The Cosby Show Wiki
Theo's Dirty Laundry
Season 06, Episode 22
Air Date March 15, 1990
Writer Carmen Finestra
Gary Kott
John Markus
Director Jay Sandrich
Previous Isn't It Romantic?
Next What's It All About?

Theo's Dirty Laundry is the twenty-second episode of The Cosby Show's sixth season which was first broadcast on March 15, 1990.


While showing Rudy how to do the laundry the right way, Cliff found three pieces of women’s clothing mixed in with Theo’s clothes in the washing machine. He showed them to Clair, who suspected that they belonged to Justine. Cliff and Clair believed it was possible that Justine had been frequenting Theo’s apartment, and Clair got her answer from a couple of calls she made, with someone named Anthony living in Theo’s apartment and Theo himself not there, and Theo at Justine’s apartment. After being hung up on by her son, Clair left a message, asking Justine to tell Theo to come to the Huxtable family’s house that afternoon.

That afternoon, Theo came to his parents’ house and was shown the pieces of women’s clothing that was mixed in with his load, and he confessed that those pieces of clothing belonged to Justine. He was then interrogated about his living arrangement, and he explained that he moved in with Justine three weeks prior after her roommate dropped out of college so he could help her with the rent for her apartment. He also explained that he found Anthony as someone to replace him at his apartment, and that he used the leftover money given by Cliff to pay the rent for his apartment to open up a bank account and put it all in there, since the rent for Justine’s apartment was much lower than the rent for his own apartment. This didn’t sit well with Cliff and Clair, for they sent Theo to college to get an education and not move in with his girlfriend or use the money he received from his parents against their intent behind their backs. Clair told Theo that she and Cliff would cut off their son’s living expenses if he was to continue to live with Justine, causing him to snap at his parents for not supporting him and his girlfriend with this living arrangement and storm out of the house.

Theo met Justine at the Cafe de Balzac, and Justine told Theo that her parents would give her money only for her tuition if the two college students were to continue to live together. Then, they made a decision to get jobs and live their own lives without being bound by their parents’ rules and move upstate where everything would be cheaper if it was to get too expensive for them. However, Justine got Theo to realize how big a change they would be making if they were to rush into this, so they reconsidered their decisions and decided to respect their parents’ wishes by no longer living together.

That night, Theo returned to his parents’ house with his luggage and told them that he and Justine chose not to live together. Clair was thankful that her son and his girlfriend made that choice. However, as Theo gave a half-hearted apology for his earlier defiance, Clair rebuked him. She made it clear that Theo went too far this time around with his deception and outright defiance, and she cannot allow him to move back in with them, and Theo reluctantly left. However, afterwards, Clair told Cliff that she didn't mean what she said, and if Theo gave a sincere apology, she would take him back.

Two hours after Theo left, Clair became concerned about him, but Cliff assured her that their son would be fine living with any of his friends on campus. Cliff then got a call from Justine’s father, who told them that Justine was living on her own again and Theo was staying over with her parents, and the two fathers agreed to work together on keeping Theo in check. Clair decided to accept this temporary arrangement.

Meanwhile, Denise was spending the day with Olivia and Paula, with the latter revealing her experience in a private school she went to where students would get whacked with a ruler for making mistakes or not paying attention in class, and Theo joining in and revealing how rough he had it in school because of his dyslexia. Paula revealed that she wondered how many of the students who got whacked with a ruler had learning disorders and made the choice to take education classes. All this inspired Denise to want to be a teacher for children with learning disorders. However, when she got home and told Cliff and Clair this, they didn’t take her seriously due to her repeatedly announcing to them what she was going to do with her life and not following through. Clair, though, came to realize how serious Denise was about her choice of becoming a teacher for children with learning disorders when the daughter revealed that she picked up a book about learning disorders that Paula recommended at the NYU bookstore and read three chapters of it on her way home on the subway. Denise then said that she and Olivia would move out if she was accepted into the college in Rhode Island, but Clair made her realize how hard it would be for her to go to college and raise Olivia with her husband out at sea for weeks at a time. So, Denise was allowed to stay with her parents for as long as she needed to, much to Cliff’s disappointment.


  • This episode marks the final appearance of Michelle Thomas as Justine.
  • When reruns of this episode are shown, the scene at the beginning (involving Denise, Olivia, Paula, and Theo in the Cafe de Balzac) is removed, making this episode begin with Cliff and Rudy in the basement to do laundry.