Aug 10, 2017
Family Ties “Karen II, Alex 0” (part 3 of 3)
Despite Karen’s strong protests, Alex insists on introducing her to the dean. On an unrelated note, paint-by-numbers kits are fun, aren’t they?
The dean, unsurprisingly, is about to lose his job.
But the actor sure isn’t. Robert Pine is one of the hardest working character actors in history. He’s been on every TV show ever made. Type Convoy, ALF, and The Office into IMDb and see how many actors it returns. Then type in Mannix, Life Goes On, and Star Trek: Voyager and watch your computer start to smoke before going, “Oh, it’s still Robert Pine.” Then just type in any three television shows. The answer will always be Robert Pine. Also, his son is Captain Kirk.
Alex introduces Karen to Dean McCall, but he already knows her. Surprised?
The dean wants to talk to Karen privately. She tries to lead Alex away from him.
The outright nuttiness begins when the dean won’t let her go. He follows her. The he raises his voice as he insists, “We have some things to talk about!” Nice work, dean. You’ve got everybody’s attention.
Karen, at the same decibel level, reminds the dean that the last words he spoke to her three months ago were, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” And you should also remember that for later. Just trust me.
Karen tries to storm off… again. But the dean asks to talk to her somewhere else. Dude, if you don’t want to talk in front of everybody, stop talking in front of everybody. You’re like Heidi Montag at a party that isn’t for Heidi Montag.
Karen tries to leave… again. This time, the dean basically yells, “Karen!” while he runs over and grabs her arm. By the way, Robert Pine is an inch shorter than Geena Davis. How could that happen? The producers could have hired anybody they wanted. They could have bought a very tall suit, and kept firing actors until they found the one it fit.
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Every single person at the party is now watching the dean humiliate himself. “I still love you,” he says, way too loudly.
Karen tries to walk off… again. Now the dean asks, “What did I do that was so terrible?” Remember eight seconds ago when Karen said he never called her? That’s not the terrible thing. According to Karen, he was never honest with her. Well, then, why did you care that he never called you, tall girl?
Karen begins to run out… again. The dean shouts, “Karen!” Just think of the wackiest thing any dean of any college has ever said about anything. It won’t be half as demented as what Dean McCall is about to yell across a room full of students and alumni: “I have a birthday coming up! I’d like to spend it with you!” Come on, man, have some respect for yourself. You’re an embarrassment to the Y chromosome.
Karen finally makes it out the door, and the scene ends. Honestly, it’s a good thing McCall’s the dean. If he were the provost, that all would have been really humiliating.
And then we return to the Keaton house. It’s the kitchen! Skippy and Steven are wrapping up their stupid B plot. Skippy leaves, and seconds later, Karen walks in through the same door. That would mean that she blew past him without even saying hello which, while impossible, is awesome.
This is the scene where Karen finally tells us her backstory, and they have her unburden herself on Steven. Michael Gross is a pretty generous actor. He’s happy to get out of the way while someone else has her moment. Unlike Michael J. Fox, who would be hyperventilating and grabbing his hair. Or Justine Bateman, who would be straining to sound out the words on the cue cards.
After working her way through a long setup, Karen finally quits. I still have no idea why. Her reasons have nothing to do with Alex trying to hump her leg, nor do they have anything to do with the dean trying to hump her leg.
We’ve been waiting two episodes for this. Albert even complained about it. So, allow me to present Karen’s backstory (heavily edited, and with some parts I made up):
Karen: I’m from a rich family. We always had servants to take care of us and clean up. I never learned how to do anything like that. Also, we had an elephant… two elephants. We had two elephants. In some ways, I never really grew up. After I got out of college, I had no interest in a career. I was bored. That’s why I killed that drifter… two drifters. I killed two drifters. I felt like I needed to cling to somebody.
And here’s where the threads all get woven together into a wonderful tapestry, just like in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode ”Tapestry”.
Karen: I met an older man and we fell in love. My parents didn’t approve of him, but…
Your parents didn’t approve of a college dean, Karen? Were they holding out for the governor?
Karen: I didn’t really mind because this man had asked me to marry him. Except he didn’t. And I found out I wasn’t the only girl he was dating. And then he went back to his wife.
So, then why did it matter that the dean didn’t call you? I’m not a trained psychologist, Karen, but you’re never going to have healthy relationships until you work things out with your father.
Karen: I found myself very alone and very scared. And very tall. I lived off my trust fund for a year. But then it ran out so then I became your housekeeper. But not just for the money; for the companionship. I was hoping I could find a nice family that I could become close to. And then sleep with the husband and the son, destroying it from the inside. I have some issues with which I have not dealt.
So Karen lived off her trust fund for a year after breaking it off with the dean. But earlier, she was mad that he hadn’t called her in three months. I suspect there’s more to this story than she’s letting on.
We’ll never find out, though, because we’ve hit minute twenty-one. Alex bursts in, shouting apologies and demanding his certificate. After 50 episodes, Michael J. Fox didn’t even need directing. He was like that horse that played Mister Ed. After a while, he’d start moving his lips when they just showed him peanut butter.
Alex starts off with, “Karen, I’m sorry.” He then explains the lesson he’s learned. “I was so caught up in my own problems that I didn’t pay attention to your feelings.”
Then he seems to over-learn his lesson. “Dean McCall and the rest of those guys are jerks.” What did the frat brothers do? They didn’t ask one thing about Alex’s date until he bragged about it. They didn’t even discriminate against Barry Sobel, which makes them better people than me.
And then a stagehand shoves Mallory and Jennifer through the door. They’re in bathrobes and are rubbing their eyes. But it can’t possibly be later than 10:00.
Karen tells them that she’s quitting. The closest she gets to an explanation is, “It’s time for me to move on.” For all the sense that makes, she may as well have just said, “The producers only paid me for two episodes.”
Alex continues to over-learn. He says, “I don’t belong in that fraternity any more than you belong in this kitchen.” You’re right, Alex. The fraternity was too good for you.
So, Karen bids the Keatons goodbye. But as one last treat, she offers to “boil” waffles for them. Everyone yells, “No!” and they all dive to protect the appliances. It’s a hilarious way to end the show.
The credits roll. Geena Davis went on to have a career most actresses would kill for. Whether it’s deserved or not is left up to the reader. Michael Gross is still working to this day. Michael J. Fox retired from acting for reasons that aren’t at all depressing. And Justine Bateman and Tina Yothers each have two young children… aw.
Sit, Ubu, Sit. Good dog.