(originally aired January 19, 1997)
And so we come to another Marge episode, and we know how much fun those can be. It’s somewhat an examination of a more determined Marge, that more or less works for the purposes of the story. We start in showing her involvement with the Investorettes, a group where the ladies of Springfield try their hand at stocks and local investments. Being the overly cautious type, Marge certainly does not fit in, and is quickly expelled from the group when she raises concerns that high-risk ventures “sound a little risky.” The Investorettes is comprised of Helen, Maude, Edna, Luanne and Agnes (basically every single female character with a personality in this sausage fest of a show), all who act as a single, overtly catty entity stonewalling Marge throughout the episode. I do like seeing these characters outside of their respective men for a change, giving them a bit more individual weight, even if it is just more bitchiness. The only one I question is Maude, but then I like that outside the circle of influence from her husband she can have a bit of a mean streak to her.
At the local franchise expo, Marge is discouraged at her lack of gumption, but is taken in by the kindly vendor of the Pretzel Wagon, Frank Ormond (voiced by the legendary Jack Lemmon). Invigorated to one-up her former friends, she agrees to sell the franchise for a hefty five hundred dollars. At this point I thought back to “Class Struggle” when Marge greatly hesitated spending ninety dollars on a dress, but the difference here is that she has a bit of ire, she’s driven to do this. Motivation outside of housework is such a rarity for Marge that she truly puts her heart and soul into her new business venture, with the rest of the family providing assistance and moral support. There’s a lot of cute family moments in this show, like their fake ticker tape parade (“Welcome back, space girl!”) and Homer’s makeshift title of “Pretzel Inspector” examining the product with a micrometer. All of Marge’s efforts seem to be thwarted one way or another, which ends up being very crushing for her. Wanting to help his wife, Homer goes to Mr. Ormond for help. Finding him to be deceased, he turns to the next more reliable people: the mob.
Given the low-key nature of the episode, the third act is especially silly, jump starting with a montage of Marge’s business thriving thanks to the mob smashing up hot dog carts and transporting girl scouts out of the city limits. We go from that, then Fat Tony being briefly dissuaded by a dimwitted Homer, and a really disconcerting scene where Tony and his goons knock Marge’s car off the road in the desert and confront her. It just seems like there’s a weird tonal clash going on at the end, where things seem grave for Homer and Marge, even though we know they’re not. It’s not a major quibble, really, just something I noticed. Thankfully the Simpsons are saved by the Investorettes of all people, who in retaliation for ruining their business sick their own crime gang on Marge’s, leading to an all-out mob war on their lawn. Yeah, really really absurd, but it does work since it ties in with the bitch fight of the entire show, and it’s really funny. There are some ups and downs, but this is a pretty solid Marge show with plenty of laughs in it. And now I really want a pretzel. What’s that Pretzel Wagon when you need it…
Tidbits and Quotes
– I like the times we see Marge’s attempts to be sociable, because they always turn out disastrous. She was truly an outsider and ended up being warped by the country club, she’s not enough of a go-getter for the regular ladies of Springfield… poor Marge, a woman without a friend in the world.
– This is a tour de force episode for Agnes, who gets a fair share of great lines (“Children are so fat today. Isn’t there some way we could make money off that?” “Gimbels is gone, Marge. Long gone. You’re Gimbels!”)
– Pretty dumb, but I love Homer’s selective response to Marge’s sad story (“Wait, wait, back up a bit now. When are the pancakes coming in the mail?”)
– Nice sign at the Franchise Expo: “Where You Can Make Your Non-Sexual Dreams Come True.”
– Disco Stu returns with a vengeance at his own booth at the expo (“Did you know that disco record sales were up four hundred percent for the year ending 1976? If these trends continue… aayyyyy!“) He then bemoans he can’t get the dead fish out of his aquarium platform shoes.
– I love the scene with the Investorettes checking out Fleet-A-Pita, starting with Helen’s extremely insensitive concerns (“I don’t know about food from the Middle East. Isn’t that whole area a little iffy?”) The representative has done all she can to extremely localize the brand, renaming the traditional ingredients (“falafel” is now “crunch patty”) and offering pitas dubbed the “Ben Franklin.” She also attempts to discretely disguise the disgruntled Arabic cook “Christopher.”
– I like Lemmon for his small role, especially his riffing with his “knot bread” joke, and his dramatic speech on what Marge’s territory will be (“Wherever a young mother is ignorant of what to feed her baby, you’ll be there. Wherever nacho penetration is less than total, you’ll be there. Wherever a Bavarian is not quite full, you will be there.”)
– Marge receives her ingredients: two big hefty bags, one reading “Salt,” and the other “Ingredients.” Seems on the up-and-up to me.
– Really sweet how Homer puts on a charade at work to entice a pretzel buying spirit (“Let’s all give in to deliciousness, the Pretzel Wagon way!”) Unfortunately the Investorettes and their flashy Fleet-A-Pita van intervene (“Wow, check out that van! It looks like it doesn’t even need our business.” “Hey, let’s go!”)
– Best scene of the show hands-down is Cletus’ score of three hundred pretzels with three hundred coupons (“I should’ve said ‘Limit: one per customer.’ “Should’a but didn’t’a.”) and his call of each of his tens of kids by name. I love how they all just walk out and gather on the porch and wait for the rest to come out. Some of their names are hicky, but all believable, unlike later seasons where Cletus’ children would have “hilarious” names like Incest and Crystal Meth. Real sharp work, you guys.
– Free Pretzel Day at the ball park proves to be a bust; just as every patron was about to take a collective bite, a winner is announced for the grand prize ’97 Pontiac Astrowagon… C. Montgomery Burns. The crowd throws their pretzels at the car in disgust. Hall of Famer Whitey Ford attempts to quell the crowd, but is knocked unconscious by the barrage of snacks. Things look grim, but the family tries to put a positive spin on things (“You can’t buy publicity like that. Thousands and thousands of people saw your pretzels injuring Whitey Ford!” “You could call them Whitey-Whackers.”)
– Like how Homer claims that Ormond is doing pretty well for himself, walking through a lawn of plastic flamingos and cheap garish lawn ornaments.
– Grim but great scene of Skinner forced to buy pretzels at gun point. Marge questions his bandaged hand. An off-screen thug whispers, “Boating accident.” Skinner fumbles, “I believe it was a boking accident.” [gun cock] “I have to go now.”
– Seeing Fat Tony threaten Marge is a bit unnerving, but it’s softened a bit by the sweet scene where she assists him in taking the keys out of the ignition, and his final proclamation (“You have twenty-four hours to give us our money. And to show you we’re serious… you have twelve hours.”)
– I like Homer’s defense of how he got into this mess (“I saw your pouring your heart and soul into this business and getting nowhere. I saw you desperately trying to cram one more salty treat into America’s already bloated snack hole. So I did what I could. I did what any loving husband would do! I reached out to some violent mobsters.”)
– He’s always great, but Mantegna’s really great in this as Fat Tony (“I’m afraid I must insist. You see, my wife, she has been most vocal on the subject of the pretzel monies. ‘Where’s the money?’ ‘When are you going to get the money?’ ‘Why aren’t you getting the money now?’ And so on. So please, da money.”) I also love his low-key “C’mere, you little squirt” when he’s hit in the face by one of the Yakuza.
– Great bit at the end where Homer anxiously awaits what the little Yakuza guy is going to do; he’s just standing there waiting. Of course when he goes back into the house, we hear the results of some epic fighting move. Then later he gets thrown through the kitchen window (“Forgive-a-ness, prease!”) and runs outside back into the fray.