(originally aired November 3, 1996)
Let’s start off by saying this episode is definitely in my top 5, and is on many fans’ top lists as well. A quick run through first: Homer gets a new job at Globex Corporation, meaning the family must move up state to the luxurious estate of Cypress Creek. The first act break of all our favorite Springfieldians saying goodbye to the leaving family is a great sequence; it’s almost as if this is starting a brand new spin-off, and they’re bidding farewell to the audience. As a senior member of the power plant, Homer is assigned as supervisor for a team working on God knows what, and he seems to be doing pretty well for himself. The rest of the family, not so much: with a house that literally tends to itself, Marge is left with nothing to do but drink wine, Bart is bumped down to the remedial class to learn about the letter ‘A,’ and Lisa finds she’s allergic to just about everything in the town. As in many flashback show, the episode is almost another version of Homer having to sacrifice his happiness for the greater good; he’s quite pleased with his new respectable position, but deep down he knows his family must come first.
In many cases, it’s difficult to really pin down exactly why an episode is your favorite, but here, a key element is very clear. Two words: Albert Brooks. He’s played many classic Simpsons characters, but this episode showcases his greatest role of all: affable super villain Hank Scorpio. He’s one of the best characters the show’s ever seen, with every one of his lines memorable, hilarious and all building of who he is and his relationship with Homer/his employees. At the start, he shows up at the Simpsons’ new door with a cordial, giving nature, at first just giving a stark contrast to Homer’s former greedy miserly employer. On his first day, we see him really pump Homer up, get him to trust him and motivate him. He’s like this awesome showman, and a great boss, what’s not to like? Then we find out he’s a super villain bent on world domination. But y’know what, I’d still work for him. Although at times it appears that he’s just pandering to his employees’ needs disingenuously, it really does seem he’s sincere; to get people to go along with his schemes, he needs to be kindly and accommodating. My favorite scene is the very end where in the midst of a militaristic attack on his operations, Hank takes the time to hear out Homer’s problems, and insists he do what’s best for his family. I don’t think it’s false modesty, Hank is really a swell guy, who just happens to be a criminal mastermind. His character also had so much potential; despite the outlandish ending of him allegedly “conquering” the east coast, they could have found some way to bring him back somehow. But if they did it on the show now, I’m sure they’d just fuck it up, so I hope they don’t.
As Hank puts it, it’s the little things that make up life, and there are loads of little details in this show that just make it so perfect. Upon returning home, Homer rips the ‘Abandoned’ sign off the door and opens the door, watching his family walk in and smiling. It could have just been a simple stage direction for them to just walk back in their house, but it just further emphasizes how much Homer loves his family and knows he made the right decision. They encounter Otto sitting on a blanket drinking a beer squatting in their house, who, upon seeing the Simpsons, must wake up his girlfriend and leave. Funny, but even better that it was set up earlier when he was a prospective buyer (“Windows? I don’t know if I can afford this place.”) From this, we can put together that Otto came by later and saw it was labeled ‘Abandoned,’ and figured he could just live there. This is all pulled from ten seconds of show, and all twenty two minutes is filled with more great material, I catch new things every time I watched. There were a few animated nuances on Hank that I caught, and for some reason I never quite registered Bart’s sighting of a baseball made out of Secretariat. No joke falls flat, every scene is memorable, Hank Scorpio’s one of the greatest characters ever… this one’s veritably flawless.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Before they go after Homer, Globex tries to sway Smithers into their web, with temptations of an impressive salary and health benefit for him and his life partner. Little do they know Smithers is already working for his life partner. The line, “What’s wrong with this country? Can’t a man walk down the street without being offered a job?” is even funnier/more devastating considering the job climate today.
– If ever there was a line that completely exemplified a character, it’s this one from Marge: “I’ve dug myself into a happy little rut here and I’m not about to hoist myself out of it.” And we’re only two minutes in.
– The Cypress Creek promotional video is as great as you’d think, especially of course the bum fading into a mailbox. And even a stupid joke like that gets a sort of callback later, when Marge comments to Hank Scorpio that the place is so nice, she expects to get the bum’s rush. Hank replies, “We don’t have bums in our town, Marge, but if we did, they wouldn’t rush, they’d be allowed to go at their own pace.”
– Love the cavalier attitude Marge has about the house falling apart; first we see the chimney collapse outside the window behind her, then later Bart breaks through the ceiling from upstairs, and Marge casually pokes him back up with a broom still talking to Homer.
– One scene wonder for Apu showing up at the Simpsons’ open house (“Hello. I am not interested in buying your house, but I would like to use your rest room, flip through your magazines, rearrange your carefully shelved items and handle your food products in an unsanitary manner. Ha! Now you know how it feels!”)
– Always remembered, and loved, the Simpsons’ new address: 15201 Maple Systems Road. It’s such a perfect name, fusing nature with corporate efficiency.
– Brooks is on fire off the bat as Scorpio, with his Popeye-papayian run and throwing his moccasins away and screaming at them (“Ever see a guy say goodbye to a shoe?” “Once.”) There’s just something about his voice that’s so engaging, Brooks is a dynamite performer.
– Love the bit where Hank illustrates there are no walls in his building after asking him to hang up his coat. And he didn’t even give it to him at all! Homer is shocked and notices Hank with a big grin on his face and his coat on backwards. This is why I think he’s an earnest character, he’s doing his best to win over a new employee. Yeah, because he wants him to work for him to help with his evil schemes… but in a good way.
– The great Hank lines come hard and fast (“These gentlemen here will be your eyes and your ears, and should the need arise, they’ll fill in for any other part of your body.”) I also love when he picks up the phone and Homer falls, his quick, “Oh my God, the guy’s on the floor!”
– The details, the details! Homer’s new workstation has a poster reading, “There’s No ‘Me’ In ‘Team.'” …yeah, there is.
– Cypress Creek Elementary is so advanced, it has its own website. Which at the time made sense.
– Love the dramatic music cue when Marge takes a sip of wine, and her later musing of it (“I’ve been so bored since we moved here, I found myself drinking a glass of wine every day. I know doctors say you should drink a glass and a half but I just can’t drink that much.”)
– Classic, much quoted line from a kid in the remedial class (“I moved here from Canada, and they think I’m slow, eh?”) I also love the end of the scene where a kid pats Bart on the back, which gets increasingly harder into a slap. It’s just so bizarre.
– Hank’s, or Brooks’, rather, hammock discussion is absolutely brilliant, as is the concept that a ‘hammock district’ would ever exist. The scene is also a great example of how Hank is almost working overtime to bowl Homer over, but Homer’s just so thick he does not register anything he’s saying (“There’s a little place called Mary Ann’s Hammocks. The nice thing about that place is Mary Ann gets in the hammock with you. Ha ha, I’m just kiddin’!” “Oh.”) He also of course does not notice any wrongdoing, even when Hank gives a threatening proclaimation to the UN and blows up the 59th Street Bridge in Manhattan while Homer’s in the room with him.
– Why did Hank have sugar in his pockets? And where was he keeping the cream… Oh God no…
– Another great callback where we see Lisa happy in the forest befriending a li’l chipmunk, who later betrays her by blowing a dandelion in her face to aggravate her allergies more.
– The James Bond scene, perfect. Firstly it’s James Bont to avoid legal concerns; he’s clearly a completely different character now. Then Hank’s line, “I don’t expect anything from you except to die and be a very cheap funeral.” See, even his mortal enemy he respects enough to give a funeral for, he is an awesome guy. Then Homer blindly tackles Bont, and Hank is quite pleased (“When you get home tonight, there’s going to be another story on your house!”) Then guards proceed to shoot Bont to death. Next scene. Homer comments how he tackled a loafer at work. So goddamn funny…
– I mentioned the last Hank scene, but his outro is great, of course (“Homer, on your way out, if you wanna kill somebody, it would help a lot.”) He then leaps out into the field, using a flamethrower on some foot soldiers. Then later we see he’s conquered the east coast and given Homer the Denver Broncos. What a guy. There’s also the Bond-esque “Scorpio!” song at the end, which is such a perfect parody, and well performed (“And on Fridays the lunchroom serves hot dogs and burgers and beer! He loves German beeeeeeeeeeeer!”) I fucking love Hank Scorpio. Watching this show, I remembered that he was originally supposed to be the antagonist for the movie, which could have been frigging amazing, but they scrapped that idea, and created a new character for Brooks to play. But I’ve got ten more seasons to get through before we can touch on that.