(originally aired April 20, 1997)
It’s always interesting to see instances of Burns out of his element; behind his position of power he’s a vulnerable feeble old man who hasn’t had to deal with the outside world and its peons for decades. This episode cuts the miser down a peg, as he finds out that his fortune has all but depleted thanks to his team of spineless yes men not having the nerve to tell him about his poor and outdated stock choices. Without his mansion or his plant, Burns has nothing, a sad old man left to his own devices in his former subordinate’s pink apartment. Now, it’s a delicate balancing act one must perform; thrusting a penniless Burns into the outside world to marvel at ordinary items like public transportation and cereal boxes, but never lose sight that this is the same man who blocked out the sun and kidnapped Tom Jones. They succeed… mostly. Burns getting trapped in the freezer and seeking for a cereal with his face on it works, but absent-mindedly greeting fellow human beings doesn’t (“I’m shopping!”) Overseeing the delirious old man, two grocery clerks end up having him escorted to the retirement home. I get where they’re going with all this, but seeing Burns this far removed from his former persona is a bit unusual.
Alongside this we have Lisa’s crusade for recycling, as part of her Junior Achievers Club at school. Burns is a guest speaker at one of their meetings, and the two have a heated back-and-forth on the subject of conservation, setting up Lisa’s personal distaste for the man. They cross paths again at the retirement home later on, where Burns beseeches Lisa’s help to regain his fortune. After some persistence, and a parody montage, she reluctantly agrees (“You could only earn money by doing good, socially responsible things. Nothing evil.” “That’s exactly the kind of radical thinking I need!”) The kindly Burns/Lisa dynamic is kind of sweet, I’ll admit, as the two do their part in picking up cans and organizing and separating various recyclables. Which then, of course, leads to him somehow having enough money to open his own recycling plant. Perhaps he took out a loan of some kind, I dunno. But of course Lisa is shocked to see that Burns hasn’t changed much, as he has taken to recycling creatures of the sea into industrial slurry to sell for a profit. Soon after, Burns reveals he has sold the plant and offers Lisa her entitled 10%, but she tears up the check, knowing in good conscious she couldn’t accept it knowing where it came from.
I really do love the reveal of the Li’l Lisa animal slurry. We set up the six-pack rings twice before, once at the very beginning and later with Burns, as Lisa explicitly shows him how fish can get caught in them. But while she of course is demonstrating how to get fish out in a compassionate manner, Burns sees it the other way around, on how the trappings can be used for other means. His gigantic net is such a great idea, one he’s extremely proud of and believes Lisa will be impressed too. Even when Burns is not trying to be evil, he’s just hard wired to be that way unintentionally; he honestly doesn’t understand what Lisa is so upset about. While I don’t care for some of the poor delirious Burns stuff, I love this turn at the end. The story is pretty solid, if only a bit rushed; the recycling plant couldn’t have been operational for more than a few days before Burns up and sold it. The laughs are also kind of sporadic; there’s a lot of great stuff at the beginning with Skinner and the recycling center hippie, and a few other things here and there, but multiple scenes will go by with no real laughs. However, it’s still a pretty good show on the whole, with a different look at Mr. Burns, albeit one that would be exaggerated to a terrible degree in the future.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Real quick bit, but I love “Dracula Joins the Navy” on TV (“Uh, Colonel?” “Blehh!”)
– I like Bart’s attitude on recycling being useless (“Once the sun burns out, this planet is doomed. You’re just making sure we spend our last days using inferior products.”) Not even Marge can feign interest after Lisa chides her for mixing polyapolane with polyurethane (love Homer’s high-pitched indignant “Marge!”)
– Homer stupidly chuckling whilst dropping entire books in the trash feels like a very latter-day Homer thing to do, but it’s saved when after Lisa tells her father it’s a serious matter, he continues doing it with a stern face, stifling his giggles.
– Two great Burns speeches, first in addressing the Junior Achievers (“I’ll keep it short and sweet. Family, religion, friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business. When opportunity knocks, you don’t want to be driving to a maternity hospital or sitting in some phony-baloney church. Or synagogue.”) Second when Lisa urges the need to save the planet (“So Mother Nature needs a favor? Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys. Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she’s losing? Well I say, hard cheese.”) Also great callback with “Will There Ever Be a Rainbow?” Surely Homer tossed it aside when Burns gave it to him, leaving Lisa to pick it up and read it.
– Nice read on Burns when he checks the stock ticker tape and discovers the 1929 market crash. He chastises Smithers for not informing him, who rebuffs by saying it occurred twenty five years before his birth (“Oh, that’s your excuse for everything!”)
– Love seeing Skinner unhinged on finding a half ton of newspapers only yields them seventy-five cents. Lisa tries to reassure him, that all that paper combined could save an entire tree. A frustrated Skinner pulls out, smashes into a tree causing it to collapse, while children inside bawl uncontrollably. Brilliant.
– Got nothing to say about Bret Hart. But why would Burns ask his permission to take his portrait with him? It’s his possession, he’s only selling the house. And in the end he leaves it behind anyway.
– Loved seeing Lenny in charge, and the later allusions of his abuse of power, and him being a “real bear” on tardiness.
– Not only am I not sure why Krusty is shopping at the local supermarket, but why is he buying Krusty O’s? Doesn’t he remember writhing in horrible pain after eating one at a press conference? Because I sure do. Because it was hilarious (“This thing is shredding my insides!!”) I like Burns’ concession of picking Count Chocula, commenting that count sort of looks like him.
– “Ketchup… catsup… ketchup… catsup… I’m in way over my head.” “Are you here to solve my ketchup problem?” I laugh every time at this.
– Kind of sweet in a weird way that Homer drank himself to sickness so his daughter could recycle all the beer cans. The animation on him in that scene is really funny.
– Don’t care for the bits of Burns and Grampa conversing. What about their Hellfish past? They hate each others’ guts.
– Cute bit where Maggie gestures her hand like a gun toward Burns, to which Burns cavalierly reacts (“Ah, the baby who shot me…”)
– Like the recycling plant windows made out of old beer bottles… and of course Barney is there to lick them clean.
– The animal slurry is quite disgusting, but I love its many many uses (“It’s a high-protein feed for farm animals, insulation for low-income housing, a powerful explosive and a top-notch engine coolant. And best of all, it’s made from one hundred percent recycled animals!”)
– Nice Invasion of the Body Snatchers parody as Lisa combats a recycling zombified populous.
– The ending is fantastic, where Homer has four simultaneous heart attacks when Lisa rips up the check. At the hospital, he forgives his daughter for blowing twelve thousand dollars. Lisa innocently informs her dad what her cut actually was, then: “Code blue! Code blue!” Rearrange the order and this could be the final episode. Homer had one last heart attack and died. Series over.