Original airdate: December 11, 2016
The premise: Krusty renounces his faith to better reconnect with his Christian daughter, which is a huge win for Reverend Lovejoy, who was on the prowl for more converts during the holidays.
The reaction: This show began with a Christmas special, which in itself directly took shots at famous holiday specials like Rudolph and Charlie Brown, while still providing a satisfying, sentimental (and fully earned) ending of its own. The only other Xmas special in the classic era was “Marge Be Not Proud,” a riff on “very special episodes” that plays a bit too straight, but is buoyed by amazing, unforgettable jokes and gags. From that point, it felt like we got a Christmas show every year or two, seemingly an easy way to fill another slot on the schedule, and just like the rest of the series, they’re just become like any other show in terms of disregarding irony and subversion and just playing stories straight to their inevitable sappy conclusions. And even that they can’t do fully coherently. So Krusty’s daughter Sophie returns (this time voiced by Orange is the New Black‘s Natasha Lyonne), and he’s shocked to learn she’s a devout Christian. Following a hospital visit, Marge invites the two to their house for Christmas dinner, only for Krusty to use it to impromptu film a hollow, insincere holiday special in their home. This all happens incredibly fast and feels pretty out of left field; it seemed Krusty really wanted to spend time with his daughter, and it’s not like this was his way of trying to connect with her. He’s just in full on asshole show biz hack mode, but that’s not even the joke of it. Moving on, Krusty crosses paths with Lovejoy at Moe’s, who’s looking to add a few more sheep to his flock, so he converts. From this point, father and daughter don’t have any words for each other. She watches Krusty sermonize in church, she watches his TV show and then performs, but nowhere do these two actually talk about what’s happening or what they’re feeling. The finale featuring Krusty almost drowning under ice after rushing to be baptized in the dead of winter ultimately means nothing. And we don’t even get a concrete resolution. We get a musical Christmas outro where we see Krusty sitting with Sophie in the back of an “orthodox ambulance” as the Jewish EMTs put a yarmulke back on him. So I guess he’s Jewish again? What does Sophie think? Does it even matter? These episodes aren’t just safe and by the numbers, it’s like they have entire sections ripped out, so we’re missing character motivation, proper endings… but who needs these stories to actually mean something when you’re trying to bang out a script and go home early? Happy holidays, everyone!
Three items of note:
– “Insane Clown Poppy” isn’t exactly a classic (though it’s pure gold compared to this slop), but I remember the Krusty-Sophie dynamic being kind of sweet. Sophie wasn’t exactly a developed character, so I can’t complain about this reappearance feeling “off,” but she’s more a utility to the story than an actual character. But what was the important thing about her, which was also the driving force of her episode? Her violin. Here, she plays the French horn, with no mention of a violin, or anything from the last episode. I know it was sixteen years ago, but at least a throwaway nod to continuity would show that the writers at least give some of a shit.
– The B-story features Lovejoy being cornered by concerned members of the church and the Bing Crosby Parson (hate that guy) about raising membership. His story crossing with Krusty’s makes sense, I suppose, but I don’t get the accelerated ticking clock that the Parson has, goading Lovejoy to speed up his conversion, even if it means baptizing Krusty in the frozen over river. Why? It’s just an artificial creation to set the stage for the final conflict.
– Jackie Mason voices Rabbi Krustofski as an Olaf hybrid in Krusty’s near-death experience (Krusty helpfully points out the “hacky parody of Frozen,” in case it weren’t clear enough). As we’ve seen with Glenn Close, even killing a guest character won’t stop them from dragging them back again and again. The ending also involves Jewish God debating with… regular God (?) about whether Krusty’s baptism counted, so I guess the writers couldn’t figure out what the ending meant either. Then we get Krusty and Sophie in a sleigh ride singing a jaunty carol, passing by a guest star who appeared earlier who I had no idea who he was. Earlier he appeared with his gigantic art piece “The Strandbeest,” but I had no idea what any of it was. Theo Jansen is the artist’s name; normally they have these guest stars introduce themselves by full name and list their credits, this felt like the exact opposite.
One good line/moment: As in “The Town,” this episode actually sports some decent animation in certain scenes with Krusty, first when he’s in his hospital bed, and later when he’s sulking at Moe’s. As with before, even though it’s a bit jarring in comparison with the normally stiff style of this show now, it was still enjoyable to see some actual acting employed, and in better effect than “The Town” too. Also, the C-plot featuring Maggie being terrified by an Elf on the Shelf knock-off was alright. My fiancee hates that little nightmare, so Maggie’s revenge in ripping it to shreds got to me.