(originally aired March 25, 1990)
This is two in a row of episodes featuring trouble in paradise for Homer and Marge, but instead of a more grave storyline with actual potential adultery, we get a slightly goofier story involving a heavily circulated photo of Homer and a scantily-clad belly dancer. The tonal difference between the two should be obvious: Marge being tempted away by another man might actually make sense, but Homer has no reason whatsoever to betray his saint of a wife. But in episodes where infidelity is presented to him (“Colonel Homer,” “Last Temptation of Homer”), it’s always from a temptress advancing on him. Despite his bumbling nature, Homer is a man truly devoted to his wife, and can’t imagine a life without her, so even though this is much lighter than “Life on the Fast Lane,” it’s still saddening to see Marge kick Homer out in this show.
The episode starts out slow enough, with Bart sending away for a miniature spy camera in the mail. In the six-month gap between the delivery, we see two similar morning scenes of Homer and Marge in the bathroom. Seeing Homer horrified at his weight (“239 pounds?! I’m a blimp!”) and then doing pathetic attempts at crunches is funny, but then seeing him do it again six months later with the same degree of outrage is funnier (“239 pounds?! I’m a whale!”) We also find that the man who used to be Homer’s assistant, now his supervisor, is having a bachelor party, which Homer insists is a classy affair (“A tea and crumpet kind of thing.”) The party inevitably turns blue, much to the chagrin of the groom and his father, thanks to Princess Kashmir, “Queen of the Mysterious East.” Also, said party is also taking place at the Rusty Barnacle, where Marge and the kids are out to dinner. Bart slips away from the table and happens to peek into the party, and with his camera takes the immortal shot of his father with the exotic dancer.
What happens through the second act is a stretch to say the least, even by 1990 standards. The picture ends up making the rounds throughout the school, which I can buy, but then spreads throughout the entire town, xeroxes everywhere ablaze reproducing this super scandalous photo. I figure it’s basically the in-real-life version of a viral photo, it’s more about the goofiness of this portly smiling fool with this beautiful dancer. It certainly isn’t for the photo’s sex appeal, as the episode sometimes alludes to. By the end when every single person who runs into Homer makes vague reference to the photo, it’s kind of going too far, though we get some great reactions though, like when a car of thirty-something ladies giggle and pose for Homer at a light (“Heh. Still got it!”) Marge inevitably discovers the photo, Bart is revealed as the one who took it, and Homer is kicked out of the house.
There are parts of the third act which mirror the serious tone of “Fast Lane,” like when Lisa whispers to Bart at the table, “I wonder when’s Dad coming home,” Marge notices, and then continue eating in silence. It feels so very real, and creates stakes for this marriage to need to come back together. To redeem himself, Homer takes Bart to nudie bars and burlesque houses all over town (hear me out) to track down Ms. Kashmir, to show his son that she is an actual human being, not just an object to be ogled. This ends in a grand finale at the Off-Ramp Inn, where Homer winds up in the middle of a lounge act hosted by a Dean Martin-esque singer, during a number, “I Could Love a Million Girls.” Realizing the night’s effects on his son, Homer makes a bold speech about the importance of women: “I have something to say to all the sons out there. To all the boys, to all the men, to all of us. It’s about women, and how they are not mere objects with curves that make us crazy. No, they are our wives, they are our daughters, our sisters, our grandmas, our aunts, our nieces and nephews. Well, not our nephews. They are our mothers. And you know something, folks? As ridiculous as this sounds, I would rather feel the sweet breath of my beautiful wife on the back of my neck as I sleep, than stuff dollar bills into some stranger’s G-string. Am I wrong, or am I right?” It’s enough to win over Marge in the audience, and to win over me too.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Great scene with Bart vs. the mail lady. “Where’s my spy camera?! WHERE’S MY SPY CAMERA?!”
– I love Bart’s reaction to Marge’s announcement of going out to eat: “Only four of us? Who escaped?”
– I don’t know how many bachelor parties have the father of the groom in tow. I guess the point was they were unaware of Princess Kashmir’s invite, and their displeasure of it all is most evident (“How do I tell you this, my boy: we’re in hell.”)
– First time Bart rearranges letters on a sign: “Cod Platter” to “Cold Pet Rat.” They would become much more elaborate in later years.
– More archaic elements of this show is Bart developing the photo in a dark room. Not quite as alien to me since I took a photo class a few years back and had to do the same thing, but not without the cool red lighting.
– As mildly insane as the phenomenon of the photo is, the most crazy element is Mr. Burns reaction, calling Homer to his office for advice on wooing the ladies. It’s a funny scene, but feels so unlike the misanthropic old man we know and love now.
– Homer goes to live with Barney, who lives in a real shitball apartment. “If you get hungry in the middle of the night, there’s a beer in the fridge.”
– Homer taking Bart to all the nightclubs looking for Kashmir is a great montage, with Bart continuously trying to peek over crowds and behind curtains to see the action (“Bart!! I said look at the floor!!”)