239. Saddlesore Galactica

(originally aired February 6, 2000)
This is a pretty infamous episode, and if you’re a fan, you know why. In fact, I can feel your blood boiling through the computer screen right now. But don’t worry, we’ll get to it. And to dispel any mystery up front, yeah, this episode blows. Even before we get to the controversial third act, this show is pretty limp, with fragmented acts, sporadic characterization and plot turns, and spits at the face of the audience for “daring” to point out that part of this story has been done before (and so, so, so much better). We open at the state fair where Lisa is competing in an elementary school band competition, whose award is swiped by Ogdenvillians through their use of non-rule-approved glow sticks in their finale. Her outrage and seek for reprisal is played out through the episode, but there’s really not much to pick through here. The fair is your typical Simpsons set piece, except with none of the jokes really working at all. Instead we have Homer acting like an moron/dickhead, screaming at BTO and bemoaning having to sit through his daughter’s recital.

Also at the fair is Duncan the diving horse, an act that is swiftly cancelled when his owner is charged with animal cruelty and flees the scene. Bart, who has taken a shining to the animal in all of fifteen seconds, guilts his mother into taking in the horse. “Lisa’s Pony,” right? Except with none of the realism. We get a scene where Marge tabulates how expensive it will be to keep Duncan, which is absolved by the insistence that he can be a lightning fast race horse. And Bart can be the jockey, for some reason. Alright… Duncan is intimidated by the other horses at first, until Bart and Homer give him a new punk identity, rechristening him as Furious D. We haven’t even got to the third act and I already feel like I’m watching a cartoon: the horse has a goddamn nose ring and is glory hogging on two legs at the finish line. The relationship between Bart and Duncan could have been something sweet to be developed, but a large amount of this episode is focused on Homer as the “trainer,” reaping in the awards and being an overall asshole while doing it.

Okay, so here we go. The jockeys are irate about Duncan winning race after race and confront Homer about it. In their underground lair. Where they live in trees by a chocolate stream. And they’re elves. Mother. Fucking. Elves. But this is a trick, right? They can see how thick and gullible Homer is, so they concocted this ruse to scare him into forfeiting the next race. That would make some sense, right? Nope. All jockeys are elves, and if Homer doesn’t throw the race, they’ll eat his brain. Do I even need to comment? We’ve seen some pretty improbable and impossible things over the last two seasons, between sword fighting with motorcycles and the Loch Ness being real, but this just takes the cake. At least Burns seeked Nessie for a purpose and it had a pay-off. Here Duncan races and wins anyway, the elves chase Homer and Bart with swords, and they’re subdued by a hose. And thrown in a garbage bag. It’s like the writers could care less. And yes, I just used “Monty Can’t Buy Me Love” as a favorable comparison. A completely bankrupt episode with an inexcusable third act, this is complete garbage. One of the worst episodes ever, for sure.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I like Mr. Largo’s close-mindedness at the beginning (“Very well, Lisa, what rousing Sousa march would you have us play?” “Well, I thought for once we could play a song that wasn’t written by Sousa.” “You mean something… just arranged by Sousa?”
– All the fair stuff is crap: Homer being a dick posing as a veteran to get out of paying fifty cents (though I did smirk at him saying he was stationed at “Margaret Cho,”) and a useless appearance (and blatant name-dropping) by BTO with Homer yelling and screaming at them and being a brain dead moron. There’s also a bit that is so unbelievably lazy. Lisa bitterly comments, “I can’t believe those idiot judges were impressed by glowing plastic tubes.” What’s the punchline? Can you guess? Homer mesmerized by a bunch of glowsticks on his neck. Cutting edge comedy. Indicative of how low the standards of this show have gotten.
– Comic Book Guy appears to act as the viewer, and is promptly ridiculed and demeaned. It’s like the writers realized they were treading over old ground, then said not only fuck it, but we’ll mock anyone who informs us of this. It’s kind of like “Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie,” but way worse since that was an actually good episode. They’re telling us the viewers to shut the fuck up, and then turn around with this steaming pile of shit? That takes some brass balls, fellas.
– Random, stupid, and not funny dream sequence of Homer being rich with pearls. Just filler, I guess.
– More cartoony crap as we see Moe’s heart literally jump out of his chest like an old Tex Avery short. They make a joke about it, but it’s just fucking ridiculous. That shit shouldn’t happen in a show like this, period.
– I do think it’s kind of cute that Bart rides Duncan wearing his Krusty pajamas. And instead of a riding crop, he has a toilet brush.
– The few good lines come from the racing announcer (“It’s Chock Full O’Drugs followed closely by Stalker, with Old Levis fading fast!” “In a bizarre twist, a horse is abusing a jockey! Might this be the start of a terrifying Planet of the Horses? In this announcer’s opinion, almost certainly yes. And away I go!”)
– Shouldn’t… Duncan be disqualified for viciously knocking other jockeys off their horses? Oh wait, I guess the joke is that Duncan might beat them up too, so give him the prize, make him happy. Way too much consciousness out of this horse; as Matt Groening’s mantra, animals are a lot funnier when they act like… animals.
– A perfectly good Cake song is tainted by being featured in this episode. Quite a shame.
– Jockey elves, jockey elves, fucking jockey elves… even after 23 seasons, it’s still one of the lowest points of the series. And, really, there’s no point to them. The threat is absolved immediately, and out of nowhere. And even though they’re still pretty big, like maybe five foot, they all manage to fit in a trash bag. And that’s the solution? They can’t break free of the bag? The garbage men will come, notice there are living things in the bag, tear it open, then the jockeys will escape and kill Bart and Homer. That would be a more satisfying ending than this. And also the Bill Clinton thing, which would be funnier if it actually made any sense. Also his outro line, “Hey, I’m a pretty lousy president” stings even more now knowing who would come after him…

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15 responses to “239. Saddlesore Galactica

  1. i saw this and thought “oh i remember this one… it wasn’t too bad, was it?” all i really remembered was the “let’s make fun of dennis rodman… CONSTANTLY” mentality of the episode and the glue factory joke. i had completely forgotten everything else… maybe i blocked it out. but you’re absolutely right, this one is complete shit.

    and a side note, agreed about the distance too. that and song 2 from sunday cruddy sunday, off the top of my head, are perfect examples of how they’re now just using songs for no real reason, like a shitty blockbuster movie or something.

  2. VERY small silver lining, but I do like the song the jockeys sing. I hate that it’s there, but purely as a song, I think it’s pretty good. One of the last ones I can remember the tune to, at least.

  3. I really liked this episode as a kid. Because this was a kid’s cartoon show and not The Simpsons. “That’s why you’re still kids, ’cause you’re stupid!” – Roger Meyers, Jr.

  4. I agree that this episode is terrible, but there are still some episode’s in seasons 18+ that I hate more

  5. I’ll always remember this show as the point where my Dad said ‘These new episodes are getting crazier and crazier’, in a very weary voice. And this was only Season 11. Christ.

  6. Kinda entertaining for one viewing. Didn’t mind the wackiness as a one-off episode, but as we all know, it kinda become a constant of the show. What the fuck were they thinking with this one, exactly?

    It’s also funny in retrospect how often they made fun of Bill Clinton, even though in retrospect he was kinda the man. At least in comparison to most other presidents we’ve had.

  7. This was about the point where I stopped watching. The show was just getting zanier and zanier…and then we get jockey elves. And the resolution (water them down with hoses, toss them in garbage bags) was fucking stupid too. The show is at its nadir at this point.

  8. The Glory of Being a Clown

    Another good line from the announcer was how the Springfield Derby is the fifth, and penultimate, jewel in horse racing’s triple crown.

  9. Maybe if the episode were really funny, I could excuse the elf jockeys and their song, but really, there are only a small handful of jokes I laugh at in this one, and few of them have to do with the horse racing plot.

    And I agree, A.BRA C.ADAVER, as funny as Clinton’s final line in this episode is, it does date it pretty badly. I think a lot of us would LOVE to have the Clinton years back, if nothing else because America wasn’t deep in a recession back then.

  10. I hate this episode too, but not just because of its surface flaws – it goes a lot deeper than that. Much like “The Principal and the Pauper”, this is obviously just the writers screwing around with us by deliberately making an episode that contains all the elements that we’d been complaining about on the internet. The only difference is, “Principal” did it in a way that seemed to say “Isn’t it curious that television is like this, that any change in status quo will cause people to react so strongly?” while this episode just says “Fuck you, loyal fans, you suck and we hate you.” Gee, thanks, writers.

  11. After all the weirdness and general crapiness of the last couple of seasons, this is the one where I finally threw my hands up and said “fuck this shit”….and then kept watching for several more years before I found better stuff to do on Sunday nights.

    Definitely my most hated episode ever, even allowing for the occasional funny gag.

  12. This is a pretty bad episode, but the elf hissing at Homer makes me laugh every time.

    Yes, I’ve admitted to watching Saddlesore Galactica more than once. Please don’t hurt me, I’ve already suffered enough.

  13. This is the one that broke me.
    The Simpsons was something I watched all the time as a kid, grew up watching this great show and then it just started getting worse and worse.
    Then we got fucking magical elves in an underground lair and I realised this wasn’t The Simpsons any more.

    I wasn’t quite at the point of not watching any more but instead of religiously tuning in each week it became more of a “Eh, might check it out, if I’m not doing anything else” kind of thing.

  14. One of the worst episodes in the series (but, to be fair, I’ve seen maybe a dozen episodes to come out in the last ten years), and worthy of all the hate it gets. The writers are basically saying, “fuck you, fans, this is what you’ll get whether you like it or not.”

    The one silver lining, and this is only tangentially related to the episode itself – you know that “Simpsons Already Did It” episode of South Park? Well, turns out the Simpsons already did one of those.

  15. I always thought the Armin Tamzerian episode was worse. Then you reminded me of this one. I wouldn’t say it was my last episode for 10 years but it may well have been.

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