329. The Wandering Juvie

(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.


18 responses to “329. The Wandering Juvie

  1. This is one of the funniest reviews you’ve done. As bad as the episodes keep getting, reading you tearing them apart is a hoot. Good work.

    Also, good call on the fucking stupid tent prank. “Glued to the ground”, haha!

  2. “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.”

    My tool-shed!

  3. “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. ”

    With Heather Locklear and Third Eye Blind. Usually Zombie Simpsons is about two years behind what’s currently popular, but…wow. I can’t even call that dated since it’s not of the appropriate date.

  4. Charles Napier actually returns once more, as Officer Krackney in Season 16’s “The Seven-Beer Snitch”. But I keep forgetting that episode exists, so I don’t blame you for overlooking it too.

    I’d completely forgotten this episode’s imbecilic Act I until you reminded me of it. Wow, that’s gotta be in the top five worst opening set pieces in the show’s history. They seriously couldn’t think of any other way to get Bart sent to juvenile hall? Other than that, I actually do remember not particularly liking this episode, to the point where I started thinking about rewriting it as a fan-script and giving Gina a more well-defined character. And it’s pretty sad when a 17-year-old puts more thought into how to write a Simpsons episode than the paid professionals who actually wrote it.

    • I kinda didn’t mind that episode (7-Beer Snitch). Homer with a big gold chain that says “SNITCH” made me chuckle. That and the Oz reference or two endeared it to me.

      …….But that was a while back, I’m sure watching it again I’d hate it.

  5. I think this episode is a decent one, one of the better Season 15 episodes, but no where near the level of Simple Simpson and Catch Em If You Can. I will say that I think Gina is the best of Bart’s girlfriends.

    However, in case you did not see the descriptions for Season 24, ALL of his ex-girlfriends are coming back and then he realized his true love is Cletus’ daughter. Of course, guess where the Simpsons have to go because she moved? NEW YORK!!! Essentially this episode is The City of New York vs Homer Simpson, but with Bart trying to find a girl instead of Homer trying to find his car. -_-

    • Actually, it’s just his girlfriends since this episode aired, and there possibly may have been others since then that I don’t remember.

      • Yeah, but that is because he only had girlfriends in seasons 4 and 6. Season 15 is where they started the bi-yearly girlfriend episode for Bart. Personally, I wish they had done more with Laura Powers back in the early days. Now, I am glad she hasn’t shown up since.

  6. Well i can never hate this episode as i’ll always see it as the one thing that made me laugh while lonely in a Thai hotel a few years ago, but i did really enjoy reading your review.

    I’m curious to know what you think of the latest Simpsons season, i personally think it’s quite close to the quality of the Simpsons Golden Age (especially the 500th episode).

    Keep the articles coming 🙂

    • While I thought Season 23 was the best season since 18, it really wasn’t all that great compared to the classics. I mean, the Inception and Social Network paraodies were great, and the Xmas episode set in the future is the best future episode since “Lisa’s Wedding,” but for the most part, it was meh.

  7. This episode is much really dumb, but it seems awfully harmless compared to other episodes around it.

  8. True, the Christmas future one was a masterpiece.

  9. The only joke I recall was Quimby’s “Good Lord, I’m an abomination!” when he realizes he slept with his niece. That was pretty funny.

  10. Alpha Blondy

    I assumed the little green monster clip was more marketing nonsense “it has over 60 ingredients!”

  11. It’s really stupid but I loved Cletus’ whittling bit. From “i drank my thermometer” to the fact that he’s obviously whittling halluciations (pillsbury doughboy in a bear trap) and the whittling the future (chief wiggum being mauled by a bear)

  12. To be honest, I’m indifferent about this episode. I didn’t think it was good by a longshot, but I don’t find it terrible either. Maybe it’s because of Gina – I do have a soft spot for the bad girl type, even when all they have is the attitude (I feel the same toward Harley Quinn). But then, judging an episode by an one-off character is a bit shallow, so… yeah. I’ll remain apathetic.

  13. Heh…”Gina”…heheh…

    Terrible episode rendered slightly less terrible by the performances of Geller and Napier and the fact that it follows one of the worst in the series.

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