Original airdate: December 6, 2015
The premise: Lisa seeks to clear the name of a disgraced female scientist from Springfield’s past. Meanwhile, Homer and Marge worry that Bart might be a sociopath because they’re stupid.
The reaction: Boy, this episode turned from dull to asinine real fast. We start out with what seems like a boring Lisa story: all the other boys become inexplicable sexists to chastise her for being a girl interested in science, she then learns about supposed crackpot lady scientist Amelia Vanderbuckle (or, rather, she reads her Wikipedia page for a minute of screen time), and then goes off to find her long lost great invention. Exciting stuff, huh? Bart tags along with her to an old insane asylum, where he discovers a diary of an old patient, filled with some pretty grim stories. He shares it with his classmates, Chief Wiggum finds Ralph reading them, then he gives the pages to Marge, believing that these are from Bart’s diary. Forget how he jumped to this conclusion, and how they’re not even in Bart’s handwriting, and sound nothing like him, but these pages are from a diary over a century old. They’re clearly very, very, very aged, but who gives a flying fuck about these stories making sense, eh? Marge, and then Homer, automatically assume Bart is a sociopath, and rather than actually do anything about it, they just let Bart get away with whatever he wants. Then later, they have Bart committed to an institution. Which turned out to be a recruitment facility for the military wanting empathy-free kids to man their combat drones. Yeah. Homer and Marge are fucking awful people in this episode, not even attempting to do something to help their child (“We’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas!” comes to mind). When they appear sad and frazzled after locking Bart away, are we supposed to feel bad for them? Is this their version of a farce? Lisa intersects with this premise briefly, asking her devastated parents where Bart is, feeling worried about their noncommittal answer, but then goes off to unveil Vanderbuckle’s invention. Who can worry about her incarcerated brother when she can bolster her self image? Bart is released when he expresses remorse after finding the simulated drones were actually real (or were they?), and everything is wrapped up as sloppily and half heartedly as the rest of the episode. More junk to throw on the pile.
Three items of note:
– I didn’t recognize the credited writer’s name and decided to look him up. This is the first and only episode written by Michael Ferris, whose previous credits include the third and fourth Terminator movies, and Catwoman, of which he won a Razzie for. He’s a Harvard Lampoon alumni like a lot of other classic Simpsons writers, but besides that, I’m not quite sure how he came about writing this. Not that it matters, of course, it doesn’t matter whose name is on the script, every episode ends up the same colorless slop by the time it airs.
– Fearing for her son’s sanity, Marge, rather than take Bart to a psychiatrist, or an actual medical professional, instead opts to have him take an online test to see if he exhibits sociopath-type qualities. Conveniently labeled ‘SOCIOPATH TEST,’ Homer comments that they should give it a different name. Marge agrees. As usual, all of this is laboriously explained by our characters, in case we are watching after having undergone serious head trauma. Rather than print out a new page, they use a label maker to print a false title on the front page. Of course, this easily peels off and Bart discovers the truth. Now Bart gets to exposit too! (“Fine, I’ll pretend to be the biggest sociopath in the world!”) It’s scenes like this that really just boggle my mind, the writing on this show is just so, so fucking bad. How do they watch shit like this and think that it’s just fine?
– The sociopath kids in the army twist is so bizarre. It really feels like something out of South Park, they pull the secret government program card quite often. But what are we supposed to take from all this? Bart took advantage of his parents’ frightened state in a hilarious montage where he drives Homer’s car, hucks baseballs at his face, and kicks him out of bed to sleep next to Marge (???), but they openly let him. And again, they’re terrible parents for not trying to get Bart actual help. Instead, they send him away to an asylum they got from a 1-800 number at the bottom of the online test. What the fuck is this test and where did it come from? Bart is visibly scared and uneasy when he’s sent away, and finally returns home almost in tears, and it’s mostly his parents’ fault. This is two in a row for Marge being kind of a shitty parent, and it’s not a good look for her.
One good line/moment: Vanderbuckle’s invention turns out to be a sophisticated loom that is actually a calculator, accepting punch cards and generating a mathematical response. This as a concept is a clever idea, a traditionally feminine tool as disguise for a STEM invention. Too bad everything about the unveiling scene itself is awful, with the device having to be elaborately explained and the crowd going nuts about it for some reason. Lisa’s story ends with her desperately seeking validation for her ego, hunting down museum guests to look at the loom, or more specifically, her name on the plaque. Then we get our final tag of Homer using the loom to print Internet porno on. Those writers sure know how to ruin just about everything, don’t they?