245. Kill the Alligator and Run

(originally aired April 30, 2000)
I think at some point, John Swartzwelder noticed the decline of the series or he himself lost interest, and just began punking his fellow writers, and then nobody got the joke. The man responsible for some of the greatest episodes of the series’ prime now has his name attached to some of the worst of these later years. Now either the scripts got completely botched in the rewrites (of which Swartzwelder is not present), or he’s just fucking with us. I kinda feel it to be both; you flip through some of his novellas and you know that not only is he still hysterical, but he is quite partial to over-the-top silliness. So basically I’m not entirely sure who to point the blame for some of these episodes, particularly this one, definitely one of the worst of the entire series. Messy, uninspired, derivative, directionless… I could throw about more negative adjectives, or I could just give you a plot synopsis. I don’t even need to critique that much; just read this shit. It speaks for itself.

Homer is shocked after taking a magazine quiz revealing he only has three more years to live. It’s basically the beginning of “Wizard of Evergreen Terrace,” but worse, where we have him become a sleep-deprived insane wreck. A lot of times Homer has acted like a mental patient, but here where he actually is one, it’s just as not funny. The plant psychiatrist suggests he take a sabbatical, and soon the family is off to sunny Florida to get some rest. Unfortunately they’ve arrived during a rowdy spring break bash. Despite him being completely incapacitated prior, Homer is now an insane wannabe party animal, acting as boorish and obnoxious as possible. There’s also a runner of him trying to look cool to today’s youth, another plot string that’s been lifted from a previous episode. When spring break ends, Homer tries to keep the party going and drags his family along with him, but ends up mowing down the beloved town mascot, Captain Jack the gator. Now the family is on the run from the law, and holy shit, we’re not even to act three yet…

So more crazy shit happens… they work at a diner in the middle of bumfuck nowhere, they’re caught and put in a chain gang, end up catering at a fancy high class party for some reason, then try to escape and fail, then the gator’s alive again and they can go. Whatever. What a fucking travesty of an episode. There’s just so much shit in here that makes so little sense it’s frustrating. Why would Homer want to tackle a lost child? Why would the entire family fall asleep while their goddamn car is being pushed by a train? Why does the family become a bunch of hicks for some reason? Why be so complicit with Homer after he’s basically ruined everything? As you may have guessed, there’s no concurrent theme here; it’s like they had four stories lying around and just pieced them together. They attempt to justify that Homer’s exhaustion from partying and subsequent passing out cured his insomnia, but it’s done so haphazardly. This episode doesn’t care about its own rules, or logic, or proper characterization, or humor. It’s just a bunch of stuff that happens, but done in the least coherent and least funny way possible. A true landmark of awfulness for the series.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Homer’s a swell guy right off the bat giving Flanders a ‘sex test’ and belittling him for all the crying he did. Apparently he forgot that his wife died (“Six months ago. You were at the funeral. You fell into the grave!” “Oh, yeah. I saw a gopher. What a day!”) Fuck Homer.
– I did smirk at the ridiculous set-up for one of Homer’s quizzes (“There’s a black widow at the door, a rattlesnake in the window, and a scorpion on the phone…”)
– Why would Marge recoil in horror after checking Homer’s life expectancy quiz? She shouldn’t be giving it any credence at all.
– More useless guest stars to add to the pile. Was having Charlie Rose and Robert Evans on the show really necessary?
– If nothing else (and really, there is nothing else), this episode gave me the moniker of Florida being “America’s Wang,” which has come in handy since I’ve moved here.
– Do the writers realize when they’ve turned Homer into an asshole, and how it’s really kind of worrying? Act one ends with him helping some rowdy teens flip the car with his wife and children, including an infant, inside. They could have been really hurt. But oh that wacky Homer, so fuuunnnnnyyy…
– I don’t mind Kid Rock and Joe C., they fit perfectly into spring break. It’s just they have no material written for them. They’re just reacting to Homer’s moronic escapades. Homer’s just this comedy imp now, just appearing on stage for no reason to get drunk, then takes the mike and plays for the crowd. Just a drunken idiot raving like a lunatic. That’s our lovable protagonist.
– I did like the bit of Homer attempting to drive without a license, and being surprised that the engine was able to start.
– So the car jumps over the railroad tracks, and stops. We see the car has stopped in frame and it’s still on road. Cut back to the sheriff. Then cut back to the car, which is now on another set of tracks. Fucking lazy. What is happening? And once more, why would the family just fall asleep? Even for Homer this is a stretch. And the conductor wouldn’t have stopped after hitting a vehicle with people inside, let alone wait for many, many hours to do something about it? Fucking bullshit.
– I really don’t even feel like talking about this episode anymore… I can’t really dissect or explain what the hell happens in act three, because it really is just whatever the writers could pull out of their ass. Like there’s this diner literally in the middle of the swamp, that can afford four new employees, and the owner lets them sleep in her trailer. Then they get caught and are sent to prison for a relatively minor misdemeanor. People run down gators all the time. The fact that it was the town mascot, maybe that’s a bit more severe, but still, a jail sentence seems so harsh. And Bart, Lisa and Maggie are in the chain gang! What?! Actually, I did like this exchange (“No listening. You hear me?” “Uh, no.” “You just don’t learn, do you?”) Then later when the family tries to escape, whip guy whips the door shut then whips over a torch creating a ring of fire around them. And the family applauds him for no fucking reason. Then Jack is okay and they’re banned from Florida, and apparently every other state but two, in a fucking stupid ending to a fucking atrocious fucking show. …fuck.

15 responses to “245. Kill the Alligator and Run

  1. “I don’t mind Kid Rock and Joe C., they fit perfectly into spring break.”

    Disagreed. I always felt they were gratuitous celebrity cameos just like every other one the show was doing at this time. I know people say the same thing about Homerpalooza, but I’m a thousand times more willing to give Oakley & Weinstein the benefit of the doubt than I am this gang writing the show.

    You pretty much nailed why this episode is so awful. It’s stupid, and it doesn’t make any sense, and it’s not funny, it’s a travel episode for the sake of a travel episode, etc. I personally don’t blame Swartzwelder for this. I’m sure this got heavily re-written, and there’s nothing he could do about it since he didn’t attend rewrites.

    Calling Florida “America’s wang” is probably the best joke in this episode, but I think it says a lot about where the show has dropped to that the best joke is rather lazy and obvious, and of course sexual in nature. The best jokes of the classic era were character-driven, playing on the foibles of someone or some group. Now the best jokes are basically interchangeable and could fit into any episode.

    • Oh, I don’t deny that they were picked off the show’s long list of celebrities to cram into an episode, but at least having them perform at an MTV-style spring break concert made more sense than having Britney Spears randomly appear hosting the Springfield Pride Awards.

  2. Little Thin Man Accused in Robbery

    If any image summed up the show at this point, it’s the one up there.

  3. While “Saddlesore Galatica” (what the fuck kind of title is that anyway? Ugh) was the episode that convinced me the show had gone off the deep end, THIS was the one that convinced me the show had drowned with a cinder block around it and was then raised out of the depths, burned to a crisp and choked out by MMA midgets on crack.

    In other words, THIS is the one that broke my Simpsons spirit. Soldier on, Mike. Soldier on.

  4. Oh man …

  5. Haven’t seen this one in years; I think I blocked it out of my memory, ’cause I don’t remember anything being this bad.


  7. I just watched it this morning and it really is horrible. I noticed the bit where the second set of train tracks magically appear out of nowhere in the next shot. Very very lazy. Scully mentioned in a deleted scene for the Halloween episode that there was an animation error when Lenny was run over and then says that was one of the reasons why the scene was left alone cause they’d have had to redo it, so I wonder what the deal was with that bit. Was it an error, or were we supposed to be treated like idiots.
    Or was it a reference to Misery? In the book Paul is told about how she didn’t like obvious fake outs. Maybe it was a reference to that?

    Yeah right, I’m just being very hopeful. It’s obv sheer laziness. And yeah Homer going to sleep is not a patch on him falling asleep when Sideshow Bob ties the entire family up and Lisa thinks he has been drugged.

  8. God I hate this one.

    Lets see though, in an effort to be positive, whip guy’s “no talkin'” and then “No listenin'” was rather amusing in a sort of draconian way, and I liked the “Four chillin’s, eight youngen’s and a babby” line, and —– nope, got no more.

    I just hate this one. maybe because of me being in England, but the America’s wang comment never really amused me much either.

  9. Actually Mike, there is a very reasonable explanation for the third act. You see, the family died when the train hit their car, so from this moment onward, they have been living their lives in hell on an endless loop as if they are living the same days repeatedly, just with different scenarios.

    Anyway, yeah, this episode is just bad. Homer is a complete and utter asshole, especially with his scene with Flanders and I really don’t get why he is into Kid Rock. As shown in “Homerpalooza,” he wasn’t into “it,” so him liking Kid Rock makes no sense. Sadly enough, the Kid Rock bit is the one thing I have never been able to remove from my memory of this episode because it is just so god damn terrible. It’s not funny and I don’t get it. I don’t even get the whole “Spring Break” story bit. Does Florida really just suddenly become some mosh pit during one of their college’s spring breaks? Or is the show trying to say the entire country has spring break at the exact same time and everyone goes to Florida? I don’t get it.

    Moving on, I have nothing to say about the last act either other than my belief stated above. It’s the only reason anything is even remotely believable. Like Homer wanting Bart and Lisa to marry each other. WHAT?! The southern accents? The instantly being hired for a restaraunt that just happens to have four job openings? I want to say it is worse than Saddlesore Galactica, but since I didn’t just rewatch that episode, I’m not sure.

  10. This episode is just a colossal mess. Consistency and logic are completely thrown out as the family goes from one random, implausible experience to another. The train scene was so ridiculous it feels like the show just gave up on itself at that point.

    Another sequence that really gets me is the whole living in the swamp. Don’t know who thought it was a good idea for the family to just find a diner in the middle of nowhere, all get new jobs and go onto new lives just like that. Bart even mentions his teacher says he’s “whittling at a 10th grade level”, So they’ve been there long enough to go to new schools too?

    Honestly, it’s just plain awfulness all around. Although saying that, it’s still watchable for me if not taken seriously just for how bizarre and ridiculous it gets. I wouldn’t even rank it near my worst episodes list for that reason alone.

  11. “Hey! You’re stealing my trailer! …I like that.”

    *proverbial tumbleweed*

    Needless to say she’s voiced by Tress MacNeille. Almost as needless to say, they could have done worse here…

  12. This is it. This is the episode that made me first question, “Why am I still watching this show?”. It was the first one that made me think of giving up. I didn’t end up actually quitting until over a year and a half later, but this is the beginning of my end. This episode is atrocious in nearly every regard.

    For starters, the story is a disjointed mess. It feels like the writers took three or four different concepts (spring break, Homer’s insomnia, the Simpsons in jail, among others) and just smashed them together without thinking of coherently connecting them. It’s a mess of a story, and the story at times has little logic to it. The twist that the alligator was actually alive is such a stupid cop out, too.

    Some of the events of the episode are also really dumb. That train scene is ridiculous. The train conductor never once thought to stop the train while the Simpsons were in front of it? And they somehow fell asleep? What the hell? The train track animation error is also really lazy. This show has a pretty high budget and is watched by millions, and this is the crap that is considered to be of good standard? Absolutely lazy.

    The characters? They’re not good at all. Homer is in full throttle Jerkass mode here. He mocks Flanders about his wife’s death yet again in an infuriating manner, then later pushes his car over with his wife and children inside. They could’ve been killed, yet Homer somehow doesn’t care. The other characters don’t really do anything noteworthy.

    The story in act three, though? Goodness, it’s abysmal. The episode was already really bad up to that point, but then the Simpson family finds a freaking diner in the middle of nowhere that happens to have four positions for people. Then we get a horrible joke about Homer wanting his two oldest children to marry. Ignoring the horribleness of that, keep in mind this was the same man who freaked out over the idea of his son being gay. Why would he then be okay with this? Yet another fine example of the writers throwing in jokes regardless of if it makes sense for the characters. The stupid ring of Fire bit was also not funny and made no sense.

    Yeah, this episode’s awful. I do think it’s slightly better than “Alone Again, Natura-Diddly”, but it’s still abysmal. Atrocious, messy story, awful characterization, poor attempts at jokes, dumb celebrity cameos, lack of logic in just about everything… absolute garbage. I questioned why I still watched the series after this, but I continued on, but not for much longer.

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