(originally aired May 5, 2002)
Funny how we got two John Swartzwelder shows in a row; the last one being surprisingly sharp, and this one being… well, the exact opposite. The series has handled the idea of infidelity before in such great episodes as “Life in the Fast Lane” and “The Last Temptation of Homer,” but in this show, Apu actually does commit and have an affair; it’s not so much about the emotional connections Homer and Marge had with others as it is Apu getting his rocks off. It’s a different kind of story, but with serious ground to cover. However, this show is not interested in any of that; the story is treated as callously as possible to make stupid jokes and wrap itself up in a nice status quo bow as clumsily and illogically as possible. There’s a lot I hate about this episode… so let’s begin. One late night, Homer witnesses a shocking sight: Apu canoodling with the Squishee machine vendor after hours in the back room. Marge eventually gets the information out of him, and tells Homer he needs to tell Apu what he saw. Eventually Manjula finds out, and files for divorce soon after.
So there’s not much story here, but that’s fine because it’s dealing with a serious issue that has a lot of avenues to explore between the two characters involved… oh wait, we gotta cram the Simpsons into every frame, right. They’re all over Apu and Manjula’s lives. Where the hell is Sanjay? But surprisingly, I was more annoyed with Marge here than Homer, who spends the whole episode meddling and manipulating to get things to go the way she sees fit. I reminded me of Buck McCoy in “Lastest Gun” when she injected herself into his affairs. It’s a bit different here since the couple are friends of theirs, but her actions go from normal concern to abrasively rude and pushy, for reasons that escape me. When Kirk and Luanne got divorced, at her own party, no less, Marge lamented and stood by Luanne as a “friend” like a normal human being. Here, she’s made it her life’s mission to get Apu and Manjula back together. She randomly appears in their apartment, having trained the octuplets to plead for their father back, which is a one-off gag but has some severely creepy undertones to it. She also has her kids dressed in a crude Ganesh costume commanding them to get back together, which she refers to as “this thing.” How unbelievably offensive must that be to them? I can see Homer dressing up like him and being a buffoon at their wedding, but for Marge to do this? She should have more sense.
Characters continue to act bizarre and alien, and combined with callous jokes about suicide and sex puns, really detract from any serious intentions this episode ever even thought about covering about adultery. I have no idea if they wanted this to be treated with any kind of seriousness whatsoever, because the episode is completely aloof from beginning to end. The biggest indicator is the ending: to come back home and be “forgiven,” Apu must perform a list of tasks for Manjula, which are all jokes, like changing his name to “Slime Q. Slimedog,” and performing “My Fair Lady” with the octuplets. Why should I even bother? But that also presents us with a telltale scene. I’m sure there are others just like it, but it rung completely false and awful with me, and indicative of problems we’ve seen and problems we will continue to see as seasons go on. After the performance of “Lady,” we have this exchange between Homer, Lisa and Bart (“It was magic. He took a cockney flower girl and turned her into My Fair Lady!” “I liked all the roles filled by minority actors.” “Why, I didn’t even notice!”) Those three would never say these lines. These are lines that were written, and then just given to the characters. Even if they were saying it all jokingly, it wouldn’t play right. But that’s what this show is now, characters aren’t really speaking lines that feel true, they’re just spewing jokes and one-liners that don’t feel the least bit natural. And when you’re doing an episode about a dour subject like infidelity, dialogue like that really stands out, especially when the whole episode is full of it. This episode sucks, big time.
Tidbits and Quotes
– This is a nice exchange, and kind of classic bonehead Homer (“Are you sure you don’t want to come, Apu? In a Civil War re-enactment, we need a lot of Indians to shoot!” “…I don’t know which part of that sentence to correct first, but I cannot come.”)
– The Squishee Lady is voiced by… go on, guess! …Tress MacNeille. Is she the only voice actress on the planet now?
– The Civil War re-enactment doesn’t really have any laughs, though I kind of like how they comment how absurd it is in concept (“The Second Battle of Springfield was fought by the North, the South, and the East, to keep Springfield in, out of, and next to the Union respectively.”)
– The end of the first act with Homer walking backwards stunned goes on for faaaaar too long. Then they do it again at the very end with Homer on the ladder, after he had just been spying on Apu and Manjula having sex. When did he become a creepy stalker? First Flanders, now Apu? What a lovable perverted scamp that Homer is.
– The bit during badminton with the repeated sex slang terms might have been amusing, except they bash you over the head with setting it up and pointing at it. Marge comments how they have their game the next day, and very directly points out, “Oh, I hope no one makes any double entendres!” Thanks for setting that up, Marge! Then after every line, they cut to Homer and Marge doing the Charles Nelson Reilly collar tug. Couldn’t they have just let it play? Or do we think the audience is stupid and won’t notice unless we illuminate it with a big sign?
– I’m really not sure why Marge cares for goddamn much about this situation, to the point that she’s sitting on the couch crying watching Apu and Manjula’s wedding tape. She must have known other couples who have broken up in the past, who acts like this other than a crazy person?
– I don’t understand the gag with Homer wanting to involve Krusty in everything. More bizarre, out-of-character “jokes.”
– I guess instead of giving her any semblance of a personality, the Squishee Lady is just a whore. I guess that’s okay for what she represents for the story though. The “Do Me” licorice thing was kind of dumb and crass.
– My favorite bit in the show is Apu’s poorly disguised cover when Manjula asks if he’s hiding anything in bed; it’s just a great performance by Azaria (“How can you even accuse me of repeated infidelity! I’m so angry I could just fall asleep!”) Then he fakes sleeping, with “Completely innocent” muttered under his breath. But then later on the convenience tape, it’s played too far, with Apu during sex doing a Johnny Carson “Mmmm, that’s good adultery!” That’s just kind of… weird.
– The Inside the Actor’s Studio bit with James Lipton is pretty good, except feels like complete padding.
– Why the fuck would Homer and Marge need to tell the kids about Apu and Manjula’s separation? Why would they need to know? Or care? It’s just another desperate excuse to try to shoehorn the Simpsons into this story of which they don’t belong.
– Oh, and an overused Homer quote that I’m tired of, is when he goes into his low voice after a proclamation and goes, “And if they [blank]…” “Yeah! ‘Cause if they don’t…” “How much sex will be involved? ‘Cause if it’s some…” Enough already…
– I get the feeling that the writers don’t like lawyers. Not sure why… Maybe it’s the grossly cartoony lawyer at the start of act three that tipped me off, who laughs maniacally and dances atop his desk in devilish glee. What a pathetic attempt at “commentary.”
– I guess Marge is a pervert now too, wanting desperately to go to a strip club with Manjula. Like husband, like wife, I guess…
– Manjula walks in on Apu with a noose around his neck. Her response? “Oh, Apu, you’re such a drama queen.” That’s right folks, people with suicidal tendencies? They’re just being dramatic. What a bunch of whiners, amiright?
– The whole third act is garbage. Apu completes Manjula’s stupid inane tasks, he moves back in, the two of them are fine, the end. It couldn’t feel any less sincere or meaningful. Or funny.