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:
Punky’s plans to move in with Mrs. Johnson fall through. She runs away from Fenster Hall to get help from Mike Fulton. Chillings, Punky’s caseworker, agrees to let her go home with Henry provided that Henry gets well and reopens his business.
Henry tries to leave the hospital too soon, has a sudden flare up of his ulcer, and collapses.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
We get enough of a recap to feel punched in the gut again about the most recent episode. Yay for that.
Picking up from where we left off last time, Punky thinks she is officially adopted. She brought Henry – lying in his hospital bed – some balloons to celebrate. Little does she know that Mr. Chillings has just decided, moments before she entered the room, that she is being taken back to Fenster Hall by Mr. Chillings. Mrs. Johnson sends the girls out into the hallway because they have not yet finished talking to Mr. Chillings. Punky assumes it is because Henry has not finished signing the papers and she and Cherie happily leve.
Henry: [once the girls are gone] How am I gonna tell Punky that she has to go to Fenster Hall?
Mrs. Johnson says that she will not have to. She offers up her own home as a place for Punky to stay until Henry is on his feet again. Mr. Chillings sits down and says that there are temporary custody guidelines for situations such as this one. He tells Mrs. Johnson that Punky will have to stay at Fenster for at least three days while he investigates her for fitness as a temporary custodian. Chillings apologizes about her having to go to Fenster but says that it is procedure. Henry asks him if he can bend the rules, for the sake of a little girl, just this once.
Chillings: Bend the rules? My good man, rules are the only thing that separate us from the lower animals.
He asks Henry if he would like to say goodbye to Punky, before he takes her, and Henry sarcastically says “how kind of you.” Chillings missed the sarcasm and notes that he tries to be sensitive. Chillings and Mrs. Johnson leave the room.
Punky enters. She greets Henry, with a huge smile on her face, and calls him Dad. Henry tells her to sit down because there is something he needs to tell her. She obliviously states that she already knows but that she wants to hear him say it.
Punky: I’m adopted! [celebrates]
Henry gets her to stop dancing and tells her that he cannot adopt her. She asks him if he wants her and he says more than anything. He explains that Mr. Chillings says that he cannot adopt her until he gets his business going again and he then says he cannot get his business going again until he gets out of the hospital.
Punky offers to nurse Henry back to health by staying at the hospital.
Henry: Punky, you can’t stay here.
Punky: Where will I live?
Henry: Fenster Hall.
He explains that it will be for three days and with luck, then she can stay with Mrs. Johnson and Cherie until he comes home again.
Henry: Even though we may be separated for a little while, our hearts will always be together. [Henry tears up and Punky cries]
He tells her that she will leave for Fenster Hall with Mr. Chillings. She goes to the door and says goodbye. He tells her that it is not goodbye, it is “see you later.” She says it feels like goodbye.
Chillings takes Punky to Fenster Hall. She looks around. Just as her spirits seem to be lifting, she sees a place where she wrote in marker on a window ledge:
Punky left here 9/30/84 and I’m never come back!
Chillings brings her inside to meet her roommates. They groan when she comes in saying that it is too crowded in the room already. He tells them that he wants them to make Punky feel at home. He then gets several of the girls’ names wrong when attempting to introduce them. One of the girls puts a sign on his back, covertly, that says “Sorry I was born this way.” When they laugh he says “that’s the spirit!”
Punky gets a cold reception from every girl in the room except the very young Anna. Punky attempts to talk to Anna and is rebuffed by Anna’s older sister, Liz. Finally, one of the girls, Weezie, asks Punky if she is up to date on the show Dynasty. The Fenster Hall television is broken and she has missed recent episodes. Punky tells her that her foster father does not let her watch Dynasty. Liz asks Punky if she is the same Punky who wrote the message in the hallway. Punky replies that she is and Liz calls Punky a “lifer.” Punky says she is not a lifer and the girl insists that it is true. Liz goes on to say that there are two types of kids: lifers and Bradys. Weezie starts describing the kids from The Brady Bunch and the girls talk about how Bradys are perfect kids with perfect parents whose primary problems are things like closets. Liz says that kids like the ones in the room they are in will never have parents like the Brady parents. Punky says Henry is like that and that he cannot wait to take her back.
Liz: Back? Fosters never take you back.
Punky: Henry will.
Liz: Forget it kid, you’re dreaming!
Mr. Chillings meets with Mrs. Johnson and tells her that she is not qualified to take Punky on an emergency basis. She is not happy with him for saying that. Chillings says that the rules require that Punky have her own room in any place wherein she is staying.
Mrs. Johnson: Let me get this straight. Now Punky is not allowed to share a room with her best friend. She has to go to Fenster Hall and share a room with four strangers?
Mr. Chillings: Well, uh, yes.
Mrs. Johnson: Well the bozo who came up with that rule ought to have his qualifications checked.
Mr. Chillings: [walks closer] Now come on…
Mrs. Johnson: Touch me… and you die!
She walks out of the room. Mr. Chillings says to the air that rules are the only thing that separate us from the lower animals. He asks Brandon if he is right and Brandon THE GOOD BOY growls at him. Brandon grabs a picture from a dresser and runs out the door with it.
At Fenster Hall, Punky is stacking dominoes into the shape of a building. Suddenly, Brandon is at the window, picture in his mouth, pawing at her window. She asks him if he misses her as much as she misses him and he barks. She tells him she will be with him, Cherie, and Mrs. Johnson in a day or so. They both see Mr. Chillings coming. Brandon gives Punky the picture and leaves again through the window to avoid notice.
Mr. Chillings arrives with her things. Punky says that it looks as though he brought everything and she says she will not be in Fenster Hall that long. Mr. Chillings tells her that Mrs. Johnson does not qualify as a temporary emergency caregiver. She asks him how long he will be staying there. He says he does not know, exactly, but that it could be quite a while. When he steps into her closet, to begin putting away her things, she uses one of her bandanas to lock him inside the closet. She leaves through the window with one of her bags and Brandon.
We next find Punky at school with Mike Fulton. He says that he has heard she will get to live with Mrs. Johnson and she informs him that Chillings will not let her live with Mrs. Johnson. She tells Mike that she does not know what to do and that he is her last hope.
Mike: What do you want me to do?
Punky: Just… fix it.
Punky: I don’t know. Just fix it, please?
Mike tells her that he has to take her back to Fenster. He suggests that he might be able to talk to the person in charge of her case and help her out. She thanks him and hugs him. When she tells Mike that Mr. Chillings is in charge of her case, Mike suddenly looks much less optimistic.
In Chillings’ office, Mike pleads Punky’s case. Chillings is angry that she locked him in the closet and refers to Punky as a wildcat. Mike tells him that Henry loves her and that they all do. Chillings tells Mike there is something on his sleeve. When Mike looks down and asks what, and Chillings replies “your heart.” Chillings does not like Mike, either, due to the preference of the kids at Fenster Hall for Mike’s way of running the place compared to his own.
Mike says that he wants what is best for Punky and Mr. Chillings says he wants the same. When Mike asks him to reconsider letting Punky stay with Mrs. Johnson, Chillings waits about two seconds before saying no. Mike tells him she would only be staying there until Henry is on his feet again. Chillings replies that he is reconsidering whether Punky should have been placed with Henry at all. He tells Mike that he is considering placing Punky with other foster parents.
Mike: That little girl and that old man love each other.
Chillings: The key word is old.
Mike: No, the key word is love. Simon, have a heart. Can’t you just give Henry a little more time?
Chillings agrees to give Henry more time on the condition that Mike leaves his office. Mike says that it’s a deal. Chillings brags that he sees the whole picture and is not blinded by emotion. When he turns around, we see that the “Sorry I was born this way” sign placed on his back earlier is still there.
In the hospital, Henry is outraged that Chillings would not let Punky stay with Mrs. Johnson. Mrs. Johcson replies that he was born with a rule book in place of his heart. Henry – who is not healthy yet – gets out of his hospital bed. He says he needs to get out of there.
Henry: The sooner I get my life together, the sooner I get Punky back.
As he is packing his things, the phone beside his hospital bed rings. It is Punky. They tell each other that they miss one another. Punky relays Mike’s conversation with Chillings to Henry. She tells Henry that as soon as he gets well and re-opens his studio, Punky will get to come home with him. She says she hates to rush him, but she wants to know if he can pull it off by Friday. He replies that Friday sounds fine. He says he is leaving the hospital right now. He tells Mrs. Johnson, in the room with him, to get his suitcase. She replies that she should get him a straight jacket.
As he is telling Punky that first thing the next day, he is taking out a loan, he has another flare up. He is unable to finish his sentence with her and collapses. Punky hears this happen and asks him through the phone what is the matter.
Punky: Henry! Henry!
to be continued…
Obviously this is traumatic. Maybe I’m just desensitized to this show right now. But everyone knows that she will eventually end up at home with Henry again. It’s just a question of how they pull it off. This particular trauma is not hitting me as hard as previous traumas from this show.
I also want to point out that if Mr. Chillings had been Punky’s case worker, when season 1 started, Punky would be in a stable home, would have formed bonds with a new family in a financially stable environment, and would have been spared the calamities she has faced since moving in with Henry (home invasion, serial killer, cave demon, etc.) Chillings is actually right about Punky’s situation. He’s just about two years too late. Pulling a girl who has been abandoned, twice, away from Henry so abruptly is not a positive anymore. It would have been fine when she’d only been there a few days.
With respect to Punky staying with Mrs. Johnson… am I supposed to believe that she would not have moved Cherie into her own room so that Punky could have “her own room” (i.e. Cherie’s room) temporarily?
The highlight of this episode was Brandon. He growled at Chillings. He somehow not only got to Fenster Hall, with a picture in his mouth, but he found Punky’s window. I’m pretty sure he came from whatever lab of superhero kids that Punky was created in.