(originally aired November 21, 1999)
At a glance, you’d think this is a season of sweeping change. Maude Flanders gets bumped off, Barney takes a vow of sobriety, and in this episode, Apu and Manjula wind up with eight kids. You’d think this would open the door further down the line for some interesting story opportunities. You would think. We’d see basically no real follow-through with any of these stories, other than that Maude is still dead and the octuplets are still around. I think this could have been a great in to do more Apu stories, but if this show has illustrated anything, it’s that the writers are hopelessly dependent in that a minute of screen time can’t go by without seeing a Simpson, more often than not Homer. The family are ever present in this episode, sometimes for reasons that don’t make sense. The series was originally about one family surviving in the world, and now it’s slowly being that everyone else’s lives seem to revolve around the Simpsons.
Apu and Manjula decide it’s finally time to have a child, but find it’s much more difficult to conceive than they thought. So who does Apu consult about this? Homer, of course. Is he like the only man he knows? What about Sanjay? He’s nowhere to be seen. But no matter, Homer is a bastion of good advice, cooking beans inside the can and ripping the hood off Apu’s car. These things aren’t so much funny as they are clinically insane. Due to an excessive amount of fertility drugs, Manjula gives birth to eight children, who don’t take long to drive the couple into an exhausted and irritable lot. The best scenes in the show are, surprise surprise, when we see just the two of them dealing with the situation, running themselves ragged (“I just had the most beautiful dream where I died.” “Oh, no, you don’t. Not ’till they’re out of college.” “Listen, I’ll die when I want to.”)
Their hell seems to be at an end thanks to zoo owner Larry Kidkill, who offers the two stay at a beautiful nursery in exchange of being behind class for the public to see. They’re initially pensive, but eventually accept. Things seem to be going fine until they find that their children are being used in an over-the-top stage show “Octopia!” I don’t exactly know what to make of this third act twist; I get the appeal of the show of just watching cute little newborns, but it all just seems so, so bizarre. I feel this would have worked so much better as a more emotional, down-to-earth story, and somehow what we got is Apu and Homer breaking his kids out of a zoo. Then Homer gets attacked by cobras and yells and screams a lot. How we got to this ending confuses me more than it annoys me, but it absolutely doesn’t work. I really like the idea of this episode, and it has its fleeting shining moments, but there’s just way too much focus on the Simpsons (namely stupid, stupid Homer) for what should have been Apu’s story, as well as too much weird nonsense, like Butch Patrick showing up. A promising, but ultimately disappointing episode.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I like the idea of making fun of IKEA with SHOP. Too bad none of the jokes really worked. Makes me hungry for some Swedish meatballs though.
– Like Apu’s rationale for deciding to have kids (“I have noticed that this country is dangerously underpopulated.”)
– The pregnancy test, for some reason, works like a Vegas slot machine. Apu and Manjula get two babies… and a lemon (“All that sex for nothing!” “Well, that is a pretty grim assessment.”)
– I like the demanding, fickle nature of the media, hoping to squeeze stupid sound bites out of Apu and Manjula and lavishing them with gifts, until they rescind them all when they find out about the next “freak show”: the Shelbyville Nine (“Would you say that you’re on cloud nine?” “We’re on cloud nine!”)
– Apu lying on the floor with his eight bottle harness is wonderfully disturbing (“Welcome to my nightmare…”) I also like when he goes off with Kidkill, no questions asked (“But you don’t even know who he is!” “Who cares, there’s only one of him!”)
– Great quick line where Kidkill calls the octuplets “the eight wonders of the third world.”
– It’s really dumb, but I always liked Homer mixing up chloroform with Colorforms.
– The ending really doesn’t make any sense, why would Kidkill immediately accept the offer of this stranger he’s never met in losing the octuplets? It’s just ridiculous. Homer writhing in pain being bitten by cobras and a mongoose as the show’s big finish is pretty disconcerting; this is the show’s version of a hilarious finale now.