297. The Great Louse Detective

(originally aired December 15, 2002)
I’ll reiterate what I’ve said in the past, that while “Brother From Another Series” feels like a suitable finale for Sideshow Bob, it doesn’t mean that they couldn’t bring him back. The plot conceit here is actually ripe with potential, and could have been perfect as a return for Bob (we’re just ignoring “Day of the Jackanapes” here, I’m sure none of you mind.) Now somewhat rehabilitated, Bob uses his intellect and experience as a criminal to help uncover an assailant after a member of the Simpson family, bringing him within close quarters of his archenemy Bart, that would actually work. But it doesn’t. It absolutely doesn’t, at least not the way they do it here. Brain dead Homer overload, a complete lack of focus and the complete sullying of one of the greatest, most classic one-off characters kills this episode completely. We start with a family trip to a sauna, which is virtually joke-free, ending in an unidentified man trying to kill Homer by locking him in a steam room. When the police are inept to finding the perpetrator, as expected, there’s only one man they can turn to: Sideshow Bob, who agrees to help in exchange for first pick in the prison production of Man of La Mancha. At least that’s in character.

Strike one: the Simpsons are given a button that will activate a shock collar on Bob if he steps out of line. How often do you think they use that? Many, many times, in a lot of cases just used as a joke for joke’s sake, provoked by absolutely nothing. Even Marge does it once, which is completely outside her character. Speaking of, do you really think she would be okay letting a man who on multiple occasions has tried to kill her son into her house? But that’s the way it is with these later seasons: Marge, and to an extent Lisa, are mostly silent observers on the side lines while the Simpson men get into wacky antics. And by Simpson men, I usually mean Homer. Despite Bob and Bart’s history, the two have barely any interaction in this episode. It’s all about Homer, who is just a complete moron from beginning to end, more so than normal. He starts by listing off his enemies to Bob, which he has a lot of, most of which he names are from the last five seasons. Once a regular average man, now all of a sudden he has a laundry list of people who want him dead. Then Bob sets up a trap with a dummy Homer on the lawn, who is quickly brutally attacked by various members of the community. Patty and Selma drive by, chuck a cinder block at the dummy, ripping its head off, and drive off. Marge’s reaction to seeing her sisters seemingly murder her husband? “These are Homer’s friends and family, they don’t want him dead. They just want him to suffer.” Then Homer tackles his own dummy, like a mentally insane person. Bob asks the others, “None of this seems odd to you?” I feel I don’t need to say anything at this point.

So even though at the start of the scene Bob has been watching fall preview week, Homer is made king of the Mardi Gras parade, as a result of someone stuffing the ballot box with his name. During the festivities, it turns out the brake lines of his float have been cut, just in time for Bob to finally put the pieces together of who the culprit is. Turns out it’s none other than… Frank Grimes, Jr. It’s not really a mystery as there’s no way to get us to this point, but besides that, as a fan, I knew something was up when we saw the guy earlier and he looked and sounded exactly like Grimes. So he wants revenge for his father’s death due to Homer’s idiocy. But Grimes was never married, right? “He happened to like hookers, okay?” Frank Grimes, the serious, button-down self-made man, knocking up a hooker? Okay, great. Why not make it his brother? Steve Grimes? It would be just as dumb, but at least I can buy that. Maybe. Whatever. We end with Bob finally about to kill Bart, but realizing he can’t; as he explains in song, he’s become more invigorated with the thrill of the hunt than the actual hunt itself. So at this point the Bob series is really over, as we’ve seen that he literally cannot kill Bart, beyond the reason that the show would be over. But he’d be back again and again, extending his aims to the entire Simpson family, even though we know that it will absolutely never, ever happen. An atrocious episode; Bob was better left staying down.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I guess kind of worth noting, this is the first episode that was completely digitally colored, though it really doesn’t look too different than the last two seasons or so. It’s just one more step in creating the cold, sterile look of a modern day Simpsons.
– The spa set-piece is a lot of dead air, and just so many desperate, bizarre attempts at jokes. The masseuse asking ten-year-old Bart to write him a check? The yoga instructor doing his Johnny Carson? What?
– Wiggum ordering his prisoners by level of craziness is a pretty clever joke, but they just keep it going too long. Having the one guy react indignantly, Wiggum addressing him by his crazy name, then the mild-mannered guy revealing to be incredibly crazy. The act of Wiggum asking the two to switch seats, the normal guy and the disheveled guy, is funny enough, but then they just kill the joke.
– The show’s first shot at Disney’s California Adventure, which aside from west coasters and theme park nuts like myself, speaks to absolutely no one. And is just a pathetic pot shot really. And then they do it again next season in “My Mother the Carjacker,” a joke they were so proud of they even used it in the promo.
– Considering how they restrained Bob, it would have been neat if they had this episode just be full-blown Silence of the Lambs, with Homer and Bart going to Bob in prison to help track down the murderer, with Bob making increasingly vague threats to Bart. South Park did a similar parody when they had Officer Barbrady talk with an incarcerated kid about a toilet-papered house. But this show just isn’t that clever anymore, unfortunately…
– “This man has tried to kill me so many times, it’s not funny anymore!” You’re damn right. The show has been self-referential in the past, but the way it does it now just feels so pointed and gutsy. But gutsy in a way the show has no right to be. Yeah, these Bob shows aren’t funny anymore, yet you keep on fucking making them.
– Bob has a heart-to-heart with Apu about the dying art of robbery (“You were quite the gentleman. Today’s robbers, they are all snatch-and-grab; you understood the dance!”) What? Dressed as Krusty, Bob demanded Apu give him all the money, he took the money then ran off. He’s basically on the same level of someone like Snake, where’s the difference? Plus Bob was imitating Krusty, so he wasn’t being himself, persay. And plus it’s not like Bob revels in committing crimes, he sees them as a means to an end. The writers just referenced this old episode without really remembering correctly or understanding it at all.
– The assailant pokes a gun through the door at Moe’s and tries to take Homer out. Rather than going out and taking chase, Homer and Bob just sit there. And we get a montage of Moe’s precious memories with his pickle jar. Then next scene Bob is watching a pathetic TV parody. What is happening in this episode?
– Homer has been crowned king of Mardi Gras (“Woo hoo! Good things do happen to bad people!”) It’s a small line, but it’s very bothersome. Like Homer acknowledges the bad stuff he’s done and doesn’t think he’s an alright guy?
– Fat Tony and his goons gun down some guy right in the middle of the parade and no one even bats an eye. As long as your joke works, guys, don’t worry about shit making sense, it’s a-OK.
– I do like how Bob saves Homer by use of his old performing skills, shooting himself out of a cannon.
– Why the fuck do Homer and Bob go after Grimes on stilts? They could have caught up to him a lot quicker on foot. And Bob I can see, but Homer able to use them? Just… whatever.
– So we have our dumb music number and end on Bob getting shocked once more. The writers need to go back and watch the rake scene from “Cape Feare” and realize why it’s funny, because apparently all they see is someone getting hurt = funny, as we’ve seen countless times with Homer.

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17 responses to “297. The Great Louse Detective

  1. It’s quite telling that this was one of my favourite episodes of the season. I guess I was just so used to Jerkass Homer and post-classic Simpsons by this point that I was happy to enjoy it for what it was.

    I also really want to know how Lisa came to the conclusion that Bumblebee Man was the one trying to murder Homer. (Though I guess that would’ve made almost as much sense as the ending we actually got.)

  2. Oh dear lord, this one hurts so very, very badly. Nothing in here makes me laugh, not one damned thing. And Frank Grimes Jr. explaining his existence with “He happened to like hookers, okay?” – that’s basically the verbal equivalent of the writers punching the fans in the face. “Ha ha, we just shit all over one of your favorite characters! We’re so awesome!”

  3. This episode started out okay, as it had a Thunderball feel to it, but by the end, it was garbage. I agree about Frank Grimes Jr, as that makes no sense whatsoever. On the other hand, a man as lonely as Frank probably did pay for hookers, so that is believable, but his son seems to be too old for that to work. I mean, Frank was what, late 20s/early 30s? His son looks to be in his early 20s, but he cannot be any younger than 19, so did Frank get a hooker pregnant when he was 12?

  4. Frank was said to be 35 in “Homer’s Enemy”. Now let’s assume for a second that he had sex with a hooker at, say, age 15. That would make his son about 19-20, perhaps older if we’re going to include the years between when “Enemy” and this aired. I know, I’m thinking about this way too much.

    Count your blessings, people: This episode is still better than “The Bob Next Door”.

  5. A question: would a hooker really name her son after the customer who got her pregnant? She’s not married to the guy, so she wouldn’t have the last name “Grimes,” and I’m assuming they aren’t close so she would have no reason to make the kid a junior. Ahh well, everyone here has thought about this more than the writers ever did. To them, hookers = funny.

    Why they the felt the need to ruin a classic one-off character, I’ll never know. Oakley and Weinstein must have been quite insulted by this episode, as they and their writing staff went through all of that trouble to create the Frank Grimes character, and then this writing staff just pisses all over it, because again, hookers = funny. And as we’ll find out in later seasons, funny also equals replacing one letter of a product name and replacing it with another. Mapple, Steve Mobs, ha I’m laughing already.

  6. I always thought South Park’s parody of Silence of the Lambs with the toilet-paper kid was really fantastic; it’s depressing to think that The Simpsons could have done something similar with Bob (which would totally fit his character) but instead went with… this.

  7. Guy Incognito

    There is no way in hell Grimes could have had a son. Not only did he seem like the kind of man who would have no sexual desire he also spent his entire childhood working, when he was 18 he was in a silo explosion for fucks sake so he couldn’t have had sex during his long and painful recovery. After that he had to work endlessly to achieve qualifications and afterwards he worked 2 jobs and lived between 2 bowling alleys. Where the fuck could he even find the time for hookers?

  8. I actually really like the idea of Frank Grimes’ relatives out for revenge. Even at this point Sideshow Bob gimmick has gotten really shopworn, and having a new reoccurring villain who wants to kill Homer would be a nice refresher.

    …but of course that would be somewhat ‘clever’ or ‘interesting’, and we all know the people want their annual ‘Sideshow Bob Breaks Out of Jail and Fails to Kill Bart’ episode as usual. By any chance, has Frank Grimes Junior appeared ever again after this, or did he just disappear in the same memory hole as Armin Tamzarian?

  9. The whole Frank Grimes Jr. thing really bugged me as well, and it won’t be the last one-off character they manage to ruin in the Jean era. Mona Simpson and Lurleen Lumpkin also return for some pretty awful episodes. I still see fans who want to see them bring Hank Scorpio back. I can only shake me head at the very idea.

  10. Yeah, I just finished Season 21 and I am glad they never brought Hank Scorpio back. THe season is awful, but sadly, “THe Bob Next Door” is the best episode of the season, which shows you how good it is.

    • I found “The Bob Next Door” to be pretty boring. The only Jean era Bob episode I really like is “Funeral for a Fiend.”

      • Even in Funeral for a Fiend Bob’s plan only worked BY CHANCE because Marge had a guilt nightmare which caused her to watch all the commercials (and for some reason buy everything on them… sleep deprivation maybe??) and did he stay in that phony restaurant all the time til the simpsons arrived or what? Pretty good use of an anagram there tho. I can’t wait for Mike to review that ep really and The Italian Bob.

  11. I know this is Homer at his most retarded, but I absolutely love the dummy Homer scene.

    However, I hate hate HATE the ending. We all know Bob’s never going to get Bart, so why write that Bob can never bring himself to get Bart? It kills any chance of tension in future episodes.

  12. Two absolute stinkers in a row.
    I wish Kelsey Grammer would stop saying yes to these things >.<

  13. While I agree on the defaming of Grank Grimes and the descent of bob from amazing to dull,I did rather like the bit where Bob tries to kill Bart.

    First lenny sets it up earlier about kids being easy to kill, then bob appears, slaps tape over Bart’s mouth and says “Now I’ll try a plan i got from lenny” before singing.
    Halfway through the song Bart pulls the tape off joins in only for Bob to replace it and say rather crossly “this is not a duette!”

    Well he’s not going to kill Bart, but he’s not having his musical moment ruined.

    i admit I probably like this because it’s based on the fairly touching my fare lady song and thus being about murder maikes it rather wrong, but hay, it was one thing I actually remembered in a zs episode and I’ll give anything where kelsy Grammer sings a pass, albeit probably a really really low pass.

  14. This episode made me question for the first time whether I should even bother watching new episodes of the Simpsons. It had been a ritual for my siblings and me since the early 1990s, and even though I’d felt for a while that there had been a drastic decline in quality, I’d kept watching. But after seeing this pile of shit, i questioned why.

    I’d hang on for a couple more years, but this is where the doubt was first sown.

    Fuck this episode for ruining not one but two great characters (though, in fairness, Bob was already pretty damaged by this point). Fuck Jerkass Homer and his Spunky Sidekick Bart and the pathetic thing that replaced Marge.

    Most of all, fuck these terrible writers.

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