Original airdate: November 21, 2010
The premise: Mr. Burns is crestfallen when he finds he only has six weeks to live. When a cartoonishly botched suicide attempt leaves him with a wiped memory and the mentality of a four-year-old, the town decides the only viable option is to schedule time for each and every citizen of Springfield to enact their own revenge on the evil, hate-filled man that negatively impacted their lives.
The reaction: One of the biggest casualties in terms of characterization that I recall from this series was the degradation of Mr. Burns; at this point he can either be a bland stock “evil” character, or they humiliate and degrade him to subvert that persona. This episode flip-flops between both extremes in the most bizarre episode this season, hands down. We start with Burns finding out from a doctor that his days are numbered from his doctor, and rather than dropping him down a trap door, he instead gets rather sad. He holds a big gala event to announce his impending demise, and then is depressed to find that nobody cares about him, two things that feel so incredibly un-Burns. So it’s like “Monty Can’t Buy Me Love” where Burns inexplicably cares if people don’t like him. Why? After he fails to commit suicide, Bart finds an amnesiac Burns in the woods, who is now acting (and speaking) like he was in “alien” form in “The Springfield Files.” The whole middle portion of this show is very unsettling; a completely out-of-sorts feeble old man being used and abused by the townspeople. Apu uses him as a human shield, Homer walks him through a construction site in hopes of gravely harming him, they keep him in a giant birdcage during their town hall meeting, all of this is just incredibly unsettling. As the only one who recognizes how apeshit all of this is, Lisa uses her time to take Burns back to his mansion, where he inexplicably regains his faculties. There’s barely even a moment to signify his change, it happens over a few seconds, it’s just like, oh, okay, he’s back now. After that, the episode is basically over. The town doesn’t really learn anything, Burns I guess is just fine now that he’s surpassed his life expectancy, and we just wrap everything up in under two minutes. I really think they should have just killed Burns seasons ago, it’s clear that the writers don’t seem to know what to do with him anymore.
Three items of note:
– The opening with the news leaders meeting in the Statue of Liberty’s head feels like a shallow recreation of the GOP headquarters in a spooky castle. FOX News arrives in a helicopter labeled “Not Racist, But #1 With Racists,” which is a good joke, but as usual with this show now, they keep it going too long; when the guy exits the helicopter, it gets unstable, with the pilot screaming, “We’re unbalanced! It’s not fair!” Yeah, we got it. Also, the heads of Bravo and LOGO are making out! Gay people sure are funny!
– Burns’ wacky botched suicide lasts for so long. So very… very… long. He hits an incoming airplane, he’s struck by lightning, he bounces off a bunch of tree branches, he’s flung every which way, it’s just horrible. I don’t quite understand why it’s supposed to be funny. Same thing with amnesiac Burns, watching him is just more disturbing than anything. He eats teddy bear stuffing and vomits it up, a bird violently yanks on his tongue, and in one shot, it appears like he’s air humping Santa’s Little Helper as the dog has a concerned expression. Everyone laugh at this disgusting old man who’s lost his mind!
– The ending is so, so terrible. Burns returns, and vows he’ll cover the town in a dome, in a meta joke that kind of falls flat. When he confronts everybody, Marge tells him that he should be thanking all of them; he’s lived beyond what the doctor told him, and it was all because he was helping others. Is that how Marge sees it? Otto using Burns’ body as a bong was helping? Burns, for some reason, goes along with this, offers Ralph a lemon drop, and then his fucking skull caves in and he falls to the ground. Taking the candy back, his skull reforms. He surmises that his wickedness is his fountain of youth, and he’ll never be generous again. Sure, that makes sense. Then why was he given a death sentence in the first place? He’s just going to ignore his other diagnoses? It’s more of just characters explaining what they’re thinking and closing the episode out as quick as we can. And then the very end is Burns getting muscled into going to Nelson’s school play, I guess. Oh my, what a mess.
One good line/moment: In a moment that felt like the show making fun of itself, but I don’t know if they were clever enough to be that meta, at the town hall meeting, Lisa once again must act as the rabble-rousing voice of reason, quoting Shakespeare regarding showing mercy, which is responded with overwhelming boos (Sideshow Mel at the front of the crowd; if there’s one Springfield citizen I wouldn’t expect to boo Shakespeare, it’s him). But anyway, Lisa retorts that she feels weird that she, an eight-year-old, is the only one standing up to this shit. Mayor Quimby shockingly comments, “Eight-year-old?! I always thought you were a midget!” I laughed out loud at that, something the show hasn’t done for me in a good while.