Original airdate: December 12, 2010
The premise: Homer is sent to prison for attempting to wriggle out of a series of innocuous offenses, and the only way to reduce his sentence is to become an FBI informant and infiltrate Fat Tony’s latest operation. Things get complicated when Homer and Tony form a tight bond, leaving Homer conflicted over where his allegiances lie.
The reaction: Sometimes it’s tricky writing up those quick plot summaries. Like, those are the story and emotional beats that the story was seemingly trying to reach for, but they’re never actually successful. The core of the story is that once Homer becomes a rat, he forms a kinship with Fat Tony, thus feels bad about betraying him. Except we don’t really delve into why Homer is so taken with the mob boss. Tony is swayed pretty quickly for plot convenience (“You have earned my complete, unquestioning trust!”), but why does Homer care about him so much? Because Tony threw him a party? He feels like he belongs in a group? Maybe we could have seen Tony had a lot to lose if he was taken down. We see him visit his wife’s grave, maybe reintroduce his son Michael and make Homer conflicted in robbing a boy of his father. Except we start out with Fat Tony and his crew already in jail and they easily break out, so with the revolving door judicial system in Springfield, I suppose it doesn’t matter all that much. But two-thirds in, Fat Tony dies, an incredibly unceremonious exit for such a big character, but a pretty ballsy move for the show. But, of course, that immediately is undone by the ending; Tony’s cousin Fit Tony steps in as boss, and then he eats a lot, and then he’s Fat Tony again. So this is like “I, D’oh-bot” with Snowball V being Snowball II, a B-plot that was so dumb and insulting that I’m such a majority of the fans hated, but here, it’s with an actual real human character that we care about. I dunno, do the writers just think that it’s so stupid, it’s funny? I don’t get why they think this plot twist ending could possibly work. Killing Fat Tony for good would actually be kind of interesting; maybe create a new character to be the boss, or you could get to know Legs or Louie better, but the show is so terrified of changing anything about the status quo, so we’re left with Fit-Fat Tony. Bleehhhhh.
Three items of note:
– There’s a pretty terrible bit at the beginning where for no reason, Homer and Moe stumble onto the stage of Wicked. Like, as a four second joke of them going from room to room for privacy, it might have worked. But instead, it just drags on and on and on for forty seconds, with Moe doing a little pantomime with a flying monkey, a joke you could have told in much, much less time. Then, ultimately, Moe tells Homer the information he wanted to tell in private, right at the bar anyway. With the other barflies gone, granted, but still, that whole detour was ultimately made pointless.
– Joe Mantegna seems to be getting up in years, because the Fat Tony voice was way, waaaay off here. It’ll be interesting to see from this point which voices the actors seem to lose grasp on as time moves forward. It’s not their fault, but given they kill Tony in this one, maybe this is all the more reason to keep him dead.
– Toward the end of the show, Fit Tony “tortures” Homer by forcing him to use the elliptical in his gym, which is completely empty. We do a time fade, it’s a tight shot of the two of them, and previously we’d seen one empty machine to Homer’ left. So, Homer says, “I worked for Fat Tony, and he was the best boss I ever had!” As soon as the word ‘boss’ was uttered, I already knew Burns was gonna be on that other machine. And sure enough, there he was, offended by Homer’s comment. Forget how he got there, why he was there in the first place, how he got on the elliptical directly next to Homer without him realizing, but why would Burns give two fucks if one of his employees didn’t think he was the greatest boss? Maybe he still desperately wants to be loved like a few episodes ago. So, so dumb.
One good line/moment: In a rare instance of utilizing class show elements in an actually effective way, Fat Tony orders Homer to burn down Moe’s after being insulted on the phone while trying to reach his Russian business contact Yuri Nater. Although the wrong number conceit is semi-reminiscent of “Homer the Smithers,” I thought it was a creative use of the prank call gag.