298. Special Edna

(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.

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17 responses to “298. Special Edna

  1. I quite liked Skinner and Krabappel as a couple, but I think this episode marked the beginning of the end. Somehow, I just don’t see them as husband and wife, probably because it’s executed here in the hackiest, sitcommiest way possible. And the way the show killed this character arc in “My Big Fat Geek Wedding” was just awful, pretty much guaranteeing that the characters will never be funny again.

    I’m not that ticked about Skinner making references to his youth with Agnes. If “The Principal and the Pauper” is to be believed, Judge Snyder conferred Seymour Skinner’s entire past, present, and future upon Armin Tamzarian, which essentially erased the episode’s events from existence. Skinner is Skinner, and the real Skinner does not exist as far as Springfield is concerned. (But that still won’t stop the writers from making a callback to it in “I, D’oh-bot” next season.)

    The pie song kicked off a long-standing tradition of the writers cramming deleted scenes into the credits – I recall it happened a shit-ton of times in Season 16. Then they started putting in stuff like David Silverman showing how to draw the characters, or YouTube videos of other peoples’ performances of the opening theme, or whatever they could use to convince FOX to stop squeezing the credits into a half-inch box in the corner of the screen.

  2. This episode is just down right awful.

  3. OK, despite the deserved lashing you gave this episode, it’s one I really enjoy (you know, in a years-of-sub-par-Simpsons-has-lowered-my-expectations sort of way). A personal highlight is Grampa’s WWI flashback.

    Things to note:

    – I don’t think it’s worth criticising the writers for not keeping continuity with ‘The Principal and the Pauper’. That episode basically told the audience that Skinner’s (or rather Tamzarian’s) identity as an imposter wouldn’t be acknowledged in the future. It makes so little sense anyway that I’d much rather consider it non-canon, along with ‘Simpsons Bible Stories’ and ‘Gump Roast’. After all, fast forward to ‘I, D’oh-Bot’, where they bring up Armin Tamzarian just to shove a “nothing in this sub-plot matters, fuck you” message in our faces. Terrible.

    – How on Earth does Groundskeeper Willie have the most expensive-looking car ever? What a stupid joke. Skinner’s been shown to have his own car before, so it wasn’t even needed.

    • “I don’t think it’s worth criticising the writers for not keeping continuity with ‘The Principal and the Pauper’. That episode basically told the audience that Skinner’s (or rather Tamzarian’s) identity as an imposter wouldn’t be acknowledged in the future.”

      Yeah, but I can’t just forget it ever existed. After season 9, as soon as I see anything about Skinner that would conflict with that episode, my mind immediately goes back and remembers it… which is already putting me less in the mood to laugh. Then I go over in my head, but this is sort of possible, since the show basically established that everyone would 100% treat him as the real Skinner, but then that doesn’t change the physical reality of what happened. So now I have to make my mind see this as irrelevant to “The Principal and the Pauper.” I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it means the writing and jokes have to be extremely good, which never, ever happens in seasons 12 and up.

  4. Mike, I’d like to recommend that you be a bit more descriptive in your “Tidbits and Quotes” section for these later seasons, as I have trouble remembering the context of the jokes since the episodes are so forgettable. Thank you and keep up the great work!

    • “Mike, I’d like to recommend that you be a bit more descriptive in your “Tidbits and Quotes” section for these later seasons, as I have trouble remembering the context of the jokes since the episodes are so forgettable.”

      ha “context” “jokes” You flyboys crack me up. There’s no context for anything anymore, they just throw shit at the wall and hope it sticks. Did Sunday Cruddy Sunday have context? Did Homer vs. Dignity have jokes? Just like Grandpa’s car getting 40 rods to the hogshead, that’s the way this writing staff likes it.

  5. Is the pie song the one where he leaves the scene still singing but the camera doesn’t follow him and the rest of the family are just sitting there dumbstruck? I kind of like that gag.

    The Enron ride goes down as one of my least favorite jokes in the series. It’s just so clumsily handled, poorly timed, and over-explained. I could never tell if the gratuitous “mmmmm, that’s good satire” at the end was meant to be taken as an ironic acknowledgement that the joke sucked, but suck it did.

    • ^ Yeah, the Enron joke would’ve been fine without the probably ADR’d voiceover explaining it; you can understand it from the visuals.

      Sadly, this practice would become more commonplace as the series progressed, including my pet peeve of the characters reading signs aloud instead of letting the audience read them themselves. Remember “Everybody Sucks But Me”?

  6. [quote]Jack
    don’t think it’s worth criticising the writers for not keeping continuity with ‘The Principal and the Pauper’. That episode basically told the audience that Skinner’s (or rather Tamzarian’s) identity as an imposter wouldn’t be acknowledged in the future. [/quote]

    Actually Jack, in season 15 there is an episode where Lisa’s is going through cats like Optimus Prime goes through bodies. Finally, at the end she decides to just call her newest one Snowball II because it looks like her and she does not have to change the lettering on anything. Skinner walks past her and says, “Isn’t that cheaing?” Lisa’s reply is something like, “This is coming from you Tamzarian,” in which Skinner walks away saying, “Fair enough.”

    • Yup, I know. I actually did mention “I, D’oh-Bot” in my comment. It’s the only episode (as far as I know) where they acknowledge Skinner’s secret identity, and its inclusion was terrible. It was just the writers’ way of saying “Yes, folks, we put you through that depressing B-story about an 8 year old whose pets keep dying, and none of it mattered! Just like that other episode you hate! Funny, right?!” There’s a reason Armin Tamzarian is otherwise never brought up…

  7. You know, I’m trying to remember if there are any Season 14 episodes that are even close to being good. Season 15 has a few that I’d classify as decent, but Season 14 just seems to be turning up blank.

    • forbidden donut

      IMO, the closest to a good episode was The Dad Who Knew Too Little (I liked the detective), I’m Spelling As Fast As I Can, and Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky (because it had Eric Idle). I almost liked A Star Is Born-Again, but then it ended with Ned having premarital sex, so, yeah.

  8. Sadly, there aren’t. The next good episode is “Milhouse Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” which is the twelfth episode to Season 15. After that, Season 15 does have “Catch Em If You Can,” and then that is pretty much it until Season 17’s “The Girl Who Slept Too Little.”

    I myself just finished Season 22 and all I can say is thank the gods I only have one season left. The season was not down right horrible, it had some good things going on in it, it is just that hardly any of it was funny.

  9. Bart’s actions kind of bugged me in this episode. He really is a good kid deep down, but he doesn’t show that goodness without reason, and he didn’t have any reason in this as far as I can remember.

  10. forbidden donut

    Bart was probably a little bit grateful towards Krabappel, for giving him a second chance with the essay when she could have just failed him outright, so I could kind of buy Bart going to the movie with Krabappel to return the favor. Though him recommending Krabappel as teacher of the year is … too much. Bart just wouldn’t ever do that, and Krabappel would probably suspect Bart had some ulterior motive, like sucking up to her.

    Remember in season 7, when Krabappel aligns her desk with so it’s exactly parallel to the rear wall, and Bart’s uniform is the only thing keeping him from firing a slingshot pellet into her ass? Good times.

    I used to like this episode a bit; some good jokes like the Dead Poet Society reference, and I thought it was pretty satisfying when Skinner finally stood up to Agnes in the end. Of course, this all went to waste with next season’s awful awful Skinner/Krabappel episode. I can’t wait to read your teardown of that episode.

  11. I don’t mind this episode, it’s entertaining enough… and any excuse to draw Orlando (bestplacetovisitever) is a-okay in my book!

    The Armin Tamzarian was either a joke, or just a story, .. and either way, it’s non-canon. So I’m not going to worry about it or think about it…

  12. Really didn’t like this one at all, actually i liked it less than geek wedding, which I didn’t like much, and that justt because the “Marge you agreed to raise our kids Klingon” in geek wedding made me smile where as this one the only thing I remember is lack of a pie song and the woman calling homer a human blob only for him to scoff the pie (that’s nasty, even for Homer, but he doesn’t care because he likes pie so much or something?

    the Bart stuff was so empty it really didn’t make an impression, since after all nothing will change anyway.

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