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:
Allen, Cherie, and Margaux visit Punky at Fenster Hall. With the help of Punky’s roommates, and some wigs, Margaux and Punky swap places so that Punky can visit Henry in the hospital. While at the hospital, Punky overhears Mrs. Johnson telling Mike that Henry will not recover if he does not stop worrying. She also hears Mike tells Mrs. Johnson that Mr. Chillings, her caseworker, plans to place Punky with new foster parents.
Feeling guilty for Henry’s condition, Punky leaves Henry a goodbye note and lets him know that she will be placed in a new home. The episode ends as Henry learns this news from Punky’s note.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
We get a recap where we find out how Henry and Punky had their lives ruined by a fire, financial crisis, Henry’s health crisis, and then the Department of Children and Family Services.
At Fenster Hall, Punky’s roommates are being kind to her about Henry. Weezie asks Punky if she has heard anything yet. Punky says that Henry had an operation the previous night and that now he is in the intensive restroom. Weezie is a television addict and refers to several episodes of television where medical mistakes cause problems for patients. Millie tells Punky that she would never go to a hospital because her Uncle Bernie died in one. Punky now looks worried and she is talking to her picture of Henry and asking him to get well.
Suddenly Cherie, Allen, and Margaux arrive. They have a big group hug. Liz, one of Punky’s roommates, says that she may barf. She and Margaux have a face to face argument, as a result, with Punky attempting to intervene. Liz threatens to carve her name on Margaux’s forehead. Margaux – not backing down at all – calls her a peasant. Punky suggests that introductions might help.
Liz: I ain’t interested in your dumb friend.
Allen: Show’s you how much you know. I’m her dumb friend. Margaux’s the smart one.
Punky goes ahead with introductions. Cherie asks Weezie if she is named after the character from the Jeffersons. Weezie asks Cherie if there is something wrong with that. Cherie says no but that it’s a little weird being named after a TV person.
Weezie: Better than being named after a fruit.
Punky separates her friends from her new roommates. She tells them how badly she wants to see Henry.
Mike is also visiting Fenster Hall and he is speaking with Mr. Chillings. They read a note from Punky’s former caseworker which gave a glowing review of Henry and Punky’s relationship. Mike asks Chillings, on the basis of that relationship, to let Punky go visit Henry in the hospital. Chillings is not impressed and he says that he cannot allow it because it will only serve to prolong her emotional dependency on him.
Mike: Well what’s wrong with that?
Chillings: It will make it all the more difficult for Punky when I place her in a new foster home.
When Mike is shocked and surprised, Chillings reminds him of their prior agreement, which is that Chillings will place Punky in a new foster home in the event Henry is unable to recover financially or physically.
Mike: [in disbelief] Notes? You took notes?!
Chillings: Of course not, my secretary transcribed the tapes.
In the room, Margaux tells Punky not to worry because they came with a back-up plan. Allen says that to pull it off they will need her roommates’ help.
Liz: Why should we help you?
Cherie: Because this could be the best trick that we’ve ever pulled on Mr. Chillings.
Suddenly, Weezie is on board. Millie also says she is in. Anna asks if she can help and her big sister Liz tells her not to help.
Anna: No Liz, I like Punky. I want to help her.
Liz announces to everyone that they can go ahead with their stupid plan because they can count her out. Everyone else huddles. As they laugh and plan, we see Liz wrestling internally. Finally she smiles and pushes her way into the huddle and the other kids say “alright!” when she joins.
Sometime later, we see the plan. Margaux is dressed up as Punky – complete with a dark brown wig and pigtails. Punky is dressed as Margaux. She even delivers Margaux’s famous “peasant” line.
The girls are excited about how well they switched places and continue delivering dialogue the way that the other might say. Weezie says that this is like somethin that happened on Double Trouble.
Weezie: This is life imitating art.
Mike enters the room and tells “Punky” that Mr. Chillings will not let her go with them to visit Henry. He suddenly notices that the girls are dressed as each other. As he is explaining that Chillings will not fall for this switch, Chillings enters the room and kicks Mike and his group of kids out because “visiting hours are over.” Mike attempts to to Chillings what the girls have done but the other man talks over him.
Chillings: Take those three children and run along.
Mike: These three children?
Chillings: Yes. Those three children. This little girl is staying right here. [He pats Margaux-dressed-as-Punky’s head]
Mike: Whatever you say, Simon!
As they are walking out, Chillings tells Punky-as-Margaux to stop. He tells her to hold it and says that she is not going anywhere. Just as Punky feels busted, he says she cannot leave without her coat because it is cold outside.
At the hospital, Punky tells the other kids to watch her trick Mrs. Johnson. She approaches Mrs. Johnson and the older woman replies “Hi Punky.” She says that it will take more than a fancy dress and fancy talk to disguise one of her favorite people.
Mrs. J: Besides, I’m the one who bought that wig.
Punky asks Mrs. Johnson if she can go in and see Henry. She tells Punky that she didn’t get all dolled up not to see him. However, she cautions Punky that she will have to be real quiet.
In the hospital room, Henry is lying on his bed attached to a breathing device, with an IV in his arm. Punky can hear Mike and Mrs. Johnson talking outside. She tells Mike that Henry made it through the surgery but says that he will not be alright until he stops all of his worrying. She suggests that Punky coming back home will lift his spirits. Punky is surprised when Mike tells Mrs. Johnson that Punky may not be coming back home and that Chillings plans to place her with new foster parents.
Mrs. Johnson: Lord, that’s all Henry needs in his condition is another fight with Chillings over Punky. Now if that happens he’ll never get out of here.
Punky approaches Henry’s hospital bed and tells him how sorry she is.
Back at Fenster Hall, Chillings tells “Punky” that he wants to give her a personality test. Margaux asks him why he would want to test her personality because everyone would tell him that she is scintillating.
He shows her a picture and asks her of what it reminds her. She says that it looks like a three karat diamond with a flaw in the center. Chillings says that this is odd because the usual response is that the picture looks like a teddy bear. When he moves on to the next picture, Margaux says it looks like a Picasso painting from his cubist period.
Chillings: Picasso? Most kids say hot dog.
Chillings says that her answers support a gut feeling he has had which is that she belongs in another foster home.
Margaux/Punky: What? I don’t want another foster home! I want to be with Henry and Cherie and Allen and especially my hero Margaux.
Just then, Mike enters the room with the real Punky hiding behind his back. He apologizes to Chillings about his earlier behavior while the girls switch places. Chillings does not notice the switch. Mike and Margaux leave without Chillings noticing the exit of the latter.
After they leave, Chillings tells the real Punky that he is placing her in a new foster home tomorrow. Punky, sadly, says okay. He asks her if she wants to know their names.
Punky: No, thanks. If I can’t have Henry I don’t care who they are.
She leaves and Chillings seems sad about what he is doing.
In the hospital, Mrs. Johnson tells Henry that he needs to eat his oatmeal. Henry refuses. Mrs. Johnson moves the spoon of oatmeal to Henry’s mouth like its an airplane. Mrs. Johnson notes that he is cranky and says the world needs to look out because Henry Warnimont is back.
Henry says that as soon as the doctors let him out, he is going to the bank to get a loan so that he can start his business over again. Mrs. Johnson avoids telling Henry about Chillings’ decision to re-foster Punky. Instead, she tells Henry that Punky came by to see him and that she left him a note.
It makes me so sad to see you like this, especially when I know it’s mostly all my fault. If you weren’t so worried about taking care of me, your ulcer wouldn’t have exploded. Henry, you have always been so good to me. When no one else in the whole world would help me, you took me in. Now look what I’ve done to you. Don’t worry, tomorrow Mr. Chillings is going to find me new foster parents. I don’t want to be with anybody else, but I guess it’s the best thing for everybody. I will always remember and love you.
Your ex foster daughter,
As we see Henry blinking away tears, the episode ends.
To be continued…
Let me start with my one primary complaint about this episode. Wasn’t it established that children are allowed to leave Fenster Hall whenever they want? Punky has sneaked out multiple times. That kid from the season 1 finale was told outright that he can leave. Why doesn’t Punky just leave through the window?
If Margaux continues these acts of heroic friendship, she is going to earn the right to call everyone around her peasants. She saved Cherie’s life. Here she disguises herself as Punky in a sketchy Fenster Hall. I’m here for this Margaux redemption arc. I even liked that she seemed ready to throw hands with Liz after her less than warm reception from Punky’s roommate. Margaux is an alpha. That said, she does not make sense to me. How is someone as apparently affluent as Margaux attending the same school as Punky, Allen, and Cherie?
Chillings is evolving from a person making a normal and fair, though painful, assessment of Punky’s bad situation into something of a cruel egomaniac. The performance is not too over the top, though. He does appear to struggle with the decision to take her from Henry. The problem here is that he is two years too late. He clearly thinks he is doing the right thing, though, and for the right reasons.
It was fun to see that group hug with Punky and her friends. Most joyous face? Definitely Allen.
My heart is calloused to this show, for the most part, but a crying Henry put me in my feelings. We shall see if he gets Punky back in the end (hint – he will.)