(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.”)