Category Archives: Season 06

128. Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part One)

(originally aired May 21, 1995)
Man I wish I hadn’t been a young’n when the “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” saga was underway. From what I read of it, it was quite the event, with widespread debate and discussion amongst fans regarding the mystery. The only two-part episode in the show’s history, it rides the line of being a gimmick episode, and being a parody of one. There was the 1-800-COLLECT contest and other FOX promotion around it, but the episodes themselves were filled with enough winking nods that they didn’t feel disingenuous (the conceit itself is of course a parody of the “Who Shot J.R.?” mystery from Dallas). But audience reaction to this event episode only came from how solid and well crafted it was. Such great care was put into setting up clues, giving every character a motive, and ending on a note where there’s no real definite suspect. Yet even with all the information to be fed and groundwork to be set, it all feels cohesive, and more importantly, it still feels like The Simpsons, with plenty of funny bits that work in tandem with the dramatic parts. I don’t know if I can call either of these favorite episodes, but they are definitely landmark shows of the series, put together with great attention to detail, and absolute treats to watch unfold.

Oil is struck at Springfield Elementary, much to the thrill of Principal Skinner, and to much chagrin of Mr. Burns and his energy monopoly within the town. Through slanted drilling, he taps the oil before the school, which results on many catastrophic events that cripple the denizens of Springfield. Saddled with the cost of drilling, Skinner had to lay off Willie and new music instructor Tito Puente. A jettison of oil from Burns’ drill destroys Bart’s treehouse, injuring him and his dog. Fumes from the rig end up getting Moe’s, leaving Moe out of work and Barney out of booze. Underground drilling creates a fault line under the retirement home, bringing half the building into the ground. Not even the tireless sycophant Smithers can stand for this level of dastardly deeds, resulting in his termination. Burns completes his complete takeover of the town’s resources by blocking out the sun, keeping its citizens totally reliant on his power supply. It’s soon after that the most hated man in Springfield is shot by an unidentified assailant, leaving him to collapse on the town square.

Most of the citizens’ hatred of Burns comes through chain reactions of his rampant greed, self-serving nature and desire for unchecked power. And while his plan and execution of blocking out the sun might be a little silly (or as Smithers puts it, a cross over into cartoonish supervillainy), it works perfectly as the proverbial last straw; with no natural light, Burns is completely at the town’s mercy. The two seeming front runners for the gunman are the two with personal grudges toward Burns. First, Smithers, whose thankless tasks and toadying toward Burns are emphasized even further until he is quickly fired after daring to finally say no regarding the sun scheme. Second is Homer, who falls into a ludicrous state because Burns continuously doesn’t remember his name. It’s sort of the last hurrah for this long running joke, being pushed way over the top until Homer just loses it. The climax at the town hall meeting is one of the greatest scenes in the entire series; the town is so impassioned in their unified hatred, while Burns just eats it up, loving every minute of it (as he wonderfully puts it, foreshadowing the ending, “You all talk big, but who here has the guts to stop me?”) I knew the conclusion before I watched the first part, but I really wish I didn’t. There’s so many hints and clues to extrapolate from, most damning being Burns’ missing revolver, that it would have been neat to be a part of unraveling this mystery. Of course the big reveal is something no one ever suspected, but more on that later.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I love Skinner’s official decorum in his dialogue at the beginning of the show, which is broken when he hesitatingly must identify the deceased class hamster Superdude by name.
– Wonderful sequence of Burns’ important piece of postage exchanging hands, with great music and dizzying use of alliteration (“Forgot prende asked for highly pressing package of power plant profit projections for Pete Porter in Pasadena.” “Priority?” “Precisely.”) This also effectively starts Homer’s growing antagonism when the letter ends up with him, who rushes it to Burns’ office, only having read the return address.
– There’s some great Skinner-Chalmers stuff in here (“Why is it when I heard the word ‘school’ and the word ‘exploded,’ I immediately thought of the word ‘Skinner!‘”) The two laugh uproariously at the suggestion they use the oil money to give the students college scholarships, and there’s a hilarious back and forth when Skinner blocks out the first word of a newspaper headline “Awful School Is Awful Rich.” (“An unrelated article. Within the banner headline.”) Very similar rhythm wise to the later “steamed hams” discussion in “22 Short Films.”
– Great montage of requests from the students and faculty: Lunchlady Doris is a highlight (“The cafeteria staff is complaining about the mice in the kitchen. I wanna hire a new staff.”) Requests from Otto (“You know those guitars that are like… double guitars,” Ralph (“Chocolate microscopes?”), and Skinner (“More rubber stamps,”) are also granted.
– I love Burns’ feeble attempts to trick Skinner, and Skinner’s deadpan affirmative stance against him (“I’ve got a monopoly to maintain! I own the electric company, and the water works, plus the hotel on Baltic Avenue!” “That hotel’s a dump and your monopoly’s pathetic.”) Burns’ feeble attempts to attack Skinner, and Smithers coming in with a stapler is just icing on the cake (“Please don’t waste those.”)
– Smithers’ turn against Burns is gradual through the show, and believable in his character: he’s fine with Burns’ ruthless practices in the workplace, since that’s all business, but his attempts at robbing a local school of funds it desperately needs is going too far.
– Great sequence of Burns and Smithers eating chocolates, with Burns identifying each Simspon on the photo inside, except Homer of course, whose face remained obscured by, of all things, a sour quince log. I don’t even know what quince is, but it sounds disgusting. The payoff is phenomenal when Homer gets a thank you note, but realizes his name isn’t included. He holds the paper up to his face and reads, then lowers it and his pupils get smaller. Calling the kids out of the room, he takes a deep breath, then… “Ffff-” Church bells chime and the entire neighborhood is stunned, including Flanders (“Dear lord, that’s the loudest profanity I’ve ever heard!”)
– Great “Aye carumba!” from Tito Puente when they announce someone’s tapped the oil.
Classic Burns line preparing for his oil rig to burst: “Ah, soon that mighty apparatus will burst forth with its precious fluid. Almost sexual, isn’t it, Smithers?” A still dissatisfied Smithers can only muster a murmur.
Classic Willie line upon his termination: “I’ll kill that Mr. Burns! And, er, wound that Mr. Smithers!”
– Moe’s becomes veritably toxic from Burns’ oil rig. Barney comments, “These fumes aren’t as fun as beer. Sure, I’m all dizzy and nauseous, but where’s the inflated sense of self-esteem?” Eco-suited scientists then enter (“Man alive! There are… men alive in here!”) and shut down the bar, prompting Moe and Barney to wield guns (“Ah: now there’s the inflated sense of self-esteem!”)
– I love how everything is set up fluidly, even mention of the sundial as Smithers protests Burns’ master plan (“Every plant and tree will die, owls will deafen us with incessant hooting, the town’s sundial will be useless!”)
– Homer’s descent into madness is fantastic, picturing Burns’ popping up in his car running through the thesaurus of insulting names to call him. He arrives at the plant and in large letters in Burns’ office spray paints “I AM HOMER SIMPSON.” Burns arrives, and of course, as flat as possible, asks, “Who the devil are you?” Homer snaps, and runs across the office (accompanied with a great camera move) and accosts Burns, only to be led out by security. It’s a bit outlandish, but I still believe Homer’s reached his breaking point.
– Stuck at the Simpson home, Grampa gets a great scene where Bart finds his old Smith & Wesson (“If you’re gonna play with it, be careful, ’cause its loaded.”) Marge finds it, and is understandably shocked. Abe retorts, “How can you have a house without a gun? What if a bear came through that door?”
– The town hall meeting starts out strong (“We’re all upset about Mr. Burns’ plan to, uh, block out our sun. It is time for decisive action. I have here a polite but firm letter to Mr. Burns’ underlings, who with some cajoling, will pass it along to him or at least give him the gist of it.”) During Quimby’s speech, we cut to shots of citizens’ hands brandishing guns, which the mayor’s aide quickly informs him of (“Also it has been brought to my attention that a number of you are stroking guns. Therefore I will step aside and open up the floor.”)
– After Burns arrives, and then flashes his weapon at a small child, the tension just builds and builds as the townspeople threaten the old man, and I love love love that in all of it, Flanders steps up and asks, “I’d like to hear from Sideshow Mel!” You know what? I would too, because I love that voice. Mel doesn’t disappoint, wielding a switchblade (“I’ll see to it that Mr. Burns suffers the infernal machinations of hell’s grim tyrant!”)
– Great subtle clues that Burns’ jacket swishes open as he swirls around the lamp post, reminding you the gun is still there, then later when he collapses, it’s not.
– And we end on a great call to arms from the fans to get involved in solving this mystery, as Hibbert seemingly asks the audience if they can solve the mystery. Actually he’s just pointing at Wiggum (“Yeah, I’ll give it a shot, I mean, you know, it’s my job, right?”)

Season 6 Final Thoughts
After a relatively insane season 5, I feel like things sort of leveled out and got a bit more grounded here in season 6. There were some insane bits, sure, but we got a fair share of episodes that were very down-to-earth stories, in their actual plots and just the way they flowed very leisurely (“Bart’s Girlfriend,” “Lisa’s Rival,” “Lisa on Ice,” etc.) Even episodes that were pretty out there like “Homie the Clown” still focused on the characters and felt very genuine. I guess largely this was a very character driven season; Homer’s relationship with his father, we delve in Marge’s troubled past, Bart and Lisa go mad in their own ways without school, and a look into the future at Lisa’s first love. Even without the change of show runners yet, it feels like one season segues into the next; Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein’s seasons are noted as being more emotional, and this feels like a balance between Mirkin’s insanity and the more level-headed stuff of season 7. Still, great, great, great, great stuff. Great.

The Best
“Treehouse of Horror V,” “Homer Bad Man,” “Homie the Clown,” “Bart vs. Austrailia,” “Lisa’s Wedding”

The Worst
“Another Simpsons Clip Show” by default, but as a clip show, I barely count it.

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127. Lemon of Troy

(originally aired May 14, 1995)
Shelbyville is probably one of my favorite overall bits of the series; this neighboring town that the people of Springfield needlessly vilify to assert themselves to a higher plane. In this episode, we find out the origins of the towns (with the reasoning of their divide being just as stupid), and, more enlightening, that the Shelbyvillians are just as spiteful and vindictive as Springfield. It’s just another never-ending feud over inconsequential matters, with each party too pig-headed to realize how stupid it all is. This is the quintessential Springfield-Shelbyville episode, that does a great job examining the dynamics between the two towns and how each side is equally as retarded.

Through his mother’s repetitious urgings, Bart is instilled with a renewed sense of town pride, just in time to find punk kids from Shelbyville have taken off with their beloved lemon tree. In response, he forms a ragtag group of kids to venture into uncharted territory to get back what’s theirs. Before this, we have the scene where the two groups of kids meet at the city line, and it sets the stage perfectly: their childish back-and-forths and swipes at each other fit, but it’s also just interesting that they’re fighting over something they have no real consciousness about. Hatred of their neighbors is something just instilled to them by their parents, they’re just unknowing pawns in this ongoing stupidness. To push this artificial rivalry further, Shelbyville appears to be full of “evil” parallels, with the main kid Shelby being like a slightly more evil Bart (and his father as well, adapting Homer’s original Walter Mattheu-type voice). The petty rivalry between Springfield and Shelbyville is one I felt could have been explored a lot further in future episodes, but in a way, I think this one kind of ruined it by making it so ridiculously over-the-top. Would you want to see an episode featuring the exploits of Joe’s Tavern and a barely feminized Willie? No, but it works spectacularly for that one stupid joke.

Soon enough the parents get involved in tracking down their kids, and then they quickly get involved in the lemon tree mission. Homer’s mindset is brilliantly encapsulated in the few scenes where they find the kids: he’s initially angry and lecturing to his son, then upon hearing Shelbyville stole the lemon tree, immediately switches gears and immediately channels his anger toward that. I’m sure Homer didn’t even know there was a lemon tree in Springfield; all he knows is Shelbyville took it and it’s ours, goddammit. Shelbyville may seem more antagonistic than Springfield, but the latter did burn down the former’s city hall, so both cities are pretty reprehensible. The plot basically would have been the same if the cities were reversed, but not quite as satisfying for us. Throughout all the silly assholery in this universe, we’re still pleased as punch as Flanders’ RV drives the lemon tree back through the city line… and laugh when they inadvertently damage a large portion of their sacred icon.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Nice ridiculous fantasy as Bart imagines being labeled a future God by writing his name in wet cement (“He must have been much smarter than his sister Lisa, about whom we know nothing.”) They’re a people who can bring a person back to life with what must only be a speck of DNA, but are absolutely amazed by a simple yo-yo trick.
– I like the quick montage of Bart and Milhouse running to the lemon tree, with Milhouse repeatedly stumbling and injuring himself over nice, light music. It’s not really emphasized as a joke, it’s just kind of there, just a quick illustration over the disparity between hero and sidekick. This ain’t Milhouse’s show.
– Because the kids know nothing about the ongoing feud, they must invent stuff to be angry about on their level. Milhouse accuses the Shelbyville kids of copying their habit of wearing their backpacks over one shoudler. He’s rather incensed about it (“Step over this line and say that! I’ll kick your butt! …at Nintendo.”)
– Grampa regales the kids with the story of the origin of the two towns (“Hey everybody! An old man’s talking!”) If the name Jebediah Springfield wasn’t silly enough, his partner was Shelbyville Manhattan, who believed the whole reason for their journey was to form a town where one could marry one’s cousin. Jebediah asks why on earth one would want to do that; Shelbyville responds, “Because they’re so attractive.” That tears it, and the two split up their parties. The origin of the rivalry is dumb, and remains so to this day (“The town of Springfield was born on that day, and to mark that sweet moment, our people planted this lemon tree, lemons being the sweetest fruit available at the time.”)
– Great bit where Nelson calls the kids out of class, it’s an emergency and no time to explain. This works when you have an immediate cut to them arriving at their destination, but we see them running downtown and Nelson stopping at a drinking fountain (“I said there’s no time to explain and I stick by that!”)
– The lemon tree is gone, and Bart vows to get it back (“That lemon tree’s a part of our town, and as kids, the backbone of our economy. We’ll get it back, or choke their rivers with our dead!”) At home, Bart tells his mother her speech about town pride really stuck and he’s going to go teach some Shelbyville kids a lesson. Marge is none the wiser (“I choose to take that literally!”) Outside, Bart yells, “Death to Shelbyville!” Homer goes with his wife’s interpretation (“Tute on, son! Tute on!”)
– I love the quick sad fantasy Milhouse has, that his camo outfit will give him Cheshire Cat-like abilities (“Over here, my friends! Or is it over here?”)
– Milhouse seems to be the most irritated of all of them, but I feel he’s putting some of it on just to seem ramped up about the mission (“The kid with the backpack said ‘radical.’ I say ‘radical.’ That’s my thing that I say! I feel like I’m going to explode here!”) Of course I don’t remember him ever saying that. His complaints are usually targeted toward that one kid, which has a beautiful payoff when he learns he’s also named Milhouse, and a great microcosm that the two towns could really have a fine bond if they drop their stupid feud (“So this is what it feels like when doves cry!”)
– I love how dense Marge is regarding Bart’s actual intentions. Lisa eventually has to flat-out tell her mother that Bart’s waging war on Shelbyville, and Marge is horrified (“Homer! Come quick! Bart’s quit his tutoring job and joined a violence gang!”)
– The scene with Martin and Nelson shaking down Shelbyville kids in wonderful: Martin acting assertive is fantastic, then his consistent assertion that his best buddy and protector Nelson will save him. Nelson sheepishly appears and reasserts his cred (“I never hang out with him, normally.”) before knocking out Martin’s would-be attacker. Martin is most pleased, singing a song of triumph while dancing around Nelson, who has such little care or energy to deal with this he just half-heartedly swipes at him.
– I like how Bart’s big reveal of himself to the Shelbyville kids lands so flat, like the name Bart Simpson is not as immortal as he’d hope. They even saw him the other day and don’t recognize he’s a Springfieldian until he says so.
– The scene where Bart has to escape the tiger feeding area by deciphering Roman numerals is kind of dumb, but I still like it for calling back earlier when Bart didn’t pay attention in class, and his solution in recalling the titles of Rocky movies (“Rocky V plus Rocky II equals… Rocky VII: Adrian’s Revenge!”)
– I’ll reiterate how much I love that Shelby’s father has the Walter Mattheu voice. It’s almost like these are the unevolved Bart and Homer. He’s also got some of the best lines (“Get out here, son! There’s a doin’s a-transpirin’!” “Shake harder, boy!”)
– It’s such a stupid, stupid, stupid, dumb joke, but I still love the bit where Ned can’t start the engine because Homer has chosen this highly dramatic and tense get-away moment to cook and baste four turkeys in the oven.
– Homer and Bart taunt Shelbyville from the window (“Eat my shorts!”) Ned attempts to join in (“Yes, eat all of our shirts!”)
– Each town gets their moment of triumph: Bart and Milhouse celebrate with some lemonade (just a few drops, and entire glass full of sugar), and Shelbyville’s resident old man assures the town valiantly evicted the lemon tree because it was haunted, and now they could enjoy some nice turnip juice.

126. The Springfield Connection

(originally aired May 7, 1995)
“Homer-gets-a-job” episodes, at least in these early years, seemed to examine a sorta average Joe put in a new situation, like “Dancin’ Homer” and “Deep Space Homer.” “Marge-gets-a-job” episodes tend to have a bit more going on, an examination of her as more than a doting housekeeper and downtrodden wife. As we’ve seen, and I’ve written, Marge has a lot of smarts and potential, but is basically completely squandered and dulled down in the lot of life she is now. Seeing her reach outside her small box into something new is as exciting to the viewer as it is to her. In this show, following an impromptu subduing of street thug Snake, she decides to become a police officer. Seemingly a stretch for the typically docile Marge, but it’s handled very believably: she’s originally impulsed by her rampant morality over Snake’s crooked card game, and her quench for justice only goes from there. Marge can have a thirst for danger just like anyone else; she just needs to be pushed in the right direction.

So after a weekend of police academy (which is just one great incompetent Wiggum joke after another), Marge is on the beat. We see how her new life starts to affect the world around her, with her friends becoming tight-lipped in her presence, to Homer feeling somewhat emasculated (“You being a cop makes you the man… which makes me the woman. I have no interest in that, besides occasionally wearing the underwear, which, as we discussed, is strictly a comfort thing.”) However Homer transitions this into believing he’s got a free pass to do anything, playing poker with his buddies whilst smoking Cuban cigars in his own home, then parking over three handicap spaces at the Kwik-E-Mart. The final scene in act two is really well done; Homer isn’t pushed too far into pure jerkass stupidity, he’s just fooling around with his wife, not realizing the consequences, while Marge tries to keep her composure and ultimately has to arrest her husband.

The third act twist is slightly bizarre, but in a good way in true Simpsons fashion: shady character Herman has secretly set up shot in the Simpson garage to store counterfeit product… specifically blue jeans. Homer of course is none the wiser, but upon finding out, gives a great speech unwittingly praising capitalism (“We’ve all thought about counterfeiting jeans at one time or another, but what about the victims? Hard-working designers like Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, or Antoine Bugle Boy. These are the people who saw an overcrowded marketplace and said, ‘Me too!'”) Marge saves the day of course, in a scene that equally balances the dramatic angles with the goofy. …well, maybe it’s more goofy than dramatic, but all the jokes hit hard, and it’s a satisfying conclusion. That and the jeans plot actually segue into Marge’s final straw for quitting her job. Even in a mostly silly episode like this, economy is taken into account, the episode totally makes sense in its own dumb way.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I love how enraged Homer gets at the Springfield Pops concert (“Laser effects, mirrored balls… John Williams must be rolling around in his grave.”)
– The chase scene is great, where we see Snake running and a tall blue tuft of hair slowly approach from behind, like Marge is this ominous figure approaching. It’s actually pretty suspenseful when it gets to that alleyway and Snake whips out his switchblade; a lowlife thug about to accost an innocent woman. The payoff is believable though with Marge socking him with the trashcan lid. The arrest is great too, when Snake pledges he’ll be back on the street in twenty-four hours. Wiggum responds, “We’ll try to make it twelve.” Even that sets up the theme of the episode, in case you forgot how useless the Springfield police was, there you go.
– The fake-out with the cops bringing in their “man,” which ends up being a hot pizza, is so retarded and stupid, but I still love it. Especially when Marge comes in and a flummoxed Wiggum stammers, “Wha-wha-what, this better be about pizza!”
– Another thing this show is great for is anticipating the audience’s expectations for a story direction and subverting it. There was potential for this show to have a “haze the only woman on the force” angle, but the show expected it: we have the great fake-out of the cops laughing excessively at Marge, then followed by Wiggum plainly saying, “Welcome aboard” (wonderfully repeated at the end when Marge quits.) Compare this to a much later episode when Marge does amateur carpentry and cannot find work because no one wants to hire a woman, which is both a poor plot twist and makes no goddamn sense.
– Great performance by Dan Castellaneta is an insane recruit at police academy (“Forget about the badge! When do we get the freakin’ guns?!”)
– Great minor appearance by Lionel Hutz, shifty as always (“I’ll have you know the contents of that dumpster are private! You stick your nose in, you’ll be violating attorney-dumpster confidentiality.”) Realizing Marge’s intentions were pure, he nervously backpedals, then sets the dumpster ablaze, cuts his losses and takes off.
– I like the moment where Lisa gives her soapbox lecture about how police should be working to examine the roots of society’s problems rather than reprimand them after the fact, and Marge, unprepared to response, undermines Lisa with a hand puppet.
– When Marge shows up and witnesses the card game, Moe attempts to absolve himself of wrongdoing (“Your house? Gee, it’s so glamorously decorated I thought I was in Vegas! Hey, you guys lied to me: you said it was Vegas!”)
It’s cruel, yes, but I love the moment with Lovejoy “comforting” Hans Moleman in jail. When Hans asks if they’re really allowed to execute people in a local jail, Lovejoy responds, “From this point on, no talking.” Followed by a grim shot of Hans being led to his death. Of course we’ll see him again, so I’m not worried.
– Great line from Homer, upset about his wife’s new power (“When Marge first told me she was going to the police academy, I thought it’d be fun and exciting, you know, like that movie, Spaceballs. But instead it’s been painful and disturbing like that movie Police Academy.”)
The counterfeit jeans fake-out reminds me of an old Dexter’s Laboratory episode where lowlife types were smuggling product of their own; one slices through a bag and a powdery white substance comes out… turns out it’s flour (“Gentlemen, we’re going to be making a lot of bread.”) Just thought it was funny that a cartoon for children ended up being more risque than The Simpsons.
– All the bits in Marge’s final stake-out is hilarious, the living targets (mirroring her earlier training) and Ned’s witch getting decimated (“I guess I am putting up the Hallowe’en decorations a little early. Criticism accepted,”) Bart and Lisa watching from the house, Marge’s motherly pride of knowing the secret entrance of her son’s treehouse, Herman’s adieu (“Gotta catch the 501!” Like Levi’s 501 jeans? Eh?) and his lament while falling (“Foiled by my shoddy merchandise!”)
– I like the timing of the final bit where we see the stalled poker game. Fed up, Moe decides to look at Homer’s cards. Fade to black. “Crap, I fold.” I also love the Hill Street Blues version of the end theme.

125. ‘Round Springfield

(originally aired April 30, 1995)
Bleeding Gums Murphy really does have an iconic presence as an all-time classic character, despite only appearing in two episodes (and the opening titles every week.) He’s this kindred spirit to Lisa, a mentor in the ways of music and life. Though being voiced by guest star Ron Taylor probably hindered it, I almost wish we had seen him a few more times before now, his grand reintroduction… where they kill him off. Hm. Well we do get an interesting look of Murphy’s life before he goes, his days working in jazz clubs, his big break performing on the Tonight Show with Steve Allen, and his only cut record “Sax on the Beach.” Lisa is fittingly thrilled to have her mentor back in her life again, and even though we only get a few scenes with them, the level of connection really gets across between the two characters; Lisa sees Murphy as her musical idol, and a family-less Murphy is touched to have a fan. Even to someone as wise and learned as Lisa, death hits hard, and with someone as powerful to her as Murphy, she’s absolutely crushed. Yeardley Smith deliver a powerhouse performance here, wringing every bit of emotion she can from her scenes. There’s something about Lisa crying that garners the utmost sympathy.

We also have our other story, Bart accidentally swallowed a jagged metal cereal prize from a box of Krusty O’s and gets a meager cash settlement from Lionel Hutz. I’m a little conflicted as to how this sillier story meshes with the tone of the main one, but they mainly stay separated. It’s most of the first act which leads us to Lisa reuniting with Murphy in the hospital, and is mostly dropped following his death, until Bart gets the check, which leads to the sweet moment where he buys Murphy’s album for Lisa (reasoning that she was the only one who spoke up for Bart at the breakfast table.) I more have a problem with some of the jokes taking place within the serious storylines, like both instances of the hot dog vendor showing up. First Homer acts incredibly cavalier at Bart’s operation, then the hot dog guy shows up, which feels wrong given the situation, which is the point, I guess, but still didn’t sit right. Then we have the second act break with the hot dog guy at the cemetery; it’s almost like they felt nervous to maintain the serious tone, when you can just as well get your jokes from the story itself (Lovejoy misreading the eulogy is funny, and fits to inspire Lisa to maintain Murphy’s legacy.)

Despite a few off-tone jokes, the episode maintains its meditative tone with each family member attempting to help, all within character: Homer starts off strong, until he completely blows it (“All we have to do is go down to the pound and get a new jazzman,”) Marge remains supportive of course, and Bart reveals his theories of reincarnation, and wanting to come back as a butterfly (“Because nobody ever suspects the butterfly.”) As mentioned, he gets Murphy’s album for Lisa to play on the local jazz station, which gets ramped up frequency thanks to divine intervention zapping the radio tower. The final scene between Lisa and a ghostly Murphy is incredibly touching, and we get a great play-off for the character in “Jazzman,” which is well performed by Smith. This is another episode that I saw rerun a lot, but as many times as I saw it, I’d never turn it off. It may not be the funniest, but it’s got a lot of heart, and I really enjoy it.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Great bit of Krusty’s show, who seems to be having a particularly bad set, thanks to a new court-ordered side kick, Ms. No-Means-No, in response to his sexual harassment suit. He’s quickly ganged up on by her and Sideshow Mel, and tries to defend himself (“It wasn’t my fault, it was the Percodan. If you ask me, that stuff rots your brain. And now a word from our new sponsor… Percodan?! Aw, crap!”)
– Bart claims he’s all set for his history test. Marge tests him, “Who was George Washington Carver?” “Umm… the guy who chopped up George Washington?”
– I like how abjectly cruel Krabappel is toward Bart here (partially warranted thanks to the many pranks he’s pulled), bringing his attention to the school charter (“”No teacher shall be held accountable if Bart Simpson dies,”) and the great scene where she hums and buffs her nails for an extended period before letting Bart be excused.
– Second appearance of Lunchlady Doris as nurse, who can only offer Bart chewable Prozac for kids, either Manic Depressive Mouse, or the Bluebird of Unhappiness. I also love the animated bit where an unconscious Bart is motionless, save a single leg twitch.
– Quick, classic scene of Willie teaching French. His line “Bonjoooooouur, yah cheese-eating surrender monkeys!” strangely got new life in the actual media at the advent of the Iraq War when France opposed the United States’ efforts. It’s even got its own Wikipedia page, for God’s sake.
– I love love love Bart’s mooning bit (“Hello, I’m Dr. Cheeks. I’m doing my rounds, and, uh, I’m a little behind”) and the timing of it as the act break.
– Hibbert seems to have a lot of estranged relatives, first the orphanage director, now Bleeding Gums Murphy. I love how they wax nostalgic about their brothers who match each other’s descriptions perfectly… and nothing.
– More great timing with Blind Willie Witherspoon, who after thirty years of a stalled jazz career, gives Murphy his old saxophone… which is actually an umbrella. Willie asks why no one told him, Murphy says they all thought it was funny, and laughs. Quick beat. Unamused, Willie responds, “That’s not funny.”
Brilliant performance by Dan Castellaneta as Bill Cosby in an episode of The Cosby Show guest starring Murphy (“You see, the kids, they listen to the rap music which gives them the brain damage. With their hippin’, and the hoppin’, and the bippin’, and the boppin’, so they don’t know what the jazz… is all about! You see, jazz is like the Jello Pudding Pop… no, actually, it’s more like Kodak film… no, actually, jazz is like the New Coke: it’ll be around forever, heh heh heh.”)
– Krusty really is a corrupt businessman; at a press conference he contends “those tourists were decapitated before they entered the KrustyLand House of Knives.” Also, why the hell would a jagged metal “O” be a cereal box prize, without wrapping, inside the box of cereal? It’s the dumbest thing, but we get the great scene where Krusty stumbles and writhes in pain after eating what he’s told is just a regular Krusty-O (“It’s poison…”)
– I like how Murphy gives Lisa his saxophone, like he knows he doesn’t have much time and bestows one last gift to her.
– Again, we have the unflinching, uncaring Springfield mob, who’s quick to violently boo the performance of three eight-year-olds five seconds into their music (even Grampa yells, “This sucks!”) Of course the crowd turns when Lisa does a great solo piece.
– More great advice from Homer, to get a tattoo to preserve the memory of one’s loves. He then notices his own (“Starland Vocal Band? They suck!!”)
– Great bit with Hans Moleman as the KJAZZ morning man (“Hello. This is Moleman in the morning. Good Moleman to you. Today, part four of our series of the agonizing pain in which I live every daaaaaayy.”)
– Nice bit with Comic Book Guy who is quick to raise the price on Murphy’s record upon hearing of his death. I also like his immediate suggestion on how to blow Bart’s money: the Ultimate Pog! With Steve Allen’s face on it. Not only the most worthless purchase one could make, but a call-back to the previous scene with Allen.
– The humorous bits at the end scene weave themselves in and don’t feel intrusive; Murphy appearing in the clouds apes off of The Lion King, so we see Mufasa crop up (“You must avenge my death, Kimba… I mean, Simba,” a great reference to the Kimba the White Lion controversy,) then Darth Vader, then James Earl Jones himself as the CNN announcer. Murphy tells the others to get lost. Then we have “Jazzman” over the credits, a great way to end, with a great capper joke (“One more time!” “Oh, come on, Lisa! I got a date with Billie Holiday!”)

124. The PTA Disbands

(originally aired April 16, 1995)
It’s interesting to see how well the social commentary of these episodes has held up after all these years. And by interesting, I mean frightening. Though exaggerated to comic effect, Springfield Elementary still looks like your typical underfunded school with its long outdated textbooks and poor cafeteria options (“There’s very little meat in these gym mats.”) Even the typically apathetic Mrs. Krabappel has had enough, following a particularly disastrous (and hilarious) field trip on a thinner than shoestring budget. So the inevitable happens: the teachers go on strike, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. This is another one of those free form episodes that’s pretty loose on plot, with the second act largely focused on Bart and Lisa. Bart, of course, couldn’t be more thrilled, and spends his days pulling pranks about the town. More interesting is Lisa, who without a structured learning environment begins to unravel at the seams, a bit exaggerated, but really funny.

With no reconciliation between Skinner and the teachers in sight, PTA head Ned Flanders proposes townspeople fill the roles as substitutes, which gives us many classic moments from Professor Frink teaching complex equations to preschoolers utilizing a children’s toy (“No, you can’t play with it; you won’t enjoy it on as many levels as I do!”), Moe’s self-consciousness about his “big ears,” of all things, and of course Jasper (“Talking out of turn… that’s a paddlin’. Looking out the window… that’s a paddlin’. Staring at my sandals… that’s a paddlin’. Paddling the school canoe… ooh, you better believe that’s a paddlin’.”) Bart runs all the teachers out of class until he meets his match: his mother. This reveal is at the second act break, but there’s not really much further this story could have gone. It really serves as the final straw for Bart of all people wanting Skinner and Krabappel to reconcile.

The very ending feels like a last ditch effort, like the writers sat around a table for hours and hours trying to come up with a suitable ending, and this is what they landed on: the school gets extra revenue by co-oping with the local prison. It’s kind of amusing… I guess, but feels like such a bizarre and out-of-left-field conclusion to the story. I dunno, just didn’t gel for me. This episode feels pretty thin, but it’s got plenty of great bits and laughs to keep it going the whole way through. …hm. I appear to have ended early. Look at that.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I like the fake-out where we see that fate of the old bus, which is even more dilapidated than the current one, one half on cider blocks resting in the school parking lot. A single leaf begins to fall, seemingly to knock it off the blocks and topple over or something. Instead, it immediately bursts into flames upon impact. Like entirely engulfed in flames. And another great fake-out with the tour guide talking about the old war cannon being very sensitive as the bus with no brakes careens over and taps it… and nothing (“Of course, for safety reasons, we don’t keep the cannon loaded: it’s just common sense.”)
– I love the rich competing school from Shelbyville and its chrome, double-decker bus, and the debonair Principal Valiant, whom Skinner resents (“He thinks he’s so hot ever since he swept the Princi Awards. Those things are rigged.”)
– Great line from Otto, who’s stuck sucking out gas for the bus (“Damn! I shouldn’t have eaten the mint first.”) The students barely make their escape, save Uter, who is beaten mercilessly by Civil War re-enactors. Skinner isn’t too dismayed (“God bless the man who invented permission slips.”)
– Great moment where Skinner loudly tells Krabappel the children have no futures in the crowded cafeteria. When a deafening silence results, Skinner attempts to cover himself (“Prove me wrong, kids! Prove me wrong!”)
– I really like Bart’s simile that he seems to have pulled from nowhere, that Skinner would fold like Superman on laundry day.
– The (almost) act break with the little girl stuck on the gymnasium rings is fantastic. Having seen this one many times in syndication, that’s when it usually ends. How surprised I was seeing it on DVD there’s another scene where the music class can now play the forbidden music: “Pop Goes the Weasel.” …yeah, maybe a good idea that was cut.
– Great bit with Bart messing around with workers at a construction site, then revealed they only obeyed because the foreman strangely has the exact same voice (“Hey! Can’t you tell my voice from a ten- year-old kid’s? Aye carumba!”)
– Classic Homer line in response to the strike (“If you don’t like your job, you don’t strike: you just go in every day and do it really half-assed. That’s the American way.”)
– Lisa starts to crack (“Relax? I can’t relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or… only two synonyms? Oh my God, I’m losing my perspicacity!”) She runs off screaming, and Homer retorts, “It’s always the last place you look.”)
– The teacher’s strike signs are hilarious (“A is for apple, B is for raise”) Hoover’s is more simple (“Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!”) and I also like how cold she is toward Lisa (“Get away from me.”) Bart attempts to prolong the strike, passing on a message, which gets through perfectly, with one small addition (“Skinner said the teachers will crack any minute purple monkey dishwasher.”) Krabappel responds in kind, “Well! We’ll show him, especially for that ‘purple monkey dishwasher’ remark.”
– My favorite scene in the show is probably Bart wrecking havoc at the bank, spreading rumor that they only have money for the next three customers. A Jimmy Stewart-type bank manager attempts to calm the crowd, then passes the buck (“I don’t have your money here. It’s at Bill’s house and Fred’s house!”) An angry Moe turns to the guy next to him and yells, “What the hell you doing with my money in your house, Fred?!” and punches him out. A fight ensues, and Bart is pleased.
– Homer displays some of his flashing moments of intelligence observing Lisa’s perpetual motion machine. He calls Lisa in and says, “In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!”
– Great scene of ad-libbing actors as Krabappel and Skinner go back and forth to sway over the crowd of parents: the well-being of their children vs. taxes. Eventually it’s reduced to Krabappel’s “C’mon!” and Skinner rubbing his fingers together (resulting in a great ad-lib from Castellaneta: “The finger thing means the taxes!”)
– Second and last appearance from Leopold, who basically serves the exact same purpose as he did in “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadassss Song.”
– I love how Bart’s “prank” of rigging a gigantic wooden pole to swing forth at the substitute is both preposterous in that no one noticed it set up above the classroom, and it seemingly would have crushed the skull and killed whoever was sitting at the teacher’s desk.
– Marge is exhausted after her first day teaching (“It took the children forty minutes to locate Canada on the map.”) Homer responds, “Marge, anyone can miss Canada, all tucked away down there.”

123. Two Dozen and One Greyhounds

(originally aired April 9, 1995)
This is another one of those episodes I’m finding it hard to analyze, because it’s another of those “a bunch of stuff that happened” shows. No consistent theme or message, just good, crazy Simpsons fun. The clean, wholesome fun begins with the family dog eager to get his rocks off, and manages to do so escaping back to the dog track, mating with a female dog mid-race. And that’s just the first act. It’s a nice nod to the first episode that She’s the Fastest is also No. 8 like he was. Rampant doggie sex leads to the inevitable: Fastest gets pregnant, and has a litter of twenty-five little puppies. The greatest stuff here is, as is the case with most depictions in the past, animal behavior is all very realistic. The very conceit is animalistic in itself: these two dogs are in heat and just need to screw. I also love the look of the puppies, who when first born can barely open their eyes and are very docile, and their dumb little expressions as the show goes on makes them very adorable.

Living with two dozen and one little mongrels takes its toll on the family, and the conclusion is to give them away. But no one seems to be willing to take up so many pups… except Mr. Burns, who of course has an evil scheme: slay them to make a furry tuxedo for himself. Rather monstrous of him, making his character completely unlikable and irredeemable, yes? Not unless he’s got a catchy song to go with it. “See My Vest” has got to be in the top 3 songs of the whole series, such a rousing, upbeat number to contrast the horrific animal abuse theme. They say you can create likable for your villain if he’s an affable showman, and boy does Burns go all out in this number. That and a lot of it is just silly (“Try my red robin suit, it comes one breast or two!”) Also, this show seems to have a Disney reference trifecta. “See My Vest” is obviously a riff on “Be Our Guest” from Beauty & The Beast, and there’s also a cameo by Mrs. Potts in the song (“Kill two for matching clogs!”) We have the great Lady & The Tramp reference where rather than pull away bashfully when the two dogs meet for a kiss with spaghetti, they viciously fight over it. Then the main thrust of the story is pure One Hundred and One Dalmatians, along with other bits like the puppies in front of the TV.

The final showdown between Burns and Bart and Lisa is pretty insane. I really don’t know what to make of it. We set up that Burns has grown a liking to one puppy who can stand on its hind legs (a regular Rory Calhoun), thus Bart saves the dogs by manipulating them all to stand up. It feels sooooo obvious and contrived, but it’s saved by Burns’ dialogue blatantly stating the fact that it’s so obvious (“This can’t be happening! They’re all standing. I can’t tell them apart!”) Then he decides he’s just going to kill them all, which he pulls back from doing. Then he decides he’s going to kill the children, which he also pulls back from. All of this is so stupid and contrived, but I feel like it’s so self-aware so it’s funny. It’s kind of a conflicting ending. And then the very ending is the biggest, greatest cheat in the entire series, where it looks like Homer’s hung himself, but of course, he hasn’t (“Marge, you know that batting this lightbulb is the only thing that cheers me up after giving away those million- dollar greyhounds!”) It’s a dumb ending to a dumb, lovable show.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The bit where Bart and Lisa play ball with SLH is really cute, the two kids’ playfully taunting the dog, then the time lapses of the two getting increasingly exhausted when the dog has lost no energy.
– SLH wrecks havoc in the backyard, ripping up underground wires. Homer is aghast (“Oh my God! He’s got the precious cable TV cable!”) The aerial shot of the dog running down the block with the straight lines of the cable ripping out of each house is extremely well animated. The Wiggums are in bed when the TV goes out (“Your cable TV is experiencing difficulties. Please, do not panic. Resist the temptation to read or talk to loved ones. Do not attempt sexual relations, as years of TV radiation have left your genitals withered and useless.”) Clancy looks under the covers and confirms this.
– Like the bit with the pet shop clerk and his “mind-meld” (“It’s an incredibly rare psychic power possessed only by me and three other clerks at this store.”)
– Great names on the dogs: She’s the Fastest leads, followed by Always Comes in Second and I’m Number Three.
– Brilliant staging on how SLH chases after Fastest… then raises up in frame a bit… and is in prime humping position. Homer surmises the situation (“So that’s what’s been wrong with the little fellow: he misses casual sex.”)
– I like Bart utilizing the opportunity to use the word “bitch,” kind of like continually saying “hell” out of Sunday School. When he defends that it’s the proper usage toward She’s the Fastest, Marge retorts, “Well, I’m going to write the dictionary people and have that checked. Feels like a mistake to me.”
– Great fake-out after twenty-four puppies… then a long time lapse… then… twenty-five. And great timing with playing the last puppy in the mitt on a magnet on the fridge, which slowly falls to the floor.
– There are a few funny bits with Snowball II, first at the start of the second act where it can’t believe its eyes and bats the catnip away. Then later the family is enamored by one of the puppies pawing at the TV, but not so much when Snowball does it (“Get that cat out of the way!!“)
– Hilarious sequence with the puppies continually eating Homer’s chips. I like the read on, “This time…” I could watch that on loop for a good long while.
– The sitcom riff sequence of the very important people coming to dinner which gets sabotaged is pretty good, but it almost feels like too much. I do love Lovejoy’s outro line though (“See you in hell! ….from heaven.”)
– As shoddy as it is, I love the questionable staging at the second act break. Homer, Marge and Lisa are clearly standing right next to the box of puppies, then next shot they’re a considerable distance facing the house as Burns puts them all in a sack. Makes no sense, but that’s kind of the point.
– I love how Wiggum is beyond incompetent on finding the puppies; he peeks under a napkin and inside the blender (“I’m sorry, kids, I don’t think we’re ever going to find your greyhounds. Maybe Mr. Burns will sell you one of the 25 he got last night.”)
– Great bit with the eternally turning door knob, which eventually just turns all the way around to build the suspense.
– I like how Burns’ taunt (“Here’s a phone. Call someone who cares!”) backfires immediately when Lisa dials 911, so he yanks the phone out of her hand.

122. Lisa’s Wedding

(originally aired March 26, 1995)
As with all cartoons, the Simpsons don’t age. And it’s perfect that way. If studio executives could place its sitcom actors in a time-stasis field to prevent them from getting older, don’t you think they’d do it? The status quo can be retained forever. But then that raises the question: what does the future hold for our characters? On one hand it’d be interesting to see, but on the other, perhaps things are best left to our imagination; based on what we see now, we can all posit what will happen to our characters years down the road. It’s a tricky tight rope that “Lisa’s Wedding” must traverse, but ultimately it manages to depict a believable Simpsons future that shows a lot more than it tells, gives us glimpses of a latter-day Springfield and allowing us many opportunities to fill in the blanks for ourselves. On top of that (and having a lot of laughs of course), it ends up becoming one of the most emotional episodes of the entire series. It set the bar pretty high for anyone foolish enough to do another future episode down the road (oh God… more on that train wreck later down the road…)

The first problem is how do we segue into the future story? Attending the local Renaissance Fair, Lisa chases an escaped bunny (Esquilax) into the deep dark woods and encounters a mysterious fortune teller, who spins a tale of her future true love. I think it works very well, almost reminiscent of Alice chasing the White Rabbit into another reality. Future Lisa has an antagonistic meet-cute with proper Brit Hugh Parkfield, a learned, distinguished gentleman with a love of the environment and Jim Carrey movies. He works perfectly as the sort of high-class man Lisa would have an affection toward, and as a great foil to the Simpson family, who remain as low-rent as ever. A balder, more bloated Homer is still working the same console, a more grizzled Bart is working in construction, and teenage Maggie is apparently quite the talker and singer (though, brilliantly, she’s always cut off from speaking.) Other glimpses we get at other characters range from logical (Otto owning a cab company, with a downtrodden Quimby as chauffeur) to the hilarious bizarre (Martin as Phantom of the Elementary School,) and the setting of the future is a blend of fantasy Jetsons stuff with flying cars, and logical progressions like going digital, with picture phones and digital clocks (the blinking display of Big Ben proves that human incompetence will still exist with every progressing technology.)

Hugh comes to Springfield to meet the Simpsons, and Lisa is terrified of how he’ll react to them. Of course what’s great here is that the Simpsons are not overly wacky or over-the-top, they’re still genuine characters; Homer takes Hugh out to Moe’s and bestows onto him a family tradition: kitschy pig cuff links. Later at the wedding we see Homer give perhaps his most coherent and impassioned speech on how proud he is of Lisa, which like all great emotional Simpsons moments is beautiful and humorous at the same time, it’s got to be in the top 3 emotional moments of the series. The cuff links appear to be the deal breaker; Homer found them on Hugh’s night stand, and while I think later day Homer would stupidly think he forgot them and make a huge scene, Homer reacts with strangely great humility (“Guess they weren’t his cup of tea.”) Lisa confronts Hugh about it, and he admits that he really wants nothing to do with her family, leading to a great back-and-forth where Lisa admits that despite their foibles, she still loves her family, and can’t be with someone who doesn’t feel the same. This leads to our final bit after the story, where Lisa is glad to run back into her father at the fair and hear about his boorish exploits. There’s really just so much to love about this episode. It’s a wonderful and satisfying representation of a potential future for our characters; still not much further from where they were, but happy all the same. Despite her intellect and ambition, Lisa knows she’s still a Simpson, and what that means. I could go on, but then I’d be babbling. God, I love this episode. We’ve had two future episodes since then, one horrendous, one average, but really, what episode could beat this one? None of them. That’s the answer.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Great bit on the misleading cards: the “Death” card is positive, meaning transition and change, but God help you if you get the “Happy Squirrel.”
– Pigeon holing one’s self in the past as this show has is fine, since I view the show as having a floating timeline, but not so good for doing it in the future. But to be fair, I don’t think any of the writers could have possibly imagined this show would still be running in 2010.
– I like how for the most part, the future gags are really more posits of what the future could actually hold, from the hologram tree in remembrance of actual plant life, digital clocks replacing analog, as mentioned, Jim Carrey films being labeled as classics (which kind of has happened), and the Rolling Stones still being on tour (true, except for the wheelchair part.)
– I like how Hugh describes himself and Lisa as “utterly humorless” in their humanitarian efforts. Oh, and great name of their dormitory, “Dr. and Mrs. Dre Hall.”
– I love the scene at Parkfield Manor where Lisa worriedly ponders how to respond to what may or may not be Mr. Parkfield’s dry British wit. She lands on a quieted nervous laugh (hilariously done by Smith), to which Parkfield responds, “Oh, it’s good to hear a boisterous American laugh!”
– Classic bit where Hugh’s electronic, overly verbose proposal sign malfunctions, leading to Plan B: someone shoves a cow from behind a bush with a “Marry Me” sign.
– Haven’t even mentioned the future character designs, which are really fabulous. Lisa with her frilled, pointed hair, Marge with slightly grayer blue hair, Bart sporting a beard line like his father, and Homer who is stouter and even balder, with only one hair on his head and the one wrapping around thinning. Teenage Maggie is a great design too. I also love Nancy Cartwright’s older Bart voice, something she seemed to have forgotten about in the next future episode.
– I do like Marge’s fake-out (“If only your father were still with us… but he left for work a few minutes ago“) and her forgetting she’s on a picture phone.
– At the plant, we see Lenny and Carl in management positions, and Milhouse now being Homer’s supervisor. This gives us a great scene of his past romantic failure with Lisa and his taking it out on Homer (“I think I’ll write your performance evaluation now, Simpson!”) I like how when he leaves, Homer tints his fingers with a big grin, hopeful of how it will turn out, none the wiser.
– I like how well Homer takes being court ordered from planning Lisa’s wedding (“Well, these seem to be in order. I’ll be out back in the hammock.”)
– Great look at the future of school systems, again not far off from the reality, overcrowded (triple decker desks) and corporate sponsored curriculum (“If you have three Pepsis and drink one, how much more refreshed are you? You, the redhead in the Chicago school system?” “Pepsi?” “Partial credit!”)
– The British flag catching fire by accident is a great act break, but come on, what’s a bug zapper doing that high up a tree?
– The adapted Simpson house is fantastic, with Homer’s shoddy building additions (“If the building inspector comes by, it’s not a room, it’s a window box.”) Hugh quickly becomes victim of shoddy workmanship as he falls through the floor (“Fortunately, the compost heap broke my fall. Be a dear: run a bath.”)
– Bart describes his station in life (“Hugh, there’s more to my life than just the wrecking ball: I also crush cars into cubes. And on the side, I promote local tough man contests. Basically, I’m getting out all my aggression ’till I go to law school.”) I also love how he’s wearing a wife beater, and his punked out Krusty tattoo, which is such a wonderful, telling small detail.
– Marge and Lisa giggling on how Milhouse doesn’t count and Lisa can wear white is a delightfully dirty joke, but shockingly, only the second dirtiest joke regarding white dress virginity in a cartoon (that crown goes to The Critic: young debutante Margo agrees to wear white-white… except for the gloves.)
– I like the moment with Bart and Lisa at the wedding, which starts out sweet, and quickly deflates (“We had one in his honor. …I had one in his honor. …I went to a strip club.”)
– Great scene where Hugh prepares for the worst when Homer meets his parents. Homer attempts to cut through the awkwardness (“You know what’s great about you English? Octopussy. Man, I must have seen that movie… twice!”) Hugh concedes that’s probably the best he could have hoped for.
– Slight oops having Maude Flanders at the wedding. Maybe she was… umm… yeah, I got nothing. Also suspect why Mrs. Krabappel, Smithers and Burns and others are at Lisa’s wedding, but I don’t care much since it’s fun to see them and what they’re up to in the future.
– I’ll reprint Homer’s speech since it’s amazing (“Little Lisa, Lisa Simpson. You know, I always felt you were the best thing my name ever got attached to. Since the time you learned to pin your own diapers, you’ve been smarter than me. I just want you to know I’ve always been proud of you. You’re my greatest accomplishment and you did it all yourself. You helped me understand my own wife better and taught me to be a better person, but you’re also my daughter, and I don’t think anybody could have had a better daughter than-” “Dad, you’re babbling.” “See? You’re still helping me.”)
– I like how Hugh’s admissions to Lisa, and attempts to smooth things over just digs him in a deeper and deeper hole (“I’ve attempted to enjoy your family on a personal level, on an ironic level, as a novelty, as camp, as kitsch, as cautionary example… nothing works.”) Lisa asks if she’ll never see her family again, Hugh responds, “Possibly your mother will come when the children are born.”
– Lovejoy remains quite petty when the wedding is called off (“This is very sad news, and it never would have happened if the wedding had been inside the church with God instead of out here in the cheap showiness of nature.”)
– Great outro to the fortune teller; when Lisa questions the story, being set up that it would be about her true love, the teller responds, “Oh, you’ll have a true love, but I specialize in foretelling the relationships where you get jerked around.” Maniacal laugh, puff of smoke… then she’s still there. Lisa backs away slowly from the crazy person and back to the fair. And great Renaissance ending theme music.