(originally aired January 9, 2000)
This episode has a weird presence throughout, for one reason or another, nothing really felt right for the whole running time. From the opening set piece to the main thrust of the story to the random ending, it was all so off, like some novice writer took his stab at writing an episode without really understanding the series. At the start things just feel so lazy as the show attempts to jump into the skiing opener by acknowledging how random and abrupt the transition is. It doesn’t work. The first act is pretty much laugh-free, save for the immortal “Stupid sexy Flanders!” bit, which is immediately made irritating as Homer gets hit in the crotch repeatedly at the top of his lungs. Hey guys, volume does not equal funny.
So the crux of the story is Lisa filling in for Marge in keeping the house together, but realizing it’s more hassle than she thought. Now, this whole premise doesn’t work for two big reasons. Firstly, it’s an egregious example of having Homer and Bart being partners in crime rather than father and son. Call back to “Bart After Dark” and their hilarious lazy and awkward escapades at having the house to themselves. Here they’re two big kids, horsing around at the hospital and Homer laughing derisively at his daughter’s request to turn the TV down. Homer is a man child for sure, but not to this degree. Second, I feel this role doesn’t exactly befit Lisa. It’s sort of reminiscent of “My Sister, My Sitter” where she wants to be viewed as more mature, but this is a bigger leap. Shows like “Homer Alone” and “Marge in Chains” have shown how the house goes to shit without Marge, where we see that Lisa is just as much a kid needing her mother as anyone. Lisa the authority figure just feels like her flimsily adult-child characterization she’d be saddled with later on.
To get back at her father and brother, Lisa makes them think they have leprosy, by applying fake oatmeal and poster paint sores on their body. I can buy this a little bit; you could use the joke that Homer and Bart don’t bathe to explain why the sores stay on. But when Flanders takes pity on them and sends them to Hawaii, then all good will evaporates. How could these trained professionals not see it’s just fucking oatmeal? It just felt so silly, and not in a good way. This whole episode is filled with either big dead spots with no laughs, or stuff that makes no sense and feels out of character. Like “Sleaze,” despite its laundry list of problems, I can’t say I hate it, but I certainly rue and lament it.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Even the Itchy and Scratchy feels wrong. It’s way too long with too light of a payoff.
– Lisa is in mini-adult mode in this episode, but still goes along with Homer and Bart as they try and get the box of junk back from Goodwill.
– The skiing opening is pretty much a dead zone. I like the name Mt. Embolism, but all the other material just kind of laid there.
– I hate Homer and Bart at the hospital, but I do like this exchange (“You’re wasting thousands of dollars of interferon!” “And you’re interfere-on with our good time!”) Also what happened to Hibbert being a competent doctor? A bone in Marge’s leg piercing her brain? What?
– Homer is not only a complete child but in full idiot mode here; having him talk into that candy phone like it was real was pretty aggravating in that’s what they felt was a great joke.
– I do like Tress MacNeille’s grizzled Lucille Ball voice, the sequence was kind of silly, but has the only few laughs in this show (“Lucy Macgillacudy Ricardo Carmichael. And I think there’s some more.”)
– I guess it’s kind of neat they got the AOL guy to voice the Virtual Doctor. Kind of. A little. …not really. Though I do like that it’s from the creator of “Sim Sandwich.”
– Apart from “stupid sexy Flanders,” the only other golden bit occurs when Bart and Homer claw through Flanders’ mail slot like zombies (“Braaains… braaaiins… use your brains to help us! Your delicious braaiins…”) There’s a few other amusing bits there too, with Ned being upset Maude saw Ben Hur without him, and urging the boys to get him the alcohol-free alcohol.
– It involves more Homer screaming and yelling, but I really like the performance of Castellaneta singing “Aloha Oe” punctuated with needle lacerations. And the Hawaiian version of the end theme is pretty great. At least I can give the ending that.