enormous spider web that is blocking their way. [Oh no.] Brandon the Good Boy sniffs to the edge of the web and finds a place under which to crawl. He makes it. Punky goes next… she makes it. One by one they all get across. Just as they breath a sigh of relief, a flash of angry green light bursts from the other side. Allen, Margaux, and Cherie are knocked backward into the spider’s web and become stuck. Punky and Brandon literally fight A GIANT SPIDER. It’s on top of Punky trying to bite her face off. She avoids a bite and crawls under it. Brandon grabs it by a leg and pulls on it. The tomahawk appears next to Punky in a flash of white. She sees it and she picks it up.
She raises it over her head and everything begins moving in slow motion. Punky is bathes in white light, while dramatic rock and roll music plays, and she chops at the giant arachnid with her apparently magical weapon. It screams terribly, the cave shakes, and we see green light all around. The spider EXPLODES and disappears. Then the web disappears, too, freeing the other children. Punky runs over to hug Brandon and deems him to be the bravest dog in the entire world.
The entire ordeal appears to have broken Margaux. She sits on the floor, expressionless.
Margaux: [flatly and without emotion] I can’t any more of this. I’m a delicate person, you know. I have bird bones. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.
Cherie tells Punky that Margaux is flipping out. When Punky decides to give her friend a pep talk, to their surprise, Margaux vanishes in front of their eyes. Allen notes that people just don’t disappear and Cherie reminds him that Margaux did. Suddenly, they hear an evil laughing in the distance.
Punky: Is that the evil spirit?
Evil Spirit: No, it’s Mr. Rogers. Welcome to my neighborhood!
Cherie and Allen tell Punky that they want to go home. Punky tells them that they cannot leave because they have to try to get Margaux back.
Allen: You know, we could get lucky. Once the spirit gets to know Margaux he could be glad to give her back.
Cherie asks how they are going to fight the spirit once they find it. Punky reminds them that the Chief told them to fight it with love.
Allen: What are we gonna do, kiss it to death?
Punky tells Allen that’s a bad attitude and that if they stick together they will be fine. Allen promptly vanishes. When they call out for him, the Spirit’s voice asks if they are looking for someone and laughs menacingly. Punky and Cherie hear Margaux and Allen call out for help.
Punky and Cherie have a plan to communicate constantly with each other.
P: Cherie, you okay?
C: I’m okay. You okay?
P: I’m fine.
C: I’m fine.
P: You alright?
C: I’m alright, you alright?
P: I’m okay, you okay?
The Spirit’s voice says “now you see her, now you don’t.” Punky asks it what it wants and it replies “you!” She tells it that it will not get her. Then she asks it to please give her back her friends now.
Allen’s face peaks through the stone wall, with something black in his mouth, and the spirit demonically speaks “Punky!” through his face. Punky screams. “Cherie” jumps out saying her name but her eyes are caverns of flame. An evil Margaux skeleton, with a fleshy face, descends from the ceiling. She runs.
Further into the caves, Punky and Brandon sit down, back t back. Brandon begins barking. She asks him if he saw what the evil spirit did to their friends. He continues barking. Punky says aloud that Henry must be so worried about them.
Suddenly a vision appears in front of her. Henry and Mrs. Johnson are sitting together in chairs. He asks if she has seen the children and she replies that she only found an empty cave. Henry tells her that they will have to accept the fact that the children are gone. Mrs. Johnson replies that, all in all, it’s no big loss. They discuss how much hard work and expense goes into raising a child. The two then discuss moving on to other things and Mrs. Johnson says she wants to go on a vacation. Henry suggests that they go home and make reservations.
Punky cries and begs them, in the vision, not to leave her. She suddenly realizes that the vision is a trick.
P: That evil spirit is trying to fool us, right Brandon?
[Punky turns and sees that Brandon is now a moving skeleton]
Punky is now truly alone. Ahead she sees a shimmering light, with two glowing red eyes, on a face that looks owl-ish, with hands that appear to have long knife-like fingers, and the voice speaks.
Spirit: We meet at last.
It asks her if she hates him and she says that she does. She begins to give it some sass and it commands her to be silent with a small explosion. She mimes zipping her lips and throwing away the key. It asks her if she fears him and she nods yes. Then it tells her that next she must die.
Spirit: The only question is how?
Punky: Old age?
It suggests turning her into a cute little white mouse. She says that doesn’t sound so bad. Then it says he will feed her to his snakes. Punky drops to the ground in despair.
Suddenly a glowing white light appears in front of Punky. It takes the form of a young Indian girl. Punky asks who she is and the Indian girl tells her that she is Princess Moon. Princess Moon tells Punky that her anger and fear are making the spirit stronger.
Punky: What should I do?
Princess Moon: Trust in your heart!
The ghost begins to disappear. Punky pleads to please not leave her. The Evil Spirit tells Punky she must face him alone. Princess Moon tells Punky she can win but she has to let love be her sword. Punky finally seems to understand.
The Evil Spirit attacks her with fire and she says she is not afraid of him anymore. She tells it that she can stand the heat. Then it says, “then freeze” and the cave turns blue and cold. Punky tells the Spirit that she does not hate it anymore. She says she feels sorry for it.
Spirit: You feel sorry for me?
Punky: Yes! You’ll never know what it’s like to love someone and how wonderful it feels.
It threatens to kill her and everyone like her and she tells it that it can’t. She tells him that most people are good and kind. She then tells it to use its power to feel the love across the earth.
Evil Spirit: Oooh. I feel it. It hurts! Nooooo!!!!! [Explodes}
Punky: Holy macanoli!
A moment later, Punky’s three friends and dog reappear. Mr. Pieces reapears, too, and in a whole body. He invites them to go bowling.
We flash to Punky finishing a ghost story by the fire they found at the entrance to the cave. She tells her three friends that the kids and Mr. Pieces left the cave and lived happily ever after. Allen tells her that’s the best ghost story he’s ever heard. They hear a thump sound and scream. Henry and Mrs. Johnson enter the cave.
Henry: We were worried sick about you!
Mrs. Johnson: The entire U.S. forest service is out looking for you half-raised things.
Punky explains that Brandon chased a rabbit, that they got lost, and then they found the cave. Henry says they can explain all the details later but right now they need to let everyone know they are all safe and sound. Everyone leaves the cave but Punky goes last. At the mouth of the cave, Punky turns and says “Goodbye, Princess Moon!” A light appears and Princess Moon appears, after she goes, and says “Goodbye, Punky! And thank you!”
Was it all real? Yes, friends. Yes it was. The appearance of Princess Moon at the end confirms it but it’s not the only confirmation. The unexplained fire and the cave art remain, too. Did Punky really tell one ghost story that lasted long enough for Henry and Mrs. Johnson to get the U.S. Forest service on-sight and crawling all over the camp ground? No. I don’t buy it.
The entire episode was real. Clearly everyone was transported back to the fire after the demon was vanquished and only Punky remembers that the events were real.
Knowing that this was all 100% real, let’s talk about it.
- Mr. Pieces was a pretty nightmarish character. The nightmare is not that he was evil but rather than he was not. He was ripped limb from limb and forced to live for an indefinite period of time in a state of limbo with no body and no companionship except the owl demon who murdered him.
- The Giant Spider. The appearance of a giant spider was kind of predictable but the story went to a new level when we not only had a small child fighting it, hand to hand, but also Brandon the Good Boy! Would Punky have survived long enough to use her magic tomahawk if Brandon had died in that car crash last season? That is unclear but it seems less likely. Punky’s magical powers in Season 1 aided her in Season 2.
- The Evil Versions of Punky’s Loved Ones Ranked from most evil to least evil:
A. Allen – whatever they were doing with his mouth was just… ick. That whole scene was beyond horrifying.
B. Cherie with the eyes that wee deep caverns of flames were enough to make her – in my eyes – the child apprentice to a baddie in an epic fantasy series. *couch cough* “Wheel of Time” *cough cough*
C. Brandon the Skeleton Dog was terrifying because it happened at all. He’s the one part of Punky’s life that is supposed to endure no matter what – even if she has to raise him from the dead from time to time. It was emotionally traumatic to see him that way.
D. Margaux the skeleton with the fleshy face was the stuff of nightmares. She only ranks here because when healthy she’s the least likable from the list.
E. Henry and Mrs. Johnson being glad to be rid of their kids was not so bad, particularly because it was a giveaway that none of this was real.
The evil spirit himself? In the scare-scene to end part 1, I thought the evil spirit looked like a murder clown.
In this episode, Owah Tagu Siam (sp?) looked like an evil owl demon. He also acted like one. Between the demonic versions of Punky’s friends, the giant spider, and the actual spirit itself when it appeared, it also acted like an owl demon. THIS SHOW WAS MARKETED TO SMALL CHILDREN.
I expected Punky to meet the ghost of Princess Moon and find that she and the Princess are identical. I was not disappointed. However, since we are to believe that what happened in this episode really happened within the Punky-verse, does that mean Punky is a reincarnated Princess Moon? No. At least I don’t think so. If Punky is the reincarnation of Princess Moon, then Princess Moon’s soul could not both be a ghost appearing to Punky and inhabiting Punky at the same time, could it? What are the rules of the spiritual realm in the Punky-verse?
My favorite scene of the episode was Punky’s fight against the giant spider. Honestly, between Brandon’s involvement, the nimbus of light that appeared around Punky, and the magical tomahawk, that might be one of the most epic things to happen in the history of TV. I hope that the magic tomahawk reappears either in the rest of the original run of the show or in the reboot.
I complain a lot about this show being aimed at small children. I stand by that. This episode in particular probably caused countless child night terrors. THAT SAID this episode would have been so much fun to actually make as a child actor. My nine year old self would have gotten a huge kick out of being a scary face on a rock wall.
One last little note on this episode. I really enjoyed Vincent Schiavelli’s “Mr. Pieces.” He was a really terrific actor. You might know of him from Tomorrow Never Dies, Ghost, or his guest spot on Highlander: the Series (if you’re reading my other blog posts.) He gave the Mr. Pieces part – small as it was – the exact right amount of fear for a show aimed at kids… and no more. I think it would have been easy to take a role where you’d been murdered and torn to bits by a demon (but then somehow left alive despite your body parts strewn all over a cave) to a dark place. He managed to somehow distract from that backstory enough to make the part light-hearted.
Anyway… I’ll see you next time for some more childhood trauma.