341. Midnight Rx

(originally aired January 16, 2005)
The series has never shied away from dealing with large real-world topics, but nowadays, it doesn’t have a clue how to execute them. This episode tries to tackle corporate health plans and rising drug costs and is utterly, woefully lost. We start at a SNPP corporate event at the local air and space museum, where Burns inflates his employees’ spirits high enough for him to announce that he’s cutting their health care plans. The real Burns would just have done it without giving two fucks, forget all of this rigamarole. And it doesn’t work since the employees go after him anyway, and he escapes in a flying machine with Smithers. Okay. So other companies follow by example and soon the whole town is out of luck in acquiring drugs. But Grampa has a solution: sneak drugs across the border of Canada, through his international liaison Johnny, who I guess fought with him in the war, we don’t really get to know his character. We also get to make more Canada jokes, cutting edge satire that they talk slow and love maple syrup.

Apparently everyone in town takes drugs of some kind, even the Simpson children, and not all of it seems to be out of necessity. This over-dependency on medication seems like a topic that would make sense to address, but the show is too busy focused on the town celebrating Homer and Grampa as heroes, as Homer pulls a string of drug balloons out of his throat while his son downs a handful of pills. One fateful trip, he and Grampa are caught at the border in the stupidest, mildly racist way possible, and are out of the drug business. But when Burns finds that Smithers is ill and in grave danger, he beeches the two for some reason to make one last big score. They take his gigantic plywood plane, which earlier Burns mentioned couldn’t fly more than six feet and caught fire in rain, but I guess it works now since they’re flying it intercontinental in a rainstorm. They get the drugs, the plane crash lands conveniently in Springfield, Grampa is about to be arrested but the townspeople stand up for him, so Wiggum just lets him go. A lot of these episodes seem to wrap themselves up via Wiggum just not doing his job. God bless ’em. Close out with a gag involving Homer potentially having a serious medical condition with no healthcare, squashing all the efforts made in the whole episode, and you’ve got… an episode. Just another episode to chuck on the pile.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The air and space museum is boring, and occasionally painful. Character narrate the situation, with Lisa commenting how Burns acting nice seems suspicious, as if we can’t figure out what’s happening. This is later reiterated with Homer and Marge right before Burns’ speech in case you forgot. Then more weird shit like the guy in the Burns head, Moe inexplicably bartending this corporate event, and Agnes Skinner being a wing walker in her youth, even though she has no lines. I’m sure that had to be a cut. I’m also sure it wasn’t funny.
– Not only does Burns go through all these theatrics to appease his workers regarding healthcare, he seems to give a shit about office affairs, I guess because they couldn’t think of a joke to end the act on. Not to mention “Next stop: Pirate Island!” Huh?
– All these episodes are running together at this point, but this show just seemed to have something annoying in every scene: Homer randomly suggesting he be on Friends as an Irishman, Krusty needing kids to send him drugs, even though surely he can afford them, the long pharmacy tape which turns into just animating a Huey Lewis music video, the way-too-blunt manner the nurse addresses the elderly (“Your pills have become very expensive, and no one gives a rat’s ass about you…”) Perhaps the worst case is Homer using a belt sander to erase his fingerprints as the family and Grampa are all in the room. Why does no one react to this? Because it’s just a single shot of Homer, and in the show’s mind, that’s all who’s there. It’s another modern Simpsons staple of forgetting about or ignoring characters in the scene who are not in the shot.
– Apu and Flanders come along with Homer to Canada for some reason. Why couldn’t they just tell Homer what to get and have him get it for them? But anyway, the two bicker about their religions, because Flanders is now childish and petty regarding this issue (“Save me, Shiva!” “Why don’t you just call out for Hawkman?”) Then we get how they get caught, which is one of the most insulting things the show has ever done. On the way back home, Flanders offers Apu some coffee. He takes a sip and finds it’s incredibly hot, burning his tongue and causing him to make undulating cries, which sound vaguely kinda Arabic. Like in the same way that “Derka derka Mohammad jihad” in Team America does, except not even in the same league humor-wise. Flanders offers to cool him off by wrapping a wet towel around his head, which he just so happened to have. So yeah, it looks like a turban, and border patrol now thinks he’s a terrorist. I get it, they want it to be satire that they immediately jump on him (“Stop him! He’s expressing his faith!”) But it really does still feel kind of racist. Plus it makes no sense, why the fuck would Flanders put the towel on his head like that? Then I think back to his earlier bitching with Apu, and I think maybe he did it on purpose. I have no clue, all I know is that the scene is some ol’ bullshit.
– Another Canada joke: they speak French there! Homer and company get their rights told to them in two languages, even though why would they do that considering they’re English-speaking Americans.
– If not being able to handle the healthcare material wasn’t enough, we get a gag about the fallacies of the death penalty, as in repayment for his help, Johnny asks if he can come see a mentally challenged man get put to death (“In America, we do it four times a week!”) So, is he a sick fuck? Why would he want to see that? It’s just a really bizarre scene in an episode full of ’em.
– The only thing I laughed at was at the end: Sideshow Mel can taste a Krusty-brand milkshake thanks to lactose intolerance pills (“Terrible!”) The read is great, as it always is with Mel, and it’s a nice callback to such a minor character trait.
– Seeing Smithers groan in pleasure when he awakes to find Burns kissing him is disturbing. Well, beyond the obvious reason, it’s another flagrant misuse of his character. As I’ve already talked about, Smithers loves Burns because he’s the ultimate sycophant, he worships the ground his boss walks on. It’s much different to me than he’s actually in romantic love with his boss. It’s all in the way that it’s handled, and this Sleeping Beauty shit is weird and creepy.

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9 responses to “341. Midnight Rx

  1. The only gag I liked is Canadian Flanders. Their “doodily” jabbering was great, as was U.S. Flanders’s “They warned me Satan would be attractive.” when Canadian Flanders offers him a reefer.

    “We also get to make more Canada jokes, cutting edge satire that they talk slow and love maple syrup.”

    Don’t forget “eh”!

  2. It’s episodes like this where I can just picture the writers in their offices, pointing wildly at the script and going “See? See how topical we are? We’re still relevant in today’s popular culture, dammit!” And I just shake my head at what’s on the screen.

    Even at the time, I thought the scene with border patrol mistaking Apu for a terrorist was horribly stupid. It’s just about the only thing in this episode that sticks out in my mind, and it feels like they were trying to make a South Park-style joke without really knowing how.

    • Even tho the production code for this ep is FABF15 meaning it should have aired last season why it got delayed is anyones guess really…

      • The last episodes of a production run are held until the next season, usually so the directors can have more time to work on the animation. Back in the classic era, they’d only do this with two episodes, but around this point, they upped it to half a season.

  3. Sadly this episode looks like a classic in comparison to that episode they aired a season or two ago with the drugs that make people’s eyeballs pop out…

    I never really thought much of this episode either way. It is what it is. Like most episodes around this time, the only word that comes to mind is.. meh.

  4. Didn’t we already have this episode told to us like 2-3 seasons ago? Or was this the start of the “Homer smuggles something” plot?

  5. I forgot another joke I liked: The overly long gag of the massive amount of pills spilling out of Homer’s car. Not the most original joke, but still pretty funny.

  6. “The real Burns would just have done it without giving two fucks, forget all of this rigamarole.”

    Well, didn’t Burns offer the union free beer in return for removing their employee health coverage?

  7. Shake? I thought Krusty Burger sold partially gelatinated non-dairy gum-based beverages.

    Shake? You don’t know what you’re getting.

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