Original airdate: February 19, 2017
The premise: When Bart throws away Lisa’s new beloved hat, a physical manifestation of guilt begins to eat away at him. Meanwhile, Homer is revealed to be an idiot savant at chess, having played with his father as a kid.
The reaction: How to even begin with a plot that’s razor thin… Bart slights Lisa in the worst possible way that leaves her extremely depressed and him wracked with guilt. So what happened? We start at the beach, where Bart sees a totally badass temporary “Bad to the Bone” tattoo, but is saddened to find it immediately washes off in the water. This causes him to cry. Yep, that’s right. The very first Simpsons episode featured Bart yearning for a real tattoo, and now, six hundred shows later, he bawls like a baby when his temp tatt goes bye bye. Embittered, Bart takes his anger out on Lisa, tossing her beloved new sun hat out the car window. We’re told how much Lisa loves that hat because a Beach Boys song plays every time she thinks of it, but she is absolutely devastated when she finds it missing, so much so that it affects Bart into hallucinating a gremlin self to represent his guilt. All over a hat. This might have worked if this was like a last straw kind of deal, or was part of a larger story, but no, it’s just all about a stupid hat. The conflict reminded me of “Bart vs. Thanksgiving,” but I won’t even scratch the surface of that comparison, because it’s not even worth comparing the two. Two thirds in, Bart comes clean, but nothing he can say or do will get him back into Lisa’s good graces. He gets her multiple gifts… what, was that the only sun hat in existence? He can’t find another one? Lisa meanwhile is so unbelievably melodramatic (“I’m truly sorry, Bart, but it’s a wound nothing can heal.”) Even when Bart manages to retrieve the hat, it’s initially not enough (“Your best bet is to forget me and start fresh with Maggie.”) But then she reconsiders and everything’s fine. I just don’t get what I’m supposed to feel in this episode. How much can I possibly give a shit about a fractured relationship born from a missing hat?
Three items of note:
– We get our second couch gag from Robot Chicken; while their first wasn’t exactly transcendent, it definitely feels it compared to this. Homer leaves “set” looking for the sailboat painting above the couch, walking in 3D space onto the sets of a South Park knock-off, a California Raisins knock-off, and finally into the room of the Seth Green Robot Chicken nerd who has taken the painting. It all feels… extremely pointless. Why, in the year 2017, do we have “parodies” of a two-decade-year-old show and pop culture mascots that have been dormant for twenty-five years? I just didn’t see the point of the segment, other than to kill precious, precious seconds, of course.
– The B-plot takes up about half the show, and I really don’t give a shit. Homer played chess with his dad after Mona left… Abe the gruff, uncaring working stiff interested in chess? Please. But they’re softened his younger character so much over the years, this is no different. At least here it’s implied that he only did it because he liked to beat Homer. I think. Whatever. This culminates in Homer having a rematch with his father, but in the end, throws the game to spare his feelings. The ending was clear as day when the game began, and in case you couldn’t tell by the visuals of Abe looking defeated and Homer appearing conflicted, Homer’s brain tells you so (“Isn’t a father more important than a victory? I’ve never really known either.”) There’s a shit ton of exposition lines this episode, but it’d be redundant to bitch more about that than I already have.
– Storytelling is not just in the toilet, it’s clogged deep within the pipes of said toilet, but there are certain moments that just astonish me. We’ve established that Lisa is completely over the moon about this dumb sun hat, and that she’ll be crushed to discover it missing. Bart throws it out the car window on the way home from the beach, then we cut to nighttime where he already feels guilty about it and the guilt monster appears. Then we cut to Lisa dreaming about the hat, feeling at her head and discovering the hat isn’t there. She then frantically runs to the car to search for it. So, she loves this hat so dearly, but upon returning home, didn’t think twice about it being nowhere to be found before she went to bed? Maybe Homer or Marge carried her to bed still asleep or something, I dunno. But why do I have to fill in these narrative gaps? Stuff like this might seem small, but it’s glaring to me how little care goes into these stories, which gets more surprising at the bar for content just gets lower and lower.
One good line/moment: BLANK.