Punky Brewster (Season 2, Ep 23): Love Thy Neighbor

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 QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

While trick or treating, Punky and her friends are treated poorly by her neighbor Mrs. Peevy – who Allen believes to be an actual witch. Since Mrs. Peevy refused to give them treats, Punky drew the short straw and was assigned the task of giving her a trick. It did not go well and Punky was caught. When she fled, she left Brandon inside the old woman’s apartment. Later, Mike retrieved Brandon for Henry and Punky and learned Mrs. Peevy’s backstory. She was injured by a child’s reckless play and it ended her dance career. She has hated children ever since. Before Mike takes Brandon home, the good dog bonds with the older woman first.

Mike tells Punky what he learned about her and she feels awful about her behavior and wants to go visit the woman to talk to her some more. At Mrs. Peevy’s apartment, the older woman does not answer the door. Brandon scratches and barks to get inside. Mike uses Brandon’s behavior to decide to kick Mrs. Peevy’s door in. When they get in, they find Mrs. Peevy collapsed on the floor with a broken hip. Punky waits with her until help arrives. Later, Mrs. Peevy gets out of the hospital and visits Henry and Punky. She thanks Punky for saving her life and tells them that she is done wasting her life with bitterness. She even talks Henry into going dancing with her.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:

Our latest Punky Brewster adventure into the realm of sadness and despair sees our little children Trick or Treating. Punky is dressed in a 1950s outfit, Cherie is dressed as Tony the Tiger and Allen is dressed as Rambo – complete with fake beard and fake muscles.

Neighbor: How’d you split your lip Rambo?
Allen: I tripped over my muscles.

Punky is last to get candy. When her neighbor compliments her outfit, Punky says the woman does not look old enough to remember the 1950s. Clever Punky gets some extra candy.

Standing behind the children are Henry and Brandon. Brandon is dressed just like Henry. Henry is dressed… as himself.

Across the hall, the children see a sign that says “No soliciting.” Henry warns them that they should skip this apartment. However, Punky reads a note below it that says “That means you, Bub!” and decides that the sign must only apply to people named Bub. She knocks. Allen suddenly realizes that this is Old Lady Peevy’s apartment.

Old Lady Peevy emerges holding a broom, bristles up, and asks some now frightened children what they want.

Kids: [sheepishly] Trick or treat.
OLP: And I’m supposed to give you candy. Well, have you done anything to earn it? ANSWER ME! Have you?!
Punky: No…
OLP: Don’t interrupt me! You’re a pair of miserable beggars. You’re just pathetic.

Henry tries to interrupt her tirade and in so doing refers to her as “my good woman. She tells him that he has no idea whether or not she is actually a good woman and she says she is certainly not his. The then shouts for them to get out.

Back at Henry’s apartment, the kids discuss Old Lady Peevy in Punky’s room. Cherie asks why she is so mean and Allen tells them that Old Lady Peevy is a witch. He reminds them of someone named Joey Maloney. He apparently went to Old Lady Peevy’s apartment to retrieve a softball that went through her window and that, according to Allen, is the last time anyone ever saw him.

Punky: I thought Joey Maloney moved to Indianapolis.
Allen: Sure. That’s what they say. But we know what really happened.
Punky: We do?
Allen: Yeah! Old Lady Peevy baked him in her oven!
Punky: Why?!
Allen: Because he wouldn’t fit in the microwave.

Allen suggests to the two girls that they play a trick on her. He wants to fill a bag with shaving cream, set the open part by her door, and then stomp on it, so that it will send the shaving cream everywhere. Punky decides that this sounds like a job for Rambo. Allen says Rambo is too noisy. Allen suggests that they need someone sneaky and quiet, like a tiger. Cherie – still in her Tony the Tiger costume – says no way.

Punky suggests that they draw straws – with the shortest straw having to go. Punky warns her friends that they should watch out because she feels lucky tonight.

Next we see Punky, with Brandon in tow, creeping through the hallway with a can of shaving cream in her hand. The camera moves through the hallway from Punky’s eye level. She fills a bag with shaving cream and sets it in front of Old Lady Peevy’s door. Just as Punky stands and begins to back away, the door bursts open and Mrs. Peevy grabs Punky.

OLP: Gotcha! [cackles]

She pulls Punky into her apartment and asks her what she was planning. Punky says she was going to give her dog a shave but Mrs. Peevy says Punky was going to give her the famous flying fogle. Punky is surprised that she knows about it and Mrs. Peevy tells her that some rotten kid tries it on her nearly every Halloween. Punky asks if it would help to say she’s sorry.

OLP: Well, that depends. Are you sorry because you did it or sorry because I caught you.
Punky: Both.
OLP: Well then it doesn’t matter!

The old lady shows Punky a ball with Joey Maloney’s name on it.

OLP: Broke my window and then had the gall to come and ask for it back. [cackles] That’s one ball he’ll never have back again.

We hear a ding and Mrs. Peevy says her oven is all heated up. Punky screams and runs out the door. In the hallway, though, she hears Brandon barking from inside the old woman’s apartment. She stops. She tearfully cannot decide whether to go back and save her dog, or not. Brandon scratches at the door trying to escape.

In the next scene, Punky is explaining things to Henry. She apparently abandoned her GOOD BOY in Mrs. Peevy’s apartment and went for adult backup. Mr. Warnimont is not at all happy with Punky.

Henry: Let me get this straight. You played a prank on a helpless old woman, you got caught, and then you ran off without your dog.
Punky: That’s another way of putting it.

Henry tells her to go to her room and stay there. When she asks for how long, Henry tells her not to make plans until after college.

Punky: But what about Brandon?
Henry: Go to bed. I’ll take care of Brandon.

[Speaking as Brandon’s attorney from the future… you better.]

Henry says to himself that he will take care of that old bat, too, because she does not scare him… then he opens the door and shouts when he finds Mike in a skeleton costume. Mike tells Henry that Punky called him. He tells Henry that Punky was worried about telling Henry about Brandon because she was worried about him sending her to her room until after college.

Henry complains to Mike about how difficult his night was. Apparently, it is difficult to be an old man and to go trick or treating, for two miles, with a group of nine year olds.

Henry: I’m old! There aren’t many miles left in these legs.

Henry goes on to say that just as he thought he could settle down for a nice read before bed, he has this situation with Brandon and Mrs. Peevy thrust upon him. Mike tells Henry that Punky genuinely believes Mrs. Peevy is a witch. Henry replies that he set Punky straight, however, he says, if witches did exist, Mrs. Peevy has the right face for it.

Mike suggests to Henry that he go instead of Henry, as he believes Henry seems upset. Henry lets him go.

In Mrs. Peevy’s apartment, she is crocheting. Brandon approaches her and puts his nose on her hand. She begins to pet his head while simultaneously calling him pathetic. Mike knocks on the door. After some negotiation, Mrs. Peevy lets Mike inside. Once he mentions that he is a friend of Punky Brewster’s, she ominously closes the door behind him.

Mrs. Peevy asks why Punky did not come to get Brandon herself. Mike tells her, hesitantly but honestly, that Punky is afraid that she is a witch. Mrs. Peevy tells Mike that his little friend is impudent and irresonsible.

Mrs. Peavy: Imagine leaving this sweet dog here and sending someone else to come and get him. [She pets Brandon.]

Mike stands up for Punky and tells Mrs. Peevy that Punky is a good kid and one of his brightest students. She is appalled that Mike would spend his life with children.

Mike: Why do you dislike children so much?
Mrs. Peevy: I don’t dislike them. I hate ’em.

After she stuns Mike into silence with that statement, she tells him to get a trophy off her fireplace mantel. Mike reads the trophy and learns that Isabel Peevy was a grand prize winning ballroom dancer in 1973.

Mike: You must have been really good.
Mrs. Peevy: You bet your butt I was. And I’d still be dancing if it wasn’t for some rotten kid.

Mike asks her what happened and she tells him. She recalls that she told some kids many times not to ride their bicycles on the sidewalk. However, one day she was walking down the sidewalk and a child crashed his bike right into her.

Mrs. Peevy: He didn’t even stop! But the dancin’ did.

Mike tells her how sorry he is but then he asks if she needs to blame all children.

Mrs. Peevy: Well if I needed advice I’d ask Dear Abby and not some bag of bones.

Mike tries to tell her that some of the kids in her neighborhood could help her or run errands for her but she is not willing to hear it. She tells Mike to take the mangy dog and get out. She shouts now and then again, on the verge of tears, says now.

Mrs. Peevy: [on the verge of tears] Stop meddling in my life. I don’t need anybody.

In the next scene, we see Mike explaining the situation to Punky. She says that now she feels awful. Mike tells her that she learned a lesson. Punky reflects and thinks that Mrs. Peevy sort of reminds her of Henry when she first met him. She says that all Henry needed was someone to care about him. She then asks Mike if they can be Mrs. Peevy’s friend. Mike declines at first, then says they should go to see her right now.

Punky knocks on her door and she does not answer. The camera shows us that inside of her apartment, she has collapsed onto the floor. Mike and Punky walk away from her door believing she is not at home. Brandon the GOOD BOY will not leave, though. He barks and whines and scratches at her door to get inside.

Punky tells Mike that Brandon would not act this way unless something was wrong. Mike verifies that he is sure… then he KICKS THE DOOR IN. They find her on the floor. She is conscious but cannot speak loudly. She tells them that she fell and that her hip hurts. Mike tells her not to move and he runs to call the paramedics. Punky asks if she needs anything and she asks Punky to stay with her. Punky promises that she will not.

Sometime later, Punky is playing checkers against Mike in Henry’s apartment. Henry whispers something in Punky’s ear and she removes all of Mike’s remaining checkers pieces in one move. The doorbell rings. Punky lets Mrs. Peevy inside.

She requests that the sit and listen and let her talk. Everyone agrees. She says that while she was in the hospital, she began thinking about what would have happened had they not found her. She says she could have died and that she realized in the hospital how alone she is. Punky tells her that she is not alone anymore.

Mrs. Peevy: The point is that one child ruined my life and another child saved it. I wasted twelve years in bitterness and self-pity.

She says that is over and that she is going to start over. She tells Punky to give her a hug. After the hug, Punky tells her that she hopes the hug did not hurt her hip. Mrs. Peevy tells her not to worry because she has a new hip and she is going to teach her new hip how to dance.

Mrs. Peevy: The only thing I don’t have is a partner. [bats her eyes in the direction of Henry] You busy tonight, Pops?

Henry agrees to go. They leave immediately. Punky and Mike do a special / complicated high five and decide to play another game of checkers.

Roll credits.

REACTION:

The real hero of this episode was Brandon. He thawed the heart of an old crone and then saved her life to boot. He’s not just a GOOD BOY. He’s the BEST BOY. This might not even crack Brandon’s personal Top 10 of great deeds, either. Just a couple episodes ago, he helped Punky fight a demonic giant spider. Even Mrs. Peevy could not deny Brandon’s magical goodness.

I have to admit that I was surprised by Punky’s choice to abandon Brandon. It felt like the choice a real nine year old girl might make… but out of character for her.

The Halloween costumes here were good. Allen as Rambo was simultaneously hilarious (bear + fake musles) and disturbing. I suspect some of the disturbing element was that the actor – Casey Ellison – clearly had a busted lip for this episode. I respected Punky’s candy-acquisition game, using her 1950s garb to provide opportunities to flatter the people who open the door. Brandon dressed as Henry was terrific. That said, if I were giving an award for best costume I think I would go with Cherie’s Tony the Tiger. Dressing as a cereal mascot for Halloween is grrrreat.

[I am a Cap’n Crunch man, myself.]

Did I find the substance of this story plausible? Unfortunately, yes. Bitterness can swallow people up and make them irrational. It also builds upon itself. Every bad incident with children, after her first accident, just reaffirmed what Mrs. Peevy decided before. Her bitterness also invited those bad incidents to continue occurring. The more bitter she became, the lonelier she became, and the less able to pull out of her spiral she became.

Of course all kids were not to blame for Mrs. Peevy’s bicycle crash injuries. But did her decision to blame all kids feel realistic to me? Yes. The late Fran Ryan gave a wonderfully realistic portrayal of what a bitter and hardened heart looks like. In my opinion, though, what really set her performance apart is that she also demonstrated how brittle that type of heart can be.

Will we ever find out what *really* happened to Joey Maloney? My money is on Allen being correct.

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