Original airdate: April 24, 2016
The premise: We flash back to two years prior: Ned Flanders wins a trip to the Grand Canyon and invites the Simpsons along, and the two families must learn to get along.
The reaction: I once again find myself finishing another episode wondering exactly what the point of it was. Narratives usually have to be about something, right? So this is a flashback show, even though there’s really no need for it to be, pairing the Simpsons and the Flanders’ together on a vacation. We get a lot of beauty shots of the Grand Canyon which the background artists worked hard on and did a very nice job. The usual predictable nonsense ensues with the Flanders’ being namby pamby wusses, and Homer and Bart being maniacs. One bit involves Bart somehow suction cupping himself to the bottom of a glass walkway above a giant chasm just to moon his father. Homer moons back, security knocks him out and drags him away, to Marge and the Flanders’ horror. “Stupid kid…” Homer grunts as he’s slowly being pulled from the foreground with his head sunken. It seemed weirdly serious, but then we quickly cut to our next wacky scene! So there’s two things happening in this show. First, Maude is a side-eyeing and judgey mom, with Rod and Todd being perfect little angels versus Marge’s rambunctious Bart. She calls Marge “checked out” in her treatment of her little hellraiser. Does anything come of this story? Nope. No resolution at all. The conflict arises when their tour guide falls off the mountain leaving them stranded. Homer and Ned go off to find help, and eventually come upon a caravan of rich assholes at the bottom of the canyon. Ned is hesitant to steal, but Homer convinces him to do this “his way” for once, and they do. I guess this counts as the second story. Homer is mildly annoyed with Ned as usual, but then they… get along? A lot of times in these recaps I make the story sound more coherent than it is, but here, there’s barely any narrative tissue I can attempt to connect. There’s basically nothing to the Homer-Ned story, and the Marge-Maude story had like two scenes devoted to it, and then nothing else. Homer and Ned bring the food back, then we cut to the next morning and they’ve been rescued somehow. Does it matter how? Nah. I guess I can’t fault an episode for having no ambition (you can’t fail if you don’t try, after all), but what a sorry statement to make. These kinds of episodes are the most forgettable, but stuff like this and “Peeping Mom” irritate me the worst, shows that are about nothing but killing twenty minutes, but that are apparently good enough to air.
Three items of note:
– I really don’t understand the rich people element of the show. They appear as a joke earlier, with a huge caravan of cars driving down the mountain, then later Ned observes them with binoculars being extremely wasteful and hurtful to the environment. Is this supposed to be some kind of commentary? It just felt like an orphaned idea that they threw in and didn’t bother to connect with anything. It’s not like it’s contrasted with the Simpsons and Flanders’ truly embracing roughin’ it. It’s just kind of there as a solution to their food dilemma. And they just take the food and leave. No chase, no repercussions. They could have just found an abandoned truck of food and it would have been exactly the same.
– There’s a gag at the end that you can file in the sizable folder of jokes the show immediately ruins by over-explaining them. Homer and Ned present their bountiful feast they stole to their families and they dig in. Among the shots, we see six-year-old Lisa gorging herself on a pile of bacon. Alright, that’s kind of cute. But then right after, we cut back to the present where Homer and Lisa explain to Maggie (ie: the audience), remember, this story happens before Lisa’s vegetarianism. Now do you get it? You may now laugh retroactively at the previous joke. Ugh.
– Like I said, there’s absolutely no reason this story couldn’t have worked in the present. None. Also, pre-Maggie Homer should have three hairs on top of his head, but he only has two here. Boy, I sure hope someone got fired for that blunder. Minor nitpick? Yeah, of course. But I’ve run out of things to say about this episode, so there you go.
One good line/moment: This latest guest couch gag was animated by veteran Disney animator Eric Goldberg, as we see each Simpson paying tribute to a different Disney hallmark, from Maggie in glorious Mickey Mouse black and white, Lisa as Cinderella, Marge as Snow White (using a vacuum cleaner as a broom), Homer as Baloo the bear, and Bart appearing as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice to fuck everything up and return us to the horrible sterile HD designs of the regular show. The way Goldberg animates the characters is so appealing; beyond the fun Disney tribute, even seeing regular red dress Lisa wave goodbye to the pumpkin carriage before she transforms into Cinderella is a sheer delight. As great as some of these outsourced couch gags are, they almost work to the show’s detriment, since they’re so well done and enjoyably animated that they only make the actual show look that much worse. It also seems like the best pieces are always placed in front of the blandest episodes (the Michal Socha one before “What to Expect When Bart’s Expecting,” Rick & Morty before “Mathlete’s Feat,” etc.)