Original airdate: May 8, 2011
The premise: Discovering he has a natural talent for cutting hair, Homer opens up a salon, but quickly becomes fed up with his female clientele’s never-ending chattering. Meanwhile, Milhouse puts his heart on the line for Lisa, and is promptly rejecting. When he quickly finds new affection, Lisa becomes suspicious, wondering if this new girl has an ulterior motive.
The reaction: I assume the impetus for this episode was one of the writers saying, “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if Homer was great at cutting hair? Y’know, because he has no hair? Get it?” So not only is this yet another “Simpson becomes an instant success” episode, but it’s almost like a parody of itself, as Homer appears to be impulsively and supernaturally gifted to the point that his insane talents torture him. It almost could have worked on an absurdist level if the premise hadn’t been so stupid. Let’s just go along with the fact that either Homer is insanely gifted or that every other hairdresser in town sucks, that the women are literally throwing themselves through windows for Homer to do their hair. Dumb, but alright, whatever. Then we get to why Homer gets fed up and wants to quit; women be gabbin’ so much that he just can’t cope with it! You know how women get, right, guys? Then, for some reason, all of the husbands are at Moe’s, and Homer is haunted by knowing about their character flaws and foibles from their wives? Why would that matter? He’s not friends with Lovejoy or Wiggum or Skinner, what does it matter that he knows this stuff? So the story ends with Marge helping Homer weasel out of his predicament, by showing up dressed to the nines at a big gala ball and convincing everyone that Marge’s jaw-dropping new ‘do was done by another stylist. Who? Why, Julio, the flamboyant stereotype, of course! We just saw him earlier in the season, what happened to him? Maybe the episode could have featured him going to war with Homer after losing his customers. Or something. So what happened in this episode? Homer discovered he was naturally awesome at something, and then got tired of all the money and attention, and then just stopped doing it. Exhilarating. This episode feels the farthest away from Homer’s initial characterization that I can think of: a dogged, none-too-bright everyman who gets spit in the face by life is now a gifted savant who is extremely popular and beloved, whose only conflict is his fame being too great. Blecccccchh.
Three items of note:
– Two discussion points for the B-plot. First, Milhouse’s new belle is Taffy, voiced by Kristen Schaal. This episode is sort of right at the cusp of her becoming big into voice-over; Bob’s Burgers had just begun, and Gravity Falls was but a year away. I absolutely, positively adore Schaal; she’s got an incredibly distinctive voice and personality, and is a phenomenal comic actress, and as happens to a lot of guest stars, she is absolutely wasted on a nothing character. Who is Taffy? Can one even come up with one character trait she has? Why does she love Milhouse? Why does she randomly break up with her at the end? None of these questions are answered; Taffy barely gets enough lines as it is. Remember girls like Allison or Alex Whitney? They were real people with specific personalities that made sense in their own stories. Taffy is just a utility to this Lisa-Milhouse will they-won’t they bullshit, and a criminal misuse of Schaal. So secondly, this whole thing between Lisa and Milhouse. Was their kiss supposed to be fan service? Is this just like the writers’ collective wish fulfillment, since they were probably all little Milhouses in their youth? (to be fair, so was I). Lisa has never been interested in him (except as a big sister, of course), definitively states that to him at the beginning of the episode, then at the end, kisses him and says to never give up. I just read this as more waffling to keep the status quo. It’s not like they’re going to explore Lisa’s conflicted feelings or anything, it’s just an exercise in futility. But whatever, look! He said the “Everything’s coming up Milhouse!” line! Remember that? Forget the fact that he was caught by a magical eagle for some reason! Remember that great line you fans love? Do you ‘member? Oooh, I ‘member!
– As usual with these shows, there are a lot of jokes that run twice as long, if not longer, than they need to. The whole bit at the start of the B-story of Milhouse discovering the real beginning to Finding Nemo feels like a really belabored joke, it feels like it takes too much explanation to get to the punchline. It also of course supposes you’ve seen Nemo, otherwise it makes absolutely no sense. Another mash note to Pixar, I guess. Also interminably long and ear-piercingly aggravating were Milhouse’s theremin ode to Lisa and Wiggum making his incredibly annoying noise.
– Let’s talk about the timeline of this story. Wiggum confronts Homer during the day about doing his wife’s hair for the policeman’s ball that will take place that night. He says “tonight.” Homer has closed his shop for good, but I guess Wiggum made that annoying noise and it forced him to reopen. Next scene is Lenny walking in to a completely full store to talk to a despondent Homer. What, is Wiggum holding a gun on him? To not only do Sarah’s hair, but keep the business open… for some reason? After that, it’s nighttime, where Lisa is doing her digging on Taffy, and Marge helps Homer plan their scheme to get out of his predicament. After that, it’s daytime where we see Lisa stalking Milhouse and Taffy, which she does all the way into the night. And then after that is the policeman’s ball. So that’s not “tonight,” that’s the following night. It seems kind of nitpicky written out like this, but if the writers don’t seem to care about the natural progression of the story and things making sense, then why should I as a viewer?
One good line/moment: The sign gag for the Policeman’s Ball, the Thin Blue Line-Dance was pretty good.