(originally aired February 15, 2004)
As I’ve mentioned several times, Al Jean’s latest tenure as showrunner seemed to involve attempting to bring the show back to its roots, but failing in most regards. We see it in episodes like this, which attempt to contain an emotionally-driven story, but are done in such a way that feel so csterile. Here we see that Luann Van Houten is moving Milhouse to Capitol City, leaving Bart without a best friend. At the start we see Milhouse acting belligerent and rambunctious on a field trip, figuring he has nothing to lose since he’s leaving Springfield seemingly forever. Bart is understandably upset; even though their dynamic has always involved him exploiting and doling abuse unto Milhouse, the two are still genuinely friends. Everyone has lost a childhood friend at one time or another so this is completely relatable, but there’s just something about it that doesn’t pack the right punch. We see Bart watching old videos of the two horsing around and he starts crying; it just feels way too cloying. I think back to “Homer Defined” and the shot of Milhouse alone on the see saw, which is both hilariously pathetic and legitimately sad at the same time.
Let me get this stupid B-story out of the way before I continue. After getting blasted at Moe’s, people mistake a disheveled Homer sitting on the sidewalk as a bum. With a wad of cash and Marge’s anniversary coming up, Homer takes to panhandling, which consists of him annoying passerbys and raving and screaming like a maniac, because apparently that’s in-character and funny to watch. An actual bum appears from nowhere and gives Homer tips of the trade for some reason; he only gets annoyed when he continues to panhandle after getting the money to buy Marge some nice earrings as his gift. That’s like the most magnanimous hobo ever. As Homer is stealing all of their “business,” said bum somehow knows who Marge is, tracks her down and exposes her husband’s actions. She’s upset at first, but then decides she wants more shit and demand Homer get the money to get her a broach. End of plot. I don’t mind Marge breaking her normal moralistic character, it kind of reminded me of the end of “The Cartridge Family,” except that ending worked, and this doesn’t. Her understandable anger at her husband is completely dissolved by her random selfish inclinations, it just ends up feeling unsatisfying.
Both with no one to really confide in or hang out with, Bart and Lisa inexplicably end up becoming friends. Some of their interactions are kind of cute, but a lot of their scenes together kind of just drag and are left joke-less. Just as their relationship continues to burgeon, Milhouse returns home, leaving Bart to ditch Lisa for him. Earlier we saw Milhouse had adapted a cool new persona to impress his new urban friends, but that was basically a disposable scene. It would have been cool if this show was actually about Milhouse, attempting to be like Bart in a new town so he could be on top, then lamenting having to go back to his lame self when he gets carted back to Springfield. But whatever, instead we have the Bart and Lisa thing, which ends with the most saccharine sweet ending ever, where Bart writes Monopoly Chance cards for his sister of kindnesses he’ll do for her. It’s so overtly manipulative and sappy, and not funny at all. This show used to triumph at creating emotional moments that were heartwarming and hilarious at the same time, now we see the show can barely do either right. Another disposable show.
Tidbits and Quotes
– We start with an extended sequence of the kids laughing at Nelson being poor, then getting kicked off the bus in the middle of nowhere and imagining himself in a tux and tails, lamenting, “Someday…” I don’t like that this has become his go-to character trait. It’s just sad and not funny…
– Nuclear inspectors are coming to the plant, so Burns has to hide the less-competent employees, sending Homer, Lenny and Carl to Moe’s. I guess gone are the days of shutting Homer in the basement to guard a bee. Why would Burns pay for their drinks?
– Isabel Sanford voices herself at the Museum of Television and Radio… I mean, TV, which is useless enough, but then they bothered to get Dick Tufeld, William Daniels and Nick Bakay to voice the Lost in Space robot, KITT and Salem the cat respectively, all of which say like two words. Two words. Couldn’t Hank or Harry have done it? Ridiculous. Just more padding out the guest star count.
– Simple, but effective billboard gag (Diamonds: Because Money Equals Love).
– I may be alone, but I love the “Yeess!” guy. He’s unquestionably one-note, but I really like Castellaneta’s performance. Here he sees a dirty, unkempt Homer walking to the register (“Oh no… oh noo… oh nooo!”) who then produces a fistful of dollars (“Oh yeessss!”)
– One of Milhouse’s Capitol City friends is like a little Eminem kid who raps… I dunno, is that like a joke? Whatever.
– Bart and Lisa horsing around washing the car is pretty cute, but the bits of them on bikes and discovering the Indian burial mound are basically joke-free.
– I was surprised when the episode ended, since it didn’t seem to resolve anything. Milhouse comes home, Lisa is dissatisfied, Bart does the schmaltziest thing ever and the two make up. It just felt very rushed, but no skin off my back, since I didn’t really care about the plot to begin with.