513. Penny-Wiseguys

Original airdate: November 18, 2012

The premise:
Homer finds out his new bowling buddy Dan is actually Fat Tony’s accountant, and in Tony’s brief absence, is now a temporary mafia don. Meanwhile, Lisa adds more iron to her diet by taking up eating insects.

The reaction: There’s a moment two-thirds into the episode where Dan (voiced by Steve Carrel) is having a crisis of conscience, that to truly succeed in business one must purge all human emotion, to justify himself in killing off some of Fat Tony’s gang to cut costs. He’s telling all this to Homer, who looks very uncomfortable watching this guy unravel before his eyes. This scene could have been written a little stronger (as with everything nowadays), but I like the idea of it, and the progression of this character: a meek, put-upon accountant becoming a cold, ruthless mafia don who regards the bottom line stronger than human life. Except the story is very thin and clumsy. I love Steve Carrel so I was smiling through a lot of this show, but there were also a couple of strange, random turns. One nonsensical pep talk from Moe about being a hardass as a boss changes Dan on a dime, and later on, he repeatedly flip flops from being nice and innocent to brandishing a gun and looking to shoot to kill. After his realization of his own bloodlust, Dan has Homer tie him up in the Simpson basement. Then a bunch of grasshoppers crawl over and inside his body for hours (more on that later). Then when he’s discovered, he immediately pulls a gun on Homer so he can escape. So there was no point to that creepy crawly trauma other than a feeble attempt to have some connection between the A and B plots, and to get Carrel to scream a couple times. The ending involves Dan confronting Fat Tony’s goons, and Homer throwing him off killing them, which for some reason, Dan just moves onto the next one after a single inconvenience. And eventually he ends up working at a mall kiosk piercing ears. I feel like there was potential with this character, but things ended up coming out a bit muddled. Not as much as usual, but still muddled.

Three items of note:
– Boy oh boy, three boring Lisa B-plots in a row! Lisa passes out during a recital (no, this isn’t “Lisa’s Rival”), which leads to her needing to take iron pills to supplement her vegetarian diet. But the dead comes to her aid, or rather Lunchlady Doris with Tress MacNeille not even trying to match Grau’s gravels anymore. She informs Lisa that eating food made from insects is a sort of vegetarian gray area, so she joins a foodie society consisting of her, Professor Frink, Cookie Kwan, Herman and Old Jewish Man (did they just throw darts at that giant Simpsons cast poster to come up with this roster?) And yeah, it’s gross. Really gross. And there’s not much else to this story other than it’s gross. Lisa has a nightmare about the bugs telling her they’re living creatures that feel pain, which feels exactly like “Lisa the Vegetarian,” and gives it all up. She had been growing grasshoppers in a tank in the basement (which get loose and swarm Dan) and then lets them out into the wild. And that’s the end. Lisa is really such a boring character now. I mentioned “Rival” and “Vegetarian,” those episodes saw her run through a whole spectrum of emotions and they felt so real. Now Lisa stories involve her being a smug pseudo-intellectual in pursuing some cause, where she’s either moderately content, or shocked/disappointed by some kind of twist ending or reveal. Yawn.
– In a hollow act of nostalgia mining, the opening features the Pin Pals versus the Holy Rollers. Dan has replaced Otto, who hilariously has his head caught in the ball return because he’s high. The Holy Rollers, in place of Helen and the deceased Maude, we have the not-Bing-Crosby Parson, and Rabbi Krustofski. I feel like at this point, psycho Christian Flanders wouldn’t be comfortable having a Jew on his bowling team. Remember when he needed to “re-bless” his hand after shaking it with a Catholic?
– We see Louie eating a TV dinner in his apartment watching Jeopardy, and we actually hear actual audio from the show with Alex Trebek, who gets credited as a guest voice at the end. It’s kind of weird to hear a real audio clip from another show in an episode; I feel like that has to have been done before, but I’m blanking on when. I’m sure someone will post it in the comments.

One good line/moment: There were a good handful here, honestly. Dan stabs a knife down on the table, just barely missing piercing Legs’ hand. He recoils in shock (“What’re yah doin’! I talk with that hand!”)

7 responses to “513. Penny-Wiseguys

  1. I liked the scene where Lisa tries to swallow the iron pills and coughs them back up with a “clunk”. It was kinda funny.

  2. Dan isn’t a bad character, but this episode is pretty awful, both A-plot and B-plot.

  3. I don’t know about a show, but I do know that “Bart Stops to Smell to Roosevelts” had archive footage of Teddy Roosevelt speaking (he got credited too).

    • Aaron Grierson

      And the creators joked that they finally got a US President on the show. Just one that had been dead since 1919, that’s all.

  4. Neil Armstrong also got credited when they used the “one small step for a man” clip in “Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie”. According to the DVD commentary, when they were doing the audio mix, someone said “I know it’s sacrilege, but can we tighten this up by like two seconds?”

  5. Lisa didn’t realize grasshoppers were living things capable of feeling pain? Yet they typically portray her as knows-every-obscure-fact-about-everything smug activist. You can’t have both.

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