Original airdate: May 19, 2013
The premise: The gang at Moe’s wins the lottery, but when Carl mysteriously disappears with the winning ticket, Homer, Lenny and Moe must travel to his homeland of Iceland to uncover the mysteries of Carl’s past.
The reaction: I’ve always posited that the show could keep things fresh by exploring the lives of the endless parade of semi-regular characters, with or without the Simpson family making an appearance. The show’s been going on so long, why not try something different and take a risk like that? But as we’ve seen, the show has done the opposite, degrading the secondary and tertiary cast to one-dimensional shadows of their previous selves. But now, we have an episode focusing on Carl Carlson of all people. Was anyone clamoring to hear his backstory? But hey, this is what I wanted, right? He’s Icelandic, he’s got a past he wants to make right, I can get on board if this is interesting. But it isn’t. Half of the episode is focused on the mystery of finding out where he went and why, sitting and waiting as they find clues to track down Carl, all the while just repeating the same lines of dialogue about not knowing who Carl is and why would he betray them. When they finally get to Iceland and track Carl down, he comes clean: he spent their winnings on a missing excerpt from an ancient text that he believes will clear up his ancestors’ besmirched name. Where did he buy this page from? We also never really see or hear anything from Carl’s parents, or hear about Carl’s past, if he was bullied or made fun of as a kid, or anything like that. This is an episode about Carl, but we really find out nothing about him. He’s remorseless about betraying his friends and stealing $150,000 from them because he doesn’t consider them friends (“We are just guys who sit next to each other at a bar, talking about… guy stuff!”) So that’s the excuse? This is especially weird after over a decade of portraying Lenny and Carl as inseparable life partners/secret lovers. Also, of the two, it always seemed Lenny as the more emotional one. I guess Carl just kept it bottled up after all these years. Whatever. Homer, Lenny and Moe take the page, discover it actually damns the Carlsons even more, and then win over the Icelanders by telling them of the many small kindnesses Carl has done for them. And that solves the conflict. And ultimately they learn nothing. Carl yearned for friendships where people actually get to know each other, but then the four just go back to sitting at the bar saying nothing. Nothing of value gained or lost, I guess.
Three items of note:
– Between this and “Whiskey Business,” in a supporting role, it seems that Marge just exists to parrot exposition and just say lines to push the plot forward. At the dinner table with the guys talking about Carl, she just repeats their jokes as she reinforces the story points in case you were falling in and out of consciousness and weren’t following. Then later, they have Homer call her on Skype from Iceland because I guess they couldn’t think of another way to get plot points out.
– Homer, Lenny and Moe begin auditioning replacements for Carl. First up? Lou, who quickly realizes why he’s there and leaves in a huff. Going out the door, he passes the next candidate: Dr. Hibbert. Yay, racism! Ugh. Carl was never the “black friend,” he was just this guy Homer knew from work. But since every character has been simplified to their basest form, now his “blackness” is a thing we can make jokes about. I remember a “joke” from way back of Carl, Hibbert, Lou and Drederick Tatum, four very, very different characters, carpooling for some reason, and Homer driving by giving the black power salute. It’s funny because they’re black? It didn’t help that right after that scene, Moe yelled at a picture of Carl, saying he never wanted to see that “moolah-stealin’ jackpot thief” again, and for a second, I thought he said “moolie,” Italian slang for a black person. What is this, Do the Right Thing?
– The middle portion of the episode is so fucking boring. Homer, Lenny, Moe: Mystery Solvers is so dull. They find out where Carl is, they go to his house, they stake out in front of his house, all while they say the same stupid shit in every damn scene wondering about Carl’s true nature and what they should do. All the dialogue just repeats. The next morning, they travel Carl by car in a long extended scene, then they chase him on foot, in a long extended scene. Snoozeville.
One good line/moment: Can’t think of anything for this one.