The Cosby Show Wiki
Off to See the Wretched
Season 06, Episode 24
Air Date Thursday, April 5, 1990
Writer Mark S. Germain
Director Carl Lauten
Malcolm-Jamal Warner
Previous What's It All About?
Next The Moves

Off to See the Wretched is the twenty-third episode of The Cosby Show's sixth season which was first broadcast on Thursday, April 5, 1990.


Olivia is in the living room watching TV and sees an ad for a joke hot line that costs 95¢ a minute. She then calls the hot line, and after the ad says to the viewers to get their parents' permission, asks Cliff if it's okay for her to tell a joke. He grants it, then she returns to the phone to listen. Gathering what she hears, she goes back to tell it to Cliff. The trouble is she says doesn't have a punchline. Cliff tells Olivia that she only told the beginning of the joke, so she returns to listen to more of the joke on the phone. Then she tells just Cliff just the punchline. Then she goes back to the phone and this time Cliff follows her. He gently reminds her that she's not to make phone calls, and after determining about how long the call was, says that the total cost was $5 (actually $4.75), and also that Olivia didn't make him laugh. She replies, "Well, it wasn't my fault you didn't get it."

Later Vanessa comes down the stairs to answer the doorbell. She has just received permission from her parents to go to Susan's house and then from there go with Susan, Janet and Kara to the concert of their favorite rock group, the Wretched. The other girls are at the door. They come inside and then go over the real plan: the concert is in Baltimore, not New York; they're driving four hours to Baltimore in Kara's older brother's car and have only told all their parents the same thing Vanessa did, except Susan's parents aren't home, only her grandmother is. They'll drive straight from the Huxtables' and not go to Susan's, where her grandmother is asleep, at all, and they believe they'll be back returning home to Susan's by the time her grandmother wakes up. Nobody's parents know where the concert is.

Vanessa yells upstairs that they're leaving, but first Claire comes down. Even though all the girls are there Clair isn't suspicious; she only gives Susan a borrowed book she's done with and wants to return. Claire also wants to call Susan's mother, but Susan says to wait until Monday, saying that things are crazy at her house. Vanessa then says that the girls will sleep late at Susan's and she'll be home tomorrow afternoon. Claire gives her a kiss and goes to the kitchen, then the girls leave for Baltimore, while singing the theme song of the Wretched.

Deceitfully, the girls make it to a doughnut shop in Wilmington, Delaware, and feel ready to be out on their own. Inside, Kara tells the others that her brother is in college, but leaves his car with their parents and has her warm it up periodically. She doesn't mention to him that this time she's taking it on a trip. Janet goes out to the car, borrowing the keys to unlock it and get out her makeup. She then comes back into the shop and reports that there's no car. The girls check the parking lot, then come back in a state of shock. Even though Kara's brother's car is insured, she wants to report the theft to the police, but Vanessa and Susan convince her not to, saying that if they wait to report the theft back home, the police will believe that it occurred there, and that the thief left it at the doughnut Shop. The four then regain their spirits and decide to find another way to Baltimore.

Meanwhile, back at the Huxtables', Olivia prepares some jokes on her own and gives them to Cliff. He doesn't laugh or understand and asks her to stop. Olivia does a final bow before heading up to her room, and Cliff calls that the best part of her act, knowing when to get off. Denise and Rudy then call Cliff and Claire into the living room, concerning what's showing on the TV news. They all watch a report about a chemical fire that's raging and spewing toxic fumes from a paint factory, which is only a block away from Susan's house. Claire picks up the phone and calls the house but gets no answer. However, they see Susan's grandmother, being interviewed by the reporter. Susan's grandmother replies that her daughter and son-in-law are away for the weekend. Claire is stunned by this because Vanessa hadn't said anything about Susan's parents being gone. The four Huxtables are then relieved when Susan's Grandmother also reveals that the fire fighters searched the house, and reported that no one was in there. Cliff suggests that Claire call Janet and Kara's parents to see if the girls are at either of their houses, then Claire says they also should find out where the Wretched concert is in order to meet the girls at the performance venue. Denise says that the group aren't allowed to play in New York City because of the chaos they caused the last time they played there. Right then, a TV entertainment report airs featuring Frankie X, the lead singer of the band, and that he has thanked the citizens of Baltimore for allowing the Wretched performance to go on there that night. Claire stops dialing and puts down the phone, as she and Cliff confirm that what they just heard was right. Rudy breaks out a huge smile on her face as she says, "Vanessa went all the way to Baltimore. Wow!"

At the Baltimore Arena, the girls are excited to have arrived for the concert. Then, a young man who claims to be an official for the band, and is wearing a t-shirt which says, "SECURITY", but no ID badge, offers to help the girls find their seats, and to even get them through the band's special entrance to get some backstage passes in return for their tickets. As the girls give him their tickets, he asks them to follow him, then he deliberately rushes off into the crowd and they lose him. The girls then ask another fellow nearby, who is selling Wretched t-shirts and wearing a badge about that guy. He reveals that the guy's a notorious thief who takes tickets from seemingly gullible fans and sells them, so their tickets are basically gone. The stunned girls realize the jig is up, and reluctantly prepare to depart for home. Janet checks her purse for bus fare, but finds another nasty surprise, as all their money is gone from her handbag, courtesy of a pickpocket who tore a hole in it. The four soon depart the scene with the trip a total disaster.

Back at the Huxtables' house, Claire finishes a phone conversation with Kara's mother: a police report was just received from Wilmington that Kara's brother's car was found on the side of the road completely stripped, the thief was apprehended and confessed that the theft occurred at the doughnut shop's parking lot, and the woman behind the counter there gave the police a description of the four girls who were traveling in the car, revealing that they had asked her how to catch a bus to Baltimore. The VIN of the car had traced the police to Kara's house. Claire and Cliff now know that the girls hadn't reported the theft to the police, but rather had gone on and presumably made it to the concert. Claire tells Cliff that they should go to Susan's house and wait for Vanessa because the girls will return there. Cliff then executes a standing broad jump, and has Claire measure the distance. It comes to 8 feet, and Cliff adds 3 to that for a total of 11 feet; he declares that when they see Vanessa, that's how far away from her he'll have to be. They then leave for Susan's. Next thing shown to viewers is a time stamp of "5:13 am" against the exterior of the Huxtable home. Nothing is seen from Susan's house, as well as nothing revealed about what happened to any of the other girls, although it's easy to assume they all had severe punishments. Also, this suggests that Cliff and Claire have a long wait until the girls are back.

Then, the Huxtable parents return home and have Vanessa back with them. Claire orders her to sit on the sofa in the living room and then flings the outside door shut, closing it before Cliff can come inside. Claire furiously states that she and Cliff were worried about the girls dying of asphyxiation, when instead they had gone to Baltimore. In a mocking way, Claire then asks if the girls really were pursuing "Big Fun". While she does this, Rudy sneaks out of her room and kneels at the top of the stairs to watch. When Vanessa, looking decidedly sullen and ragged, starts to answer, Claire screams, "SHUT UP!!! Don't you dare open your mouth while I'm asking you a question!!" Then, sensing what else probably is happening, she orders Rudy to go to bed, and she scampers back to her room post-haste.

Claire then declares that she and Cliff are in a state of rage, after thinking their daughter was in danger and them being in frenzy, panic, and distress. She next mocks the girls' overall trip, including the stop for doughnuts and then continuing on even after their car was stolen. Cliff quietly asks Vanessa what she was thinking. Vanessa meekly admits she wasn't, and Cliff concludes, "You got that right." Claire asks if the girls truly thought that no parent would find out, and again when Vanessa tries to answer, she yells "SHUT UP!" She then asks for clarification of what Vanessa had said while returning home about their not getting into the concert, and this time says, "You better answer me when I ask you a question, girl!" Vanessa tells about giving away the tickets to a man who made off with them, the money being stolen, and then they ran into Freddy Scuria, a friend of Janet's brother, who gave them bus fare. Only with that were they able to make it home. Claire scornfully expresses surprise that anyone would pity the girls. Vanessa then offers an apology and asks for her punishment; Claire replies that she and Cliff have been through too much to administer a punishment at that time. However, Vanessa pathetically says she wants it before she goes to bed. Claire then with malicious intent lunges toward Vanessa, only to be restrained by Cliff. He quietly tells Vanessa to just go to bed, and requests that if Vanessa is contemplating running away from home, "please don't take my car".

As Vanessa walks toward the stairs, Claire informs her, she has proven time and time again (Presumably referring to Vanessa's previous misdeeds and deceptions including the ones from "How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?", "Truth or Consequences", "A Room with No View", "I'm In with the 'In Crowd'", and "Cliff La Dolce"), that she can't be trusted, and it's going to be a very long time before they even think of trusting her again. Vanessa tries to repeat her apology, promising that she'll never do anything like this again, but Claire rebukes it as another probable lie, and storms at her to within less than an inch of her face, shouting in a mighty thunder, "GO TO BED!!!!" Vanessa starts to plead, but realizes it's no use, and she tearfully trudges upstairs to her room. Claire then demands to Cliff that they figure out how they're going to enforce honesty in their house. Cliff, agrees, and, in a "Siegfried" voice, address Claire as "Roy", and tells her to get a pencil and pad and bring them into the kitchen, or "Chuckwagon" as he calls it, where he'll make some coffee, some "beans, and a side of pork..." and "(they'll) see what (they) can do about catching all the Desperados".


  • This episode marks the directorial debut of Malcolm-Jamal Warner.
  • This episode marks the last appearances of Vanessa's friends, Janet, Susan and Kara. It's possible that their parents and Kara's brother were infuriated by their deception, stealing his car with it being completely stripped, that their parents forbade them from seeing each other and Vanessa again, or they were sent away from each other as punishment.
  • While the "Wretched" incident was never referred to again, Vanessa barely appeared for the remainder of Season 6. At the beginning of Season 7, she had taken extra classes, graduated early and was leaving for college. (This was due to Tempestt Bledsoe reducing her appearances to focus on her studies). There is speculation as to whether this was connected to the "Wretched" incident, as part of Vanessa's punishment, or a voluntary undertaking on Vanessa's part to re-gain Claire's trust (Or maybe it was to escape Claire's further wrath).
  • Or maybe Vanessa had taken extra classes at an alternative school (or possibly graduated from there), maybe because her teachers and other school staff found out what she, Janet, Susan, and Kara had done, and were possibly infuriated (just like their parents and Kara's brother) about their lying, stealing, and cheating that all 4 of the girls were possibly either suspended or expelled from school and were possibly arrested (and being put in juvenile hall) for motor vehicle theft because of them stealing Kara's brother's car with it being stripped completely.
  • Cliff wears a Portland Trail Blazers jersey throughout this episode. For several years (back when this episode aired), a giant photograph of Bill Cosby hung just inside the main entrance to the Portland Memorial Coliseum, which was then the Blazers' home arena. The jersey that Cliff wore was that of Ramon Ramos, a Portland Trailblazer who was severely injured in a car accident in December 1989 after returning from a road game.