(originally aired January 8, 1995)
I’m sure I don’t need to say, but this is one of the more famous classic episodes. No Simpsons fan can’t not know about the Stonecutters? I’m interested in rewatching these most highly of remembered episodes for a few reasons, one being trying to pin what makes them stand out so much amongst the rest. Is it the great song? Is it the general silliness of the premise? Is it the exotic locale and satire of boorish brotherhoods? These episodes also get held under a slightly tighter scrutiny, which sometimes can be to their detriment. In the case of “Homer the Great,” it maybe hurt a little: there are a lot of funny bits in here, and great classic moments of course, but as a whole it didn’t gel as well as I’d hoped. But it’s definitely fondly remembered for very good reason.
Homer grows suspect of fellow co-workers Lenny and Carl’s suspicious behavior, and soon learns they’re members of an secret exclusive club. He manages to worm his way in himself through and becomes anointed into the Stonecutters, a secret society whose members don robes, assign identifying numbers and bow before the visage of their sacred parchment. Now my knowledge of these kinds of clubs doesn’t extend much farther than the Royal Order of Water Buffalo, but I still get the point here: an organization of such phony mysticism and alleged grandeur, but ultimately just an excuse for husbands to ditch their wives for the night, get drunk, eat ribs and play ping pong. But if this is the case, then the clientele should match. Lenny and Carl, Moe, Wiggum, Joe Quimby, Krusty, all make sense. But would Mr. Burns be a member of such a rowdy social gathering? Or Skinner? Dr. Hibbert? I dunno, maybe.
Upon desecrating the sacred parchment in the most spectacular, over-doing of ways, he’s banished from the group, until they notice an auspicious birthmark that matches their logo. Homer is their fabled Chosen One, who would lead their group to glory. Now… what does this mean exactly? If this group is really just a front to get smashed and goof around with the guys, what’s the Chosen One going to do? They keep playing cards and shooting pool, but now they have to let Homer win and bow before his every word. What do they get out of it? Is it a comment on the absurdness of ancient ritual? So like adhering to every word of the Bible? Am I digging too deep? I’ve complained through this whole thing, it seems. I got some story issues with this, but this episode’s got way too many classic bits to shoot down with such quibbles. The egg council guy. The Gettysberg monkeys. The Stone of Shame, and the Stone of Triumph. And of course, No Homers Club. And a good sweet and sour ending in true Simpsons fashion. Despite my few issues, who still loves this episode? We do. …er, I do.
Tidbits and Quotes
– A breach of continuity, sure, but it’s really a great gag that Homer parks so far away from the plant, he’s right in his own backyard.
– The “It’s a secret.” “Shut up!” runner is hilarious, I love Azaria’s read for Carl, and of course, when Carl can’t follow-up Lenny the third time, Homer steps right in to retort with his own “Shut up!”
– Homer attempts to present a front to his wife, but his brain fails to help him out: “I’ll be back in a minute. I’m…going outside. To…stalk… Lenny and Carl. …D’oh!”
– I guess some bonehead Homer logic: hooking the paint to Lenny’s car to leave a trail is a good plan I suppose, but then he tails him pretty much the whole way there. Why do the paint thing then?
– Homer confronting Lenny and Carl the night after witnessing the Stonecutters is a great read: “I saw weird stuff in that place last night. Weird, strange, sick, twisted, eerie, godless, evil stuff! And I want in.”
– Homer demoans in bed to his wife why people don’t like him. Marge responds that he’s a wonderful person. Perfectly on cue, Homer vents, “Why don’t those stupid idiots let me in their crappy club for jerks?” Then cue a classic flashback to the past of li’l Homer being barred from a neighborhood clubhouse: no Homers allowed. But Homer Glumplich is allowed (“Guh-hyuk!”) The explanation is flawless (“It says no Homeeeers. We’re allowed to have one.”) This of course has a pitch perfect callback at the very end.
– I like Abe at the table’s desperate pleas for attention. I could listen to him yell, “I’m a member!” through an entire irrelevant dinner conversation. Also great how Homer carts him around like a possession at the lodge, gloating that now they have to let him in, whether they like it or not (“Okay, Homer, you’re in. Just don’t point that thing at me.”)
– Maybe another conflicting issue with the Stonecutters is Patrick Stewart as Number One, who delivers each dumb line with such a confident and serious air. He does an great, great job of course (his read on “The Paddling of the Swollen Ass… with paddles” is so very powerful), but I take him so seriously in that part, that the jokey nature of the story starts to drift.
– Homer lives it up with his perks as a Stonecutter: the secret passageway with fancy gilded paintings and music is great, and of course, the real 911, 912.
– Homer couldn’t have done more damage with that parchment: wiping his mouth, licking at it, cleaning his ears, blowing his nose… it’s a spectacular sequence, with great shots of the horrified members (my favorite is an incensed Moe, “Oh God!“) Then of course in a fit of merciful passion he smashes the tattered remnants to bits accidentally.
– The turn at the end with Homer taking Lisa’s advice for the club to be more philanthropous and the group begrudging that makes total sense. He took their fun boy’s club into something that helps people and they hate him for that. I just feel there’s a way it could have worked better and hit the mark I believe it could. At the end their over zealous anger feels too much when the joke should work better. Now I feel like I’m bitching again. Love the guest spot by H.W. Bush (“I’m afraid I have to disagree with Orville, Jack, and Mr., can’t we just do something to his voice box?”)
– We do have the sweet ending with Marge reminding Homer is club Simpson, where two have very special rings (not Bart and Lisa’s cereal box ones, which actually look real cool). And then our snark with the team hazing of Homer (“Alright, alright, it’s Lisa’s turn.”) Not much in character for Marge, but hey, still funny.