(originally aired May 18, 2003)
Simpsons apologists have about four or five episodes at the ready to defend the sorry state of the last decade of shows, and this is one of them: an genuine, emotionally driven story focused on our favorite gargoyle-ish bartender. And yeah, there are parts of it that are definitely very sweet, and it’s probably the most solid, enjoyable episode of the season. But when people start throwing stuff around like “as good as the classic era,” I have to call bullshit, because there’s also a lot in this episode that feels too exaggerated within this simple, emotional story. We start with the entire town flocking to the botanical gardens for the blooming of the Sumatran Century Flower, which as namesake suggests, opens once a century. The only one not there is Moe, and when he does arrive, he’s kicked out as the garden is one over capacity. I get Moe is a lonely guy, and he has crippling emotional issues, but this opening just paints him as way too sad. Moe may be bitter and despondent, but like many of the characters, seemed reasonably content with his lot in life, even if it was just providing intoxicants to other despondent losers. But now he’s just this super pathetic guy who is so desperate for human contact, he lets Chief Wiggum push him down a muddy hill.
Nothing left for Moe than to commit suicide, I guess. This would eventually become one of his character quirks, because suicide is hilarious! Just as he’s about to jump off a bridge, Maggie comes falling down into his arms, having been flung from the Simpson car due to Homer being a shitty, inattentive driver. Moe is smitten with the little tyke, and eventually falls into the role as Maggie’s babysitter. The scenes between these two are absolutely adorable, with Moe still retaining his personality (“It’s so nice to be with someone who can’t understand the horrible things I say.”) The highlight of course is when Moe’s story time where he regales the story of The Godfather using dolls, much to Maggie’s enjoyment. It’s not long before Homer and Marge start getting annoyed by how involved and overprotective Moe becomes of Maggie; the scene at the party really works showing how despite Moe being a bit overbearing, Maggie still seems to have a stronger bond with him than her actual parents. But then they push things too far into a creepy realm by showing Moe has his own baby monitor and video camera in Maggie’s room, the final straw for Homer, who tells Moe he’s not allowed to see her again.
The story is all about Moe, but as the show goes on, you start to think maybe it’ll turn where Homer, and maybe even Marge, need to step up their parenting game when Maggie starts to take a shining more to him than them. There’s one scene where Homer realizes this, and needs to be a better father-figure to her, but that’s basically completely dropped after that. The ending involves Maggie following the mob in the middle of the night, after seeing Fat Tony imitate Don Corleone as Moe did to her. It ends up in a mafia standoff at Luigi’s, and Moe has to risk his life to rescue Maggie. Normally I complain about episodes focused on secondary characters that have the Simpsons shoehorned in, but in this case, I feel they weren’t incorporated in the story enough. I’m fine with the ending as is, and I like how it tied into Moe’s Godfather story (not entirely sure why the mob hangs out outside the Simpson house though), but I feel it would have been more emotionally satisfying if it involved Homer and Marge more, trying to win their daughter back. But I don’t want to step all over this episode, it’s definitely really sweet, has lots of funny moments, and is ultimately pretty satisfying. A real gem in a shit season.
Tidbits and Quotes
– More awkward and weird Homer dialogue (“Every time you say pick a number from one to ten, it’s always seven.” “That’s because there were seven apostles.” “No, there were twelve.” “Boy, that’s a big staff, and still he wasn’t that funny.”) Also you could see the Venus Fly trap gag coming from a mile away.
– I’m quite partial to the Beverly Hillbillies Go Down Under (“Hey Granny, I’m gonna be a professional didgeridoo player!” “Now it’s a didgeri-don’t!”)
– I really didn’t like how Homer basically almost caused the death of his infant daughter. He slams the gas in the middle of a traffic jam, then must jam the brakes and ends up smashing in the back of someone. Maggie’s safety harness breaks and she ends up flying through the sunroof. If it weren’t for Moe, she’d be dead, and Homer would have been responsible. How horrible would that have been? Actually, I’m morbidly curious what that show would have been now. Maybe Marge was the one who bought the shitty safety lock and both parents blame themselves for the incident. Hmm.
– More neutered Burns, as we see Homer is in his “carpool.”
– The sweetest moment of the show is when Moe gives Maggie back her nose (“There yah go, yah little idiot.”) Funny, heartwarming and in-character all at the same time; just because the episode as a whole isn’t classic-worthy doesn’t mean there aren’t excellent moments in it.
– I love Moe misinterpreting the woman trying to pick him up because of Maggie (“Aww, what a face! She looks just like you!” “You calling her repellant? ‘Cause you ain’t exactly Karen Allen yourself!”) He goes from zero to sixty in a second, cracking his knuckles like he’s about to punch this poor woman out on the spot. Also great is the bumper car scene where Moe smashes Nelson’s vehicle with a crowbar, much to Maggie’s amusement. Amazing.
– Moe retells The Godfather, and we take a look at a classic scene (“I think we can scare that movie producer by putting a horse’s blanket in his bed. Imagine waking up and seeing you’ve got the wrong kind of a blanket?” “How about a horse’s head?” “Aww, you see here, that’s why you’re the Godfather!”)
– I really like the birthday party scene, it walks the line perfectly of Moe being sweet and somewhat overbearing, right before it falls into creepy territory in the scene following it. Him fixing her bow (“I know it don’t seem like it matters, but she hates looking like crap,”) yelling at one of Apu’s children playing next to her (“Sure he was, Nahasa-pasa-I’m-raising-a-pervert,”) and his gift to Maggie: a Moe’s Tavern playset, with classic drunk Barney! And the figures talk too (“I peed my pants!” “I recorded that for private use!”)
– It is rather disturbing when Homer, Marge and the police stake out Moe’s thinking he kidnapped Maggie, and it looking like he’s thrown her in the oven. But of course, it’s just a ham.
– I like Don Castellaneta (three guesses who he’s named after); when Fat Tony and his associates all spill wine on themselves at the same time and go to the restroom, he comments, “Those boys should really consider sippy cups.” Also, great bit where the President of the Italian-American Anti-Defamation League is present in the restaurant… who then proceeds to take out two guns himself (“This really burns my cannoli!”)
– I want to see a Moe and Maggie spin-off. I don’t know what it would be about; maybe they could solve mysteries, with Maggie as the brains and Moe the brawn.
Season 14 Final Thoughts
There may be a point where I forgo giving my final thoughts per season, and that point may be right now. This season is really no different than the last, and I feel the show is going to stay at this plateau of quality for a while now, and the only direction to go is down. The series is in such a sorry place, with all of the issues and problems of the past just getting more and more flagrant, and any sincerity or realism that the show once possessed has been almost completely obliterated. Dead Homers coined the term “Zombie Simpsons,” and it really couldn’t be more apt; the show is lifeless and sterile, an empty shell vaguely resembling the actual soul that actually once resided in it. Harsh words, yes, but I really don’t even know how better to describe it. Perhaps the biggest indictment of all is that a lot of these episodes just barely even registered with me. I considered putting a couple on the “worst” list, but then realized that I didn’t even give a shit about them. Scully episodes will piss me off, but Jean episodes are just so innocuous. The show’s deader than dead, and I still have six more seasons to go. I do it only out of obligation now; I can’t have come this far to stop now.
“The Dad Who Knew Too Little,” “Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington,” “Moe Baby Blues”
“How I Spent My Strummer Vacation,” “Helter Shelter,” “The Great Louse Detective,” “Three Gays of the Condo,” “Brake My Wife, Please”