(originally aired November 6, 1994)
Yet another example of how an episode can be memorable and masterful with a relatively simple story. We’re so committed to these characters that we can be entertained by seeing them in a new situation, and can even come to learn a little more about them. Here we see Bart having to face off with a girl who pushes things too far, even by his standards. The girl in question is Jessica Lovejoy, unassuming daughter of the good Reverend, given a sultry (…for a ten-year-old) voice by guest star Meryl Streep. Bart is instantly smitten with this girl who won’t pay him a moment’s notice. Assuming she’s a prim and proper girl, he assumes a good guy persona to attempt to impress her (a plot element that will be repeated many a time in the many stupid “Bart’s celebrity voiced love interest” episodes further down the road). But come to find out, she’s a baaaad girl, and she and Bart seem to be the perfect match.
Act two is interesting to watch how Jessica continues to mess with Bart’s mind and screw him over, with Bart turning mostly a blind eye to the affairs. Then we see the division between the two’s antics. Jessica is a true careless delinquent, which Bart is a loveable prankster. When Jessica steals money from the church collection plate, Bart calls her on it. He’ll deface property and pull overblown pranks, but theft is not the boy’s M.O. In the end, Bart’s left holding the bag, or rather the empty plate, and of course must carry the blame, until Lisa comes to his aid and exposes Jessica’s thievery. Her mini-sermon about absolving of guilt is very true to her, and then we get the joke where Lisa points Jessica out when she won’t come forward herself. We also get a nice telling bit at the end where we see Reverend Lovejoy turning a deaf ear toward Jessica’s retellings of the harsh reality of her expulsion and past discretions. While I think it’d be neat to see the return of Jessica, I kind of like how that last scene sort of illustrated that Jessica is the Lovejoy’s little mistake that they’d like to sweep under the rug.
The plot’s so simple and perfect I don’t have much to delve into. Like I said, it’s just so naturally entertaining watching our characters do their thing. The opening with the parents corralling their kids (literally) a la Planet of the Apes is spectacular, as are other set pieces like skateboarding down the hill. We get more dim-witted Homer so oblivious to his son that he thinks he wears glasses, Lisa pining to make a changed man out of a James Dean-esque teenage librarian, Nelson pummeling Bart to apparently besmirching an honest woman’s name, and Flanders singing in a high falsetto as we’ve heard in “Bart of Darkness.” These characters are so rich and familiar to us that we love seeing them in action. There’s so many hilarious bits in this one, and along with being a great character study for Bart, makes it one of the absolute classics.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The kids’ cowboys and Indians game is usurped by Nelson in cyborg garb shooting a futuristic. When Bart complains that his “Killmatic 3000” is not historically accurate, Nelson retorts, “Records from that era are spotty at best!”
– I love Bart singing a retooled “Soul Man” while playing with a Troll doll, as well as Marge chastising him for playing with a toy with such bizarre hair.
– We get the greatest appearance by the Sea Captain here. A shining angelic light appears behind Jessica… actually coming from a lighthouse. A man atop it yells to McAllister that it should be pointing to sea, but the captain shoots him down. A ship in darkened waters crashes into some rocks. McAllister pats down his pipe and comments, “Yarr, I hate the sea and everything in it.”
– Great quick line from the Sunday School teacher (“Ralph, Jesus did not have wheels.”)
– I like the minor detail of the church hamster’s little house has a cross atop it.
– Bart forces himself to be good, but is literally handed temptation in the form of a “replica” of David’s slingshot. Taking aim at the teacher’s behind, he experiences a moral crisis (“Must… fight… Satan… make it… up to him… later!”)
– When his efforts to be good are a bust, Bart musses up his hair and untucks his clothes, and I love how he slaps some dirt on himself for good measure.
– Wonderful appearance by Willie, at a school festival explaining Scottish customs, when Bart rigs his kilt to fly away on balloons (“‘Tis no more than what God gave me, you puritan pukes!”) The whole thing was actually an elaborate sting to catch Bart; Skinner admits there’s no such thing as Scotchtoberfest. No one told Willie this (“Yah used me, Skinner! Yah usssssed me!!“)
– Dinner at the Lovejoys is a great scene; I love how suspect the Reverend is at having Bart at the house, as well as the slow rhythm of which Bart sets up his raunchy anecdote (“Watching Fox last night, I heard a rather amusing story. This character named Martin was feeling rather… randy, and he was heard to remark…”) He was already in hot water, that just clinched it.
– Poor Sarah plain and tall. S’all I gotta say.
– I don’t know if I care for the scene of Bart and Jessica TPing the Jebediah Springfield statue, considering the respect Bart exhibited for the town founder in “The Telltale Head.” I guess it’s the first sign of Jessica pushing Bart into things.
– As mentioned, the skateboard scene is pretty damn great, where at first you anticipate the jokes, then they turn on you. Bart talks to himself how he’ll be find if the terrain is steady, then runs into an oil slick and a field of ball bearings. A damaged glue truck seems to be his salvation, but it’s not leaking. Bart eventually wipes out when hitting a seed an ant is carrying, violently tumbles to the bottom, and then the glue ruptures, smothering him.
– Also as mentioned, I love the glasses bit with Homer, along with when Marge worries about smothering Bart, he responds that they would get the chair for that. Marge retorts, “That isn’t what I meant,” and Homer responds, “It was, Marge, admit it.” I don’t know why, but that whole runner may be one of my favorite dialogue exchanges of the whole series.
– I take offense to Bart’s analogy about Jessica (“She’s like a Milk Dud, Lis: sweet on the outside, poison on the inside.”) Milk Duds are delicious, how dare he.
– Getting caught with the empty collection plate, Bart self assures himself everything will be fine if he tells the truth. He barely gets an “I” out before he is immediately accused (Moe shouts, “He confessed it!”) Out of options, he leaps out the window, and a slow to react Homer yells, “Stop him! He’s heading for the window!”
– Great Doppler effect with the car going by and a guy quickly yelling, “You stole money from the church collection plate!”
– My favorite scene of this show is probably when Bart confronts Jessica, who is twirling a baton on the front lawn. It gives visual interest to this dialogue heavy scene, but also is symbolic of Jessica’s carefree guilt-less nature, and toying with the baton mirrors his continued toying with Bart (“No one will believe you. Remember I’m the sweet, perfect minister’s daughter, and you’re just yellow trash.”)
– On the pulpit, Lisa quotes the Bible, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Lovejoy mutters, “I think it might be somewhere towards the back.”
– When Lisa reveals Jessica to be the thief, Homer announces, “To the little girl’s room!” Rather than simply lift the girl’s mattress, Moe uses a jack to lift it, and confirms the pile of money to be the stolen goods (“Oh yeah, smells like church.”) I also like Lovejoy’s last ditch effort to make up an explaination (“I guess it’s obvious what’s happened here. Bart Simpson has somehow managed to sneak his bedroom into my house. …well, come on! Use your imaginations!”)
– Lastly, I like at the end Jessica heads off with her new boy toy… the bad boy librarian Lisa was pining for.