(originally aired March 17, 1994)
As I’ve noted before, Homer’s rampant animosity toward Ned Flanders is really out of jealousy; deep down he wishes he could be as well-off, loving and together as the Flanders’. Because of this petty reasoning, it doesn’t seem too far off that Homer could come to really enjoy Ned’s company and forge a nice friendship… and that’s what happens in this episode. But when that happens, it’s almost like the fabric of the series starts to unravel. Homer befriending Flanders should not be, so it drives Ned, the calmest man in the universe, to hate, becoming increasingly more frustrated as the episode continues. Homer’s friendship is a lot more dangerous than his mild antagonism, it seems. The role-reversal between both characters feels very genuine, and the ending one of the sweetest of the series, leaving us with a fun, wacky episode.
Homer’s after tickets for the biggest football game of the year, and his only option is to take up Ned’s offer to go with him. He’s hostile at first, of course, but numerous kind gestures later, including getting the game ball, Homer is completely bowled over by his neighbor-eeno. This is your classic heel face turn from Homer: he’s a man of impulse, and whatever feeling he has, he goes with it full force. Now he’s Flanders’ best friend in the whole world, and he wants everyone to know it: his family, co-worker, the barflies, strangers, everybody. At first, Ned is pleased by Homer’s change-of-heart. But then again he’s pleased by his irrational hatred as well. It’s never quite clear if he even registers Homer’s assholery, I’m still not sure whether he’s just oblivious or very forgiving. But either way, Ned grows uncomfortable that Homer wedges his way into his life, bothering him while volunteering at the homeless shelter (then usurping the credit), and later, a Simpson-Flanders family picnic goes horribly, horribly wrong. Flanders wakes in a cold sweat with a shocking revelation: he’s developed a strange new emotion. Hatred… for Homer Simpson.
The third act is all about Ned’s downward spiral, trying to avoid Homer at all costs. However, there are some costs, like using little white lies in front of his kids, which they don’t care for (“Lies make baby Jesus cry.”) Following an amazing chase sequence out of Terminator 2 with Homer as a wall-eyed T-1000, Ned is pulled over for speeding and given a sobriety test, and then of course the gossipy church bus group passes by. This series is great at these emotional turns where they just pile stuff on the characters to speed up whatever they’re supposed to be feeling. Now Ned is ostracized from the entire church (save Homer, of course) as Lovejoy is about to give his opening sermon, “What Ned Did.” One final irritant from Homer sets Ned off (“Can’t you see this man isn’t a hero, he’s annoying! He’s very very annoying!!”) But Homer comes to Ned’s defense with a heartfelt, passionate, true-to-character speech, one of the best monologues of the series, which mollifies the mob and wins back Flanders’ friendship. And then of course one week later things are back to normal. That’s the way things are with the status quo.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Homer’s quest for tickets to the game is littered with great bits: the TV warning about tickets not being taken internally (“See? Because of me, now they have a warning,”) Bart selling his father bogus tickets for fifty bucks (I love Castellaneta’s slooow turn to anger as he reads off the entire coupon, then snap back to the very disturbing dream of Homer imagining himself imitating his wife with a Marge wig), the scalper buying every single ticket with only a $10 deposit, and Homer’s lamentation about Ned winning the radio contest’s tickets courtesy of Eddie Money’s “Two Tickets to Paradise.”
– I love Lisa’s surmization of the never-ending rivalry between Springfield and Shelbyville (“They built a mini-mall, so we built a bigger mini-mall. They made the world’s largest pizza, so we burnt down their city hall.”)
– For the change-of-heart to truly work, Homer is ramped up high here with his hatred of Flanders, first apparently going to smack Ned unconscious with a lead pipe, then later making him duck down whilst driving so he wouldn’t be seen with Homer by Lenny and Carl (“Look, Homer’s got one of those robot cars!”) The car proceeds to crash off-screen, and Carl adds on, “One of those American robot cars.”
– I love that Burns, who of course owns the Springfield Atoms, was vindictive enough to cripple Milhouse to pump up his team to win (“I hope they win, or Mr. Burns said he’s coming back.”)
– Classic bit with Homer’s nacho hat, with him singing an altered version of “Macho Man.”
– Great bit with footballer Stan Taylor talking about how Ned saved him (“I used to party all night and sleep with lingerie models until Ned and his bible group showed me that I could have more.”) Homer muses, “Professional athletes, always wantin’ more.” I also like his cooing over the game ball (“Now I have four children. You will be called ‘Stitchface.'”) And of course, classic line when Homer drives by again, proudly announcing his friendship with Flanders (“What did he say?” “I dunno, something about being gay.”)
– The religious sheep cartoon teaching about envy is hilarious. Todd is not as won over (“It’s all well and good for sheep, but what are we to do?”)
– Ned gives a great pre-meal prayer (“Bless the grocer for this wonderful meat, the middlemen who jacked up the price, and let’s not forget the humane but determined boys over at the slaughterhouse.”) I also love Homer’s dainty bites as he picks apart Ned’s turkey.
– Classic bit with the Rappin’ Ronnie Reagan tape (“You know something? He did say ‘well’ a lot!”)
– The family picnic has a lot of great bits too, but my favorite is probably Bart being a drug pusher on Rod and Todd via pixie sticks, which they go mad over. One part that irks me a bit is Marge and Lisa contributing to the food fight. I get the parallel they were making, but it didn’t seem to fit. Love Ned’s excuse for leaving, “Todd’s got Zesty Italian in his eye.”
– Ned’s dream is wonderfully animated, and pretty damn chilling. I almost wish they didn’t tamper with the tone with the comical crazy postman.
– Homer appearing and disappearing through the hedge is another great bit of animation, as well as the chase, as I’ve mentioned.
– I love Wiggum’s enthusiasm about his arrest: “High as a kite, everybody! Goofballs!”
– The final straw that sets Ned off is genius: so minor, but just a microcosm of Homer’s annoyance. During a silent prayer, Homer breathes through his nose, which makes an increasingly noisy whistling noise, but I think the volume of it raising is all in Ned’s head, chipping away at him until he finally cracks.
– Homer’s speech defending Ned is beautiful, so I will just reprint it in full: “How dare you talk about Ned Flanders like that. He’s a wonderful, kind, caring man… maybe even more so than me. There have been times when I lost patience with him, even lashed out at him, but this man has turned every cheek on his body. If everyone here were like Ned Flanders, there’d be no need for heaven: we’d already be there.” I also love after Lovejoy admits they were wrong, Lenny shouts out, “Hey, that guy’s right!” Referring to the Reverend as “that guy” seems very Lenny. Don’t know how much sense that makes.