99. Burns’ Heir

(originally aired April 14, 1994)
Re-watching these old shows has really ignited my love of Mr. Burns. He’s one of the series’ greatest characters, so engaging and entertaining in pretty much every scene he’s in. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but regardless, some of the best Burns material comes from when we see a more human side to him, where the man with more money than God must face his own mortality. It was the subject of Marge’s famous painting, he sought happiness from his childhood with his bear Bobo, and now a near-death experience shocks Burns into planning on maintaining his legacy when he’s gone. We see him as a withered old man who has ostracized nearly everybody, left to toil in his vast, empty mansion, but the question is, is he happy with this? Both theories are posited in this very show, and perhaps it’s a little of both. It’s nice that the show can allow you to theorize and not spoon-feed characters’ emotions to you, or if they did, have the common decency to mock them.

The hefty weight of a sponge causes Burns to sink in the bathtub, causing his life to flash before his eyes, which is an incredible montage. I think the life of C. Montgomery Burns would make a fascinating mini-series, they should have done more stuff like this. Anyway, Burns sets up a casting call for the children of Springfield, but no one wins him over, until a scorned Bart reeks havoc upon his estate, exhibiting just the kind of feisty attitude he’s looking for. Burns has the Simpson family sign the contracts, and then muses about spending his remaining years in solitude. This guilt trip leads Bart to make extended visits to Burns Manor, where he revels in the freedom to do as he pleases. We later find that Burns planned this out, for the boy to live with him so he could mold him to take his place after death. Aside from this though, I do like to think his cock-and-bull confession earlier had some nugget of truth in it. Burns seems to enjoy Bart’s company, basically admitting he’s the son he wishes he’d had. His motives self-serving and goal dastardly, you still feel for the guy.

Bart’s role in the story is engaging too, as he finds he must choose between a life of no restrictions and anything his heart desires, and his loving, biological family. Burns pulls psychological tricks to make the boy stay, culminating in hiring stage actors to portray the family bad-mouthing him. Despite the comically poor performances, Bart is convinced, and his slow declaration to Burns is a little wrenching. The end, though, feels a little too much, with Bart being forced to fire Homer to curry Burns’ favor. I can’t pinpoint why exactly, perhaps a bit too predictable way to get Bart back on his family’s side. But with all the great stuff leading up to it, and the hilarious denouement featuring Hans Moleman, it could have been the most contrived ending in the world and still the episode would be worth it.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Classic smash cut with Homer positing the rich must be suffering as much as he, then cut to Burns with top hat having a bath in his lush estate, and if that weren’t enough, eating a bad of “extra fancy” potato chips.
– Again, I’d love to see flashback episodes featuring Burns. I always thought that later day Simpsons could be made interesting again by focusing a fair amount of episodes on side characters, exploring more of their lives and own foibles. Instead, most just became disposable, who’d show up for the sake of a joke and disappear. Ah well.
– Burns muses over never fathering an heir thanks to his hectic schedule and lethargic sperm. And I like that even the complete Burns-sexual Smithers is disturbed at Burns’ plan that he will be buried alive with him.
– Wonderful THX movie parody, culminating in a man’s head exploding, and Grampa still not hearing it. The clip was later used by THX in theaters. Then comes Mr. Burns’ ad (“I’m looking for a suitable young male heir to leave my fortune to when I pass away. My vast, vast, vast fortune. Vast”) ending with him begrudgingly leading “Let’s All Go to the Lobby.”
– We get great moment with the kids of Springfield at the audition: Milhouse has nothing to offer Burns but his love (“I specifically said no geeks!”) Nelson threatens violence (which Burns likes), and later pummels a showtune-singing Martin (Burns also likes), and Lisa posits the idea Burns’ heir need not be a boy (“I don’t know what phallocentric means, but no girls!”)
– Great, GREAT dream sequence by Marge of Bart graduating from Harvard (the most expensive, and therefore the best school.) Then Lee Majors takes Marge away with her, leaping into the air with bionic sound effects. Snapping back, Marge promises to stop dreaming about Lee Majors… after this next one. We hear the bionic sound again as Marge goes out of it.
– Astute Simpsons fans will have noted that this blog’s title comes from this show, as Bart fumbles through the poorly written cue cards his father gave him (“Hello, Mr. Kurns. I bad want… money now. Me sick”), Homer comments, “Oooh, he card read good.” Also great finale of Burns slowly activating the boot to kick Bart, his subtle satisfaction, and Homer’s uproarious response (“The boot kicked Bart! It kicked him right in the butt!”) And finally, some important advice from Homer (“You tried your best, and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.”)
– Great bit from Krusty: being paid to deliver pizza to Bart, he admits he’s playing a rerun in place of a live show. Of course of all the years of tape, he picks the one where he abruptly stops the show after hearing the Falkland Islands have been invaded.
– I do enjoy Bart being a brat at the dinner table, and Homer’s ineffective means of stopping it (“Lisa, stop getting in the way of your wealthy brother’s peas.”) But he draws the line of feeding meatloaf to Santa’s Little Helper (“That was the end piece! That’s it, being abusive to your family is one thing, but I will not stand idly by and watch you feed a hungry dog!”)
– Homer drives to Burns Manor, running over Bart’s bike, to get back his son. Homer is incensed at Burns telling him to leave (“Or what? You’ll release the dogs, or the bees, or the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you? Well, go ahead, do your worst!”) At this point my brain automatically goes to robotic Richard Simmons, but here, Burns just locks the door. Homer is dumbfounded.
– The animation of Bart’s wild ride is fantastic; you can feel the motion and energy even from Bart’s POV of all the objects hitting his front windshield. Spectacular direction.
– Bart watches the phony Simpsons weakly reading their lines, but their cover is almost blown when fake Homer utters “B’oh!” I love the pacing that Burns slowly walks out of the room, into the covert set to yell at his actors. Also, it seems he’s hired Michael Caine to play Homer, who is very frustrating over the direction (“Sorry, M.B., but I’m having trouble with this character. Is he supposed to have some kind of neurological impairment, like Rain Man, or Awakenings? I mean, what the hell am I doing here?!”)
– I love Homer’s enthusiasm about kissing Moleman (“It’s like kissing a peanut!”) and the outro line from Marge (“Homer, I want that thing out of my house.”)

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8 responses to “99. Burns’ Heir

  1. “Let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go to the lobbeeey, get ourselves some snacks”.

    One of my favourites, despite them cutting out robotic Richard Simmons.

  2. A few of my favourite lines (that I’m pulling from my head, apologies if they have erros).

    (When asked by Millhouse where his train goes) “I don’t know, but it won’t be back for a few hours, and one time it came back and had snow on it”

    (revelling over Bart’s new blazer) Millhouse: “Wow, a Bob Mackie”

  3. PEPITO! The Biggest Cat In The Whole Wide World!

    One of these days I’m going to see “Come Blow Your Horn” at the Westport Dinner Theater and talk to the actors after.

  4. Too bad the parts about Homer’s secret flower-eating shame were cut out in syndication. That was such a bizarre, fantastic bit. “So that explains his mysterious trip to Holland.”

    • Valerie Cunningham

      Also the callback where Bart throws flowers in Homer’s face and says, “Oh, go eat some flowers!” with Homer weeping, “My secret shame!”

      And the robot Richard Simmons part would have been the best part of the episode if they actually put it in, even though a lot of people would have cited it as a sign that the show was getting more cartoony.

  5. “Look Smithers! A bird has become petrified and lost its sense of direction!”

    “Erm…”

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