“Perfect Strangers” is an innocent 1980s comedy about Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot), a lovable immigrant who moves to America to live with his cousin Larry (Mark Linn-Baker). However, what if Balki wasn’t as innocent and simple as he seemed but really a sleeper agent for a terrorist cell? After all, he came from the economically disenfranchised nation of Mypos. Not much is known about this enigmatic island. He helped his cousin, and himself, get work at the Chicago Chronicle. He befriended a local police officer and married a flight attendant. In a post-9/11 America, some of Balki’s motives are suspect.
It’s easy to root for an immigrant who just wants to live the American dream. However, what do we know about Mypos? We know that the people there are poor and the country has seemingly third-world conditions. We know from Balki’s frequent anecdotes that it is a bit backwards. However, how could this Hellenic island be so poor when it’s in the heart of the Mediterranean? Is most of the money going to support a corrupt or theocratic government? Also, Balki was always surprisingly more intelligent than his simple-minded demeanor would have you believe. He often used the expression, “Well, of course not. Don’t be ridiculous!” This seems like a common deceptive technique to gaslight people into coming to his point of view. After all, it’s not ridiculous to question his outrageous behavior. He clearly used this tactic to subliminally manipulate people. Also, as seemingly stupid as he seemed, he was able to become valedictorian of his night school class and secure a cartoonist job at the Chicago Chronicle.
Balki’s choice of company is equally suspect. He was quick to befriend elevator operator Harriette Winslow (JoMarie Payton). Could this be because her husband, Carl Winslow (Reginald VelJohnson), was a police officer? They did get awfully chummy and Carl became a regular friend to Balki and Larry. Furthermore, how could a police officer and an elevator operator afford the huge house on “Family Matters”? They supported three children, their grandmother, Aunt Rachel (Telma Hopkins) and Rachel’s illegitimate son. This Winslow dream home just might have been funded by the corrupt Mypos government. Why would they get paid so handsomely? Perhaps to live next door to the Urkels, a family of scientists. After all, Carl was always the first to hear about their latest scientific developments from their annoying, and unloved, son Steve (Jaleel White). Steve’s family moves to Russia but leaves him behind in America. Carl hates Steve but lets him stick around. Is it because he was the real genius? Was the Mypos government interested in the machine that turned him into Stefan Urquelle? All this and Balki and Carl never do see each other again. It’s logical to cut ties in order for this secret arrangement to work. However, the Winslow family benefitted. For instance, Aunt Rachel couldn’t afford her own home but could afford Rachel’s Place?
Befriending a cop isn’t an instant red flag. But what about also becoming romantically involved with a flight attendant? Sure, the 1980s were ripe with the stereotypical sexy stewardesses. However, both Balki and Larry married two best friends who happened to be flight attendants. Was Balki having his wife, Mary Anne Spencer (Rebeca Arthur), deliver intel, weapons or hazardous materials on his behalf? After all, in a pre-9/11 America, flight attendants could circumvent TSA regulations. No one would think twice about not checking a sexy, ditzy blonde.
We may never know what Balki ended up doing with all the American information he acquired working at a prominent Chicago newspaper. We don’t know the legal advantages of befriending a police officer and two flight attendants. We also do not know that Mypos isn’t part of Al Qaeda. We may never know what he was involved in, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Balki dropped a dirty bomb that turned Chicago into a Stefan Urquellian nightmare.