Original airdate: November 10, 2013
The premise: Homer’s old Spanish pen pal comes to Springfield to help him fulfill his many childhood dreams. Meanwhile, Lisa implements a student code of honor to help with the school’s rampant cheating problem.
The reaction: Normally when you’re telling a story, you need a little thing called conflict. You know, the thing that your character must overcome to get the thing that he wants? Or learn a lesson? Or grow as a person? These plots are getting thinner and more simplistic by the season, but this is the first episode I can think of that literally had no dramatic tension whatsoever. Kirk Van Houten rolls up in his midlife crisis-mobile, which is played as a big goof, but it’s enough to get Homer to spiral into melancholy too. Enter Eduardo, a Spanish “Magical Negro” character, Homer’s old pen pal he hasn’t written to in decades, who shows up to help him achieve the dreams he wrote about as a kid. So we see them in a little montage: riding on the back of a firetruck (I guess the writers forgot they already made Homer a firefighter), playing a pirate, recreating a scene from Star Trek… We get a scene where Marge seems to be a little upset, but she doesn’t explain why, and we gloss over it with Homer convincing her to do something she’s been wanting to do her whole life. So what’s the pushback on this? Some dreams should live in the past? Hedonism clashing with reality? My guess was that Eduardo was in love with Homer, as he watched the previous Homer-Marge scene from outside their window, and lots of forward remarks toward the big guy. Homer’s final dream involve sky gliding, which is going well until Marge calls via headset (“Come down, Homie! You only live once, but that also means when you die, you die!”) What is her problem? Normally they give a character an incredibly weak motivation, but here, we don’t get anything. If all of Homer’s dreams involved dangerous stuff, at least there would be a pattern. So I wasn’t sure what I should be concerned about. Homer will fall and get gravely injured? Not in the last two minutes of show, he won’t. He gets hurt all the time with no repercussions, and sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. In the end, Marge is all smiles at the hospital with a barely scraped up Homer as Eduardo proudly announces, “You’ve lived your dreams!” Alright, so here was the story: Homer’s sad he didn’t do more stuff, some guy shows up and says he should do stuff, then he does those things, and then that’s the end. Keep hitting those home runs, guys.
Three items of note:
– The B-plot is almost as vacuous. Everyone at the school cheats, everyone, and Skinner holds a PTA meeting where he crumples to the floor because he’s spineless and awful at everything. In another let’s-acknowledge-our-narrative-shortcomings-in-hopes-that-it-excuses-years-of-bad-writing moments, Chalmers chastises Lisa for not coming forward with a solution earlier. She proposes an honor code the students have to stick by, a plan which ends up working. Again, I’m waiting for the twist. What’s the plot turn? Lisa discovers Bart is still cheating, as he knows his sister won’t turn him in, as it would prove that her system failed. So who’s to say everyone else isn’t cheating too? In the end, the two plots collide, literally, as a skydiving Homer collapses on top of Bart. Homer ends up at the hospital, but Bart, who just had a 250+ pound man fall on him from hundreds of feet above, is just fine. Mmmhmm.
– I wasn’t even going to comment on the cringe-worthy episode title, but they worked it into the show itself. YOLO, or You Only Live Once, I guess the writers connected the dots to You Only Live Twice and wrote “parody” lyrics in the span of five minutes, high fived each other, and called it a day. So we get a Bond-style rendition of “You Only Live Once,” and it’s just the worst. It’s so fucking bad. Here are the lyrics: You only live once, or so it seems / No life for yourself, and none for your dreams / You work every day, at a job so lame / And every night the ending’s the same. Even for the show’s low low standards, can this even be counted as a parody? The rhyme scheme is exactly the same, and a big share of the words are unchanged as well. It’s almost embarrassing. Remember Scorpio? The wonderful anthem from “You Only Move Twice”? (striking coincidence) It’s not a parody of one specific Bond theme, but a pastiche of the elements that we identify as classic Bond music, and the lyrics themselves are actually about something, and subverting the source material: Hank Scorpio is an evil supervillain who cares about giving his employees generous pensions and a stock plan. The contrast couldn’t be any more stark.
– We get our latest character to be drug up from the classic years and trotted out for the sake of fan service: Llewellyn Sinclair, immortally voiced by Jon Lovitz. We see Homer and Eduardo are sword fighting with two pirates on a dinner theater stage. In case you were confused, over the backdrop is written Springfield Dinner Theater presents: PIRATES OF PENZANCE. Stage productions typically have the theater and play name in giant letters as their backdrop, right? Enter Sinclair, who’s pissed (“I’m sick of pirates off the street ruining my play!”) So, are all four of them just random guys not in the play? Or are two of them actors who just decided to play and sword fight with Homer and Eduardo? Oh, who gives a fuck.
One good line/moment: Brockman’s report on the school’s cheating at the beginning felt a little closer to his classic style, which is especially weird coming off of last episode. But I kinda liked it (“If these children are our future, then I for one do not want to live.”)