(originally aired May 7, 1992)
As much as a rambunctious rapscallion as Bart is, he’s still has as much vulnerability in him as the next kid. The show is able to show him at his lowest point without feeling cloying or sappy, mainly because it mines from a pure realistic source with its stories. Here, we see a girl getting in between Bart and Milhouse’s friendship, a young romance story that we can all connect to. The title is not only a very early burn on Milhouse, but refers to the main meat of the story involving Bart’s desperate attempts to hold onto his best friend before he loses him, and his eventual extreme measures to getting him back. The girl in question is Samantha Stanky, a timid transfer student with a shy voice and braces. She doesn’t have too much of a personality, but it fits the story, and also how ten-year-old romances aren’t really too deep to begin with. The material she is given is great though, and is still infinitely better than the parade of girlfriends voiced by celebrities Bart would get once a season down the road. Here, Stanky is voiced by Kimmy Robertson, whose biggest credit is being the receptionist on Twin Peaks, and she does a great job in her role here.
Before this prepubescent drama begins, we have a fantastic opening parodying Raiders of the Lost Ark as Bart nabs Homer’s penny jar just as Indy stole the idol. The reference works, and is funny here, as Homer proceeds to take a dual role as the ball rolling after Bart down the stairs and the angry natives as he runs out onto the lawn in his undies (a hilarious, grotesque sight) and screams after his son in gibberish. The cultural reference is given context and meaning within the show’s universe, and is elevated, and thus, is very funny. Later in class, we meet Samantha, and Milhouse is taken with her almost immediately. The two’s affection grows further after watching an educational video, perhaps the best ever shown in the entire series, Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You-Know-What. Hosted by Troy McClure (of course), it’s a child’s guide to abstinence and true romance and marriage, with an apparently grotesque sex scene (complete with porno music) spliced in. The shot of kids watching this in a darkened classroom, audibly disgusted, with their teacher standing in the back, smoking, commenting, “She’s faking it” is alternately hilarious and disturbing.
As shown in “Homer Defined,” Bart and Milhouse have a co-dependent friendship, since they really only have each other as friends. But this show is kind of a window to a future that shows that eventually, they will part ways, perhaps due to one falling in love, and Bart is visibly hurt by it. He ends up breaking the two up by exposing the torrid romance to Samantha’s prudish father, who enrolls her in an all-girls school run by Canadian nuns. Bart and Milhouse eventually make up, but not before a brief intense scuffle when Bart reveals the truth. The fight ends when Bart whacks Milhouse in the noggin with a magic 8-ball, which breaks, which is kind of cool since it’s what predicted the dooming of their friendship at the beginning of the show. This episode has like classic film reference bookends as we close Casablanca style with Bart claiming this is the start of a beautiful friendship. Well, not quite, but it’s basically like that.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Great sequence of Skinner looking over Samantha’s records, only to go in and out of grim Vietnam war recollections, complete with excellent lighting from the blinds and Skinner gripping tightly against his chair arms.
– Samantha’s introduction to the class is really sweet, tinged with nervousness and a general lack of confidence that a kid would have in that situation. Excellent explanation of her move to Springfield: her father owns a home security company, and moved to the town because of its high crime rate and lackluster police force.
– No one but Phil Hartman could have voiced the educational film. The emphasis he gives on certain parts, like “they never ruined their fun by giving into their throbbing biological urges” is just hysterical. Also the line, “Nine months later, Fluffy gave birth to fourteen beautiful bunnies. Eight survived.” Additionally great is the randomness of Fuzzy Bunny being Jewish, crushing the glass at his wedding (with no shoes, I might add. That had to have been painful.)
– Small moment where Bart asks about creating a half-man half-monkey creature, which Mrs. K claims would be playing God, retorted with the well-delivered line, “God shmod! I want my monkey-man!”
– The B-story involves Lisa’s attempts to have her father lose weight with subliminal tapes played at night, but Homer ends up receiving vocabulary building tapes instead. Similar to the swear jar runner in “Bart the Lover,” it’s its own little story divorced from the A-plot that has a lot of great moments, starting with Kent Brockman’s report on obesity (“Did you know that 34 million American adults are obese? Putting together that excess blubber would fill the Grand Canyon two fifths of the way up. That may not sound impressive, but keep in mind it is a very big canyon.”) Lisa imagines her father’s funeral, dead at over 400 pounds and having to be lifted down into his grave in a piano crate. Marge is given the lists of different tapes she can receive, including “hostage negotiating,” followed by perhaps the oddest dream sequence ever featuring Homer being just that. Hearing Homer speak exclusively in college-level terms is pretty funny, ending with him throwing out the tapes “A pox on thee!”
– I like Bart’s answer when Mr. Stanky on the phone asks for his identity: “Let’s just say I’m a concerned prude with a lot of time on his hands.”
– Of course, best line of the show from a broken Milhouse: “How could this happen? We started out like Romeo and Juliet, but ended up in tragedy.”