(originally aired February 14, 1999)
I feel this episode is kind of similar to “Max” in that it also has a plot that does feel like it could work, but somehow it doesn’t. I’ll say it’s more on point story-wise, but said story proves to be not entirely that funny, and soon devolves into a ridiculous stupid ending and making our characters unlikeable. But I’d be hesitant to say either episode is terrible, but I also couldn’t choose which I thought was best: they’re both kinda… okay. We get our first look at Apu and Manjula’s marriage since their wedding last season, and find there’s trouble in paradise when Manjula finds out that eighteen-hour work days are not an American standard. The beginning certainly works with them inviting Homer and Marge to dinner, with some nice character stuff and things quickly becoming awkward when the marital spat ensues, with Marge thinking they should leave and Homer attempting to eavesdrop. This is a smaller, more intimate show, and when it stays grounded, it works.
To make it up to his wife, Apu puts together a week’s worth of romantic surprises all leading up to the main event on Valentine’s Day. Training a bird to sing, tickets to the opera, encasing himself in chocolate, he spares no expense for his beloved, and inadvertently ends up making the other husbands of Springfield look bad. This results in a collective of them, spearheaded by Homer, to spend their Valentine’s stalking Apu to try to sabotage his last big romantic gesture. They’re misguided and stupid, I get it, but it really does make you sort of root against Homer when he’s trying to thwart the earnest actions of one of his good friends. Also we have more roping in characters into scenarios for no real logical reason. Wiggum and Hibbert I can buy, but Flanders? The man who sung a sanitized Rod Stewart song in a heart costume to his wife? Ned acts as Homer’s polar opposite, his marriage is perfect; even with his constant insistence against their mission, he should not be in that car. Also Moe is there. Just ’cause. This is when characters stop feeling like characters and more like utilities for whatever jokes or flimsy premise needs to be held up.
The climax ensues when the incensed husbands find out Apu’s plan: a love note in the sky done up by a skywriter. To thwart the mission, Homer hops aboard the skywriter’s old timey plane and engages in an all-out fist fight with him. It’s already boorish and stupid enough before the skywriter flies the plane upside down, smashing Homer’s head into lampposts, sides of bridges and other blunt object to try and kill him. Seeing a scene like this makes me think of instances of Homer getting hurt in the past, which seemed like a rarer occurrence than nowadays. The humor always seemed to come from something more than just the act of violence: Homer becomes too cocky while jumping over the Gorge so fate makes him fall down it twice, he tries to maintain a sense of bravery to his son whilst being pummeled by reindeer, Bart’s attempts to pin his father up against Milhouse’s mom’s new beau by randomly smashing a chair on him in the tub. What’s happening at the end of this show? Homer is a raving lunatic who purposely engages in a fight with this man and get brutally injured. And yet he still succeeds in the end when he does a perfect landing from the sky with roses for his wife. Homer famously succeeds despite himself, but it only really works if he tried at all to begin with. He spent all of Valentine’s Day trying to betray his friend and beat the crap out of an old man, but still wins. But anyway, the first two acts work well enough, and there’s some jokes to be had, but I’m still ambivalent about this one. Like I said, it’s alright, I guess. Just alright.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Apu is surprised when Marge mentions that all the other stores in town close so early (“At 11:30? But this is the peak hour for stoned teenagers buying shiny things!”) Cut to Jimbo marveling at a sheet of tin foil (“It’s like a living mirror!”)
– I love all the stuff at Apu’s: calling Manjula a “Ma-hot-mama,” the two wives compromising that they both feel ashamed of their respective houses, the stereotypical Indian music being the result of the record player being on the wrong speed, the meal of chickpeas, lentils and rice, and Homer attempting to translate Apu and Manjula arguing in Hindi (“I’m picking it up… ‘Sala’ seems to mean ‘jerk,’ and I think ‘Manjula’ means some kind of spaceship.”) Also great act break with Homer reading the Kama Sutra, complaining that they apparently stole one of he and Marge’s trademark sex positions.
– Marge and Manjula discuss Apu’s new romantic ways over badminton (“I can’t believe it; he covered your whole bed in wild flowers!” “Oh, I’m sure Homer has done that for you.” “Sometimes I find pickle slices in the sheets.”) I also love later when she’s discussing the bird incident to Homer in bed, who is immersed reading the back of a box of Krusty O’s (“Then the bird sang ‘I Love the Night Life’ with clever new lyrics.” “Yeah, I hate that song.” “I do too, but it was sweet.”)
– Best joke in the whole show is the Wiggums in bed: Clancy is confused as to why his dirty jokes aren’t turning his wife on, and Sarah comments how Manjula got opera tickets and shuts off the light. Clancy pleads with his despondent wife, then quietly comments, “Sarah, it’s ten dollars a pill.” Wiggum using Viagra? Makes sense to me.
– Another example of just throwing characters anywhere: Captain McAllister is amongst the bitter men at Moe’s griping about Apu, then the next day we see him happily accept the porn magazines from him aboard his ship.
– Elton John makes a pretty good appearance, and at least he ties the plot up. I like his surprised joy at Wiggum’s bullshit claims about “teaching us to love again” (“Really? I did that?”) and his displeasure at Apu’s self-satisfied laughs at quoting titles of his songs.
– The resolve of the story with “I LOVE YOU [BLOB]” kind of works, I guess, as every wife in Springfield sees what they want to see in it. I do like Edna’s extrapolation (“‘I Love you, Edna K.!’ It’s a little run together, but that’s what it says!”)