431. How the Test Was Won

How the Test Was Won(originally aired March 1, 2009)

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.

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24 responses to “431. How the Test Was Won

  1. The line after that montage of Homer getting hurt “what a week” DOES NOT WORK considering they used a scene from Lard of the Dance which takes place from just before school started and a few weeks into the new school year.

  2. – 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?

    I’m sure they called it “the government knows best act” in bart mangled banner (one of the worst episodes ever!) if they did use the real term “the patriot act” then what episode was that? And if you’re wondering the real name of the act is “No Child Left Behind Act” and funny when Family Guy made fun of the act they used the real name… weird…

    • They mention it in E Pluribus Wiggum as explanation for why Ralph is allowed to run for President. Ugh.

      • Another awful episode… damn i don’t know how you put up with doing these reviews :/ plus we get Birch T Barlow and Rush Limbaugh (mentioned only) in that same episode too…. WEAK!

    • Meh, “No Child Left Behind” is one of the worst things our government has ever done to both schools and teachers, but most of all, to the students. It has made our jobs vastly more complicated. I understand what they were trying to do, but it harms schools more than it helps. Schools that truly need funding due to their locations do not get it and have to rely on the bare minimum materials to teach, while a school that does extremely well because it is located in the richest neighborhood will get everything to teach with ease. So if you teach in a poor area of the city, you don’t get any fancy SMART Boards, iPads, or anything to better serve those struggling students where school is the only place some of them feel safest. Instead, you get a 20 year old computer in the classroom and have to teach like it is still 1980 while having to uphold every new standard required to do so.

      Sorry, this rant is out of place and went on a little longer than it should. I’ll stop now.

      • Personally I feel that it’s a form of indoctrination aka No Child Left Independent but anyway that’s why we shouldn’t have let Bush Jr. in mostly… but yeah i’ve heard nothing but bad things from that mess of an act but like I said before why can’t the actual name be used? it’s not like there’s a copyright on it or anything????? if family guy was able to use the name so should the simpsons…. who knows?

  3. Concerning the insurance part and the cringe-worthy Homer drinking Mr Burns’s blood :/ as Kriken said why the fuck didn’t Marge just simply mail the insurance letter in then!

  4. While this episode isn’t great, after the last few Lisa episodes, I felt this was a nice change of pace.

  5. 11 episodes in and you haven’t liked any of ’em. Might this be the first season where you don’t like a single episode at all? Stay tuned…

    • He still has Gone Maggie Gone to watch, which is by far the best episode of the season and is up there with 24 Minutes and Eternal Moonshine.

    • forbidden donut

      predictions:
      No Loan Again Naturadiddily – Mike will make several angry insults regarding what an unforgivable asshole scumbag Homer is and label this one of the worst of the series
      Gone Maggie Gone – Mike will point out a slew of plot holes
      Eeny Teeny Maya Moe – a lukewarm review that mostly focuses on how Maya has little personality
      3 Women and a Manicure – a brief 1-paragraph review talking about how no one cares about these trilogy episodes

      • Thank to the 4-act structure now “3 women and a manicure” has 4 stories but yeah who cares…

      • I’m most excited about his review for “Wedding for Disaster”. That episode’s just horrible, with the Saw parody and Sideshow Bob’s brief and pointless appearance…

      • Yeah the Saw “parody” will be a hoot more Mike to review and Marge’s wrong characterisation and that stupid reason why Homer and Marge need to marry again…

  6. Sadly, this is the best season 20 has to offer. And it’s not even that great.

    I did like Homer’s subplot, though once again, its story was more or less the same as the King of the Hill episode “Mutuah of Omabwah” (and done superior there, IMO). Still, the triple fakeout where he keeps opening the glove compartment and not realizing the payment was sitting in there was well executed, and I did like Homer’s fantasy of what could happen at the party. And about Marge and Lindsay kissing: It’s part of Homer’s daydream, it’s not like they actually did it in real life.

    • Good point about the lesbian kiss but i’m surprised this would be in homer’s mind at all but anyway they actually stooped to the lesbian kiss in the actual ep. in season 22 and season 23 so yeah…

    • I was waiting to see someone mention King of the Hill, which beat The Simpsons to the punch by 4 years (though I think KotH had declined a lot by that point). It’s so weird when several Fox animated series use the same very specific plot, like how Marge Gamer has equivalent KotH and American Dad episodes.

  7. Come to think of it Skinner in the picture sums up ZS very well.

  8. Am I the only one who thinks the No Child Left Alone Act sounds pedophilic? I think funnier titles would be something like No Child Left too Far Behind or No Child Pushed Ahead. No Child Left Alone? That’s just gross.

    • No Child Pushed Ahead is passable but the act is so ridiculous on its own merit you don’t even need to give it a parody name.

  9. God, I hate the ‘Footloose’ ending so much. Chalmers starts dancing for no reason. No one says anything. No one’s expression changes. It just happens and then stops.

    Makes you wonder why on earth anyone thought releasing Season 20 on Blu Ray would appeal to anyone at all, especially without commentary; who the hell would buy them just for the *episodes*?

  10. Wow, I can understand people not liking the Simpsons like they used to.
    But I feel the negativity is getting too big in the replies and posts. Ofcourse people have these opinions, I respect that, but I can still see the humour in the new episodes. Ofcourse it’s not THAT awesome any more, but I give it some credit. I feel people just start with watching in a negative way to the post-classic episodes, just because they are post-classic. If people are so annoyed by the show now, they should stop watching and commenting about how everything is shit, and start watching their classics again.
    Sorry if you’re offended by this, but I felt I have to say this on this blog..(btw I have read all your reviews from the 1st ep. after watching the episodes myself and I enjoyed reading your view on the episodes even though they were not always the same as mine regarding the latter episodes)

    – The Final Destination parody was pretty funny, because at first, I didn’t realise it wasnt really happening, so seeing Agnes SKinner getting cleeved with an axe was kinda shocking for a moment)

    “The line after that montage of Homer getting hurt “what a week” DOES NOT WORK considering they used a scene from Lard of the Dance which takes place from just before school started and a few weeks into the new school year.”

    I’m not sure what you mean really. Aren’t the scenes just random from all the times of the year throughout the series? Also, there’s a scene from ToH XIII, which didn’t really ”happen”, so you must hate that as well.
    I think it was just a silly joke line from Homer.

    “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.”

    Isn’t this meant as a cynical remark from Marge? Otherwise you are right. I think the writers meant this line as a joke on how stupid Homer is I guess, but it doesn’t really work.

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