347. Goo Goo Gai Pan

(originally aired March 13, 2005)
What is it about “Bart vs. Australia” that makes it so perfect? It exhibits the same ridiculous stereotyping that other travel episodes have, but feels so much less offensive than a show like this. I guess it’s all in the manner that it’s presented; “Australia” holds America and Australia in equal amounts of contempt, where in this episode, a lot of stuff just feels like, “Those Chinese sure are funny!” But before that, our story. Selma goes through menopause, leaving her despondent that now she can never have children. She decides she wants to adopt, so it’s off to the orphanage, but the baby she chooses ends up being taken back by his father, Cletus. So I guess they only had one infant so that option is no longer available, nor are any other orphanages in the area. Patches and Poor Violet, anyone? Shock of shocks, Lisa suggests adopting from China, but as they will only allow children into the homes of couples, Selma claims Homer as her husband. Soon, she and the Simpsons are off to China to get her child, as well as keep up their charade.

Bureaucrat Madam Wu, played by Lucy Liu, oversees the Americans to make sure Selma and Homer are actually a loving couple. Act two is basically just scene after scene of exploring China, most of which involve Homer being a moron or getting hurt. Homer feels the need to lie that his profession is “Chinese acrobat,” and of course then we get a scene where he fumbles his way through a routine, which is all ultimately just time killing. Wu discovers that he and Selma are not actually married, and takes away Selma’s new baby. The Simpsons devise a plan to get her back, which of course hinges on Homer, which of course results in him getting hurt. They almost escape, but are stopped by Wu, which of course leads to Homer making a heartfelt speech which of course sways Wu into giving the baby back. Isn’t it so hackneyed now that one thinly written touching speech can completely change the mind of the antagonist? I don’t remember that so much in the classic years, but it’s so overdone now. If Wu was raised by a single parent, why didn’t she have a little bit of sympathy about the situation? It took Homer to talk about what a great parent Selma would be, which he can’t believe to be true, and insult China by calling it another planet, for her to let them go? I dunno. Another forgettable episode, and for a show that features the family going across the world, that’s saying something. Travel episodes used to be exciting, now they’re just another stupid thing that happens.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The opening is just awful. Selma is giving Burns his driver’s test, where he’s a neutered old man again. She goes through hot flashes and opens up the roof of the old automobile they’re driving. When the roof is upturned vertically, a gust of wind turns it into some kind of sail which causes the car to careen out of control. Totally makes sense. The scene then ends with Burns’ lungs shooting out his throat to act like air bags. Goddammit.
– Skimming through the show for these quotes, I just noticed the credited writer: Lawrence Talbot. The Wolf Man wrote this? Actually, it’s just a pseudonym for Dana Gould. So, what, he was disappointed enough by this one to not use his name, but abortions like “Homer the Moe” and “The President Wore Pearls,” he’s more than happy to credit himself?
– Second episode in a row where we watch a tape hosted by a celebrity, this time on menopause by Robert Wagner. And both times they’re not funny, and just kill time.
– “Selma, I never realized you wanted a child so badly.” Remember “Selma’s Choice,” Marge? I guess not. One of Selma’s main motivations is that she wants to be loved, be it by a husband or a child.
– We saw it in “Marrying,” and now here, with Homer openly making shots and cracking jokes at Patty and Selma. In the classic years, he’d only respond in kind if the sisters said something disparaging to him. Normally, he keeps his resentment to himself, usually for Marge’s sake. I’m sure someone will come up with an example that disprove this, but his past behavior is definitely in stark contrast to now, where he just overtly insults them.
– How does Selma have $10,000 to shell out to get a child, and then enough money to send everyone to China for multiple days?
– Homer is intolerable in the second act: getting beaten up temple monks, including getting his heart ripped out, talking baby talk to Chairman Mao, then the whole acrobatic scene. He’s thrown on stage, and the performers make a giant tower of chairs. Watching this and standing on a plank, Homer comments, “Boy, this is easy! Maybe I am the world’s greatest acrobat!” Because he thinks that acrobatics is standing still. Is that the joke? He’s launched in the air and manages to magically land on top of the chairs. He then chants “USA!” until the tower collapses. Our lovable protagonist.
– Madam Wu is like an insane person, spying on the Simpsons and tracking them down in a tank to get the baby back, all so we can get a stupid fucking Tienanmen Square reference.
– They dress Homer up like a Buddha statue so the orphanage will bring him inside, which they do utilizing a giant hook in his nose. Aside from Homer’s muffled screams, wouldn’t they notice how fleshy and soft the statue is? These two guards have to be fucking morons to not notice this is a human being.
– Like all “big” changes in the show, Selma being a mother is never explored or developed at all. It’s barely even acknowledged; I think Ling has appeared in the show maybe three times after this, with either Selma holding her or showing her in their apartment. She’s basically a prop that the show is stuck with now.

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13 responses to “347. Goo Goo Gai Pan

  1. “How does Selma have $10,000 to shell out to get a child, and then enough money to send everyone to China for multiple days?”

    I guess the Simpson Plot Convenience Fund isn’t limited to just Homer and Marge…

  2. I admit I got a chuckle out of “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on Wu!” And Homer pulling the hospital bed sheets over Selma’s body was good for a laugh, too.

    But yeah, this one was pretty weak, and definitely not as good as classic era vacation episodes. The “pretend to be so-and-so’s wife/husband” thing was already done in “The Two Nahasapeemapetilons” and is an overused sitcom plot in general. Most of the China jokes weren’t funny, particularly the recurring gag of the singing dragons. And I agree it’s strange that Homer’s speech would be the catalyst for Wu allowing Selma to take the baby.

    “Second episode in a row where we watch a tape hosted by a celebrity, this time on menopause by Robert Wagner. And both times they’re not funny, and just kill time.”

    At least the previous episode had Gary Busey’s craziness. This Robert Wagner one was completely disposable, and to top it off, it wouldn’t have made any difference if another celebrity was in his place. Wagner left absolutely no impact.

  3. ‘Pranksta Rap’ wasn’t written by Dana Gould.

  4. Apparently, Mr. Gould was adopting a baby from China at the time this episode was aired, and that’s why he used a pseudonym.

  5. Trivia: The version of this episode that aired in Latin America (cable and local TV) does indeed read “Written by DANA GOULD”

  6. “- How does Selma have $10,000 to shell out to get a child, and then enough money to send everyone to China for multiple days?”

    Well.. she had apparently married Bob Terwilliger (who — though usually incarcerated — appears to be, or have been, independently wealthy… or at least has a rich family), Lionel Hutz (a crappy lawyer, of course, and shown to be broke before, but still, he’s a LAWYER so I’m sure he has money stashed somewhere), and most of all, Troy McClure (kinda a washed-up has-been but… you know… rich)… I’m guessing she got some decent money from divorcing them. I mean, $10,000 and change is a lot of money to shell out in just a couple days — even for someone who is rich — but I don’t think it’s really that hard to believe, and I can’t imagine Selma spends money on much beyond cigarettes and MacGyver DVD’s, so why not…

    …Oh, that reminds me, I know it’s still a while to go, but I cannot wait for your review of the season.. 17?… episode where her and Grandpa Simpson get married.

  7. Is this the episode where they’re on the plane, Marge wants Homer to go along with something (maybe the phony marriage) and she goes, “Please Homey? For me?” then cue the sentimental music? Ugh – it was the laziest attempt at emotion I’ve ever seen in the show up ’til that point.

  8. This and “Mobile Homer” were the only two Season 16 episodes I had absolutely nothing positive to say about when they first aired. This isn’t “Selma adopts a Chinese infant”, this is “Homer goes to China and does wacky shit for 22 minutes”. I hate hate hate this episode.

  9. This episode always seemed allot less terrible than the others around it to me. It’s not as callous or as stupid.

  10. Credit where credit is due, I also enjoyed the joke where Selma says (from afar) that Homer is her whole world and she loves him. Cut to Homer at the power plant, shivering and remarking that he felt a chill go down his spine. Lenny quips, “Yeah, those Sloppy Joe’s will do that.” OK, so it’s similar to a gag from “Bart Carny”, but it still works, especially as an act break.

  11. -How does Selma have $10,000 to shell out to get a child, and then enough money to send everyone to China for multiple days?

    Remember in “Black Widower” when she said she bought stock in a pepper spray company before society fell apart? And there’s the fact that she probably has money saved up from working at the DMV all these years and that she got married and divorced a lot (meaning her ex-husbands are paying her alimony).

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