Original airdate: January 14, 2018
The premise: A town wide exam to determine each Springfielders’ intelligence ranks Bart dead last, but when an incensed Marge to confront test creator Professor Frink, it’s revealed that Homer is in fact the stupidest man in town (WHAT A SHOCK).
The reaction: Springfield gets their IQ (or rather, Frink’s incredibly alternative PVQ) tested as a result of Mr. Burns believing the apocalypse is coming from an old Orson Welles introduction to a movie, and he plans to build a doomsday ark and only wants the best and brightest to travel with him. Got it? Remember the Burns who, upon impending nuclear meltdown, wouldn’t let Smithers use the sole two-seated escape pod (“I like to put my feet up.”) I don’t know how much Burns would really care about saving humanity, but if he were to extend some empathy for his fellow man in a time of impending crisis… it sure isn’t what’s being done here. This is gullible Burns, followed by mindlessly happy Burns, wantonly smiling as Frink interrupts his meeting with MENSA for a literal song and dance to introduce his super accurate PVQ intelligence assessment system. Anyway, the PVQ results are announced on the local news, with everyone’s name and score scrolling at lightning speed. Marge is easily able to pause and find each family member one after another, which I’m not sure if that was supposed to be a joke or not. Disheartened to find Bart literally scored a 1, Marge confronts Frink about it, who then discovers that due to his sloppy handwriting, Homer is the true ultimate dummy. Act three features Homer being depressed and humiliated about being Springfield’s biggest idiot… this is news? Are we seriously over six hundred episodes in and we’re doing this episode? Springfield is full of absolute morons, some of which are his closest friends, why would he feel ostracized? In the end, Marge reassures Homer and urges him to take steps to improve himself, starting with his penmanship, which I just now realize is referring to the reason his test was misidentified in the first place. I dunno if it’s just me or the show, but sometimes it’s hard to connect the dots like that because these episodes seem to not care less about the stories they’re telling. And it’s certainly even harder to care when your episode is about Homer feeling sad about being dumb.
Three items of note:
– Lisa is smugly satisfied with her high PVQ score, but is shocked to find Ralph scored a point higher than her. Because she’s a crazy person, she takes to following Ralph around and observing him to see his brilliance. This culminates in a hilarious finale of the two ending up high up on a construction site on a steel girder. Man, I hate Zombie Ralph so much, he’s just a brain dead non-sequitur prop. Lisa ultimately confronts Frink about her score, who proceeds to raise her number just for the hell of it. Why did she go through all this nonsense to begin with? Oh, who gives a fuck.
– Looking through his file cabinet to recheck Bart’s score, Professor Frink thumbs past a few other files, one of which is labeled, “Smithers, Waylon, Soon To Be Wanda.” Sigh. In the past, we’ve seen a good handful of “jokes” such as this, where the only thing you’re supposed to laugh at is “they’re changing their gender! Isn’t that crazy?!” Future Lisa finding Martin is now Marcia Prince, the gym teacher Mrs. Pommelhorst leaving to become Mr. Pommelhorst, and so forth. We also have had at least two jokes featuring Smithers taking estrogen pills, despite him expressing no interest whatsoever into becoming a woman. It’s just so baffling that here we are in the year 2018, and for whatever reason the staff still thinks it’s a-OK making gags equating homosexuality to being transgender. They’re not the same thing. At all. I just don’t understand what they’re thinking. If anything. Also, beyond all of that, why the hell would Frink have written that on the label in the first place?
– The episode ends with Homer working diligently on his cursive, and leaving Marge a bunch of sweet poems leading up to the bedroom, with him passed out on the bed amidst a slew of pages with his reading glasses still on. Marge is understandably touched. I feel like that might have been kind of sweet if there had been more of a build-up and meaning behind all this. These characters are such shallow husks of their former selves, worn down by years and years of piss poor characterization and storytelling, that it’s like a shock to the system to me whenever there’s a moment that actually feels emotionally resonant.
One good line/moment: Maurice LaMarche as Orson Welles is always a delight. He has a considerable amount of screen time with a good two minutes of the opening, then appearing again in Burns’ dreams. Clearly the staff loves Maurice doing Orson, and who can blame them? But, I dunno… Orson Welles in 2018? Really? And it’s not like they’re doing anything with him that hasn’t been done many times over on this and other shows. The pinnacle still remains the “green pea-ness” bit from The Critic and that shall never be topped (“Oh, what luck, there’s a French fry stuck in my beard!”) Hell, a decade ago, they had young Orson Welles appear in a Treehouse of Horror segment doing his famous War of the Worlds radio play and the gullible suckers of Springfield believing it. That felt like a unique usage for the character. Here, it’s just like, yeah, it’s nice and all, but why is it here?