Let’s get ready for mini-golf everyone! This was a fun episode guys. Not only do we get out first story about the kids playing sports (and the pressure Homer puts on them) but we also get our first real look at the Flanders family, and how he and Homer’s relationship works. We also get possibly the weirdest chalkboard gag of all time: “I am not a 32 Year old woman.” Ummm….what? What possible context could that have had. Weird right?
Anyway, the episode starts with Homer struggling with the manual lawnmower again, because Bart is getting to skip chores due to his science project. And apparently his project is just staring at a potato in a jar, and man did I laugh at Bart’s line “One o’clock…still just a potato.” But while Homer is complaining about mowing the lawn, Flanders starts up a conversation, and ends up inviting Homer in for a beer, in Flanders’ amazing rumpus room. It’s a pretty awesome room, with a pool table and a goddamned beer tap. Flanders is just trying to be a good host, but Homer assumes that he’s trying to rub in how much more successful he is, and starts a fight. It’s pretty impressive that Homer actually makes Flanders mad. Homer storms out of Flanders’ house and heads home to tell Marge about how he was insulted, but can’t quite put it into words, since Homer was just being sensitive.
But while Homer is gloating about his indignation, Flanders is at being kept awake at night by his guilt for provoking Homer. Because he feels bad, he calls Reverend Lovejoy, who he has on speed dial, for advice. I love that Ned references a Bible quote, and Lovejoy has no idea what he’s talking about. Ned pretty much gives himself advice, and decides to write a heartfelt note and brings it to the Simpsons’ house with the intention of sliding it under the door, but Homer finds him and reads the note. Homer then mocks the letter endlessly with the family, especially the fact that Ned used the word “bosom” several times. Now that he’s happy, Homer decides to take the family out for frosty chocolate milkshakes, which sidenote… what’s up with the frosty chocolate milkshake thing? Lisa says she can’t go out because she’s studying for a math test where she would win a new protractor, and we get Homer’s amazing line “too bad we don’t live on a farm.” So Homer and Bart head off to play mini-golf together, and the episode really sets off.
Homer is terrible at mini-golf, but Bart is pretty good. And while they’re there they run into Ned and Todd, and the four decide to play together. But of course, when Homer sees that there’s a mini-golf competition coming up, and starts a rivalry with Flanders by claiming that Bart can beat Todd. So the two grown men yell at each other in a public place then force their children into competing. So Homer decides to start training Bart, and let’s just say he’s not a very inspiring coach. He tries to use Santa’s Little Helper as an obstacle, and gets Bart his own putter that he insists on naming Charlene for some reason. Homer becomes one of those parents who care WAY too much about their kid winning a sport, and put a massive amount of pressure on them to win. We also get a really sad scene of Bart looking at some sort of trophy cabinet in his room that’s full of “trophies” he’s gotten for failing. But sensing Bart’s inevitable failure at the hands of Homer’s training, Lisa offers to help him.
They head to the library, where everyone knows Lisa, and start researching golf, and Taoism for some reason. Lisa figures out that mini-golf is mostly about geometry and concentration, so she starts training Bart on the course, and helping him find his center. There’s then one of my favorite Bart scenes of all time, when Lisa asks him what the sound of one hand clapping is, and he just slaps his fingers against his palm. Me and my friends do that every time we hear a zen saying. It kind of became a shorthand for making fun of pretentious people. But as much as Bart mocks the clapping question, the old “if a tree falls in the woods, and no one’s around, does it make a sound,” question makes him become zen. As the game gets closer, Homer continues to goad Flanders, especially by saying “may the best man win, the mating call of the loser.” Which instigates the two to make a bet on the game, wherein the father of the boy who doesn’t win has to mow the lawn in their wife’s church dress.
The morning of the game Homer is creepily watching Bart sleep before getting him to go get breakfast. Marge prepares steak and eggs, but Lisa explains Bart should eat oatmeal, like a Kentucky Derby horse would eat, leading to a great condescending Homer line “newsflash Lisa, Bart is not a horse.” And with that they head off to the mini-golf game, where Lisa hugs Bart and says she believes in him. I love that there’s a weird stuffy British man commentating the game. As the game wears on it’s evident that the two boys are equally as good. By the end of the game the two kids are tied, leading to Homer’s inspiring advice “remember what Vince Lombardi said, if you lose, you’re out of the family.” Bart and Todd then decide that they’re equally good, and end the game as a tie. Homer is of course ashamed at Bart’s act of civility, but demands on upholding the bet, since technically neither kid won, they both have to mow the lawn in dresses. And they do, leading Lisa to wonder “why do I get the feeling someday I’ll be describing this to a psychiatrist?”
This was a fun episode, with some great relationship building. We get to see Bart and Lisa bond a bit, and some Homer/Flanders squabbling. You really start to feel bad for Bart after realizing he never wins anything, and watching the pressure that Homer puts him in. Homer was not a very good parent in this episode, it wasn’t really anything about seeing Bart win, it was all about beating Flanders. I was never into sports as a kid, mainly because I was an uncoordinated fat kid, so I never had to deal with a parent putting a ridiculous amount of pressure on me to be more than I was. Poor Bart.
Take Away: Don’t live out your insecurities through your kids. And there’s no shame in not winning. Another good moral Simpsons.
“Dead Putting Society” was written by Jeff Martin and directed by Rich Moore
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons