612. Kamp Krustier

Original airdate: March 5, 2017

The premise:
In a direct sequel to “Kamp Krusty,” Bart and Lisa are scarred from their traumatic camp experience and seek to face their demons. Meanwhile, Homer becomes a more productive worker with the kids back, leaving Marge sexually pent up.

The reaction: This show has mined nostalgia from the classic years for brownie points for years now, but this episode is on a different level: a sequel twenty-four years after the fact. That’s nearly a quarter of a century, how crazy is that? Watching this, it’s just impossible to not think about “Kamp Krusty” and foolish to even try not to, so it’s really weird the writers felt confident enough to do an episode like this. So the kids return home from camp all visibly shaken up and are all sent to counseling, with Homer, Marge and everyone else appear unclear about what exactly happened there. Marge in particular seems very aggressive in wanting to sweep her children’s trauma under the rug, believing them to be exaggerating and that they should just move on so she can continue getting her mack on (wonderful, more Marge being uncaring to her kids.) So I guess we’re retconning Kent Brockman’s report from Kamp Krusty, since no one seems to really care that much about what happened at camp, and Krusty gets off completely scot-free. Bart exaggerates his trauma to get out of school, but then he starts getting actual memories of a horrible incident he and Lisa were a part of, and the two return to camp to figure out what happened. The whole thing is treated like a serious mystery, as they finally recall that a kid they were kayaking with seemingly drowned and try to figure out what happened. “Kamp Krusty” was one of the show’s goofier episodes, back in the day when they could make anything funny and entertaining, even using and abusing children. So I don’t understand who this follow-up is supposed to appeal to, being such a wildly different tone. Who is this fan service aimed at? How can anyone who enjoyed “Kamp Krusty” and understood in even the slightest sense what made that show great, then watch this episode and not clearly notice the tremendous plummet in quality? Checking No Homers, it appears that even those folks weren’t impressed, with their lowest ratings ever: 2/5. I guess that counts for something. Maybe.

Three items of note:
– Marge is pretty awful in this episode. At first, she’s sympathetic of Bart’s crocodile tears and lets him take Homer’s place in bed (which I believe has happened before in a recent episode. Is this not weird to anybody?) This prompts Homer to go to work early, and ultimately leads him to being a model employee and husband, getting a big raise and tending to the house. The trade-off is that his hyper-efficient lifestyle leaves him uninterested in sex, which gets Marge frustrated (“First the kids are screwed up, now our marriage? We need therapy.”) They go to couples counseling, and now Marge seems to care less about her kids’ problems (which she never seemed all that concerned with to begin with, especially Lisa’s actual trauma) than her own selfish needs. It’d be a stretch for her character, but if that were kind of the point of the whole episode, I could buy it, but as usual, these shows have no mission statement or overall theme or anything like that. It’s just a bunch of nonsense stitched together by a threadbare premise. The therapist recommends they all go back to camp so the kids confront their demons. While driving, we get this inner monologue from Marge to recap everything for the third time (“My kids are a mess. Homer’s turned into the man I’ve always wanted, which I don’t really want. And for some reason, we’re going back to Kamp Krusty.”) “For some reason”? Did she black out when the therapist was talking? Once at camp, now an adult pleasure resort “Klub Krusty” (don’t ask), the kids run free to solve their mystery, and meanwhile, Marge repeatedly tries to seduce and fondle Homer until eventually he just gives in and they have outdoor sex. She could care less where the hell her children have run off to, as long as she gets fucked, who cares? Just incredible.
– When Homer and Marge are at therapy, Moe shows up as the next appointment behind the door, with some kind of robotic monstrosity… it’s like a woman’s head on a central vac with a bunch of bells and whistles on it (and wings?) Anyway, from behind the door, he causes it to make a whole bunch of building noises until it finally dings, at which point Moe utters, “Alright, I just finished. Deviant out.” What, did they just have a mutual climax? How fucking creepy and disturbing, this has got to be a new low.
– The ending is just horrid, one of the worst I’ve ever seen. So we surmise that the sole cause of Bart & Lisa’s trauma is their kayak flipping and the kid they were with supposedly drowning. Also, they were rowing in escape of Sideshow Mel’s performance of Phantom of the Opera. So are they making like Kamp Krusty was a joke, or are they treating it like they were actually abused, like what actually happened? Do they even care about the original episode at all? Well, they dragged in “Kamp Krusty” writer David M. Stern to do this one, but like Jeff Martin and David Mirkin before him, I’m sure they ripped apart his draft like every other episode to create this mess. So the Simpsons arrive to find the camp has been turned into some kind of posh swingers club. I’m not quite sure how much time has passed for that to have happened, but whatever. Security guard Raphael somehow knows about the missing kid, which makes no sense given I assume he was hired to work this new club. But he takes him to see “Charlie,” who is now working at the new massage parlor. Turns out he’s a little person, and a spy for Departures magazine (isn’t that for rich people travel and getaways, why would they want to cover a shitty kids summer camp?) The explanation of what happened is not only brief, but also aggressively snarky (“But you didn’t have your life vest!” “I’m a grown-up, I can swim!”) It’s like the writers saying, yeah, this is our ending, you think we give a flying shit? And clearly, they don’t; at the end we get a chyron promoting “Kamp Krustiest” coming in season 52. I’ll say it again, and again, and again and again and again, the writers all know how poor this show, and their work, is, and they just don’t care. No one can be this level of deluded to believe otherwise, not even in Hollywood.

One good line/moment: FUCKING BLANK.

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611. The Cad and the Hat

Original airdate: February 19, 2017

The premise: 
When Bart throws away Lisa’s new beloved hat, a physical manifestation of guilt begins to eat away at him. Meanwhile, Homer is revealed to be an idiot savant at chess, having played with his father as a kid.

The reaction: How to even begin with a plot that’s razor thin… Bart slights Lisa in the worst possible way that leaves her extremely depressed and him wracked with guilt. So what happened? We start at the beach, where Bart sees a totally badass temporary “Bad to the Bone” tattoo, but is saddened to find it immediately washes off in the water. This causes him to cry. Yep, that’s right. The very first Simpsons episode featured Bart yearning for a real tattoo, and now, six hundred shows later, he bawls like a baby when his temp tatt goes bye bye. Embittered, Bart takes his anger out on Lisa, tossing her beloved new sun hat out the car window. We’re told how much Lisa loves that hat because a Beach Boys song plays every time she thinks of it, but she is absolutely devastated when she finds it missing, so much so that it affects Bart into hallucinating a gremlin self to represent his guilt. All over a hat. This might have worked if this was like a last straw kind of deal, or was part of a larger story, but no, it’s just all about a stupid hat. The conflict reminded me of “Bart vs. Thanksgiving,” but I won’t even scratch the surface of that comparison, because it’s not even worth comparing the two. Two thirds in, Bart comes clean, but nothing he can say or do will get him back into Lisa’s good graces. He gets her multiple gifts… what, was that the only sun hat in existence? He can’t find another one? Lisa meanwhile is so unbelievably melodramatic (“I’m truly sorry, Bart, but it’s a wound nothing can heal.”) Even when Bart manages to retrieve the hat, it’s initially not enough (“Your best bet is to forget me and start fresh with Maggie.”) But then she reconsiders and everything’s fine. I just don’t get what I’m supposed to feel in this episode. How much can I possibly give a shit about a fractured relationship born from a missing hat?

Three items of note:
– We get our second couch gag from Robot Chicken; while their first wasn’t exactly transcendent, it definitely feels it compared to this. Homer leaves “set” looking for the sailboat painting above the couch, walking in 3D space onto the sets of a South Park knock-off, a California Raisins knock-off, and finally into the room of the Seth Green Robot Chicken nerd who has taken the painting. It all feels… extremely pointless. Why, in the year 2017, do we have “parodies” of a two-decade-year-old show and pop culture mascots that have been dormant for twenty-five years? I just didn’t see the point of the segment, other than to kill precious, precious seconds, of course.
– The B-plot takes up about half the show, and I really don’t give a shit. Homer played chess with his dad after Mona left… Abe the gruff, uncaring working stiff interested in chess? Please. But they’re softened his younger character so much over the years, this is no different. At least here it’s implied that he only did it because he liked to beat Homer. I think. Whatever. This culminates in Homer having a rematch with his father, but in the end, throws the game to spare his feelings. The ending was clear as day when the game began, and in case you couldn’t tell by the visuals of Abe looking defeated and Homer appearing conflicted, Homer’s brain tells you so (“Isn’t a father more important than a victory? I’ve never really known either.”) There’s a shit ton of exposition lines this episode, but it’d be redundant to bitch more about that than I already have.
– Storytelling is not just in the toilet, it’s clogged deep within the pipes of said toilet, but there are certain moments that just astonish me. We’ve established that Lisa is completely over the moon about this dumb sun hat, and that she’ll be crushed to discover it missing. Bart throws it out the car window on the way home from the beach, then we cut to nighttime where he already feels guilty about it and the guilt monster appears. Then we cut to Lisa dreaming about the hat, feeling at her head and discovering the hat isn’t there. She then frantically runs to the car to search for it. So, she loves this hat so dearly, but upon returning home, didn’t think twice about it being nowhere to be found before she went to bed? Maybe Homer or Marge carried her to bed still asleep or something, I dunno. But why do I have to fill in these narrative gaps? Stuff like this might seem small, but it’s glaring to me how little care goes into these stories, which gets more surprising at the bar for content just gets lower and lower.

One good line/moment: BLANK.

610. Fatzcarraldo

Original airdate: February 12, 2017

The premise:
In a new healthy food landscape, Homer finds solace in a humble chili dog roadside caboose. He later realizes this establishment was a huge part of his childhood, but sadly, the owner doesn’t remember him.

The reaction: Episodes like these are the most baffling to me; seemingly innocent premises, but where I ultimately can’t figure out what the hell the story is or what the writers are trying to say with it. Homer is disillusioned by his usual fast food haunts going “healthy” and multi-cultural, but way outside of town discovers a roadside chili dog stand, which he stays at all night. The next morning, Abe magically materializes in the house to tell Homer that he’s been eating those dogs since he was a lad, as it was right next to his parents’ court-appointed therapist (Glenn Close yet again returns…) Homer then surmises he’s been eating (and drinking) to shut out his negative emotions for years, and that he’s a-OK with that. The “healthy” fast food and Homer’s damaged psyche are two plot threads that are immediately dismissed once they’re introduced. The main conflict, I think, is that the man running the stand (I don’t even think he had a name) doesn’t recognize Homer all grown up. Forget that Homer didn’t remember the guy despite having gone there all through his childhood, but he’s apparently really hurt about the vice versa. So the caboose gets super popular, so much so that Krusty ends up buying it. One would think this would tie into to the reformatted Krusty Burger and that they were going to completely change the menu, but that’s not even mentioned. Incensed, Homer impulsively chains the caboose to his car and drives off with it, prompting a police chase. His crusade creates a stir with Springfield’s obese, who help him out when he runs out of gas. So is this a fat pride show? We have the right to our fattening, but tasty cheat foods? I understand the attempted satire, but it’s not like all fast food has completely changed its stripes. They even comment on it itself with a sign “Healthy-Sounding Food and Beverage Concepts” at Krusty Burger; a brand new menu with seemingly “good” food is pretty much just a smokescreen. But whatever. Homer smashes through a barricade, gets the caboose teetering off a bridge, then the owner saves him and admits he knows who he is. But it’s not like he just remembered, he says, “I never forgot you! How could I?” So was he just lying? Does he have dementia? Homer proclaims him a surrogate father, which is a whole new can of worms that it doesn’t bother going into, mostly because the episode is over. I feel like this episode was broaching three ideas at once (plus an extremely brief and meaningless Lisa B-plot), but never got around to fleshing out any of them, so we’re left with an episode that is pretending to be about something, but ends up just being rambling and incoherent. You know, like every other episode.

Three items of note:
– The reason I’m not 100% sure the Homer-hot dog guy relationship isn’t supposed to be the primary plot is because how horribly undeveloped it is. Hot dog guy repeatedly tells Homer he doesn’t know who he is, then at the end, he says he does. Not only that, but he considers him family? Or something? But then he disappears with no real conclusion to that at all. Instead of developing this relationship at all, we get scenes like this: Homer arrives at the stand and the two of them sing a song, over half of which the lyrics are just “Hot dog!” Hot dog guy ends the scene by repeating he still doesn’t recognize Homer. What a pointless waste of time.
– Comic Book Guy and Springfield’s fellow fatties show up to support Homer’s insane quest to save the hot dog caboose, just because. I don’t want to go into how little sense so much of this makes, but when Homer’s car runs out of gas, they help him push up a steep hill, then when the reach the top, help him again up a steeper hill. Hill #2 is fifteen seconds of a still shot of them pushing, it’s a clear example of just time filler. Also, where are all the squad cars and the chopper that were chasing them immediately preceding this sequence? Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.
– By the episode’s conclusion, Homer has stolen private property, lead a huge police chase, smashed several vehicles, damaged a bridge, and ultimately destroyed aforementioned private property. It felt like Captain Wacky Homer behavior from the Scully/early Jean years, so I once again found myself wondering why in the hell Homer was going to walk away from yet another escapade and not get himself arrested or sued. Once hot dog guy saves Homer, Marge and Bart drive up, the former just Stepford smiling, the latter saying this: “You’re a hero, Dad! They’re calling you ‘Public Elephant #1’!” Is he making fun of him, or is he really in awe? It seems like it’s supposed to be the latter, which makes no sense. Then they drive away. Just as I think about why the fuck Homer could just leave when the police were right there, Lou asks Wiggum the same thing (“He just committed a series of crimes!”) Wiggum responds with a Chinatown reference, so incredibly timely (and one the show already made sixteen years ago.) This has happened many a time, where Wiggum makes some kind of excuse why people can just easily get away with shit, but this felt like the most egregious example. It also shows how the bullshit lampshading doesn’t work. The fact that Lou acknowledged what I was thinking made me even more incensed, not less.

One good line/moment: Krusty’s clown music plays as his management team and lawyers all exit his clown car. Then the music plays quickly in reverse as they all get back in. I thought it semi-effectively pulled this gag off.

608/609. The Great Phatsby

Original airdate: January 15, 2017

The premise:
Mr. Burns befriends billionaire rapper Jay G, who teaches him the joys of recklessly overspending on extravagance. When Burns goes broke and Jay acquires all his assets, he devises his revenge with the help of Jay’s former band mates and his ex-wife.

The reaction: What’s another gimmick we can garner headlines with? An hour-long (forty minute) episode? Sure, let’s go with that. Unsurprisingly, this is a story that feels like it would have been just fine played out at normal length, artificially extended with redundant fluff and B-stories that go nowhere fast. It also features some of the most pathetically feeble Burns this show has ever seen. Things start off with him wanting to regain his youthful exuberance by throwing a party, which thanks to Smithers entrusting Homer to rewrite the guest list with living people, results in Burns’ summer house being filled with the usual Springfield suspects. Burns doesn’t seem to mind, and he throws a truly sad soiree, making the dancers wear foot cozies to a band of two people. The likes of Moe and Skinner ultimately chew him out for such a sorry display, and the night ends with Burns standing on his dock crying. And that’s not the first time he cries this episode. Burns is alerted to an actual happening party going on across the bay, so he and Homer investigate (from this point, Homer just inexplicably becomes Burns’ loyal right-hand man.) Said party is being held by rapper Jay G, who has Burns’ book on business to thank for his flagrant lifestyle. He teaches Burns the wonder of an platinum card with no spending limit, where we get a montage of the two going on a spending spree. They get flashy new outfits, Burns has his own posse… they stopped just short of giving him a gold grill. It’s episode summaries like these that make me wonder why I should bother writing an actual review. Do I need to tell you why this is out-of-character for Burns? But it turns out Jay G was purposefully trying to bankrupt Burns, and he takes everything from him, including the nuclear plant. The first half ends with Burns crumpling to a heap crying his eyes out. The very, very few times we saw Burns cry in the original run, they were always very purposeful, and quite powerful. Now, it’s basically a joke for Homer to narrate over talking about how pitiful it is. Part two is Burns’ revenge scheme, where, after gaining insight into the rap game, gathers together a team to write the “ultimate diss rap.” Yes, this is real. He records the likes of Snoop Dogg, Common, and others in order to get Jay G back. I don’t quite see how this gets him his fortune back, the only thing Burns really cares about, but whatever. Jay G ends up paying off Burns’ artists and acquires his song, and in the end, it’s revealed the only reason he betrayed Burns was because he was following his book, where you must betray your master as the last step in getting ahead. Jay G is such a non-developed character that this revelation feels even more out of left field because we’ve had to wait over twenty minutes for it. It would still be a piece of garbage, but this show would have definitely improved being normal length. But the show got its brief window of moderate press for their one-hour episode extravaganza, and I guess that’s all that matters.

Three items of note:
– There are two separate disposable B-stories to pass the time, one in the first half, one in the second. During Homer and Burns’ misadventure, the Simpsons are stuck in the Hamptons for an indeterminate length of time, so we get to see what they’re up to. Story one features Lisa developing a crush on a snooty rich kid, and him trying to change for her. But that one sentence description is giving it too much credit. Scene one is him cutting in line, Lisa standing up to him, and him inviting her out because blah blah blah. Scene two is them on his boat, he abuses some whales, and Lisa breaks down. Scene three we see him as a changed activist, but Lisa defies his protest to get a chance to comb a pony. S’about it. Also the boy is Hank Azaria doing an adult voice, which struck me as very weird and slightly creepy. By story two, the Simpsons have been in the Hamptons for so long, Marge opens her own crappy crafts store and starts to lose her mind, much like I am after watching so many of these episodes. These are the very definition of filler. They have zero connection to the main story, and they’re barely narratives themselves. Homer just pops into Marge’s store twice and has no idea what’s going on and has no opinion of it, let alone the issue of how she’s affording this in the first place. Again, without this useless fluff, this could have easily been a tight twenty minute show. Well, relatively tight.
– Here’s a sizable mistake I’m surprised got through (well, not that surprised). Homer is in awe of Jay G’s beloved pet goose, and upon watching it eat, says this: “He eats the same way I do: without swallowing!” I believe the word they were searching for was “chewing.” It eats without chewing. This line got through the table read, the voice-over record, and numerous test screenings, and I guess no one was paying enough attention to care (part of me doesn’t blame them.) On top of that, it’s effectively a repeat of the exchange from “Homer’s Enemy” where Lenny and Carl agree Homer eats like a duck. So not only do they poorly recreate old jokes and bits, now they can’t even do it with the correct vocabulary.
– We get our cabal of guest stars in the second half, starting with Keegan-Michael Key as the latest extremely talented comedian to slum in through one of these shit scripts. He appears earlier on the Hampton streets as an unassuming candle vendor who exchanges words with Bart, then Homer helpfully butts in with narration (“So Bart met someone who I think comes back later. I forget why.”) Later, when he does reappear, the Homer narration returns (“Told yah this guy would come back! Told yah!“) We wouldn’t want audiences to strain their brains too hard about a complicated story point of a character reappearing later in the narrative without fully explaining it to them. Their brains might overheat! I shudder to think of what a modern “Who Shot Mr Burns?” would be like. Anyway, Key’s character is later joined by RZA, Snoop Dogg and Common (Homer never sounded whiter reading out those names), who do their rap sections, then later stand in a row and say their one-off lines one after another. Taraji P. Henson also appears as Jay G’s ex-wife… sigh… Praline. Her character on Empire‘s name is Cookie. You get the joke? Empire is this huge critical and commercial success, and this is the extent they can parody it? It really is just so sad.

One good line/moment: It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs that even at forty minutes you just get one giant goose egg (ha ha ha). I give points to Keegan-Michael Key for actually trying despite having no material, per usual. I always like listening to him, he’s a great performer.

607. Pork and Burns

Original airdate: January 8, 2017

The premise:
Homer gets Plopper the pig registered as a therapy animal. Meanwhile, Marge pushes a purge-happy lifestyle on the family, leaving Lisa so anxiety-ridden she gives up her sax.

The reaction: It’s pretty obvious the only real cultural footprint The Simpsons Movie left behind was Spider-Pig, and in hindsight, I’m pretty surprised they didn’t try to ride the popularity of the character into the series in some way, aside from a brief cameo here and there. So, ten years post-movie, scraping the bottom of the idea barrel, we have our Spider-Pig episode. It turns out the piggy has had his own sty in the Simpsons backyard all this time,  which would be pretty insulting if I didn’t care so little. Marge urges Homer to give away the animal, but he is resistant, going so far as to register him as a therapy animal. So he and Plopper are thick as thieves once again, so why did this take so long? It’s unclear how much time has passed since the events of the movie, but that doesn’t really even matter. It’d be one thing if the joke was that Homer neglected this thing he liked and is now overcompensating because Marge pushed him to get rid of Plopper, but that’s not it at all. Homer loved Plopper in the movie, the pig was in the yard neglected for x amount of time, now he loves it again. No matter. Homer takes his beloved to a company picnic, where the hounds get loose and attack him. It’s a seemingly dramatic moment where the dogs really get their jaws into that poor pig, but once they flee, Plopper looks slightly tired, and there’s like a couple of weird rip marks on his back, looking more like torn paper than flesh. I’m not expecting to see a horrifically bloodied pig corpse, but what you’re showing me doesn’t make much sense. So for two times in three epsodes Homer is in prime position to sue Mr. Burns, but Burns counters to offer to heal the pig on his property medical center. Then he himself falls in love with the little porker, then Homer has to save him from Burns Manor, and Smithers lets him because he feels jealous. Yawn. Homer and Plopper are reunited, and I’m sure he’ll go right back to being completely absent for many years to come. I understand Plopper being used as desperate pandering to something from the show actually becoming popular, but ten years later? Who exactly is this for at this point?

Three items of note:
– The B-plot features Marge adopting the KonMari method of cleaning, going through each one of your possessions and determining if it gives you joy, and if not, throwing it out. Lisa takes this to an obsessive degree, completely clearing out her entire room save for her saxophone, but then she ends up second guessing whether she even enjoys that, turning her back on jazz altogether. You’d think that a crisis in faith like this would have demanded more screen time, but I’m sure that an entire episode of this would have been even more embarrassing. This feels like another passive aggressive Marge story, who seemingly didn’t bat an eye when Lisa cleared out her entire room and all her furniture, or do anything to rectify her daughter’s situation up until the very end. Bart does the heavy lifting, restoring Lisa’s love of music by playing her demo tape over the school PA. After that, we see Lisa playing air saxophone, with Marge standing in her doorway, asking, “Now what’s wrong?” She says this with a very forceful nature, like she’s fed up with her daughter’s complaining. Her daughter who threw away all her possessions and has been living in a completely empty room with no bed for at least a couple of days. She also had a panic attack in the middle of the episode, so I indirectly hold Marge responsible for that as well. In the end, it turns out that Marge never threw anything away and kept everything in a storage locker, including Lisa’s sax. Does that include all of Lisa’s furniture as well? What am I supposed to make of this? Why has Marge been kind of a bitch over the last few seasons?
– There’s a joke near the beginning that really confuses me. Bart thinks back to a prank he pulled on Skinner. After removing all of his car door handles, Bart pumps Squishee drink into his car after he gets in it, causing it to flood. As the car almost fills all the way up, Skinner laments, “Why did I wear Mother’s blouse today?” What’s the joke here? I honestly don’t know. Was he walking around in a blouse with his legs exposed… so the Squishee covering his bare legs make it even colder and more uncomfortable? That’s the closest I can get. Any other explanations are welcome. But don’t strain yourself over it.
– Homer has a Family Guy-esque cutaway fantasy when Marge mentions the Mayo Clinic, featuring mayonnaise jars as doctors. Yup. Mayo Clinic. Mayonnaise. This show has won hundreds of awards for its writing, and not only did this joke make it to air, I guess they were so tickled by it, they give it thirty more seconds at the end for the vestigial fourth act. Anything to kill time, I guess.

One good line/moment: BLANK.

606. The Nightmare After Krustmas

Original airdate: December 11, 2016

The premise:
Krusty renounces his faith to better reconnect with his Christian daughter, which is a huge win for Reverend Lovejoy, who was on the prowl for more converts during the holidays.

The reaction: This show began with a Christmas special, which in itself directly took shots at famous holiday specials like Rudolph and Charlie Brown, while still providing a satisfying, sentimental (and fully earned) ending of its own. The only other Xmas special in the classic era was “Marge Be Not Proud,” a riff on “very special episodes” that plays a bit too straight, but is buoyed by amazing, unforgettable jokes and gags. From that point, it felt like we got a Christmas show every year or two, seemingly an easy way to fill another slot on the schedule, and just like the rest of the series, they’re just become like any other show in terms of disregarding irony and subversion and just playing stories straight to their inevitable sappy conclusions. And even that they can’t do fully coherently. So Krusty’s daughter Sophie returns (this time voiced by Orange is the New Black‘s Natasha Lyonne), and he’s shocked to learn she’s a devout Christian. Following a hospital visit, Marge invites the two to their house for Christmas dinner, only for Krusty to use it to impromptu film a hollow, insincere holiday special in their home. This all happens incredibly fast and feels pretty out of left field; it seemed Krusty really wanted to spend time with his daughter, and it’s not like this was his way of trying to connect with her. He’s just in full on asshole show biz hack mode, but that’s not even the joke of it. Moving on, Krusty crosses paths with Lovejoy at Moe’s, who’s looking to add a few more sheep to his flock, so he converts. From this point, father and daughter don’t have any words for each other. She watches Krusty sermonize in church, she watches his TV show and then performs, but nowhere do these two actually talk about what’s happening or what they’re feeling. The finale featuring Krusty almost drowning under ice after rushing to be baptized in the dead of winter ultimately means nothing. And we don’t even get a concrete resolution. We get a musical Christmas outro where we see Krusty sitting with Sophie in the back of an “orthodox ambulance” as the Jewish EMTs put a yarmulke back on him. So I guess he’s Jewish again? What does Sophie think? Does it even matter? These episodes aren’t just safe and by the numbers, it’s like they have entire sections ripped out, so we’re missing character motivation, proper endings… but who needs these stories to actually mean something when you’re trying to bang out a script and go home early? Happy holidays, everyone!

Three items of note:
– “Insane Clown Poppy” isn’t exactly a classic (though it’s pure gold compared to this slop), but I remember the Krusty-Sophie dynamic being kind of sweet. Sophie wasn’t exactly a developed character, so I can’t complain about this reappearance feeling “off,” but she’s more a utility to the story than an actual character. But what was the important thing about her, which was also the driving force of her episode? Her violin. Here, she plays the French horn, with no mention of a violin, or anything from the last episode. I know it was sixteen years ago, but at least a throwaway nod to continuity would show that the writers at least give some of a shit.
– The B-story features Lovejoy being cornered by concerned members of the church and the Bing Crosby Parson (hate that guy) about raising membership. His story crossing with Krusty’s makes sense, I suppose, but I don’t get the accelerated ticking clock that the Parson has, goading Lovejoy to speed up his conversion, even if it means baptizing Krusty in the frozen over river. Why? It’s just an artificial creation to set the stage for the final conflict.
– Jackie Mason voices Rabbi Krustofski as an Olaf hybrid in Krusty’s near-death experience (Krusty helpfully points out the “hacky parody of Frozen,” in case it weren’t clear enough). As we’ve seen with Glenn Close, even killing a guest character won’t stop them from dragging them back again and again. The ending also involves Jewish God debating with… regular God (?) about whether Krusty’s baptism counted, so I guess the writers couldn’t figure out what the ending meant either. Then we get Krusty and Sophie in a sleigh ride singing a jaunty carol, passing by a guest star who appeared earlier who I had no idea who he was. Earlier he appeared with his gigantic art piece “The Strandbeest,” but I had no idea what any of it was. Theo Jansen is the artist’s name; normally they have these guest stars introduce themselves by full name and list their credits, this felt like the exact opposite.

One good line/moment: As in “The Town,” this episode actually sports some decent animation in certain scenes with Krusty, first when he’s in his hospital bed, and later when he’s sulking at Moe’s. As with before, even though it’s a bit jarring in comparison with the normally stiff style of this show now, it was still enjoyable to see some actual acting employed, and in better effect than “The Town” too. Also, the C-plot featuring Maggie being terrified by an Elf on the Shelf knock-off was alright. My fiancee hates that little nightmare, so Maggie’s revenge in ripping it to shreds got to me.

605. The Last Traction Hero

Original airdate: December 4, 2016

The premise:
A tumble down Burns’ trap door leaves Homer in a body cast, and in prime position to sue. Smithers makes frequent visits to convince him otherwise, and ends up forming an emotional bond with Marge.

The reaction: This episode features the triumphant resurgence of inner monologue exposition; how would we know what the characters are feeling without them telling us word-for-word? Homer is the latest victim of Mr. Burns’ trap door, but it’s currently under construction, so he gets gravely injured falling face first into a cement mixer. This is another instance of taking a cartoony element of the show and twisting it to be “real.” They try to make a joke about it with Burns’ lawyer telling him the old trap door was perfectly legal because it was grandfathered into the property or something, but it still just feels silly. You telling me all those poor schmoes who took the plummet before landed on soft pillows? With Homer mostly immobile, Burns sends Smithers to his house repeatedly to convince him to sign away his rights to sue. Eventually, he and Marge get to talking, and they just vent about their complicated romantic relationships. So it turns out this was a Homer-Marge episode; before this, we saw that Marge was looking forward to spending more time with Homer, but her idea of fun being using Homer’s cast to help roll up electrical cords, and setting up a grid system to assist Homer in helping them put together a boring puzzle. Homer wasn’t rude or abrasive or condescending, he just seemed disinterested in these activities, which I guess cut Marge pretty deep. It could have been incredibly easy to push Homer into an uncaring direction (marriage shows from seasons 15-18 did it all the time), but I guess they just didn’t care. So, in talking over a couple days, Marge and Smithers form a bond… but then it turns out it’s a romantic one? Marge’s mind tells us so (“Oh my God! I want to kiss him!”) When Smithers leaves Marge hot and bothered, she leaps onto Homer and starts making out with him, but when she slips Smithers’ name, Homer’s mind takes over (“Wait a sec, Marge is getting her emotional needs filled by another man, and now she needs me for nothing but sex!”) Our happy ending involves Homer dropping the suit so Burns won’t keep Smithers from talking to Marge anymore, which really feels like not a solution at all. They probably would have won the suit and gotten a pretty penny, money to put in their kids’ college funds, but I guess it was worth it if Marge has someone to expel her grievances to. This feels like that show which had that “happy ending” of Homer not busting Marge for going to therapy. What happened to that? In the old days, we’d have Homer be such an insufferable ass that I never understood why Marge would stay with him. But too often lately, we see Marge can be pretty petty and incredibly passive aggressive herself. Everyone on this show is slightly unlikable, and that’s a big problem.

Three items of note:
– There’s a vacuous B-plot involving Lisa becoming bus monitor and the power going to her head. She videos the bullies beating up Milhouse with her phone, and eventually surmises that the way to keep order is to keep the like-minded students sitting next to each other with her carefully crafted chart. What insight! The nerds sit next to the nerds, and the bullies sit next to the bullies? Incredible! The only issue is that we see where the kids were sitting before the incident and after, and it’s basically the exact same. The only difference was Milhouse inexplicably sitting next to Nelson, which I guess he was cool with before the other bullies showed up. The scene of the bus fight and Lisa filming it echoed actual incidents that were filmed with kids really getting the shit beat out of them, and to use that as the impetus for this stupid nonsense side story that ultimately says nothing feels pretty wrong. Also, when Lisa goes full authoritarian, she had a fantasy of her being Big Brother (er, Sister) to her bus drones and Bart throwing a mallet into her giant screen a la that Apple “Think Different” commercial from the 1980s. What an old reference. It was better when Futurama lampooned it over fifteen years ago (“Hey, we were watching that!”)
– The opening features Homer parking in Burns’ spot when he’s out for the day, and by that logic, he figures he can just take over Burns’ whole life. Makes perfect sense to me. We see that Burns has a button in his office that triggers a full recreation of the Enchanted Tiki Room to play, and I’m not sure what the joke is supposed to be. LOL random humor? Also, we see Burns is at a reserve with other billionaires to do some recreational hunting, specifically quails. Considering the tired references this show pulls, I’m shocked they didn’t do a Dick Cheney joke with him accidentally shooting Rich Texan in the face or something.
– There’s a weird joke in the show that I both don’t understand, and also serves to further undermine the emotional conflict. Marge’s puzzle is “Foggy Day in Berlin,” which for some reason triggers a B&W fantasy of a German woman opening her overcoat to Homer, beckoning him to “complete the puzzle” (actual pieces are missing from her body.) Homer instinctively recoils, “But I’m a married man!” Then she makes some joke involving a German spank bank and the fantasy turns into a zeppelin that pilots into Homer’s ear (don’t freaking ask.) Out of his own head, Homer says, “Marge, I don’t think we should do this puzzle!” This is a stupid tangential joke, yes, but it shows that even in his fantasies, Homer would never dream of being unfaithful to Marge. So that makes Marge bitching about Homer and wanting to lock lips with Smithers seem even more unjustified. It’s not just poorly set up, they create scenes that directly go against what they’re going for.

One good line/moment: BLANK.