161. Hurricane Neddy

(originally aired December 29, 1996)
Tone is an important thing to establish and maintain throughout your story. This show of course is primarily comedic, but has expertly pulled off episodes with a greater dramatic and serious slant with assorted jokes peppered in. The subject matter of this one is particularly grave, almost too much so at times, where the humor is sometimes a bit too wacky for its surroundings. Take the first act where Springfield is buckling down in preparation for a big hurricane. There’s some jokes about crowd hysteria in preparation (Hurricane Chow is a great gag), but when the storm hits, it’s pretty severe, or at least treated as such with the Simpson family huddled worriedly in the basement. Then Homer walks out in the eye of the storm and the family gets blown and swirled around back into the house. It almost seems too cartoonish given the established gravitas. It’s not too egregious, but it doesn’t really click the right way.

The hurricane decimates the Flanders house, leaving Ned almost like a modern day Job, now homeless and jobless due to the Leftorium fallen victim to rampant looting. Watching the eternally optimistic Ned slowly lose hope is kind of interesting, but almost goes too far; the scene where he prays to God at night is pretty melodramatic for the purposes of the show. A miracle seems to have happened when he finds the townspeople have banded together to rebuild his house, until he sees it’s so completely ramshackle that it collapses after the grand tour. At long last, Ned reaches his breaking point, chewing out all of the Springfield residents, then calmly drives himself to the town mental hospital to commit himself. There he is reunited with child psychiatrist Dr. Foster, who illuminates his repressed childhood memories. L’il Ned was an uncontrollable bastard child to ineffective beatnik parents. An aggressive spanking therapy manager to keep Ned’s violent outbursts suppressed, almost to a fault, where he now is physically incapable of expressing any negativity.

I’m kind of torn when it comes to examining the origins of secondary characters. On one hand, it’s an interesting backstory presented, giving a bit more reasoning to Ned’s character and his kooky catch phrases. But on the other hand it leaves this dark under hanging to him that is going to stick with me. I didn’t remember this episode too well, but I think it’s more damaging character-wise than “Principal and the Pauper.” So Ned has this seething anger that he feels all the time but can’t get it out? And he really does hate Homer? Is his faith a bizarre way of channeling his emotions? It kind of taints his perfect saintly neighbor archetype he’s meant to be. But it is something that really could have built and went somewhere… except they constrain it to the second half of the third act. Ned and Homer have a back-and-forth, Ned admits he hates his parents, he’s cured, end episode. When the revelation and the resolution occur within three minutes of each other, it doesn’t quite feel worth it. But despite my questions on the worthiness of this character exploration, it was somewhat intriguing, and where there were jokes that didn’t go too far, and even those that did, they were funny. It’s a flawed, but still mostly satisfying episode.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Like to hear Kent Brockman’s latent sexism (“If you think naming a destructive storm after a woman is sexist, you obviously have never seen the gals grabbing for items at a clearance sale”) and Marge’s dimunitive response (“That’s true, but he shouldn’t say it.”)
– Classic Homer thinking; he rips the backdoor of the house off to board up the back window.
– Despite the hurricane, they’re about to execute someone in the prison, but the roof rips off and the convict is sent flying out of the electric chair, much to the disappointment of the others. But the convict ends up lodged in a telephone poll, electrocuting him, and the crowd cheers. Grisly, but funny.
– Great bit with Marge and the Rubick’s cube and the other family members barking ridiculous orders at her, like to use her main finger and turn a side “topwise.” She eventually gets fed up (“Now I remember why I put this down here in the first place!”)
– The treacle is laid on pretty thick as Marge prays for an end to the hurricane, followed by the family surprised to find it over, but Homer finds a way to cut through it (“He fell for it! Way to go, Marge!”)
– Like that Ned considers insurance a form of gambling.
– Very clever that we don’t see the complete wording of Todd’s “Butthole Surfers” T-shirt. I also like Rod’s innocent glee over his shirt (“Look, Daddy, Todd is stupid and I’m with him. And now Mommy’s stupid!”)
– Ned comes to Lovejoy with his Job analogy, but the Reverend informs him that Job was right-handed. Ned then asks if God is punishing him. Lovejoy takes a deep breath (“Short answer: ‘yes with an ‘if,’ long answer: ‘no,’ with a ‘but.'”)
– Entering his new house, Ned snags his sweater on a loose nail. Homer comments, “One out of twenty five ain’t bad!” The load-bearing poster and electricity room are good gags, but I think they went too far with the tiny master bedroom. Too silly.
– Harry Shearer gives a powerhouse performance when Ned snaps. My favorite outburst is probably the one directed at Bart (“Okay, duuuuude! I wouldn’t want you to have a cow, maaaan! Here’s a catch-phrase you better learn for your adult years: ‘Hey, Buddy, got a quarter?'”) Bart is stupefied (“I am shocked and appalled.”) Moe comes in a close second (“You ugly, hate-filled man!” “Hey, hey, I may be ugly and hate-filled, but I… um, what was the third thing you said?”)
– Other familiar faces at the mental hospital include Ms. Botz, John Swartzwelder and Jay Sherman (“It stinks! It stinks! It stinks!” “Yes, Mr. Sherman. Everything stinks.”)
– I don’t quite get why they get Homer in there at the end; he’s never overtly annoyed or agitated Ned, more in how he takes advantage of his good will. I do like his flat reads on the written card (“Past instances in which I professed to like you were fraudulent.” “I engaged in intercourse with your spouse or significant other.”) I also do like their back and forth as Homer tries to find something Ned genuinely finds annoying (“What about fluorescent lights?” “They hum like angels! You’re never lonely if you’ve got a florescent light!”)
– Yeah, I really don’t get the ending. So Ned’s going to be more open with his feelings… except he’s not. That and he’s a maniac. Oh well. Ned, you so cra-zay.

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11 responses to “161. Hurricane Neddy

  1. Yeah, the ending leaves me perplexed too. I guess the joke is that Ned’s not completely cured after all – he’s still nuts, just in the opposite direction. Which is a rather morbid note to end on.

    Fans have accused Bill and Josh of trying to rewrite their own canon to the show during their tenure as showrunners. With episodes like this, I can sort of see what they mean. Everything we’ve seen of Flanders before this suggests that he’s just a naturally nice guy, with a healthy mental state and no real problems to speak of. We’ve even seen him get angry before in episodes like “Dead Putting Society” and “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” – and, most significantly, “Homer Loves Flanders”. Now all of a sudden, he’s physically incapable of expressing anger? And on top of that, his trademark “diddily-doodlies” are a result of his rage suppression? It is pretty hard to buy.

    • I think it’s a perfectly logical ending, actually. Ned is still crazy — though at this time he wasn’t the God FREAK he later became, he still clearly turned to religion to cater against his feelings of anger/resentment/insanity, just like lots of people do. That doesn’t mean those feelings don’t still exist, it just means that he tries to think, uh, “What Would Jesus Do?” … now, obviously, later characterizations of him make him just go “GOD! GOD! GOD!” but it’s not like it was ever in the background here. I appreciate that they explored his personality a bit, and gave him some complexity. It’s a depressing note to end on, but I am pretty certain that Flanders is a smart guy, and anyone with some intelligence is going to be angry in life, even when they don’t want to be. His “coping mechanism” is God, I guess. “Faith”, if you will.

      The spanking thing was a bit weird though.

  2. the comment about Bill and Josh is spot on, I think. It wouldn’t be so egregious if they hadn’t stated outright that they thought the show was being held back by the very loose amount of canon the show has and that they wanted to branch it out. principle in the pauper is a fucking travesty, in how it treat the characters and the characterizations, and also how it treat the audience with such dripping contempt. A show that hates its audience does not deserve them.

    This episode feel the same way to me. If you don’t think about it it seems like another romp, but this changes things fundamentally. There’s not actually a resolution at the end, so for all the hand wringing we don’t even get a suitable excuse as to why any of it mattered.

  3. I like most of this episode, but I agree that the reason for Ned’s good-natured, repressed personality is pretty odd (he was spanked nonstop for a year? Whuh?). And it does seem incredibly quick for him to be cured, just because he said he hates his parents.

    Still, it’s worth the watch just for Ned snapping at the town, which is still one of my favorite Simpsons moments. “You! I don’t know who you are, but I’m sure YOU’RE a jerk!” “Hey, I just got here! What’s going on?!”

  4. I have always loved this episode, though Homer Loves Flanders probably explored Flanders’s angry side a bit better. I guess this one explores his questioning of God a bit (in a better way than the “WHY DID YOU KILL MAUDE” stuff his character went through for a bit, which was, uh.. for a lack of a better word… a bit… MAUDLIN, eh?) but you know. Anyway, angry Ned is funny.

    …….One thing. SPRINGFIELD BUILT THE FLANDERS A HOUSE. I know it was shoddy and shitty but jesus. This stupid, hateful town built them a house in a day! That must have taken lots of time, energy, money, etc. Even if the thing fell apart, it seemed a bit much for him to go completely insane over. If I had even a few friends fix my fucking roof over the course of a summer — for free, no less — I would probably cherish those people forever, even if the job wasn’t “professional” or anything. Seemed a bit much. I know the house fell apart, and that was the joke, but at least they TRIED. Jesus!

    • “I don’t quite get why they get Homer in there at the end; he’s never overtly annoyed or agitated Ned”

      …hmm, I’m not sure if I agree with this one. “BREATH YOUR DAMN MOUTH!” / “CAN’T YOU SEE THIS MAN IS ANNOYING? HE’S VERY VERY ANNOYING!!!!!!!!!” seems to suggest he’s overtly annoyed AND agitated Ned.

      As for everything else… Ned’s a smart guy. He’d been angry, just repressed it. Repressed anger is still anger, so…

      • “Homer Loves Flanders” is one of my favorite episodes ever; I always see it as Flanders only starts getting genuinely annoyed at Homer when he starts being nice to him. His friendship is much more aggravating and dangerous to him than his mild scorn, and it just eats away at him. Normally, when Homer insults and disregards him, I think Flanders just perceives it as joking around, not wanting to really accept any negativity coming his way. I don’t know if I like the idea presented in this show that he’s been suppressing all of this rage toward everyone in town. It’s interesting, but not something I try to regard with Flanders in future episodes.

  5. I watched this one again last night and in true Simpsons fashion, found a hidden gem of a joke I have missed for fifteen+ years, and it happens when they show the tape of Ned acting up in the waiting room….

    “I’m Dick Tracy! Take that Prune Face! … Now I’m Prune Face! Take that Dick Tracy! … Now I’m Prune Tracy! Take that -” and then is intercepted by the doctor before he gets out the next set of words: Dick Face.

    along the same lines of “Sneed’s Seed and Feed (Formerly Chuck’s)”, the writers placed the fans and viewers of this show on a higher pedastal than “regular” viewers, and rewarded us with treats such as these. I miss the intellectualism that used to be associated with this show. the current writers have turned this show into the very shows they mocked in Deep Space Homer. When are they going to get the toilet next to the couch installed?

  6. I agree with Mike: this is a very good episode, with great gags and an interesting story. But the problem is how Ned turned out to be; it really destroys his wonderful character, in a worse way than “Principal and the Pauper” for Skinner(that episode was clearly a joke-plot to me, and I never seen that so offensive; only uninspired)

  7. The idea of testing Ned’s faith by reversing the standard formula of “Good things happen to the Flanderses while the Simpsons struggle” has a lot of potential and could be a great way to explore the character.

    This episode failed in the way they did it and, in my view, ruined Ned as a character. The idea that’s he’s seething with repressed rage, rather than a good natured, a bit too Jesus-y, guy who takes Homer’s abuse but still wants to help him and be a good neighbor? It demonstrates the writers fundamentally did not get how the earlier show runners defined Ned.

    It only gets worse as he becomes asshole judgmental fundamentalist Ned.

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