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 later, 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 CLEAN AND QUICK SUMMARY:
Mike assigns Punky’s class a family tree project and it causes some despair for her. Mike notices. He decides, with Henry’s blessing and assistance, to work on finding both Punky’s mother and his own mother. He was given up for adoption as a baby and raised in a Chicago orphanage.
Henry succeeds in tracking down Mike’s mother, Lois Collins. After she hangs up on Henry, when he calls her, Punky pays her a visit in person. She convinces Lois to meet with Mike. The episode ends with a tearful reunion.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:
We hear the bell ring. Punky is running down the stairs and bumps into a teacher in the hallway. She apologizes to Mrs. Rutledge and tells her that she is late to class. The teacher asks for her name and Punky tells her.
Mrs. Rutledge: Punky Brewster? Strange name.
NOTE: “Mrs. Rutledge” is portrayed by Peyton B. Rutledge. Peyton was the original “Punky Brewster” when the late NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff was little. At the time, she was a tomboyish older girl whom young Tartikoff had a crush on. (The “B.” initial is her maiden name Brewster, and her married name is Rutledge.) When Tartikoff grew up and later became a programming chief at NBC, he thought the name “Punky Brewster” would be a good name for the title character of a sitcom about an old man who adopts an abandoned waif. He had NBC’s lawyers track her down (she was married to an attorney in Connecticut) and gained her legal permission to use her name for the series.
In class, Mike tells everyone to open their books. Cherie sees Punky in the doorway and tells Mike that there is a kangaroo sitting on the flagpole. She motions her friend inside while the teacher looks out the window.
Mike: I don’t see any kangaroo – just Punky sneaking in late.
Mike is having the class study health. Cherie reads from her book about the study of the history of a family is called genealogy. She struggles with the word. Mike explains to the class what a family tree is. Margaux offers that she knows all about her heritage and says that the Kramers are the crème de la crème of Chicago society. The classroom boos her.
Mike asks the class how many of them have been to a family reunion. Everyone but Punky raises their hand. Jason – one of Punky’s Japanese classmates – states that he has been to a family reunion in Japan.
Margaux: We Kramers gather every summer at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco.
Allen: We Andersons go to Bernie’s Bowling Alley in Peoria. My grandpa is the original Bernie.
Mike assigns the class the homework assignment of drawing their own family tree with help from their mothers and fathers. The camera zooms in on a sad Punky as this assignment is given.
[The melancholy look on her face sends down a bucket into my personal well of sadness where many tears will soon undoubtedly be drawn forth therein.]
At home, Henry and Brandon are sitting together at the kitchen table working on a jig saw puzzle. Henry complains that he has been looking for a specific piece for an hour and states that the only possible explanation is that the puzzle piece is missing. Brandon the Good Boy has a guilty look on his face. Henry notices. Henry lifts up Brandon’s paw and finds the missing piece under it. Henry pets Brandon because he is a GOOD BOY.
Henry gets up and finds Punky sitting sadly on the living room couch. He asks her if she is okay. She lies and says she is fine. We see a picture of a tree she has drawn that has no names on it.
Henry asks if she is sure and asks again what is bothering her. She confesses that she misses her mom. He tells her that is natural because she loves her mother and misses her.
Punky: Right now I miss her an extra lot.
Henry: Maybe it would help if you thought of all the nice memories you have of her.
Punky: Memories aren’t enough Henry. I can’t touch a memory. I can’t hug or kiss a memory. I can’t sit on a memory’s lap. Memories don’t even have laps. I know I sound like a little baby, Henry, but I want my mommy.
She cries. Henry hugs her. The next day, Punky is sitting up in her treehouse with a pinwheel moving in the wind, a sad look still on her face. Mike has come to visit. He yells hello up to her. He asks if she wants company and she says sure. When Mike gets to the top of the treehouse, he tells her that Henry called him over because he is worried about Punky.
Punky: He’s always worried about something. I think the worry part of his brain is overdeveloped.
Mike asks if it hurt her feelings when talking about families at school and she tells him it is not his fault. She says it just hurts her because everyone has a family except for her. Mike tells her that he knows how she feels and shares that he was put up for adoptions when he was only a few days old. He gives Punky the note to read, that his birth mother left with him when he was given up for adoption.
Punky notices that Mike’s mother did not sign the note and he tells her that he does not even know what his mother looks like. He tells her though that he imagines she is where he gets his good looks. Mike then tells Punky that he asked Henry if the two of them can work on a project together. He tells her that Henry said yes and agreed to help them.
Mike: Punky what if you and I try to find our moms?
Punky: You really think we could!?
Mike: We can try!
Punky yells down to Brandon that she and Mike are going to try to find their mom. Brandon the Good Boy barks, rolls, and barks again.
Punky’s idea for finding her mom is via advertising. She suggests newspapers, billboards, and sky writing. She also suggests hiring the Goodyear Blimp to fly over the Super Bowl. Mike tells her it will not be that easy. He instead suggests putting together a list of facts that they know about their respective mothers. Henry agrees and states that each of those facts is a potential clue. Henry suggests looking for birth records, marriage records, and hospital records to start their search. Mike says they will do the work as a team and Henry reiterates saying they are all in this together.
Six weeks later, Henry and Punky have a piles of papers on Henry’s home office desk.
Punky: So far I know all the places my mom doesn’t work, all the cities she doesn’t live in, and all the property she doesn’t own.
Henry: Are you getting discouraged?
Punky: No, because I also know all the hospitals where she isn’t sick.
Henry abruptly stands up to use the telephone. He says that he has found the name of a woman who gave birth in the hospital where Mike was born, on the night that Mike was born. Henry is hoping that she can give him some information about the other women in the hospital that night.
Henry speaks on the phone with a woman named Lois Collins and he asks if her maiden name was Baker. She tells him it was. He asks if she gave birth on the night that Mike was born and she gets upset and asks if he is trying to blackmail her. Henry tries to calm her down and tells her that he is attempting to find his friend Mike Fulton’s birth mother. She hangs up on Henry.
Punky: What happened?
Henry: I’ve found Mike’s mother.
Punky: [excitedly] You have?!
Henry: She refuses to see him. How do I tell Mike that I’ve ruined his only chance to speak to his mother?
Punky wants to be the person who tells Mike because she says the same thing could also happen to her. She says she believes she knows exactly what Mike would do if this happened to her.
In the next scene, Punky rings a woman’s doorbell. Punky tells her that she is selling candy for her school band. The woman invites Punky inside while she fetches her pocketbook. The woman tells Punky that she has a grown daughter who was in the band, when she was in school, and that her daughter used to sell candy, too. The woman says she also has a son. She asks Puny what instrument she plays. Punky tells her that she plays the piano. When the woman seems confused by that, Punky corrects herself and says the tuba. The woman says she does not seem big enough to carry a tuba.
Punky: Well, I don’t exactly carry it. They sort of get it rolling down the field, then I jump inside and then blow.
The woman finally tells Punky she is not going to give her any money and Punky says that’s good because she does not have any candy to sell. The woman asks her what she is up to. Punky confesses that she is here to talk to the woman about Mike Fulton. She asks the woman if she wants to see him and Punky tells her that Mike is really cute.
The woman, Lois, walks over to the mantle and talks to herself. “They promised me they’d keep those records confidential.” Punky tells her that Mike does not know about her, or that Punky is there talking with her. She tells Lois that Henry, her foster father, is the man she talked to on the phone. Punky also tells her that Henry is trying to help both her and Mike find their mothers.
Woman: Who is Mike to you?
Punky: He is my fourth grade teacher and my friend.
The information given by Punky appears to overwhelm her. Lois tells Punky she is very busy right now and that Punky needs to go. On her way out the door, Lois says, surprised, “he’s a teacher?” Punky walks right back inside and tells her that Mike is the best teacher in the school and that she would be proud of him. Lois tells Punky that her husband and children do not know that she had a child before she met her husband. She tells Punky she cannot tell them after all of these years. She tells Punky that she does now know how she feels and Punky replies that she knows how Mike feels.
Punky tells her that she does not know where her own mother is, either, and that she wishes with all of her heart to see her mother again. Lois is surprised and moved by that. Punky walks to the door. On her way out, she tells Lois that if she could see her mom one more time she would make the moment last forever.
Punky leaves and Lois sits contemplatively.
Mike is alone in his classroom. Lois is at the school and standing in the door way. She watches him cleaning the chalkboard with tears in her eyes. Mike notices her standing there and asks if he can help her.
Lois: I’m looking for a teacher?
Mike: Which one?
Lois: Michael Fulton.
Mike: Well, you’re in luck, ’cause you found him.
Lois: So I have.
She tells Mike she is here about her son. Mike asks if her son is in this class and she says yes. Lois goes on to tell Mike that she has something startling to tell her son but she does not know how to go about it. Mike tells her that children can be a lot more understanding that we think and he suggests that she tell her son whatever it is as simply and honestly as possible.
Mike: What’s your little boy’s name?
Lois: Michael Fulton.
Mike is stunned. Lois introduces herself and tells him that she is his mother. Mike is overwhelmed, says wow, and walks around the room, tells her he has been looking all over for her, shakes her hand, and says wow again. Mike gathers himself.
Mike: How did you find me?
Lois: You can thank your little friend Punky Brewster.
Lois remarks on how tall Mike is and he stands up straighter and tells her that he has always been tall. He tells her the guys at Fenster used to call him “Too Tall Fulton.” Lois asks him what Fenster is and he tells her.
Mike: Fenster Hall. That’s the orphanage where I grew up.
Lois tells Mike that she was sixteen when he was born and that his father split the moment he learned she was pregnant. Mike interrupts her and tells her that she is here now. Lois goes to tell Mike that she is married now and with a family. He has a half-brother and half-sister. Mike learns that his half-brother is a P.E. teacher at Central High School.
Mike: No kidding. You mean we both became teachers?
Lois: And you both have your grandfather’s eyes.
[Mike is stunned.]
Mike: I’ve got a a family. I’ve actually got a family.
Lois is crying. Mike calls her mom and tells her he has been waiting to say “Mom” his entire life. They hug.
Punky is lying on her flower cart bed. Henry calls for lights out and bedtime. Punky asks to do her prayers, first. She thanks God for helping Mike to find his mom. She tells God that Mike is having dinner with new family tonight and she asks God that He please not let anything burn. She asks God to help her find her own mom, too. Henry is listening in on her prayer and hears Punky thanking God for sending Henry to her.
Punky: He’s the best family I’ve ever had.
Well, what’s the reaction to an episode like this beyond just crying your way through the whole thing?
This is one of the few episodes of this show, so far, wherein you leave feeling like wrongs are being righted. If anyone deserves that, other than just Punky, it is Mike. That should give our little heroine some hope moving forward.
I think the touching, sad, relatable part of this episode is that you as the viewer can understand Lois’s choice to give Mike up. You also understand her hesitancy to reveal a lifelong secret to her family, too. Mike – having worked at Fenster Hall for years – also understands. That said, it is clearly a new challenge for him to apply what he knows intellectually, to himself, emotionally. He handles it well.
What do I think about Punky not finding her mom right away? Well, that is expected. I kind of feel like Punky finding her mom essentially ends this show. However, I am pleased that the show is adding some realism to her character. OF COURSE a little girl would be hung up on finding her mom. It has been a strange undercurrent to this show, so far, that she has not been more hung up on it.
Saddest line of the show?
Punky: I know I sound like a little baby, Henry, but I want my mommy.
One change that has occurred this season is that Henry has moved from cranky recent hermit into being an almost ideal grandfather figure. I appreciated Season 1 Henry because it felt like a realistic portrayal of how someone who has lived alone his entire life might react to living with someone like Punky. That said, I now appreciate that Season 2 Henry has grown into the role he adopted for himself.
Margaux’s family continues to intrigue me. Summers in Monaco? Why is a child of such apparent privilege at Punky’s school? Is her mom from a well-to-do family that married into poverty for love? Are they formerly wealthy but now the victims of a lost fortune? I hope we eventually get some answers.
This was one of my favorite episodes so far. It is exhausting to see rays of sunshine like Mike and Punky hidden behind the storm clouds of life, constantly. It was a joy to see the sunlight burst through for Mike.