(originally aired January 8, 2006)
You might have noticed that first acts in later years have been becoming increasingly more tangential, having absolutely nothing to do with the main story. While they do present the opportunity for some good jokes or satire (which there have been neither of lately anyway), as a viewer, you feel a bit like your time has been wasted, that the writers couldn’t come up with a full enough story so they bullshitted for six minutes and then kicked the plot off. This episode has, bar none, the worst tangential first act of the entire series. Marge is incensed that a toll has been put up on a much-traveled road, and instead opts to take the free alternative. To combat this, Quimby installs dividers on either side to block that route, which would basically be enough, but also puts in rows of tire spikes to lock everyone in. Why entire rows? You’re already boxed in. Marge freaks out and slams into reverse, which causes an entire row of cars behind her to get rear-ended. It’s like the stupid shit in “See Homer Run,” there’s randomly like twenty cars bumper-to-bumper. So all the popped tires get thrown on the tire fire, which causes a great level of smog, so much so that it melts the ice caps of a nearby frosted mountain, revealing a frozen postman. What was he doing up there? Was he fucking flash-frozen? How are his letters still intact and not soggy and unreadable? This is the catalyst for the plot to start: the Simpsons receive a long lost letter. There are a billion ways they could have started this story, and this is the one they landed on. It’s baffling.
The main story just bored me more than anything. The letter is from an old lover of Homer’s mother, who believes that her child is actually his, leading Homer to believe Abe might not be his real father. Homer tracks down the mystery man: wealthy treasure hunter Mason Fairbanks, voiced by Michael York. He’s a delightful old Brit who Homer immediately gloms onto, tossing Abe aside like a sack of hot rocks. It’s actually not as cruel as it sounds, so I wasn’t annoyed, it was just kind of uninteresting. We know that Fairbanks isn’t his father, so the episode is meant to posit how Homer’ life would be different had he been raised by another person. Except it doesn’t do that at all; it ends with an undersea treasure salvaging where Homer nearly dies. The only thing that aggravated me here is that he has visions of his father in the past, showing him as a great dad, which as we’ve seen, he wasn’t at all. Him playing around with Li’l Homer is fine and sweet, but the bit of him giving Homer all his money on his wedding day feels so phony (“I gave you everything, and it still wasn’t enough.”) Sure, this did actually happen in “Lisa’s First Word,” but emotionally it was handled so much more efficiently and they undercut it with a joke. Here, it’s just saccharine for saccharine’s sake. In the end, Abe reveals he’s the real father… God, whatever. How could an episode with such a startling in-universe conceit be so safe and boring?
Tidbits and Quotes
– Joe Frazier has a quick guest spot, which only makes me wish I was watching “Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?”
– “Voila! Which is French for ‘ta-da’!” “I’m trapped like the ‘L’ in a BLT!” These guys are really at a loss in writing dialogue for Marge. Every line makes me cringe a little bit.
– I can’t get over how fucking stupid the frozen mailman thing is. I could bitch about it for so much longer than I already did, but why bother. It’s one of the dumbest things ever done on this show.
– I definitely believe that Mona cheated on Abe, given the time period and how much of an ass he was, but it’s kind of uncomfortable to hear. I dunno, it’s like the bit from “D’oh-in’ in the Wind” where Seth and Munchie not-so-subtly admit they banged her to her own son.
– This episode would be remedied instantaneously by a DNA test. At first Grampa refuses to take one, then by the end of act two instantly agrees to one. Plus there’s the fact that Homer basically looks like a non-wrinkled Grampa, as he demonstrates to the audience. Of course they’re related, you dolts.
– The dream sequence of Li’l Homer playing catch with a question mark is kind of cute. Then they break a window and an exclamation point comes out shaking its fist.
– Marge warns Homer not to get too emotionally invested, they all seem very apprehensive about the whole thing. Next scene they’re all on Fairbanks’ boat yukking it up. Whatever.
– The treasure hunt is so uninteresting, like who cares? What is is supposed to mean, that Homer’s life would have been more exciting if this guy was his father? Is that what he wanted? I really don’t know.
– Homer’s new catchphrase seems to be a very looooong moan. They keep using the same one, but condense it when need be. It’s annoying every time. Every. Single. Time.