Original airdate: May 13, 2018
The premise: When Abe is in need of an expensive operation, the Simpsons head off to Denmark to take advantage of their free healthcare, but Homer must make a big decision when the rest of the family wants to make the seemingly perfect country their new home.
The reaction: Wherein we find the show running out of countries for the family to visit. Will the Simpsons be going to Uzbekistan in season 35? The series only really had two international family excursions in the classic years, both with a different approach to thrusting the characters into a whole new environment: “Bart vs. Australia” had its fair share of Aussie jokes, but it was mostly focused on the absurd plot based on Bart’s unintentional international incident, and the horrible failures of US-Australia relations. Meanwhile, “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo” didn’t really have much of a story, focusing on creating a bunch of humorous set pieces, which worked because they were mostly all funny. But travel shows now are just an excuse for the show to act as a travelogue, showing off famous landmarks and rattling off trivia about different countries. This might be the greatest offender, with many scenes featuring characters literally reading off Denmark facts off their phone, with a tepid little joke at the end not at all worth the preceding info dump. In the third act, a Danish woman comes onto Homer, and three times begins sentences with “We Danes” before saying some generality about Danish people. And really, who was asking for this? I dunno, call me an uncultured swine, but I don’t see an episode full of Danish jokes full of rich, comedic potential. I mean, it could work, if it came from a show that hasn’t had almost twenty years of shit writing behind it. Circling back, the impetus of the family’s Denmark journey is needing an affordable operation for Abe, to address an ailment he never explains. He says it’s “embarrassing” and won’t talk about it, but that point is never really emphasized that much, and I didn’t think anything of it. After spending x number of days in Denmark with Homer trying to get his father into a terrible accident to be eligible for free healthcare, Abe finally comes clean: what he really needs is a tattoo removal. He reveals a heart on his chest with the word “MONA,” wanting it gone since his wife hated him up until her death. It’s unclear exactly what Abe’s endgame for all this was; I guess he went along and flew halfway around the world because he just couldn’t tell his family about this, but then once he does admit it to Homer, they barely even discuss it. You’d think Homer would be affected by this reveal, but I guess he’s already made peace that his mother fucking hated his father after “Forgive and Regret,” so whatever. The writers try and make it tie together when Abe urges Homer not to make his same mistakes and mend fences with Marge after a squabble, but it feels so limp and meaningless. This is one of those episodes that just washed over me with not much of anything really registering, and when your twist features your main character’s father wanting to completely sever emotional ties from his dead mother, and that idea is just completely swept aside, I think that says a lot.
Three items of note:
– I didn’t even remember this until I saw it mentioned elsewhere, the show literally did this plot last year, where the Simpsons took Abe to Cuba to get cheap medical care. I guess I don’t blame them, I barely recall anything about it. I think it ended with Abe co-owning a night club or something? And of course, we already saw Abe needing desperate medical attention two episodes ago. Is the only plot left with this character is him having one foot in the grave? Impulsively, I responded to an episode preview post from Al Jean, asking why they didn’t just make an episode featuring Abe finally dying. His response, “You tell Grampa that!” Lulz.
– The Abe plot starts and stops completely at will when we do all the Denmark travel stuff, and also runs completely parallel to the B-story, where Marge and the kids love this new country and want to stay. Homer’s main gripe is that he’s losing weight and won’t eat as unhealthily as he does in America. I mean, I’m sure Denmark has no shortage of fatty foods he can gorge himself on ’til his heart’s content (or gives out, whatever comes first). It felt like they were halfway toward a decent conflict, then decided this was good enough and broke for lunch.
– Homer rushes from the airport to make up with Marge after their contrived conflict, and because the episode is almost over, they of course need to be okay with going back to Springfield. But her main points are absolutely ridiculous. First, she points out that in the confined bathroom, the toilet is in the shower. Surely that’s something that shouldn’t be surprising to her or worth specifically pointing out a week into their stay. She points out the washing machine is really small too, but these are two things they could easily amend in their own home should they choose to stay. Then she points out how dark it is outside (“It’s eleven in the morning!”) We then see the sun rise and set in about two seconds. I guess all those daytime scenes we saw were playing at 100x speed, we just didn’t notice! This quick plot resolution shit is nothing we haven’t seen before, but it still elicits a groan out of me when I know a superfluous wrap-up is coming, and it never fails to disappoint in how poor it ends up being. Bart’s complaint is that the schools are good here, and as for Lisa? “I want to stay, but no one ever listens to me.” Sigh.
One good line/moment: Dr. Nick’s office is named “Bleeders Sinai Medical Center.”