Original airdate: November 11, 2012
The premise: Homer and Marge discover Abe has gone missing from the retirement home, and learn new things about his past life over the course of their search. Meanwhile, Lisa becomes addicted to online poker.
The reaction: Haven’t they done this episode title before? Meh. Anyway, we haven’t had a good ol’ revisionist backstory in a while, so let’s dive right in. Sometime in Abe’s past, we learn he was a chipper bus boy and aspiring song writer at a trendy club, with a beautiful headliner that had her eyes on him. Then later it’s revealed that this romance was occurring while Homer was alive, after Mona left him. The two eventually get married, but when Rita is called away to tour in Europe, Abe makes the decision to stay behind to tend to li’l Homer. So, multiple problems here… they make a joke about Homer being too brain damaged to remember all of this, but it seems like such a stretch. How long did their courtship last? Did it overlap with his marriage to Mona at all? But the biggest problem is this now super clean and sanitized portrayal of Abe Simpson. In past flashbacks, particularly in “Mother Simpson,” he was a sharp contrast to the vibrant and rebellious Mona, a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud who drank, was inattentive to his wife, and scoffed at Joe Namath’s rebellious sideburns. Now he’s a chipper, idealistic thirty-something sucking face with a smoking hot lounge singer? Then they try and weave an emotional moment with Abe doing what’s best for his son and not leaving with Rita, but there’s really no reason he couldn’t have come along with him. It’s another example of the show’s complete inability to balance emotional moments with sharp humor; like we saw with Homer’s sickeningly sweet speech to Marge at the fertility clinic last episode, it’s just cloying treacle with no edge to it. And why did Rita never try to track Abe down when she got back? Again, they make a joke that she was a smackhead (SO EDGY!), but really, it’s clear she’s never gotten over him… for some reason, and she’s living in Springfield, why in the fuck has she not opened a goddamn phone book and called him? The episode ends with Rita and Abe sitting at the piano singing their song, an irony-free ending that means nothing. What a waste.
Three items of note:
– The B-story involves Homer putting five grand of settlement money toward Lisa’s college fund, which he puts into an online poker site, which he repeats over and over to (non)comedic effect in an incredibly annoying and painful scene. This leads to Lisa becoming addicted to playing the game, growing and growing her pot. It just seems like one of the writers had played online poker once and figured that was good enough for a script. But this ain’t no “$pringfield,” the story is completely divorced from the A-plot, and its conclusion is nowhere near as real and honest. Lisa loses all her money to Sideshow Bob, but then it’s revealed that it was actually Bart using a fake avatar. He then explains that since the site found out they were underage, they took away all their winnings. How did they find that out? How did Bart get better at Lisa at poker? And why would he do this? After a brief pause, Bart sheepishly admits he felt sorry for his sister and wanted to help her. Lisa chimes in, “I have the ending for my memoir!” holding up a full script entitled “Surviving Bart.” What? It’s just more utter, utter nonsense.
– It continues to be stunning to me how awful the dialogue can be at times. Marge finds Rita’s phone number, holds the phone to her ear and starts prattling off her lines (“Did you know a man named Abe Simpson?”) Rita responds, “Know him? I’m married to him.” Marge gasps, says to Homer, “She’s married to your dad!” Homer’s response? “Woo-hoo! I get two Christmases!” It’s hard to get the feel of how stilted this all feels, a lot of this show is characters explaining things with some attempts at jokes thrown in, but this is a prime example of it. Awkwardly pushing the plot forward, and a random, shoe-horned joke for Homer to give us a serviceable act break. Blegh.
– The lounge is now a seedy biker bar, and for some reason, we see Meathook and Ramrod from “Take My Wife, Sleaze” are there. They don’t say anything, they’re just background characters, but I thought it was a little odd.
One good line/moment: I can’t really think of any for this one. Homer’s lawyer at the beginning had the same character design and similar voice to Victor, the hovercar dealer from Futurama, so his presence on screen gave me a brief contact high of a much, much, much more enjoyable experience.