Punky Brewster (Season 2, Ep 25): Cheaters Never Win

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.

[NOTE: This episode is one of the episodes that was not included on the NBC App. It *is* on the Peacock app, which I now have. I’ll review this episode and the other episodes I missed and re-number my episode guide.]

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

After bringing home a D on her report card for her geography class, Henry advises Punky to try harder – reminding her that she is bright. During a study group with Allen, Cherie, and Margaux, Punky begins to worry about doing poorly. Allen tells the girls that he is going to write the answers on his hand and reasons that it is like writing them on his brain, except that he will be able to see them better.

During the test, Punky notices Allen cheating, she panics, and then she grabs his hand at the adjoining desk to see what he is writing down. She eventually also reads answers on his arm and his leg. Mike her teacher announces later that Punky and Allen had the two best grades in the class and he places them in advanced studies. With all of the extra studying, Punky and Allen finally learn the material for real. At the time of the next report card, Mike tells both of them that he knew that they cheated during the first test but that as a result of putting them into advanced studies, they actually ended up learning the material. He gives both of them Cs for the class and tells them to explain the situation to their parents who are both likely expecting the two kids to bring home As in the class.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

Punky brushes her teeth and tells Henry that she is off to bed. After Henry tells her to have sweet dreams, she slaps her forehead and says that she almost forgot she has papers for Henry to sign. He asks her what the papers are and she tells him that they are nothing important, “just schools stuff.” Henry starts reading through the pieces of paper, one at a time.

After seeing a letter inviting him to attend a PTA meeting and another asking for his authorization for Punky to attend a class field trip to the Post Office, Henry finds a report card.

Punky: [sweetly] Son of a gun, how did that get there?

Punky has a B in mathematics, a B in spelling, an A in physical education, and a D in geography. Henry asks her if she knows what the D means and she asks if it means she is grounded. Henry replies that he does not believe in education by deprivation.

Punky: I don’t know what that means but I like the sound of it.
Henry: It means that I do not want you to learn just because you’re afraid you’re going to be punished if you don’t.
Punky: You are so wise.

Punky tells Henry that she will not need geography in later life and argues that if she wants to see the world that she will join the Navy. Henry takes off his glasses. He tells her that she is a very bright girl and should not be getting a D in any of her classes. Henry asks her to promise him that from now on she will try harder and apply herself. Punky promises Henry that her next report card grade will be better and that she will become the Rand McNally of the 4th Grade.

Sometime later, Margaux is quizzing Allen, Punky, and Cherie. They are not doing well with naming state capitals. Margaux gets frustrated.

Margaux: I’m fed up! You people call yourselves a study group? You’re all hopeless. I’m tired of carrying you on my back. You’re nothing but dead wood.

She leaves and says that she is going home to get some rest because she does not want to look tired while acing a test. Allen, Punky, and Cherie yell in unison for her to go home. Allen asks for a pen and he starts writing the answers on his hand. Cherie tells him that writing the answers on his hand is cheating. Allen replies that Margaux has the answers written down in her head and that he is just writing them down somewhere that he can see them better.

Punky: That is too cheating and if you were smart you wouldn’t do it.
Allen: If I were smart I wouldn’t have to do it.
Cherie: My grandma warned me about cheating. First you get caught, then you can’t get into college, then you can’t get a job, you have to beg for food, then you wind up in the gutter til a car runs you over and you’re dead.
Allen: I’d rather be dead than grounded.

Allen asks if the other two girls want to join him.

Sometime later, Punky’s teacher Mike Fulton hands out the tests in his geography class. Before the test, though, he puts on a World War 2 style soldier’s helmet and gives a Patton-esque speech about the battle of the geography test. He turns toward an American flag behind him against the wall and points out that every star represents a state and that each of those states has a capital.

Mr. Fulton: And by George C. Scott you’re gonna write ’em down!

As the kids are laughing, he slaps his pointer wand on his desk and shouts “begin!” Punky and Allen both look despairingly at their tests. Punky looks over at Allen and sees him looking surreptitiously at the answers on his hand. She continues ton panic as the time passes. Eventually she sees Margaux put her pencil down before retrieving a pocket mirror to smile into. Finally, when her teacher is not looking, she grabs at Allen’s hand and reads the answers on it and begins to write furiously.

As she reaches out to Allen again, Mr. Fulton looks up and Punky feigns that she is stretching her arms while yawning. She next grabs his arm to find more answers and whispers to him in confusion. He tells her that she is looking at a wort. The rest of the test is conducted with Punky and Allen, with increasing brazenness, looking at answers on his hand, under his sleeve, and even on his legs beneath is pants legs. At last the bell rings and time is up. The kids hand their tests in and go to lunch. Punky runs into Allen in the hallway and he is excited.

Allen: Punky we did it! We got away with it!
Punky: Yeah. So why do I feel like a rotten lump of yuck?

After lunch, Mike announces to the class that he has graded their tests. He also tells them that two students have received perfect scores – Allen and Punky. He asks the class to give them applause and then he asks the two of them to come to the front of the room and to take a bow. While Allen smiles and bows vigorously to the room, Punky sheepishly does the same. Mike tells Punky and Allen that he is amazed at their improvement in the class and suggests that since the two of them are so advanced, he has decided that they need extra work. They protest that they do not need extra work.

Mike: Nonsense! After what you two did on the test you deserve it!

Smirking at them, he then hands each of them a large book.

Sometime later we see Punky and Allen reading facts about the states from their newly acquired large books. Allen suddenly starts growling and says that he cannot stand this anymore.

Allen: Ohio, Rhode Island, it’s endless! There must be fifty of them!
Punky: Allen relax, you’re in a state of shock.
Allen: No! Not another state!
Punky: Allen, calm down.
Allen: Punky, all we do is study, we’ve got no life. I’m nine years old! Is this all there is?!

She tells him that they cheated and now they have to rip what they sewed. Allen asks about going to Mike and confessing. Punky says she has thought about that too but she has also thought about what their parents would say when they find out. Allen is worried that he will get a spanking. Punky says that Henry would not do that. She says he would look at her seriously, in the eyes, and tell her how disappointed he is in her. She then mimics dying and says she would prefer a spanking any old day. They decide to return to studying.

Henry and Mrs. Johnson are in Henry’s kitchen discussing coupons books. She is trying to convince Henry to buy them in order to raise money for a nursing home’s new equipment.

Mrs. Johnson: Oh come on, Henry, it’s for a good cause. Lighten up you old coot.
Henry: Well I must say I admire your sales technique. I’ll take two.
Mrs. Johnson: Hallelujah!

Mrs. Johnson asks Henry why he is in such a good mood and he tells her that he has been feeling better about himself as Punky’s father. He explains about the incident with the D on the report card and he tells Mrs. Johnson that he inspired her to do better work. Mrs. Johnson is surprised that it worked. He brags that she is now in advanced studies.

Mrs. Johnson: Well I’ll be. When Cherie gets a bad grade I just take away her desserts until those grades get better.

In Mike’s class, they are doing math. He explains a trick with multiplication of the number 9. The class grasps the concept quickly and is shouting the answers in unison as the bell rings. As they leave, he hands them their report cards and asks that they obtain a parent’s signature before returning them back to him.

Margaux: Oh look, I got straight As! Did anyone else?
Mike: What differences does it make if anyone else did?
Margaux: It cheapens it!

When Cherie gets her report yard, she jumps up and down and yells that she gets dessert. Punky and Allen are last in line and they both see that Mike has given them a C in geography. Confused, they ask him why citing that they both received an A on the first test and on the second test. Mike decides to consult his grade book. He asks both of them if they felt like they earned the As on their first test. Punky asks him why he is asking that question. Mike points out that during the first test he could not help but notice Allen spending a great deal of time reading something on his own chest. He also could not help but notice how much time Punky was spending looking at Allen’s elbow.

Punky: You knew all along that we cheated?
Mike: That’s right.
Allen: Then why didn’t you flunk us?
Mike: Because if I had, all you would have gotten out of it was an F.

Mike quizzes them about Utah and both Punky and Allen start listing numerous facts about the state. Mike points out that by not giving them an F, they obtained knowledge. The two kids are suddenly surprised to realize that they both learned a lot. They thank him for not telling their parents. However, Mike reminds them that their parents are expecting an A on their report card just as much as they were. He tells both of them that they are going to have to come clean at home and explain why they got a C. Punky and Allen both look suddenly stricken.

Later, Henry asks Punky about cheating on her test. He advises her that the next time she feels tempted to cheat that she remembers how she feels right now. Punky promises to never cheat again. Henry tells her that the subject is close in that case and instructs her to get into bed. After she is tucked in, he asks her if she really learned all of that extra material and she says that she did.

Henry: What is Iowa’s state song?
Punky: The Iowa Corn Song.
Henry: It is?
Punky: [singing] We’re from I-O-WAY! I-O-WAY!

She continues loudly singing as Henry backs out of the room and then runs away. When Punky sings “that’s where the tall corn grows” she realizes Henry has left, smiles, and puts her head down.

REACTION:

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This is a great episode. Margaux as the know-it-all cracked me up. Her two best moments were getting the pocket mirror out to smile at herself after the first test and then again when she asked if anyone else got straight As.

Margaux: Oh look, I got straight As! Did anyone else?
Mike: What differences does it make if anyone else did?
Margaux: It cheapens it!

Cherie’s little “yay” and jump while saying she gets to eat dessert is probably one of the cutest things to happen on this show so far. I feel like that is saying something.

Henry’s parenting was excellent in this episode, too. He did not overreact to her bad grade initially, his admonition that she is not trying hard enough was right, and he also did not overreact to learning that she cheated. For all of the irate Henry losing his temper over small things moments that this show delivers, I personally prefer a good balance of “Henry is a great father” to go with them.

Speaking of the cheating… it was hilarious. The effort at being sneaky, devolving into increasingly brazenness, completely fits the profile of children their age. I was more of a Margaux myself in school (without the pocket mirror though – missed opportunity!), but I recall others doing a fair amount of badly executed cheating, too. I am also impressed at Allen getting all of the answers written down on his body and in a position where he could read the answers while sitting in his desk.

I had a feeling that Mike knew all along, based on how badly they were concealing their efforts and his decision to bring them to the front of the class. The smirk he gave them while doing so was a giveaway. Is it realistic that this led to his two student studying extra hard? In Punky’s case, absolutely. It fits her try-hard personality. As a result, I have no problem believing that she dragged Allen along for that studying ride with her. Being dragged along for the ride fits Allen’s personality. I also completely believe that Punky could learn a lot when trying hard. Every episode of this show at some point reminds us that she really is very bright.

In any case, this is one of my favorite episodes of this show so far. The kids were funny. The teacher was good. The parents did a great job, too. The lesson was a universal and relatable one for kids their age.

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