Original airdate: December 10, 2017
The premise: Bart gets trapped in a Cold War-era bunker in the woods, and is declared dead after a brief search. Despite knowing the truth, Milhouse uses this to his advantage to get close to Lisa, and meanwhile, Sideshow Bob seeks to find the boy to kill him himself.
The reaction: “Twelfth time’s the charm!” Bob declares when he confronts his adolescent nemesis. As mentioned on many an occasion, all Bob episodes past “Brother From Another Series” feel so superfluous and meaningless. As much as I love “Cape Feare,” it ended up becoming a template for future Bob shows, where rather than have some kind of grand scheme or master plan tied to his pompous, upper class cultural fancies, he’s just an insane murderer who’s out for the blood of a ten-year-old. There’s no creativity, no intent to explore any other facets of Bob’s character; they even gave him a wife and child and they’ve been absent for the last couple installments. It’s just the same song and dance over and over, and honestly, do even diehard fans even give a fuck anymore? Bob is part of a prison gang doing community service when they are all forced to participate in the manhunt to find Bart. Meanwhile, his therapist is trying to get Bob to get past his revenge fantasies and take back control of his life. This maybe would hold more weight if it was better written, and if Bob hadn’t already reformed at least two times already. And pretended to reform more times than that. With the forced assistance of Milhouse, Bob tracks Bart down, tying both boys to an old ICBM (“I Commit Bart’s Murder!” “That’s your justification for killing two kids?”) This gives Bob pause. It’s almost like the episode is commenting how stupid this all is, and ultimately a call with his therapist gets Bob to release them and give up his murderous ways. At least until next time. The tag features an older Bob living in isolation in a lighthouse, writing “DIE BART DIE” in the sand almost like a calming mantra. Or something. If they wanted to write a “final” Bob show that got super meta about how deranged and unstable Bob is for wanting to pick a ten-year-old’s bones clean, I’m all for that, but this watered down fuzzy version of it is just a waste of time. They’ll bring him back. He always comes back, and even less effective each and every time. Sprinkling in fan service like the rake and him singing Gilbert & Sullivan doesn’t help comparisons much.
Three items of note:
– There’s another Wilhelm scream when a bunch of characters trip over a wire grid. Like just a guy falling down prompted a Wilhelm scream, that’s the third one this season. Is this some kind of inside joke between the post department or something?
– In yet another instance of characters reacting less like human beings and more like joke machines, returning from the woods to the rest of the family without Bart, Homer has an internal monologue (because of course he does) on how best to explain that their son is missing (“Okay, this is the hardest news in the world for a mother to hear. Just ease her into it.”) So he says, “You know that sewing room you wanted, but we could never figure out where?” Brilliant. It’s also a repeat of a joke from “Barting Over,” I believe (boy, I wish I didn’t know that completely useless knowledge.) The family receives a subpoena that Bart wants to become emancipated, and what’s Marge’s first reaction? “I always wanted a sewing room, but not like this!” This show was so brilliant because characters would always react honestly. They’d say funny lines, sure, but they made sense in the emotional context of the scene. In these two scenes, Bart is either threatening to leave the house, or missing/possibly dead, and his parents’ first responses involve a sewing room.
– Milhouse gets a scumbaggy moment when he arrives at the Simpson house to tell them where Bart is. Meanwhile, Kent Brockman just announced on TV that they’re giving up the search for no real reason, presuming Bart to be dead. I guess the family just believes it to be true immediately, as Lisa opens the door in tears, embracing Milhouse. He hesitates to tell her the news, and in case we couldn’t figure it out, we have his inner monologue explain (“I came to tell her he’s alive, but this feels almost as good as hugging Harry Horse!”) (I also don’t know if I get the joke. Is Harry Horse just a stuffed animal? I guess that’s it) So Milhouse exploits Bart’s “death” for some sympathy hugs from his sister. Maybe if they had Bart act like a dick to him like he always does, this would have been more acceptable, but he wasn’t. It felt particularly slimy for Milhouse.
One good line/moment: Out in the woods, Homer gives Santa’s Little Helper an item of Bart’s clothing to sniff, hoping he’ll pick up the scent. The dog does alright, sprinting off and leading them to… Bart’s dresser drawer.