(originally aired January 29, 2006)
Hey, it’s another tepid episode! Although to be fair, aside from the terrible non-ending and the B-“plot,” this one actually isn’t too bad as a ramshackle Homer-Bart show. There are scenes between them that actually feel authentic as a father and son at odds, but there are also others that don’t work at all. A recent catastrophic prank by Bart leaves Skinner urging Homer and Marge to send the boy to a rigorous reformation camp in Oregon. When Bart is unable to fly by himself, Homer is forced to drive him there, making him miss his trip to Vegas with his bar buddies. A highlight here is where Homer reflects on his miserable stasis in life (“I’m 38 years old, driving a crappy car with a son who doesn’t respect me, and I’m one Snickers Pie away from losing my foot to diabetes!”) It’s said out of rage, but it’s so unbelievably refreshing to see Homer disillusioned by his poor lot in life, rather than just giddily laughing at everything and being so upbeat all the time. Blissfully ignorant Homer is fun, just not for the entire running time of a show.
Homer and Bart bond over mocking a more loving father and son, also a great, classic-feeling scene. But Bart tries to make his escape, leaving Homer to track him down, ending up almost plummeting off a cliff. This leads to a hysterical scene where Bart raises and lowers the fender of the car to mess with his dad, giving Homer mood whiplash, going from fawning and loving, to increasingly disturbing death threats (“I’m gonna double kill you! Then I’ll bury you in a shallow grave, dig you up and kill you again! That’s the beauty of a shallow grave!”) Homer dumps Bart at the camp, feels guilty for it, then takes him back and drives off. Whatever. Back home Marge holds a yard sale to unload her husband and son’s junk, but finds her biggest seller are expired pills. I could almost buy this if they kept up Marge’s naivety, but Snake out-and-out says he’s buying illegal drugs, and Marge couldn’t be more chipper to sell them to him. Very out-of-character. The ending features Lisa returning home to find her parents are both incarcerated, and muses how she always figured the family would whittle down to just her. Not only is it an unsatisfying, unfunny ending, but continues to paint the Simpson family as rickety and dysfunctional, where they used to be loving and close-knit despite their squabbles. This show’s got some surprisingly good scenes in it, but the stupid shit weighs it down.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Milhouse is also becoming a character impossible to write for. He’s sort of like Marge, where they can’t write dialogue for a meek, out-of-touch character (“We can’t leave here without turning one little valve!” “Yeah! It’d be like going to Amsterdam and not taking a walking tour of famous doors!”) That would be slightly odd for Marge to say, but even more out-of-place for a ten-year-old boy.
– There’s barely any story here, so there’s so many sequences and jokes stretched to fill out the running time. The steam filling up the school feels so long, and other gags like Flanders singing the colors of the dreamcoat and the aforementioned bit of Homer screaming at Bart just go on foreeeeeeeever.
– It’s sort of dumb as the explanation for why Bart is “no-fly,” but I do love the flashback of Bart’s egregious transgression: removing his seat belt before the light went off upon landing (“Thanks a lot, 33C! Now we all have to go back to Minneapolis! And I’m very tired!”)
– The scene of Homer and Bart at the diner is honestly the best I’ve seen in years. It was so charming seeing those two enjoy each other’s company believably, by mocking others. Like when the family mocked Flanders’ note in “Dead Putters Society,” or the ending of “Saturdays of Thunder.”
– Why would Marge be selling the Mr. Plow jacket? She loves that thing. Just seems like more cramming in old references without really understanding what they mean.
– Smithers is buying estrogen! It’s funny because he’s a gay man, that means he wants to buy female drugs (“It’s for a friend… who’s trapped in the body of another friend.”) Wait, does that mean he wants a sex change operation? What the fuck have they done to this character?
– Homer’s Vegas nightmare with the sexy Bart waitress is incredibly disturbing (“Hey Homer, you wanna eat my shorts?”) My genitals were very confused. Burt Bacharach turning into Bart Bartabart is a pretty good gag too.