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 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:
After hearing from Margaux that she needs to win something to make Henry proud of her, Punky enters the Miss Adorable Pageant. Despite giving a great performance, she does win – Cherie does. When Punky is dejected after the show, Henry tells her – and convinces her – that he is already proud of her.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
The episode begins with Margaux, Cherie, and Punky having a pillow fight. (My money is on Margaux.) Punky summons “Punky Power” and a moment later Henry enters the room and tells the girls to freeze.
Henry: [smiling] You girls having fun?
Henry: [angry] STOP IT AND GO TO BED!
Henry leaves and the girls decide to get ready for bed. Margaux sees that Cherie is getting under a blanket with a doll.
Margaux: You still sleep with dolls?
Cherie: Sure. What do you sleep with?
Margaux: My trophy!
Margaux pulls a trophy out from under her blanket on the flood and she hugs it. She tells the other two girls that she always takes her awards, medals, and trophies to bed with her. She asks them if they do not and they both say that they don’t before they both admit that neither of them have trophies, medals, or awards. Margaux, surprised, tells them that she enters every contest that she can.
Margaux: Well, at three months old, I was voted “Best Dressed Baby.” Then I won a golden bootie for “Most Terrific Toddler.” Then I won “The Sweetest Smile. ” [big smile for emphasis] I could go on and on.
Punky: You already have.
Margaux explains that she does not win contests for herself. She does it for her parents. She says that every time she wins, they can brag about her to their friends.
Margaux: It gives them proof that I’m somebody special.
Punky: Henry says I’m special no matter what I do.
Margaux: And you actually believe that?
Cherie: My gramma says “sweet potato, you’re perfect just the way you are.”
Margaux: I see. She calls you a vegetable. Well no matter what your parents say, they want you to be a winner.
Margaux goes on to say that if you do not produce, your parents will just give up on you. Punky suddenly alarmed asks if she means that her parents might forget all about her. Margaux says yes and that this is the reason why she is always proving herself in bigger and better ways. Margaux says that next week she is going to win the Miss Adorable Pageant. When Punky asks what that is, Margaux tells her that it is the most important pageant for pre-teens in the entire Chicago area. She tells the other two girls that the host is going to be Andy Gibb.
Cherie freaks out about Andy Gibb, she proclaims her love for him, and she says that every time she thinks about him her heart does a break dance. Punky asks if anyone can enter the pageant.
Margaux: Regrettably, yes.
Punky: Then I’m gonna enter.
Cherie: Me too.
Margaux: Miss Adorable has to be beautiful AND talented. Now let’s be honest. Who is the one person in this room who fits that description?
All three girls: Me!
Margaux says she will get the other two applications tomorrow and they both yell “yay!” Henry yells “bed!” a moment later and they go to bed.
Lying on her bed, Punky looks lost in thought. We hear her narrating the scene.
Punky: Now I understand. I know why my mom ditched me. I never did anything to make her proud of me. Well, I’m not gonna make the same mistake with Henry. I’m gonna win that contest.
The next day, Punky is filling out an application and she tells Henry where he needs to sign.
Henry: I don’t know about this…
Punky: You don’t think I can win, do you. You think I’ll be a laugher stocking.
Henry says that it’s not that, it’s just that the pageants require a lot of preparation – a fancy dress, a special hair style, and so on. Punky says that Mrs. Johnson can help her with all of that. She begs and bats her eye lashes awkwardly at him until he relents and lets her enter.
At the pageant, we see a room filled with girls in fancy dresses, with their mothers in fancy dresses. We also see Henry. Margaux and her mother snidely talk about a girl there and Margaux’s mother explains that Margaux should be able to see now why you do not wear red to events like this. The pageant director tells all of the girls to go out onto the stage. Henry finds Mrs. Johnson and asks where they are. She tells him that the girls do not want to come out of the dressing room. As the other girls leave, Cherie finally emerges and looks great and event appropriate. Mrs. Johnson tells Henry to take her out while she talks to Punky. After everyone is gone, Punky finally comes out.
Punky is wearing a bizarre rainbow colored dress. Mrs. Johnson tells her that the dress is exactly what she asked for. Punky agrees that it is but she says that when Margaux wears a dress like this, she looks like Miss Adorable. Punky says that she on the other hand now looks like Miss Horrible.
Punky: Isn’t there a way to make me look more like myself?
Mrs. Johnson: Come on, child, we’ve got five minutes to Punky you up.
On the stage, the pageant is beginning. Andy Gibb is the host and the girls walk out one by one, and then curtsey, as he sings a song apparently called “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” Punky is the last one on stage. She is late. She rushes out, runs too far onto the stage looking surprised, then back up into the spot where she is supposed to be in the line with the other girls. She is still in a colorful dress but it is now far less adorned than it was before.
The song ends with the girls surrounding Gibb on stage and Punky and Margaux kissing him on each cheek.
Next, the girls perform in a talent competition. One of the girls roller skates with a giant doll as her dance partner. Margaux sings and tap dances to “I Enjoy Being a Girl.” She bows and blows kisses to the crowd when she is finished, for so long, than Andy Gibb has to come out and lead her off of the stage. The next girl to perform does baton twirling… badly. Cherie does a magician’s act – complete with magicians outfit (black suit, top hat, etc.) She has Andy Gibb get into a box and makes him disappear successfully. Before she does so, though, she has the box print out a life-sized picture of him.
Punky’s performance includes an act with “Brandon the Wonder Dog.” Her act starts as a comedy. She says that Brandon will do a trick, and rather than do a trick, he just lays there on the stage doing nothing. She makes a funny comment each time and moves onto the next thing.
After he fails to jump through a hoola hoop of cardboard fire, Punky tells the crowd that she will jump through it herself so that they can know what it would have looked like.
Punky: The only reason I call him Brandon the Wonder Dog is because you always wonder when he is going to do something.
She hangs the cardboard hoops up, walks off the stage, and Brandon gets up, jumps through the hoop, and follows her. The crowds laughs and cheers.
Later, we learn the final five contestants – Margaux, Cherie, and Punky all make the final five. Now that the contest is down to five, the judges ask each girl an unrehearsed question. We learn that Karen’s most admired American is her uncle Phil who can play Yankee Doodle Dandy on his armpit. Margaux, in her free time, helps the poor and needy in hopes to make the world a better place. After her answer should be over, she grabs the microphone to say one more thing.
Margaux: I believe in world peace with a strong military.
Andy Gibb next asks Cherie what she likes best in school and she says “lunch.” He aks if she does not like school and she replies that she guesses that it kills the time until dinner.
Melinda is next and she says that the most important person in her life is her mom and dad. Andy Gibb says that’s two people and he asks her another question. He next queries her to find out what is the one thing she would change in her life and she replies, in the exact same way, “my mom and dad.”
Punky is last. Andy Gibb asks her what she wants to be when she grows up.
Punky: The President of the United States. Or a waitress. I’m not sure which. I do know this. Everyone should be yourself. So that’s what I’m going to be when I grow up – me.
Karen Westbrook is the second runner up. The first runner up is Melinda Crosby. The winner of the Miss Adorable pageant is Cherie Johnson. Margaux steps out to accept the award before it dawns on her that Andy Gibb did not say her name. Cherie is stunned. Punky cheers, claps, and jumps up and down. Andy Gibb places a crown on her head.
Later, Punky comes out of the dressing room in her normal clothes. She is obviously feeling down. Henry jumps to his feet from the waiting room couch to tell her that she was “really something.”
Punky: I blew it.
Henry scoffs at her and says that she was one of the five finalists. Before he can finish telling her that this was great, she tells him that she did not want to win for herself, she wanted to win for him.
Punky: I wanted to be A number one. So you’d be proud of me.
Henry tells her that he is proud of her. Punky asks how could he be as she has never won anything. Henry tells her that she is unbelievably special. He also tells her that she has given him something much bigger and better than a trophy – made of pure gold.
Punky: What’s that?
Henry: Your heart.
After their conversation, Cherie runs into the room looking for her crown. Punky tells her that she thinks she knows who has it. We see Brandon with the crown in his mouth and he runs out of the room. Everyone chases after him as the episode ends.
This was an adorable episode where we get to see Punky’s insecurity over her relationship with Henry – and Henry getting an opportunity to reassure her.
As is typical of me attempting to watch this show, I got in my feelings while Punky is musing over why her mother left her, while she works hard to keep Henry from doing the same. Soleil Moon Frye does such a good job of conveying feelings without speaking… as an eight year old. Early in the episode, when Margaux is talking about her need to win to make her parents proud of her, Punky does not say anything. But we can see on her face the thought that *this* must be why her mother left her. To confirm the look she gave, we get her narration a few moments later. It’s just painful. But the acting is extraordinarily effective.
That set-up makes the scene with her and Henry at the end especially touching.
In the middle? The child pageant was a strange combination of adorable and slightly creepy – which is as all child pageants seem to be. All girls from the show did a great job. Margaux’s song was funny. Ami Foster does a great job with that character, playing her over-the-top personality with just a hint of a wink to the camera that all of it is supposed to be funny rather than mean or obnoxious. Cherie’s magic performance was great. And Punky’s comedy act was also terrific. Honestly, I think Punky probably wins if her dress were more situation appropriate. Alas. Not winning gave her the opportunity to have that conversation with Henry and to not learn the wrong lesson form this situation. (I hope Margaux is corrected on her life outlook at some point on this show.)
All in all, really great episode.