(originally aired November 13, 1994)
Slightly different, but here’s another episode that feels very slice-of-life, one that’s really such a joy watching the characters react to a certain situation. Upon learning she’s failing gym class, Lisa is forced to participate in an outside sport to get a passing grade. Meanwhile, we see Bart is doing pretty well for himself in junior league ice hockey. While Homer greatly encourages and rewards his champion athlete son, Lisa is perturbed by the seemingly barbaric violent nature of the sport. But when it’s revealed that she’s pretty great at blocking, she is recruited by Apu’s team to be their goalie. At first she’s petrified in her position, but over time she gets more and more invested in the game, until she’s just as viciously competitive as her brother, if not more so. Some might say this is out-of-character for Lisa, but I don’t think so. Firstly she’s pretty competitive in most things, priding herself on being the best, so whatever she sets out to do will have that effect. Second, I can completely relate to this; I’m not a sporty guy, but if I’m thrust into a game like that, I can get pretty pissed and riled up about it. You get swept up in that atmosphere, and the episode certainly addresses that.
People also might be bothered by Homer’s behavior in the show, goading and ramping up the antagonism between his two children and acting like a general ass. But here, Homer acts as an expy for your typical over zealous teamster parent (Lisa references them herself when speaking of peewee teams (“You mean those leagues where parents push their kids into vicious competition to compensate for their own failed dreams of glory?”) It starts off when while Lisa is being scolded for her one alert letter from school, Homer gleefully fills out Bart’s enormous pile of them and offers him a present. It’s both parental favoritism over something trivial, as well as like when schools give athletes special treatment to get out of classes to train or what have you. Lisa’s intellectualism is nowhere near as impressive as Bart’s hockey skills, so to get recognition from the school and her father, Lisa must get into the game. By the end, Homer is completely swept up in the fight, pushing his wife to pick a side and stick with it (“The winner will be showered with praise! The loser will be taunted and booed until my throat is sore!”)
Then we have our ending, which of course is a penalty shot between Bart and Lisa. The entire crowd is out for blood, getting really worked up over this hockey game for 10-year-olds (with the amazing “Kill Bart!” and “Kill, Bart!” chants). Bart and Lisa then reflect on past moments of their lives and how much they mean to each other as brother and sister, then hug it out and declare it a truce. Some people may think this is really sappy and manipulative, and to them, I say fuck you: it’s one of the sweetest moments in the entire series, and I get a bit teary eyed every time. Then, of course, like the show does, we get our beautiful moment of emotion combined with a beautiful moment of comedy. Marge is touched by the display, but Homer is devastated in a different way (“They’re both losers! Losers!!”) The crowd is so outraged by the tie game that they riot, destroying the stadium as Bart and Lisa skate off in the distance. Endings don’t come much better than this.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Great opening bit with extreme action news with Kent Brockman, who leaps into his chair screaming his name (“Our top stories tonight: a tremendous explosion in the price of lumber, President Reagan dyes… his hair, plus Garry Trudeau and his new musical comedy revue.”) It’s a brilliant, succinct parody of sensationalist news. Also great how the newsman moonlights as a stand-up comic (“The forecast calls for a 75% chance of hilarity!”)
– Nice prank from Lisa tricking Bart to go outside thinking it’s a snow day. Jimbo’s typical taunt (“Nice PJs, Simpson. Did your mommy buy them for you!”) backfires when Bart responds plainly, “Of course she did. Who else would have?”
– Love Skinner’s total displeasure about the poorly named Butthead Memorial Auditorium (“Dammit, I wish we hadn’t let the students name that one.”) I think it’s a reference to how in real life a student vote came up with “Springfield Elementary” as the winner of renaming a real school.
– Of course we get the classic Ralph line, “Me fail English? That’s unpossible!” I also like Nelson’s sheepishness over the public announcement of his doing well in Home Ec.
– Really great gag of Lisa’s spiky hair puncturing the volleyball. Also the very sad nature of the coach: “Children, that was our only ball. There’ll be no team this year.”
– Nice minor joke that Apu’s team name is the Kwik-E-Mart Gougers, and Wiggum’s the Mighty Pigs. Milhouse is rendered immobile, so Apu hoists him up with ropes. The plan is kind of faulty, since he cannot move his arms to block, as a very slow moving puck easily enters the goal, despite Milhouse attempting to blow it away (Apu is annoyed, “Oh come on, you call that blowing?!”) I also like the gall of Apu to smack a puck really fast straight at Lisa’s face; she could have easily not caught it and knocked her teeth out. That would be horrifying. But Milhouse getting his teeth out? Hilarious. Which Marge later has in her possession for no reason, and won’t get them to a doctor. It’s a really weird joke, but hilarious in its weirdness.
– Great bit with Homer giddily chasing a naked Uter about the locker room (“Don’t make me run, I’m full of chocolate!”)
– The sequence of Homer and Bart laughing uncontrollably at a terrified Lisa in goal, on paper, sounds really really cruel, but for some reason, I love it. It’s the funniest thing in the whole show, especially when Homer says they’re laughing with her, followed by a scared yell from Lisa, then more laughing, and a tagged on, “With her” to Marge.
– I like the plot fake out that Bart concludes if Lisa is taking his spot as the sporty one, he’ll be the brainy one. So we get a quick montage of a grinning Bart raising his hand to answer every question of the day, only to be scolded by Mrs. Krabappel for getting them all wrong. Following this is a great scene of Nelson beating up Bart (“This is for wasting teacher’s valuable time!”) Lisa then accosts the bullies and Bart is emasculated. I like the flow of these scenes; they could have easily had the bullies beat up Bart for no reason, but they had it tie in with the last scene. It makes everything fit together.
– Classic sequence with Bart and Lisa kicking and punching the air and walking toward each other. And great performance of Cartwright and Smith fighting with each other. And the follow-up of Homer doing the same thing to get at a pie, but banging his head on the range hood, leaving a really sizable dent. Marge tries to stop the fight by flicking the lights on and off, which is a well animated bit, which works in the end (“Mom, that is really annoying!”) Marge reinforces that the two are not in competition with each other, only to have Homer run in with big news (“Apu just called. This Friday, Lisa’s team is playing Bart’s team. You’re in direct competition. And don’t go easy on each other just because you’re brother and sister. I want to see you both fighting for your parents’ love!”) To rev them up, he flicks the lights on and off (“Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!”) It’s one of the most perfect act breaks in the show’s history.
– Nice bit of Bart-Lisa rivalry passing and blocking condiments at the table. Homer asks for ketchup and gets mustard instead (“I asked for ketchup! I’m eating salad here!”)
– Amazing, amazing, amazing scene with Moe infiltrating the Simpson house. It has nothing to do with the story at all, but is so damn hilarious, between Moe first calling Marge “Midge” and Marge’s dissatisfied telling off to him (“You caught me at a real bad time, Moe. I hope you understand I’m too tense to pretend I like you.”) It’s just so crazy, another look at this seedy underhanded side of Moe, but showing he’s really a pathetic man (“I’m sixty two grand in the hole! They’re gonna take my thumbs!”)
– Krusty blanking on the National Anthem and getting booed is a great scene (“I shouldn’t have turned down those cue cards.”)
– Jailbird Snake appears to be touched by Bart and Lisa’s display of affection (“Those kids are, like, so sweet. If only they had had peewee hockey when I was a lad.”) But nonetheless, he starts to riot like the others, using the crowbar he apparently brought with him to rip out a seat.
And with this, I find myself at the quarter mark. Only 333 episodes to go. Still quite a long haul, but hey, I’m impressed I made it this far.