529. The Saga of Carl

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.

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10 responses to “529. The Saga of Carl

  1. I hate this episode with all my heart! It was the most boring piece of shit I’ve ever seen in The Simpsons. Bottom 10 episode.

    Oh, and please don’t detonate the next episode (Dangers on a Train).
    It’s a gem at the end of an awful season, even though it’s a marriage crisis episode.

    • I refuse to believe that a season 24 “marriage crisis” episode can be anything other than terrible.

      • It was Okay, but I admit it is mostly because it wasn’t particularly memorable. It was kind of a remake of the “Jaque” episode from season 1

    • While I agree the season finale is the best one this season, I think Mike might hate it just due to who the guest voice actor is.

  2. Is the whole joke here that there are essentially no black people in Iceland?

  3. This is another in which they have a good enough idea for a plot, but they can’t do anything with it. I forgot most of this one other than “Homer Goes to Iceland”

  4. “One good line/moment: Can’t think of anything for this one.”

    If I had to name one, I’ll admit I chuckled at Homer eating the awful Icelandic food at the restaurant and then vomiting behind the seat while the other characters are just talking. Then at the end of the act when Carl and Lenny start fighting, Homer casually starts eating the food again.

  5. Kaiju no Kami

    Oh god, oh god, oh god. This episode is awful, just awful. Although, is it worse to have an episode so bad you remember why or an episode that was bad enough to forget?

  6. Ererrrrrrrrrrrr

    I dunno why, but I always laugh at Bart’s line “Actual sword attack!”

  7. This episode, why?

    Oh and again our only half arsed joke is that men don’t talk about things or make friends because they’re men, —- that is when they’re not gay.

    And homer can learn ancient islandic because, and Karl is bothered about this ancient islandic thing because and much else because!
    God this is making season 12 look pretty good right now.
    Really did anyone on the writing staff think this episode would do anything but pass time?

    I’m waiting with morbid curiosity to actually find out what is the chronologically last simpsons episode I ever watched was.
    I’m tempted to say it was this one, but I’ve got a nasty feeling it wasn’t.

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