201. King of the Hill

(originally aired May 3, 1998)
Here’s an episode that surprised me. A few improbable elements aside, this one actually features a pretty solid story, with appropriate emotional heft. Having been dabbling in the key of Jerkass throughout the season, Homer actually exhibits some pathos here, and in almost a throwback to the earlier seasons, the plot is fueled by his desire to make his son proud. It all starts at a church picnic, where Homer embarrasses Bart and himself playing capture the flag, becoming exhausted after only running a short bit. Following this, he vows to get into shape, triggering a complete incredulous reaction by Marge, a great bit as we know it’s a line she’s heard many times before. Also sweet is Homer’s act of working out at night, so if he fails he can avoid being shamed. He discovers a late-night gym (where he learns the proper pronunciation) and begins training with Hollywood super-hunk Rainier Wolfcastle, and by “train,” I mean shout slogans at him while he does weights (“Reach over the top! Master your ass!”)

In two months, Homer starts to show some pretty fair results. In a great scene, he shows off to his family, and in a boast to them to try to grab some flab, they find quite a few deposits of it; he’s not gonna lose all that fat in such a short amount of time. Along with working out, he’s been on a diet exclusively of Powersauce, energy bars that allegedly have a secret ingredient that unleashes the awesome power of apples. Rainier is their spokesman, who is later approached by two representatives to do a promotional stunt for them: climb the Murderhorn, the tallest mountain in Springfield, to show how much vigor and energy their product has given him. He refuses, but Bart volunteers his father for the job, and not wanting to let his son down, he accepts. Powersauce reps Brad and Neil are voiced by Brendan Fraser and Steven Weber, and while they’re amusing and do an alright job, I kinda feel they could just have well been voiced by Hank or Harry. Especially great is their running commercial breaks through the show (“This just in! Powersauce is amazing!”)

I guess the only thing I have an issue with is the mountain; the gag is how absolutely humungous it is to even greater intimidate Homer, but the thing is fucking ginormous. Like how have we never noticed it in the town before ever, or since? But a minor gripe it is, so I won’t harp on it. Homer is sent up with two Sherpas by the Powersauce reps to make sure he survives, but more importantly that their promotion goes off without a hitch, and they get a lot of great lines (“Brad and Neil were quite insistent that you not die.” “Frankly, we don’t care.”) But when Homer finds they’ve been dragging him up the mountain while he sleeps to speed up his climb, he fires them and does the trek alone. There’s suspense periods with no jokes of Homer climbing up and up, but you’re devoted to the character and hope he succeeds. And even though he only reaches the summit by technicality, you’re still proud of him. So yeah, a pretty great episode, consistently engaging, lots of laughs, and a more traditional characterization of Homer, which is a breath of fresh air this season.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Oh jeez… the McBain movie at the beginning with the Commi-Nazis, absolutely brilliant. And that he’s delivering UNICEF pennies (“Go, pennies! Help the puny children who need you!”) I also love Marge’s attempt to make a joke, which admittedly is pretty good, when she walks in the room and watches McBain break one of his enemy’s necks, just as he was begging for mercy (“That’s what I call break-neck speed!”) Bart isn’t amused (“Mom, a man just died.”)
– Not a big fan of Homer parking in the middle of the baseball diamond. Probably because it’s just like him parking in the middle of the boardwalk in “My Sister, My Sitter” last season. And it’s just like him parking in the middle of the beach in “When You Dish Upon a Star” next season. Hrmm.
– Love Flanders’ ethical qualm about playing sports on a Sunday, and Lovejoy’s absolute disdain (“Oh, just play the damn game, Ned!”)
– Great moment with Comic Book Guy, who is exposed when the outer shell of the porto-john is knocked over (“It appears I will have to find a new fortress of solitude.”)
– Homer attempting to roll over as kids pelt him with deviled eggs is another of the series’ great moments that are so incredibly depressing and hilarious simultaneously.
– Love Homer’s signature Kwik-E-Mart item: a bucket of ice cream with miniature pies in it. Homer instead asks for something a bit more healthy (“We do have some low-salt candy bars and some reduced fat soda, and our beef jerky is now nearly rectum-free!”)
– The “abdominator” is a great name, like all of those crazy exercise contraptions that come out all the time with brand new ways to work your [insert muscle here] better than before!
– Brad and Neil pitch their promotion to Wolfcastle: picture him (“I love it!”) climbing the Murderhorn. Turns out it’s too much even for him (“Not for all the apple sauce in Glückenschabbel!”)
– Love the bits with the Sherpas (“I foresaw your death last night.” “Stop saying that!”) and when they hitch a ride to Nepal in the back of a pick-up truck at the end.
– When Homer announces he’s doing the rest of the climb alone, Neil breaks and reveals that Powersauce bars are nothing more than apple cores and Chinese newspapers. Homer examines one carefully (“Hey, Deng Xiaoping died.”) Brad and Neil cover their asses and announce on TV that Homer has abandoned their product in favor of the “Vita-Peach Health Log” and that he may not have enough “mega-nutrients” to make the climb.
– Homer’s hallucination is alright, but we’ve seen plenty of them in the past done much better.
– Love the reveal of the frozen corpse of Grampa’s supposed rival near the top of the mountain, revealing the old man’s story was all fake. His last written words are particularly touching (“Tell my beloved wife my last thoughts were of her… blinding and torturing Abe Simpson.”)
– The moment where Homer replaces the Powersauce flag with the one with ‘Simpson’ on it from capture the flag, putting it in the mountain in the name of his son is a pretty sweet moment; we buy the cop-out of the mountain collapsing because we believe in Homer.
– Little grim of Homer using a corpse as a toboggan, but we get the great dumb moment where Grampa’s false teeth pop out of his mouth and magically place themselves to where the bite mark is on McAllister that he bit on so many years ago.

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2 responses to “201. King of the Hill

  1. This is such a solid episodes it always surprises me that it came so late.

    I’m not sure what’s worse, the very clear downturn in quality or the last desperate grasp where they actually put out a pretty serviceable episode. If it just went clear to shit right away I think less people would have hung on.

  2. it really surprises me how much this one, with an amazingly whacky Homer premise is one I like. I particularly love the different bigger mountains each with a more extreme musical sting, and “dam those comi nazis!” is a line my brother and I still use fairly often.

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