(originally aired May 12, 1994)
Marge’s mother was first seen in “Bart vs. Thanksgiving,” a great joke on its own that she basically seemed to be an older version of Marge, with blue-gray hair and a voice so raspy it hurt to talk. Then she was briefly in “Selma’s Choice.” Now she’s the focus of this show. After this, I can’t remember if we ever saw her again. Maybe in the background at a wedding or church function or something, but she was pretty much abandoned as a character. Why is that? Maybe for the same reason we see Grampa a whole lot more than Patty & Selma, your crazier, joke-driven characters are easier to get mileage out of than ones who exhibit deeper emotion. Those characters also seem to always be women. But this is a whole other can of worms; instead of bitch, I will choose to appreciate this episode for what it is: an interesting look at new relationships of those who have one foot in the grave already, seeking companionship for their final days. It’s got a sweet center to it, peppered with jokes, of course.
Jacqueline and Abe kindle an interest in each other at Maggie’s first birthday party, swapping home remedies and waxing nostalgic about the old days. Abe is instantly smitten, Jackie a bit more reserved. I like the multiple dynamics here with their feelings of the relationship, and Marge’s, who is happy for them but doesn’t want Abe to come on too strong, and Homer, who is a bit weirded out at the concept of his father and his wife’s mother dating. At a night out on the dance floor, Abe is cockblocked by Mr. Burns, who is equally smitten by the matron Bouvier, and hastily gives a proposal. Jackie surmises that Burns can care for her financially, while Marge is incensed due to Burns’ monster-like qualities. Abe makes a dramatic scene at the wedding, and Jackie concludes that she doesn’t want to be with either of them.
There’s really a lot of neat things going on with this story, with Abe’s impulsive nature, the love giving him a bit more vigor and purpose in his old age, and Jackie’s seemingly old-time passiveness about marrying whoever, or not marrying whoever. I feel like a lot more could have been made of this story, but there seemed to be a need to give it padding with a mini B-story, where Bart gets gypped in buying an animation cel (which at least comes to a sort of conclusion thanks to the main story). The main ideas and emotions come through pretty clearly, I was just hoping for a little bit more time with them. There’s also bits of humorous satire, like Lisa commenting about how their family’s rituals have all come from commercial jingles, like how media has kind of homogenized our individual culture. I found this episode really interesting, with a lot of heart and its share of good jokes.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Classic joke where Homer asks Maggie to point out the monkey, and she points at him. Homer dismisses this until that baby properly points to a credenza when asked.
– Second appearance of Gerald, the one eyebrowed baby. I tell yah, that baby is up to no good.
– I love Castellaneta’s incensed read responding to Jackie’s medical suggestion: “Balsam specific?!” I like the follow-up of Bart mimicking their old-timey banter, to which Abe and Jackie retort, “Don’t make fun!”
– The whole first act feels very genuine, with the family sitting around talking about past memories after putting Maggie to bed. Then we get into the great Armor Hot Dogs song, which is half joke, half commercial, complete with Homer walking by at the end holding a “BUY ARMOR HOT DOGS” sign.
– Great quick line from the Crazy Old Man on the senior bus: “Hurry up, hurry! Each Matlock could be our last!”
– Marge first suggests the idea to Homer of their parents getting together. Homer responds, “Old people don’t need companionship. They need to be isolated and studied so it can be determined what nutrients they have that might be extracted for our personal use.” Marge tells him to stop reading those Ross Perot pamphlets.
– Great bit with Abe getting the wrong woman out of the retirement home, and the perfect timing with Homer rolling up the window, and the woman’s disappointed moan.
– The mini-plot with Bart buying the animation cel is good in its own right. It starts with a great Home Shopping parody, with Troy hosting a segment on the Impulse Buying Network with Roger Meyers, who touts his wares: “I’m proud to offer your viewers these hand-drawn Itchy and Scratchy animation cels. Each one is absolutely, positively, 100% guaranteed to increase in value.” Then a quick announcer comments, “Not a guarantee.” We also get the return of Comic Book Guy when Bart tries to sell it, who starts to flesh out into the sarcastic grump we know and love him as (“No groaning in my store.”) I also love Homer’s impulsive reactions to Bart’s confession: blind anger when he hears Bart used his credit card, then excitement over getting the money (“Three hundred and fifty bucks! Now I can buy seventy transcripts of Nightline!”)
– Wonderful sequence of Homer expressing his fear over he and his wife’s parents getting together (“We’ll be brother and sister! And our kids… they’ll be horrible freaks with pink skin, no overbites, and five fingers on each hand!”) The depiction of Bart, Lisa and Maggie as blonde, blue-eyed Caucasians is intriguing and frightening. I’d love to see a segment of a show, or maybe a fan-animation of an existing sequence with the characters in that style. Would be mighty freaky.
– Great scene of Homer teaching his father how to play it cool, with smooth jazz music and a visual change of shades of blue. It’s a neat sequence, coming from nowhere but still greatly appreciated.
– I like how Smithers’ is Marge’s parallel as the confidant upset about Burns’ and Jackie’s relationship; their simultaneous murmurs walking side by side at the wedding is great. Also great is Smithers’ seemingly off-the-cuff love note for Burns to write his new lady (“Darling one, read my words and hear my heart speak of a love soft and undying: a love that will be with you always.”) Burns asks how he came up with that, Smithers revealed he wrote it in a card for Burns’ birthday. Also great is his attempt to make Burns look foolish in telling them the Simpsons are Fred and Wilma Flintstone.
– We get our second appearance from Luigi, which is pretty much the same as the first (“Hey, Salvatore! Break out the cheap hooch for Mr. No-Tip and the dried-up-ah zombie he’s-ah captured!”)
– Great line from a despondent Abe (“Who needs her? Now I’ll have more time to read things I find on the ground. ‘La… tex… con… do’ …boy, I’d like to live in one of those!”
– I love at the wedding, only one man is on the groom’s side, a grizzled man with a German WWI helmet on. I want to know more about that guy’s relationship with Burns, his only friend in the world, apparently.
– Of course the ending song is amazing, a great parody of The Sound of Silence. And how Abe sheepishly quiets his ranting after the Gracie Films lady shooshes him.