(originally aired May 12, 2002)
There seemed to be potential in this premise… but ultimately it went unfulfilled, thanks to some lapses in logic and an unusually irrelevant third act. And a filled B “plot” didn’t help either. In order to not fail gym, Lisa must take classes with an outside coach. Here we get the return of Coach Lugash, who is hands-down the best thing in this episode. I love Castallaneta’s loud, boisterous read as he’s screaming at little girls that they’re going to be killed by poisonous snakes. I’m all for yelling at children, it’s comedic gold. So Lisa is in class with two other girls, who she discovers have intellectual hobbies, and then after that discovers are in college. Now, Lisa’s eight years old, let’s say she’s around four foot. These other girls are maybe about a foot taller than her, so I guess they could pass for extremely petite adults. But them mistaking Lisa, a child, as a college student? I just don’t see it. Plus, in the class, Lisa asks Lugash if she’ll be able to pass gym with the girls standing right there. The fact that she is in elementary school had to come up at some point during all of this. It’s a big leap, but strangely not the worst of this show’s issues.
So Lisa starts passing herself off as a college student to keep her new friends, sneaking off during school to ingraciate herself on campus. She also seems to sit in during lectures, which also is possible. But then they make jokes that the one girl cheated off Lisa’s test and that she got sixteen credits, how is that possible? She’s not registered for any classes, she wouldn’t be able to do that. Maybe since I’m sure Springfield University isn’t so well functioning, she managed to trick some teachers into getting her name on their attendance sheets or something. But that would have been interesting and amusing to see! Instead we have time filler with Bart in a plastic bubble, a temporary health measure when he contracts panda virus from a Chinese mosquito. Then it just becomes a cartoon, with various over-the-top gags involving the bubble. Bart is apprehensive and embarassed by the bubble in the first scene, but then after that he’s as cocky as ever, and even has developed a catch phrase for himself as new savior for nerds on the playground. All in all, it’s more time I wish we had devoted to the Lisa story, as it actually had… y’know, a purpose.
Milhouse notices Lisa sneaking out during recess, and he, Martin and Database go follow her. They find her in a lecture hall, and call her out on being a kid, exposing her charade to everyone, including Lisa’s new friends. This is the end of act two. Alright, to me, this feels like “Summer at 4 Ft. 2,” where Lisa gets new friends pretending like she’s someone she’s not, and in the end must be true to herself, and that’s what her friends liked about her in the first place. Do we see the two girls in the third act? Nope. Doesn’t really matter, since they’re not even characters. But one scene of them maybe still being bitter and not wanting to hang out with a kid would have been worth it. Does Lisa feel vindictive toward Milhouse for ruining her ruse? Nope. So what is the third act? Lisa feels ostracized from the other kids at school and wants to fit in again. Now… when did she fit in to begin with? Lisa’s an outcast from everyone else, that’s her role in the show. She never was accepted before. So Bart lends Lisa his bubble to play a prank on Skinner, and she’s celebrated by the kids, and everything is alright. What? Now, this might have worked if actually set up right. Maybe it’s like “Lard of the Dance” where Lisa realizes she has so many short years to stay a kid and decides to indulge in childish pranks and hold off on college for a while, and then the ending makes sense. But instead it’s all from Lisa’s sadness of kids mocking her for being smart, which they already did anyway. This episode could have been worthwhile, but ultimately ended up kind of… shit.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I’m not sure if we saw Mrs. Pommelhorst before this, but I kind of like the character, a burly, butch, no nonsense gym teacher with a Tress MacNeille voice I can stomach. Later the writers thought it would be hysterical to make multiple jokes about how she was getting a sex change. Get it? Because if you’re a woman and you seem really masculine, that means you want to get a sex change!
– To convince her to take Lugash’s class, Lisa has a hallucination of meeting President Kennedy, convincing her that athletics are just as important as academics. It’s a very confusing and pointless sequence, with the only joke being that Kennedy is in hell, I guess. Biting.
– I love the design on the Krusty poster in the Chinese sweat shop. The sweat shop itself is a bit of an easy joke though.
– Lugash’s explanation of Lisa’s aerodynamic qualities is great (“God give you greatest gift: big head! Like beach ball made of bone! Gives you perfect balance! See you tomorrow! Rest your giant head!”)
– Robert Pinsky guest stars, and does a fine job. Though I think I like the material of the emcee introducing him better (“Now open your minds for the Coltrane of the quatrain, the Tony Danza of the AB stanza!”)
– Lisa comes to campus to find it completely deserted. Turns out everyone’s taking Anthro 101: Passive Analysis of Visual Iconography. The class just watches Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, and projects bullshit messages and meanings to them (“It show show the depletion of our natural resources has pitted our small farmers against each other.” “Yes… and birds go tweet. What else?”)
– I’m surprised they brought back Lisa’s gymnast skills to get her up the tree, and that they even merged the two stories at all in the end. And it all might have worked if they set it up in a way that made sense for Lisa.
– In the end, we get this golden gem from Ralph (“Look! It’s Lisa! And she’s winning us back!”) I can’t express how much I hate this line. Combined with the nonsensical third act turn, it being Ralph saying it, and the complete written nature of the line… it’s fucking awful. It may be my least favorite line in the whole series, though there are probably others that are worse. What’s your least favorite line ever? Send me a message at email@example.com. Just kidding. Just post a comment.