Original airdate: November 22, 2015
The premise: Homer loses a healthy sum in a poker match against Broadway legend Laney Fontaine, and to recoup his debt, she takes Lisa on tour with her for a month, wanting to foster a young talent.
The reaction: This Laney Fontaine character appeared last season, she was about to bang Moe for some reason, then rejected him after seeing his destroyed bar. Now I guess they’re dating. Umm, okay. This episode is all about her, kind of, as she’s reintroduced at Moe’s poker game. When Homer ends up owing her five grand, he invites her to the house to schmooze her, but she ends up taking a shining to Lisa. In the most awkwardly written scene since that Homer Junior episode, Laney tells Marge, “I’ll wipe the slate clean on one condition: I want you to give Lisa to me. For a month or so.” Marge is incensed, then we talk in circles for a bit before she feebly explains she wants to groom Lisa to be a musical talent. Or she wants a surrogate daughter. It’s never really fully explained. Several times through the episode I felt like we were approaching some sort of character development that never happened. She ends up falling asleep next to Lisa on her bed at a motel, which was slightly creepy, but speaks to her wanting a child, but that went nowhere. At least two more times, her show director makes comments about how she’s losing her chops in her old age, which clearly affects her, so I thought we would be going in that direction, where Lisa encourages her she can keep going and Laney return the favor. But that doesn’t go anywhere either. Instead, the conflict is that Marge is uneasy about Lisa being on the road, then when she sees Lisa perform on Broadway to thunderous applause, she’s won over. After the show she apologizes to Laney, Laney sees how sad the mother is without her little girl, then she “fires” Lisa to make Marge happy. Okay? Is this our happy ending? I don’t even know what the point of it was, was Lisa going to be a permanent part of her act? Her act that was unceremoniously cancelled? She’s a fading star, but she’s still playing on Broadway. I don’t fucking know. A pretty nonsense episode.
Three items of note:
– The episode opens with Lisa, Homer, Moe and the other bar regulars singing about their hopes and dreams for the night. It’s actually more rousing and enjoyable than most songs we’ve seen of late, but probably only because it’s lifted from West Side Story.
– During the poker game, we get a look inside Homer’s mind, where we get an Inside Out “parody,” in another display of Pixar ball sucking. So we get Flanders as Joy, Milhouse as Sadness, Willie as Anger… Comic Book Guy as Disgust quips, “Worst jammed-in movie parody ever.” By their own admission, there’s no joke to this. They just loved the movie and wanted to do this bit. Although this is actually pretty topical for them, the movie had come out that summer, so it probably wasn’t even out when they wrote this. Maybe they got an advance screening. Oh, who gives a fuck. It’s another empty reference disguised as a parody, and only makes me more annoyed since I just watched that movie again. It’s so fucking good, I feel like it may supplant Up as my favorite Pixar film.
– There have been a couple episodes in the last few years that involve Marge guilt-tripping/manipulating Lisa, and giving her a happy ending anyway. There was the show where Marge was doing all the laundry for that gifted school and her sublty making Lisa feel bad about it until she gave in, there was the show with Marge paying a girl to be Lisa’s friend, and Lisa just forgiving her without any sort of apology, and now we get this. Marge is seemingly proud of her daughter, but her sorrow look convinces Laney to let Lisa go, conveniently followed by the show director announcing the show was canceled anyway. A crestfallen Lisa tearfully runs back to her family, “Mom, suddenly I really want to go home.” So, again, Marge gets what she wants with no consequence. She had her arc of learning to let her daughter to her own thing, but then the episode turned back on it. Why is this a running thing? Marge always supports her husband and kids no matter what they do, now she’s repeatedly painted as a manipulative guilt-tripper.
One good line/moment: Driving into Hartford, Connecticut, we pass by a road sign reading, “Where Howard Stern Met Fred Norris.” I’ve been listening to a lot of old Stern tapes lately, so I appreciated seeing the reference.