126. The Springfield Connection

(originally aired May 7, 1995)
“Homer-gets-a-job” episodes, at least in these early years, seemed to examine a sorta average Joe put in a new situation, like “Dancin’ Homer” and “Deep Space Homer.” “Marge-gets-a-job” episodes tend to have a bit more going on, an examination of her as more than a doting housekeeper and downtrodden wife. As we’ve seen, and I’ve written, Marge has a lot of smarts and potential, but is basically completely squandered and dulled down in the lot of life she is now. Seeing her reach outside her small box into something new is as exciting to the viewer as it is to her. In this show, following an impromptu subduing of street thug Snake, she decides to become a police officer. Seemingly a stretch for the typically docile Marge, but it’s handled very believably: she’s originally impulsed by her rampant morality over Snake’s crooked card game, and her quench for justice only goes from there. Marge can have a thirst for danger just like anyone else; she just needs to be pushed in the right direction.

So after a weekend of police academy (which is just one great incompetent Wiggum joke after another), Marge is on the beat. We see how her new life starts to affect the world around her, with her friends becoming tight-lipped in her presence, to Homer feeling somewhat emasculated (“You being a cop makes you the man… which makes me the woman. I have no interest in that, besides occasionally wearing the underwear, which, as we discussed, is strictly a comfort thing.”) However Homer transitions this into believing he’s got a free pass to do anything, playing poker with his buddies whilst smoking Cuban cigars in his own home, then parking over three handicap spaces at the Kwik-E-Mart. The final scene in act two is really well done; Homer isn’t pushed too far into pure jerkass stupidity, he’s just fooling around with his wife, not realizing the consequences, while Marge tries to keep her composure and ultimately has to arrest her husband.

The third act twist is slightly bizarre, but in a good way in true Simpsons fashion: shady character Herman has secretly set up shot in the Simpson garage to store counterfeit product… specifically blue jeans. Homer of course is none the wiser, but upon finding out, gives a great speech unwittingly praising capitalism (“We’ve all thought about counterfeiting jeans at one time or another, but what about the victims? Hard-working designers like Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, or Antoine Bugle Boy. These are the people who saw an overcrowded marketplace and said, ‘Me too!'”) Marge saves the day of course, in a scene that equally balances the dramatic angles with the goofy. …well, maybe it’s more goofy than dramatic, but all the jokes hit hard, and it’s a satisfying conclusion. That and the jeans plot actually segue into Marge’s final straw for quitting her job. Even in a mostly silly episode like this, economy is taken into account, the episode totally makes sense in its own dumb way.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I love how enraged Homer gets at the Springfield Pops concert (“Laser effects, mirrored balls… John Williams must be rolling around in his grave.”)
– The chase scene is great, where we see Snake running and a tall blue tuft of hair slowly approach from behind, like Marge is this ominous figure approaching. It’s actually pretty suspenseful when it gets to that alleyway and Snake whips out his switchblade; a lowlife thug about to accost an innocent woman. The payoff is believable though with Marge socking him with the trashcan lid. The arrest is great too, when Snake pledges he’ll be back on the street in twenty-four hours. Wiggum responds, “We’ll try to make it twelve.” Even that sets up the theme of the episode, in case you forgot how useless the Springfield police was, there you go.
– The fake-out with the cops bringing in their “man,” which ends up being a hot pizza, is so retarded and stupid, but I still love it. Especially when Marge comes in and a flummoxed Wiggum stammers, “Wha-wha-what, this better be about pizza!”
– Another thing this show is great for is anticipating the audience’s expectations for a story direction and subverting it. There was potential for this show to have a “haze the only woman on the force” angle, but the show expected it: we have the great fake-out of the cops laughing excessively at Marge, then followed by Wiggum plainly saying, “Welcome aboard” (wonderfully repeated at the end when Marge quits.) Compare this to a much later episode when Marge does amateur carpentry and cannot find work because no one wants to hire a woman, which is both a poor plot twist and makes no goddamn sense.
– Great performance by Dan Castellaneta is an insane recruit at police academy (“Forget about the badge! When do we get the freakin’ guns?!”)
– Great minor appearance by Lionel Hutz, shifty as always (“I’ll have you know the contents of that dumpster are private! You stick your nose in, you’ll be violating attorney-dumpster confidentiality.”) Realizing Marge’s intentions were pure, he nervously backpedals, then sets the dumpster ablaze, cuts his losses and takes off.
– I like the moment where Lisa gives her soapbox lecture about how police should be working to examine the roots of society’s problems rather than reprimand them after the fact, and Marge, unprepared to response, undermines Lisa with a hand puppet.
– When Marge shows up and witnesses the card game, Moe attempts to absolve himself of wrongdoing (“Your house? Gee, it’s so glamorously decorated I thought I was in Vegas! Hey, you guys lied to me: you said it was Vegas!”)
It’s cruel, yes, but I love the moment with Lovejoy “comforting” Hans Moleman in jail. When Hans asks if they’re really allowed to execute people in a local jail, Lovejoy responds, “From this point on, no talking.” Followed by a grim shot of Hans being led to his death. Of course we’ll see him again, so I’m not worried.
– Great line from Homer, upset about his wife’s new power (“When Marge first told me she was going to the police academy, I thought it’d be fun and exciting, you know, like that movie, Spaceballs. But instead it’s been painful and disturbing like that movie Police Academy.”)
The counterfeit jeans fake-out reminds me of an old Dexter’s Laboratory episode where lowlife types were smuggling product of their own; one slices through a bag and a powdery white substance comes out… turns out it’s flour (“Gentlemen, we’re going to be making a lot of bread.”) Just thought it was funny that a cartoon for children ended up being more risque than The Simpsons.
– All the bits in Marge’s final stake-out is hilarious, the living targets (mirroring her earlier training) and Ned’s witch getting decimated (“I guess I am putting up the Hallowe’en decorations a little early. Criticism accepted,”) Bart and Lisa watching from the house, Marge’s motherly pride of knowing the secret entrance of her son’s treehouse, Herman’s adieu (“Gotta catch the 501!” Like Levi’s 501 jeans? Eh?) and his lament while falling (“Foiled by my shoddy merchandise!”)
– I like the timing of the final bit where we see the stalled poker game. Fed up, Moe decides to look at Homer’s cards. Fade to black. “Crap, I fold.” I also love the Hill Street Blues version of the end theme.

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5 responses to “126. The Springfield Connection

  1. It’s a small joke, but Homer’s “Mmm…incapacitating!” line after putting pepper spray on his eggs was always a stand-out moment from this one for me.

  2. No mention of Moe’s referring to the garage as a fancy term for “car hole”?! And nothing from the callback later when Homer laments about the “counterfeit jeans ring operating out of my car hole!”

    And then ever classic, “sell the jeans and live like a queen!” as he is being dragged to the treehouse?

    And how many times has someone asked if there should more beer, the only appropriate response being, “After this case and the next case, there’s only one case left!” which of course prompts Barney’s agreement with himself, and Homer telling all to quiet down?

    You cannot talk about this episode and omit those classic bits that will forever be laughed about around my family’s dinner table.

  3. Love this episode. The return from the act break is fantastic: a shot of outside the Simpson house.
    Homer: YOU DID WHAT?!?
    Shot cuts to inside. It’s Bart and Homer.
    Bart: I borrowed your nail clippers. Jeez, i don’t see what the big deal is.

    Also, Wiggum: You missed the baby, you missed the blind man….

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