Family Ties (1982–1989): Season 1, Episode 16 - Margin of Error - full transcript

Alex buys and sells stock on paper for a school project. He does so well, he decides to buy and sell for real, using his parent's stock account. Things go well, until they don't.

♪ I bet we've been together
for a million years ♪

♪ and I'll bet we'll be together
for a million more ♪

♪ oh, it's like
I started breathing ♪

♪ on the night we kissed

♪ and I can't remember
what I ever did before ♪

♪ what would we do, baby

♪ without us?

♪ what would we do, baby

♪ without us?

♪ and there ain't no nothin' ♪

♪ we can't love
each other through ♪

♪ ooh-hoo

♪ what would we do, baby

♪ without us?

♪ sha-la-la-la

you know, we beat
Windsor Elementary today

in field hockey.

That's terrific, Jennifer!
How'd you do?

Hey, dad, have you been
following what's been happening

in the stock market lately?

I mean, they say that 1,000

is gonna be the base
for the future.

I mean, can you picture it?

A market with a Dow base
of 1,000?

I grow lightheaded
at the very thought.

I was talking, Alex.
Do you mind?

Aw, sorry, Jennifer.

Windsor hasn't lost a game
since 1911,

and they still have
the same coach.

Look, dad, I've been making
a killing on paper every day.

I mean, I have a knack
for picking what's gonna go up

and when to get out
at a good profit.

Alex, charting those stocks
is just a school project.

They're thinking
of firing the coach now.

I know
it's just a school project.

That's what's killing me.

Mr. Matthews
down at the Brokerage house,

he keeps recommending my tips
to his clients.

Could we talk
about something else here?

Alex has monopolized
the conversation all night.

All right. What do you want
to talk about, Mallory?

You have some keen insight
for us about lipstick?

Alex, your sister has a point.
Enough with the stock market.

Let's hear about
some other things

that are going on in the world.


Well, they have come up
with this new lipstick

you can just pencil on.

Want to go back
to the stocks, dad?

Alex, I'm not investing
one cent.

It's out of the question.

Dad, you're missing
a golden opportunity here.

It's like
taking candy from a baby.

Brings back memories.

Elyse, are you finished?

I'm... I'm sorry, sweetheart.

This project isn't working,
and it's making me crazy.

I think I have
the first recorded case

of architect's block.

What's the problem, mom?

Well, I'm designing a chapel
for the university,

and the problem is

that people from many different
religions are gonna use it.

Why is that a problem?

Well, I'm not sure
how to allot the space.

I mean, like, if I have
four separate altar areas,

then half the time,
only 1/4 of the people

will be facing
the minister of their choice.

What about revolving pews?

I-I'll work on it some more.

I've been following this one
stock here... Sykundo Tin.


It's gonna triple at least.

But we have to get in on it now.

I told the broker
we'd call him at home.

No way!

Alex, you've got to understand,
the stock market

is a-a very complex,
unpredictable thing.

My own experience with it
has been rather, uh...

We lost a bundle.

It'll be different this time.

All you have to do
is reopen the account.

I'll handle it from there.

All the account consists of
are the 50 shares of AT&T

my father gave us
for a wedding present.

And we're not gonna risk that.

The phone company.
Where is the challenge?

Mallory alone keeps
the phone company in business.

Alex, Alex, no!

Mom, it's now or never.

Sykundo Tin is gonna be
the next McDonald's.

I'm with your dad on this.

I'm sorry if you think
we're being unreasonable.



Hi, I'd like to speak
to Mr. Matthews, please.

Hi. Mr. Matthews?

Yes, this is Steven Keaton.

Yes, Alex Keaton's father.

Yeah, I'd like
to reopen my account

and purchase
100 shares of Sykundo Tin

at the opening bell.

Uh, pardon me for a moment.

Alex, you're not dad!
That's plagiarism!

Just be quiet
for a minute, Jennifer.

I-I can explain all this.

I don't think
I could be quiet, Alex.

Chew on this, then.

sorry to keep you waiting, sir.

Just some, uh,
prowlers at the back door.

Yeah, that's right.

Reopen my account and purchase
100 shares of Sykundo Tin.

Just use that AT&T stock
as collateral.

All right, thank you.
Good night.

this isn't as bad as it seems.

I'll be the judge of that.

What you've just witnessed was
done for mom and dad's own good.

I mean... Their anniversary
is coming up.

Don't you think
they'll be surprised

when I give them
a nice, big, sentimental check?

I mean, everybody's gonna
come out of this a winner!

I know I will.

Right. Turn over those 500
shares of Overdyne we bought.

Right, and all
of the Genetic stock.

Put everything we have
into V.I.P.

Well, thank you.

it was the wife's idea.

Uh, that'll be it for today.


I suppose you're wondering

what that phone call
was all about.

Not at all.

How's the little woman?

Um, mom, I-i was just working
on my school project.

See, I was pretending to buy
and sell some stocks there.

Pretending to be grown up,
with a family and a dog,

will lend some authenticity
to the project.

That's all.

Humor me.

I've been doing that
for 17 years, Alex.

Did you have a nice run?

Oh, it was okay.

Thought I'd clear my mind,

but I still haven't come up
with any ideas for the chapel.

Oh, well,
don't let it get to you.

Well, it's hard not to.

I mean, I know
I'm a good architect,

but, suddenly, I cannot come up

with a simple solution
to an easy problem.

It just shakes my confidence.

It makes me feel like
I don't know what I'm doing.

You ever felt like that?



We're really gonna
have to talk about

this exercise kick
you've been on lately.

It's killing me.

It's good for you.

Look at you... back already.

You made good time.

Yeah, I sort of took a shortcut.

You mean, you didn't go
all the way around the park?

She didn't even go
all the way around the house.

Hey, everybody.

Oh, how's the market
doing, Alex?

Well, starting with 100 shares
of Sykundo Tin,

I parlayed $500 into $3,000.

Then I opened a margin account,

and I made 20% return
in three days.

Then I bought options
on a South American oil well,

made more than triple value
in three weeks,

and put everything I have...

Into V.I.P.

I'm heavily margined,

but there's double the chance
for profit.

That's very nice.

I forgot what I asked you.

What is V.I.P.?

Video industries
of the Philippines.

Maybe you should go there
and check out your investment.

Go with it, Alex.

I've got to say,
I admire your spirit.

It's great to see you so excited
about a school project.

I'm excited
about his project, too.

Well, I've got an early meeting
down at the station.

I'll grab a bite there.

Okay. Have a good day, baby.


Oh, boy. Here they go.

Oh, I'm sorry, Mallory.
We'll say goodbye at the car.

I'm in no hurry.

You guys make breakfast?

Now that my workout's over,

I think I'll go change.

Hope I don't stiffen up.

Sounds like
we're doing okay, partner.

Jennifer, I've turned $500
into $10,000.

I can't believe how hot I am!

How much is my cut so far?

$1,000 for your college fund

and $50 for a new bike.

Not bad just for keeping quiet.

Mom and dad
will see things differently

when I give them that check
for their anniversary.

I'm gonna take them down

to the Brokerage house tomorrow
and surprise them.

Alex, mom and dad
can't be bought off.

They're not like you and me.

We're talking about thousands
of dollars here, Jennifer.

Of course, a little cash

always puts a new perspective
on life.

Hi. How are you?

Hi, Mr. Matthews.

Oh, hi, Alex. I'll be with you
in just a second.

I'm having some trouble
with the computer here.

Keeps jamming.
Circuits must be down.

I don't know.

Oh, have you tried this?

See, sometimes you have to
clear it during this phase,

or it's a real pain.

I knew that.

Oh, look at that...
Trans Alloid up a point.

And Petramco up 2 1/2!
That's terrific!

Yeah. That's terrific.

Well, you're as hot
as a pistol, Alex.

You got the Midas touch,
buddy boy.

Well, I'm glad
I talked my dad into investing.

Oh, and that setback
with V.I.P.,

while regrettable,
is certainly understandable.

Excuse me.

What setback with V.I.P.?

Uh, Mr. Matthews,

w-what was that you just said
about V.I.P.?

Well, there was a typhoon
in Manila last night.

Millions in damage.
The stock dropped 28 points.

Excuse me, Alex.

Uh, are you sure?

About what?

About the typhoon! The stocks!
Are you sure?

Of course I'm sure. I'm surprised
you didn't know about it.

What am I, a weatherman?!

I've been in school all day!
I'm a kid!

That's right.
I forget sometimes.

Alex, take it easy.
So it's dropped 28 points.

He bought it at 29.

Look, all he has to do
is meet the margin call

by closing tomorrow.

How much... how much...
How much is the margin call?

$2,700. That's no big deal.

Mr. Matthews:
Uh, excuse me, Alex.

I've got some customers
to take care of.


Elyse: Aah!

That's not good
for business, Alex.

Look, Mr. Matthews,

those, uh, people out there
are my parents.

M-my dad doesn't know
about the typhoon

or the margin call.

Look, Alex, the way
your dad plays the market,

he understands
that a $2,700 margin call

isn't the end of the world.

Yeah, well, uh,

l-l-let me just tell them
in my own way, okay?

You don't understand...
He takes these things very hard!

When he was a boy...

A typhoon wiped out his village.

Okay, Alex.

If he's gonna take the news
anywhere close

to the way you're taking it,
maybe you're right.

You found it.


Come on in.

Alex, what's going on here?

Uh, here?

Here, this...
This is a Brokerage house.

They buy. They sell.

Alex, you just
slammed the door on us.

Yeah, well,
I didn't want you to come in

until everything was just right.

Clean up that desk, will you?

W-why did you want us
to come down here?

What was all this talk

about an anniversary present?

Yeah, well, I just thought
this would be the best place

to give it to you.

Happy anniversary, mom, dad.

I love you.

I don't know why you're making
such a big deal about this.

Alex, this was not
an ordinary afternoon.

You tell us to meet you
at a Brokerage house

to give us
an anniversary present.

When we get there,
you slam the door in our faces,

give us some guy's rolodex,
and send us on our way.

I admit, we're not
the busiest people in the world,

but, um, there are better ways
to spend a day.

Look, I might as well
tell you the truth.

You've tried
everything else, Alex.

Yeah, well, I'm... I'm sorry

to have gotten you down there
under false pretenses,

but, uh,
I've been trying to, uh...

Get you to invest
for a couple of weeks now.

And I-i figured,
once you got down there...

You know,
the excitement of the place,

the... the roar
of the ticker tape,

the smell of the crowd...
You'd catch the fever.

I mean, obviously,
it didn't work.

I didn't want it
to be a total loss, so...

I gave you the rolodex.

We don't want to hear
anything else

about investing, okay?

We're not interested.

And, uh, that's final.

Well, you, uh,
can't blame me for trying.



Hey, Alex, how did mom and dad
like their present?

There was no present, Jennifer.

There was a typhoon in Manila...
Millions in damage.

The stock went way down.

If I don't come up
with $2,700 by tomorrow,

they're gonna sell
mom and dad's stock.


So much for my life.

So much for my bike.

Jennifer, I need help.
I'm desperate.

And please...
Don't say "I told you so."

I won't.

I knew it.

I knew it.

Hi, Red Cross?

Yeah, um, what would I get
if I donated a pint of blood?

No, in addition to the lollipop.


How about a gallon?

Alex, I can let you have $18.11.

Thanks, Jennifer.

Now all I need
is another...$2,600.

Do you think
dad would be suspicious

if I asked for a $2,600 advance
on my allowance?

Jennifer, let's try to be
discreet about this.

We're trying to keep this
from mom and dad, remember?


I mean, this is just between
you and me, right?


So, Alex, what are you gonna do?

Sell your soul to the devil

or your body
to someone who's nearsighted?


Sometimes when you keep a secret
all to yourself,

you get a real bad headache.

Yeah, well, I'm the one
who's got the headache.

Look, Alex,
as painful as it may seem,

I think the only thing
to do here is tell the truth.

To mom and dad?

What, are you crazy?
I meant to the broker.

Maybe the two of you
could work something out.

I still don't see
why I have to be here, Alex.

For sympathy, Jennifer.

It's hard to say no to someone

when they're holding hands
with their 10-year-old sister.

Want me to limp?

No, just, uh, look cute
and, uh, be bubbly.

Hi, Mr. Matthews.

Hey, Alex. How are you?

Fine. Uh, Mr. Matthews, this is
my little sister, Jennifer.

Isn't she sweet?

Yeah, I guess so.

I'm not really good
with little kids.

Nice call, Alex.

But look what's going on, Alex.

Hey, Digifax up a point.
Brickhouser up 2 1/2.

That's terrific.

Everything you've recommended...

Incredible, as always.

My clients have been
making a killing.

So, I guess you owe
a lot to Alex.

You could look at it that way.

We are.

Listen, uh, did you bring
the check from your dad?

Uh, Mr. Matthews,
I need a favor.

Well, I'll be glad to help
if I can.

Well, you know,
I never should've bought

that V.I.P. Stock.

Oh, I get it...
You're feeling guilty

because you advised your father
to buy a stock and it went down.

Well, well, that's part of it.

You can't feel that way, Alex.

Sometimes even I recommend
stocks that go down.

Sometimes people get burned.

But I can't allow myself
to become emotionally involved,

and neither can you.

We're kind of old-fashioned.

We are emotionally involved
with our father.

Uh, Mr. Matthews, let's say...

Just for fun,

that, uh, my dad
ran a little short of cash.

L-let's even go so far
as to say that, uh...

That he can't come up with
the money to cover the stock.

Now, you know me.
We have a relationship, right?

Very good relationship.

Since we have
such a good relationship,

and you know my dad and I
wouldn't let you get stuck...

I-I mean, uh...

W-we'd come up with that money
just as soon as I...

As we could.

Uh, now,
considering our friendship

a-and all that I've done
for you...

This isn't very good news,
is it?

No, it's not.

But we invested
everything we had with you...

Our... our life savings.

We knew there would be risks
going in.

We discussed that.

But we're retired people.

There's no way that we can
re-earn what we've lost.

We'll lose our house, our car.

Isn't there anything you can do?


Say hi to dad.

Now, then, Alex...

what was it you wanted?

I did it. I never thought
I'd finish this chapel.

You've got to have faith, Elyse.

See, all the different religions
have been satisfied.

I just have that one
little blank space down there.

That could be
the agnostics' lounge.


Mom, this drawing
is so complicated.

Why are there three levels?

Well, conceptually, it's similar

to the Citadel of David
in Jerusalem.

That doesn't help me, mom.

Okay, let me tell you about this

in terms you'd understand.

Uh, have you ever seen
"Hollywood Squares"?

Okay, see, now,
the basic design of the chapel

is going to be multilayered.

Now, each faith
will have its own room

on one of three levels,

much like the celebrities
on "Hollywood Squares."

Okay, now, uh,

now, down here, where
Charley Weaver usually sat,

we'll have the Unitarians,

and, uh, over here
in, uh, Jan Murray's spot,

the Jews.

Right up here in the center,
the Catholics.

Where Rose Marie used to sit!

This is wonderful, Elyse.

Why do all the rooms
have these connecting doors?

In case anyone wants to convert.

Hey, kids.

Uh, listen...

I've, uh, got to talk
to you guys.

I did it, Alex.

I finished the chapel!
All my problems are over!

Not so fast, mom.

Uh, Mal,
why don't we go upstairs?

Now would be a good time to...

Um, yeah, you don't have to
convince me. I'm with you.

Well, Alex, what's wrong?

Uh, remember that Philippine
Video stock I was so high on?

I'm not so high on it anymore.

A typhoon wiped out the company.

Well, it looks like
it wiped you out, too.

Yeah, well, that's true.

I-I had all my money
on that stock.

Well, it can't affect
your grade that much.

It was such a little stock.

So now you'll get a b-plus
instead of an "a."

I sense that there's more
to this story, Elyse.

Yeah, well, there is.

I, uh...

I kind of called the broker,

and I kind of told him
that I was... You.

And I kind of bought some stock
with my money.

I was going great,
so I bought some more stock...

And some more...

And I was heavily margined.

Well, there's a margin call,

and if I don't have $2,700
by 4:00,

they're gonna sell
your AT&T stock.

Alex, let me get this straight!

You lied to us!
You went behind our backs!

You pretended you were me,

and you spent money
that wasn't yours!

You make it sound so bad.

Alex, I can't even believe
you had the nerve to do this!

Well, I-i guess
I just got carried away.

You know,
the buying and the selling

and the action, I...
The excitement!

We've heard enough about
your thirst for excitement!

You're a high-school student,
Alex, not a Flying Wallenda!

What a jerk I was.

Here I was, acting like
I had all the answers,

like I was perfect,
like I was infallible.

Well, I'm not,
and I know that now.

I guess that realization
is punishment enough, huh?

Not even close.

I don't blame you.

I'm sorry. I really am.

Steven, what are we gonna do?

I mean, are we gonna let them
sell the stock,

or are we gonna come up
with the money to cover it?

Well, as someone who knows
the market, it's my opinion...


We're gonna
give the broker the money

and hold on to the stock.

That's just
what I was gonna suggest.

Elyse, uh, why don't you get
a check over to the broker?

I'll go down to the bank
and cover it with savings.


Do you want me to go with you?

I want you to stay
right where you are!

And you might as well
get real comfortable,

because you are not leaving
that spot

for the next six months.

And this is just the beginning.

No movies, no dates.

Sounds fair.

And no TV!

Not even "Wall Street Week"?

Especially not
"Wall Street Week."

Come on, dad!
I didn't kill a guy!

Alex, I'm out $2,700.

I am the major investor

in an underwater video company
in the Philippines.

They probably have a picture
of me in one of their huts

with the caption "Our Founder."

You're lucky to be getting off
this easy.

Uh, listen,
just... just in case,

I mean, if the stock does go up,
we're in this 50/50, right?