(originally aired March 6, 2005)
Seems like we’ve had a Bart/Lisa show for every season, and the writers just aren’t up to the task in writing a believable conflict and resolution for them, this episode being the rustiest example of all. After being humiliated by her brother’s pranks on a field trip, Lisa decides she has little recourse than to issue a restraining order on him. In place of the rest of the family reacting to this, we have a videotape explaining restraining orders, which stars Gary Busey, and is kinda disturbing. Homer wrangles together a twenty-foot stick to keep his kids apart, which Lisa uses, and quickly abuses to poke and bother Bart relentlessly. I thought this would be kind of interesting, that now Lisa would become as big of an irritant as Bart was to her without realizing it. But the show never really acknowledges it. We get a montage of Lisa abusing Bart and him feeling crestfallen, then we’re in court where Judge Harm increases the distance in the restraining order after Bart makes fun of her. They just drop that angle completely; Bart whiplashes from sullen to busting the judges ball’s for some reason.
The new distance is so great that Bart now must live in the backyard, which I guess Lisa and the others are perfectly fine with. This eventually renders Bart into a wild animal, seeing as how he now basically lives outdoors. Finally acknowledging that this is just madness, Marge urges her daughter to lift the restraining order, but Lisa still feels slighted by Bart. Marge tells her to remember all the good things her brother has done for her, and Lisa cops that if she can think of three things, she’ll free him. Marge lists two, one which actually counts, then Lisa sees Bart building a giant Lisa statue of straw in the backyard, which I guess he can do, much to her delight (“It shows he misses me! And this is the third thing!”) What a fucking arbitrary resolution. It’s like a video game, collect these three items and you win the stage. And plus, Lisa seriously can’t remember any of the nice things Bart has done for her? What about taking the fall for her in “Separate Vocations”? The flashbacks in “Lisa on Ice”? I could go on and on. Ultimately it turns out Bart was actually going to burn her sister’s visage in effigy, but Lisa forgives him anyway (“And I was kind of a pill. I guess.”) Aside from blatant cop-out endings like “The Great Money Caper,” this might be the laziest ending I’ve seen yet. A boring, ridiculous episode.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The Skinner/Krabappel drama goes on; it’s given an unusual amount of screen time like it’s actually going to develop into a story, except the writers don’t know where to go with it, so it ends with Skinner making out with a mummified corpse. Why have they turned him into such a pathetic sad sack?
– Liberal mouthpiece Lisa is in full swing here; the class arrives at Springfield Glacier only to find it’s a pile of slush in the middle of a lake. Lisa immediately leaps that the culprit is global warming, and sermonizes her schoolmates (“How can you stand there eating snacks and being children when the world’s glaciers are vanishing?”) It casts her in such an annoying, rabble-rousing light, which is definitely something you don’t want for a lovable character like Lisa.
– I don’t even want to bother with the Homer subplot. We’re back to Sprawl-Mart again, the first time we see it, there’s a banner reading “Not a Parody of Wal-Mart.” No shit? Dead Homers did a great write-up about how corporation and brand parodies in the past were so strong because they weren’t about one specific company, that they could be applied to a wider spectrum. Krusty Burger can represent all fast food or low-end restaurants, Duff can be all beers, Laramie can be all tobacco companies, etc. Sprawl-Mart can only be Wal-Mart, and the entire plot here of Homer becoming a greeter for some reason, the company abusing its illegal immigrant workers by locking them in the store overnight, all of it is specific to one thing. It’s lazy, uninspired, and ultimately just a piss poor piece of satire. Wal-Mart managers are dickholes and abuse their workers! Why? They’re eeeevil! Or something!
– Lisa pokes Bart so much to the extent that he has nerve damage in his arm, and she’s never reprimanded for it. That’s why it felt like the episode was turning into Lisa being as much of a terror to Bart as it was vice versa; it looks like it’s getting there, then it takes a wild turn into craziness at the end of the second act.
– I hate the second act break; I hated it when I first watched it, and I still hate it now. It might be one of the worst “jokes” in the show’s history. Bart is now forced to live out in the backyard, which is now a big woodland area for the sake of the episode, leaving him cold, alone and scared. This is after we see how much his life sucks due to the restraining order, so we really feel bad for him. He posits that at least his family must miss him. Cut to inside, the other Simpsons are joyously playing instruments, which I guess they can all play now. Two big reasons why this is fucking awful. First, it tears down the characters; wouldn’t Marge be livid about this situation, considering how she fought to have the restraining order lifted? Even Lisa, even fucking Homer, must be able to see how fucked up this all is. They all care about Bart, but for this one quick joke, let’s show that they don’t. Which brings me to my other point, it makes the family spiteful. One thing that sets this show apart is that the Simpsons are really a loving family, even in times when they squabble, they’re behind each other one hundred percent. It’s different than like, say, Family Guy, amongst its many, many problems, at many times, it feels like the Griffins just don’t like each other, and that’s not very fun to watch. For this one joke, they make it like the family could get a rat’s ass that Bart is alone and terrified, and that defies a big theme of the entire series. And then just to specifically piss me off, they end the episode by bringing in the goddamn instruments again! I fucking hate this episode. So much stuff in it perfectly exemplifies how much of this series is fundamentally broken at this point.