Even the most inspired shows occasionally make a misstep. In “Kissing Cousins,” the 18th episode of the seventh season of Full House, the producers and the exceptional John Stamos make such a misstep. In an attempt to explore the duality of Jesse Katsopolis’ character in a more literal way, Mr. Stamos boldly plays both Jesse and Jesse’s Greek cousin, Stavros. While conceptually brilliant, the execution is not just sloppy, but indeed spews forth such a vitriolic rhetoric that it is remarkable the series managed to survive.
In “Kissing Cousins,” originally airing on the ABC network on February 15, 1994, Mr. Stamos creates a split of Jesse’s psychic apparatus. He portrays Stavros as a literal expression of Jesse’s id, while Jesse, himself, becomes a heightened expression of Jesse’s super-ego. Notably, this is a concept that has been explored in a more latent way in several episodes. Many episodes revolve around this struggle between the two parts of Jesse’s psyche as he suppresses his rock ‘n roll urges and consistently puts his family and responsibilities ahead of his dreams. Mr. Stamos’ portrayal of Stavros, however, reveals more than was likely intended. The episode places xenophobia and antiziganism (racism directed at the Roma people, commonly called Gypsies) in the forefront.
What makes this hateful episode particularly shocking is the fact that Mr. Stamos makes his Greek heritage a regular part of the show. In fact, in the first season, Mr. Stamos played Jesse Cochran. Mr. Stamos then asked the producers to change the character’s name to Katsopolis in order to honor his heritage. Even in the previous episode in the series, “The Last Dance,” Jesse’s Greek grandfather is portrayed in an overwhelmingly positive light. In “Kissing Cousins,” however, the normally accepting show stokes the fires of hate. One shudders to think about what must have transpired on set during the previous week that created this atmosphere of hostility.
The action begins when Jesse returns from Papouli’s funeral in Greece. Upon arrival, Jesse announces that he has brought a surprise back from Greece, his cousin Stavros, also played by Mr. Stamos. Unlike Jesse, Stavros has slicked down hair combed across his forehead, oversized teeth, a large mole on his cheek, and is wearing a plaid suit and orange turtleneck. He is a stereotypical “foreigner.” The girls tell Jesse that Stavros looks just like him. In response, Stavros points out his “nose like Greek God” and says that Jesse has the nose of a “cockapoo.” As Stavros makes this comparison, he turns in profile and reveals that Mr. Stamos is playing Stavros not with a Greek nose, but a large, hook nose. It is now clear that “Kissing Cousins” will serve as hateful propaganda.
Stavros then claims he is taking off to a seedy hotel in a bad part of town. Danny, trusting as always, invites him to stay at the house. Playing on Romani stereotypes, Stavros is a shifty eyed schemer. Stavros takes the girls to the horse track. He drinks straight out of the milk carton. He hustles Joey in gin, taking $20 and Joey’s watch. Stretching the minimal credibility of the episode, Stavros orders “a double feta cheese and lamb guts pizza” and makes DJ pay for it. This reviewer finds it highly unlikely that any pizzeria in the San Francisco area serves such a concoction, but it proves the hateful extremes to which the writers will go to propagate their odious message.
In one of the more disturbing scenes in the entire series, Stavros stalks Becky into kitchen and stares lustily at her. He then begins to smell her and touch her. Stavros is pure, disgusting id, which the episode suggests is made all the more heinous due to his foreign nature. Becky is forced to fend him off with a carrot, but the message is clear. Stavros was clearly in control of the exchange and Becky is fortunate that she is not a victim of his vile intentions.
At a family meeting without Jesse, everyone shares their displeasure with Stavros and the trouble that he has caused each of them. DJ declares him a “sleaze bag.” In a very telling scene, Jesse joins the meeting and begins discussing Stavros fondly. Jesse says that he has asked Stavros to move in. The family tells Jesse how they really feel about Stavros, a conversation that the shifty Stavros overhears from the shadows. Jesse remains defiant stating, “You insult Stavros, you insult me.” As the literal expression of the super ego, Jesse resists the family’s xenophobic hatred of Stavros. He does not allow himself to see the dark side of his own id run amok.
Stavros then emerges from upstairs with his packed bags in tow. He tells the family that he has to return to Greece due to a mudslide that has destroyed his village. He then returns everything he had taken through his schemes and apologizes for his bad behavior. Setting up the racist conclusion of the episode, the family feels awful and offers to help out with a fundraiser. Once again they trust the deceitful Stavros.
Within hours, they have organized a Greek dance marathon at the Smash Club. Stavros is now wearing his plaid suit with a ruffled shirt underneath. As his scheme comes to fruition, he takes off his jacket to reveal that the ruffled shirt is sleeveless, a pointed commentary on his foreign ways. Before Stavros is able to run off with the money, however, Stephanie, finds Stavros’ plane tickets revealing that the family was foolish to ever trust the foreigner. The destination of the plane tickets is not Greece, but Orlando. Playing on Stavros’ lusty desires, Becky hatches a plan to trap Stavros. She tells the girls that they cannot simply tell Jesse about Stavros’ plans because Jesse won’t believe them. Her explanation suggests that Jesse is under some kind of spell. In order to catch Stavros in the act, Becky hides a microphone in a vase and makes sexual advances on Stavros. Unable to resist his fierce sexual urges, Stavros reveals his entire nefarious scheme, and hence reveals the plan to all via the hidden microphone. Jesse is heartbroken. After confronting Stavros, Jesse simply sends him on his way. Notably, they don’t even call the police and alert them to Stavros’ schemes. This is the episode’s final xenophobic statement about how to deal with foreigners. Essentially, the writers are imploring the audience to send foreigners back from whence they came, not bothering to fill our overcrowded prisons with their ilk. With that, the family decides to donate the money Stavros raised to a children’s hospital and the party at the Smash Club continues.
And thus ends a dark, and sad chapter in Full House’s otherwise magical run.