Original airdate: October 5, 2014
The premise: Homer and Bart are forced into a conflict-resolution cruise to mend their strained relationship. Meanwhile, Marge takes over her husband’s fantasy football league, striving to win in order to put an end to trash talk.
The reaction: Alright, a father-son episode! Surely this won’t be a repetitive, nonsensical affair bereft of characters acting like human beings. Homer is upset that Bart disobeys him and his parental orders, and the two get into a stalemate regarding Bart eating a piece of broccoli at dinner. I like seeing these two so childishly obstinate about something so small, but they just drag it on and on and on. Fed up by this nonsense, Marge surmises there’s only one course of action left: she has her husband and son kidnapped in the middle of the night (why? Your guess is as good as mine) and hauled off onto a conflict resolution cruise called the Relation Ship. From that point, we got a montage, Bart grows an affinity to the sailor’s life, all the way up to being christened superior office, much to Homer’s chagrin. It really feels like we’re going nowhere fast, because, as usual, every scene is just the characters explaining what’s happening and what they’re feeling (“You’re my son and you will hate what I hate.”, “I like being a sailor.” / “He can’t order me around. I’m his father!” “He’s your superior officer, so he can and will order you around.”) For our big dumb ending, a storm comes out of nowhere, and Homer and Bart butt heads on how they should proceed (Homer is really adamant about dropping the anchor, for whatever reason.) Bart then presents a broccoli and eats it as a sign of peace with his father, which really surprised me that they actually tried to tie this nonsense back to the beginning, but it doesn’t really amount to much. What is the point? Everything felt completely empty to me, not that that’s anything new, though.
Three items of note:
– The B-plot is just as inert. Marge takes over Homer’s fantasy football team, and spends the first half of her story gasping repeatedly every time someone emails her some trash talk. Then she vows to beat the men at their own game, and then, over a montage with a sports announcer, she does. And then that’s it. It’s just shameless filler, complete with a tiny sprinkling of fan service with Marge wearing Tom Landry’s hat from “You Only Move Twice” atop her beehive ‘do.
– The other families on the boat don’t fucking matter, they’re just set decoration. We’ve got Ned, Rod and Todd, Cletus and one of his kids (these two groups are the only ones with lines), Apu and an octuplet, Lewis and his dad, and… Arnie Pye and his teenage son? Boy, they must have been really desperate. Nameless extras are seemingly verboten in this series now. Seeing this line-up gave me flashbacks to “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation” with the crowd of familiar faces who paid a pretty penny to be a rock star, regardless of it makes sense for these characters to be there. How much strife could Apu possibly have with just one of his eight children, who is still a toddler? How could Cletus afford to be on such a cruise? Wouldn’t Chief Wiggum and Ralph be a more logical space-filler than Arnie Pye and his offspring we’ll never, ever see again?
– Nick Offerman plays the captain in an absolute waste of his talents. Giving him a character with a personality or some jokes I guess was too difficult. Also, he’s put out of commission in the last act after being tempted by some rum, where he desperately monologues just like Lionel Hutz back in the day, taken by the siren song of the brownest of the brown… what’s that? You want me to drink you? But I’m in the middle of a trial! …yeah, much more well done back then.
One good line/moment:
– I did like some of the sections of the broccoli stand-off; I found myself enjoying Castellaneta and Cartwright’s interplay through most of it, especially when they were taunting each other to forfeit.