256. Skinner’s Sense of Snow

(originally aired December 17, 2000)
Another one of those shows that just kind of falls into the ether; there’s nothing terribly wrong with this episode, but there’s just as much nothing notable about it. The kids get snowed in the school, and eventually run wild? It’s just kind of a very base and simple idea with no real unique or interesting twist added to it. As such, there’s not a lot I can comment on, but I’ll try and scrounge up something. So we have our select kids who chose or were forced to come to school on the snow day, so few which explains why they’re put in one class, so that’s fine. But we have a mix of the bullies and smart kids like Lisa and Martin, and the entire ending is of the school going under kid rule and them wrecking up the place. The more sensible thinkers either disappear, or the more minor characters show up in montages, like Allison for some reason accepting a mouthful of relish from Nelson. Maybe some more interplay between the kids regarding a plan of escape or co-existence would be good, but then maybe it’d just be a rehash of “Das Bus.”

Before that we have Skinner’s feeble attempts to keep the kids in line, who are quickly beginning to override his orders. He’s then inspired by his old sergeant days in ‘Nam to take charge of the situation. He sits atop his old army chest, which is brazen with “S. Skinner,” and reminisces of the “good ol’ days.” Now either Skinner stole the real Skinner’s chest, or perhaps this is from when Skinner re-enlisted in “Baaadasssss Song.” This is the first time since “Pauper” that they’ve tried to bring up Skinner’s old past, and it definitely does ring a bit sour. Certainly Skinner wouldn’t remember something that just didn’t happen. Or maybe he’s deluded himself to a point where he thinks he actually was Sgt. Seymour Skinner. Maybe that’s fodder for another episode, that Skinner has gotten so ingrained in the lie that he can’t distinguish himself and the character anymore. I know this is a long, nonsensical tangent, but I honestly don’t have much to say on this episode.

The kids’ havoc through the school is pretty much what you’d expect, and as such is not all that funny. Meanwhile, Homer and Flanders attempt to drive through the storm to rescue their kids. And wouldn’t you know that Homer is actually kind of a nice guy in this time of crisis? Just kidding, he’s still an asshole, somehow sawing off part of Ned’s roof to use as a plow blade, wrecking his car and insulting him at nearly every turn. Pretty insufferable, as always. Also, considering we have Ned to the rescue, why don’t we get anything from Rod and Todd? Even though we’ve seen them a few notable times (including the opening titles), I always have a hard time remembered that Rod and Todd even go to Springfield Elementary. You barely see them there. Here, they do appear in the background, but they don’t have one piece of dialogue. They just silently get into Ned’s car at the end and drive off. But then again, they certainly would clash with the havoc that goes on in act three. Maybe they could have been huddled with fear under a desk or something. I dunno. Anyway, am I done here? Looks like it. One of the most banal episodes ever.

Tidbits and Quotes
– There’s been a bizarre multi-season running gag with Homer holding up pennants for various events (or non-events; last episode he held a “Justice” one up in the courtroom.) I certainly didn’t laugh the first time they did it, and each future re-appearance has always left me scratching my head. Here we get a payoff(?) of seeing Homer has a whole bin of pennants; he swaps out “TV Sports” with “French Circus.”
– The Cirque de Puree is okay; there’s a few amusing bits, mostly from Marge, commenting on the obvious plant in the audience (“They always pick the guy with the wires”) and commenting to Homer that the contortionists are giving her ideas (mainly on how to become more efficient with housework.)
– Quick bit, but I love Captain McAllister hunkered down, but actually was just tied there by teenage pirates.
– Love the radio announcer jerking around the kids of Springfield regarding school closings (“The following schools are closed today: Shelbyville, Ogdenville, Ogdenville Tech, and Springfield ‘Elementary… My Dear Watson’ Detective School. And lastly, Springfield Elementary School… is open. And it’s open season on savings at Springfield Menswear… which is closed.”)
– “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t But Then Was” feels like it should be a lot funnier; the show has done a lot of bits like this in the past that were way better. I do like the stagehand sheepishly trying to get out of frame though.
– We see a lot of establishing shots of the school in this show, and up until the very end when the entire building is covered in snow, we see that the second floor windows are basically out in the open. While I don’t recall ever seeing people go up the stairs inside, there’s definitely a second floor, which everyone could have easily escaped out of. Then later when Skinner sends out the hamster ball for help, they’re on the second floor, and he squeezes him out, through a hole they easily could have dug through. Kind of a huge plot hole.
– “And where are the city’s snowplows? Sold off to billionaire Montgomery Burns in a veritable orgasm of poor planning.” Guys… seriously, stop with the sex jokes. Stop it. And Burns playing indoor soccer with a snowplow? Very out-of-character and not funny.
– Homer knocks into a fire hydrant, which erupts, and then immediately the water freezes and encases the car with ice along with it. Is it below zero out there? The water froze in less than three seconds. Between this and the goddamn ending with the giant salt silo… I hate everything about the Homer and Ned segments.
– “Okay, Skinner, that’s the last time you’ll slap your Willie around. I quit!” Now that’s a good dirty joke! That works. One gold star for you, writers.
– It’s a small joke so I can hand wave it, but that the permanent record page Milhouse rips up reattaches itself, puts itself back in the book and the shelves slam shut by themselves… is a bit much.
– I like this exchange between Skinner and Nelson (“If you get me out of this, there’s a hall monitor position coming open in the spring.” “I spit on your monitors.” “I know. That’s why the position’s available.”)
– “You did it, Nibbles! Now, chew through my ball sack!” Again, writers, stop. Way too easy. Way.

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8 responses to “256. Skinner’s Sense of Snow

  1. Its always confused me whether Rod and Todd go to Springfield Elementary or not…I seem to remember an early episode where Todd gets a paper aeroplane thrown in his eye in an auditorium scene, but other than this episode I can’t recall another time we see them there. And then in a recent episode it’s shown they go to a private Christian school. Hmm.

    • Maybe Flanders keeps taking them out and putting them back in? Like, when he was principal of Springfield Elementary, they were probably enrolled. After he was kicked out, he probably took them out. Maybe Maude urged him to put them back in. And then he took them out again. Ehh…

      …Or perhaps it’s just one of those unexplained mysteries, how it’s often the first or last day of school or Christmas (even though the characters never really age) on the Simpsons… or, hell, the practice of soap operas (I’m sure they still do this, to this day), it’ll take 10 days to get through one “day” yet they always land on holidays. TV calendars and shit.

      • Well, i should point out that, pre-Zombie-era, there were exactly two Christmas episodes, one of which was the first episode of the series. So it’s conceivable they’d only aged a year.

    • One really early episode showed Todd playing the violin at a school recital: “Come on Flanders, he’s not that bad.”

  2. I always assumed Rod and Todd’s ages straddled that of the Simpsons kids. Bart’s in 4th grade and Lisa in 2nd, Rod’s in 5th grade and Todd’s in 3rd, hence why in “Lisa’s First Word,” the boys are walking and talking toddlers close to Bart’s age.

    • Only in “The Lemon of Troy” does Todd appear in Bart’s class, and once again, that’s just so Ned Flanders can join the rescue team.

  3. This one actually bothered me a lot more than other episodes people usually refer to as the “stinkers” of Season 12. I think it’s because more than the others, it reminds me of how the show has lost touch with the greatness it once had. The show used to do such a great job of portraying everyone in Springfield Elementary as interesting characters. The hierarchy of the students made sense, and the motivations of all the characters, students and teachers alike, were believable and relatable. But in this episode things just make no sense, and it’s filled with all these characters that used to be 3-dimensional but now are reduced to empty caricatures. And I remember when I heard about this episode, it gave me this faint glimmer that it might have something good, because it was going back to a setting and characters that hadn’t been explored much since before the show started going downhill… but then it just took more of the things I loved about the show and tainted those memories.

    That’s what it is. Episodes like Saddlesore, The Great Money Caper, and Simpson Safari may have been worse taken by themselves, but they felt less connected from the Simpsons episodes I knew and loved. So I was able to watch them and enjoy the laughs that they did have without comparing them to older episodes. This episode stirred up memories of better Simpsons episodes and just shit all over them. It depressed me so much to see it.

    • Well, it certainly stirs up memories of “Baadasssss Song”, as Mike points out – and it also stirs up memories of “Mountain of Madness” (people get trapped inside a snowed-in building and start acting crazy), “Bart Gets an F” (it’s snowing on a school day, yet Bart still can’t have fun), “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer” (Homer has some kind of themed hallucination) and even “Homer Goes to College” (Bart and Lisa miss something finally happening between Itchy and Scratchy; here they miss them finally kissing).

      At first, I much preferred this episode to the previous Christmas’s “Grift of the Magi”. Then I learned a bit more about Jerkass Homer… and now I don’t *much* prefer this episode, though I still think it makes that bit more sense than “Magi”.

      I’m definitely not a big fan of the very end, though: the fumes from Ned’s virtually-destroyed car cause Homer to have an Arabesque hallucination for the second time, imagining Lisa as a camel-headed creature and Bart as a female exotic dancer whom he tries to kiss (“Aah!” “It’s no use struggling, my beloved chalamala.”) Then, as the car swerves out of control and crashes (presumably writing it off altogether and meaning that Homer, Bart, Lisa, Ned, Rod and Todd have to walk the rest of the way home), camel-headed Lisa pops up and says to the audience, “Merry Christmas from the Simpsons! Hooonk! Hooonk!”

      No. Just no. There was no reason why the theme for this hallucination couldn’t have been different (Far Eastern, perhaps?), and if the audience absolutely had to be wished a Merry Christmas, why not have ordinary Lisa do it in a resigned voice as we see Homer and Bart continuing to struggle?

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