(originally aired May 17, 1998)
Finally, what we all came here to see… hardcore nudity! Talk about your season finale; I bet the promos for this episode were pretty bombastic (“Homer and Marge NUDE! Tonight on FOX!!”) It ultimately is pretty low on the risque factor, and has a few bits that kind of drag (woooo!), but there’s enough good stuff here that kept me satisfied and smiling (wooooooooooo!). The first act features Homer and Marge discouraged that their sexual life is in a bit of a rut, something that ultimately feels like a lite version of “Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy.” But I appreciate the effort, and there’s some genuine-feeling moments: I love the ad-libbing by Castellaneta and Kavner in attempting to initiate obligated anniversary sex, and their relief of the dog entering the room to break the awkwardness of their inability to do so. Though perhaps with not as much emotional heft as the show used to do, but you still feel for these two, stuck in a natural rut that they can’t seem to get around.
The spark in Homer and Marge’s marriage is reignited thanks to one thing: dirty sex out in public. Sounds pretty questionable, but it’s mainly played for laughs, especially when you consider the final act. Although I have born witness to some disturbing Simpsons porn pictures on the Internet that have caused my mind to fill in a few blanks of the dirty deeds committed in this show… I can’t say that I’m proud of it, but here we are. The two lovebirds return to their most sacred place: the windmill on the mini golf course where Bart was conceived. But when they’re almost caught inside, they knock it over and escape, leaving them out and about the city completely nude. It’s a conceit that leads to a few good parts, like a pretty funny Gil scene, but it kind of felt too silly; like there were plenty of ways the bit could have logically ended, but instead it just kept going to its over-the-top conclusion.
There’s a B-story here that feels a bit more satisfying; Bart and Lisa uncover Grampa’s old metal detector and decide to go treasure hunting. Ultimately they discover an incredible find: an unseen alternate ending to Casablanca. Now, aside from the fact that the show The Critic did something incredibly similar, it’s a pretty amusing concept, an incredibly lame, tacked-on Hollywood happy ending to appease stupid film executives. One of said film executives turns out to be the Crazy Old Man (“We tried to hack that happy ending on the picture ’cause back then, well, studio execs, we were just dopes in suits, not like today.”) This little Bart/Lisa story serves as a nice break from the main story, and is pretty cute on its own. All in all, there’s a fair share of good stuff in this one, but despite the more mature content, in the end it’s not entirely memorable. But it’s not bad either. It’s like the season 9 malaise… maybe I can analyze it further in the final thoughts. I dunno, perhaps.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Love Bart and Lisa swordfighting with Hot Wheels tracks (“Ow! That had a guide pin in it!”) and Grampa repeatedly asking kids to cut him a switch… whatever that means.
– The Up Up and Buffet is a nice set piece, a perfect family-oriented high concept theme restaurant from hell (“Okay, folks, this is your pilot speaking. If you look to the left side of the aircraft, you will see Homer and Marge Sampson, who are celebrating with us today their eleventh air-niversary. So hang on, while we dip our wings to this happy couple.”)
– Nice that the dumb joke about Homer trying to catch the miniature bride and groom in animated action in the freezer pays off, as he left the door open and that causes the motor to short out. It’s not even emphasized, this is the first time I’ve really made the connection.
– Again, great job by Castellaneta and Kavner in the bedroom scene (“Do you want me to…” “No, don’t do that.” “But we used to do…” “I know, but I don’t like it.”)
– Great brutal exchange between Bart and Grampa at the retirement home (“re they pulling the plug on anybody today?” “Nope, everybody’s paid up.”) And the flashback to Abe’s poor usage of the mine detector in the war is pretty excellent too.
– Inspired observation from Homer (“When you think about it, mud is nothing but wet dirt.”)
– I don’t know why, but I love the disgruntled farmer and his shotgun-pitchfork, vowing to impose some serious ass-forkin’. He then leaves to go check the media room. Amazing.
– Like Bart’s dream about pirates, where the captain shoots one of his crewmen for suggesting they buy things with their treasure instead of bury it. But then it lingers too long with a bit involving the map drawn on a cracker, which isn’t funny.
– Great scene after work where Lenny and Carl find out about Homer’s jump-starting of his marriage. The two try to give pleasantries to Marge when she shows up, who promptly calls them perverts.
– Homer covering his shame, or his nipples, rather, with two teacups is great, s is the maid’s “I’m so sorry! I saw everything!”
– Love every bit with the Flanders family golfing: Ned telling his wife the secret of the windmill hole (“Not to hit the blades?” “Bingo”), him commenting the ball never came out the rear end, and Maude telling Rod to fish it out with his girlish hands. I do like how ridiculous it gets how everyone’s shoving their hands in there, then perhaps pushed too far when Moe shows up with his car on the green somehow aiming to gas the obstruction out. Homer and Marge make their escape, leaving their clothes behind. Ned is mortified (“It was people! People soiled our green!”)
– The Gil scene is pretty great: he’s so desperate he doesn’t even skip a beat in mentioning that Homer and Marge are naked, and he immediately defends himself to the police for living in the hot air balloon, just until things pick up, you know?
– Homer and Marge in the balloon is just extended bits of Homer getting hurt, but I love the slow drag up the church’s glass ceiling, and the pastor’s quick cover to his flock (“Gaze down at God’s fabulous parquet floor. Eyes on the floor… still on the floor… always on God’s floor.”)
– Love the Sideshow Mel line as the balloon enters the crowded stadium (“Dear lord, look at that blimp! He’s hanging from a balloon!”)
Season 9 Final Thoughts
So there it is. One Scully season down, and boy, he’s not wasting any time doing a number on this show. The series is steadily losing its ability to tell concrete stories with an emotional resonance, seeming to rely more on gag humor and the more exaggerated comic side of characters rather than be more subtle. We saw the emergence of the dreaded Jerkass Homer, as we witnessed the descent from mostly honest average family man to bombastic, inconsiderate cartoon character. But through it all, one thing the show still has going for it is its humor, and lots of these episodes get passes because they made me laugh throughout. The season also had a fair share of strong B-stories, from the Freak-E-Mart, CompuGloboHyperMegaNet, and just now the treasure hunting story. They can pull off these smaller plots, but longer ones have a bit more difficulty to them. I can’t exactly saw I’m hopeful for season 10 since I can already think of plenty of episodes I’m dreading to watch, but maybe there’ll be some funny stuff in store. Though four of the five episodes on the best list this season are not even in the ninth production season, so… yeah. Make of that what you will.
“The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson,” “The Joy of Sect,” “Lisa the Simpson,” “Simpson Tide,” “King of the Hill”
“Realty Bites,” “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace,” “Bart Carny,” “The Trouble with Trillions,” “Lost Our Lisa”