(originally aired November 18, 1993)
We’ve seen Homer pushed to many radical degrees this season, getting dimmer, more reckless, and more impulsive. He’s pretty much all of this toward the final act of this episode, and while he does certainly dance around the tipping point of being a hateful jackass, he thankfully never quite gets there. Before we examine this, let’s set our stage first: Bart and Milhouse come into some money and buy an all-syrup Super Squishee. The unimaginable sugar rush leads them to go crazy, Broadway style, in a great musical number and montage depicting a kid-style drunken bender (a highlight is the rub-on tattoo parlor, open all night.) Unfortunately for Bart, his lost night also included signing up for the Boy Sco… err, Junior Campers, an organization he derides as lame, but soon enough grows an affinity toward. Homer, meanwhile, mocks his son for it at every turn.
Homer’s questionable behavior starts with his constant teasing of his son. It still works though, as it’s never really dwelled on too long, and fits Homer’s immature mindset. It also helps that Castellaneta is hilarious doing his taunts (“Egghead likes his booky-wook!”) He’s not acting out of any malice or cruelty, he’s reveling in these schoolyard antics that tickle him so (reminds me a bit of his glee of hearing childish quips at Flanders’ BBQ in “When Flanders Failed.”) This comes to a head in a spectacular sequence where Bart and Homer are coaching themselves on how to respond when Bart, out of obligation, asks Homer to go on the father-son rafting trip. Bart surmises that his father will say no, so he’s got nothing to worry about. Despite concerns by his brain, Homer thinks the way to go is to say yes. Then, as angrily and bitterly as possible, the two storm out into the hallway, take antagonistic stances, and have a heartfelt father-son moment through gritted teeth (“Dad, I really want you to come on this trip with me.” “Bart, I’d be delighted to go on your trip with you.”) Both realizing what has happened, they utter a nice “D’oh!” in unison. Fantastic.
The last act consists of Homer and Bart stuck with Flanders and Rod, lost out in the middle of the ocean. Every attempt to make a rescue or piece of knowledge Ned provides, Homer is quick to screw it up or belittle it. At times this can be amusing, like his indignation regarding rationing the water (“Don’t you know the poem? ‘Water, water, everywhere, so let’s all have a drink.'”) Over and over, though, it gets a bit tough to stay on Homer’s side. I think the show might have benefited by having Homer know that Flanders is the scout master early on in act two, so the seeds of bitterness could be sewn in earlier. Instead, they really only clash at the end of the act, so it’s almost like building on top of the taunting of Bart to get the belligerence toward Flanders too. As questionable as the Homer stuff is, the episode is still heavy on laughs, and a great send-up in scouts from Bart’s point-of-view, sticking around thanks to his interest in knives and trapping wild animals (or an oafish father.) The ending with the Krusty Burger on an oil rig is the bizarre icing on the cake for this show.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The My Dinner with Andre video game is one I really wish existed. Makes me think back to the old Simpsons arcade game that they never released on home console. They could have put out that game, and as extras, have smaller bonus games like the arcade games we see in the show, like this one, the boxing game in “Moaning Lisa,” and so on. The closest we got was in the “Virtual Springfield” CD-ROM game where at the Kwik-E-Mart you could play Larry the Looter, which was kinda neat. But I want more, dammit.
– Great Homer bit at the beginning catching up on his old favorites… as in reading the ingredients off honey roasted peanuts. Later, he has to consult his brain as to why finding a twenty dollar bill is better than finding his lost peanut.
– Really not quite sure how Bart and Milhouse could afford their wild night, as they seem to have used up their twenty bucks on the Squishee. Classic scene regardless; my favorite part may be when they’re front-row at Cats, and Bart blows a spitwad at the actors, distressing them. Milhouse, who had been looking away, looks back, darting his head back and forth like some kind of disillusioned dog.
– At breakfast, Homer puts in his two cents regarding Bart (“Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals! …except the weasels.”)
– Great scene where the bullies play keep away with Bart’s uniform, but are put upon when they discover Bart could care less (“You better pretend you want your uniform back, twerp!”) Bart then proceeds to half-heartedly beg for his precious uniform back. They get comeuppance later when Bart weasels out of a pop quiz to attend a meeting. Nelson is stunned.
– The knife sequence, while feeling kind of ancillary, has some great stuff, like the badass moment of Moleman whipping out his huge knife, and Dr. Hibbert removing a man’s burst appendix, which he flings like a bomb, and it actually does burst (“Don’t thank me, thank the knife!”)
– Great book “The 10 Do’s and 500 Don’t’s of Knife Safety. I like Bart’s labored reading of it (“‘Don’t do what Donny Don’t does’ .They could have made this clearer”) and the amazing photos of Donny Don’t using a knife as a toothbrush, as ammo for a slingshot and for hunting wild game: the house cat.
– Not quite sure how Bart was able to dig through the concrete driveway to make that trap hole for Homer. Still funny though.
– Great bit of Bart critiquing the accuracy of an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon. Lisa shoots back that cartoons don’t have to be 100% realistic, and then we see Homer walk by the window even though he’s still sitting on the couch.
– Another wonderful guest appearance, here by special celebrity dad Ernest Bourgnine. He’s a pretty good sport, being introduced coming out of the bathroom, getting lost in Deliverance territory and presumably getting killed in the great Friday the 13th ending. Best part is his laughter attempting to cheer up his camp buddy, which quickly deflates into a groan.
– Nice petty moment in the raft when Bart laughs at one of Flanders’ jokes, Homer, behind them rowing, quips, “You are not my son!!”
– The third act drags a little bit, since not much happens other than jokes about them being stranded. The resolution is great though: a distressed Krusty apparently didn’t listen regarding building a restaurant on an unmanned oil rig (“I’m taking a bath on this.”) Right before the orders come in the close, Homer burst through the door: “Get me seven hundred Krusty Burgers!!”