(originally aired February 22, 2004)
Another episode that makes my mind hurt. When the core story is so ridiculous and illogical, it’s a shaky foundation, and then when you compound all the other absurd elements and laughless jokes, it’s head-rattling how bothersome the entire ordeal is. The Simpsons stumble upon a highly selective pre-nursery school, and are convinced that they should try to apply Maggie. I get the gag about our culture wanting to entrap children in the education system at earlier and earlier ages, but Maggie is a year old. She’s a baby competing against toddlers, it doesn’t make a lot of sense from the start, and continues being bizarre as the show goes on. The screening process is held by Simon Cowell, or rather a character who looks and acts just like him, who is actually voiced by Cowell. This has happened a few times (Stephen Colbert comes to mind) where they have a celebrity basically play themselves, but they’re not actually themselves. Cowell berates one-year-old Maggie for not being able to speak, and claims she has absolutely no future. Honestly, what an asshole. I thought it was bad when Declan Desmond viciously chastised Lisa, but this is a fucking baby, for God’s sake.
After an IQ test, Maggie is declared a genius, holding an even higher IQ than her sister by eight points. This completely disheartens Lisa, believing since she’s no longer the smartest in the family, her life has no purpose. What? What possible threat does Maggie have to her? It doesn’t affect her or her schoolwork or her life in any way whatsoever. Lisa tries out a variety of new personas, but finds that none of them stick. Then in a fit of petty, stupid jealously, she misteaches Maggie some flash cards, much to the shock of Marge and Homer, who come in full guns blazing to detriment her for it. I’m so completely confused at this point, there’s no real story here since I don’t understand why Lisa is driving herself into such a fit about this. Is she so ridiculously insecure with herself that she’s jealous of her infant sister? Apparently so, enough that she decides to run away and start a new life, eventually deciding on living in the natural history museum.
The climax consists of Homer, Marge and Bart being stuck in a gigantic model of the digestive system, that is fully functional and they’re in risk of being digested themselves. Lisa shows up at the nick of time to tell Maggie how to disable the machine, and she does. She’s grown to accept her sister and her gift, and vows to be helpful and nurturing. So there we go, conflict resolved right? Not quite. Cowell and the other bitch from the school show up and inform the Simpsons that there was foul play during the IQ test. Turns out Lisa was subconsciously giving Maggie all the answers with hand motions and body language. It makes no fucking sense whatsoever, but beyond the stupid explanation, why did they feel the need to end like this? First off, from the show’s beginning in “Bart the Genius,” we’ve seen that Maggie is of a higher intelligence, it’s a firmly established character trait that she’s a bright baby. Second, it completely undermines Lisa’s character growth, and I use that term incredibly fucking lightly given how dumb this show was. And third, what difference does it make if Maggie’s a genius or not? Why set the reset button for something so inconsequential? I really was more confused by this episode more than anything, if someone would like to take a stab at analyzing it themselves, be my guest.
Tidbits and Quotes
– We kill a minute and a half at the start with a cartoonish bathroom battle between Homer and Bart, then Homer takes the family for pancakes. They stand outside the building, then look behind them to see the pre-nursery school and a big long line. Not even across the street, but in the same goddamn parking lot. How did they not notice that? There’s no transition at all, Homer literally tuns his head and there’s the school, and he talks to Apu.
– Cowell just isn’t funny, he’s not, especially when he’s hurling insults at a one-year-old. From this, Marge frets that Maggie has no future, which makes a little more sense since she’s a susceptible, worrywart mother. But it’s still dumb.
– Marge tries to absolve Lisa’s identity crisis by reminding her who she is, with a piece of paper labelled, “You are Lisa Simpson.” Lisa flatly remarks she already has that, gesturing to a frame of the infamous paper and Mr. Bergstrom’s photo. More just pulling stuff from classic episodes; it’s almost insulting seeing it here in such a shit episode.
– Lisa apparently comes to school with a backpack full out outfits, trying out class clown, goth, cheerleader… whatever.
– The flashcard scene is absolutely painful. It’s so uncharacteristic to see Lisa try to deceive Maggie, but then Marge comes in immediately and yells at her for her misdeed, despite the fact she comes in from behind and would have no idea what’s going on. Homer piles on and calls her a disappointment through his Phonics Frog, causing Lisa to run off crying. It’s an absolutely bonkers sequence. But after that we get really the only good joke in the show, with Homer asleep clutching Phonics Fog, repeatedly holding down the ‘Z’ button.
– The police force is supposedly to be inept, but here they’re so completely unhelpful that you kind of don’t like them. Wiggum forces Marge to fill out a performance evaluation to start off their investigation (“‘Somewhat satisfied?’ I see. Well, maybe I’ll just somewhat find your daughter!”) Then when they get to the museum, and while the climax is happening, they’re just standing around fucking with optical illusions. I know they need to be kept out of it since Lisa and Maggie save the day, but you could immobilize or dissuade them in some other way. Instead, they seem to just not give a fuck.
– I like Lisa’s recycled pin dress. It’s a nice design. And as a concept, I like the gigantic digestive system body thing, I would love to see an actual version of that. Then again, what an elaborate museum this is; Springfield is a shitty town, and one that’s not very cultured to boot, why would they blow money on this place?
– Homer’s “Free Beer!” signs alerting Lisa is missing is another poor lift from “Lisa’s Substitute” (“SEX! Now that I have your attention, vote for Bart!”)
– The ending is really just so insulting, one of the worst in the whole series. It’s a one-two punch of it making absolutely no sense and there really being no reason to make Maggie not smart after going through the whole goddamn episode. Plus Cowell and bitch lady just show up at the house, covered with some joke about Moe being a butler, who also appeared for no reason whatsoever. Seriously, this fucking ending… it’s insulting that they expect us to swallow this shit up.