The premise: In one last grand gesture to attempt to save Homer’s soul, Flanders invites the Simpsons with his Bible study group to Israel, only to have his patience continuously tried and worn out by Homer’s ignorance and misguided blasphemy.
The reaction: I continue to be amazed how characterization continues to be bastardized this season. This episode begins with Flanders being annoyed and exasperated by Homer’s antics, which would carry on basically through the entire show. The always upbeat Ned, completely impervious to any negativity Homer throws his way, starts off pissed off. I could buy it if he was worn down over time, like in “Homer Loves Flanders,” but here he goes from aggravated to extremely aggravated. When he finally snaps at him, Homer is hurt and worries about losing Ned’s… friendship? What? He hates Flanders… right? The two make up in the end, because I guess in the series now they’re just old buddies, except we have him saying “Stupid Flanders” earlier because that’s a thing he used to say when the show was watchable. Tied to all this is our usual travel show beats, of visiting every famous landmark in Israel and making a stupid joke, with references to Jewish things, like latkaes and yarmulkas! Bleh.
Three items of note:
– Sacha Baron Cohen voices the Israeli tour guide, a role completely bereft of jokes. He gets a lot of dialogue too, and multiple instances of him, for some reason, telling the tourists to shut up and pay attention. This happens at least three times, I guess they thought it was funny. Singer Yael Naim voices his niece, who gets a pointless montage of chasing and fighting Bart. I thought maybe this was going to be Bart’s new celebrity-voiced love interest, but no, it’s just time killer with no bearing of the story. Also, the chase is set to Run Lola Run music? Remember when you parodied that thirteen year old movie nine years ago?
– The Homer/Ned dynamic in this show is so weird… like I guess this stems back to “Viva Ned Flanders,” where Homer would be this goofy guy who gets on this guy’s nerves. But at least there, Ned was still Ned, and not constantly being irritated. I feel it could have worked if they went from zero to sixty on it, rather than Ned telling Homer how much he irritates him right at the start.
– The ending is so goddamn terrible. Homer the Messiah speaks upon Muslims, Christians and Jews, giving them the guidance to stop all their religious wars forever… celebrate your commonalities, and be good to each other. It’s like the episode where Bart resolves the Catholic/Christian debacle with words just as cliche and hackneyed. Like, what? But this serves as our reconciliation where Ned can tear up that he finally “reached” Homer. Whatever.
One good line/moment: Not much to go on here… Homer playing with his kids on the slip and slide was pretty cute at the beginning. I like it whenever we see him being a fun dad.