(originally aired February 26, 1995)
This is one of those episodes that kind of falls into the ether of the classic seasons. We all remember the Stonecutters and Bart’s comet, but is anyone’s favorite episode the one where Patty and Selma lend Homer money? Probably not. It’s a more low-key, character driven episode, similar to what we’d see in season 2 or 3, but with decidedly more wacky jokes and bits. Look no further than the source of Homer’s money woes: sinking his whole life savings in pumpkin stocks (” They’ve been going up the whole month of October and I got a feeling they’re going to peak right around January,”) leaving him broke very quickly. Similar to what we’ve seen before, Homer keeps the family money woes from Marge; his sole role in the family is to be the provider, and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way. His last resort brings him to his lowest point: agree to a loan from Patty and Selma, who of course are quick to take advantage of him at every turn.
Around this, we have a B-story featuring Bart getting stuck in ballet for P.E. Odd that a school so underfunded as Springfield Elementary would have many, many choices for a physical education concentration. What school has that? Anyway, it isn’t long before Bart is overtaken by the allure of the dance, as tutored by the ballet instructor, voiced by Susan Sarandon. It’s mostly an empty plot that’s sort of an extensive set-up to a predictable pay-off. Bart does his first public performance in a mask, the bullies, who previously had been shown to have daintier tendencies, are enthralled by the performance, Bart reveals his identity and defends doing what he loves… and of course is chased out by the bullies. It’s the typical Simpsons subversion you can see from a mile away, but I do like how in the end Bart undoes himself by attempting to leap over a chasm and failing. The bullies are satisfied (“Well, as long as he’s hurt.”) Also, Sarandon’s advice to Bart (“Leap like you’ve never leapt before!”) seems like a reference to one of the very first Simpsons shorts where Homer urges Bart to leap into his arms.
Small in scale, but this episode is incredibly solid, where each bit of information in the main story is integral. Homer attempts to repay his dues himself by working as a chauffeur, only to be pulled over and told he must apply for a chauffeur’s license at the DMV, leading to a final confrontation with the gruesome twosome. Patty and Selma nitpick Homer at every turn, of course resulting in a failing grade. The two are so overstimulated with joy that they instinctively light their cigarettes, getting them in hot water with their supervisor, threatening to deny them their promotions, which is what they came over the house for to celebrate in their first scene. What was a simple bit at the beginning ends up as being the crutch of the climax in the end; it’s small stuff, but makes these episodes feel more meaningful. Also upon arriving at the DMV, Marge comments how she doesn’t like seeing her husband and her sisters fight all the time (a sentiment she very rarely seems to express), which later makes Homer feel guilty for taking pleasure over the two getting in trouble, and ultimately saving them in the end, a gesture and sacrifice he makes solely for his wife’s sake. It’s really a shining moment for Homer, and may be one of my favorite endings to any show.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Great bit where Homer lights his cigar with a dollar bill like a showman, then immediately puts it out and back into his wallet, which is filled with other slightly burnt bills. Lenny comments, “Hey, Homer! How come you’ve got money to burn? Or singe, anyway?”
– Lovely bit of animation where Homer pulls the couch out of the house, dumps his sisters-in-law out on the lawn and pulls it back in. I also like how the sisters clung their nails into the couch prior, implying previous incidents where Homer has physically thrown them out of the house. Marge tries to do some damage control (“I’m sorry: Homer doesn’t mean to be rude, he’s just a very complicated man.”) Homer appears from the upstairs window, smashes a plate over his head and yells, “Wrong!” I always like how cruel Patty and Selma are to Homer as well, and aren’t shy on telling Marge (“Granted, you got some kids out of him, but when the seed have been planted, you throw away the envelope.”)
– Gotta mention Rat Boy of course (“Bart, I told you before, stop gnawing on the drywall.”)
– Bart greets a glorious morning (“The sun is out, birds are singing, bees are trying to have sex with them, as is my understanding.”)
– The drawing of Homer with his fake grin when Patty and Selma show up at the house in the second act is so fucking funny… so much care was put into these classic years, where even though the show isn’t visually elaborate, the drawings themselves still elicit laughs, as good animation should.
– I like how Lenny and Carl are planning on stopping by Moe’s for a Zima (“Homer, quit wallowing in self-pity. Pull yourself together and come get drunk with us.”)
– The ballet teacher isn’t so in touch with American youth when Bart complains about his required attire (“But so many of your heroes wear tights: Batman, for example, and… Magellan.”)
– Great moment when Patty and Selma force Homer to act like a dog, then Marge comes in and asks what’s going on, and Homer gives an explanation still talking like Scooby-Doo on his knees. Then we have the big reveal of the I.O.U. note, illuminated by the lamp. Not only does it make no sense for the light to shine through, but it lands face up so it wouldn’t even be oriented correctly on the wall. Regardless, Marge completely saves it with, “Homer! Is this projection accurate?”
– I like the risque carnival gag paper with the headline of Bart being World’s Greatest Sex Machine. What kind of carnival was this they’d give that to a child?
– I guess I should comment on Mel Brooks… fine appearance, I guess. I’m of the incredibly small minority that doesn’t really get his films, so I guess it makes sense that I don’t think his appearance here was very funny either.
– Like “Flaming Moe’s,” another great bit of Homer completely failing to be subtle in his sarcasm (“Okay, Marge, I’ll get along with them. Then, I will hug some snakes… yes! Then, I will hug and kiss some poisonous snakes. …now that’s sarcasm.”)
– I like how paranoid and panicked Homer gets in the car during the driver’s test; he’s at the end of his rope and is quickly learning he’s in a no-win scenario (“Being a jerk. Minus a million points!”)
– I absolutely love Homer’s flat enthused delivery as he sucks down both cigarettes, coughing (“I am in flavor country.”) The supervisor asks is they’re both his, he responds, “It’s a big country.”