Episode Title: “Born To Walk”
Production Code: 0208
Reviewed By: Nitzan Gilkis (email@example.com)
Rating: 8 out of 10
I’ve gotta confess, season two has always been my least favorite. Some of the show’s weakest episodes are to be found here: “Buck Can Do It”, “Poppy’s By The Tree”, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, “Father Lode”… Sure, almost every episode has its moments (after all, this is MWC, so even when it’s weak it’s still better than the average sitcom), but the laughs-per-minute average, if you will, is probably the lowest of all seasons, and only a few of the episodes manage to stay consistently funny from beginning to end. “Born To Walk” is one of these episodes. Well, almost.
“Get it? Dr. Footwear! I sell shoes!”
The plot couldn’t be simpler: Al wants to go down to the tracks to bet on a horse he gets tipped on, but his license expires, and after failing the written test he is dependent on his ungrateful wife and newly-licensed daughter for getting there. Needless to say, Al misses the race, the horse wins, Al loses, The End. The entire episode is set in the Bundy living room (not uncommon in the second season: 201, 205, 210, 212, 213… budget issues, perhaps?) and there is no guest cast, so once again the dialog saves the day: sharp, flowing, having the dark edge that is typical to early MWC but is hard to find in its later years. And above all, very very funny. I love the heavy use of sarcasm by everyone, especially Al, who suffers blow after blow and responds with bitter remarks such as: “And this is my family. The great life, huh?”, “I know what you’re thinking, Steve, but you can’t have her, she’s mine”, “Well you say ‘I do’ but you don’t really know what it means” and many others (loved his ‘deer-hunting’ plans). Lots of hilarious bantering between Al and Peg, too. For example:
Peg: Al, does this story have a point, or does it just sort of go on endlessly like our marriage?
Al: Ah, gee, Peg, when you act like this I just wanna throw you on the floor and make love to
you. [stops smiling] Either that or just throw you on the floor.
Peg doesn’t quite share Al’s enthusiasm
My favorite bit in the episode is the numerous tickets Al gets – six in all, including one when he moves his car two-feet-three-inches for Steve and one while riding Bud’s bike. Getting the tickets in itself isn’t that funny, but Al’s reactions to it are, and so are the others’ comments: “I’m sorry Al. Now I’m proud of you” [Peg], “They just give you a warning. Unless they really hate you” [Marcy], “Well, I warned you, Al” [Steve] etc.. The ‘ticket motif’ is seamlessly intertwined into the main plot and adds a lot of laughs.
“Dad, being without a license - does it make you feel like less than a man?”
The immediate comparison to be made is to season nine’s “Driving Mr. Boondy”, where Al’s license also expires and he also fails his written test. But while “Driving Mr. Boondy” dealt mainly with Al’s attempts at renewing his license (and was a lot lighter in its approach), “Born To Walk” deals mainly with the Bundy Luck (™), or rather the lack of it, and in that sense it’s a lot more similar to “Luck Of The Bundys”. In both episodes Al is fully aware of his curse and reacts with acceptance for the most part (“He’s going to win. I didn’t bet on him.” etc.), and in both as soon as he claims to be lucky or successful, bad luck befalls him.
Peg makes plans
Several MWC running-jokes make their debut here. One of them is Al’s deficient performance in bed, although here he’s still doing pretty well compared to later seasons – a full five minutes: “Eleven p.m – make love. 11:05 – Al goes to sleep. 11:06 – Finish making love”, as Peg writes in her notebook. Come to think of it, this is probably the first vibrator joke as well. Another running-joke that appears here for the first time (I think) is the ridiculously-low value of the Bundy house (which I’ve always found highly unbelieveable, but what the heck):
Al: Peg, sell the house!
Peg: Why, Al? Did you see a shirt somewhere that you like?
Al: Yes. It said: “Congratulate me, wife’s dead”.
And there’s also a classic dig from Peg at Al’s personal hygiene:
Al: Is there anything that we have that we don’t use anymore we can sell?
Peg: Yes, but who’d want to buy your toothbrush?
“Oh, daddy’s growing up so fast”
Nice to see Christina Applegate and David Faustino getting more and more lines as the season progresses. Applegate in particular does a great job here, especially when Kelly is teasing Bud about becoming ‘car-meat’ once she gets her license (“Good thing you weren’t on it [the skateboard], huh?” etc.). Loved the way she delivers the “Daddy’s growing up so fast” line, too (Kelly getting back at Al for admitting that the reason he’s reluctant to let her drive is purely unsentimental – the insurance). Faustino, on the other hand, is given some rather weak lines. Bud’s smartass quizzing (“Where were you last night?”, “or C. do what you usally do”) isn’t funny, and I feel that more could have been made of the short father-son talk between Bud and Al in the second act.
“or C – do what you usually do”
Kelly: So there's no problem with me using the car during the week?
Al: Ha ha, no, no, take it... Just don't get it dirty 'cause we'll be living in it soon.
Some trivial observations: Kelly is still just a stereotypical teenager and the producers haven’t yet decided to turn her into the dumbest girl on earth – she passes her written test and seems quite knowledgeable when Steve quizzes her. Marcy’s character still isn’t fully developed, either. I’m sure that at a later season a comment from Kelly like “I was really getting sick of that ‘put out or get out’ stuff” would have triggered some feministic speech from her, rather than a feeble “Yes, that too”. Steve and Al’s relationship continues its development - Steve has lost his ‘naivety’ and is no longer easily manipulated by Al, of whom he has become wary by now. He immediately turns suspicious when Al wants to have a ‘neighborly chat’, and at some points is even surprisingly mean to him. He refuses to sell a part of his bet to Al (“Lick my shoe, out of friendship?”), doesn’t reward him in any way after winning $2300 thanks to Al’s tip and even takes back the $25 he gave him. But I guess he can’t really be blamed, after all the hardships Al has put him through in the year-or-so they’ve been neighbors.
“Yes, that too”
Steve: Peg, you've got the greatest husband in the world.
Peg: Why? What happened to Al?
As I hinted in the first paragraph, this episode has its flaws, and I’m talking mainly about the second-to-last scene. Despite Al’s pleas and begs, neither Peg nor Kelly are home in time to take him to the tracks, so he is forced to listen to the broadcast of the horse race on the radio, later joined by Steve. I found nothing funny about this scene; instead it’s sad, depressing even, culminating in Al’s dismal ‘realization speech’, which lacks any jokes whatsoever and keeps the audience silent for nearly a minute. A rare moment of seriousness in the show’s history, and one that I think it could’ve done without. Al learns how selfish and uncaring his family members really are, and promises them the same kind of attitude from now on. And one has to wonder: haven’t things always been that way in the Bundy household? Was Al really unaware of the situation till now? If not, why did he trust Kelly or Peg to take him to the tracks in the first place? In any case, you can’t help but feel sympathy for Al in this scene. Poor guy.
Al learns some painful truths about his family
The episode ends with a small victory for Al, when Peg asks Al to ring her mother’s call upstairs and he hangs up the phone. A rather pathetic attempt at a ‘happy ending’ that will please the viewers, which doesn’t really work if you ask me. The episode leaves you feeling somewhat glum - quite a rare thing for a MWC episode to do - and it’s a shame, really, because for the most part this is a very funny episode.
Click here to view the transcript of the episode.