(originally aired November 4, 1993)
Marge is a woman with a lot of gumption and ire, she just needs someone to get it out of her. That’s why I wish Ruth Powers had become more of a regular character, like a Kelsey Grammar role where she’d come back every season or so as Marge’s wildfire friend who’d drag her on another adventure. This also is inadvertently a Homer/Marge relationship show, but not in the overdone way implying their marriage is in trouble. It’s partly based in miscommunication, and Homer’s unknown dependency on Marge as a friend and a life partner. I appreciated the episode’s efforts to not make things lazy right from the start: Marge gets tickets to the ballet, and while Homer isn’t thrilled (especially after finding out there are no bears riding in tiny cars involved,) he is still ready to fulfill his promise to his wife. As always, fate smacks Homer in the face, and his efforts are only thwarted by getting his arms trapped in two vending machines (a spectacular sequence.) As a result, Marge takes Ruth, where they quickly form a bond and have a swell night out, with more to come.
Obviously this episode is a Thelma and Louise parody, not that it matters much. I haven’t seen the movie, but I know enough about it to understand what they’re getting at, and in that frame of mind the show still works. It’s not just blatant disconnected references, it’s weaving our characters into this familiar story. Around that we have the much more interesting story of Homer wandering aimlessly about town, trying to occupy his time. He’s a man who willfully tethered himself to Marge and his family, and despite his occasionally bombastic behavior, they’re who he cares about most. Without Marge, he’s lost, and he knows it. It’s intriguing to see our protagonist, who’s usually at the forefront of a story in control, not really knowing what to do with himself. Also around this we have some genius Lionel Hutz material, who sinks to a new low as Bart and Lisa’s babysitter (“Oh, sure, like lawyers work in big skyscrapers and have secretaries. Look at him! He’s wearing a belt! That’s Hollywood for ya.”)
The two stories collide pretty seamlessly, culminating in a big police chase. I like the tag team of Homer and Wiggum, two dimwits playing off each other. We have our big finish, toying with the infamous Thelma finale and giving the conclusions to all the characters, Dragnet style, which wraps things up quickly and sufficiently. I feel an episode like this is probably pretty underrated and unnoticed, a lot of Marge shows feel similarly, but I think this one is elevated with the flipside Homer angle, and a lot of hilarious material. It’s got heart, it’s got jokes, it got Marge out of the house, I got no complaints about this one.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I’m not really familiar with Garrison Keillor, but again, the joke still works, as it could really be any sort of low-key comedian, and Homer’s aggravation of not getting the humor is great (“Stupid TV! Be more funny!”)
– Some of the best Homer bits are when he adapts a serious tone, such as his response when Marge is shocked at his enthusiasm over ballet (“Marjorie, please. I enjoy all of the meats of our cultural stew.”) And of course he imagines the ballet as a circus.
– Homer’s trials with the vending machines is a real classic moment. Again, his dedication is exemplary, managing to pull a heavy vending machine down the corridor to fulfill his promise to Marge… and he gets waylaid by another machine. Love his vision of the future of being at Maggie’s wedding still in his condition (“Candy and sodas for all!”) and the solution to the problem: Homer just lets go of the cans. Also great is Homer covering his bases, providing a note to Marge written by the firemen (“Mrs. Simpson, while we were rescuing your husband, a lumberyard burned down.” Homer is crushed: “Lumber has a million uses!”)
– For some reason, there’s a sky box in the high school gym, specifically for the ballet, I guess.
– Homer watching Marge get ready and asking her questions where she’s going and when she’ll be back is a cute scene, like he’s a little kid asking his mother. Also great is his attempt to use the kids to elicit sympathy, but they only give their mother praise (“Man’s best friend indeed!”)
– Bart and Lisa provide Homer with no comfort, from Bart proposing he give a makeover to his father (“Oh, that would be delight… quiet, boy!”) and Lisa’s whip noise. Homer’s attempt to call friends proves fruitless: Lenny is preoccupied with his wife (?), we get a disturbing look at Burns’ personal life, who seems to be adapting the persona of a 50s teenage girl, and Flanders, who Homer immediately hangs up on.
– I love the scene at Sh_tkickers (brilliant under-the-radar name) with the unusually polite rednecks propositioning Marge. I assume this is also a Thelma and Louise reference, but again, it works just as well as a joke in and of itself.
– My favorite bit may be the grizzled old farmer musing over his antique cans. Castellaneta puts in a lot for a one-shot role, and it has a great payoff at the end revealing Marge had to pay fifty cents for the cans, and two thousand in punitive damages and mental anguish. Also, it seems like the farmer is the same one from much later in “Natural Born Kissers.” He has his pitchfork, but has yet to add a shotgun to it.
– The flashback to Homer and Marge’s dating life is hysterical; Homer is a madman smashing a weather machine with no real reasoning, then snaps back to Marge (“You got real purty hair…”) It turns bittersweet when present day Homer giddily prepares to take revenge on the new weather machine, but muses it’s not the same without Marge.
– More disturbing insight into Wiggum’s personal life, with his homemade moonshine and story about apparently having bought a male blowup doll.
– We also learn a bit about Marge’s murmur, utilized as a way to say something reassuring but noncommittal.
– Classic bit when Ruth turns off her lights and Wiggum automatically jumps that it must be a ghost car. He and Homer is terrified.
– Love the stuff at the truck stop, pushing Marge to go back to Ruth (“I hate it when the waffles stick together.” “Sticking together’s what good waffles do.”)
– Homer’s apology to Marge is really funny (“I’m sorry I haven’t been a better husband. I’m sorry about the time I tried to make gravy in the bathtub. I’m sorry I used your wedding dress to wax the car. And I’m sorry… oh well, let’s just say I’m sorry for the whole marriage up to this point!”)
– Oh, I forgot all about Lionel Hutz! He’s brilliant, as usual (“As of this moment, Lionel Hutz no longer exists. Say hello to Miguel Sanchez!”)