(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.