The premise: After a stolen famous art piece is discovered in his home, Mr. Burns is thrown into prison, where he’s taken in by a physically intimidating, but humble born again inmate. But when conditions at the plant worsen under the rule of Smithers, Homer, Lenny and Carl seek to break Burns out and set things back to normal.
The reaction: As we’ve seen, Mr. Burns is a heavy casualty of latter day Simpsons, flip-flopping from cartoonishly evil to pathetic frail old weakling. This show utilizes mainly the first, with the opening act featuring Burns forcing his employees to work during their 4th of July picnic for his own amusement. It’s so elaborate and dumb; Burns would rather be left alone with his immense wealth than waste his time with common folk for any longer than he has to. Then he’s thrown in prison on an insane technicality, and somehow is unable to bribe his way out of there. Alright, whatever, Burns in jail, what can we do with this plot? Become born again? Sure, except it happens late in the episode and doesn’t mean anything, and of course he reverts back to his evil ways in a matter of minutes. Apart from that we have Smithers inexplicably become an even worse boss than Burns, and a side story with Bart and Lisa involving an ant farm. Quality!
Three items of note:
– The scene of Burns’ arrest is unbelievable, one of the worst scenes I can recall from this show. The cops come in to bust Homer, Lenny and Carl for trashing Burns’ house. Then Lou notices a Vermeer painting on the wall that was stolen twenty years ago. Even if there was a line about how he would know that, it would still be clunky and awkward. Yes, it’s true The Concert is still missing, but I didn’t know that. What percentage of the people still watching this show are art history majors? Rather than plead ignorance, claim it’s a replica, fucking anything to absolve him of guilt, Burns stammers on about how he’s above the law, and then he’s arrested. What about the three drunken idiots you came to arrest? But how fucking dumb is this? The cops come in, Lou points out the painting, Burns arrested. That’s it. They mention once how it’s ironic he got arrested on such a technicality, but it’s just so, so dumb and meaningless.
– The Smithers turn is so bizarre and stupid. The guys take him to Moe’s for a drink for what a great job he’s done running the plant, where in thanks, Homer lifts his shirt for him (“Use that image any way you want.”) Ugh. Then Smithers goes outside to take a phone call for a customer survey? But that’s just an excuse to get him out of the room and come back to overhear them talking about how they love taking advantage of an old pushover sap like Smithers. Why are they so needlessly vindictive? And what the fuck, this is like soap opera level contrivance, leaving the room and coming back to overhear part of a conversation? And plus, this gives us no sympathy for the punishment Homer, Lenny and Carl get, since they brought it on themselves. It’s all just an excuse to have a reason to bust Burns out of prison, which I guess they can do easily. Dress up as guards, get the keys and walk him toward the exit. Simple!
– Always on the cutting edge of pop culture, this episode references The Shawshank Redemption with the formidable black inmate who wants to cleanse Burns’ soul. So rather than show him molding Burns into a good person despite his resistance, he literally sucks the evil out of him, which is like this green goopy stuff that shoots out of Burns’ mouth in a disturbing and bizarre sequence. Then, hey, he’s good now! What the fuck is this shit?
One good line/moment: The portrait in Burns’ office of himself in the style of Saturn Devouring His Son by Goya. Now there’s my art history knowledge coming into use.