(originally aired November 30, 2003)
Homer fights a bear… okay. Here’s an episode that’s just a complete wash: it started, I watched it, it ended. Nothing memorable, nothing interesting, nothing uniquely offensive. We start on Mother’s Day as Homer and the kids do some last minute shopping for a gift that Homer takes full credit for. They run into Patty and Selma, who suggest they get her a Kitchen Carnival, a machine that makes carnival confections at home. Marge loves the gift, for some reason. Isn’t she normally the conscientious mother who rode a crusade against sugar? Now she’s happy as a clam letting her infant daughter eat caramel apples and cotton candy until she gets baby diabetes. In a maddening fit, Homer uses all the ingredients to make a gigantic sugar ball, which he nurses like a new wife. It’s rather disturbing, and makes me pine for the days of him and his giant sandwich from “Selma’s Choice.”
Marge finally forces Homer to take the ball to the dump, at which point he is attacked by a bear. For some reason, this makes him the laughing stock of the town, with people calling him a cowardly wimp. I’m not entirely sure why this is… if I’m cornered and there’s a gigantic bear is swiping its claws into my flesh, I’m going to be pretty terrified. But Homer has to restore his manliness I guess, so he creates a rusty protective suit and vows to go off into the woods to fight the bear, and at this point I’m shaking my head since it’s clear that this really is the plot of this episode. Marge forbids her husband to go, but of course he goes anyway with Lenny, Carl and Bart, where he is accosted by the bear again sans suit. Marge enlist the help of the most rugged hunter alive Grant Connor (Charles Napier doing the best he can with the material), and Homer discovers the bear is only irritable due to a tracking tag Connor placed on him.
So Homer and the bear are friends now and he now wants to help him to the wildlife sanctuary off in the woods. The sanctuary is pristine, rainbow covered sacred land, but they have to get past an entire line of hunters hiding in bushes to get there. Homer stuffs the bear into his protective suit, a really shoddy disguise that Marge initially falls for (“It’s Homer! Don’t shoot!”) They then realize it’s the bear and start shooting at it; as tense music plays, the bear runs down a straight line, with every bullet hitting the armor, despite the fact there are plenty of openings in it, until he gets to the sanctuary. Victory! This is one of the saddest endings of any show in just how pathetic it is. I don’t give a shit about this bear, or anyone involved in this story, and this resolution is so fabricated and phony, with the sanctuary in the center of the map surrounded by “kill zones.” Characters spew lines out of obligation, lots of time-killing sequences, and everything just barely crawling into nineteen minutes. But there’s nothing to get upset about here, really. It’s another episode that feels so inept and pointless that I can’t even get mad. It really is just pathetic.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The dichotomy here between new and old really is striking. The first act is Homer getting Marge a present that she really wouldn’t want or need, like the opening of “Life in the Fast Lane.” In that show, she’s understandably upset. Here, she thanks Homer for his graciousness and off she goes like a Stepford wife.
– First appearance of SPRAWL-MART. Hey, is that anything like WAL-MART? It sure looks like it, and hey, Grampa works there as a greeter! Just like how WAL-MART was hiring old people to do that! Get it? Aren’t we so goddamn clever?
– Bart, a ten-year-old, knows who Jaclyn Smith is. Another example of how the writers don’t know how the hell to write for Bart anymore. I looked up the joke about her selling axe heads because I didn’t get it; apparently she pioneered the concept of celebrities developing their own products instead of just endorsing them in the 80s. Oh, now I get it. Heh heh.
– “Marge, you’re gonna love my present. It is so thoughtful, it makes the kids’ gifts look like crap!” Nice to say, Homer, considering the kids tried to help you get a gift, and basically Lisa is the one who got Patty and Selma to recommend the gift. You did no work, and hog all the credit. Our loveable protagonist, folks!
– “That’s it, kids… Suckle Daddy’s sugar ball.” The most disturbing thing ever said or shown on the show ever. Ever.
– Homer is smacked down into a ditch at the dump and sees a giant bear ready to fucking maul him (“Oh my God, I’m gonna be killed by a bear! Well I guess I don’t have to worry anymore about the dangers of smoking.”) He then takes out a pipe and calmly smokes it. How does one come up with this joke? Not only does it evaporate any tension the scene had, it’s completely out of left field for Homer to have the pipe at all. It’s just another example of the show’s need to cram in gags everywhere, regardless if they’re funny or make sense whatsoever.
– I did kind of like Smithers and Burns pranking Homer with the giant bear from his office. I’m not big on Burns laughing amongst his lowlife employees, but it was nice use of resources since we’ve seen that bear throughout the series (“What a delightful practically-based joke!”)
– Homer’s crazy bear hallucination is alright too (“Are you a Care Bear?” “I’m an Intensive Care Bear.”)
– Grant Connor and his penchant for killing and eating every animal on the planet is so over the top I actually kind of like him. Also Charles Napier gives a good performance as always (“The bold grizzly is seven feet tall, weighs more than a Mazda Miata, and can tear through a tree like a Jewish mother through self-esteem.”)
– Homer electrocutes himself with the bear tag twice, because seeing him scream his head off and run around like a maniac is always funny.
– Homer inadvetently kills a lake of fish and a scuba diver, volunteers to castrate the bear, Marge instantly forgives her husband despite the fact that he almost got himself killed for a idiotic reason… whatever. I’ll say the best thing in the whole episode is when Marge and Connor are talking, you can see Lenny, Carl, Bart and Lisa chicken fighting in the background. It’s a really cute moment that I’m sure some bored animator thought up as he was contemplating getting another job on a better show.