(originally aired February 10, 2002)
Well hands down, this is the best episode we’ve seen all season, in that I didn’t want to claw my eyes out while watching it. Apart from its sloppy ending, it’s actually pretty decent, thanks in no small part to the great Jon Lovitz. They bring back an old character in a somewhat interesting way, and although they didn’t explore him as much as I’d hoped, I welcome this modern day Artie Ziff with open arms. Following the infamous incident involving his busy hands, Artie became the fifth richest man in America, with a company manufacturing a plethora of bizarre but useful doo-dads. But through it all, he still harbors a deep, somewhat insanely obsessive yearning for the one that got away: Marge. Sparked by an email sent by a tipsy Marge (and punched up by her devious sisters), Artie pays Marge a visit, only to find she’s buckled down with a husband and kids. He offers she and Homer an unorthodox proposition: a million dollars to spend a weekend with Marge. Marge is initially resistant, but in dire need of cash to get a surgery to eliminate Homer’s snoring, she accepts.
I’d be surprised if Lovitz did it consciously, but I can feel a difference between this Ziff and his past self from “The Way We Was.” Strangely it’s like an inverse of what you’d expect of a nerd: in high school he felt more cool and collected, but here he seems more awkward and desperate. This makes sense for each story point though: “Was” has Artie be the steady pining best friend that’s in Homer’s way, and here he’s a man who seems to have it all, but is still unsatisfied. His twenty-year-old obsession with Marge seems a bit over-the-top, but I still buy it, like people who spends years dwelling over mistakes they made in the past and can never get over them. He may be successful financially, but it will never make him truly happy if he doesn’t move on. And in the end, he doesn’t (“Now, Homer, if there’s one thing that you should’ve learned from all this… it’s that I’m rich, rich, rich!“) But that’s okay; he’s a small man with a big ego, and I love him for it.
Artie recreates their high school prom for Marge, but she of course is not won over. So he reverts to his old standard: trying to stick his tongue down her throat. Unfortunately Homer spies on this from afar, misconstrues it, and by the time Marge returns home, he’s gone. It’s here that the episode starts to get wacky. He enlists Lenny to leave home and never return, who immediately accepts, and the two end up on a dangerous oil rig in West Springfield. I’m for the ending where Marge enlists Ziff to save Homer, and Ziff assures him that he will never be able to buy his wife away from him, but it’s just way too silly and random that they’re on an oil rig up in flames. Lenny could care less where Homer drags him or even that he’s about to die; in the inferno he’s just standing there with a glazed look in his eyes. Bizarre. But for the large part, I found myself enjoying this one. Jon Lovitz is amazing as always, and it ties in with a classic episode while still standing on its own. For an episode this late into the series, that’s quite a feat.
Tidbits and Quotes
– All the snoring bits at the beginning are okay, nothing exceptional though. The only great thing is the paper Marge gets hit with when she resorts to sleeping out on the stoop (“Sleep important, study says.”)
– Nice Sex and the City parody, “Nookie in New York” (“It’s a cable show about four single women who act like gay men.”) and how Patty and Selma, like many women in America, so clearly identify with them (“This is so like our lives.” “It’s like they hid a camera in our apartment.”)
– No Jon Lovitz episode is complete without him singing, which we get twice here. First as part of his invention, a converter that changes the dial-up modem noise into easy-listening music. (“Hey, com-puter geek, you will be connected in no time.”) Then at the end as a wonderful conclusion to the snoring problem (“I traveled the worlds and the seven seas, I am watching you through a camera!”)
– Marge dictates her email to Artie, and Patty and Selma modify it accordingly (“Dear Artie…” “Dear Hottie…” “Congratulations on your recent TV appearance.” “I want to sex you up. Your love slave, Marge.”)
– I like Homer setting up the ground rules for the lost weekend (“Okay, Artie, you get her for the weekend, but no funny stuff. And by “funny stuff” I mean hand-holding, goo-goo eyes, misdirected woo, which is pretty much any John Woo film…”) Zing!
– Homer immediately becomes insecure about the illicit weekend at the bar, thinking Marge will definitely leave him for Artie (“I can’t get Artie out of my head. He’s like a spy in the House of Moe!”)
– I buy that the people of Springfield would pretend it’s the 70s for a thousand bucks. I mean, I would. And of course, Disco Stu is working pro bono. Also great is that Ziff also hired Principal Dondelinger (“You’re not on the guest list, Simpson. Orders of Prom King Ziff. And have you been drinking?” “Just for twenty-five years!”)
– The Baron VonKissalot cut-away… so incredibly bizarre. It feels like a Family Guy joke, I have no idea what it’s doing here.
– Another weird third act point is the further “development” of Lenny and Carl’s relationship; basically now they’re prospective gay lovers. Or maybe consummated, I don’t know. You don’t throw in stuff like Mount Carlmore without raising some questions (“I carved that one wonderful summer.” “What did Carl think?” “You know, we’ve never discussed it.”)
– The only bit I like on the oil rig is Homer’s aghast when the fire starts (“Oh no! This is how Faceless Joe lost his legs!”)