(originally aired April 22, 2007)
Another good episode? And J. Stewart Burns writing two in a row? What is going on? Despite a few quibbles, mainly with the A-story, both plots are fairly well constructed, work within our characters, and provide a fair amount of laughs. Just as her husband did five years prior, Marge discovers the world of the Internet, and quickly becomes hooked, in a lame, very Marge way, finding cheap prices for paper towels and sending holiday e-cards. She stumbles into a game called Earthland Realms, an MMORPG similar to medieval-style games like Everquest or World of Warcraft. Of course we see our regular characters are all playing for some reason, but at least they all give explanations for why they’re there, like Mrs. Krabappel looking to find a man who can afford a computer. Then there’s appearances by Skinner, Sideshow Mel, Smithers, people I don’t think would waste their time with this stuff. But it’s par for the course to have some of our regulars here, so I don’t mind that much. The main thrust is that Bart is this super powerful warlord in the game, and Marge ends up finding a way to extend her over-mothering into the virtual world. Bart ends up accidentally killing Marge’s character, and to make things right, sacrifices most of his life bar to revive her, leaving his avatar to be mercilessly slaughtered by the other players. A simple resolution, but done pretty effectively.
I actually really love the B-story, despite a somewhat rocky start. Lisa has taken up soccer, but there’s no referee. Who will step in? That wacky Homer of course, as we see a montage of him ripping off his sports bra and vomiting in an orange cone. But once we get past that, we get the actual story, where Lisa finds she can exploit Homer’s favoritism to cheat at the game. It’s startling nowadays to see her actually act like a kid, and even though it’s pretty dicey to have her act this self-serving, it’s still within the realm of an eight-year-old to act. Homer actually becomes a competent ref, and when Lisa’s transgressions are exposed, he throws her from the game. Even the superfluous guest spot is amusing: Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo singles Lisa out as a “flip-flopper,” but his acting is so wonderfully bad, and his character so unusually malicious, it ends up being pretty funny (“Another family broken up by Ronaldo. Yes!”) To make amends, Homer gets Lisa a PBS tape about the violent history of the sport, and in the end, Lisa apologizes to her father for the way she acted. I’m beside myself with this premise; Homer doesn’t irritate the shit out of me… instead, I empathize with him. And Lisa acts like a bratty kid, and then learns a lesson and we still love her too. I liked “Homerazzi,” but I think this subplot is the best thing I’ve seen on the show since the classic years. Good show, Mr. Stewart Burns.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I love how Marge comments how she can make her avatar into anyone she wants, then just proceeds to make it look just like her, as does everyone else in the game, apparently. It’s like in simulation games like The Sims where people make little virtual versions of themselves, when really the options for character creation are endless.
– Odd to see Dr. Nick make a cameo in the game, as a dismembered head. We really haven’t seen much of him lately. And then he’ll be killed again in the movie, for real. Or not. I’m sure made a reappearance at some point.
– I really do like the bits of Marge smothering Bart in the game, it’s almost adorable (“What a fun quest! Aren’t you glad I made you take that nap in the middle?”)
– Lisa cites she was inspired to take up soccer by Bend It Like Beckham. It’s odd that in the flashback we see Apu stand up in approval of an arranged marriage in the film, considering how he tried so desperately to wriggle out of his own.
– I love how pissed Helen Lovejoy is at Homer discrediting her obviously silent daughter (“You are so blind even Jesus couldn’t heal you!” “Helen, please, don’t drop the J-bomb.”) And I really mean no disrespect, but the way Ronaldo reads his lines is so odd… but it’s hysterical (“Now, Ronaldo away!”)
– The scene of Bart and Homer ending up on the couch, both in hot water by the Simpson women, is fantastic. The conflicts are believable, and the two take a momentary solace in each other’s company (“I’ll never understand women if I live to be forty.” “Big ‘if.'” “You said it. Enjoy me while I last!”) Hey, these two are actually kind of amicable instead of being antagonists to each other! There’s a lot of small bits in this episode that echo to the golden years. Even the part with the phony Moe and the real one tied up in the back room was just the right amount of bizarre to still be funny.