Original airdate: November 8, 2015
The premise: Lisa befriends the daughter of a multi-billionaire, but when their relationship sours, Homer urges her to grin and bear it in exchange for them living the good life.
The reaction: For an episode that felt like elements cobbled together from better shows, I was pretty surprised at being somewhat positive about this one. Despite it seemingly being about Lisa and her new friend, the episode is really about Homer living in the lap of luxury and needing to make a sacrifice for the sake/defense of his children, as we’ve seen many times in the classic years, especially in flashback shows. Here, Lisa becomes friends with the new girl, and Homer befriends her dad, who turns out to be an eccentric billionaire who is so pumped up about life that he repeatedly smashes his head into walls. Eventually conflict arises between the two girls, but it’s laid in so slowly and awkwardly. Harper steals the spotlight from Lisa at a David Copperfield magic show, which rubs her the wrong way. Harper gets her a new bike to make up for it, and can’t understand why Lisa would prefer her crappy poor person bike, despite her explaining that Homer built it for her (a sweet detail). So she’s a spoiled rich girl, but the reveal of this is so muted because we barely see any of it. In classic tell, not show fashion, most of it is Lisa recounting how she felt belittled. Actually showing more of this would have made us feel bad for Lisa and sympathize with her, but instead, she almost comes off as rash when she blows up at Harper, who at worst seemed to just be getting a little snippy with her. When we get to the end and Homer has to stand up for Lisa in exchange for his lush rich lifestyle, it feels very arbitrary. He calls Harper snobby, but not only have we barely seen it, he’s seen none of it. It all feels like a very flimsy conclusion. But that’s my biggest complaint for the whole episode. I actually enjoyed most of the Homer stuff, his excitement about living it up and indulging in the finer things he could never afford… it almost struck me as a classic characterization. Despite its issues, I actually came off… liking this episode? It’s a very strange feeling for me. “Halloween of Horror” was stronger story wise, but this one had an alright plot and a lot of successful jokes throughout, like Marge using a tire jack to lower her hair to fit in her night cap, the anti-theft device on the bike which immediately summons Chief Wiggum (“This we show up for,”) and a bunch of good lines (“Welcome to Jambowski Island! Formerly, Haiti!”) This has got to be the best episode since… I don’t know, “Eternal Moonshine”?
Three items of note:
– In lieu of our usual opening sequence, we get a parody of the Disney animated short “Feast,” and for once I don’t put the word ‘parody’ in quotes, because it’s actually a parody. Like the dog in the short, Santa’s Little Helper gorges himself on all the delicious food his masters spoil him with, but that only leads him to become incredibly obese and drop dead. Rising through the clouds, he’s given the option to go to ‘Fit Dog Heaven,’ but instead chooses Doggie Hell because of the promise of free pizza. Writers, take note, this is a parody. You’ve taken the original source material and subverted it in a humorous fashion, instead of just trotting out references verbatim and expecting your viewers to applaud, as they’ve done so many, many, many times before.
– There’s an unrelated opening featuring Homer’s desperate longing for a chair that raises up that helps you stand, and him using crowdfunding to pay for it. We get Carl helpfully explaining what crowdfunding is, and as usual, this feels a couple years too late in terms of ripe satire, but I was actually pretty amused by a lot of it. Homer’s vague speech in his video about helping him “get on his feet,” all the donors being pissed off at the reveal, and his incredibly enthusiasm for a chair that embraced his laziness reminded me of the vibrating chair in “Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?”, and for once, it’s actually a positive connection to a classic episode. Plus, it’s not even all that disconnected from the main story. Homer longing for an expensive creature comfort, gets depressed when it’s taken away, then his spirits rise again when he befriends a billionaire. It kind of works, narratively.
– During the not-One Direction concert (this show’s late to the party once again), ‘YVAN EHT NIOJ’ flashes on the screen. Then it says ‘JOIN THE NAVY,’ followed by ‘OOPS.’ First off, more empty fan service. They also referenced it in that submarine show a season or two back; you know you’re in dire straits when you’re trying to elicit a positive reaction by referencing season 12. But also, why would they spell out what the joke is? It’s without context, so the only reason it’s there is as a reference to people who know what that episode is. But if you didn’t, what would you make out of ‘JOIN THE NAVY’ randomly appearing at a boy band concert? Why would they do that?
One good line/moment: There were actually a lot of funny moments in this show, more than I’ve seen in a long time now. The best laugh came from Homer’s complete frustration/disbelief about Lisa’s break-up with Harper (“Lisa, sweetie, I just want to understand: You got in a fight with her because she tried to give you a new bike?!”) You can really hear his complete incensed befuddlement in the performance, but it also speaks to how stupid and underwritten the conflict was as well.