(originally aired November 15, 1998)
At this point, it seems I’m going to have to settle in with this new personality slant of Homer’s if I’m going to even remotely enjoy any of these episodes. Brash, misguided and strangely self-righteous, this new Homer has a more get-up-and-go attitude, diving head first into crazy new adventures. Not to say that he didn’t have his fair share of wild endeavors in the past, but the way it’s handled has changed. That being said, if the context is right, alternative characterization can actually make sense, and this episode is almost proof of that. It starts with Homer realizing he doesn’t know his own middle name, sparking a trip with his father to the old hippie commune his mother ran off to to scope out some answers. Inspired by this connection to his past and the laid back lifestyle of his mother’s old friends Seth and Munchie, Homer decides to become a hippie himself. Upon discovering his fellow hippies have “sold out” and run an organic juice outfit, he encourages them to rekindle their golden years and let their freak flags fly.
Turning to a life of lazing about, not worrying about bathing or wearing proper attire? That lifestyle fits Homer to a T, and in that respect, I can totally buy this plot. But there’s other aspects to his hippiedom that don’t exactly add up or go anyway. Trying to live up to his mother’s past is kind of a sweet premise that could have had some emotional weight, but it’s pretty much dropped after the first act. But that’s okay, I don’t expect a story like this to be very deep. But Homer seems way too energetic over his new outlook on life, parroting empty statements about peace, love and understanding. It’s like when someone tries to fit in with a certain group and everyone can tell he’s just trying to look cool even though he doesn’t have a clue what he’s saying. There’s also his relationship with Seth and Munchie, who seem to like and put up with him at the start, but quickly become exasperated by him. They agree to go out with him to relive their pasts and “freak out squares,” but return home to find their latest juice shipment destroyed. A comment on how you can’t go back to your past and must focus on your present? No, it was Homer’s stupid frisbee jammed in the machine. What a wacky character.
Homer seeks to make due by reproducing the spoiled juice and shipping it out all over town. But unfortunately, he used crops from the hippies’ “personal supply,” causing the people of Springfield to start tripping balls. Police arrive at the commune, and Homer ends up shot in the face with a flower. So yeah, it’s got its fair share of dumb elements, like Homer’s ramped up enthusiasm and silly stuff like I mentioned, but it’s definitely the best season 10 we’ve had so far. It had a bunch of laughs from beginning to end, and I can see Homer indulging in the hippie lifestyle far more than I can see him in some of the many absurd jobs we’ll see him hold down the road. Also props to Martin Mull and the great George Carlin who do great work here. Oh, and cool psychedelic ending theme done by Yo La Tengo. A flawed, but still mostly enjoyable episode.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The power plant recruitment commercial is pretty much a big dead zone. Though I do like this exchange (“There were script problems from day one.” “Didn’t seem like anybody even read the script.” “That was the problem.”) But at least it goes by pretty quick and it’s an adequate stepping stone to our main plot.
– Great reveal of Grampa stuck in the foyer having fallen over Bart’s skateboard. Homer just calls for him casually and no one bothers to help him out.
– In this episode, we learn what the “J” in Homer J. Simpson stands for. Pretty clever that it’s just “Jay,” a tribute to Rocky and Bullwinkle‘s Jay Ward.
– Dumb joke, but I love the reading of Homer’s slow, contented “Ouuuuuuucccchhh” when he nonchalantly stick his hand in a bee hive.
– Wonderful flashback to Woodstock with a wonderful portrayal of a younger Abe Simpson, the stuffiest of stuffed shirts played against his freer wife and naked son playing in the mud. Abe is not pleased (“Put some damn pants on, and then pull ’em down! ‘Cause it’s time for a spanking!”) Castellaneta does a great job as always playing his characters younger.
– I don’t know if I care for the implications about Homer’s mother being promiscuous. I mean, I’m sure it happened, but given the sweet matronly image in our minds from “Mother Simpson,” it’s something I’d rather not think about.
– Always loved Munchie’s line about selling their old hippie bus (“In a way, the sixties ended the day we sold it: December 31st, 1969.”)
– Homer, Seth and Munchie show up at school to decree the “conformity factory” closed. The kids all run out cheering. Cut to a displeased Skinner (“Fifteen years of loyal service, and this is how they tell me? A jester with an invisible proclamation?”)
– Great bit of news from Kent Brockman (“Stunned league officials say point-shaving may have occurred in as many as three Harlem Globetrotters’ games.”)
– Highlights of the town-wide freakout consist of Grampa and Jasper reverted to acting like Beavis and Butt-head, and Lou spinning around in his chair at the station (“The electric yellow has got me by the brain banana!”)
– Fantastic deadpan reading from George Carlin to the police responding to Homer’s insanity (“You can smash this drug barn all you want, but first you’ll have to smash our heads open like ripe melons!” “This man does not represent us.”)
– The ending is pretty darn silly, but it’s still kind of funny (“He was lucky. If that had been a gladiola, he’d be dead right now.” “Why don’t you just pull it out?” “I’m a doctor, not a gardener!” “Can’t you just prune some of the leaves so I can watch TV?” “What did I just say?”)