(originally aired November 13, 2005)
It’s been a while since we had a Marge/Bart episode. The first since “Bart the Mother”? I think that’s right, but if not, who cares. At this point, the writers have forgotten how to write both characters, so the result is very awkward and strange. Marge buys a tandem bicycle hoping to ride with Homer, but of course he turns her down in favor of television. We’ve come a long way since “Duffless,” huh? Seeing his lonely mother biking by herself, Bart agrees to go with her, and it becomes their regular bonding activity, riding to a dainty shoppe for tea and cakes (for Bart, mainly cakes). It’s a thin, boring premise with not much added to it, but at least I’m fine with the characterization so far. It isn’t long before the bullies poke at Bart for being a “momma’s boy,” leading him to explode at his mother and humiliate her (“Mom, I only hung out with you because I felt sorry for you!”) I get he needs to shun Marge here, but he does it with such a level of scorn; it’s not just “stop mothering me so much,” it’s “I put up with you because you’re pathetic.” Why would he word it that way? How mean is that?
In the final act, the rift created between Marge and Bart starts getting mended. There’s a karaoke contest at the school, for some reason, and Bart suggests he and his mother do a duet. Something that would humiliate him further, but he’s only doing it because that’s what he thinks Marge wants. Then we see how their relationship has the risk of paralleling Skinner and his mother, as they are also performing, which makes absolutely no sense. Agnes doing karaoke? Forget it. Also, Skinner has become completely neutered at this point; he used to have some modicum of respect as Bart’s unofficial arch nemesis, now he’s just this sad, pathetic man who’s chained to his mother in every respect. Marge fears Bart will turn out like him, so he cuts the performance short (“Your job isn’t to worry about me, it’s to give me things to worry about.”) So the ending isn’t Bart apologizing for saying such hateful things to Marge, but Marge apologizing for Bart having to cheer her up. Huh? I get the idea of a mother not wanting to burden her children with her own problems, but it’s not like she unloaded on Bart; she was just having an bad day and Bart responded to it. So I don’t get it. But perhaps I should give up trying to understand some of these episodes.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Intolerable sequence where Homer gleefully hijacks a bumper car as the track is being dismantled and driving it onto the street. Homer being that giddy sets up warning flags for me; he’s a hell of a lot funnier when he’s a dogged everyman, not an infantile maniac.
– There’s a kind-of B-story involving Homer taking up arm wrestling, kind of. I like the idea of him just bulking up one arm with his dumbbell, then moving on to the other one before Moe stops him, but beyond that, it’s just killing time, and has no bearing on anything. Though the scene of them attempting to bilk the Rich Texan is the only amusing scene of the episode (“A hundred bucks says he can whoop you in arm wrestling!” “A Texas penny it is!”)
– “Sweet Home Alabama” appears twice on this show’s soundtrack, with characters singing it, for reasons that escape me.
– The China Syndrome is a pretty good store name, as is the talking Krusty tea kettle (“Earl Gray? I’d rather have Lynda Gray! …is she still alive?”)
– We get a reference to the great film Midnight Cowboy, but it just feels very random. Marge takes a bus to Miami with the tandem bike, I guess representing her dead relationship with her son? Or something?
– The new type of “joke” with the bullies is to have them be knowledgeable or mindful of cultural or adult things, like Jimbo knowing about Frank Gehry, or here when they discuss the limitations of store credit. Then we end the episode with the three of them singing “My Sharona” outside the Simpson house for some reason, because that’s funny, I guess?