(originally aired September 24, 1992)
So we begin our fourth season with the final episode of the third production run. The writers and producers have talked about how in the early days they ran themselves ragged doing the show, and by the final episodes of a run they’re basically comatose. How they managed to keep the quality of the show so high despite their tiredness is astounding; “Kamp Krusty” is of the same ilk of “Dog of Death,” where it’s not focused on a solid, emotionally driven story, but how many gags they can cram into twenty-odd minutes, and by God does every single one get laughs. Making this the season premiere is sort of a sign of the show’s entering into goofier territory, which some may not have liked, but I’m all for it. The series is certainly richer and more meaningful due to its realistic characters and ideas, but above all, The Simpsons needs to make me laugh, and some of the best episodes are the most insane ones.
Our September premiere begins on the last day of school, where Bart is, for once, nervous about his impending failing grades, knowing without a C-average, his parents won’t let him go to Kamp Krusty, a summer camp run by his beloved idol. Bart’s nervousness leads to a classic conclusion where Homer lets his son go to the camp regardless of grades (“I didn’t want you hangin’ around all summer anyway,”) making our first act seem all for naught. Anyway, the kids’ excitement for camp dissolves immediately when they find Kamp Krusty is truly Hell on Earth: run by the school bullies, they sleep in rundown, snake-riddled cabins, live on Krusty Brand Imitation Gruel (9 out of 10 orphans can’t tell the difference), and are forced to stitch fake Gucci wallets for Hong Kong scalpers. It’s a little disconcerting to see the kids in this much despair, but the exaggeration is so high that it remains funny. The best joke in the show depicts the bullies and their boss, Mr. Black, in their luxurious cabin, with roaring fireplace and cigars all around. Black toasts, “Gentlemen, to evil.”
Hovering throughout the show is Bart’s incredible faith that Krusty will show up and save them, almost like the coming of the Messiah. When the kids are insulted when Black tries to pass off a drunken costumed Barney as the clown, that’s the last straw for Bart, and the kids proceed to take over the camp. There’s great runners alongside this story, featuring Homer and Marge’s love life being better than ever without the kids, and Krusty being obnoxious at Wimbledon, and being knighted (even though he’s an American). It’s strange how it works that Krusty is so horrified by the conditions of the camp, but approves manufacture of clearly malfunctioning and dangerous products with his face on it (regarding the camp, he wails, “They drove a dump truck full of money up to my house! I’m not made of stone!”) Lastly, I will say that these sillier episodes are normally less memorable than ones with more of a emotional punch; I didn’t remember this episode being this funny. But it’s still a classic episode, with an enormous bevy of laughs. Welcome, season 4. I’m gonna like you.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Bart’s dream of destroying the school is a classic sequence, with “School’s Out for Summer” playing as Skinner runs about trying to find someone to torch the permanent records.
– Great Homer bits at the breakfast table: his promise to the children (“When you’re 18, you’re out the door!”) and his fatherly advice to Bart (“Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.”) First three numbers, no match, “D’oh!” all three times. Fourth number, “Woo-hoo!” Like it matters at that point he gets one. Last number, no match, and of course, another “D’oh!”
– Shocking, but Miss Hoover may be less enthusiastic a teacher and sadder a person than Mrs. Krabappel (“I have nothing left to say to any of you, so if nobody minds, let’s just quietly run out the clock.”) I also like that she seems to have given Lisa a B+ in conduct out of sheer spite (“Everyone has a blotch on their permanent record.”) A wigged out Lisa then proceeds to crush her hand. Sort of.
– I love Bart’s attempts to sweeten Mrs. K by telling her all of his textbooks are being returned mint, some in their original wrapping. Edna is not swayed, of course (“Have a D-lightful summer.”)
– Great Kamp Krusty ad, especially with the fat kid turning skinny, and Krusty slapping his cheek. I don’t know if this show invented this gag, the completely shocked and speechless cheek slap, but it does it better than anyone.
– I like even someone as dull as Homer can figure out Bart forged his grades, probably since he probably pulled the same trick with his dad (“You know a D turns into a B so easily. You just got greedy.”) Also his continued good fathering of asking Bart to reach inside the lawnmower to recover a roller skate, only to have it backfire.
– Bart and Homer’s mini war with the pickle at dinner is a great sequence, with a rare moment of pure reverence from Bart to his father (“Always thinking two steps ahead.”)
– I love Homer’s follow-up advice off of Marge’s “Leaves of three, leave them be”: “Leaves of four, eat some more!” Not sure what it means, but I love that Homer amused himself with such a stupid expression.
– The Kamp Krusty song is classic, of course, blending its funny lyrics with funny sight gags (particularly love running from Mount Avalanche).
– I like this runner between Bart and Lisa, shivering in their cabins.
[Lisa] I feel like I’m gonna die, Bart.
[Bart] We’re all gonna die, Lis.
[Lisa] I meant soon.
[Bart] So did I.
– Gotta love the Ben Hur reference where Kearney beats the drums as the kids stitch wallets.
– Barney posing as Krusty is great of course (“I am so Crunchy the Clown!”) as is a panicked Mr. Black yelling at the bullies for not breaking the kids’ spirits (“You broke nothing!”) They worked really hard to greatly abuse these grade schoolers, for reasons that escape me, but dammit, they did their best.
– I want to see more of Sadrodin Muraradad’s Yoga Party. That’s it.
– Love Kent Brockman’s opening to his “Krisis at Kamp Krusty” segment: “Ladies and gentleman, I’ve been to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq; and I can say without hyperbole that this is a million times worse than all of them put together.”
– And there’s Krusty’s three identifying body marks: his pacemaker scar, his cattle skull birthmark, and his superfluous third nipple. Of course they’re never seen again when he’s shirtless, except for “Bart the Fink” where Krusty’s identity needs to be proven once more.