Original airdate: March 9, 2014
The premise: A socially ostracized Bart befriends Digby, a transfer student with a love for falconry, but over time, Bart learns his new friend might not be quite right.
The reaction: Yawwwwwn… it’s been a while since we’ve had a boring one. All episodes now are tepid and unengaging to me at this point, but this one was a good ol’ fashioned snooze fest, which is saying something when the show culminates in a child being locked in a mental institution. So, Bart is swayed by the words of a guest minister from Indonesia to donate some money, for some reason. He borrows a twenty off Homer, who then hounds him incessantly to pay him back. Bart gets so frazzled to pay his debt that he takes to eating things for money on the playground, resulting in him swallowing a frog full of formaldehyde, putting him in the hospital. They show Homer’s comeuppance being he has to pay a four thousand dollar medical bill, but it really doesn’t excuse how fucked up the whole scenario was. But none of that opening matters; after that, Bart’s bullies are thwarted by a falcon, and his trainer Digby, or Diggs. The preceding seven minutes truly were meaningless. Bart takes an interest in falconry, and the two become friends. Alright, so what happens next? The two are up in a tree, and Diggs says, “You wanna see something cool?” He then proceeds to dive and fall straight to the ground. Later, Diggs tells Bart that he was trying to fly, and then later Bart finds out he’s being sent away to a mental hospital. What’s all this about? There was no real build-up to this, like of Diggs’ obsession with birds to the point he wanted to be one, so none of this resonates. Also, does this boy have parents? Bart’s at the hospital by himself when Dr. Hibbert comes in with the psychiatric specialist to speak with him alone. Later, Bart encounters Diggs, who conveniently has a one-day pass from the crazy house (???), and they go to the falconry contest that had never been mentioned prior, so they can open all the cages and let the birds be free. Okay. And then he leaves to go back to being institutionalized as melancholy music plays. And that’s it. What the fuck was that all about? Is this a happy ending? This seemingly parent-less, possibly schizophrenic kid rides off into the sunset back to being locked in a psychiatric ward against his will. What am I supposed to feel? This whole scenario is pretty fucked up, but even more so that the episode doesn’t seem to even acknowledge it. I don’t know what that hell this episode was supposed to be, but I’m pretty sure the writers didn’t know either.
Three items of note:
– I’m pretty stunned that they didn’t even bother to come up with a terrible punny title. Did they just forget? I guess someone just wrote ‘Diggs’ as a placeholder and no one went back to change it.
– There’s a montage of Bart and Diggs with the falcon, and for some reason, all the shots aren’t stabilized, they’re wobbling like someone’s filming with a camera, and the color is washed out a little bit too. Maybe it’s a parody of something that uses the same music? I could look it up to see, but I don’t care to.
– At the dinner table, Bart mentions he has a printout of the hospital they sent Diggs to and shows his parents. They try to play him as hopelessly naive, but surely Bart can figure out what “Twisted Meadows Psychiatric Hospital” means. For some reason, Marge gets incredibly uncomfortable when Bart asks if he can visit his incarcerated friend (“If this is what I think it is, it’s not a place we should ever ever take a little boy.”) In addition to her apparently being a-OK about a kid being permanently sent to the nut house, it’s incredibly odd of Marge to not be reassuring to Bart, telling him that his friend is getting the help he needs, and he can go visit him. Instead, she’s so ridiculously callous about this house of horrors too horrible to even speak of, making Bart feel even worse about the whole situation.
One good line/moment:
– The couch gag was directed by Sylvain Chomet, the French animator behind The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist. It’s very beautiful and weird; I’d rather watch a whole episode animated like that.