Man alive, these last couple episodes have been quite boring, with no engaging or interesting stories to be found. Skinner and Chalmers put Springfield Elementary on alert of a government-mandated aptitude test that could get them much-needed funding, so to make sure they get as much cash as possible, they drill the answers into the kids’ minds by any means necessary. This conceit could be amusing satire, of educators teaching test answers rather than practical knowledge, but like most material on the show nowadays, it’s so ham-fisted and the jokes are made so blatantly obvious that it becomes heavy sigh-worthy. To hedge their bets, Skinner schemes to hide all the troublesome students, Bart, Ralph, and the bullies (“Whacking Day,” anyone?), and cart them to Capital City. But Chalmers sweetens the deal and has Skinner exported too. Meanwhile, Lisa suffers massive test anxiety during the exam.
It feels like nothing happens in this episode. Nothing. Skinner, Otto and the kids end up stranded in Capital City by means of stupidity, Ralph gets stuck on a barge and just sits there because he’s brain damaged, then Skinner must do a thing to save him that requires knowledge and the other kids are instantly impressed. Everything is explicitly narrated so that the audience knows exactly what’s happening, and none of it sounds natural or makes sense. From this, Skinner realizes that kids don’t learn from tests, and rejects the national exam. What exactly did he learn? And how will this not affect Springfield Elementary at all in coming episodes? It’s all an exercise in futility, and I’m not even sure what the meaning of any of it was. Or if there was any meaning at all. Probably not, since we end with a minute recreation of the Footloose ending. No other jokes to go with it, they just do the ending with everyone dancing. Jesus Christ, and I thought the random dance ending of “Tales From the Public Domain” was intolerable. One of the emptiest episodes ever, completely bereft of any kind of… anything.
Tidbits and Quotes
– We get a minute-long clip package at the start of all the times Homer has gotten hurt on the series, and surprisingly most of them are from the classic years. Despite the show’s over-reliance on terrible physical comedy nowadays, whoever edited this still realized how much funnier it was done in the past.
– The VPAT is part of the No Child Left Alone Act… boy, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? They’ve mentioned actual legislation like the Patriot Act before, why not just call it what the fuck it’s called?
– There’s a B-story, kind of, involving Homer forgetting to mail out his insurance renewal, and upon frantically delivering it weeks later, is a paranoid wreck, making sure no one is injured on his property until he becomes insured again. Or at least until he believes he will be. He envisions an insane bloodbath occurring at home during Marge’s book club, where everyone is killed by Marge and Lindsay Naegle… who then make out. Talk about cheapening your characters. Next they’ll have Marge pose for Playboy. …oh wait. We end with a knife pegging Mr. Burns in the skull, who for some reason was walking outside the Simpson house, followed by a great bit of blood spurting from each open orifice of his body. Later, Homer apologizes, but of course not only does Marge forgive him, but acknowledges that it’s her fault (“Sweetie, at this point in a marriage, a wife should know what her husband can do and what he can’t. Who was I to think you could mail an envelope?”) That’s our Marge, spineless enabler to a reckless, irresponsible ape.
– Everything about the Skinner & company stuff is wrong. Everyone acts like morons, they all go into the bathroom with Ralph for some reason so they can not see the bus get taken apart, then of course Ralph can’t do anything he’s told because he’s mentally handicapped. Skinner slingshots a balled up note to a crane operator to help out, which flies through the window, hits the guy driving and knocks him unconscious. A fucking paper ball. Then we get more shitty CG with the crane swinging the container ship around. Skinner builds momentum on top of it by running around in a circle, and the kids are learning! How do I know? Because they openly say it (“Learning can teach you things!” “Education rules!”) Fuck.
– The paranoid Lisa stuff sucks too. There’s a joke that I really fucking hate where she comes to the first problem, but all four possible answers appear correct (“That can’t be. In life, everything only has one answer!”) The joke is about narrow-minded institutionalized teaching… but it’s coming from Lisa’s mouth. They could have done this joke earlier and had Krabappel or Chalmers say it, but why Lisa? Speaking of Chalmers, he’s completely apeshit in this episode. During his loud panicked tirade to the kids, Azaria is really straining; I guess we’d never heard him get loud before, but he doesn’t sound right at all.