(originally aired December 26, 1991)
Flashback shows offer the series a valuable opportunity. Not only is it entertaining to see our characters in their younger days, but it gives us a look at what happened along the road of life that got them to where we know them now, not just in their jobs or their families, but how they psychologically came to be. “The Way We Was” ended with Homer and Marge finally getting together, but this show focuses on how their love grew into a somewhat stable family. We see what sacrifices had to be made, monetary and personally, in order to make the Simpson family what it is. And we see just why a smart, capable woman like Marge would love and stay with a big dumb oaf like Homer. It’s my favorite flashback show, and one of my favorite episodes, as it’s one of the best, if not the best, shows that perfectly balances its sweet moments with snarky humor.
Our show opens with Marge heading to Dr. Hibbert’s after failing a pregnancy test. Right off the bat the show treads new ground: in other sitcoms, the notion of a character being pregnant is only met by euphoria by the husband and canned applause, but here Homer and Marge seem very hesitant and tense about the affair. This all leads to Homer waxing nostalgic about the events that led up to Bart’s birth. At 24, Homer was still much the man-child, working at the miniature golf course, taking Marge to see The Empire Strikes Back, and lounging about his shitty apartment with Barney eating a tube of cookie dough. But when the news breaks that Marge is pregnant, everything changes. A man with no responsibilities is now responsible for a new life. This leads to my first of two examples of absolutely perfect scenes, where Homer proposes to Marge. He’s nervous about it, for sure (“Marge, there’s something I want to ask you. But I’m afraid, because if you say no, it’ll destroy me and make me a criminal.”) and he paws around the backseat looking for the card he wrote down what to say on. Marge finds it, and reads it aloud, an actually touching, poignantly written proposal, complete with a swell of music and Kavner’s slightly choked-up read. Homer flatly replies, “That’s the card, give it here,” while Marge basks in the moment, even though Homer’s asscrack is directly in her face. It’s unbelievable how the show manages to be so damn touching, but make me laugh at the same time. We love to hear Marge say yes, and we love even more Homer’s ecstatic reaction (“She’s gonna marry me! In your face, everybody!!”)
Getting married and preparing for a child ain’t easy on a shoe string budget. Homer’s attempts to provide for his future family go into a downward spiral, resulting in him leaving Marge. It takes a lot to still care about a guy who abandons his pregnant wife, but his goodbye note is written so sincerely, notating that he will send every cent he earns to her. The second perfect scene occurs when Marge finds Homer is working at a fast food joint and they have a heartfelt reunion. Homer mourns that he couldn’t give Marge a decent wedding ring. Marge replies that any ring is special as long as it’s from him. Homer gives Marge an onion ring (repeating a line from “The Way We Was,” “Marge, pour vous.”) There’s a beat to appreciate the sweetness of it, for the characters and the audience, before Marge asks if she can take it off, as the oil is burning her finger. Homer does… and then eats it. Perfect.
This episode really illustrates why Homer is the man he is: with enormous responsibilities thrust upon him, Homer has no real time to grow and mature into a responsible adult. He went from man-child right to childish father. Impassioned by Marge’s visit, Homer takes charge and boasts his way into a position at the power plant, but hilariously, claiming he’ll be the most sycophantic kiss-ass Burns has ever seen. Going from a job he loved to one he’ll come to be miserable by, it’s all worth it for Marge and his future child. This show presents such an honest, human depiction of two young fools in love and about to become parents; it has a minor tragic sting to it, but we have such faith and love for the characters that we know they’re going to turn out alright (relatively speaking). And it makes perfect sense that Marge’s announcement at the end that the test was negative would trigger a great joy out of the two. Parenthood’s a bitch.
Tidbits and Quote
– How much do I love Barnacle Bill’s Home Pregnancy Test? The answer is a lot. “If the water turns blue, a baby for you. If purple ye see, no baby thar be. If ye test should fail, to a doctor set sail.”
– I love Homer’s tenseness, in his physical actions and his voice, when Lisa asks if Marge is going to have another baby. It astounds me how much truly talented people can make mere drawings into believable human characters, even more so than flesh-and-blood actors.
– I do like Homer’s attempts to sweet talk Marge: “You’re as beautiful as Princess Leia and as smart as Yoda.”
– Odd that Marge calls “You Light Up My Life” as their song, not “Close To You.” I do like when Marge tells Homer she’s singing about God, and Homer replies, “Oh, well, He’s always happy. No, wait, He’s always mad.”
– Homer and Marge copulating inside the castle at the mini golf course seems so sweet apart from its seediness. I absolutely love Homer’s claim of the castle being “impregnable.” I doubt he’s ever used that word ever, ever again, but the one time he does, he’s wrong. Dead wrong.
– I like the continuity that Dr. Hibbert’s dialogue telling Marge she’s pregnant is identical to the brief flashback we saw in “The Way We Was.”
– Shotgun Pete’s is great, from the raspy clerk (the great Doris Grau) laughing at Homer’s face for believing their marriage will last forever, to the “minister” not even bothering to remember people’s names. “Byoo-tee-ful.”
– Can you think of a more perfect name than Repo Depot? And the employee’s got a great line, mournfully commenting, “Repossessing stuff is the hardest part of my job.”
– Love the donut truck driver. “All the colors of the rainbow!”
– I do like how Homer’s bravado nature continues through the day, from Burns’ office to the delivery room, as he stands up for himself in front of Patty and Selma, and the great bit where he fights with Hibbert over who will deliver the baby.