(originally aired March 28, 2004)
Though not as egregiously awful as the last two, this show has some pretty bad elements, but on the whole doesn’t really sway me one way or the other, it’s just another episode in an unforgettable sea of latter-day Simpsons. We start with a family outing to Costington’s, which is just one unfunny set piece after another. The last bit involves Bart creating a phony wedding registry and shooting a variety of items with a pricing gun. That somehow leads him to having dozens of printed out invitations on stationary that he can send out all over town. So people all over town will get this note informing them of the Bart Simpson-Lotta Cooties wedding, and they’ll either have two thoughts. One, I know Bart and he’s a ten-year-old, this is a prank or a mistake, or two, I don’t know a Bart Simpson, and they’ll throw it away. Instead, everyone shows up to an empty tent, including people like Dr. Hibbert, Willie, Flanders, even fucking Patty and Selma are there! They all corral in there until they notice that there’s clearly no wedding happening since it’s an empty tent, which Bart has zipped up from the outside. This leads to Moe announcing they’re trapped and starts breathing in as much air as possible. Is the tent glued to the ground or something? Couldn’t someone lift under and open the flap? Or just crawl out? Or tear the fucking tent open? No, everyone breathes in and out until they all pass out and the tent deflates. This prank is so fucking stupid, yet everyone in town falls for it. Springfield may be filled with morons, but this gives them way too little credit.
Bart’s latest escapade brings back everyone’s favorite, Judge Harm, who sentences Bart to six months in juvenile hall. Act two is just a bunch of sequences showing prison life, from a career fair for kids who don’t seem much older than thirteen to screening censored cartoons, a bit that was done a lot better in “The Old Man and the ‘C’ Student” (you know things aren’t going so hot when I’m using Scully episodes as positive examples). There’s a bit that goes absolutely nowhere where Homer becomes a prison guard to keep an eye on his son, which of course he can just up and do, and really is just for the sake of a single joke, and serves only to kill time since there’s no story. In the yard, Bart has a run-in with tough girl Gina, voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar. During a mandated dance, the two are paired together (literally with handcuffs), and Gina sees an opportunity to escape and goes for it, with Bart involuntarily along for the ride.
Gina falls into the “Bart’s celebrity girlfriend” category by default, since she’s not really a girl Bart pursues in any way. Gellar does a good a job as she can with Gina, but there’s only so much you can do with the material. She’s got a slight amount of intrigue to her, but she ends up just being a generic bad girl since we have no insight as to who she is and why she’s rebellious; Jessica Lovejoy, she ain’t. She and Bart start off on bad terms, then have a single kind-of bonding scene, then after that they’re cordial to each other. Gina lies about having a family to run off to, but it’s found that she was making it up. Then the two of them are caught by the police, and are gonna be sent back to juvie, right? Wait, hang on. Gina confesses that the escape was all her idea, which is the truth, and surely eyewitnesses can confirm this. Wiggum tells Bart he’s free to go, even though there’s still time left in his sentence, he’s got no room in the squad car for him, so whatever. The writers really know how to keep stakes high; characters can get away with anything as long as we have cop-out endings and our lovable brain dead regulars to rely on! An at-times aggravating, but ultimately yawn-inducing episode.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Every Costington’s bit is groan-worthy in many different ways. Homer getting caught on the escalator is more unfunny Homer-getting hurt in an illogical fashion, with everyone getting off and stepping on him for some reason. Lisa finding the girls section to feature slutty clothing is an obvious gag hammered in over and over (“This is our ‘Li’l Hooker’ line. All the girls your age are wearing it, except the freakishly unpopular!”) Marge gets her pores examined and apparently there’s like some freaky green alien bug living on her face, which gets brutally killed with some lotion. I don’t even know what to make of that. Oh, and then Homer mistakes a changing room for a bathroom. So he walked into a small room with no toilet or urinal, dropped his pants and let ‘er rip.
– A Costington’s clerk sees Bart messing with the pricing gun, and instead of take it from him and tell the kid to not tamper with the merchandise, he explains exactly what it is and how to use it for no real reason. Why would he waste his time telling this kid what it is?
– Everyone “stuck” in the tent not knowing how to get out may be one of the worst scenes in the show’s history. Honestly, how fucking stupid are these people? It makes absolutely no sense to me.
– Charles Napier makes his final guest appearance as the warden, and as usual does a fantastic job, adding some small glimmers of life to this dead episode (“You two will dance and you’ll like it. Then you’ll have punch and you’ll drink it. Then your eyes will meet and it will be awkward, so help me God.“)
– Marge cries over her son being in jail, thinking she’s a horrible mother. Now, knowing how they write Homer now, I automatically expect him to say, “Of course you are” or something. But that isn’t nearly cruel or heartless enough (“It’s not all your fault. All these years I watched you turn our son into a time bomb and yet I did nothing. So in a way, I too am a victim… of you.”) Way to go, writers, for going above and beyond in making Homer into a royal, insensitive jackass.
– This is another Lauren MacMullen episode, and it’s got a few scenes that are visually well done, like Gina spotting her escape from the dance and the whole blacksmith sequence. It’s very rare we get any sort of life visually from this show, but she manages to make it happen.
– Props to Gellar for her performance during Gina’s fake sob story. You can tell she actually gave a shit about her part and gave it her all.
– Snake appears on TV with Kent Brockman to plug a book he wrote about committing successful crimes. Then we see he’s holding him at gunpoint and apparently will be on Conan O’Brien later in the week. Anyone want to explain this one to me?
– Amidst all the garbage that happens in the ending, Charles Napier swoops in with a good joke to end on (“Well, my shift’s over. I guess it’s back to my bachelor apartment, make a tuna sandwich, turn on Will & Grace, and cry myself to sleep.” “Would you like to join us?” “Didn’t you hear me, I’ve got an evening planned!”) Excellent read. We miss you, Mr. Napier.