The premise: On an overnight field trip aboard a battleship, Marge gets stuck with Sarah Wiggum, who turns out to be more of a kindred spirit than she expected. But it turns out Sarah has a secret past, as two former partners-in-crime come back to get their due, throwing Marge into an elaborate jewelry heist at the lavish Gen Gala.
The reaction: Sarah Wiggum is a non-character. Like a lot of the wives on this show, she was born in the grand cartoon tradition of men being paired up with female doppelgängers of themselves (as well as the grand cartoon tradition of largely male writing staffs being unable or uninterested in writing female characters.) Like Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck before her, Sarah was Chief Wiggum’s portly, dutiful wife, with Pamela Hayden doing her best Wiggum impression for the few instances they gave her dialogue. There are some secondary characters I can see potential in getting their own episode, but this was certainly an out-of-left-field choice. The episode certainly acknowledges it, as it’s revealed that soft-spoken Sarah is actually a lively charmer (now voiced by Megan Mullally) with a secret past, running with a girl gang of thieves in Shelbyville before her partners got arrested. Both Marge and Chief Wiggum incredulously ask, “Sarah Wiggum, who are you?” just to drill that point home. Sarah has basically no characteristics to build off of, so she’s effectively a brand new character, and then when her two former partners kidnap her and Marge, it becomes a series of dialogues and backstories between these three new characters and their past lives of crime and their new plan to get revenge on their fourth partner who double crossed them, who is revealed to be Lindsay Naegle. It reminded me a little of the Hallmark Christmas episode this season, where the lead character was Ellie Kemper and how weird that felt since we had no emotional investment in her. Here, there’s some thread of Marge relating to Sarah as an overlooked wife, but that angle is underplayed against all of the elaborate heist planning, complete with on-screen graphics and energetic music. The final act called to mind “The Book Job,” the season 23 episode where Homer, Bart and others planned an Ocean’s 11 syle heist to get their YA novel back from some evil publishing guy or something (in an episode also showrun by Matt Selman, so the man’s already repeating himself ten years later.) Here, influence is clearly taken from the all-female Ocean’s 8, which also involved a heist at a museum gala, but this episode makes the same fumbling as “The Book Job,” in that it recreates the tone and feel of those movies without subverting them at all or having any fun with the tropes and trappings. There’s barely any jokes to be had during the heist, nor do I really give a shit about what’s going on. How can I? Why should I give a single crap about this reinvented Sarah Wiggum or her betrayal by Lindsay Naegle, who is a gag character at best? I guess there are some that just find a Simpson-ized Oceans heist to be interesting by itself? I mean, I believe “The Book Job” was looked on favorably by a decent number of current fans, so maybe they’ll view this episode with a similar fondness. For me, I just could not give a shit. We get a few sidebars of Homer and Clancy frantically searching for their wives, nailing down the point over and over that they don’t know anything about them. Half the episode was just either an exposition dump or planning/executing the heist flawlessly, it didn’t even feel like I was watching a Simpsons episode at all. What is this show trying to be anymore?
Three items of note:
– Guest star round-up, I guess: it certainly would have been nice to give Pamela Hayden a starring role in an episode, but why do that when you can stunt-cast? Megan Mullally sounds like a less shrill, breathier Gayle from Bob’s Burgers, not really attempting to emulate Hayden’s Sarah voice at all. Nick Offerman makes a brief appearance (I guess they figured since they got Mullally, they’d bring her husband in too) to reprise his beloved character, that captain guy from that episode where Homer and Bart got in a right? “Wreck of the Relationship,” it was called? It sucked ass, that’s all I remember. Bob Seger voices himself at the concert Homer and Chief Wiggum go to after saddling their wives with field trip duty. When they go backstage, Seger browbeats them, telling them they need to be good marital partners, and the joke is that he’s inserting his song titles into his dialogue. Hysterical. In re-casting news, gay stereotype Julio is now voiced by Tony Rodriguez, who does a podcast or something. He already had a new voice a couple episodes ago, why did they change it? And why didn’t they just throw away that fucking awful character and be done with it? At the start of the episode, Marge is excited to watch the Gen Gala and make catty remarks at the outfits (“I have firm commitments from several A-level gays!”) We see the grouping later and it’s all the usual suspects: Patty and Selma, Smithers, Julio and his partner, Patty’s ex-girlfriend… All our gay characters hang out together because they’re gay, and gay people are all friends because they’re gay.
– They attempt to do some continuity building with a flashback showing young Sarah distracting a young security guard Clancy to perform a heist, but she ends up sleeping with him. Her friends end up arrested, and since she was the getaway driver, Sarah blames herself for the whole thing. Turns out it wasn’t her fault, Lindsay Naegle betrayed them, but if Sarah held onto so much guilt because of this, would she really have wanted to see Clancy again? She believes she ruined her friends’ lives because of this man, but she then married him and lived life as an obedient housewife for fifteen-plus years? Oh, whatever. I recall an early Al Jean episode where Clancy and Sarah are slow dancing, and he comments, “You look as pretty as the day I arrested you!” to which Sarah blushes. That moment is more charming and cute than anything we see in this entire episode.
– Marge saves the day at the end by pulling some fabric to cause Lindsay Naegle to trip at the top of the gala stairs. She elaborately tumbles down the stairs, flopping comically from left to right, bouncing over a dozen times as she plummets to the bottom. I really don’t know why it was done so excessively, but it felt strange and weirdly uncomfortable. It would be overkill if it were Homer, but this is just watching some poor woman flail around in incredible pain for twenty seconds. Are we supposed to feel vindicated that she’s getting her just desserts? Why should I care that Naegle betrayed three characters we literally just met and don’t care that much about? She ends up being framed for a bunch of other thefts, and we get on-screen text reading “The Double Revenge That You Didn’t See Coming But Now You’re Like What!?!?” Again, it feels like they’re banking hard on us giving a shit about this story. Or is the joke that they’re observing that twists happen in movies?