(originally aired November 7, 1999)
Already I can tell season 11 is going to be curious for me. I think a big reason is it’s the first season I can remember watching first run, and as such, I have a strange affinity towards some of these shows. Season 10 had a lot of garbage, as does this season, but I feel there’s a lot more to love here in terms of the ratio of enjoyability to shit. This episode is a good example; there’s a lot of weirdness and elements that really shouldn’t work, but as a whole it kind of does work in a weird way, has a fair amount of humor, and gave us the concept of tomacco, which is pretty amazing. Even the opening kind of makes sense to me: Homer is the kind of dolt who would mimic a glorious movie hero in challenging strangers to duel (reminds me of him parroting an action one-liner way back in “The Way We Was”) and I can definitely see him taking advantage of the privilege, and get bitten in the ass when he tangles with the wrong southern fried sheriff. He and his stereotypical candor is stupid, but it’s stupidness I can get behind.
Homer and the family escape their house when the colonel arrives to duel and must find a place to hide out. They end up at Homer’s father’s old farm, and must adapt themselves to a new way of life. Why he figures he has to grow crops and be a farmer and not just drive to a convenience mart and stock up on junk food isn’t exactly clear, but it’s easy enough to hand wave. The jokes in the middle half are kind of hit and miss; you’ve got the most subtle dirty joke in the show’s history (Sneed’s Feed and Seed, Formerly Chuck’s) and the condescending rival farmers, but the writers also seem to think tractors repeatedly falling on Homer to be comedy gold. Hoping to kick start the growing process, Homer loads up a pesticide sprayer with plutonium, and with his random assortment of seeds he planted, ends up tending to an entire field of tomacco, the unholy hybrid of tomato and tobacco. People just can’t get enough; Bart surmises it tastes terrible, “but it’s smooth and mild. And refreshingly addictive!”
Customers go wild for tomacco, and Laramie cigarettes takes notice, wanting to buy the plant off Homer so they can use it to get kids addicted to nicotine (“Kids are crazy about tobacco, but the politicians won’t let us sell it to them.”) It’s an interesting idea, but feels too crammed and rushed within the final four minutes of the episode. It also doesn’t help that Homer is a brain dead moron throughout, raising the stakes from million to billion and arguing with Lisa about how he can’t destroy the plant because he doesn’t know how, a bit that didn’t make any sense to me. Ultimately, the hopelessly addicted animals of the farm attack, and the last tomacco plant ends up in Laramie’s hands anyway, at least until their helicopter crashes thanks to a rabid stowaway sheep. And then we bring it all the way back around to the colonel, which has a pretty satisfying payoff, that calls back to an earlier event and is somewhat satisfying seeing our hero shot in the shoulder. So here’s another episode that has its problems, but in the end is pretty damn enjoyable.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Nice D-Day ad hawking Buzz Cola in the pre-film advertisements. Reminds me of when they have Veteran’s Day mattress sales. Something doesn’t quite compute with that…
– Seeing the Milk Duds swimming in “butter” makes me sick; I worked at a theatre, it’s all oil, that must taste absolutely disgusting. But makes total sense that Homer would want it.
– The Zorro movie is pretty good, in his anachronistic fights between the Three Musketeers, the Man in the Iron Mask, and ninjas. I also like the over-the-top read at the end by the Scarlet Pimpernel (“Do you accept? Or are you a coward.” “I… am a coward!!“)
– One of my favorite bands, the B-52’s, guest to play a variant of one of their hit songs as “Glove Slap,” which is pretty damn incredible. Whenever the tune gets stuck in my head for some reason, it’s a 50/50 chance of whether it’ll turn out as “Love Shack” or “Glove Slap.”
– Nice bit towards the end of act one where Homer wonders what Zorro would do against the colonel. Turns out he would just get shot. It’s a nice tie-in to the opening of the show, and the mentality of how we got here. It makes the show feel more complete, rather than just have random, tenuously connected sequences as we’d see later on.
– So, yeah, the farm did burn down in “Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy,” but I’m not that huge of a stickler for continuity. Perhaps this episode took place before that one chronologically, who cares.
– I like the discourse between Homer and the condescending farmers, a runner that has an amusing rhythm and great payoff (“Well, well. Look at the city slicker pulling up in his fancy German car.” “This car was made in Guatemala.” “Well, pardon us, Mr. Gucci loafers.” “I bought these shoes from a hobo.” “Well la-de-da, Mr. Park Avenue manicure.” “I’m sorry, I believe in good grooming.”)
– I like Homer’s haphazard approach to farming: he figures if he just plants a little bit of everything, like candy corn and gummi bears, something must grow. And if not, just get some plutonium to help it along. He calls Lenny to have him mail some (“Plutonium? Gee, Homer, isn’t that kind of risky? …yeah, I guess you’re right. It’s not.”)
– Great Ralph line where he comments the tomacco tastes like Grandma. But nonetheless, he and the Chief are hooked (“We’ll take a bushel or a pack or just… just give it to me.”)
– I really do love the end. We have Marge earlier unable to sell her mincemeat pies (Homer even chastizes her for it: “You’re scaring off the customers, honey!”) but in the end they almost save Homer when the Colonel asks to have some. But thick-headed as ever, Homer calls for the duel to begin and the Colonel casually shoots him in the arm. But that won’t stop Homer from having some pie himself. Great stuff.