202. Lost Our Lisa

(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.

13 responses to “202. Lost Our Lisa

  1. I interpreted Homer’s speech to Lisa differently. Taken at face value, Homer’s right: If you don’t take risks, life isn’t worth living. If you avoid anything that even remotely could have conflict or problems to overcome, you’ll never do anything. Homer was trying to prevent Lisa from becoming like Marge, whose idea of excitement is, well, mundane things.

    His speech could’ve been better spoken, of course, but this is Homer we’re talking about.

    As for the Orb of Isis confouding archaeologists, it’s kind of a stretch, but maybe the archaeologists were always extremely careful when handling it precisely because of its rarity and didn’t want to damage it?

  2. The Glory of Being a Clown

    In 1998, I thought Homer’s “stupid risks” speech was caused by massive head trauma from the drawbridge incident. Looking back, your comment about it being Homer’s new mission statement seems bang on.

  3. ‘There’s no real reason they needed to get the glue from him, but I guess they figured more Homer means more funny’

    -‘Whenever Homer’s not onscreen, all the other characters should be asking ‘Where’s Homer’?’

  4. I remember when I first saw this episode I missed the last 5 or so minutes (just as Homer gets his head stuck in the drawbridge) and I thought it was an alright episode. Then I saw it with the last 5 minutes included, oh dear… surprising how the last few minutes can turn this into an awful episode. “Don’t make me tap the sign”.

  5. “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?”

    In fact, just about *everyone* acts like an asshole towards Lisa in this scene…

    Moe hails the taxi to the VD Clinic only because he has been put off by Lisa’s innocent speech praising the bus (“Clean, reliable public transportation; the chariot of the people; the ride of choice for the poor and very poor alike…”).

    The vehicle stops such that Lisa is right in front of the door, and therefore she should be the first person to board. Instead, everyone pushes past her – including, in his absolute final appearance, Lionel Hutz. Why he doesn’t speak is anyone’s guess – Phil was of course still alive at the time the episode was produced, and would almost certainly have been more than willing to provide a few lines. And no doubt most people would like to know why Hutz is wearing his attorney’s suit again…

    Agnes doesn’t want anyone sitting next to her, so makes the stupid excuse that the adjacent seat is for her coin purse, with an equally stupid demonstration.

    And Comic Book Guy, wearing a medieval helmet and a “Dungeon Master” T-shirt, will only let Lisa sit next to him if she can “answer me these questions three. Question the first…”

    As for Larry (the bus driver’s name for anyone who cares), not only does he point at and tap the “Do Not Talk to Driver” sign twice (once was enough), but he also nearly injures Lisa by closing the doors before she has finished boarding. And after reaching the “end of the line” in the absolute middle of nowhere, he drives straight ahead – if he’s not turning round and starting the journey back into town, then where the hell is he going?

  6. I never cared for this one either, and yes, Homer is a real arse, though for the above comment relating to commic book guy and his “answer me these questions three”, it’s a reference to Monty Python and the holy graille.

    I did rather like all the different ways Lisa could confuse 1 and 1A though, though why they couldn’t have just had Homer find Lisa by normal means and Lisa realize she still actually needs her father instead of all the whacky stuff with the cherry picker I don’t know.

    • “Answer me these questions three” is indeed a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

      It didn’t have to be used in a scene where *everyone* acts like a jerk towards Lisa for no good reason, though…

  7. I do love Homer’s balloon scheme, but this episode was awful.

  8. Pingback: Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 24: "Lost Our Lisa" – The Review Nebula

  9. Okay this is by far one of the few times I absolutely disagree with almost everyone here. It is a pretty enjoyable episode and I don’t see how Homer is even once acting like an asshole. When he realizes what he allowed Lisa to do, he runs out to find her instantly. He then takes her to the museum after finding her despite it being closed. What about that makes him a jerkass at all? Okay, maybe breaking into the museum was kind of a bad move, but he saw how bad she really wanted to see the exhibit. The fingerprints line is great.

    Then we have the great stuff with Bart, Barney in the morning, and of course Homer’s great line, “I’m not normally a praying man, but if you are up there, please save me Superman.” Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…

    As for the bus driver, clearly you guys don’t ride the bus very often, if at all. I’ve been on buses where the driver immediately starts driving the moment the last person gets on, even if it was someone in their 70s. I’ve also been on buses where the driver did not want anyone talking to them and if you did, they would reply to you in a snotty condenscending manner. Now I do agree that a real bus driver would have at least helped an 8 year old kid, but the complaints you are making are not unhead of in the real world.

    Overall, no, it is not a great episode by any means, but it is nowhere near the terror you guys are making it out. If you really think this episode is so bad, go and watch “Principal and the Pauper,” “Lisa the Skeptic,” or “The Last Temptation of Krust” with it.

  10. Man, I hate this one. It’s probably my least favorite episode in the series up to this point. As you mentioned, Homer acts like he has a negative IQ in this episode, plus everyone is so mean. But this episode as a whole just feels so pointless. As if the writers just wanted to make some money without having to work, and churned a half-assed script out in a couple hours.

  11. I think this one was fine personally. Even though the action sequence is something that definitely would happen in Zombie Simpsons (it reminds me of the one in season 18’s “Please Homer Don’t Hammer ‘Em” with Bart and Skinner, except they were going through *concrete* at one point rather than wood), there’d been very few ones exactly like that to that point, and it’s within an otherwise fairly sane episode so it feels like a fun bit of novelty. Definitely in the upper third of season 9 for me.

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