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ALF Reviews: “I Gotta Be Me” (season 4, episode 23)

April 14th, 2016 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

And here we are. The penultimate episode of ALF. After this there’s only one left, and then we’ll have the standard bonus features after that episode. Beyond that? We’re doing a live stream of Project: ALF that will serve as our big celebration to end the series. It’s on May 20, so click here for information, and make sure to be there. It’s going to be great.

After that I’ll post the formal review of that movie, a handful of wrap-up posts, and nothing else about ALF ever at any point as long as I live. I’m not covering the cartoon shows, talk shows, guest appearances on other shows, any potential reboots, or anything else you could possibly ask me about, period, for fuck’s sake. I’m done with this garbage.

There is one exception I’m willing to make: should that long-rumored ALF movie get off the ground, I’ll post something about it. A full-length review in this style will be impossible before it makes it to DVD and I can take screengrabs, so I’m honestly not sure what kind of coverage I can give it, but if we get an ALF movie, fine, I’ll do something. If we get ALF anything else, it can fucking fuck the fuck off.

But, hey, let’s focus on the positive: our final standalone episode is about Lynn’s sex life.

…hurrah.

It opens with ALF kicking Willie’s and Brian’s asses at Monopoly, which is fine. Like, it’s not great, and I can’t even remember anything about it long enough to tell you what happened, but it wasn’t horrible, so, whatever.

Then Lynn comes home with Robert, and before he hides ALF bitches that she should dump this guy because he’s a mime.

And…he is?

I thought the mime stuff was just some made-up nonsense from that dumbass fantasy episode. Robert is really a mime? Why? HOW?

We met him in “It’s My Party,” where he was a caterer. And…that’s it. The only other time we’ve seen him was “Future’s So Bright, I’ve Gotta Wear Shades,” where he was suddenly a mime. But I figured that was some irrelevant setup for a series of gags, just as Brian’s not really married to the mob, Eric’s not really a children’s show host, and Kate’s tits aren’t that saggy.

The mime thing stuck, though? How strange. Since when do fantasy episodes affect the main continuity? Of…like…anything?

And then there’s just the fact that Lynn’s with a mime at all. If you decide all of a sudden she needs to be dating one, fine, I’ve finished trying to argue, but why bring Robert back for that? Why is it not a new boyfriend? Why introduce another recurring squeeze for Lynn — one who doesn’t mind that she became a frathouse legend a few weeks back — as one thing, only to literally redefine who he is the next time we see him?

I wonder if this episode was originally meant to air before “Future’s So Bright, I’ve Gotta Wear Shades.” It would make more sense that way, both because this would work as setup for Robert being a mime in ALF’s fantasy, and because we might actually recognize the guy there if we’d seen him twice before.

Ugh, whatever. Robert and Lynn kiss, which causes Willie to pop a boner and ALF to bitch at her for not kissing him that way.

If you were hoping they’d hit a grand slam with their final Lynn episode, you really haven’t been paying attention to anything I’ve told you.

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

After the credits, ALF makes a shitty joke and Kate stares at him wordlessly. It’s odd, but I know the feeling.

Then Lynn comes home from her college football game. Can anyone tell if she’s got the real CSUN crest on her jacket? Also, is it even called a crest? I went to college and I have no idea, because I spent most of my time urinating when girls tried to talk to me.

She won a raffle for a ski trip, and is taking Robert with her. I don’t know if this is a sidelong reference to Dean Cameron — who plays Robert — starring in Ski School the same year “I Gotta Be Me” aired, but it’s a nice enough coincidence even if it’s not.

Well, it’s a coincidence anyway.

This clearly upsets Kate, whose little girl is growing up, and who she really wishes would save her 75th sexual partner for marriage. She suggests taking Joanie instead.

And, hey, remember Joanie? She was the recurring character that wasn’t. Which sucks, because she was pretty good, and it would have been nice for Lynn to finally associate with someone incapable of spraying her with reproductive jelly.

Lynn was on the phone with Joanie in “Lies,” and then Joanie showed up to take a kitten off the Tanners’ hands in “Live and Let Die,” but that was it. Now we get another reference to her, and it really feels like we were meant to see her again and never did.

That’s good for the actress, though; had she appeared a second time she’d have been contractually obligated to do a scene with ALF.

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

This episode was written by Bev Archer (or is at least credited to her), and she is actually a relatively major figure for ALF.

She’s mainly known for her supporting (but memorable) roles in Mama’s Family, where she played Iola, and Major Dad, where she played Gunny. Neither show was great, but Archer was a highlight of both. She was a gifted comic actress who, as far as I know at least, never got beyond supporting and bit parts. But that’s okay; I like her, and she knows how to make the most of a small role. (Evidence of that fact: I remember her from Mama’s Family and Major Dad more than I remember any of the other actors involved.)

On ALF she played Mrs. Byrd, who appeared in the “Someone to Watch Over Me” two-parter and was heard in “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” Interestingly, she is also the only actor from this sitcom to appear in Project: ALF, aside from Paul Fusco of course. Everyone else got a big fuck-you. So, that’s interesting. She was clearly in Fusco’s good graces, which we’ve seen many times over is not an easy thing to accomplish.

Archer also wrote three episodes of ALF, including this one, and was probably in the writer’s room for more. Interestingly, all three of her episodes are about Lynn’s romantic dabblings. There was “Promises, Promises” (Eddie and Randy), “Torn Between Two Lovers” (Danny and Randy), and now “I Gotta Be Me” (Robert and Marcel Marceau).

As we’ve discussed before, the fact that a writer is credited for an episode doesn’t necessarily mean that that writer is responsible for its content; it’s possible Archer just pitched the idea. But I do find it interesting that all of her credited work on this show shares that particular common theme.

As you know and would never believe otherwise, “Promises, Promises” was the worst piece of shit to ever air on television, and I’m including the time my TV fritzed out and I got that weird Videodrome transmission. But “Torn Between Two Lovers” was pretty good overall and ended with a great Lynn moment, so “I Gotta Be Me” could go either way.

…wait. It features a mime.

Disregard.

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

In the next scene ALF eats some soup or something.

Fuck that. We’ll talk more about the Lynn stuff.

Lynn stands her ground about going on the trip with Robert. Kate gets upset, Willie comes in and also gets upset, but Lynn asserts herself and walks out of the room. And…you know what? That whole thing worked pretty well. Granted, the acting isn’t top notch, but I like the situation.

Lynn’s parents want her to make the right decisions, but can no longer make decisions for her. That’s got to be a pretty rough transitional period for parents. You go from having relative control over your kids to having less of it, and eventually having none of it. But your desire to steer your children right doesn’t go away, which means you’ll inevitably be hurt, frustrated, and disappointed by the things that they do.

Here I’m on Lynn’s side, but I absolutely appreciate where Kate is coming from. Especially since…y’know. She’s being a parent. Agree with her or not, she’s displaying a kind of concern for one of her children, and this is maybe the third time that’s ever happened on this show.

I’m on Lynn’s side not because I think Robert’s a great catch or anything, but because she’s a teenager. She’s in college. She’s in a committed relationship (as far as this episode is concerned, that is). And she has every right to make this kind of mistake.

Not that we have to see this as a mistake, but even if we assume it’s one, so what? Take a weekend with your boyfriend. Have a great time. Or get in a fight and realize you don’t know each other the way you think you do. Or have a wonderful weekend, give the guy your heart, and get it broken at some point later so that you’ll wish you never met him.

Whatever happens, it’s okay. In fact, whatever happens, it’s necessary.

These are things people need to do as they grow up. We need to have negative experiences so that we can better recognize and avoid them in the future, so we’ll appreciate the positive ones more, so we’ll know what, exactly, the fuck we want. (Just kidding. I’ll never figure that out.)

If Kate felt that Robert was dangerous, that would be another story. As it stands, though, she just doesn’t want Lynn doing what college girls (and guys) do. Good intentions, but unrealistic and not at all helpful.

Lynn making a stand here, about this, is nice.

She should. She should do exactly this.

She should march off to that ski weekend, and if she comes back happy, great. If she comes back miserable, so much the better. She needs to learn her lessons firsthand. Kate may know better than Lynn does. In fact, she very likely does…but that doesn’t help anybody. Lynn has to know better than Lynn does.

So go ahead, Lynn. Make a mistake. Make lots of mistakes. It’s the only way you’ll come out ahead.

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

Anyway, Lynn comes in and Willie acts like an asshole to her. She asks why he’s drinking coffee at ten o’clock at night, and he says, “I don’t expect many of us will be sleeping tonight, anyway.”

What a fucking dick…guilting your own daughter for your hangups. And way to go with the passive-aggressive response to an innocent question. Did you learn that from your years of social work experience?

Guys, I really hate to harp on this, but moments like this are why I question the decision to make Willie a social worker. He doesn’t act like one. To anyone. Ever. For any reason. At any point. He’s not a social worker; he’s an asshole.

We get a pretty nice Lynn moment after ALF is shooed from the room. (Seriously…that improves every moment.) Even though it still hinges on Willie being a bit of a fuckwit.

He sits down next to his daughter and tells her she can solve this whole problem right now. One: fuck you for even thinking this is a problem, Willie. (You fuckwit.) But then we come to two: Lynn handles this really well.

Here’s what she says: “How? By promising that nothing will happen that mom doesn’t want to happen?”

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

It’s not delivered with any bitchiness at all; she just realizes how unfair an expectation it is.

Willie tells her that Kate (way to pass the blame, Willie; you’re the one wide awake, fretting over what does or doesn’t get into your daughter’s vagina) just wants to make sure Lynn is making the right decision.

Lynn has the perfect four-word reply: “That’s not okay anymore.”

And, you know what? Andrea Elson is killing this.

That doesn’t make it a good episode, and it sure as shit won’t be a memorable one, but this is the strongest Elson has ever been as an actor. I buy her responses. I believe in her situation. It’d be a lie to say that I’m invested in it, but I more than agree with her; I’m actively on her side. I want her to win this battle.

I…fuck. To some extent, I care about the outcome of this.

Stand tall, Lynn. Do this for yourself. You’re doing this right. Let your parents learn a lesson this week; you clearly already have.

Earlier in the scene ALF wondered aloud why Lynn didn’t simply lie about where she was going, or who would be there. But Lynn didn’t do that. The show never dug into why she didn’t, but I think she didn’t because she’s more respectful than that.

Sure, she could have said, “Yeah, I’ll take Joanie,” and then spent the whole weekend getting ski school’d. But she didn’t lie, because there’s nothing wrong with her decision, and doesn’t feel the need to hide it.

If her parents have a problem with it, it’s her parents’ problem. She feels comfortable with what she’s doing, which is genuinely the only important consideration here. It’s also the one neither Willie nor Kate seem to be taking on board.

There’s a lot to enjoy and appreciate here. So, you can pretty much guess what happens next.

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

In the next scene ALF sniffs Lynn’s sheets and jacks off for a while.

God dammit.

Then he tries to give her some guff about putting out for a mime, and I’m a little disappointed that Lynn just tells him to go to hell and doesn’t rip his nuts off and club him to death with them.

ALF even suggests that Willie mishandled the situation with Lynn, presumably because the guy didn’t chain her to a radiator to prevent her from having sex. I don’t know why Willie’s so upset; it’s his own fault. Years ago when he took his daughter to the circus and the ringmaster said, “Give it up for the mimes!” she really took it to heart.

The implication in this episode is that Lynn is a virgin. Which I doubt because I’ve watched the 98 episodes that preceded this one, but…whatever. It’s never explicitly stated, so it’s not necessarily a retcon…and I don’t really give a shit. This show is so riddled with continuity fuck-ed-ness that I don’t care what we are or aren’t told about characters anymore; all I care is that it leads to something worth watching.

For the most part, this does. It’s not great, but if we need to pretend Lynn is a virgin so that her parents can grow the fuck up, then, fine, whatever, I’ll take it.

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

The next morning Robert comes over to pick her up. He loudly announces that the hotel is giving them a room with a fireplace and a hot tub, so that they can fuck in front of a fireplace and also fuck in a hot tub. Willie gives him signals to shut his whore mouth, which Robert misinterprets, and then he waves goodbye to Lynn’s virginity.

Sadly, as in all softcore pornography, the penetration happens off camera. This is our act break, and the next thing we see is Lynn returning home.

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

It’s overall a pretty good scene. Both Kate and Lynn feel bad about the way they handled the situation. (Willie expresses no such regret, because fuck his wife and kid.) Which…eh, whatever. I don’t think Lynn did anything wrong — again, she was honest about what she was doing, and she was pretty articulate in her explanation of why she had to make her own choices — but I can understand the value of keeping the peace. Sometimes it’s worth conceding a little bit just to avoid the conflict.

And she does avoid the conflict, until she says that she and Robert enjoyed sex so much that they talked about living together, so that they can have it both regularly and without an alien listening through the door.

This causes Willie and Kate to flip the fuck out, and Lynn gets upset. Rightly so, I think. To be honest, I’m on her parents’ side this time — she is a bit young and she hasn’t been with this guy long enough — but the way in which they come down on her is pretty shitty. They basically just explode the moment she brings it up, so even though they have a fully rational leg to stand on, they just act like dickbags about it.

Lynn storms out, and ALF says to Willie and Kate, “If it’s any consolation, I’ll never leave you.”

At this point that has to be a deliberate joke on the part of the writers, since he does exactly that in the very next episode, furry middle fingers raised to the Tanners and to the audience.

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

Lynn goes over to Robert’s filthy fucking sty of an apartment and says that she’s ready to move in. Robert replies, “Whoa, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I only said that so you’d let me stick it anywhere I wanted. I’m sure you understand.”

This helps Lynn put things into perspective, but unfortunately not enough that she jams her thumbs through his eyes.

She decides she was hasty to leave home. She says, “Okay, I’ll go back. I’ll play Suzy Creamcheese one more time, but I won’t promise to like it.”

And…I have no idea what the fuck that means. It’s a Frank Zappa reference, but that’s all I know for sure. Can anyone better versed in Zappa’s history shed any light on this?

I’m aware of a little bit of context…but only a little. The back cover of Freak Out!, the debut album from Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, featured a letter from a fake fan named Suzy Creamcheese. The next year (1967) the band released Absolutely Free, which included a song called “Son of Suzy Creamcheese.” You can listen to it here like I just did, get needlessly pissed off that the uploader misspelled “Suzy,” and most likely still have no idea what Lynn’s talking about.

So, I dug a little further. Urban Dictionary, which I won’t be liking to, refers to a Frank Zappa interview from 1971 when defining “Suzy Creamcheese.” It was evidently a nickname given to an underage groupie, which may be true, but it’s nothing I’ve heard before, I haven’t seen the interview in question, and I can’t imagine that that’s what Lynn is comparing herself to anyway.

So…what the fuck?

I have to assume there was just some Zappa fan on the writing staff and they shoehorned it in for the sake of referencing the man — especially believable since Lynn at no point has acted anything like the particular kind of person who appreciates / understands / tolerates the music of Frank Zappa — but in that case, I’m surprised none of the episodes were named after Zappa songs. Wouldn’t that be the easiest place to slip in a reference without derailing the plots?

I have no idea. Anyone? It’s not uncommon for Zappa references to boggle minds, but here it’s boggling the mind of a Zappa fan. What the hell am I missing?

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

Lynn goes home, and everyone’s a real bitch to her. But that’s okay, because the sad music comes on and Kate admits that she’s only a real bitch to her because she loves her.

The dialogue here is pretty ropey and cheap, but Anne Schedeen does her best with it. I can’t say it was especially effective to me, but that was certainly through no fault of either actor. The reconciliation as written simply aims to warm the heart and misses its mark. At best it…I dunno. Burns my elbow.

The one thing I really like about it is how contentious the scene is when Lynn returns, and how naturally it softens into a discussion about what she and her mother feel. It’s a very human thing to lash out when you’re actually trying to reach out, and they both do a good job of tapping into that emotional irony.

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

Then ALF pops up through the plot window to make a joke but Willie throws him to the floor for some violent fucking against the kitchen tile.

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

In the short scene before the credits, ALF refuses to get out of Lynn’s bed until she shows him her “ski moves,” so she calls the Alien Task Force.

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"

This one…well, it wasn’t good. But it was surprisingly far from awful for an episode that’s explicitly about Lynn spreading her legs.

Part of me does wish it ended with her decision to move out, because that would have provided a nice suggestion of human momentum for the character…and since the show by this point knew the Tanners wouldn’t be in season five, it wouldn’t have posed any writing challenges moving forward.

It’s not a bad thing, exactly, that Lynn chooses to stay…it’s just that that’s the sort of decision she’d have to reach in a show that relied on the reset button. ALF no longer has such a restriction, which is a luxury that it’s frustratingly not interested in exploring.

Seriously, the show can do anything with these characters at this point, as it knows full well we’ll never see them again. Lynn can move out. Willie can get a new job. Kate can have an affair. Brian can get his hand bitten off by a seal. So why the show does precisely nothing with any of them is a question I cannot answer.

Unless, of course, this episode really was supposed to air much earlier in the season. That would explain why it feels the need to reach for the reset button. “I Gotta Be Me” certainly doesn’t feel like a second-to-last episode, and we discussed earlier how this could have set up the mime stuff for the flash-forward episode, so I don’t think it’s an unreasonable suspicion. Then again, it’s not like any other episode felt like a second-to-last episode, so fucked if I know.

Its placement at pretty much the end of the entire show does a great job of emphasizing how much Elson grew as an actor, though. She might not be leaving ALF with much raw talent, but she’s come a hell of a long way from the stilted, pop-eyed mannequin of season one.

The show rarely figured out what to do with her, almost never gave her worthwhile material, and sure as hell didn’t treat her well as a person or as a character…but she’s grown nevertheless. The idea of Lynn having a moving heart-to-heart with her parents would have chilled my bones in the early episodes, but by now it’s the writing that’s failing the audience, not her acting.

She has several emotional moments in “I Gotta Be Me,” and she carries them well. That’s progress. And, once again, that’s why I’m sad she was stuck on ALF. In a better show, she could have become much more. Here she was restricted by the limitations of fuck-awful television.

She still grew, but always within those limits.

It’s a shame, in a way, but at least we get to end with the assurance that while Max Wright got worse and Benji Gregory went nowhere during the course of ALF, Andrea Elson somehow found an opportunity to grow as an actress. And that’s as happy an ending as this show is going to get.

Just don’t look her up on IMDB. It…gets a lot sadder if you do that.

Countdown to a few light taps upon the pane, and Willie turning to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey eastward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Los Angeles. It was falling on every part of Griffith Park, on Pizza Barge, falling softly upon the Ochmoneks’ lawn flamingos and, farther westward, softly falling into Silas Tanner’s reservoir. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Gordon Shumway lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead: 1 episode

MELMAC FACTS: Rodent parts were used on Melmac as food preservatives. ALF had a cousin named Frieda. Lynn is 19 at the time of this episode. ALF’s mother didn’t approve of Rhonda. Rhonda had a reputation for “skiing around,” which ALF says is how they met, but he’s a fucking liar because he said in “Stop in the Name of Love” that they met at a pet bake. Melmacians can drool a toxic black liquid in their sleep.

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18 Responses

  • Casey says:

    Look, I drool all kinds of toxic liquids in my sleep, but you don’t hear me bragging about it.

  • Steve says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=she9JyxX_iY Anyone ever seen this outtake from the taping of this episode? Shocking lost footage of ALF saying the N word, making fun of this character with Tourettes on an episode of LA Law that had aired the week they shot this episode.
    I always liked the talk between Kate and Lynn at the end. And is it really implied that Lynn and Robert did the Horizontal Polka during the ski trip?

    • Philip J Reed says:

      I’ve seen that before, but I have to admit that it’s odd to hear the crew laughing so late in the show’s run. I honestly had gotten the feeling they were all well and truly sick of working on this crap by now.

      And, man, the n-word gets all the attention in that clip (understandably so) but ALF telling Lynn to get on top of him is just stomach churningly gross.

      Also, yeah, they definitely got their poke on.

      • Justin says:

        You laugh at Paul Fusco if you want a job on the retooled ALF (most people assumed it was going to be picked up next season, hence the finale)! Andrea Elson’s face says it all, though (fake laughter).

  • Mark Moore says:

    Does Lynn really call the Alien Task Force?

  • Eva says:

    The Joyce reference is far better than ALF deserves. Bravo.

  • Matthew Wong says:

    Man is that blue shirt ALF’s fuck shirt? It seems like twice in a row he’s taken it right up the butt from Willie wearing that.

  • Justin says:

    This is the episode that Max Wright lost his god damn mind and attacked the puppet, which is funny because it seems there’s also a scene where he’s supposed to shove ALF at the end. Dean Cameron has said it’s the best thing he ever experienced on a set, as it was a total meltdown with Max Wright screaming, “PUT US ON STICKS! WE ARE ALL THE PUPPETS HERE!”

  • Oddly, even though it makes sense for this episode to have aired earlier in the season, it has the production number 4017, and “Future’s So Bright…” has a production number of 4013. (http://www.alftv.com/episodeguides/sitcom.php) It’s kind of crazy how much the air order skips around. Also discovered in my weird rabbit-hole tangent: Fever and Mind Games were both produced in season three but aired in season four.

    Anyway, good for Lynn for defending her right to make her own mistakes. That shit is important. I also think it’s important that, despite current economical circumstances, one moves out of one’s parents’ home, to worry about making rent and to spend two weeks eating ramen because one made shitty budget choices.
    And not gonna lie, I also sympathize heavily with Kate here. My roommate is ten years my junior, and I’ve spent our friendship biting my tongue against telling her that that choice is a terrible one, and that I know what the outcome will be. she needs to do those dumb things, or she’ll never learn why they were dumb.
    The exception: yelling at her in a Chinese restaurant after keeping my opinions to myself for six months: “No, you cannot marry and have children with that abusive fuck, because, and I cannot reiterate this enough. he’s an ABUSIVE FUCK.”

  • kim says:

    yeah, i remember this episode well and i was more on lynn’s side in this episode too, but i could sympathize with kate as well. kate just didn’t want her to taken advantage of and do anything that she will regret, but then again lynn is well old enough to know how to make her own decisions and learn from her mistakes and she also well old enough to know when it is okay to have sex and not let anyone take advantage of her. i was also more on kate’s side when came to lynn moving out, she should not be rushing to things like living on her own and marriage at her young age and with a guy she only dated a few times. (as far as we know) also i think lynn didn’t move out because the moment robert turned the idea down when she mentioned it, she thought maybe this guy is not the right person for her.

    for me honesty, i felt this episode was a cheap cop out with the whole parents not wanting to let go of the children storyline. don’t get me wrong, lynn and kate act out the scenes in this pretty well, but it’s just this type of storyline as been done to death in sitcoms. so this episode feels bland to all the other sitcoms going on at the time and it certainly does not feel like an episode you would create where it’s a show about space alien living with a family.

  • Dude, I’m so glad Robert ended up being mentioned at the end of season four, and not when they might have had enough time to write a whole story arc for him. You wrote this line concerning Robert and Lynn in “Future’s So Bright” that I cannot shake, and hear in my head every time you talk about Lynn. I cannot fathom hearing that line for another season or more. :P
    Also, that Suzy Cheesecake line has me more baffled every time I read it. Is she listening to the song again, or is she supposed to be acting like Suzy Cheesecake? Does Robert like that song and is hoping that if she listens to it a bunch of times, it will eventually grow on her?



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