(originally aired April 9, 2000)
So here we have our last of the “big change” episodes of this season, where Barney takes a vow of sobriety. And like all the other changes, it barely had any effect on the rest of the series. Barney was still always planted at Moe’s, only now they rotated in a new clean model sheet for him and gave him a coffee mug in place of a beer stein. And then a few seasons later he was off the wagon. So forget about the “impact” of this episode because there isn’t one, we’ll take it as its own story. I do feel like it could have been a lot worse… but similarly feel it could be a lot better too. So rock bottom for Barney is when he sees videotape of his birthday party, which he doesn’t remember, where he gets absolutely plastered, per usual. Seeing this footage horrifies him, and he vows to give up drinking. In its place, he challenges himself to take up helicopter lessons. It isn’t long before he and Homer have a falling out regarding Barney musing of the time he wasted at Moe’s, and the two must patch things up before show’s end.
To be honest, this isn’t really a story I cared much about seeing. It took us eleven seasons to come up with the concept that the town drunk should go sober? Maybe they thought it would tread over the same ground as “Duffless.” And now I have to compare this to that great episode now. Alcohol is Barney’s life, being drunk is his primary character trait. If done in an interesting way, taking that away from him could be interesting, to give him a whole new side of his personality. Bring back the academic Barney we’ve seen in flashbacks, but with a twist. Here, we really barely see Barney actually struggling with wanting a beer; compare this with the eternal struggle Homer had all throughout “Duffless.” Speaking of, Homer is all over this episode of course, and serves only to distract and annoy. A killer scene is when he and Barney have their falling out in the helicopter, where Homer basically acts like a petulant irrational child. Barney explains to Homer that while he’ll always cherish his Moe’s memories, he’d rather not spend his days getting smashed beyond belief. Homer’s reaction: “Oh, so you’re better than me, is that it!” He then tells Barney to take him home or he’ll scream, and cries up the stairs like a little girl once home. Always good to make your hero a petty, insufferable baby, right?
Though there’s plenty of material you could have gotten from the A-story, the writers ran low I guess, so we have our side story of Bart and Lisa going around town trying to find the perfect picture to enter to be the new Springfield phone book cover. It’s amusing enough as filler, but in the end intertwines with the main story when the two are caught in a wildfire, and it’s up to Barney and his helicopter to save the day. The climax is a bit over the top, but dramatic enough. I do like the stupidness of how Barney almost relapses, and how Homer takes one for the team, and how touched Barney is by it (“You brave man. You took six silver bullets for me!”) With any other character, it wouldn’t work, but with Barney, who knows beer better than anyone, knows the impact and the danger it has. So here I am once more at another impasse: an episode that’s sort of middle of the road. There are a few bits that I did enjoy about it, but the plot really could have been expounded on more to give us more insight into Barney and his addiction. Instead we got lots of dumb Homer jokes. Plus knowing the writers would do nothing with sober Barney, the feeling of it all being for naught lingers over this show. So yeah, nothing special, but nothing horrible either.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The opening with Homer and the tiki is absolute garbage, just more of him being a idiotic child rather than a dim adult. So he redirects the gas line, and ends up catching it on fire. He darts off to Moe’s as the fire is crawling down the line. The whole house could have caught on fire, perhaps triggered a reaction from something inside, and caused an explosion. Homer running from a raging fire at his home stranding his wife and children? Classic comedy!
– Great bit of Moe’s other tape, desperately waiting for a mysterious package to be slipped through the mail slot. I can only imagine what filthy, awful thing he’s got in there…
– Carl’s “morning-after” stationary is fantastic (“I’m deeply sorry for…”)
– So act two we see Barney cleaning out his apartment of all liqueur bottles and beer ephemera, going to start anew. Then he slides down a fireman’s pole into Moe’s, asking for a beer. Easy joke, yeah. But… he lives above Moe’s? We’ve see the building hundreds of times, and it’s very clear there’s only one fucking story. They could have just done a smash cut of Barney at the mirror to him rushing into Moe’s. It’s just another example of the mentality of, hey, we’ll throw this gag in here, who cares if it makes no sense or not.
– I like the asshole announcer for the phone book contest flashing the mailing address on the screen for mere seconds. Searching for a camera, Bart and Lisa check the elusive closet in the foyer, which is chock full of callbacks to previous episodes, from the Mr. Plow jacket to the town crier hat and bell.
– Nice shot of the Play-Doh factory. Feels like a good ol’ classic gag.
– Barney returns to Moe’s to make amends for his misdeeds (“I broke bar stools, befouled your broom closet, and made sweet love to your pool table, which I then befouled.” “Well, that would explain the drop-off in play.”)
– Firetrucks would be putting out the wildfire, but are all being used for Burt Reynold’s latest movie. Reynolds himself explains (“I play Jerry ‘Fireball’ Mudflap, a feisty Supreme Court justice searching for his birth mother while competing in a cross-country firetruck race. It’s… garbage.”
– I kind of like the payoff to the photo story, where Bart and Lisa submit the whole roll of film and are shocked to see the new book cover is them as babies sitting on the toilet nude (“I guess some baby pictures were on that old roll of film.”)
– Even Barney’s new coffee addiction could have been expounded upon. Just a little bit more than a quick joke at the finale; it’s a good observation of how one could jump from one addiction to another, where the problem isn’t so much the substance itself, but the dependency on it. I think that kind of thinking might be too much for the show at this point though…