(originally aired January 6, 2002)
We’re two episodes in and I’ve already given up hope of anything improving under the Jean era. Even as an indiscriminate teen who gave most shows a pass, I remember not liking this one, mostly for its third act. But there’s a big fundamental issue here, one I hope I can articulate into words, something that really rubs me the wrong way, and seems incredibly telling of the show’s new sensibilities. If this episode is who they think the Simpson family is, we’re in for a long, winding road… of shit. We start with our tangential opening where the Republican party repeals all environmental laws. The headquarters is in the same spooky castle as “Sideshow Bob Roberts,” but any shred of subtlety that was once there is gone, with Burns asking what eeeevvviill schemes the Republicans have up their sleeves. No real motives, just good old fashioned evil-doings. And Smithers is there, despite what we saw in “Roberts.” And how could they push these laws with the Democratic Quimby in office? We’re two minutes in and I’m already pissed off.
Hazardous and dangerous smoke levels create a downpour of acid rain. With a dramatic swell of music, we think that this may be important. But nope, it’s just the catalyst for the Simpsons to stay inside and play Monopoly. How do we make this leap? This environmental story is ten times more interesting than what plays out, and it’s dropped completely. So a petty squabble over the board game turns into an all-out brawl with the family… for some reason. A fight that seemingly is continuous for a good hour or so before the police arrive and use their negotiator robot to trap them in a giant wad of taffy. I feel I don’t even need to comment on some of this stuff anymore; writing the summary highlights the shittiness by itself. So a social worker is assigned to help them be a family again. Here’s the problem with all of this: the Simpsons have always been a loving family. Despite their squabbles and tiffs, they’ve always appreciated one another and been rather close-knit. Seeing them pushed to the point where they seem like a broken family feels disheartening and weird; the problems that are illuminated are ever present, but are played in an incredibly sad, unfunny light. So when Gabriel has them do their outdoor exercise, I believe the family would be able to figure it out. Instead, we have Homer acting like a wild man and bashing the tree over with his car. It just doesn’t work.
Okay, anyway, here’s the horrible third act. Just as the family seems to have been repaired, who should reappear but Amber and Ginger, the two cocktail waitresses Homer and Ned married in “Viva Ned Flanders.” Now, so many problems with this, starting with I never wanted to see these characters ever again. Second, it’s so out of left field, and especially so to those who haven’t seen that episode. Then it becomes another show, where Homer must deal with having two wives; it has nothing to do with the family working through a problem since this incident was all Homer’s fault. The ending of “Viva” was so sloppy and preposterous, like a terrible gag extended five minutes, but at least it was treated as such. Here, the idea of Homer’s second wife is almost given some seriousness, with Lisa and Bart talking to their “Vegas Mom,” and Ned embracing his new wife because that’s what God would have wanted. Then apropos of nothing, Marge not only forgives Homer, but concocts an elaborate scheme: get Amber drunk and have her marry Grampa. So basically the same dirty trick that the waitresses pulled on Homer and Ned is deplorable, but doing it back to them is okay. And the Simpsons did it as a family, so yay, togetherness! The others turn on a dime in favor of the lecherous, loudmouth monster Homer, and everything turns out fine. Disjointed, unfunny, outlandish and crude, this episode is many things, but its most egregious step is in handling the Simpson family. We’ve seen many characters be pushed in awful directions over the last few seasons, but this is the first we’ve seen where the whole family, the crux of the entire series, be pushed and pulled with no regard for who these characters are or how they interact. Our once loving family has been reduced to ruin, then put back into place within the last two minutes for no particular reason. I actually find that more offensive than any of the Scully stuff. Could this be the worst episode ever? I dunno, maybe.
Tidbits and Quotes
– How could they go so far as showing a catastrophic storm of acid rain and not think they would have to address it later? Or put that as the opening to a different episode? All we get out of it is this hysterical sequence: the rain melts the TV antenna, thus killing the reception. Homer screams bloody murder, then runs outside, and screams again upon feeling the acid rain. Runs back inside, sees the TV, screams. Runs back outside… and so on. Castallenata’s vocal chords gets another workout. …oh wait, did I type ‘hysterical’? Sorry, I meant ‘cringe-worthy.’
– One of the only good bits from the episode is listing the different types of Monopoly, including Rasta-Mon-opoly and Edna Krabapp-oly. Marge sticks with the original version (“The game’s crazy enough as it is. How can an iron be a landlord?”)
– The dialogue during the Monopoly game feels weird to me (“I’d like to trust you, Homer, but you’ve been in jail three times.” “They told me it would be like this on the outside.”) Like, Homer’s not play-acting, is the gag that he thinks it’s real? I don’t know. Plus how could Bart have put down fake hotels without anyone noticing? Although it looks like he’s the banker. …I don’t know, I just think they could have had a better instigator for this story than this… Or not do it at all. That would also have worked.
– Homer joins his son in childishly taunts his daughter about not getting into an Ivy league school. He basically becomes Bart Sr. if the scene/joke/whatever permits it.
– Again, how fucking dumb is Homer that he thinks Gabriel is an actual angel? He’s a moron, but he’s not a fucking idiot.
– Okay, so during the family exercise, Homer snaps and backs his car into the giant tree repeatedly, which falls forward towards him. Alright. Very slowly. We see Gabriel under it, who just stands there and doesn’t move. He gets caught in the branches, then the tree falls down a slope we never saw into a chasm. Okay. Then the family comes up with a plan. Some go down to the tree and secure Gabriel in a harness to pull him up, and the other drive the car to pull them to safety. Let’s have Homer do the complicated part; his extra hundred pounds won’t be a hindrance at all. Plus Marge twists her “driving ankle,” so Bart has to drive. She couldn’t have used her other foot? So really, only Homer and Bart saved the day, the Simpson women seemingly did nothing. Brilliant.
– “You know, we’ve been through some 280 adventures together, but our bond has never been stronger.” “Yep, our family is as functional as all get-out.” “Could this be the end of our series… of events?” Why must you guys tease me like this…
– Judge Harm reappears, which is annoying. Then we have discussion of “mouth-whoopie,” Homer’s lust-filled string of double entendres while Amber makes him a sandwich… everything just feels so disgusting and wrong. With no home to go to, Homer crawls into the doghouse, gets it stuck on his head, and runs around like a maniac. Marge looks out the window at this and smile admirably. This is the most pathetic and sorry thing ever, and that is why she forgives her husband. No fucking reason whatsoever. Then they pull the same dirty scam as the waitresses did and they’re heroes. Pah-thetic.