605. The Last Traction Hero

Original airdate: December 4, 2016

The premise:
A tumble down Burns’ trap door leaves Homer in a body cast, and in prime position to sue. Smithers makes frequent visits to convince him otherwise, and ends up forming an emotional bond with Marge.

The reaction: This episode features the triumphant resurgence of inner monologue exposition; how would we know what the characters are feeling without them telling us word-for-word? Homer is the latest victim of Mr. Burns’ trap door, but it’s currently under construction, so he gets gravely injured falling face first into a cement mixer. This is another instance of taking a cartoony element of the show and twisting it to be “real.” They try to make a joke about it with Burns’ lawyer telling him the old trap door was perfectly legal because it was grandfathered into the property or something, but it still just feels silly. You telling me all those poor schmoes who took the plummet before landed on soft pillows? With Homer mostly immobile, Burns sends Smithers to his house repeatedly to convince him to sign away his rights to sue. Eventually, he and Marge get to talking, and they just vent about their complicated romantic relationships. So it turns out this was a Homer-Marge episode; before this, we saw that Marge was looking forward to spending more time with Homer, but her idea of fun being using Homer’s cast to help roll up electrical cords, and setting up a grid system to assist Homer in helping them put together a boring puzzle. Homer wasn’t rude or abrasive or condescending, he just seemed disinterested in these activities, which I guess cut Marge pretty deep. It could have been incredibly easy to push Homer into an uncaring direction (marriage shows from seasons 15-18 did it all the time), but I guess they just didn’t care. So, in talking over a couple days, Marge and Smithers form a bond… but then it turns out it’s a romantic one? Marge’s mind tells us so (“Oh my God! I want to kiss him!”) When Smithers leaves Marge hot and bothered, she leaps onto Homer and starts making out with him, but when she slips Smithers’ name, Homer’s mind takes over (“Wait a sec, Marge is getting her emotional needs filled by another man, and now she needs me for nothing but sex!”) Our happy ending involves Homer dropping the suit so Burns won’t keep Smithers from talking to Marge anymore, which really feels like not a solution at all. They probably would have won the suit and gotten a pretty penny, money to put in their kids’ college funds, but I guess it was worth it if Marge has someone to expel her grievances to. This feels like that show which had that “happy ending” of Homer not busting Marge for going to therapy. What happened to that? In the old days, we’d have Homer be such an insufferable ass that I never understood why Marge would stay with him. But too often lately, we see Marge can be pretty petty and incredibly passive aggressive herself. Everyone on this show is slightly unlikable, and that’s a big problem.

Three items of note:
– There’s a vacuous B-plot involving Lisa becoming bus monitor and the power going to her head. She videos the bullies beating up Milhouse with her phone, and eventually surmises that the way to keep order is to keep the like-minded students sitting next to each other with her carefully crafted chart. What insight! The nerds sit next to the nerds, and the bullies sit next to the bullies? Incredible! The only issue is that we see where the kids were sitting before the incident and after, and it’s basically the exact same. The only difference was Milhouse inexplicably sitting next to Nelson, which I guess he was cool with before the other bullies showed up. The scene of the bus fight and Lisa filming it echoed actual incidents that were filmed with kids really getting the shit beat out of them, and to use that as the impetus for this stupid nonsense side story that ultimately says nothing feels pretty wrong. Also, when Lisa goes full authoritarian, she had a fantasy of her being Big Brother (er, Sister) to her bus drones and Bart throwing a mallet into her giant screen a la that Apple “Think Different” commercial from the 1980s. What an old reference. It was better when Futurama lampooned it over fifteen years ago (“Hey, we were watching that!”)
– The opening features Homer parking in Burns’ spot when he’s out for the day, and by that logic, he figures he can just take over Burns’ whole life. Makes perfect sense to me. We see that Burns has a button in his office that triggers a full recreation of the Enchanted Tiki Room to play, and I’m not sure what the joke is supposed to be. LOL random humor? Also, we see Burns is at a reserve with other billionaires to do some recreational hunting, specifically quails. Considering the tired references this show pulls, I’m shocked they didn’t do a Dick Cheney joke with him accidentally shooting Rich Texan in the face or something.
– There’s a weird joke in the show that I both don’t understand, and also serves to further undermine the emotional conflict. Marge’s puzzle is “Foggy Day in Berlin,” which for some reason triggers a B&W fantasy of a German woman opening her overcoat to Homer, beckoning him to “complete the puzzle” (actual pieces are missing from her body.) Homer instinctively recoils, “But I’m a married man!” Then she makes some joke involving a German spank bank and the fantasy turns into a zeppelin that pilots into Homer’s ear (don’t freaking ask.) Out of his own head, Homer says, “Marge, I don’t think we should do this puzzle!” This is a stupid tangential joke, yes, but it shows that even in his fantasies, Homer would never dream of being unfaithful to Marge. So that makes Marge bitching about Homer and wanting to lock lips with Smithers seem even more unjustified. It’s not just poorly set up, they create scenes that directly go against what they’re going for.

One good line/moment: BLANK.

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8 responses to “605. The Last Traction Hero

  1. The Itchy and Scratchy Land advert with the same name was, of course, a lot better.

  2. “Also Starring: Kevin Michael Richardson, or the new Tress MacNeille.”

    • Looked him up, and he’s been in quite a few things. (He narrated the original Baldur’s Gate!) But, uh, what other episodes has he been in and as which characters?

      • Richardson voiced Joker in The Batman, Tombstone in Spectacular Spider-Man, he has been in many Family Guy episodes, and plays pretty much every major black character in cartoons these days. I guess Keith David and Phil Lamarr have gotten too expensive.

        He’s been in several Simpsons episodes, but the role that comes to mind right now was the fat black dude who told Homer to be proud of being fat. I can’t remember which season it was from though.

  3. Serizawa Was Right

    Don’t worry, Mike, just 12 episodes left!… Which you’ll finish up just in time for season 29… And one of the remaining eps is 45 minutes… You know what? Worry.

  4. It could have been a worse episode though. It’s biggest crime was just being boring, nothing like terribly insluting as far as I remember. A total waste of Key’s talents though.

  5. One of the (many) big problems with tree current writers is that they don’t appear to understand how to separate the serious, emotional elements from the fantastical, cartoony elements. Lawsuits involving Burns’s trapdoor can’t work as a concept. It breaks that barrier in the wrong sort of way.

    Also, Marge has become a complete bitch.

  6. “Our happy ending involves Homer dropping the suit so Burns won’t keep Smithers from talking to Marge anymore, which really feels like not a solution at all. They probably would have won the suit and gotten a pretty penny, money to put in their kids’ college funds, but I guess it was worth it if Marge has someone to expel her grievances to.”

    Just another Jerkass Homer moment. The way I see it, he doesn’t want Marge to talk to anyone who might encourage her to dump his ass or help her make her become anyone but an accepting, child raising, Stepford wife in his eyes.

    That’s not love. That’s irreconcilable differences.

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