(originally aired February 28, 1999)
Waaaay back in the before time, in the episode “Lisa the Greek,” there’s a rather cruel moment where Homer has Lisa sit on the other end of the couch while watching a football game. It’s supposed to establish the distance between the two characters before they start bonding throughout the show, but it still feels pretty harsh, and is only saved by the fact that the rest of the episode is so fantastic. This episode feels like that uncomfortable moment for the entire twenty-two minutes. At some point the writers apparently felt it was hilarious to have Homer act like an insensitive dick, because he’s basically in flaming asshole mode from start to finish, made even more disconcerting that a majority of it is aimed toward his daughter. This has been a present problem in the Scully years, but seems even more accelerated and hateful here. Didn’t anyone notice how absolutely unlikeable Homer is when he’s abusing Lisa like this? That and there’s pretty much no story and no jokes. That also hurts the episode.
After Homer desecrates the Bill of Rights at a Smithsonian exhibit, he ends up striking a deal to repay the damage with phone company/governmental parent OmniTouch by installing a cellular tower on their roof. Homer ends up clearing out everything out of Lisa’s room to turn it into the operating station for the tower. Now, really, Homer’s an idiot, but this is just incredible. Why would he think this is a good idea? And where are all of Lisa’s possessions? It’s absolutely horrible, and the worst thing is is that Homer doesn’t realize how upset his daughter is. That’s what makes these shows work: Homer does something grossly awful to Lisa, then bends over backwards to fix the problem. And usually it’s smaller stuff; in “Lisa’s Pony,” he didn’t get her saxophone reed to her on time for her performance. Here he’s ripped her entire room apart with absolutely no sense of why she would be upset. Instead he acts as an absolute irritant toward Lisa, providing no answers to her questions and concerns and being a raging dick (“Dad, why did you have to take away my room?” “Maybe you’d feel better if we watched some TV together.” “I just want to study!” “That’s no fun!” “It is to me.” “No it’s not!”) After an exchange like that, you just want to punch Homer in the fucking face.
From all the stress at home, Lisa starts to fall ill. Yep, so now Homer’s behavior is physically damaging her daughter as well as emotionally, and he remains as thoughtless and callous as ever. It takes her daughter to flat out tell him that they’re drifting apart for him to actually become conscious of the situation. The two go to a new age shop for some holistic medicine, and end up taking part in a bizarre sensory deprivation session, where they’re put in water-filled tubes to clear their minds and meditate. While Lisa has some deep introspection, Homer ends up hijacking the show when repo men raid the store and take his tank. It falls out of their truck on the road, and Homer is sent on an exaggeratingly cartoonish roller coaster ride as the tube is sent down cliffs, buried, rushed through pipes and tubes and eventually spit out on shore, where it’s returned by Chief Wiggum. It’s over-the-top and stupid, and it makes no sense why the tank never opened, or that Homer should still be alive after all that abuse. The shit kicker is that in the end Lisa apologizes to her father; she has an out-of-body experience as him, and realizes he should be thankful for all the places Homer takes her that he hates. Well, that could make sense, except at the beginning of the show we see Homer whining and moaning about having to take Lisa out and that Marge basically forces him to do it. The point is that Homer is absolutely reprehensible for the entire episode and gets no comeuppance and learns nothing, and we’re given an ending of them reconciled and supposed to go “aww” on cue like Homer-Lisa shows in the past. Well those endings only worked when they were earned, and this time, it is absolutely not earned. Fuck this shit.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I guess everyone must have their own threshold of how stupid Homer can possibly be, everyone’s limit is different. The beginning of the episode, a radio program makes a napping Homer believe he’s gone back in time. Yeah, too far. Really, it’s just like the writers are saying, hey, he’s supposed to be dumb, we can do this joke. But there’s a difference between dumb and brain dead.
– Homer’s cruelty starts immediately when he whines like a baby at the prospect of doing something for her daughter, but there’s a few glimmers of humor to be had before the horribleness starts (“You agreed to spend one Saturday a month doing something with the kids.” “Quit complaining. It’s half the work of a divorced dad.” Yeah, but it’s twice as much as a deadbeat dad.”) Also the bit about Homer against book fairs (“I’m not falling for that again. If it doesn’t have Siamese twins in a jar, it’s not a fair.”)
– The beginning actually has some good things about it: I like that OmniTouch owns the historical artifacts, and that the government sold them off to save funding for what’s really important (“Anti-tobacco programs, pro-tobacco programs, killing wild donkeys, and Israel.”) Also great is that Lincoln’s stovepipe hat is just sitting out in the open, while Fonzie’s jacket is under laser-protected glass with armed guards, right next to the Bill of Rights. Then Homer breaks in and starts reading it and everything goes to hell.
– Couldn’t Lisa have just moved into Maggie’s room? Or better yet, gut her room and move her crib into Lisa’s room. In that case you’d have no real episode, but… well, that would be a good thing, so yeah. It’s just they open the Bart-Lisa angle with having her in Bart’s room, then drop it almost immediately. I feel like they could have done something interesting with it, other than have Homer and Bart do clicky pen wars.
– I love that as horrible as Homer is in the show, they pepper smaller bits of him being horrible in just to intensify it more, like Lisa mentioning her father taping over her favorite movie, “The Little Mermaid.” This is moments after the reveal of her room being destroyed. It’s just played off so sad. Like, this isn’t funny at all, this is like childhood trauma.
– There’s also a subplot where the cellular tower screws with Marge’s baby monitor, causing her to hear in on people’s cell phone conversations. It’s actually pretty amusing and a nice story, but honestly anything would have been a breath of fresh air compared to the A plot. I like Agnes’ disapproval of Skinner driving through tunnels (“I know what they represent!”) and Bart’s play acting as a killer apparently going to the house to trick his mother.
– Really, why didn’t that fucking tube open during Homer’s wild ride. Then at the end we see Lisa lifts it open with ease. The whole third act is a dead zone, apart from a few momentary smirks from the repo men (“The crystal says your baby shall be a girl!” “Hey, shut up!”) and Chief Wiggum (“I am so sick of companies dumping their crud in our ocean without a permit! It’s not like those permits are hard to get!”)