Original airdate: May 10, 2015
The premise: Marge’s meddling causes sweeping bully legislation to be passed and greatly enforced in Springfield. Homer is among those that must attend rehab, where he is forced to come to terms with why he continually abuses stupid Flanders.
The reaction: I wasn’t under the impression that Homer’s disdain toward his cheery neighbor-eeno was a big mystery, or something that even he didn’t realize himself, but I guess it looks like I was mistaken. Homer faces his feelings, but that’s really in the final third of the show, so let’s backtrack. Bart is humiliated by the bullies at the school dance, which provokes Marge to propose anti-bullying laws at a town hall meeting. From that point, Chief Wiggum basically takes to just arrested whoever he feels like who may or may not be transgressing these lenient laws (but of course if you couldn’t figure that out after watching him arrest four people, Lisa explains it for you, “The police are basically arresting anyone they want to!”) Like some modern episodes, there’s a hint of an idea here, of anti-bully crusaders becoming bullies themselves (South Park did a great show about this, three years prior), but it’s barely addressed at all. So we see Homer and a bunch of others are in rehab, with their session run by some guy voiced by Albert Brooks. His post-classic year appearances in “The Heartbroke Kid” and the movie have actually been very enjoyable, but this is the first character (and his latest to date) that I didn’t find funny at all, just a lot of him rambling and monologuing in a sort-of German accent. He berates Homer into engaging in his inner feelings about Flanders, and he shocks himself when he realizes he’s been jealous this whole time. Again, I’m not really sure how this is a revelation. In “Dead Putting Society,” Homer basically flat out admits he’s annoyed at his neighbor’s better life, and that was frigging twenty-five years ago. Later on, Flanders expresses his distaste of Homer’s behavior over the years, leaving him dumbfounded. So now, over two decades of abuse and torment, one of the show’s longest standing staples, and we have to resolve this conflict in under two minutes. Homer gets on his knees and begs his neighbor’s forgiveness, and when he waits on his lawn for days on end without moving, Flanders finally just gives in and forgives him. Brilliant. They didn’t even have to spew any more exposition, just have a character wait and say nothing, and the conflict will resolve itself!
Three items of note:
– Bart is nervous about going to the school dance, and is uneasy when a fifth grade girl with no name asks him to dance. We then get an extended bit involving the “Puberty Demon” who makes some obvious jokes. But as I’ve mentioned before, you can’t have Bart have direct and open relationships with girls and then turn around and show him as an ignorant naive little kid (many times within the same episode). Hell, didn’t we have him lusting over Milhouse’s cousin just last episode?
– I’m really surprised at how bad the Albert Brooks role was. I don’t think they even gave him a name. I’m also surprised that this deep into season 26, I can still be disappointed by something, or experience a first in terms of a fall from grace for this show, but here we are. Like I said, his post-classic roles have been engaging and fun for the most part, but here, I didn’t laugh once. I just didn’t get what his character was, ultimately.
– The final act also skirts the edge of being actual commentary, where Homer is decreed a town hero, I guess for coming to terms with his assholery in one therapy session. He throws out the first pitch, gets a car in a parade, and people are lined up for his autograph. Is this like when we easily forgive celebrities for making amends for shit that they caused themselves? Or something like that? I’m not exactly clear on what they’re doing, but then again, that’s normal for me watching this show nowadays.
One good line/moment: The fantasy sequence of a whiny Jesus being bullied under the eyes of a disappointed God was kind of amusing (“Forgive them, Father!” “I raised a wuss.”) Tossing Jesus’ halo up on the roof like a Frisbee was a nice touch.