Original airdate: January 29, 2012
The premise: Moe’s bar rag (voiced by Jeremy Irons) waxes nostalgic on his past experiences throughout major events in history all around the world. Meanwhile, Milhouse breaks up with Bart for no reason.
The reaction: There’s been a lot of garbage nonsense this season, but this has got to be the most baffling of them all. I honestly don’t have a problem with the talking bar rag on its own, but the plot they do with it goes nowhere and has no real point. The rag tells stories of the past: part of a tapestry created for a ruthless tyrant, used by Michelangelo while painting the Sistine Chapel, used as rag soup during the Great Depression? But at least half of the stories barely feature the rag, and some don’t even at all. The segments feel like cutting room floor material from one of those three/four-story episode, with Springfield residents filling in for historical characters (or fantasy characters, like the Arabian Nights segment. Real, fake, who cares?) Oh, and also a Treehouse of Horror-level of violence featuring hangings and beheadings. And what’s the point of all this? The bar rag feels abused and mistreated, and that’s about it. Moe laments that the rag is his only friend, until the very end where we see that Marge inexplicably took the rag when he was sleeping in the backroom of the bar (how she got in, why Moe was sleeping there… who knows) and washed it for him. See, he’s got friends! Moe is the creepy pervy bartender who has made countless untoward advances on her and who runs a bar that keeps her husband away from her and their children for days at a time, but it’s cool! It makes total sense for Marge to just steal and wash Moe’s filthy bar rag! Whatever. Then we have the Bart/Milhouse B-story, which is easily the most painful plot I’ve seen in a long time. Every word out of each character’s mouth feels so alien and out-of-character, and especially does not feel like dialogue coming from ten-year-olds. Their banter means nothing because the conflict arose from nothing. Each scene is just start and stop, and ends with Milhouse inexplicably summoning Drederick Tatum punching Bart in the arm off screen and the plot is over. Worse even still, the two plots don’t connect whatsoever, which feels especially jarring when we cut from the fantasy stuff back to the present over and over. And surely this could have tried to connect thematically? Maybe the bar rag was lamenting relationships it had had in the past and lost, and how precious true friendship really is, and that affecting Bart and Milhouse’s squabbles? But perhaps I’m asking way too much. This has got to be one of the worst episodes so far; with most shows I can at least strain to see the most basic story elements and the razor thing connective tissue feebly holding them together. I can’t see any of that here; I just can’t make sense of any of this fucking junk.
Three items of note:
– I suppose I should be thankful the episode abandoned reality right from the start, when a town hall meeting at Moe’s turned into a spontaneous dance party to Lionel Richie, with the artist himself actually there himself. And then Homer walks and dances on the ceiling. I guess this is funny because it’s like “Dancing on the Ceiling”? Ugh.
– No matter how hard I strain, I just can’t find any kind of thematic thread with the historical stories. The first involves peasant Marge being possessed by demon wool (?) to work years on an elaborate tapestry, only to be burned alive in her home by King Burns, who then ends up being hung by said tapestry. Then there’s the Arabian Knights one where Sultan Nelson gets beheaded by his harem of girls. Then more death, despair, death, and lastly Homer climbing Everest with the cloth as a flag, which is stolen off his body by a Moe-faced yeti who gives it to his Moe-faced child. So, is the bar rag extremely jaded by the life its led that sopping up booze and blood at a bar isn’t so bad? Again, I wouldn’t have a problem with a talking raga as a concept if I even came close to understanding what the fuck the point of it was.
– The Bart/Milhouse story is so, so, so bad. The writing is awful enough, but it feels like it was recut and rewritten as well. The timing of their initial squabble feels weird. Bart makes a dig at Milhouse, and Milhouse laughs at it, and then he just stops and is immediately angry, beginning a long sequence of very un-Milhouse lines (“Not anymore. Friendship over.”) That line, and several others from these scenes, were definitely rewritten in post because the lip sync doesn’t match. I can’t even imagine how poor these scenes must have been before they scrambled to rewrite it. And again, Drederick Tatum just shows out of nowhere at the very end, willing to punch a child on Milhouse’s beck and call. Brilliant storytelling. Just brilliant.
One good line/moment: I got nothing for this one. Just wholly confusing and unpleasant from start to finish.