Original airdate: May 12, 2013
The premise: Marge makes Bart take up piano, where he is instantly smitten by his teacher, leading him to fake his talents to get her more paying students. In exchange for the lessons, Marge agrees to teach her father how to drive. Meanwhile, Homer must deal with being fully bald when his two hairs finally fall out.
The reaction: Some of these episodes, halfway through, I really don’t know what’s going on or why in terms of what the drive of the story is or why I should care. Bart has the hots for his piano teacher, who wants more pupils so she can help her father’s business. So we see a montage of him improving his abilities, but then in a bait-and-switch, at a big school concert, we see that he in fact was just playing music from a CD player embedded in the piano. Seems like a pretty ritzy item for Springfield Elementary to have. He ejects the disc right on stage after the show, but I guess absolutely no one was looking, including Marge, who walks up behind him a second later. So Zenya gets a lot of new students from the exposure, but Bart seems bummed about it. He goes to his lesson with a gift, but is disappointed to find he has to wait his turn behind the other kids. “If I got you all these students, shouldn’t you be grateful?” he asks. What exactly is Bart expecting of her? It’s not even he’s asking her out or wanting to spend time with her, that quote is just so strange. But that’s the last we see of her. Then it switches to a Bart-Marge episode, where Marge signs Bart up to a junior talent show, Bart has to admit he’s a fraud, and then mend fences with his mother. Marge is furious with her son; we open act four with her washing dishes and smashing them on the floor as a genuinely saddened Bart walks in. Why is she this pissed off? The show opened with Skinner recommended to her that Bart take up an instrument to improve his behavior, which despite there being no reason why he would say this, is never brought up again. By the end, Marge goes into apologize, saying, “It was wrong of me to force my dreams on you.” What? Is that what this was about? That was never mentioned before, ever. It’s like they were trying to repeat the Marge-Lisa story from “Last Tap Dance in Springfield,” but a bunch of script pages went missing. Mother and son make up at the end, but I was never clear what the emotional stakes were other than, Bart lied. So who cares?
Three items of note:
-This episode is pretty packed on the guest star front. Zenya and her father are voiced by Jane Krakowski and Bill Hader, SNL darlings that aren’t quite as horribly wasted as we’ve seen in the past (*cough*TinaFey*cough*), but just don’t have anything to work with. Hader probably fares the best, but that’s probably because I’m a fan. He also gets the thankless job of having to close out the story; Marge forgives Bart when he tells her that all Russians succeed by cheating, and that he’s “a good boy.” Cue hug. Easy as that? Patrick Stewart shows up in the B-plot with Homer, which I don’t really have anything to talk about. He plays a bald co-worker who magically appears in the break room after Lenny and Carl leave, never introduces himself, and just waxes on about how amazing and sexy it is to be bald. And then he leaves. It was just so weird; I was expecting the scene to end with Lenny and Carl looking in on Homer talking to himself. It’s like he was just an imaginary person in his mind. But it wasn’t, I guess. Finally, we have Justin Bieber, complete with an on-screen warning before his scene. Surely the most amateur of writers can come up with some kind of smirk-worthy material ripping into the Biebs, but I guess even that’s too hard. They have Bieber try to get into the kids talent show pageant and being denied (“That’s another twenty-five bucks we’ll never see! God!”) That’s it. Nine words. Why the fuck do they bother booking these mega stars and give them nothing to do?
– The bullies refrain from giving Bart a hard time for taking piano lessons when he says he’s got a crush on the teacher. This leads to a wonderful bit of dialogue with Martin (“I have a swim lesson with a gorgeous lifeguard!” “What gender?” “You’re not allowed to ask!”) Firstly, why in the fuck would a simple-minded bully ask “What gender?” And second, this is another in a slowly developing series of jokes of laughing at Martin for being a little gay kid. Like, why else are we supposed to think that line is funny? It’s just so weird and terrible.
– Helen Lovejoy stops Marge at the supermarket, who insults Marge by comparing her to Bart (“Isn’t it great having a musical genius in the family?”) Forget that she also backhands Lisa with that comment as well, but what is this scene about? Like, Bart’s got a talent, and Marge doesn’t? Is that why she’s so mad? Also, what the fuck is going on with Maggie Roswell’s phone connection? Like with Luann Van Houten, her sound quality is so off compared to everyone else.
One good line/moment: Another outsourced couch gag, this time from the folks at Robot Chicken. A big part why I really loved it is because all of the models were based on the old Playmates line of Simpsons toys, which I feverishly collected when I was younger. So it was cool recognizing all of them; they even used the Simpsons car and school bus vehicles too. I also loved the shot of seeing the Flanders toy blow up, it felt so real, because it literally was them blowing up a real toy. Robot Chicken is hit or miss for me, but I thought this was a really well done sequence.