Original airdate: March 6, 2016
The premise: When she successfully resuscitates a drowned raccoon, Lisa starts working under the local veterinarian. Meanwhile, Marge earns some extra cash cleaning up crime scenes, but the grisly sights end up deadening her inside.
The reaction: This season feels like it’s littered with Lisa episodes, and it’s starting to get boring, especially since elements of this show feel incredibly similar to the last one. Lisa becomes super popular at school after giving mouth-to-mouth to a woodland critter… because that makes sense, I guess? Riding off this high, she gushes to her mom, Marge complains about the traffic, so Lisa bitterly muses, “And so ends the moment being about me.” I suppose moments like this are supposed to communicate how Lisa is disregarded by most people and a sad, intellectual loner, like she’s always been. But considering how involved Lisa has been with so many different characters and the entire town as a whole over the last few decades doesn’t speak to that anymore. “Moaning Lisa” featured a quiet, contemplative girl who had no one to share her passions with. Nowadays, she’s desperate for attention and becomes pissy when she doesn’t get it. So she goes to work under the local vet, who is a soft-spoken kindly old fellow, in a relationship that sort of felt like Lisa and Hollis Hulburt in “Lisa the Iconoclast,” except without the jokes. Lisa eventually takes on more and more responsibilities, and starts getting a big head about the work she’s doing. When she saves a goat at Martin’s birthday party, she smugly quips to Bart, “Life or death: I make the choice.” There’s an element of Lisa being interested in this because of the cute wittle animals, but like last episode, most of it comes off like this self-absorbed superiority complex. Whether it’s helping a sick homeless woman or healing wounded animals, Lisa seems to just be far up her own ass more than anything, and it makes her unlikable. So like last episode, Bart rains on Lisa’s parade by snapping her back to reality; there’s four minutes left and we finally have an actual “conflict” when Bart brings in the school hamster Lisa agreed to look after over spring break, neglected due to Lisa’s work at the vet’s office, and her arrogant grandstanding. Like I said last time, I really don’t get why they write Lisa like this. An episode with her thinking animals are adorable and wanting to help them seems like a no brainer to make Lisa act like a precocious little girl. Maybe there could be some kind of outside force or antagonist standing in her way for her to overcome. That’s what Lisa episodes were always about, one little girl facing down an opponent, be it the Malibu Stacy company, or the entire US Government, armed only with her morals and principals. Instead, nowadays, it seems Lisa’s greatest enemy is herself, and her inflated ego, and that’s just no fun.
Three items of note:
– There’s another Bill Plympton couch gag, but it was surprisingly weak. The couch and TV dream of being together, the TV stretches out and ends up smashing onto the floor, dead. Then the episode just starts. It felt like it ended before it even began.
– The B-plot features Marge working with Chief Wiggum to clean up horrifically violent crime scenes because she needs the extra money. But being surrounded by such gore and death begins to take its toll on her psyche. There’s nothing really wrong with this story, and it’s pretty sweet how Homer shows her cute funny YouTube videos to try to get a reaction out of her, but there’s not really much to this. They bridge the two stories by having Marge’s heart melt when Lisa confides in her about the dead hamster, leading the two to break down in each other’s arms (you can really hear Kavner’s voice straining when she’s trying to voice Marge in tears.) It kinda makes sense, but any points I give it are immediately revoked when they have Homer and the vet patting the writers on the back for their basic story structure (“Well I’ll be! Lisa learning about death helped Marge feel again!” “Yes, the perfect dovetail!”) I can just hear the writers high fiving each other from their writer’s bungalow.
– The lead-in to seeing Lisa be thrown off her high horse, she’s examining one of Mr. Burns’ hounds and admonishing him for not taking better care of them. Burns, perfectly in character, submits and walks off sadly (“Smithers, I’ve been shamed. Prepare a thimbleful of ice cream.”) If you wanted to paint Lisa as being irrational at this point in the story, wouldn’t it make more sense to have her browbeat a nice pet owner, not the most evil man in town? And Lisa’s probably right, the hounds probably aren’t treated the best. Although we’ve seen a couple times where Burns is genuinely affectionate to them. But I dunno, it seemed sloppy. And, of course, Burns is a wuss, but that happens all the time now.
One good line/moment: Lisa and the vet have the hamster on the operating table, and there’s no time to waste (“We’ve done all we can. The next 24 hours will be crucial… oh, he’s gone.”) Flat line. I didn’t see this twist coming, and Michael York’s flat, uncaring delivery followed by Lisa crying was pretty morbidly funny.