Original airdate: April 28, 2013
The premise: A new associate minister is instated at the church, who quickly supplants Reverend Lovejoy in popularity. Him appointing Homer to be a deacon becomes too much for Bart and Flanders, who team up to get rid of this new character.
The reaction: At a few points, I thought this was turning into a sorry rehash of “In Marge We Trust,” but even that would be too focused of an endeavor. As we’ve recently seen, this show can’t handle stories with the most prominent secondary characters like Flanders or Mr. Burns, so a third-string player like Timothy Lovejoy has no shot whatsoever. But despite the set-up, the episode isn’t really about him at all. The Bing Crosby Parson appears with a new reverend in tow, Elijah Hooper, who immediately wins the Springfield congregation over with meaningless pop culture references relating the word of God to Meet the Parents and Die Hard. Unlike the earnest nature of Marge as the Listen Lady, Hooper seems like a hollow fraud; he comes off as kindly and good-natured, but he never communicates any real ideas. He makes Homer his deacon for partly his own purposes; convert the least religious man in town to prove his methods and beliefs work. Ned is outraged at Homer’s promotion to the church, and Bart feels alienated from his father after he doesn’t want to moon the (G)Oogle street cam van with him. Homer and Bart being partners in crime rather than father and son is something we haven’t seen in a while, and it was a trend I was glad to see gone. But we’re supposed to feel bad for Bart feeling distant from his father in this one quick scene? And it’s not like Homer is treating his new position with seriousness and respect: we see him get out a speeding ticket, and em-blaze his name on the church marquee. Bart and Ned go to find Lovejoy, who is now selling hot tubs and believes he’s found his calling. It’s not clear why he’s there, or why he likes it, but none of that matters. Bart pulls a stupid prank to discredit Hooper, and then Lovejoy reappears to save the day, because it’s the ending and he has to come back. There’s no reasoning, no purpose, just stuff happening for twenty minutes. But that’s kind of every episode now.
Three items of note:
– I don’t think I’ve ever seen this from an episode, where the couch gag plays into the actual beginning of the episode. The Simpsons parachute down onto the couch and end up busting it (a couch gag we’ve already seen around season 7 or 8-ish), and then we open the episode with the family mourning their broken couch, and needing to buy a new one (“Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?”, anyone?). The couch gag ended with a couch spring bursting through Homer’s gut, I would have been amused if the show started with a giant bandage over his midsection.
– Also to pad time is barely a B-plot featuring Marge losing her wedding dress, and her shock and horror hearing Lisa say she doesn’t plan on getting married. This comes up about halfway through the episode, and no real plot had kicked in yet, so I wasn’t sure if this was going to turn into anything. Later on, we discover that Lisa has found the dress, currently being used by a newlywed couple at the courthouse. Marge is happy with this, and Lisa says she maybe might get married someday perhaps. And that’s it. Riveting. Marge ends up coming off unlikable in another instance of her insistent pushing of her hang-ups and beliefs on her children, and Lisa comes off unlikable in full hardcore liberal mode, positing a possible future of her getting married to a Chinese dissident for their green card.
– The ending is just so dumb. Bart and Milhouse scheme that if they infest the town will bullfrogs, Biblical plague style, they can expose Reverend Hooper as a fake. They use dead bedbugs (carried over from the opening of the show, in another shocking instance of continuity) to lure hundreds and hundreds of frogs into town. It’s a crazy amount of frogs, a veritable infestation, and for whatever reason, the town looks to their reverend to help them? It’s all just so silly and dumb. Lovejoy magically appears and saves the day because his by-the-book sermon is so boring, all of the frogs fall asleep. Hilarious!
One good line/moment: The Bingo Riots memorial plaque was a cute gag (“God pulled all their numbers that day.”)