409. Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind

Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind(originally aired December 16, 2007)
As I mentioned before with “Moe Baby Blues,” this is one of the very few episodes that panicked new Simpsons supporters point to, screaming, “See! The show’s still good! See?!” And as with “Blues,” yes, this is a pretty good show; it apes its premise from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, of course, but only in its plot device, crafting a believable and mostly investing story around it. One winter morning, Homer wakes up face down in the snow after a seemingly drunken night he can’t remember. He returns to an empty home, and struggles to put the pieces together as to what happened. Only uncovering bits of Marge reacting resistant to him and getting a black eye, he fears the worst. The first act keeps us in the dark as to what happened, and of course we know there was no foul play, but we really feel for Homer in his confusion and disbelief over the situation. He knows he would never do something so horrible… but could he? It’s a rare, truly emotional portrayal from the dumb fuck caricature he’s become in recent years.

To jostle his memory, Homer visits Professor Frink, who has a device that allows one to search through their own memories. Act two has some great stuff in it within Homer’s mind, with him whizzing past thousands of frame grabs from past episodes to him attempting to physically jostle and alter his memories to get more information about what happened. When he uncovers what he thinks to be Duffman having an affair with Marge, he’s crestfallen, and decides to commit suicide (this’ll be attempt three of the series, for those keeping score). This leads to the only big issue I have with the episode; Patty and Selma appear at the bridge Homer’s standing off of to berate him and push him off. Homer realizes the truth about what happened as he’s falling, that Marge was planning a surprise party for him, right before he lands on a moon bounce on his party ship down below. That’s some amazing timing, but I’m willing to overlook it. Then we get the kicker where we find that Homer purposely wiped out his own memory after feeling so bad about spoiling his wife’s surprise, in another strangely thoughtful, but slightly boneheaded move from him. A truly odd character turn for Homer… it’s almost like he’s being portrayed as a… empathetic, likable person. A rare great one, especially considering the shit from the season so far.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The episode may have lifted the memory device, but how Homer blanked out in the first place is their own clever creation: Moe’s Forget-Me-Shot, a concoction designed to wipe out the last twenty-four hours, comprised of triple sec, quadruple sec, the red stripe from Aquafresh, and the venom of the Louisiana Lobotomoth. For once, a bit with a character listing off shit is actually funny.
– Speaking of moths, using them as a wistful transition into Homer’s slowly recovering memories is a pretty neat idea.
– Homer sledding with Bart and Lisa is another sweet moment; where did asshole Homer go? And can he never come back ever again ever?
– Scanning through his memories, Homer goes through a vortex populated by screen grabs of episodes over the past eighteen years. Now because I’m a nitpicky asshole, there’s pictures from Treehoue of Horror shows, “Behind the Laughter,” and also moments in shows where he was not present, like Bart’s trip to France. Then again you could make the argument that his “memories” would have to be from his POV, so none of the pictures make sense. But if I were to go that far, I’d look like an even bigger douche.
– Homer, Bart and Lisa stomping about the house to get Homer’s memory going, causing him in real life to get a nose bleed is a pretty great gag.
– As he falls to his presumed death, Homer’s life flashes before his eyes, in the form of a parody of that YouTube video of a guy taking a picture of himself every day for six years. It’s a neat sequence, but it’s a full minute and basically just feels like them just taking that idea and using it as a “tribute.” Though there’s a great reference within a reference when the mold in young Abe’s shitty apartment grows into a sentient gator and walks up the walls, a reference to the graffiti artist Blu.
– The cop-out that the squeaking Homer saw was actually a dried up marker, and Duffman was actually giving an ice pack to Marge (“I’m just giving it to your wife! She’s gonna be sore tomorrow!”) is so cheap, but unlike similarly ridiculous instances this season, I accept it here because I feel everything around it was good enough that they earned it.
– All of Homer’s closest friends are at the party: Mr. Burns, Smithers, Nelson, Mr. Largo, Martin’s dad, Lurleen Lumpkin, Blue-Haired Lawyer, Sideshow Mel, Mrs. Krabappel… Huh?
– Duffman storing beer where the life vests should be is pretty great.
– Though it’s a bit schmaltzy, I do like the very end, because again, it feels like the episode earned it (“Aren’t you going to drink?” “No, this is a moment I want to remember.”)

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12 responses to “409. Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind

  1. Next to “Caged Bird”, this is my favorite of the season. It’s not a laugh riot (few modern episodes are), but the plot is well-done, slowly revealing more pieces of Homer’s memory. And yes, Homer is pretty likable in this episode, which is refreshing.

    Best bits:
    -Moe’s ugly freeze frame shots
    -Bart kicking Homer’s butt at various stages of his life
    -All the secrets Lenny and Carl give to Homer before the drink takes effect, especially: “I find your small hands attractive.”
    -“And when you pushed me off the bridge, it’s ’cause you knew about the party and wanted to make sure I got here. ” “…Yeah, that MUST be it.”
    -The only question remaining: Why did Santa’s Little Helper growl at Homer? Because he never feeds him, walks him, or takes him out to pee.

  2. How did Patty and Selma get from the bridge to the boat?

    • *spoilers, I guess* I know it’s a stretch, but isn’t the ending kinda similar to the ending of “The Game”? True, Sean Penn’s character didn’t push Michael Douglas’s off the building, but he did that long suicide fall into a big celebration/surprise party waiting for him at the end. I doubt it was a reference, but you know… making me think of “The Game” was cool.

  3. That YouTube sequence destroyed what good will I had for the episode, the kind of filler that would be too long on Family Guy, I know it’s only one bit but the episodes are on 18 minutes long now and it’s two minutes long. Really annoying,

  4. I thought the YouTube sequence was amazing.

    I genuinely kinda love this episode, despite some obvious stupidity here and there. Still, though. Best Zombie Simpsons episode ever!

  5. This is one episode I did not realize how great it was until I rewatched it this summer. In fact, when it first aired, it came and went from my mind whereas I thought other episodes like “That 90’s Show” were good. Now I am the opposite. Sadly though, the only other episode I can think of from this season that I enjoy is “The Debarted,” which is a nice parody of The Departed.

    I too also thought the ending was so much a homage to The Game. That is a great movie.

  6. I remember channel surfing on the night of December 16, 2007 and thinking “What the hell, I haven’t watched a new Simpsons in a couple of years. Let’s see if they’re any better these days.” And I was pleasantly surprised by this episode. Sure, it still has its fair share of problems (that Ice Age parody at the beginning goes on way too damn long), but the premise is pretty darn interesting.

    I swear I read somewhere that this episode was created as a potential series finale in case the show didn’t survive the 2007 Writer’s Guild of America strike – it does have a certain air of finality about it, and Al Jean himself has cited it as a good potential last episode. But the strike didn’t start until about two months before this episode aired, and I know there’s no way they could have made it that fast.

  7. I love this episode, it’s one of the best of the century.
    I see no one mentioned these funny bits:
    – “To a man I’m happy to call my best friend… Homer Simpsnow…Simpson!
    Dyslexia! Duffman’s secret shame!”
    – Bart beating up 10 year old Homer. “You’re superiour to me in every way!” “Do’h!
    – Funny bit after the Youtube-parody. Under the video ‘Picture a day for 39 years’, which has 4004 views and 2,5 rating stars you see ‘Kitten smokes on toilet which has over 63 million views and 5 rating stars.
    – I know most of you don’t like extreme religious Flanders, but I did chuckle when he slammed the door on Homer after he asked him what he had done. ”Well, I can’t say for sure, but as a christian I assume the worst!”
    – Lisa: “Dad, you just destroyed your first kiss!” Homer: “Who was it with?”
    Bart: “Ehh…Apu.” Homer: “Right.”

  8. “All of Homer’s closest friends are at the party: Mr. Burns”

    I really REALLY hate this. What happened to the old days when Mr. Burns made a big deal about having to uncharacteristically commune with the common man? Or when it was a novel idea for him to join a bowling team because he had never had friends?

    Now he’s just another character for the background.

  9. Well, this episode..
    The first time I watched it I thought it was great, and despite some flaws I really felt for Homer and everything that happened. Pretty good, indeed. But I’ve re-watched it twice after that and, as for some other good Zombie-episodes, they don’t stand the test of repeated viewing: the more you re-watch it the less you find it entertaining, and even the details you liked become boring and bland. And we all know when something is quality it doesn’t happen.
    It’s still a good episode, and the “nose-bleeding” and “first kiss” gags still make me laugh everytime. They are great.

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