273. A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love

(originally aired December 2, 2001)
I guess the writers just love neutered Burns. It’s astounding how he barely even resembles his former self anymore: whimpering like a puppy, completely out of sorts with everything, and without any contempt for the common man. And any episode featuring Burns smiling more than he scowls is of no interest to me. This show is garbage like the last two, but a few token great lines kind of elevate it, but saying this is the best of the three is not high praise at all. Following a completely disposable bit with Homer writing fortune cookies, Burns seeks out true love. Why’s that? Because his fortune said so. Burns is a stubborn, joyless old codger who I’m sure decided a long time ago that he was better off alone. But now he’s off to find the woman of his dreams! Weeeeeee! More lazy, lazy writing. There could have been a more streamlined and sensible reason for Burns to want to settle down with someone, but fuck that, we’ll just slap on this tangential beginning and have Burns act completely out of character. That works.

Burns finds his lady love Gloria, a meter maid voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a woman who cannot be any older than forty. So, really, what is the love connection here? Why on Earth would Gloria go out with a man over sixty years her senior? I wish I could have an answer for you, but it’s never really addressed. I can’t even discern any personality traits for Gloria; who is this woman and why does she love Mr. Burns? When the big climax happens and Burns is inflamed enough to burst through a cabin up in flames to save her, there’s a giant lingering “WHY,” since we know absolutely nothing about Gloria and don’t care about her. This episode is actually strangely reminiscent of “Dumbbell Indemnity” with Moe: a character-less character falls for one of our less desirable regulars, Homer assists in their love life in some capacity, the police get involved and both climaxes revolve around a burning building. It’s worse here though, as it’s an even bigger stretch for a woman to be involved with Mr. Burns. The only explanation that would make sense is if she were a gold digger. That would work. You could even have it be a big Smithers story, where he sees her for who she is, and maybe he has to acknowledge that Burns is happy with her regardless and not expose her true intentions. Something more interesting than whatever the fuck we’ve got going on here.

So it turns out Gloria’s ex-boyfriend is the lowlife criminal Snake, which totally makes sense given that we saw she was a cop earlier. Not to say this can’t happen, but there’s absolutely zero dialogue addressing this fact. It’s as if the writers just forgot, or just didn’t give a shit. Either or is fine. So Snake ends up kidnapping Gloria and Homer and Burns has to save the day. When we get to the point where Burns is talking about how much he loves Gloria and that nothing is stronger than the human heart, I realize that Mr. Burns is basically dead. Honestly, this is it, how much more could you betray this once fascinating and hilarious character than this? The episode ends with he and the Simpsons walking into the sunset. That should not happen. EVER. The man who once vowed to spend every waking moment to make Homer’s wishes go unfulfilled has now enlisted him to help with his social life twice now. This isn’t Burns. In “Homer vs. Dignity,” he wasn’t a softie, but he was like some kind of cartoon villain, gleefully pranking people and being generically evil. So this is Burns now: either a clueless old pushover, or Snidely Whiplash. Might as well kill him off at this point.

Tidbits and Quotes
– George Takei returns as the waiter at the Chinatown restaurant, and is completely wasted with maybe thirty seconds of screen time. Why didn’t they have him be the manager? He had more lines. Or why not both? In fact, have him voice every character in the episode. I’d love to have seen that.
– The fortune cookie plot really makes no sense to me, I can’t even be bothered to pick it apart to analyze it. The only bit I like is that faux Woody Allen has a tiny wastebasket to match the tiny paper he’s using.
– The split-second we see of Smithers’ complete lack of interest in Burns’ “womanizing” just makes me wish this episode was more about he and Burns’ relationship. He basically disappears in the second act for no reason at all, why not focus on him more? But no, we’ll just have him moan in terror at the sight of girls’ tits and asses and get him out of the episode.
– The interplay between Gloria and Burns is painful, every line feels so forced and unnatural. I don’t get any sense of why these characters like each other at all, let alone are in love. The only bit I like on their date is when Gloria comments, “I really feel safe with you. It’s like going out with my brother.” Burns immediately thinks, “Yes! It’s going great!”
– We need Homer in the scene as Gloria is dropping off Burns at night. But how do we get him there? “Stop that dog! It has my gum!” Well done, raises all around!
– Nice exchange after Gloria and Burns bust a rug on the dance floor (“I gotta admit, you can really shake it.” “Oh, yes, it’s totally voluntary.”)
– “Put my hand on her knee. …I said ‘her.’ And I said ‘knee.'” So Homer put Burns’ hand on his genitals. What’s with all the Homer gay jokes?
– The bit in the montage of Burns and Gloria sucking face at the movies is disgusting. Honestly, this story makes absolutely no sense. The whole age issue is completely swept under the rug. If it had been more of a focus, and treated in a slightly more serious light, I could maybe buy this, but this episode could care less about being anything but completely bargain basement.
– My favorite line in the episode? “Can I have some ice cream? I finished my pizza.” Homer’s been dragged around by Burns the entire episode, in that shot, he’s like a kid, looking around aimlessly, not caring about what’s going on. I don’t know why, but I laugh. I also love Burns announcing he’s about to “expel some urine.” I used to announce it that way myself for a while.
– The Pistol Whip dream of Homer’s is pretty good, as is this line from Burns (“I don’t understand. She was my sexy young fiancée, he was my sexually virile best friend, and they just drove off in my Bugatti Sexarossa. How could this ever have happened?”) And Wiggum commenting on Lou setting his sniper sights on Homer (“That’s a sweet shot, he’s tied to a chair!”) See, there are some good jokes here. It’s just everything else that’s absolute shit.
– The ending with Gloria going back to Snake is abrupt and makes no sense. I guess that’s one character trait I can give her: fickle. Then oddly enough Gloria would reappear every now and then, still with Snake. Like, she’d just randomly show up for a line every couple of seasons. Why bother? Why pay Louis-Dreyfus to come in for one line of a character nobody cares about?

13 responses to “273. A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love

  1. As bad as this episode is (it is bad) there is an episode with CBG dating skinner’s mom. Just… kill… bleh

    • Yep, that was bad, I already covered that in “Worst Episode Ever” in season 12. But here’s some very important differentiations.
      1. CBG is forty five, and Agnes is probably in her late seventies. So that’s half the age difference of Burns and Gloria.
      2. CBG and Agnes are two established characters who shared some kind of connection. I didn’t entirely like the way it was handled or what that connection was, but at least we’re given a reason why they like each other.
      3. That relationship “subplot” was only in the third act. This one is the whole goddamn episode.

      • Christ did that episode happen before this? It did, didn’t it. That’s awful and also terrible.

        This is a bad episode, but I do like the design for Gloria [in an entirely superficial way]. I recall there being a call back (that I enjoyed at the time) with her being a flag girl for an illegal drag race involving snake in a later episode.

      • Yeah, that’s later in this very season. It involved Snake almost pulling her tube top off. I remember 14-year-old me definitely liked that.

  2. I reckon “Duffless” ended with Homer and Marge driving into the sunset, with an uplifting song playing on the background to boot.

    As you’ve said previously regarding Homer’s dexterity on “Whacking Day”, it’s not so much the act itself but the execution.

    • My issue certainly isn’t with characters walking into the sunset. Plenty of classic episodes have ended that way (“There’s No Disgrace Like Home,” “Home Sweet Home-Diddly-Doodly”) My issue is it’s the Simpsons walking off happily with Mr. fucking Burns.

      • Not to mention that it’s apparently how a LOT of season 7 episodes end. There was a post on DHS pointing it out and ruminating over whether it actually had any significance or not.

    • Duffless is probably my favourite ending to an episode after Mother Simpson & And Maggie Makes Three. I thought it was incredibly sweet.

  3. let’s take a look at the classic “burns falls in love” episodes

    marge gets a job: burns falls for marge -> vainly tries to win her over -> has tom jones kidnapped for her -> fires her when she tells him she’s married -> show ends with burns treating marge and homer to tom jones performing in shackles

    burns’ characterization: nasty, petty, but nonetheless completely human

    lady bouvier’s lover: grandma bouvier falls for burns -> he proposes -> acts like a total cretin at the wedding -> they don’t get married

    burns’ characterization: utterly despicable, but understandable since he’s not the main character is this

    this swill, on the other hand, has absolutely no sound characterization or plot development. i haven’t seen it in years but i’m pretty certain you could switch out mr. burns for, i dunno, lenny and have it make just as much sense

  4. Speaking of killing off characters, rumor has it GRandpa Simpson dies in season 24. No shit.

  5. While i absolutely hated this episode, I, for one, am happy they did not focus on how Smithers dealt with the relationship. If this were a Classic era episode, sure, but ZS would have just been gay joke, gay joke, Jerkass Homer doing jerkass things, gay joke, gay joke, nonsensical ending. No thank you.

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