(originally aired November 11, 2001)
This is almost like Mike Scully’s last hurrah: the last episode of his production run, and he co-wrote it. His last show was also a premiere, “Beyond Blunderdome,” and it was garbage, and hey, so is this one! It’s just one insultingly stupid plot turn one after another, which cranks it up to eleven at the third act when absolutely nothing makes sense, and worst of all, none of it is funny. Things start out fair enough when Bart and Milhouse end up accidentally taking off with a police car. They end up in court, but thankfully Judge Snyder is a big ol’ softie pushover, with his classic writ of “boys will be boys.” The bit with the Simpsons talking about how court time is quality family time since they’re there so often is a bit conflicting to me: they’re clearly not an average American family anymore, but to be fair, how can they be after twelve years on the air? I’m on board with the episode until Judge Constance Harm takes the stand, a boring Judge Judy-type no-nonsense judge who doles out unique punishments, in this case ordering Bart and Homer being tethered together, citing Homer’s negligent parenting as a source for Bart’s behavior.
This plot immediately makes no sense. How is Bart expected to go to school, Homer go to work, change clothes, do normal everyday functions, anything? But all of this can be hand waved if there’s humor about, but all we get is Homer screaming about night terror cobras or some shit. I’m shocked that they actually addressed that Homer works nights thanks to this new arrangement, but then does nothing interesting with it. Things come to a head when Marge and Homer are about to make love with Bart in the room, but Marge reconsiders. Why… was she considering in the first place? This leads to a fight between Homer and Bart, and Marge, at her wit’s end, cuts the tether. But not so fast… Homer looks at the loose end and sees a live video of Harm “through the magic of fiber optics.” Okay, let’s just say that Marge cut the rope right where the video screen was, that’d be dumb enough, but this is a live video, where she can both hear and see what’s happening, and her anger can set the rope on fire. The dumbness is off the charts. Severing the tether could have triggered some kind of alarm for Harm and she could have phoned them, sent police to their house, anything but this unbelievably stupid thing.
Harm now has Marge in her sights, believing that she is a bad parent. When Marge refuses to admit to that fact, Harm has both her and Homer put in portable stocks, which is even more dumb and inconvenient. They manage to break free in order to enact revenge on the judge, coming in the form of a giant banner labeled “BIG MEANIE.” I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of this is… I suppose it’s Marge’s softball vengeance, but this is our third act, there should be something big going on. It’s as lame as George Bush’s “Two Bad Neighbors” banner. They do the deed on Harm’s houseboat, only to be stalled by Harm’s freaking guard seal. Then Homer chucks a cider block, attempting to hit Harm, but ends up plowing right through the hull of the boat, sinking her house. So let’s see, Homer basically has an attempted murder charge, destruction of property, and I’m sure many, many other serious offenses here. But let’s hand wave all that, because Bart has a random, poorly set-up speech to make about how his parents are good and how everything is his fault. But then Snyder reappears so we can end the episode with no consequences. When your characters can do anything and get away with it, and weird impossible stuff can happen without much of an explanation, it makes your show… kinda stupid.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Wiggum has a Miranda Rights Teleprompter on his dash (“You have the right to remain silent.” [punch in the belly]) He uses it later upon arresting Bart and Milhouse (“You have the right to remain… silent? That doesn’t sound right…”)
– I really like the pathetic song-and-dance Bart puts on, with his cross and innocence routine, played against the old softie Snyder. Knowing it’s basically a done deal, Homer is anxious to get out (“I’ll bring the car around.”)
– Jane Kaczmarek is Judge Harm, who is basically doing her own voice (or at least as Malcolm’s mom from Malcolm in the Middle), which is basically like Judge Judy. And it’s really not that funny. But I guess the writers thought different as she kind of became the new permanent judge from this point out. I’m sure we must have seen Snyder come back, but I was surprised (and disappointed) the next few times we see a court scene and she’s there.
– All the Homer/Bart stuff in the second act is boring and stupid, and to top it off, dialogue that explains the story (“We’re sure learning a lot about each other!” “Yeah, this tether has some pluses!”) Then the Moe’s scene, which has a lame, now incredibly dated, Bush reference, Homer keeping his son outside in the cold for hours on end, and Moe inexplicably robbing Homer at gun point. Hi-larious!
– Lisa mentions that the tethering actually has been quite beneficial, in that Bart might get to be on the honor roll. Really? Well it would have been nice to see that, give an interesting twist to this plot that the unusual punishment is actually working. Instead it’s all just dumb unfunny jokes.
– At the beginning of act three, we see Lisa confront Bart about feeling remorse for their parents being punished for what he did, but it’s so quick and meaningless that it still makes his turn at the end feel incredibly random and like a cop out.
– To escape the stocks, Homer and Marge use Flanders’ buzz saw. Of course now, Homer’s whole arms fit through the stocks, when before it was his hands. But whatever, who cares, fuck you.
– Such a lame, uninspired joke where you see ‘BI’ on the banner, then it’s revealed as ‘BIG MEANIE.’ Oh my God, it’s gonna say ‘Bitch’! They can’t do that, can they?! Come on.
– Honestly, this really is one of the worst endings we’ve seen thus far. If that cinder block had hit, Harm could have basically been killed. Whether Homer had intended that or not doesn’t matter, and in the end, he still ended up destroying Harm’s house. And what happens in the end? Absolutely fucking nothing.