(originally aired May 10, 1998)
Lisa takes a bus to see a special exhibit at the museum, and ends up getting lost in the big bad city. A pretty innocuous plot, really, that could have been a sweet little story featuring the more kid-like side of the character. But once Homer gets involved, things start getting disastrous, with a ridiculous action sequence and an absurd proclamation from the Simpson patriarch that basically solidifies his jerkass character. But we’ll get to all that later. Marge originally intended to take Lisa to the museum, but got sidelined when Bart returns home with novelties glued to his face… with superglue. Said glue was obtained from Homer, who Bart and Milhouse managed to bother at work; how they got in, I’m not sure. Also earlier in the day we saw he was at Moe’s. There’s no real reason they needed to get the glue from him, but I guess they figured more Homer means more funny. Although if anything, this “B-story” provides the best scene in the whole show, where Hibbert removes the items by frightening Bart with a violent-looking button applicator, where his sweat absolved the glue. It’s one of those bits that’s so dumb it’s fantastic (“Couldn’t you have just turned the heat up a little?” “Oh, heavens no! It had to be terror sweat!”)
With a no from her mother, Lisa shrewdly plays her father to get permission to take a bus, which is a nice scene. But due to a mix-up with the bus schedules, she ends up way off course far out in the city limits. What kind of an asshole is this bus driver that he’d not only not bother to help this poor eight-year-old girl, but abandon her on the side of the road? So while Lisa’s trying to find her way to the museum, a talk with Lenny and Carl makes Homer realize the mistake he made in letting her daughter out alone and rushes off to find her. The two eventually find each other when Homer usurps a cherry picker to get an aerial view of the city, but he ends up jostling it off of its holder and careens down a steep hill. Then it’s just a big silly action set piece where Homer can scream, whimper and get hurt a lot, but it kind of takes it way too far here. He hits his head on a traffic light? Fine. He scrapes his head along the underside of a bridge? Yeah, his skin would have been ripped off, but whatever. Then the picker goes into the river, where his body cuts through the wood on the dock. Okay… The picker’s still going in the water, where Homer could jump out of at any time. But instead, he’s saved when a drawbridge closes on his head. Maybe it’s just me, but it felt way too crazy, especially for what before this was a relatively timid show.
As if that ridiculousness wasn’t enough, we get a sizable revelation from Homer within the last three minutes of the episode. When Lisa vows she’ll never take a stupid risk ever again, Homer slams the brakes and informs her otherwise, claiming that stupid risks make life worth living, and that’s why he has so many crazy adventures. So yeah, instead of being an average American man who has dramatic and absurd scenarios befall him (which is part of the reason why they’re funny), now he’s Captain Wacky, actively doing stupid things on impulse. It’s astounding how jarring this scene is; even Lisa in-universe seems kind of perturbed by her father’s statements. Homer loves the thrill of adventure? Homer loves lying on the couch eating himself into a food coma. His whole diatribe is almost like his new mission statement, as from this point on he’s pretty much always up to some wacky hijinks, a fractured caricature of his former self. And just to put a cherry on top of the shit sundae, the scene’s even more aggravating because it comes out of nowhere with mere minutes left on the clock. At this point I could care less about the two of them breaking into the museum, which is a pretty dull, laughless ordeal. This episode’s got a few good lines in it, but it’s a mostly dry first half and an absolute catastrophe of a back end.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I like dapper Barney early in the morning before going to Moe’s. He’s always been a real classy guy sober.
– Great line about the exclusivity of the exhibit (“It’s the first time these Egyptian artifacts have been allowed out of England!”)
– I do really like the phone call between Lisa and Homer, as she slyly plays him to get her way, omitting what her mother said and tricking him to downplay her from a limousine to taking the bus. It’s classic kid tactics at work, capped with her hanging up the phone, cutting her father off of saying he loves her.
– Nice minor bit of Moe hailing a taxi to the VD Clinic. Of course.
– Stupid, but I love the bit where Lisa sees a flock of geese flying north… who immediately fly into another flock heading in the other direction and they have an aerial scuffle.
– Lisa stumbles upon Area 51… A. A map outside provides no help on finding her location (“You are Here. We are Not.”)
– The scene in Dr. Hibbert’s office really is the best scene here (“Why, if I had seventy five dollars for every novelty I removed… oh, by the way, I’ll need a check for seventy five dollars.”)
– Like the seemingly angry Russian man playing chess, and the reappearance of the Khlau Kalash vendor from “City of New York.”
– Another stupid bit, but I love the timing and progression of this scene: Homer concludes he needs to get to a higher plane to look for Lisa. He buys a bunch of balloons from a street vendor, vocally hoping his plan works… then he walks over to the man by the cherry picker (“These are for you if you let me use your cherry picker!” “Well, I’ve already got some balloons, but.. they’re not this nice. Deal!”)
– That Homer speech… I could just dissect it line for line of how awful it is, and horribly foreboding of what’s to come. “Feeling stupid? I know I am!” encapsulates it pretty well though. Oh jeez…
– Thinking of it more, the ending with the Orb of Isis also bothers me. Archeologists studied that thing for decades and couldn’t figure out how to open it? It fell a few feet and just opened by itself, for God’s sakes. The entire third act is just one terrible thing after another.