Original airdate: January 6, 2013
The premise: Homer finds his way into an end-of-the-world survivalist group, and after inadvertently causing a town-wide power outage, carts his family off to prepare for the impending apocalypse.
The reaction: Tom Waits voices… that guy on the left. He’s never actually given a name, because I guess that would mean he would need a character as well. That happens a lot lately, like the cool hipster family they didn’t bother to give a last name to. He spews a bunch of apocalypse talk to Homer at Moe’s, and he ends up joining his prep squad or whatever. Said squad consists of Herman (makes sense), Chalmers (given recent, slightly annoying new characterization, I buy it), Lindsey Naegle (odd, but alright, whatever), and… Lt. Smash? The boy band Svengali/Navy recruiter? Did they really run out of characters? But it doesn’t really matter, none of them exhibit any real personality, they’re just there to exposit lines about stocking supplies and what to do if there’s an EMP or all this other stuff the writers read about doomsday preppers. Homer starts researching end-of-the-world strategies and hoarding food and hides it from his family, I guess to not worry or scare them? Even though the group says they’re all welcome to use their bunker outside of town. But that really doesn’t make any sense. All of the members are loner weirdos, so they happily invite Homer and his five dependents (Abe comes strapped to the car roof) to take up space and use up their supplies? The end “conflict” involves Homer being scolded by Marge about not caring about the lives of everyone else in town, as the preppers seemingly have no empathy toward their fellow man… except when it came to bringing in the Simpsons with open arms, apparently. This could have been an excellent point of contention, seeing the preppers’ animosity toward having to deal with outsiders and kids and Homer needing to defend them or something. Instead, it’s just more stuff happening for no real explained reason.
Three items of note:
– The “set-up” for Homer having paranoia about mass anarchy is from trauma he experienced when he was locked in a play place cafeteria with a bunch of dads going berserk and pummeling each other (it won’t make much more sense with more context, trust me). He envisions them all as crazed, out-of-control apes, and eight months later, he still is haunted by these memories. This feels even more like they should have constructed the episode with the preppers fueling Homer’s worries more, getting him to completely distrust and alienate himself from humanity and look out for only himself, but the episode isn’t really about that. Instead we have Homer eating a five pound bag of grain and having a magic, Looney Tunes-style fake wall in the basement. Much better material.
– So on Homer’s watch (or lack thereof), a massive generator malfunctions at the plant, causing a town-wide blackout. This is the impetus for the preppers to proclaim it’s the end of the world and skip town, in an awkward sequence where Quimby is addressing a crowd outside of town hall, and Unnamed McGee pulls Homer out of the front of the crowd about two feet to have an isolated conversation about skipping town. But really, this is it? Homer suffers no repercussions at work for this, we never see Mr. Burns, no one else at the plant can figure out what happened, etc. And then when they all return back to Springfield, everything is normal. Because of course it is. Frink explains that the power went out in Springfield, and then a few days later, it came back on. Wow. There was never any doubt the outage was only localized to Springfield… because we SEE that it was. Maybe if they had waited to reveal what happened until the end of the episode, or if they had a line talking about trying to contact neighboring towns and being unable to, it might have made more sense. Instead it’s just dumb. Real dumb.
– We’ve seen some weird end tag jokes from this show before, but this might be the most random. Lisa wraps things up talking about how civilization can endure catastrophe and that we’re gonna be around for a while, then we pan to outer space, where we see a flaming meteor on course for Earth. Said meteor is also covered in human zombies. Zombie meteor. That’s the gag we’re going out on.
One good line/moment: I genuinely enjoyed the bit with Homer climbing up the play place tower to reach Bart and Lisa, crawling and duck walking until he reached the top, only to be pummeled with balls from his two laughing kids. It was a pretty adorable moment where the kids were really acting like real kids, and Homer was a great dad for once for indulging them.