223. The Old Man and the “C” Student

(originally aired April 25, 1999)
There’s something very strange about this episode; it has this odd air to it that I can’t fully explain. I suppose I should start… with the beginning. The town of Springfield scrambles to get ready for a visit from the Olympic committee, who is considering them to host the next games. But in the end, a slightly offensive comedy routine from Bart, who insults all the delegates, has them leave in a huff. It came at the end of a presentation organized by Principal Skinner, who interrupted the head delegate to bring Bart on stage, and apparently heard the routine in a rehearsal and thought it was okay. This whole thing makes no sense and blows my mind. Skinner amused by Bart’s childish antics? Especially in such a high stakes situation, no-nonsense Skinner who gave Bart a thousand days detention for his prior comedy art would allow this? It just does not compute on any level for me. There are dozens of ways Bart could have screwed over the town without Skinner having been complicit, but for some reason they went with this one.

So all the kids are punished with having to do community service, and Bart sends up sent to the retirement home. There he finds voluntary volunteer Lisa is already spending time with the old folks, playing bingo, cleaning them in their sleep and opening up old memories of their pasts. The retirement castle we see here feels decidedly different than days of old. It was always an awful, awful place; run down, dirty, staffed by people who could give two shits about the old fogeys who lives there. The denizens within were also a sad lot, but also crotchety and full of old person vigor. Here, they’re handled with kid gloves, where Lisa and another nurse modeled after Nurse Ratchet from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest seem to be treating them almost too well. Sure, they vacuum dirt and crumbs off them while they nap, but it just doesn’t feel like the same place whose staff attempts to solicit money from wealthy old codgers and pulls the plug on those who haven’t made their payments.

Also a la Cuckoo’s Nest, Bart absconds with the elderly to take them out to sea to have some fun. This of course results in a big disaster, giving us yet another third act action sequence, another absolutely pointless guest appearance, and another ridiculous and stupid ending that ties in with the sort-of B-story. I guess I should talk about that shit. Because Homer has the mindset of a five-year-old, he, for no reason, decides to enter the mascot design contest for the Springfield Olympics. His design, Springy the Springfield Spring, wins, but when the games pull out, he’s left with a crate full of a thousand springs. He attempts to sell them, which only gives us hilarious sequences of him getting hurt, a quick bit of child abuse with using Maggie as a springy basketball, and Moe and Lenny getting one caught in their eye as Homer sits by as an ignorant jackass. It all culminates in him flushing the springs down the toilet, which Marge is well aware of, and for some reason does not burst in the bathroom door and stop her husband before he fucks up the plumbing and causes a bigger problem. With a banal and dumb A-story and fucking stupid B-story, this one’s pretty bleh, but at least nothing here really pissed me off, so it’s got that going for it. High praise.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Great line from the Olympic chairman, breaking up a squabble amongst the delegates (“You’re forgetting what the Olympics are all about: giving out medals of beautiful gold, so-so silver and shameful bronze.”)
– Homer’s first mascot attempt is paper macheting the cat into “Abby the Olympic Tabby.” He’s exposed when the cat’s eyes move and the family realizes what’s going on. Then he presents Springy the spring, which Bart immediately asks, “Those aren’t the dog’s eyes, are they?”
– I like the painstaking cleaning of the entire town, which seems almost like overkill, then cut to the Olympic committee arriving and the chairman inspecting the sewers, deeming them the cleanest he’s ever seen. A nearby Lenny and Carl beam with pride.
– Okay, so we have the kids’ musical number, whose joke is pretty much done even before it begins by Skinner’s introduction (“And now, because the children our are future, here are the children or Springfield Elementary, with a song they call, ‘The Children Are Our Future.’ Children?”) Then we have to sit through a minute of the song of the same joke, which is just a time killer. Then in the credits, I was surprised to see a specific credit to George Meyer for choreographing the sequence. Really? Was that some kind of goof? It had the least complicated choreography of any song ever done on the show ever. It must have been a joke, but it kind of boggled my mind for a bit.
– Chalmers gets in some great dirty lines, citing his home town of Intercourse, Pennsylvania (which Ralph innocently parrots) and his adieu to Skinner and Bart (“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to my vacation at lake Titicaca. Let’s see you make a joke out of that, mister smart guy.”)
– Oh yeah, another thing that bothered me. While the old people get treated gingerly, the kids get no mercy. Even though they did nothing wrong whatsoever, Martin and Milhouse get subjected to gang violence and hazardous medical waste respectively. Hearing Skinner’s smug commentary over the kids’ horrible situations is even more of a kick in the balls considering it was his goddamn fault for allowing Bart to do that stupid routine. Even worse is later when Homer’s going door to door with his springs and Skinner repeatedly punches him in the face for what Bart did. Not only is this violence out of character, but again, it’s Skinner’s fucking fault. So yeah, I hate Skinner in this episode, if you hadn’t picked that up.
– Some good non-sequiturs came from this show, like “You sunk my battleship” and the ever useful “I want some taquitos.”
– The only bit at the old folk’s home that feels like classic material is the edited Gone With the Wind, and Hans Moleman being escorted out by thugs for daring to mention the censored bits.
– Homer bouncing an infant around like a basketball? Flushing the springs down the toilet? Really, Marge should not be putting up with this shit. I guess the joke is that she throws her hands up and gives up after so much of her husband’s wackiness, but it really is kind of sad, even more so than their dynamic has been in the past.
– Another too on-the-nose Smithers joke with his drawing Burns in the nude a la Titanic. This distraction causes their boat to crash into the old folks’ one. Though I do like the reveal of why McAlister’s missed it (“Yarr… two glass eyes.”)
– As much as Homer should not recognize who Jasper Johns is, no way in hell do Bart and Lisa know who Jack LaLanne is. Plus it’s an absolutely useless appearance.
– Grampa’s defense of Bart and the very end moment between them made me realize that they really could have made this a neat episode between the two characters, but instead we got this. I’d also like to mention this episode was written by new writer Julie Thacker. She also happens to be Mike Scully’s wife. Curious how she got the job. Also the case with Brian Scully, who wrote “Lost Our Lisa,” “Make Room for Lisa” and co-wrote “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday,” all fucking awful episodes. Thacker’s got two more in her, “Last Tap Dance in Springfield” and “I’m Goin’ to Praiseland,” so we’ll see how she fares with those. But for this first one… not so good.

13 responses to “223. The Old Man and the “C” Student

  1. It is no shock that Brian Scully has also done work for “Family Guy”. As for Mrs. Scully, those other two episodes are just atrocious. Nepotism at work.

    Lastly, the whole Skinner-punching-springy-Homer is one of the scenes that really made me give up on the show. Not the final straw, but one of them.

  2. Last Tap Dance in Springfield is pretty decent. The other one is pretty damn forgettable.

    Also, I quite like this episode, but yeah, Skinner should not be that angry at Bart and Homer. IT WAS HIS OWN FUCKING IDEA.

  3. there is a previous example of Skinner entrusting Bart with an important task: supplying fireworks to impress the visiting Chinese principles..

    ..however, in that instance it made sense because he knew that Bart, as a bit of a bad kid, would probably be able to obtain fireworks quite easily.

    yet another example of how little thought Zombie Simpsons writers put into their story, and how good the Simpsons was at making an unbelievable situation believable


  5. – How the opening could have been fixed in two lines:
    Skinner: “That wasn’t the routine you rehearsed!”
    Bart: “This had more zing.”
    – The “Gone with the Wind” bit was kinda funny, but isn’t it just retreading when Bart and Lisa found the altered “Casablanca”? It even involves the retirement home.
    – “Because Homer has the mindset of a five-year-old, he, for no reason, decides to enter the mascot design contest for the Springfield Olympics.”
    That’s a tad harsh. No, we’re never given a reason why Homer wants to enter the contest, but I wouldn’t say it’s entirely out of character for him, either.

    • -That’s a tad harsh. No, we’re never given a reason why Homer wants to enter the contest, but I wouldn’t say it’s entirely out of character for him, either.

      I thought it was to beat Patty and Selma (who made their mascot out of used cigarettes and airplane model glue), but the sentiment about how classic Simpsons puts more effort into their work than Zombie Simpsons remains valid.

  6. Pingback: Joke Origins: Poochie, The Whatizit? and the ’96 Olympics | Flim Springfield

  7. I liked the scene where Moe and Lenny get the spring caught in their eyes like a Chinese finger trap (“Don’t pull, don’t pull!” “Aaaaah!” “I said DON’T pull. DON’T.”)

  8. This episode is similar to “Wild Barts” now that you mention it. Seems to be a recurring theme of the adults screwing up and the kids getting all the blame. Also, Bart’s punishment is rather tame compared to getting shot at or infected.

    Didn’t really like the “two glass eyes” joke, since moments ago he said “Not a looker among ’em”. Really showcases how the writers in the Scully era would do anything for a gag no matter how stupid or nonsensical it is

  9. That’s one thing that nobody here seem to dislike as me is Lisa volunteering at the retirement home. Lisa maybe thoughtful, deep and sensitive, but she still is an 8 years old kid, and sees the retirement home just like any other kid do: an horrible pathetic place to avoid, if not for visiting Grampa every now and then. I’m not saying that is TOTALLY out of character for Lisa, but it needs a strong development. Lisa spontaneously volunteering feels like a very Zombie Lisa “the 30yo activist” thing.

  10. This episode was pretty desperately, or aggressively, anti-continuity, Skinner presented as just not knowing or caring about Bart being irreverent-at-best and more likely a big troublemaker, instead pretty much getting along with him-for no reason or regard to the past, feels like wanting to be a new, different show. That’s not too bad in itself but the new show is so much worse and not good in itself.

  11. This episode was pretty terrible, admittedly. I really hate how the episode never acknowledges that it’s the adults who are at fault, not even making a joke out of it. Even aside from that, we have out of character Skinner, as well as a really terrible third act with the over the top action scene on the boat. The only really great joke is Hans Moleman mentioning the censored parts of Gone With the Wind. So yeah, Skinner is terrible, the conflict is misguided by the story, there’s not many good jokes, the third act is bad… oh, and we have a really stupid Homer subplot that involves him acting like an infantile maniac again, because season 10 hasn’t had enough of that, clearly. If you can’t tell, I really don’t like this one at all.

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