(originally aired January 5, 2003
For the most part, the citizens of Springfield hate their jobs. It may have excited and impassioned them at one point, but currently all the magic is gone and they dread trudging into work each day. This is especially the case at Springfield Elementary: I’m sure Mrs. Krabappel went into the industry hoping to enrich children’s lives and make a difference, but at this point she’s as eager for school to be dismissed as the students. An episode about reinvigorating her love of teaching and exploring why she got into it in the first place could be an interesting character study. Or, we could not do that, and have Mrs. K be Teacher of the Year. What? Combined with this is the awkward reintroduction to the Krabappel/Skinner relationship, where we see Skinner being a pathetic toadying mama’s boy is holding him back from Edna. Now, he’s always been loyal and with little backbone to Agnes, but we’ve seen in many episodes that she really gets under his skin and would love to escape if he could. Here he’s just sad, copping to every one of Agnes’ whims; that’s basically all that happens in the first two acts, Skinner is about to do something or say something sweet about Edna, then his mother interrupts. We’ll repeat that four times to make sure everyone understands.
So going back, who nominates Krabappel for Teacher of the Year? Why, Bart, of course, who for some goddamn reason has gotten chummy and empathetic towards his teacher. When he sees Skinner cancel their date, he feels bad and offers to go out with Krabappel instead. Why? We’ve seen Bart try to mend fences with Krabappel in the past, like in “Bart the Lover” or “Grade School Confidential,” but only as a result of something he did to slight her. He felt responsible and wanted to make things right again. Here he just randomly asks her out for no reason, then feels bad about her and Skinner for no reason, and submits her for Teacher of the Year… for no reason. And she’s nominated! Never mind that Springfield Elementary sucks and the test scores from Edna’s class, and the entire school, must be dreadful, but she gets the nomination when the judges are shocked that she’s dealt with Bart, “the devil in the blue pants.” Who of course they know about. I guess that’s the gag, except it makes no sense for them to know about “the legend” that is Bart. Whatever.
The plot here is so thin, there’s not much more to mull over. The Simpsons attend the Teacher Awards at EFCOT Center in Orlando, where we take a break from the non-story to take some shots at Disney World, one of the very few good parts of the episode, probably because I’m a theme park fanatic. Skinner follows Krabappel there, but also brings his mother too. The two have a tiff, and then later Skinner discovers that if she wins, Krabappel will never have to teach again, so he has to sabotage the ceremony to make sure that doesn’t happen. Okay… what? So he has Bart pretend like he can’t read, in a sequence so incredibly clumsy. They set up that Skinner feels guilty about it, then Bart starts play-acting, and immediately after Skinner admits it was a fake. It didn’t even take him eight seconds before he had to come clean. It’s just dumb, they should have had him have his own introspective thing about what Edna means to him or some shit. I don’t know, everything here felt empty and clunky. I like the Krabappel/Skinner relationship, as predictable as it seemed, it was really sweet and charming back in “Confidential,” and to see it reduced to its lowest, simplest form like this is kind of sad. Then next season they’d break them up, and many awkward scenes of Skinner trying to rekindle their relationship would follow. Including one of Krabappel giving him a pity fuck on his birthday. Goddammit.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I do like Skinner’s complete lack of understanding of how dates work, it fits with his stuck-up personality, buying apples for Krabappel in place of going out to pick them themselves (“The apples weren’t the point.” “Then why were we going apple picking?”)
– Bart struggling to focus and do his research paper really reminded me of “Bart Gets An F,” which is really unfortunate since this show falls short in every aspect in comparison.
– Krabappel has Bart stay after school to write an actual paper on World War I. We catch them at the tail end of Bart actually doing well, and Krabappel commending him. She seems really pleased that he’s actually learned something, it’s a really nice moment. Too bad the episode has other, less interesting plans on where to go from here.
– I really, really hate how Krabappel was nominated because of Bart. I’m doing a lot of comparing here, but think back to “Stark Raving Dad,” where the mental ward heads are shocked when Marge tells them about their son (“You mean there really is a Bart? Good lord!”) There, the joke works because of how much sense it makes. Homer probably sounded like a raving lunatic going on about how horrible this “Bart” character is, but that he actually exists, he’s completely vindicated and free to go. But here, the joke is Bart’s a really bad kid, so bad that he’s known through educators everywhere as a bad kid. Why? I don’t know, who cares, fuck you.
– I really like all the EFCOT stuff… but not that name. It’s like a stepping stone to shit like Nintendo Zii and Mapple. But they nail all the stuff with the rides, specifically the nature of the pavilions being sponsored by companies. Eastern Airlines lays out its future plans for world domination in the Future Sphere, but even better is that all Marge can comment on is that it’s nice and cool on the ride. If you’ve ridden Spaceship Earth, you know how wonderfully cool it is in there. Even better is the Electric Car ride, sponsored by Big Oil, designed to make it as wimpy and pathetic as possible. This refers to Universe of Energy, a show/ride centered around the advancement of energy technology… sponsored by ExxonMobil. So guess which form of energy is touted the most?
– Homer and Marge make fireworks… literally, in a gag lifted straight out of “Kamp Krusty.”
– “This woman carried me for nine and a half months! I was out for two weeks, then went back in.” Hey, writers, listen to me, take a seat. You may remember an episode you did a while back where you revealed Skinner was an imposter. Kind of controversial, you must remember. That’s all well and good, but even though in that show you hastily restored the status quo, there’s one kind of joke you can’t do: Skinner can’t refer to his youth in regards to Agnes, since he’s not his real mother and he didn’t know her yet. You can’t make those jokes. Someone must have remembered and brought this up, and I’m sure that person was fired immediately for his insolence.
– The Ride of Broken Dreams Enron ride seemed a little too on the nose, particularly with the rider commentary during it, which seemed like an ADR add-in, complete with a guy at the end doing a Carson “Mmmm, that’s good satire!” Way to pat yourself on the back, guys.
– Skinner wants Bart to sabotage Edna’s chances at winning the award. Bart comments, “I don’t wanna hurt Mrs. K!” Who is this goody two shoes, and where the hell has Bart gone? Then we get a worthless ‘Nam flashback of Skinner stealing a cupcake. Like, that’s the joke.
– The only thing in this show I like besides the EFCOT stuff is, surprisingly, Little Richard. I just love his energy through the whole thing (“Is this true, Edna?!”) and how he tells an overly obnoxious Homer to shut up. That was a sweet, sweet moment.
– The ending with Homer crawling into Disney World is good too (“One churro please!” “That’ll be fourteen dollars.” Homer wails, then eventually cops the cash). Then over the credits we get a bizarre song from Homer singing about pie. I guess they were devastated it was cut so they crammed it in at the end, except it’s not particularly funny so I’m not sure why they seemed so desperate to salvage it.