Original airdate: November 4, 2012
The premise: Marge gets the urge for another baby, and Homer keeps quiet about his opposition due to his crippling inability to talk to his wife. Meanwhile, Bart and the other boys try to figure out where Lisa is going after school and the cryptic clues she’s left behind.
The reaction: So here’s an episode that, when you break it down, has a very simple premise about a married couple disagreeing about a big decision: Homer doesn’t want to disappoint his wife, so he goes along with her desires to have a fourth child. Through their failed efforts, he feigns disappointment, while still hiding his true feelings. Homer, of course, is sterile thanks to the nuclear power plant, but Moe reminds him about donations he had previously made to the Shelbyville sperm bank before Bart was born (how the hell would he know this?!)
On the trip there, Homer delays things by taking her down a tourist trap-ridden stretch of road, leading to a fun day out for the two. Previously, Marge had proclaimed that being a mom was all her life was good for, so in creating this distraction, it almost seemed like Homer was accidentally making Marge realize that she could have her own fun and fulfilling life outside of doting on her children. But I think that was unintentional. When the truth finally comes out, he’s very… callous about it (“I was just being a good husband, by pretending to agree with you while secretly undermining your agenda.”) By the final act, I’m annoyed with both of them; Homer made his own bed by not being truthful to his wife, and Marge acts uncharacteristically brash and abrasive through most of the episode. At a diner, Homer oversees a happy four-child family and flip-flops his opinion, a manipulative, cliche device that the show in its prime would have mercilessly mocked. The same can be said for his overly saccharine speech to Marge at the clinic (“The table with four legs is sturdier than the table with three. Cubes are made of cheese, but pyramids are schemes, and anything that’s half you is guaranteed at least 50% perfect.”) Who talks like that? Then we get to the creepy ending, where Marge sees a gigantic wall of babies born of Homer’s sperm samples, and they both conclude that the world doesn’t need any more Homers. Not only is this very disturbing (and a joke the show has already made before with Barney), but it’s not really a resolution of Marge’s story. She wants another baby, but ultimately decides not to because her husband’s seed has already spread far and wide without her knowing. So in the end, Homer got what he wanted. I think. Oh, whatever.
Three items of note:
– The lead-in toward Marge’s baby revelation is incredibly belabored, the likes we haven’t seen from first acts in quite a while. Homer ignores fixing the leaky faucet in the yard for so long, its endless drips have eroded much of the earth beneath Springfield, resulting in a spread of sinkholes. Marge’s car falls into one, but she has a sinkhole preparedness kit, which is a gigantic inflatable staircase that leads them back to the surface. I guess it’s just good fortune that the sinkhole was exactly as deep as that staircase was tall. Marge and the kids fall down the hole, and then everything’s okay; there’s no danger or seriousness to this segment, it’s just an empty plot device to force Marge to have to buy a new car. Going for a test drive, Homer makes an offhand comment about how the car is the perfect size for their three-child family, and then, on a dime, Marge becomes incredibly uncomfortable and ultra-critical about problems with the car that don’t exist. It turns out it’s a psychological result of her wanting to have another kid. I get what they were going for with this, but it was handled very flimsily to me.
– The B-story might be the most boring one to date. Not seeing her get on the bus after school, Bart spies Lisa getting into a cab and leaving behind a strange note. He enlists the other boys to try to figure out these strange clues and find out Lisa’s secret. In the end, it turns out she’s taking an after school class in writing cursive. Wow. It’s just so dull. So, so, so dull. Was this story written on a scrap they found under the writer’s room table?
– I know I already mentioned the ending, but it is really unsettling. The Barney gag from “Selma’s Choice” was quick, involving a humorous side character, and was in and out before you dwelt too long on the gross implications. Here, it features Homer, and we pan over the wall full of photos of his dozens of bastard children with serious music playing. Unlike “Choice,” the fact that we’re focusing on this more makes me think about it more. Not only is this clinic using the same man’s sperm over and over, they have a wall of similar-looking children proudly boasting this fact. What wanna-be parents would look at this and think it was okay? Or want the sample of a self-professed high school dropout with the fake name “Thad Supersperm” to begin with? Then we end with the family enjoying a drive-in movie parked next to a family with seven Homer babies. Creepy, not funny, and, oh yeah, CREEPY.
One good line/moment: There were actually a few good gags in here. I liked at the arctic themed motel where Marge mistaking the stuffed walrus for her husband. Homer pushes the toy aside (“I’ll take it from here, wing man!”) Their little detour trip was quite sweet; it again led me to believe this was going to be a character progression moment for Marge… until that didn’t happen.