173. The Canine Mutiny

(originally aired April 13, 1997)
I gotta tell you, I’m not quite sure where to start with this one. There were so many elements to it that confused me or just didn’t work… so I guess I’ll take it from the top. Shenanigans begin when Bart gets his hands on a credit card under his dog’s name (I do like how Santa’s Little Helper becomes Santos L. Halper), and goes on a spending spree. Amongst the extravagant items he buys is a pure bred collie named Laddie, who is basically the most perfect of perfect dogs. It isn’t long before all of Bart’s purchases are repossessed, and in a knee-jerk decision Bart has SLH taken in Laddie’s place, and it’s not long before he has great remorse about this decision. Now, the rest of the family is basically in the dark about most of this… for reasons that escape me. Bart gives the others lavish gifts and has a room full of expensive junk and nobody says anything? He also claims he got Laddie at a church carnival two towns over at a “truth-telling contest.” Yeah, it’s supposed to be a joke, but really, I feel like even Homer would see through this. There’s so many points in this episode I feel like Marge or even Homer would say something about what’s happening, but everyone just kind of goes along with it. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

This is an episode that kind of needs to hinge on Bart’s relationship with Santa’s Little Helper… except it doesn’t really show it. In the first act we see the dog clumsily knock into the front door and stare into the window for hours on end, but not much affection for the poor mutt. There’s one scene where Bart hugs the dog after receiving the phony credit card, but it’s not really something that’s genuine, he’s just glad using the dog as a pawn in his scheme worked. He ignores SLH when Laddie comes into the picture, and then later feels bad when he gives him away, which all could of worked if we had more build-up showing the love for his dog. Of course we know that he does, as we’ve seen in “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” and “Dog of Death,” but thinking back to those shows only makes this one feel more ramshackle. Toward the end, we find that a blind man now owns SLH and Bart must get him back. This is a tough pill to swallow even knowing how much those two love each other, but in this episode, it’s even worse given that I don’t even buy Bart loves the dog. I’d rather he stay with the poor blind man.

This episode marks a first, a hundred seventy three shows in, this is the first one I felt like turning off. After getting Lisa’s blessing for robbing the blind man (what?!), his sneaking in is so tedious, we get cloying out-of-character Bart pleading with the man and a hackneyed bit where they let the dog decide ownership (what is this, Air Bud?). Not even the marijuana twist at the end can save it. The show just felt incredibly thin; nothing important really happens in the second act at all, it’s just filling time before Bart decides to get SLH back. Now there are a few good jokes and amusing parts, but a lot of it felt pretty dead to me. It set up a situation where Bart’s antics and behavior went too far, and I found myself rooting against him. Even at his lowest pathetic point, I didn’t think he deserved the dog back. It’s just a really scatterbrained episode that misses most of its marks.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I guess it’s good satire that even Bart’s phony application is good enough for “MoneyBank” to get him a card; I like how he lists his income (“Whatever I finds, I keeps.”)
– Bart finds he can’t get away using his card at local vendors, ie: Comic Book Guy (“Your phony credit card is no good here. Now make like my pants, and split!”)
– I like Bart’s pachinko machine (“You winner! Ha ha ha!”) and Lisa’s ticked reaction to her new pep pills (Trucker’s Choice).
– I love the condescending but cheerful speech the creditor gives Bart on the phone (“Because you sound like a mature, responsible person, who wouldn’t want an unpaid credit card bill to spoil all his hopes and dreams for the future. Dreams such as home ownership, boat ownership and event- attendance!”) Bart decides enough is enough and has Laddie bury the credit card. Fat Tony and his goons bury a body alongside him (“We didn’t see nothin’ if you didn’t see nothin’!”)
– Mr. Burns likes Laddie? What happened to, “Dogs are idiots!” Then again he did take a shine to one of SLH’s puppies. But then again he wanted to skin the rest of them.
– Milhouse indignantly recalls a SLH incident (“Remember the time he ate my goldfish, and you lied to me and said I never had any goldfish? Then why did I have the bowl, Bart? Why did I have the bowl?”) Bart responds, “Yeah, he was a great dog.”
– Bart’s dog furnace fantasy is a bit slow and boring, but saved by Bart looking out the window musing, “Where are yah, boy?” followed by a distant boat horn noise.
– Classic Homer line: “You gave both dogs away?! You know how I feel about giving!” I also kind of like his pep talk speech to Bart, which he hopes will end in his son eating dog food.
– Best gag in the episode is probably Moe’s repossessed floor; we see the Repo Depot is not a large building, then all of a sudden we see it propped against the wall (“Hey, next time, pay your bills.” “But I don’t want to!”)
– Always liked the red bow tie on Polly’s neck. You’d think it would have rotted much quicker than its body. Or maybe Mr. Mitchell’s been fitting the tie on the skeleton for a long while now.
– I was so numbed by the third act, the marijuana bit didn’t even faze me, though I do love Mr. Mitchell’s excuse (“Without it, I could go even… blinder!”) Hank Azaria ad-libbing with himself as Wiggum and Lou over “Jamming” over the credits is pretty amusing too, with one last “Jamming!” over the Gracie Films logo.

12 responses to “173. The Canine Mutiny

  1. This is an episode I’ve no problem watching over but it does, as you mention, present some problems. I always feel as if the episode had two plots shoved into it at once. The dog issue seem to crop up halfway through. i think we could have either had a Bart has a credit card episode, or a bart finds a cooler dog episode, but it didn’t need to be both.

    The sort of cloying sentimentality things is troublesome, as is the idea that he could just steal his dog back. The jokes are still hitting strong, but the plots are suffering and the sense that the show is becoming disconnected from being emotionally impactful.

  2. my sentiments on this episode match yours, yet “I can’t promise I’ll try, but I’ll try to try” is a phrase very commonly uttered by myself when I’m asked to do a favour, or something (requiring more than a simple effort) for someone else.

    so I’ll thank it for that

  3. I still use the expression “Trucker’s Choice” to refer to any caffeine pills

    ie, “You look tired, do you need some Trucker’s Choice?”

  4. I liked this better when it was an episode of “Married…With Children” (season three’s “Master the Possibilities,” where Al uses a credit card addressed to Buck the dog after Marcy tells Al that it is legal to keep and use anything you didn’t send for, like the Yodelin’ Andy records that mysteriously was delivered to their house).

  5. Not the best simpsons episode by a long way though has some nice bits, however the bit with the blind man is just plane mean.

    Firstly the assessment that blind people don’t have friends, secondly the idea that blind people need weerd houses full of gadgets, and thirdly the hole bit with the dog.
    of course, this is saved by the fact the blind man also takes

    • Also takes what? Marijuana?

    • Also the implication that a blind man would fail to notice that his parrot had died and decomposed into a skeleton. How could you not notice? The smell that thing made must have been absolutely pungent.

      I know it’s a joke and all, but I was never too fond of the tendency in comedy to treat blind people like absolute idiots who can’t pick up on things that could be easily done with their other senses. Obviously, they wanted the blind man to come off as a bit sad and pathetic, but this felt like such a crude stereotype.

  6. This is one of those episodes that are built up on laughs to distract you from its bad plot, and it works, at least for me. I always dread watching this episode, but then find myself laughing throughout the entire thing, wondering why I dreaded it in the first place. Then a day or two later, I remember how bad the actual narrative was.

    I do not see anything wrong with the blind jokes they make, especially with the dudes parrot as it is funny as hell. I also don’t need the episode to show me why Bart loves SLH when we have plenty of episodes beforehand that highlight this. Now if you look at this episode as its own, and ignore the last 172 episodes before it, then you might have a point. As is though, we know Bart loves SLH, there is nothing wrong with it. He is a kid, kids make stupid irrational decisions and regret it later. Hell, adults do too.

    Now the thing I absolutely hate about this episode is the ending. I don’t get it. Were the blind dude and the cops pulling a prank on Bart to get him out of there so he and the cops could have a party? Or were they actually partying in this random dude’s house because they found mirajuana on him while they were arresting him? I don’t get it. It makes no sense.

  7. Oh, and another scene I don’t remember:

    “– Best gag in the episode is probably Moe’s repossessed floor; we see the Repo Depot is not a large building, then all of a sudden we see it propped against the wall (“Hey, next time, pay your bills.” “But I don’t want to!”)”

    Man, were you watching the same episodes I am?

  8. I just realized the ribbon should have fallen down. the fact that it was tied tightly enough to stay on the SKELETON probably tells us how the poor bird died, and that this guy might need to lower his marijuana intake a bit.

  9. A bland, nothing episode. This is the first episode of the series I’d actually say I full-on disliked. There were a few episodes before that I was neutral to for certain reasons, but this is the first episode where there’s enough problems that I can’t enjoy it. It’s not awful, but it is bad.

    The story has plenty of problems to it. Again, Marge and Homer not realizing anything about the junk they’re being given or that Bart has doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. They’re not that stupid. The first two acts of this episode have this weird cloud over them as a result. Act three drags the episode down even more. Bart is out of character at times, the sneaking in portion drags, as does SLH choosing who he wants to be with (especially since we know what’s going to happen)… it’s a pretty bleh episode in terms of story and it’s very thin as well.

    In many cases like this, jokes can save the episode. This episode unfortunately doesn’t have enough solid jokes to make up for it. There are a few good bits in this episode (“We didn’t see nothin’ if you didn’t see nothin’!”), but it’s not enough to make up for the flaws in the story. So, yeah, to me, this is the series’s first bad episode. I’ll admit it’s impressive that it took them until near the end of season 8 to do that, but still, I usually avoid this one.

  10. For the record, this was the second episode written by Ron Hauge.

    His first was “Homer’s Phobia”, and after “Mutiny” he’d write four more, including “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace” and “Missionary: Impossible”. Make of this what you will.

    A case could certainly be made that “Mutiny” is the worst classic-era episode by quite a bit. (Determining the second worst is something I can’t say I’d find easy, however – although I’ve never really liked “Secrets of a Successful Marriage”.) But of course, it’s still better than many Zombie episodes – including “Old Yeller Belly”, the next episode in which SLH plays a significant role…

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