Original airdate: December 7, 2014
The premise: Marge kicks Homer out on Christmas Eve for coming home late, but when she finds it was only because he stopped to keep a terminally lonely Moe company, she and the kids go out to look for him.
The reaction: I was mildly intrigued to see Al Jean has the solo writing credit on this one, the first since “Day of the Jackanapes” over a decade ago. I wonder what in particular made him want to jump back in and take charge of writing this one. But whatever the reason, it feels no less lackadaisically awful as the rest of the lot, this one feeling even more purposeless than normal. The conceit is that Homer’s getting off work on Xmas Eve, and Moe both causes him to crash his car in a snow bank by the bar, and then begs and pleads with Homer to not leave him all alone. It’s less of the actually effective and endearing sad Moe, and more of the pathetic and cloying sad Moe, throwing himself at Homer’s mercy, and perching on his… head? But Homer has to get back home to his family, or Marge will be quite cross. What is he to do? Well, Moe’s predilection to suicide is well known to everyone in town; there’s even been at least two past holiday episodes featuring “hilarious” sequences of him attempting to take his own life. So, why not give Marge a ring or a text and tell him his ol’ buddy needs him for a couple of hours. Or, better yet, take the poor man home so he can have a nice, warm Christmas with some caring loved ones. Instead, Homer is radio silent all night, returns home, and before he can give any sort of explanation, Marge boots him out of the house. Homer attempts to return to Moe’s, but the doors are locked, for some reason. A little later, Moe drops in through the Simpson chimney for some reason, and despite not knowing Homer got in trouble and is currently out missing, explains what happened that night. This freak appearance by Moe is enough to make Marge do an instant 180 (“This is what I was hoping for, for it not to have been completely his fault!”) On Homer’s end, we just get a random assortment of scenes of him wandering around places open late at night: talking with Apu at the Kwik-E-Mart, going to a late night movie with other lonely freaks, bonding with Flanders by his Leftorium kiosk for some reason… it’s all like him trying to find a place that will have him for Christmas, or somewhere he can do some good, or something? Then Marge finds him and everything is okay, as she gives another one of her patented joke excuses for her husband’s terrible behavior (“I’m not going to always assume that you screwed up, because I realized that maybe there’s a good explanation for what you do, or a crazy one that’s pretty entertaining.”) I don’t think I’ve seen an episode this aimless since the iPad show a few seasons back. The simplicity of it would almost be charming if it were actually building to something and was, y’know, well written. And with jokes. Jokes would’ve been nice.
Three items of note:
– There’s a gag here that’s exactly like one from “Super Franchise Me,” where a thought bubble appears to extend a joke out further for no reason. Upon learning the lottery is a big sham that helps no one, we get this exchange from Homer and Apu (“Doesn’t the money go to schools?” “You have been to our schools, what do you think?”) Not a bad joke on the sad state of public education. But no, I guess because we need to spell the joke out further, or we need to kill more time, or both, we get a thought bubble from Homer featuring he and Marge at the school and them having to bring their own toilet paper or something. Was that really necessary? We’re in season twenty-freaking-six, we’ve seen how shitty Springfield Elementary is, I can connect the dots without you scribbling it in for me.
– Thinking back on it, in creating such an elaborate set-up to keep Homer out late, including tampering with the bar clock, it almost seems like Moe was intentionally keeping him out so Marge would be angry. Later on, at the Simpsons, he seems just fine, fine enough that he attempts to lock lips with Marge not once, but twice. What’s that all about? And Marge doesn’t seem too perturbed about it either. I guess the suicidal angle wasn’t much part of it after all, Moe was just being a huge asshole.
– We get our first mention of Edna officially being dead in the Homer-Flanders scene, which feels especially deep and overall kind of saccharine. I feel like it would hold more weight if the episode was actually about something, instead of just wandering from vignette to vignette. Is it a parody of empty, schmaltz-filled Christmas specials with overplayed morals of kindness and brotherhood? Or is it one and the same with those trite exercises of pseudo-entertainment?
One good line/moment: When the Simpsons arrive at the retirement home to see if Abe has seen Homer, the old people are all up and about to swarm the new visitors and request things of them. Crazy Old Man demands, “Make them turn the TV to CBS!”