577. Puffless

Original airdate: October 11, 2015

The premise:
After finding out their father died of lung cancer, Patty and Selma decide to finally give up smoking, but this of course is easier said than done. Meanwhile, Maggie has a solo adventure with some happy little animal friends.

The reaction: For whatever reason, we’ve never really known all that much about Marge’s father. Outside of “The Way We Was” and “Fear of Flying,” there’s barely been any mention of him at all. It sure would be nice to learn some more about the Bouviers, but at this point, I don’t really expect much of anything from this show anymore. Case in point: Jacqueline Bouvier finally admits to her children that their father died of lung cancer, and never told Patty and Selma about it because smoking made them look cool. And that’s the end of the discussion. Does this sound normal to you? So this is seemingly a Patty and Selma episode, something we haven’t seen in a long time, but thanks to a time consuming B-plot, there’s really not much to it at all. After they go cold turkey, we get a scene of them at the DMV, and it actually wasn’t that bad. Seeing these two characters talk to each other and going through a story was novel, and I wanted to see more. Turns out Selma quickly went back to smoking, then we get a quick cut of Patty leaving to live with the Simpsons. After that, we have Selma alone in the apartment as she exposits to herself what her dilemma is and what she has to do (“Who am I kidding? The one I should be talking to is the one who’s always been there for me.” “Looks like I have a choice to make.”) As we get to the second half, their story’s time is monopolized by our side plot of Maggie hanging with cute little animals and trying to save a possum from Cletus. Titled “Maggie’s Extraordinary Animal Adventure” and with its own chapter title cards, they’re clearly trying to make a new “The Longest Daycare,” but that just makes it feel that much more derivative. It’s kinda cute, I guess, but almost completely bereft of laughs. The climax involving the troupe fighting a big dog is just a fight scene; no subversion, no twist, no real gags, it’s just straight forward and boring. It’s odd that in an episode featuring a major life change with two important secondary characters, we get this completely isolated B-plot to eat up as much time as possible. Considering Patty and Selma are harder to write for (ergo why we see them so infrequently), I guess it shouldn’t be so surprising. And by the end, none of it matters: the two go back to smoking in the last scene, for no real reason other than they have to. Status quo forever!!

Three items of note:
– Selma’s daughter Ling continues to be nothing more than an easily forgotten prop. Our last Selma show featured her marriage to Fat Tony, where she barely appeared whatsoever. Here, we see Selma feeling sad and lonely in her apartment without Patty, so her solution is to phone up some booty calls. Wouldn’t it make sense to have part of them wanting to give up smoking because it would be less endangering to Ling? But again, out of sight, out of mind. We see her at Jacqueline’s birthday party, and then not at all afterwards. Even worse, we see her in the photographs that Selma is longing for, but her name doesn’t even leave her mouth in talking out loud to herself. They might as well have figured out some way to write her out of the show considering they keep neglecting to acknowledge her.
– At Jacqueline’s birthday party, Mr. Burns randomly shows up to woo her over, with celebrity guest Yo-Yo Ma. Shortly after that, he admits that he only wanted to cock block Abe and leaves. Does this count as fan service? If you hadn’t seen “Lady Bouvier’s Lover,” what would you make of this bit?
– When Homer accidentally walks into the shower on Patty, he freaks out and pours bleach into his eyes. Later, he does the same to Bart as he’s about to walk in. He does this about two more times, and then he also pours bleach into his ears too. I guess this got big laughs, or something. Heh heh heh… well, you all know what laughter sounds like.

One good line/moment: I did get a surprise laugh out of the randomness of the parrot among the critters being Duffman’s. Although they do a gag at the end where he returns talking like Cletus, and Duffman calls him a cracker. What’s that about? Is Duffman not “white”? I just assumed he was just super bronze/tanned.

576. Cue Detective

Original airdate: October 4, 2015

The premise:
Homer’s amazing new smoker catches the attention of a celebrity chef, who challenges him on his show. But when the smoker ends up stolen, Bart and Lisa try to track down the culprit.

The reaction: Bart and Lisa teaming up to right a wrong was a staple of the show back in the day, enough that they eventually lampooned themselves with the ending of “The Day the Violence Died.” I can’t remember if that was the last time they pulled that card, but here we are, twenty years later, and for whatever reason, we’re doing it again, but this time, much, much, much worse. We start with the Simpson family becoming town pariahs because of their stench, due to their horribly in disrepair washing machine. Rather than buy a new one, Homer blows a bunch of money on a barbecue smoker off some guy cooking on the side of the highway for some reason. Marge is momentarily cross, but soon the whole family, and later everyone in town, is won over by Homer’s new magical BBQ. Marge comments, “Look how popular we are! That smoker is the best thing that ever happened to us!” She says this while wearing her old wedding dress; the family is dressed in various outfits through the whole episode. As this stupid plot continues to transpire, Marge becomes cheerleader to the rest of the family over this stupid smoker, which she seems to care more about than actually having clean clothes and a functioning washing machine. So, loudmouth celeb chef Scotty Boom shows up to their backyard to challenge Homer, then later the smoker is stolen. This kicks off Bart and Lisa’s sleuthing: they find a clue that leads them to the supermarket, then to Nelson, then to the dump, where everything plays out like a straight-forward mystery, instead of focusing on jokes like the show used to do. When we get to the competition, it’s revealed Scotty Boom cooked his meat using the smoker, disqualifying him. But the show’s not over yet, and things don’t add up. The final minutes are absolutely awful: Bart and Lisa chase down the shadowy figure they saw earlier, which is revealed to be Boom’s son. He immediately explains who he is, why he wanted to sabotage his dad, and how he did it; it’s just like a giant info dump from this character we’ve just met. Then he and his dad immediately make up. Bart and Lisa mystery stories were never really like serious mysteries, they always served a greater story purpose. Trying to reunite Krusty with his father, saving Springfield from a tyrannical Sideshow Bob, finding out who took their dad’s stupid smoker. Which of these three doesn’t belong?

Three items of note:
– The episode begins with Skinner screening a movie for the kids, Doctor Doolittle. They show the actual live action film on the screen; we see several clips of it, and hear the kids making commentary, for a good two minutes. What the hell is all this about? Where did this idea come from? It just felt so, so weird. It just kept going and going, what’s the point? The movie is boring? Did one of the writers have a serious vendetta toward Doctor Doolittle? There was no opening titles, we went from the clouds straight to the first scene, so apparently this shit was deemed too good to leave on the cutting room floor.
– Homer spends all of act two lying on the floor depressed about the missing smoker, and by act three Bart and Lisa join him, having just given up on their mystery solving. Marge must now carry this plot, so she competes against Scotty Boom in Homer’s place. Again, it’s incredibly strange seeing her completely tied into this premise given that we’ve completely dropped the washing machine plot thread. If anything, Homer’s impulsive, irrational purchase over a household necessity feels like a greater marital deal breaker for Marge than not buying narcolepsy medication from last episode. But it just goes to show, stuff like this doesn’t matter anymore. The characters will act in whatever fashion the writers want them too, regardless of the scenario.
– They wait until over the credits to show Marge giving the smoker to Nelson in exchange for a new washing machine. What’s that about? Then we look into the future of the smoker at he and Shauna’s wedding, then a post apocalyptic future where the grown up kids are violently killed by a pack of warthogs… What the fuck is this shit?

One good line/moment: At the health food store, a clerk swaps out a “Nature’s Superfood” sign from pushing acai berries to goji berries.

575. Every Man’s Dream

Original airdate: September 27, 2015

The premise:
Homer’s recent bout with narcolepsy proves to be the last straw for Marge, causing them to legally separate. He then ends up dating a twenty-something pharmacist, voiced by cancerous polyp Lena Dunham.

The reaction: At this point, I feel like I would really love to see a really serious episode where Homer and Marge get divorced. I mean, why not, at this point. I remember they drummed up news coverage for this premiere, crowing about how the two were going to split up, for real, we swear, guys! Come on. It was almost embarrassing to see, like who’s falling for these cheap gimmicks anymore? So what causes this seemingly unbreakable couple to finally call it quits after twenty-six years? We see them in therapy after Homer didn’t get his medication for his narcolepsy because the line was too long. We don’t see how this medical condition is negatively affecting Marge, or anything else other than Homer’s normal annoying behavior. In perhaps the greatest example of characters just saying things to move the plot along, the therapist recommends that they separate, and Marge follows her words to the letter (“Kids, a professional felt the best way for your father and me to work on our relationship was to give up on it.”) Someone told her to do something, and she did it! And then repeated it! So Homer ends up going on a drug trip with a young attractive pharmacist named Candace, who for whatever stupid reason is interested in this old tub of lard. At this point, I have no idea where this show is going and how it’s going to resolve itself by the end. But then Homer goes to dinner to meet Candace’s father, only to find out he’s invited the new woman in his life: Marge. As fucking dumb as all of this had been so far, I at least could see how this could pan out: father and daughter immediately begin arguing, and Marge would see what a hassle all of this is, and realize she’s content to go with what she knows, and that’s being with Homer. Quick and dirty, get out, episode over. But no, turns out that everything we’ve seen over the last twelve minutes or so has just been a dream Homer had while passed out at the therapist. He resolves he’ll clean up his act, and over the coming month, he does. But it turns out all that was just a dream too. And then that itself was all a dream Marge had, and then that was all just a tattoo on the back of Dunham’s Girls character. Woof. This could have potentially been interesting if they had worked in earlier that Homer’s narcolepsy was causing him to lose time and become more and more disoriented, but there wasn’t even the slightest attempt to do anything like that here. They didn’t want to bother writing an ending, so they gave us this great big wank. It’s like a big slap in the face for anyone stupid enough to think they were really going to stay separated, and a second slap for anyone foolish enough to still be watching this nonsense. I guess that includes me, doesn’t it? Sigh.

Three items of note:
– As all one-off characters are in the last decade-plus, Candace has no discernible personality, and this is especially damning considering this is the girl that’s making Homer forget about the love of his life (although it changes from scene to scene whether he’s still pining for Marge or he’s completely moved on). Their relationship begins when she just says it does (“Are you asking me out? I mean, you’re not, but it looks like you’d be fun to hang with, and I’m pretty fascinating myself, I’m an author.”) But it really doesn’t matter. As evidenced by the cop out dreams-within-dreams ending, the writers had really no intention to make this a believable story that makes sense. As I mentioned at the start, it’s just a flashy gimmick episode where they managed to generate some minor press for the new season. The only woman that strayed Homer’s eye before was Mindy Simmons, a woman seemingly tailor-made for him that he cursed fate for placing before him. Would it have been too much to ask for Candace and Homer to bond over just one shared interest? Anything whatsoever? I guess so. We also get cameos from Dunham’s Girls co-stars, who all get a line each. They’re also joined by gay stereotype Julio, because he’s a catty gay guy who loves gossip and drama (those crazy gays, amirite?)
– The second act opens with a sad montage of Homer now living at the power plant, where we follow him at night looking forlorn and depressed, complete with somber music. Cut to morning, Homer happily hums walking out of the shower and is pleased as punch walking to his work console. Lenny and Carl comment on his sudden mood change, to which Homer responds, “Oh, you guys missed a very sad montage.” Again, more proof that the writers didn’t care about making any of this serious or meaningful at all.
– More bits of fan service with Candace’s tattoos and hallucinations in the drug trip montage: Smilin’ Joe Fission, Mr. Sparkle, Space Coyote, and the creepy clown bed make repeat appearances. From the modern era, we also have Plopper, the Grumple and Fatov, that little Homer Olympic mascot. Which grouping sounds more fun to hang out with?

One good line/moment: The only explanation we’re given why Candace likes Homer is that he reminds her of a childhood snowman, which is one of many guesses that her friends throws at her. But Homer’s response to this is kind of cute (“Man, I would love to get back into snowman shape. Can’t even fit in my scarf anymore.”)

574. Mathlete’s Feat

Original airdate: May 17, 2015

The premise:
Lisa convinces Principal Skinner to turn the school into an analog Waldorf school, where students receive a practical, hands-on education. This new direction puts Groundskeeper Willie in higher regard, who is made captain of the mathletes team.

The reaction: I’m not familiar with this philosophy of Waldorf education, so as such, the episode spends about a third of its running time having characters explain what it is and talk about it over and over. After Springfield fails miserably at a mathlete competition, the college nerds from “Homer Goes to College,” now rich app developers and feeling bad for their alumni, agree to pay for Springfield Elementary to go fully digital. Also some of them are dressed like steampunks for some reason, and in one scene, their clothes change between shots. Overuse of devices causes a power surge, leaving the school in even worse shape then normal, and Lisa is inspired by Groundskeeper Willie’s special gardening tool to push the school to embrace a new proactive style of teaching. It’s all very arbitrary, and as usual nowadays, we’re halfway through the show when this “plot” is kicking in. As I said, the show continues on as characters just reiterate the same thing over and over, that kids are learning by example instead of books. With the episode going nowhere fast, Lisa runs in to announce that Willie is now the coach of the math team. I’m not quite sure why she’s excited about all of this; Willie is none too bright, especially academically, surely Lisa wouldn’t be psyched about him in charge. Especially when he randomly makes Bart the team captain for throwing an egg at Chalmers’ car at a perfect angle? Or something? Cut to the rematch with Waverly Hills Elementary, where Bart is stunned that he actually has to do math. Then why make him the captain if you’re going to do nothing with that story point? But look at me talking like there’s actually a structure to this. We end with Willie in a Harry Potter wizard hat and staff for no reason whatsoever and Bart solves the final question because of course he does and they win. What an exciting finale, huh? Each season that goes by, I just can’t believe this show can sink any lower, but here we are. It’s almost fascinating to see. It’s also very aggravating. Why did I continue this blog again?

Three items of note:
– We get a quick ChamSkin Productions card at the end of Springfield Elementary’s video, a reference to the season 19 episode “Any Given Sundance.” I remember it also popping up in an episode a season or two ago. Is this fan service too? Does anyone have fond remembrances of the shitty sub-plot where Skinner and Chalmers tried to be indie movie phonies for no reason?
– The shows feel so fragmentedly written in little ways sometimes. We open with a marquee for the math tournament, with the joke “Good Seats Will Always Be Available.” Pretty alright joke. But as we see at the beginning and at the end, there’s a pretty decent sized crowd in attendance, enough to do another joke with a whole hoard of people holding up letter cards to spell long words. And the tournaments are treated with such severity and seriousness as well, and I don’t fully understand why.
– These stupid “fourth act” tags are so disposable and unnecessary. I guess it’s not necessarily the writers’ fault since it’s how FOX decided to restructure commercial breaks, but it’s so awkward. And because the show was still short, we get a thirty-second bit of the family playing in a jug band, complete with a title card reading “The Simpsons Post Show Jug Band Fills The Time.” The one time the classic era show ended up short, we got the wonderful time filler “Everybody Loves Ned Flanders,” a segment that was funny, actually parodied something, and had a catchy jingle to boot. This transparent, self-admittedly empty filler is just more proof of how little they seem to give a shit about making a good show.

One good line/moment: A new guest couch gag, wherein the Simpsons are horrifically killed by a renegade Rick and Morty. Rick sends his grandson to an alien photocopier to reproduce our favorite family while he fucks around the house in a drunken stupor. As much as it rings as yet another example of the show glomming onto what’s pop culturally relevant for attention, it’s still a fun segment. (“You know how many characters there are on The Simpsons, Morty? There’s like a billion characters! They did an episode where George Bush was their neighbor!”)

573. Bull-E

Original airdate: May 10, 2015

The premise:
Marge’s meddling causes sweeping bully legislation to be passed and greatly enforced in Springfield. Homer is among those that must attend rehab, where he is forced to come to terms with why he continually abuses stupid Flanders.

The reaction: I wasn’t under the impression that Homer’s disdain toward his cheery neighbor-eeno was a big mystery, or something that even he didn’t realize himself, but I guess it looks like I was mistaken. Homer faces his feelings, but that’s really in the final third of the show, so let’s backtrack. Bart is humiliated by the bullies at the school dance, which provokes Marge to propose anti-bullying laws at a town hall meeting. From that point, Chief Wiggum basically takes to just arrested whoever he feels like who may or may not be transgressing these lenient laws (but of course if you couldn’t figure that out after watching him arrest four people, Lisa explains it for you, “The police are basically arresting anyone they want to!”) Like some modern episodes, there’s a hint of an idea here, of anti-bully crusaders becoming bullies themselves (South Park did a great show about this, three years prior), but it’s barely addressed at all. So we see Homer and a bunch of others are in rehab, with their session run by some guy voiced by Albert Brooks. His post-classic year appearances in “The Heartbroke Kid” and the movie have actually been very enjoyable, but this is the first character (and his latest to date) that I didn’t find funny at all, just a lot of him rambling and monologuing in a sort-of German accent. He berates Homer into engaging in his inner feelings about Flanders, and he shocks himself when he realizes he’s been jealous this whole time. Again, I’m not really sure how this is a revelation. In “Dead Putting Society,” Homer basically flat out admits he’s annoyed at his neighbor’s better life, and that was frigging twenty-five years ago. Later on, Flanders expresses his distaste of Homer’s behavior over the years, leaving him dumbfounded. So now, over two decades of abuse and torment, one of the show’s longest standing staples, and we have to resolve this conflict in under two minutes. Homer gets on his knees and begs his neighbor’s forgiveness, and when he waits on his lawn for days on end without moving, Flanders finally just gives in and forgives him. Brilliant. They didn’t even have to spew any more exposition, just have a character wait and say nothing, and the conflict will resolve itself!

Three items of note:
– Bart is nervous about going to the school dance, and is uneasy when a fifth grade girl with no name asks him to dance. We then get an extended bit involving the “Puberty Demon” who makes some obvious jokes. But as I’ve mentioned before, you can’t have Bart have direct and open relationships with girls and then turn around and show him as an ignorant naive little kid (many times within the same episode). Hell, didn’t we have him lusting over Milhouse’s cousin just last episode?
– I’m really surprised at how bad the Albert Brooks role was. I don’t think they even gave him a name. I’m also surprised that this deep into season 26, I can still be disappointed by something, or experience a first in terms of a fall from grace for this show, but here we are. Like I said, his post-classic roles have been engaging and fun for the most part, but here, I didn’t laugh once. I just didn’t get what his character was, ultimately.
– The final act also skirts the edge of being actual commentary, where Homer is decreed a town hero, I guess for coming to terms with his assholery in one therapy session. He throws out the first pitch, gets a car in a parade, and people are lined up for his autograph. Is this like when we easily forgive celebrities for making amends for shit that they caused themselves? Or something like that? I’m not exactly clear on what they’re doing, but then again, that’s normal for me watching this show nowadays.

One good line/moment: The fantasy sequence of a whiny Jesus being bullied under the eyes of a disappointed God was kind of amusing (“Forgive them, Father!” “I raised a wuss.”) Tossing Jesus’ halo up on the roof like a Frisbee was a nice touch.

572. Let’s Go Fly A Coot

Original airdate: May 3, 2015

The premise:
Abe is reunited with an old buddy from the Air Force, giving us another rambling story from his military past. Meanwhile, Bart develops a crush on Milhouse’s Dutch cousin, who gets him to take up e-cigarettes.

The reaction: Two more inane and aimless stories to throw on the pile. First, Abe’s old army buddies are disgusted at Homer’s treatment of his father, and they proceed to harass and harangue him into treating him better. They all go out to see not-The Expendables, then proceed to hold Homer at gunpoint at the veteran’s hall until he and his father have hugged for a sufficient period of time.
Meanwhile, the only reason the B-plot exists is because an actress named Carice Van Houten in on Game of Thrones, and she’s named like Milhouse’s name, so that’s funny, right? It’s yet another Bart-falls-for-an-older-girl story like we’ve seen with Shauna or Mary Spuckler, but there’s not as much time devoted to it to feel as weird or uncomfortable as those examples. So the two plots “meet” when Bart runs into the kitchen announcing “they’re” sending Ms. Van Houten back to Holland (not quite sure who “they” is and why. Kirk and Luann? Her parents?) So Abe weaves a tale about him doing some stupid in the Air Force in a boring flashback, that I guess the point is about the power of grand stupid gestures to win people over (ending with a cameo by Mona, so we get yet another appearance from Glenn Close. Can we get any farther away from “Mother Simpson” at this point?) Of course this crush is meaningless; the girl uses Bart to get her new e-cigs, which he seems fine with, but then at the end, after the cliche race to the airport scene, we get a twist where Bart rejects her before she leaves, except it’s completely unmotivated. We also get a bunch of peppered moments of Milhouse being disturbing and gross toward Bart (“Now you know what nuzzling me would be like!” “If it’s the blue hair and the schnozz you’re digging, I’ve got plenty more cousins!”) Another worthless use of twenty minutes.

Three items of note:
– The opening features an elaborate birthday party for Milhouse, and Homer, for whatever reason, exposits out loud that this new trend has gone too far for parental expectations, and makes it his mission over the ensuing montage to ruin kids’ birthday parties the town over. Later, he’s accosted in his home by “Big Birthday,” led by a man in a suit who proceeds to scream at him for over a minute about some stupid shit, which ultimately leads in Homer cutting a deal that he’ll have to throw a lavish shindig for Rod Flanders. It’s at that party that Bart meets Milhouse’s cousin. But wouldn’t he have run into her at Milhouse’s party? These scripts are so piecemealed together, it really doesn’t even matter.
– Another joke that could have been amusing, but then was driven into the ground into the center of the Earth. Homer and Abe see a movie preview set in a dystopian future, causing the former to comment, “Finally, a movie about a dystopian future!” Despite the fact he just repeated what the trailer VO just said, there’s something to be said about the recent overabundance of grimdark-type movies. But then Homer begins to list off a bunch of movies within the last five years by name. For a long, long, long time. Thirty seconds of him just saying movie titles. It’s torturous. So, so, so fucking bad. After all this time, with so many of this atom bombs of anti-humor, I still wonder whether through all the stages of production if the writers think this shit is funny, or if they just don’t care. How much apathy to your job can you possibly have?
– Toward the end of the flashback, Abe hitches a ride with author Jack Kerouac, who for some reason, gives him a copy of his condensed manuscript of On the Road, and his original, “rambling, repetitive” version he’s written on a gigantic scroll, wanting Abe to destroy it, because who better to trust to dispose of a piece of writing you want no one else to ever read ever than a total stranger? The manuscript is immediately destroyed by a low flying plane’s engine, leaving only the scroll. Now, call me an uncultured swine, but I know absolutely nothing about On the Road. Wikipedia reveals the scroll is the real first draft, but I don’t see anything about people thinking it to be extremely verbose or cumbersome. Did one of the writers just recently read it, learn about its history, and decide to take an relatively obscure in-joke shot at Kerouac? It felt very strange, especially considering how most pop culture this show trots out today is an attempt to stay relevant. Or, at least a few years old relevant.

One good line/moment: An oddly wonderful dark moment where Homer knocks Krusty out with a sledgehammer to replace him at a kid’s birthday party. Cut to the curtain opening to Homer dressed as the clown, appearing dead with a noose around his neck, holding a sign reading “LAUGH AT THIS.” I wish after the kids screamed they would have just cut, because Homer coming back to life to do a bad Krusty imitation kind of ruins the dark edge of it.

571. The Kids Are All Fight

Original airdate: April 26, 2015

The premise:
Marge spins a tale of six years prior about how li’l Bart and Lisa wouldn’t stop fighting, and how they eventually learned to tolerate each other.

The reaction: In the classic era, flashback shows always had a purpose, an underlying motive for why we’re looking back at our characters’ pasts. How Homer fell in love with Marge, the birth of their children, even “Lisa’s Sax” highlighted Lisa’s upbringing and how the saxophone became her creative and intellectual outlet. This episode is about how four-year-old Bart and two-year-old Lisa didn’t get along. I can recall plenty of times these two get on each others’ nerves in the present, so I don’t quite know what has changed. We see the two kids fighting endlessly, then later they end up lost, and engage in dialogue that makes absolutely no sense for a two and four year old (“I guess you should be in charge, Lisa. You’ll always be half my age, but you’ll always be smarter than me.” “Don’t worry, Bart. You’ll always think you’re in charge, even though I secretly will be.”) In the end, Bart saves Lisa after putting her in danger, and then the conflict is resolved when she just gives up, deciding there’s no point fighting with her dim-witted brother. So, that’s our resolution, I guess, two-year-old Lisa throws up her hands and gives up. Yay? Another big part of flashback shows is lampooning the past, along with seeing how different the citizens of Springfield were. We got great material out of the 70s and 80s, but now thanks to this show’s floating timeline, this memory takes place in the far-off year of 2009. The show keeps this as ambiguous as possible (Marge narrates, “The president of back then was the president, the popular music of those times was all the rage…”) but it only serves to make this feel more like an exercise of futility. Nothing about this past feels different than the present. Honestly, this whole story could have been done in the present; Bart and Lisa fight about something, their parents get fed up, they run off and get lost, and eventually have to work together to get home. A worthless excuse for a flashback episode.

Three items of note:
– The impetus of the story is that Homer finds a long undeveloped roll of film in his jacket, and the family gathers at Moe’s to see the photos, which are all Bart and Lisa fighting. Here’s Marge and Bart right before our set-up (“Well, it’s quite a story, a story of a special bond between a brother and a sister.” “I’d say our story’s a tragedy, like the Planet of the Apes. The tragedy being they can never stop making them!” “Hey, come on, the first and eighth movies were pretty darn good.”) The dialogue on this show is overall awful, but sometimes you get exchanges like this that make my brain curl even more. This sounds like canned interchangeable banter from a D-grade variety show, and it’s delivered as lifelessly as one. Marge later realizes why they never developed the film, because it would bring back these memories of the kids. But, Homer just randomly found the roll of film… ah, whatever. Who has the mental capacity to remember what happened four minutes ago, huh?
– The plot progression of the flashback is weird. Flanders invites Homer and Marge out for a brunch date and offers babysitting services. When getting ready to go out, the two decide to fuck instead, as they role play as a seagull and a trash can (don’t even ask), and meanwhile we see Bart and Lisa being watched by Grandma Flanders at the same time. Later, we see that Homer and Marge ultimately made it to brunch as they drive back home. So how long were they keeping the Flanders’ waiting while they were screwing? Two, three hours? By the end, Homer and Marge randomly find the kids sitting atop the tire fire. Homer saves them by bending a tree branch to get them down, but then it ends up snapping back, sending the kids flying through the air across the town. But not to worry, they end up flying through Bart’s open window and land comfortably on the clown bed. Good thing this is a cartoon, where there are absolutely no stakes whatsoever!
– More attempts at fan service as we get a reappearance of Bart’s creepy clown bed from “Lisa’s First Word.” Then Grandma Flanders shows up, spouting, “Hello, Joe!” I really don’t get it, are these people who actually like when this happens? I guess there’s two ways to think of it, I would think that writing the show now, you wouldn’t want to not remind people of the classic years, but I guess these little injections of nostalgia are enough to convince some people they’re not watching a pile of garbage wearing the skin of a loved one.

One good line/moment: The therapist, wanting nothing more to do with Homer and Marge, proposes a trust exercise, and has the two close their eyes. When they open two seconds later, she has already bolted, her chair slightly swiveling in her absence.