Original airdate: February 12, 2017
The premise: In a new healthy food landscape, Homer finds solace in a humble chili dog roadside caboose. He later realizes this establishment was a huge part of his childhood, but sadly, the owner doesn’t remember him.
The reaction: Episodes like these are the most baffling to me; seemingly innocent premises, but where I ultimately can’t figure out what the hell the story is or what the writers are trying to say with it. Homer is disillusioned by his usual fast food haunts going “healthy” and multi-cultural, but way outside of town discovers a roadside chili dog stand, which he stays at all night. The next morning, Abe magically materializes in the house to tell Homer that he’s been eating those dogs since he was a lad, as it was right next to his parents’ court-appointed therapist (Glenn Close yet again returns…) Homer then surmises he’s been eating (and drinking) to shut out his negative emotions for years, and that he’s a-OK with that. The “healthy” fast food and Homer’s damaged psyche are two plot threads that are immediately dismissed once they’re introduced. The main conflict, I think, is that the man running the stand (I don’t even think he had a name) doesn’t recognize Homer all grown up. Forget that Homer didn’t remember the guy despite having gone there all through his childhood, but he’s apparently really hurt about the vice versa. So the caboose gets super popular, so much so that Krusty ends up buying it. One would think this would tie into to the reformatted Krusty Burger and that they were going to completely change the menu, but that’s not even mentioned. Incensed, Homer impulsively chains the caboose to his car and drives off with it, prompting a police chase. His crusade creates a stir with Springfield’s obese, who help him out when he runs out of gas. So is this a fat pride show? We have the right to our fattening, but tasty cheat foods? I understand the attempted satire, but it’s not like all fast food has completely changed its stripes. They even comment on it itself with a sign “Healthy-Sounding Food and Beverage Concepts” at Krusty Burger; a brand new menu with seemingly “good” food is pretty much just a smokescreen. But whatever. Homer smashes through a barricade, gets the caboose teetering off a bridge, then the owner saves him and admits he knows who he is. But it’s not like he just remembered, he says, “I never forgot you! How could I?” So was he just lying? Does he have dementia? Homer proclaims him a surrogate father, which is a whole new can of worms that it doesn’t bother going into, mostly because the episode is over. I feel like this episode was broaching three ideas at once (plus an extremely brief and meaningless Lisa B-plot), but never got around to fleshing out any of them, so we’re left with an episode that is pretending to be about something, but ends up just being rambling and incoherent. You know, like every other episode.
Three items of note:
– The reason I’m not 100% sure the Homer-hot dog guy relationship isn’t supposed to be the primary plot is because how horribly undeveloped it is. Hot dog guy repeatedly tells Homer he doesn’t know who he is, then at the end, he says he does. Not only that, but he considers him family? Or something? But then he disappears with no real conclusion to that at all. Instead of developing this relationship at all, we get scenes like this: Homer arrives at the stand and the two of them sing a song, over half of which the lyrics are just “Hot dog!” Hot dog guy ends the scene by repeating he still doesn’t recognize Homer. What a pointless waste of time.
– Comic Book Guy and Springfield’s fellow fatties show up to support Homer’s insane quest to save the hot dog caboose, just because. I don’t want to go into how little sense so much of this makes, but when Homer’s car runs out of gas, they help him push up a steep hill, then when the reach the top, help him again up a steeper hill. Hill #2 is fifteen seconds of a still shot of them pushing, it’s a clear example of just time filler. Also, where are all the squad cars and the chopper that were chasing them immediately preceding this sequence? Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.
– By the episode’s conclusion, Homer has stolen private property, lead a huge police chase, smashed several vehicles, damaged a bridge, and ultimately destroyed aforementioned private property. It felt like Captain Wacky Homer behavior from the Scully/early Jean years, so I once again found myself wondering why in the hell Homer was going to walk away from yet another escapade and not get himself arrested or sued. Once hot dog guy saves Homer, Marge and Bart drive up, the former just Stepford smiling, the latter saying this: “You’re a hero, Dad! They’re calling you ‘Public Elephant #1’!” Is he making fun of him, or is he really in awe? It seems like it’s supposed to be the latter, which makes no sense. Then they drive away. Just as I think about why the fuck Homer could just leave when the police were right there, Lou asks Wiggum the same thing (“He just committed a series of crimes!”) Wiggum responds with a Chinatown reference, so incredibly timely (and one the show already made sixteen years ago.) This has happened many a time, where Wiggum makes some kind of excuse why people can just easily get away with shit, but this felt like the most egregious example. It also shows how the bullshit lampshading doesn’t work. The fact that Lou acknowledged what I was thinking made me even more incensed, not less.
One good line/moment: Krusty’s clown music plays as his management team and lawyers all exit his clown car. Then the music plays quickly in reverse as they all get back in. I thought it semi-effectively pulled this gag off.