Original airdate: May 22, 2011
The premise: Through sheer happenstance, Edna Krabappel crosses paths with Ned Flanders, and the two kindle up a relationship. With Edna creating tension for Bart next door, he tries to scheme up a plan to create friction in this new love affair.
The reaction: Didn’t we just have an inexplicable romance between two show regulars? It’s certainly not an impossibility for Flanders and Krabappel to develop a connection, but per usual, the relationship is barely explained and we never know why these two care about each other, ergo we, as the audience, don’t care either. Edna literally falls into Ned’s arms after she fell out of a window, and he just so happened to be walking by. They couldn’t even manufacture some kind of believable meet-cute for them? They have a lunch date, and then we just cut to a goofy montage of them being together. Why waste time developing character motivation when we can just blow over it with a montage? Edna likes Ned because he’s single, and nice, I guess? And Ned likes Edna’s laugh. That’s about all I can glean from this. The two of them together are just so dry that there’s not much to even discuss about it. The emotional climax involves Ned discovering how many partners Edna has had, and it weirding him out. I guess I can understand that, but it turns into a sanctimonious issue when the conclusion involves him “forgiving” her for her past transgressions. This is shades of the new ultra-religious Ned Flanders, browbeating and making subtle digs at non-believers rather than turn the other cheek. I could see it being a cute little bit of him feeling uncomfortable with someone so experienced, but as the climax of the episode? It reminded me of “A Star is Born-Again” where it all builds to Ned deciding whether he should have sex with that actress. I remember wishing that episode had dealt with its premise better, but at least it went somewhere and the relationship itself made a little more sense. Just like Fat Tony and Selma before it, the episode didn’t show me why these two characters cared for one another, and from this limp noodle of a show, we’re supposed to be impassioned enough to vote whether they stay together? Why gives a flying fuck?
Three items of note:
– The episode kicks off with Bart on an ADD-level spree of chaos in the gymnasium, which ends in Edna grabbing and slapping him. This shot is kind of weird in itself; she slaps him, the kids running around making noise immediately stop and stare at them. Edna acknowledges this, and then slaps him again. Her first strike was impulsive without thinking, but that second slap feels like an outlet of her years of repressed rage and frustration at her greatest challenge student. This incident could have been the basis of an entire episode, examining the relationship between Bart and Krabappel. Doesn’t that seem like such richer material to work with, rather than just squandering it as the first act to a limp meaningless romance? Of course, it all doesn’t amount to anything. Edna is sentenced to a “teacher holding cell” while her job is in limbo, and Bart, for some reason, takes the time to break her out. And she’s initially annoyed when he shows up too (“Haven’t you caused enough trouble?”) Earlier after the incident, we saw she was mortified about what happened, but now, the first time she’s seeing Bart again, she’s pissed? So the break-out goes bust when the ladder Krabappel is climbing out of breaks. We then see Bart run away and never come back, for no explainable reason. After he had gone through all that effort, including making a full-size Krabappel dummy to put in her place, he just leaves? I guess he had to so Ned could catch her and the episode would continue. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
– Comic Book Guy and Skinner are inexplicably at Moe’s to muse about how they used to bang Edna. Also there is Joey Kramer, who is all alone in his own booth with a cheese sandwich, completely unacknowledged by everyone else in the bar until he speaks up. If you’ll recall, back in the before time, in “Flaming Moe’s,” we had that great scene in the back of Aerosmith’s tour bus of Joey begging horny groupie Edna for his drumsticks back. So I guess this is another fan service attempt, where Joey looks back at the experience fondly, making hilarious references to Aerosmith songs in talking about the sex. Which sounds like a more clever use of a guest star to you?
– So, “Nedna.” The episode ends with Homer and Marge breaking the fourth wall and directly asking the viewers whether Ned and Edna should stay together. I really don’t know what these promotional stunt was born of, or what the point of it was, besides attempting to drum up some kind of interest in this shambling zombie of a show. Of course, the most knee-jerk comparison is “Who Shot Mr. Burns?”, a tongue-in-cheek parody of one of the biggest cliffhangers in TV history. I was a mere child when those episodes aired, so all I have to go on are watching old commercials on the promotion of the two-parter, but the whole thing felt completely self-parodying and silly, especially when you finally get the reveal that the real shooter is something that no one could have seen coming. With Nedna, there’s no joke to it, there’s no twist, no commentary, just whether these two characters with no chemistry should get together or not. It’s like when they push and pull a will-they-won’t-they relationship in a bad sitcom for an attempt at ratings, but worse. I just can’t imagine what Simpsons fan would care about something like this. I’d look up to see if there’s any data as to how many people bothered to vote, but I don’t really feel like it.
One good line/moment: I think there was a line or two I chuckled at, but instead, I’d rather bitch about one last thing, a gag that I think typifies the state of this show now. An act begins with the school bell ringing, and all the kids run out, excited. Brief pause. Then the teachers run out, equally as excited. The shot is about eight seconds long. Does it sound familiar to you? In “Lisa the Simpson,” we had the exact same joke, but done a little differently. We get a similar shot of the bell ringing, but we see the kids and the teachers running out at the same time. And the shot is half the length at just four seconds. It’s much shorter, and also funnier, because it implies that the teachers didn’t waste any time booking it and are just as eager to leave as the students, if not more so. It’s not one of the show’s subtler jokes, but it happens kind of quick that it could be a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it type joke. Nowadays, it’s like the show doesn’t feel it can risk any jokes that aren’t make explicitly clear and emphasized, and a lot of times, potential gags that could be funny are ruined either because there’s too much set up or they last way too long. Also, as we see time and time again, the show goes back to the well, consciously or unconsciously, to revisit old plot lines and jokes, but they all feel like pale, lifeless Xeroxes that don’t get what the point of them was. That shot of everyone leaving the school is a perfect example: by doubling the length to pad time, you mess with the timing, and the joke is nowhere near as funny. This series is just full of these moments now.