Season One, Episode 20: It All Comes Out in the WashEdit
Directed by: Frank DePalma
Written by: Harvey Jacobs
Henry Gropper: Vince Edwards
Chow Ting: James Hong
Ginger: Ellen Winthrop
Sam Larchmont: Philip Roth
This stars the great James Hong as the owner of a laundry service that can wash away sins, and along with them, guilt.
A Chinese teenager walks around the corner of a shop and almost walks into a business man. The man, Carl Gropper (Vince Edwards) is looking around and notices the window of the store which gives the name of the establishment as "Chow Ting." He goes in.
No one is at the counter, so Gropper goes up the counter and knocks on the counter. At first there is no response. After he knocks on the counter again and asks "Hello?" Chow Ting (James Hong) comes to the counter looking very ecstatic. He apologizes for making Gropper wait, but insists that he had a very good reason to. He says he was watching a show called "Wheel of Fate." and a woman was about to win $100,000. Gropper interupts him asking if he is at Chow Ting's and Chow seems surprised Gropper does not want to know about the woman. Gropper again interupts Chow Ting and requests the "special service."
Chow Ting's demeanor changes when he asks Gropper to specify how special he wants his service to be. Gropper explains that he was sent by Sam Larchmont, who Chow Ting recognizes as a loyal customer. Chow Ting goes on to explain that the special service is very expensive, and when Gropper insists he can afford it, Chow requests to see his financial statement. Chow Ting inspects the financial statement and then inspects Gropper's laundry. He seems to have no problem with what he sees and he hands Gropper his list of prices.
Gropper remarks on the expense of the service, but assures Chow Ting that the price is worth it if Chow Ting can do what Larchmont said he could do. Chow Ting assures that they can speak freely and that is when the nature of the special service is revealed. Gropper says that Larchmont told him that Chow Ting has the ability to wash away sins from clothes. Chow Ting tells him that this is so and that his motto is: "At Chow Ting's laundry, everything comes out in the wash."
Gropper seeks clarity by assurance that washing away sins will also clear him of any guilt in his actions. He wants to be sure that he can do absolutely anything and not feel guilty or remorseful about it. Chow Ting assures Gropper that he will "Sleep the sleep of a newborn."
When Gropper begins to ask how Chow Ting does what he does, Chow Ting interupts him and begins to tell Gropper the terms of their arrangement. First, Gropper must never ask how Chow Ting's Laundry works. Second, Gropper must never return to the laundry and never call Chow Ting. He states that they will deliver and pick up according to his needs and not to ask how he will know.
Gropper wants the laundry to go through his office so his wife will not know about it. Gropper seems pleased that Chow Ting is okay with this, but when he mentions that they have a deal, Chow Ting makes sure that Gropper knows they do not have a deal; they have an "arrangement," and payment must be prompt in cash because he does not like credit cards. Chow Ting gives Gropper the price list and remarks on his vanity about having his picture on the list. When Gropper mentions that he is a fan of promotion, Chow Ting tells him that he is not. The other condition to continue using the laundry is to not tell anyone, and Chow is surprised that Larchmont mentioned it. Still, Gropper agrees not to tell a soul about the special service and Chow Ting seems pleased and they shake hands.
Gropper gets a call from Sam Larchmont and he thanks Larchmont for telling him about the laundry service. Larchmont is confused until Gropper mentions Chow Ting which causes Larchmont some distress. Sam is concerned that Gropper told Chow Ting that it was he who gave Gropper the information. Gropper tries to assure Sam that Chow Ting was happy about the referral. Gropper promises not to tell anyone and Sam disconnects the call. Gropper is confused as to why Larchmont doesn't appreciate the thanks.
Picking up Chow Ting's price list, Gropper wonders again how Chow Ting knows when to pick up the laundry.
Gropper's secretary announces that his 10 year old son Marvin has called him collect, to which Gropper appears proud. He takes the call and tells his secretary to come in and update the charts.
While taking the call from his son, the effects of being guilt free begin to show. Marvin is upset that his friend Billy told him that Gropper's company kills baby seals to make coats. Gropper assures his son that fur looks better on people than on a seal. He tells his son to act like his son and stop sniffling. He says To his secretary's surprise, Gropper tells his son to bring home a piece of Billy's nose and he will double his allowance.
Upon hanging up the phone, Gropper starts taking his shirt off. Noticing his secretary's surprised look, she tells him she has never seen him like this. Gropper continues undressing and musing that Billy's dad must have put him up to this. He thinks that Billy's father had Billy tell his son about the seal's to drive a wedge between Gropper and Marvin.
Upon leaving, the secretary tells Gropper that the "weirdo" Chow Ting called and he had to double his prices again because of increased labor costs. This seems to indicate that because of laundry service's power to rid Gropper of sin and guilt that he is doing more unsavory things. When the secretary tries to refer Gropper to another dry cleaner, he orders her to leave.
Gropper does many other bad things, all the while changing his shirts. He orders thorny flowers to be sent to his wife along with divorce papers the day after her birthday. He is still upset about Billy telling his son about the seals, he blames it on Billy's father and he has Billy's father killed. All within the same two minutes, he also calls up Sam Larchmont's wife and sets up a date and sexual rendezvous with her. Gropper mentions how for the first time in his life, he likes himself. For a brief moment, he considers calling off the hit on Billy's father, but accepts the fact that murder builds character and Chow Ting will take care of everything.
Gropper then notices that he has a lot of laundry piling up. He gets upset that Chow Ting keeps raising his prices and decides to call Chow Ting. He almost reconsiders, knowing that calling breaks one of Chow Ting's rules, but asserts that he since he is paying the bills, Chow Ting will have to fall in line. He calls Chow Ting and leaves a voicemail, insisting on a delivery. He immediately realizes his mistake.
Gropper's office is full of dirty laundry. He is on the phone with the police concerning the murder of Billy's father. After the call, he decides that he wants to go on a date with Billy's widowed mother and has his secretary send Billy a stuffed bear with a black ribbon on it.
Gropper wonders is Chow Ting has called, and when the secretary says no and tries to convince him to go to a different cleaner, he insults her and makes her leave.
Gropper decides that Chow Ting is punishing him, but insists that Chow Ting will fall into line. Sam Larchmont calls and Chow Ting has not picked up his laundry either. Gropper admits to breaking the rules and calling Chow Ting, but insists Chow Ting will fall in line. Larchmont gets upset, coughs and disconnects the phone after telling Gropper that he blew it.
Gropper starts obsessing about Chow Ting. He keeps assuring himself that Chow Ting needs him as much as he needs Chow Ting. He then comes to what he thinks is a realization. He calls Chow Ting and leaves an answering message where he refers to Chow Ting simply as Chow, says that he realizes that Chow Ting wants his soul and offers his soul freely as long as he comes and gets the laundry.
Ginger comes in and tells Gropper that Sam Larchmont is dead. She leaves. Gropper feels guilty because he did not tell Sam Larchmont that Chow Ting was interested in souls. He then buzzes Ginger and has her buy as much stock in Sam Larchmont's company and has her arrange a date with Larchmont's newly widowed wife. He insists it is okay because Sam is dead and Gropper is not. Larchmont's widow calls and tells Gropper Larchmont committed suicide by jumping out of a 86 story building.
Gropper finally gets a call from Chow Ting. Chow tells Gropper that he got Gropper's call and insists that he is not interested in Gropper's soul. Chow Ting says he is not even interested in laundry anymore. He tells Gropper that he won the lottery, closed his shop and is retiring in Florida with his wife. Chow Ting thanks Gropper for his patronage and then says he hopes Gropper takes the news of his retirement much better than Larchmont did.
Gropper realizes that with everything he has done, he will not be able to live with the sins and guilt and he throws himself out of his office window to his death.