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ALF Reviews: “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” (season 2, episode 18)

September 25th, 2014 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

Way back in episode six of season one, something incredible happened: I liked an episode of ALF. Since then I’ve enjoyed a few others to varying degrees, but “For Your Eyes Only” still stands out to me, simply because of how unexpected a treat it was. It was a funny episode that took a touchy subject and handled it cleverly. It didn’t hurt that it also introduced (and heavily featured) a great character: Jodie.

Jodie was a blind woman who lived alone. She and ALF met in that episode and bonded over their shared isolation, and it was lovely.

It really was. While Jodie’s actress did a nice job with what she was given, the real surprise was the big leap in quality of the writing as well. The writers not only set themselves with a challenge — writing comedy about the blind without being needlessly flippant or cruel — but they rose to it.

Since then I’ve been told that Jodie makes a return appearance…a prospect that I certainly welcomed, but I never expected it would come all the way at the end of the following season. The chronological distance between this and “For Your Eyes Only” proves somewhat problematic, but we’ll get to that later. Right now, the only important thing to note is that JODIE IS BACK YOU GUYS.

“We Gotta Get Out of This Place” might not be as strong as “For Your Eyes Only” but JODIE IS BACK YOU GUYS IT IS JODIE AND SHE IS BACK!!

We won’t get to see her for a little while, though. The episode opens with ALF and Willie playing chess. Chess is obviously a pretty complicated game, but I’m okay with ALF knowing the rules by this point. He’s been on Earth for over a year, and that’s plenty of time to develop a decent working knowledge of the game. What interests me, though, is the passive confirmation that Willie has no friends. At all.

It’s actually kind of sad. If poor Willie wants to play a game of chess, he has to pull a naked mole rat out of the laundry hamper because nobody else can stand this man’s company. It’s depressing. As many times as they try to fill the living room with anonymous nobodies we’ll never see again, they can’t fool us. Willie is friendless and alone. Which might make for a good character trait. You know…if the writers noticed.

The phone rings and Willie answers it. It’s for ALF, and ALF says, “It must be Jodie!”

Just in case you haven’t noticed, I’m happy with it being Jodie. I’m not happy with ALF’s assumption that it “must be” her.

Must it? She’s never even been mentioned since her episode way back at the beginning of season one, but this line makes it sound like ALF has been in regular contact with her.

Somehow that rings false, and later it’s even proven false: ALF says he only met her once.*

I’m glad she’s back, but why not have her pop in now and again? It’d keep the character fresh in our minds as viewers, and she’d certainly be a more welcome presence than almost any other disposable character they invent to spice things up from week to week. How many people watching in the pre-DVD age would remember this person by name? Even enthusiastic fans of the show would be lost if they’d missed that one episode.

Whatever. It turns out Jodie needs a place to stay, which makes Willie huff and puff and do whatever the fuck this is:

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

Why is Willie such a massive cock who always refuses to help people?

Remember, this man is a social worker. It’s not just that Jodie wants to have a slumber party…it’s that her apartment building is transitioning into condos, and she has to leave. She has nowhere else to stay, and nobody else to turn to. She’s a friend of one of Willie’s family members, she’s polite, she’s gracious, oh, and she’s blind, and Willie would prefer she sleeps in the rain gutter for the rest of her life than on his sofa for a couple of nights.

THIS MAN IS A SOCIAL WORKER

It’s disgusting, and it’s getting to the point that Willie seems inhuman. As much as I hate ALF and recognize him as an obnoxious freeloader, and as much as the episode wants me to believe that right now — with his offer to Jodie intended to play as one massive gesture of disrespect toward the friendless goon who spends his free time scoring cheap chess victories off a space alien — it’s pretty clear that it’s Willie who’s King Asshole.

The phone conversation even implies that he knows who Jodie is. This isn’t some silliness where he mistakenly thinks ALF is offering another Melmacian hobo a place to crash,** it’s somebody he’s familiar with. It’s the lonely blind woman who has nobody in her life and nowhere to stay while she looks for a new apartment. Willie is fully aware of this, all of this, and he’d prefer to leave her to rot. In fact, he’s appalled that somebody might even suggest a different option.

Why is it that the one time the show wants me to see ALF as an irritating parasite is also the one time I’m entirely on his side?

Please tell me that says more about the writers than it says about me.

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

The Tanners apparently forget how many people are in their family and eat dinner without Brian. They bitch endlessly about how rude ALF was to invite a friendly woman with a disability into their massive fucking mansion instead of letting her die in a dumpster, but Lynn takes ALF’s side.

Oh, lovely Lynn. It took the show a while to figure out what the fuck kind of character you were supposed to be, but “voice of empathy and reason” is exactly where I’d hoped you’d land.

In the course of this conversation with the entire family — yes, the entire family, I don’t care if you think they used to have a son, you’re obviously just confused — we learn that Jodie still doesn’t know ALF is an alien. This is also where we find out that their one meeting in “For Your Eyes Only” was the first and last time they were in each other’s company. So…I know I was kidding about this in my previous reviews, but it really is starting to sound like ALF actually did lead her on and abandon her way back when. The fact that she’s asking him for help now really makes it clear how much of a pinch she’s in.

There is a funny line when ALF reveals that he invited Jodie to stay for a month. Willie — of course — is taken aback, and then ALF clarifies: “Actually, I told her she could stay forever. But I thought I’d break it to you a month at a time.”

The writing in the first Jodie episode is still some of the best the show’s ever had. “Going Out of My Head Over You” (and possibly “Night Train”) might have surpassed it, but it set an early example of what a good episode of ALF might look like. In large part, that was due to the fact that the dialogue and the gags were well-observed and sharp.

Lines like the above suggest that the writing staff might be capable of rising to the occasion once more, and while this episode doesn’t hit the highs of the previous Jodie appearance, it’s decent enough on its own merits, and it recaptures a little bit of the sweet interplay between her and ALF. That in itself is more than enough to warrant her return.

It takes ALF making the situation explicit (“How would you feel if you were some blind lady that got strung along by a midget in a gorilla suit and then had no place to stay because you’re not good enough to sleep on the couch of some guy who sucks dick for crack?”) before Willie and Kate relent. As mentioned, it’s Lynn who takes the decisive stand here, and I think that’s adorable. In “For Your Eyes Only” she was also the one who stuck her neck out to get ALF and Jodie together, and while I’m positive this is not a conscious nod to that fact, it still provides some nice resonance.

ALF says, “Thanks, Lynn. I owe you one.” Lynn asks, “One?” And ALF replies, “One today.”

If season two introduced any substantial improvement over season one, it’s this new relationship between ALF and Lynn. It’s so much more real, and, to me at least, it’s become the (all-too-often invisible) heart of the show.

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

ALF moves all of the furniture out of the way so that Jodie won’t trip on it when she gets here. It’s similar to the scene in “For Your Eyes Only” in which ALF was constantly reminding Jodie of where she was in relation to other things, and this time the similarity might be a conscious one. Here it makes a little more logistical sense, as she wouldn’t be familiar with the Tanner floor plan the way she would be with her own, but it’s still the same kind of well-meaning thing that people do to accommodate the disabled that actually comes across as unwittingly rude.

And that’s nice.

I like that, because that’s a smart observation, and it turns that kind of mindset into the punchline, rather than asking us to laugh at the disability. This episode might be treading similar water to “For Your Eyes Only,” but it’s water worth treading again, because it’s a sticky issue that’s ripe for another examination. The fact that it goes even deeper this time further justifies the retread.

But fuck thinking about this shit JODIE IS BACK YOU GUYS LOOK JODIE IS BACK!!

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

What a sight for sore eyes. After so much bullshit over the course of the past season and a half, it’s great to be back in the presence of the first assurance we had that ALF didn’t have to be utter garbage.

But, really, why haven’t we seen her since? We’ve had three episodes with Jake in them, for the love of Christ, and we were even privy to every detail of the never-anticipated wedding of Wizard Beaver, but we can’t so much as check in on Jodie? I guess doing so would break the longstanding tradition of ALF entering into lifelong friendships with people he never even thinks about again, but maybe — just maybe… — that would be A Good Thing.

When we met Jodie, she was just a lonely, sightless woman, living alone. ALF entered her life and gave her someone to talk to, which was effective and sweet, and it cast our hero in a new (though admittedly temporary) light. Based on the show’s track record, I wasn’t confident that the writers would handle her blindness anywhere near appropriately, but I was pleasantly surprised; Jodie was a perfectly capable and well-rounded human being. The blindness didn’t have as much to do with her as it did with the way people reacted to it. She was fine, in other words; everybody else was doing the stumbling.

Here we find her much the same as we left her. She doesn’t seem to have changed at all, but that’s what’s unintentionally sad about it. She still has no friends and nobody else to talk to. ALF may well have been the only pleasant relationship she’s had in years…and it only lasted a couple of hours. “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” doesn’t want us to think about that, because if we do we’ll see that it must have been a pretty dark few months for Jodie.

Some people are perfectly fine being left alone. I don’t mean to imply that there’s anything wrong with being happy on your own…but Jodie wasn’t. That’s why she and ALF met; neither of them were happy in their loneliness.

ALF’s been doing pretty well since then — getting into scrapes, playing chess, raping stuff — but Jodie’s gone literally nowhere. What’s worse, she met a man she felt she finally connected with. That man was ALF. He blew off their second date and never gave her another thought.

Yeah. I feel pretty bad for ol’ Jodie.

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

Whatever failed to happen between them, they do slip back into a charming dynamic pretty easily. They play some silly game in the kitchen with Jodie identifying slices of cheese by the smell. When ALF throws her off by poking holes in something that isn’t actually Swiss, she accuses him of cheating. He replies, “All’s fair in love and games of Guess the Cheese.”

On its own that’s not especially funny, but it works because Jodie laughs with him. The point of that line — and this sequence — wasn’t to tell us how wonderful ALF is (are you listening, “ALF’s Special Christmas?”) but to tell us how well these two get along. You know. Characterization.

Jodie legitimately enjoys ALF’s company, and she cares about him. He cares about her too, I think…not consistently, and never when she’s out of sight, but he did invite her over when she was facing homelessness, which is something, and now he’s keeping her spirits up as well.

Interacting with Jodie brings out a gentler kind of ALF in Paul Fusco’s performance. The dynamic, for once, is one in which ALF does not seek to dominate. In just about every other situation, he’s either dominating the scene, the conversation, or another person outright. With Jodie, they’re conversational equals. They’re friends. And it works very well.

Mainly it works because Jodie’s actress is game in ways that, say, Max Wright isn’t. While the ALF / Willie friendship has been toyed with a few times — nearly always to welcome effect — it’s too obvious that Wright doesn’t want to be ALF’s friend. Whatever he may think Willie is, it’s not a guy who gives half a shit about the space alien fucking his daughter. And while Anne Schedeen is absolutely game, the ALF / Kate dynamic is one of comfortable antagonism. Having the two of them bond too deeply just wouldn’t be right for who they are. It’s far better that they continue to push each other’s buttons without ever actually shoving one another over the edge.

Jodie, however, does want to be ALF’s friend. Indeed, the ease with which they’ve slipped into that dynamic twice now makes it clear that that’s what they already are.

Or could be…if ALF ever returned her phone calls.

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

ALF and Jodie are enjoying their delicious beverages: Diet Soda Cola, and Soda Lemon-Lime. Names that would be monumentally stupid even if the actual names of the sodas weren’t peeking out from beneath the half-assed stickers. But Kate pisses all over their carbonated cheese parade by coming over and asking ALF why he threw away this morning’s paper.

It turns out it’s because he didn’t want Jodie to find a new apartment and leave, which is sweet in a childlike way, and extremely creepy through a more adult filter. Due to his relationship with Jodie playing out similarly to a romantic one, this is a big red flag. For once, the episode realizes it, and makes much of this later.

Jodie is embarrassed, and apologizes to Willie and Kate. Having realized that he’s been manipulating the situation to keep her homeless, she starts to visibly tire of ALF’s antics, and this is great.

Really. It is. Like the clever twist of “Working My Way Back to You” (in which ALF on his best behavior is a better homemaker than Kate is, to the gradual irritation of the entire family), this is evidence that somebody on the writing staff took a decent story, and then put forth the effort to make it better.

This episode began with ALF (and Lynn) lobbying for Jodie to stay with them, against the wishes of Willie and Kate. That’s a perfectly fine setup, with two characters looking out for Jodie, and two who don’t seem to care much about her at all. It positions ALF as a nice guy, and he gets his way. Now, however, he’s no longer acting in her best interests…being just as selfish as Willie had been. The roles are reversed. Willie might still want her to leave for his own reasons, but helping her find a place to live also helps Jodie. ALF, on the other hand, is willing to hold her back for the sake of not losing her. I like this.

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

The Tanners find a nice apartment listing for Jodie, and she goes into the living room to call and see if it’s available. While she’s gone, ALF opens up to Willie and Kate, telling them that he doesn’t want her to leave. They reply, correctly, that she wants to move out, but ALF explains that they don’t understand the plight of the blind. He does, because he locked himself in the closet the other day. “Being blind is very dusty, and smells like boots.”

The upshot of the conversation is that if Jodie leaves, ALF says he’s going with her. This is sweet, and also leads to some more good comedy. Willie raises the perfectly valid point that Jodie would never be able to take care of him the way the Tanners have, but ALF corrects him and says he’ll be taking care of her. “Jodie needs me like a hole in the head!” he says, assuming that that’s something Earthlings see as a positive thing. It’s funny.

Why is ALF able to choose to move in with Jodie before consulting her on it? That gets addressed later, so I’ll save it for that, but while watching this the first time, that felt like a pretty big logical hole…something I mention because I was enjoying it enough that I didn’t actually care. Give me a good scene and I’ll give you all the slack in the world.

The best joke in the episode comes when Jodie announces that the apartment is available, and ALF informs Lucky (off-camera) that he’s moving out. “Gee,” ALF says. “I’ve never seen a cat smile before.”

THE JODIE EPISODES ARE GOOD YOU GUYS

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

After the commercial Brian warbles a few bars of “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” just to really hammer home the fact that the show has literally given up writing lines for him. Then we cut mercifully to Jodie’s new apartment, where ALF is looking at a book written in braille.

He says, “This book doesn’t have any words.” Then he runs his finger along a page and adds, “It’s got zits.”

Again, it’s funny, but it leads to a kind of dickish moment where he pulls out a pencil and starts treating it like a dot-to-dot. Won’t that fuck up Jodie’s book? Maybe, but, never fear, this is a good episode and the writers are paying attention to what they’re doing.

As evidence of this, Jodie comes home from grocery shopping. With the Tanners, it made sense that ALF couldn’t help with chores like that, because he’s an alien and can’t be seen in public. However Jodie doesn’t know that…so, in her mind, is he just some unemployed schmoe who makes blind people wait on him hand and foot?

Good question, and the episode addresses it immediately. “I don’t understand you,” she says. “You don’t have a job. You never leave the house.” She knows something’s up, but she doesn’t know what it is. ALF explains it away by confessing that he’s a very, very old man. I wish the conversation went a bit further than that, but it’s clever that ALF dodges the question by telling the truth. He is a very, very old man. He’s not a man from Earth, but she doesn’t know that.

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

Jodie starts preparing dinner, and ALF — to not be a total waste of everything for once — sets the table. It leads to one funny joke when ALF finds out they’re having vegetables (“That’s not food; that’s the stuff food eats.”) and one shitty joke that’s just ALF accidentally smashing her dinnerware all over the floor because, fuck it, he’s a total waste of everything even at his best.

It is nice that his well-intentioned behavior works against Jodie, but ALF smacking shit onto the floor isn’t nearly as clever or satisfying as him hiding the newspaper listings earlier, or what we see him doing in a moment.

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

The next day, Jodie trips over something ALF put in the hallway: a speed bump to prevent her from walking too fast and potentially getting hurt. He also taped cushions to things so she won’t have to worry about bumping into them, and labelled things like the window and the table with raised lettering.

She even finds him putting curb feelers on her shoes.

Does anyone out there actually remember those? I remember when I was learning to drive, and I had trouble parallel parking. My father made some joke about curb feelers, and that was the first time I’d heard of them. I wanted them immediately, so his joke backfired. Little did he know I’d never have any shame about looking like an idiot.

Anyway, ALF’s annoying the everloving shit out of her, but he’s doing it for what he thinks is a good cause. AND FUCKERS I LIKE THAT.

Intention and reality are not matching up for ALF in “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” and that’s interesting. This isn’t just a bunch of jokes that do or don’t work; it’s the examination of a flawed mindset, putting us as viewers in a position where we can be on both ALF’s and Jodie’s sides.

It’s also kind of adorable…at least in terms of intention. The “child’s craftbox” approach to his modifications to Jodie’s apartment add a nice level of unspoken visual comedy. I really need to give more credit to the props department. Or, y’know…give them props.

B-)

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

Jodie sends ALF off on a wild goose chase to find her keys, and while he’s out of the room she calls the Tanners. This is where we learn that ALF told her he was only going to stay with her until she got settled…but now it’s clear that she’ll never be settled by his standards. I kind of wish this tied into the “break it to you a month at a time” joke from earlier, but, as it is, it’s kind of sad.

In a good way. Not in a Willie-has-to-play-chess-with-a-wise-cracking-puppet way.

Later on, ALF is chiseling the word BEET into a beet, and hits his finger with the hammer. He calls for Willie and Kate, but then catches himself. “What am I doing? They’re not here. I’ll have to kiss it myself.”

Was Jodie’s actress related to one of the writers or something? They really seem to step up their game for her episodes.

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

The Tanners come over while Jodie is doing laundry, and explain to ALF that she called them to take him away. She wants to live alone, and he’s being overbearing.

He says that that doesn’t sound like Jodie, and was probably a different blind woman who had a wrong number. Again, funny, but he’s clearly grasping at straws, and he knows they’re right. It’s a lovely, sad moment of realization.

Then Jodie comes back in, and ALF immediately shouts, “Jodie! Don’t take off your clothes! We have company!”

That got a legitimate lol out of me.

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

ALF sits Jodie down…and tells her it’s time for him to go. He promised to stay until she got settled…but now she’s settled, and he will leave.

It’s a little heartbreaking, actually, because it’s clear that he doesn’t want to go. He realizes that he’s not making her happy, though, and her happiness is more important to him.

She thanks him, and tells him that he did help her adjust to her new home, even if he ultimately took it too far. She even gives him a braille book of his own to remember her by…the same one he defaced earlier. And she finished the dot-to-dot for him.

They turned ALF’s idiotic dickishness from earlier and turned it into the legitimate emotional payoff of the entire episode. That’s fucking incredible.

It makes for a really lovely conclusion to an episode that wasn’t nearly as good as “For Your Eyes Only,” but achieved a definite sweetness and a surprising amount of laughs on its own merits. Not one of my favorites…but one I definitely enjoyed.

ALF, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

But we’ve still got a short scene before the credits, so ALF puts on some dark glasses and pretends to be Ray Charles, singing “Georgia on My Mind.” You know. Just one last-minute slap in the nuts for anyone dumb enough to think the blind made it through this episode without being a punchline.

I really hope we get to see Jodie again, but, if we don’t, this at least feels like a good place to leave her.

It’s not the passive “fuck you” that she got at the end of the otherwise excellent “For Your Eyes Only”…it’s a reminder to us — and to ALF, and to herself — that she can be okay on her own.

I’m more comfortable leaving her here, at this point in her life, and though I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing her again, I don’t mind ALF moving on, especially now that Jodie’s had time to see that she didn’t really enjoy having him around anyway. It’s a good time for ALF to let her live her life.

Like he did with that little cancer gir-

…oh.

Oh.

MELMAC FACTS: Melmacians were outgoing by nature; ALF is shy compared to most of them.

—–
* I guess he bailed on their dinner date that was referenced at the end of “For Your Eyes Only.” Stand-up guy, that ALF.

** ha ha

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11 Responses

  • Jerod says:

    Wait, I think there’s a major plot hole in this writeup that was never explained. Fifth picture down, there’s a scene with Jodie, Lynn and Kate right when Jodie arrives. But if you look closely, there’s also a fourth person in that picture. Some kid I’ve never seen before. Who is that, and why the hell is he in that scene?

    • Sarah Portland says:

      What are you talking about? There’s no kid there.Just like there wasn’t a fifth place setting at the dinner table in the screen capture before that. I think you’re seeing things.

  • ERK says:

    “The Tanners apparently forget how many people are in their family and eat dinner without Brian.” – HAHAHAHA! Great line.

    As the show goes on, it gets more and more obvious that the writers really didn’t give a single shit about making that kid part of the show. I just wonder if it was intentional. It’s very possible that after hiring Benji Gregory on the basis that he was a cute kid that would hopefully grow into his role on the show as he got older, they sadly realized that he can’t act and has no presence on camera.

    I can only imagine how hard of a situation that would be. The writers and producers are stuck with a kid who is incapable of ever being a decent child actor, so do you fire him and replace him, or try to work around his flaws? Neither choice is a good one. Often times when a show changes out a character for another actor the fans despise it. So instead of changing “Bryan” out with another child actor, maybe they felt the best solution would be to keep Benji Gregory and write the episodes around him, giving him as little to do and say as possible.

    But I wonder if ALF could have been a better show if they had changed the kid out with another child actor who actually had talent. It may have been weird at first for fans of the show to see another kid playing Bryan, but if the storylines could have been improved with the new cast member, and if Alf could actually have real adventures with him, it may have been the better choice.

  • Casey says:

    It looks like this episode was written by Marjorie Gross, who actually has some very decent writing credits to her name (Newhart, Seinfeld, Get a Life, Larry Sanders Show). The next episode’s writer is the same guy who did the Gilligan’s Island episode.

  • ERK says:

    Speaking of Brian, I just found this on Youtube, it’s an ALF special called “ALF Loves A Mystery”, which was an NBC Saturday Morning preview shown in 1987. Brian is given quite a bit to do in it based on the little I watched. You should do a review of it as a “bonus” for season two, since it came out the same year. Here’s the link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J1VC53l_KE

    • Philip J Reed says:

      I had no idea this existed. I will absolutely do this in the break between seasons two and three. As long as I don’t forget, that is. Feel free to remind me.

    • Jerod says:

      I watched some of that and noticed that ALF called him by his real name, Benji, and he did just fine. My new theory is that he doesn’t understand that he’s playing a character named Brian, and is either pissed that everyone keeps saying his name wrong, or bored because nobody is talking to him.

      Or Max Wright terrifies him, as he terrifies us all.

  • Mark Moore says:

    In the third pic, notice the empty plate, mostly empty glass, used napkin, and pulled-out chair in the foreground.

    Someone (whether the script-writer or prop person) addressed Brian’s absence.

    He probably finished dinner quickly and went off to play video games or whatever.

    Which is perfectly normal behavior for a kid.

  • Wilkins says:

    Mmm, I could sure go for a nice, cool, refreshing Diet Soda Cola right about now.

  • kim says:

    I agree that this episode is really not that bad, I especially like the ALF and jodie episodes too. I did find it odd too that put these two episodes so far apart, but whatever, it’s still a good episode. it shows that do have a charming relationship together, but as this episodes proves, even for jodie there is so much ALF she can take. I did find of heartbreaking do when jodie asks ALF to leave and he does not want too, it shows how desperate he is to have a meaningful with someone else besides the tanners. this show could of diffidently used some more jodie episodes. I like that it showed ALF really trying to be a good friend, but to the point of being overbearing can get annoying.

    speaking of brian, I found this little gem on youtube. a rare interview with benji gregory. from the interview, even the actor himself got bored with his role in the sitcom! dam, that is a shame, but I guess that’s what happens when you give a actor not much to do.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX970riYYp0



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