(originally aired May 2, 1991)
Character traits and compulsions that seem commonplace now seemed to have more gravity back in these early days. In a later episode Homer getting drunk at a party would work as an amusing flashback, but here it’s treated a bit more seriously; our intro to this Marge-Homer marriage troubles episode is Marge’s mortification over Homer getting wasted during their house party. His drunken antics are also varied, going from loud rantings to chewing out strangers to lustfully staring down Madame Flanders’ neckline. Particularly jarring is his brief interaction with Bart; it’s a weird bit where he tries to get his son to “perform” for his buddies, and it’s a bit unsettling, but that’s what we need to get at. This is just far too much for Marge, as she puts it, “you didn’t just cross that line, you threw up on it!”
As a result, Homer is stuck having to go to a weekend marriage retreat hosted by Reverend Lovejoy. His attitude turns however when he finds out it’s held lake-side so he can get in some fishing, and he’s enticed further upon hearing rumors of the famed giant elusive catfish General Sherman that dwells there. Meanwhile, Grampa is left in charge of the kids, who then proceed to take complete advantage of him, letting them buy gallons and gallons of ice cream, drink coffee and smoke cigars. It’s a B-story I don’t much care for. Lisa does protest a bit and feel remorse, but it doesn’t make much sense that she would go along with any of Bart’s schemes to this capacity. The ending bit with Grampa tricking the kids into straightening up their act is a nice capper, but besides that, it’s mostly filler. Though we do get the first appearance of Snake, and our first “Haw haw!” out of Nelson.
The rest of the episode almost suffers from the fantastic first act; Marge and Homer at the retreat isn’t quite as interesting. By completely inadvertent means, Homer winds up in a boat desperately trying to reel in the General, and when Marge catches him, he angrily tosses it back, showing his true devotion to his wife. It works, I guess, but his gallant gesture doesn’t seem to equal his general assholery at the party. This is another one of those shows that gets buried amidst more stronger, classic shows, and while sometimes they may be hidden gems, this one’s just alright to me.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Odd that Flanders of all people gets the ball rolling of Homer’s inebriation by serving him up drinks. A far cry from two years later when he’s still devastated by a raspberry schnapps he had ten years prior.
– Dr. Hibbert’s very dry manner of speaking is a source of great comedy: first in his commentary about how with all its chemicals a gag ice cube is much more dangerous than a cube with an actual fly in it, then later upon leaving he suggests that Marge turn a passed out Homer on his stomach, if she wanted him to live through the night.
– Homer’s recollection of the night before is spectacular, a wonderfully designed sequence with a great New Yorker cartoon style featuring a dapper Homer as head of an Algonquin group type gathering. The rapid pan across the group morphing into their normal selves is spell-binding, it’s a really great piece of animation.
– One thing this show has going for it is there’s a lot of great acting in it, from the design and subtle movements of drunk Homer to the not-so-happy couple during their fight and visit to the retreat. There’s also a smaller bit when Homer is forced to explain his bawdy behavior to his son. Bart sits there, legs crossed Indian style with a flat smile on his face. It’s like he’s humoring his dad, he’s well aware what being drunk means. When his father says he’s hoped he hasn’t lost any respect, Bart responds, “Dad, I have as much respect for you as I ever did or ever will.” Slick.
– I don’t know why, but I love the first couple at the retreat. “Queen of the harpies!” has stuck in my mind for years.
– I do like how Homer talks aloud about his foolproof plan to catch and eat General Sherman before bed, and he barely gets one foot out the door before Marge wakes up and catches him.
– We get a great line from the Reverend, who knows a lost cause when he sees one: “Marge, as a trained marriage counselor, this is the first instance where I’ve ever told one partner that they were 100% right. It’s all his fault. I’m willing to put that on a certificate you can frame.”