Lifetime of Simpsons

S03 E24 – Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?

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Hey everybody! Herb’s back! And we’re done with Season 3 already! I’m sad that Herb didn’t become a character like Sideshow Bob, one who shows up every now and then, maybe not every season, but still occasionally pops up. Who knows, maybe he’s made a third appearance since I’ve stopped watching, but as far as I know this was his last adventure with his terrible half-brother.

We start off with the Nuclear Plant having a mandatory physical…which seems odd. But the Plant does a lot of weird things. I also love that Lenny shows up naked, because he forgot to wear underwear that day. Poor Lenny. But it turns out that Smithers and Burns personally check into people’s physical results, and it turns out Homer is sterile, possible because of how unsafe the plant is. Worried that the lethargic little Homer-shaped sperms are their fault, and that they’re legally liable, Mr. Burns gets his lawyers to come give him advice. They tell him to give Homer a cash settlement. We then cut straight to some gross place under train-tracks that is full of homeless people. One of which is Herb Powell, Homer’s half-brother, whose empire Homer ruined last season. Herb is hanging out with a group of hobos, including Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp and a creepy dude dressed like a clown, and is telling them about his past. We get a flashback to “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” and learn how desperate for money Herb is.

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Back at the Simpsons’ home, Bart and Lisa are goofing off, and accidentally destroy the family couch. Homer shows up, and is devastated, having a flashback to all the good times he had with the couch, including watching the “Who shot JR” plot, him not caring about Hands Across America, and the fall of the Berlin wall. And the next day when Homer goes to work, he’s called to Burns’ office and is had to sign the sterility waiver in exchange for $2,000. And to keep Homer from looking into why he’s getting the money, Burns explains it’s because he won the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence. Homer then demands and award show, and Burns goes for it, creating a lavish award ceremony where the orchestra even plays the Simpsons theme when Homer wins. He then goes out drinking with the host of the show, Smokin’ Joe Fraser, and even though Fraser gets in a fist-fight with Barney, who loses quite fast, Homer is still bummed about losing his couch. Meanwhile, Herb has come up with a plan to make himself rich again, a baby translator! And when he reads in the newspaper that Homer won $2,000 he hops a train to Springfield to get money from his half-brother.

But he has to hurry, because Homer is about to blow all two grand on a fancy massage chair, that when he uses it in the store he goes through the Stargate from 2001. Man I love a good Stargate reference. It’s always hilarious to me to see dramatic music and insane colors washing over a person’s face, because even if you’ve never seen Space Odyssey, it’s still funny. Herb shows up in Springfield, looking like a creepy bum, and accidentaly goes to the Flanders house first, who then bring him inside, clean him, shave him, and give him a suit. He then goes next door, and immediately punches Homer in the face. The kids and Marge are psyched to see Uncy Herb again, and after Homer wakes up from his punch, starts showing Herb around the house, apparently forgetting that Herb wasn’t always a bum, and assuming he didn’t know what a light-switch was. The family then spends some time together, playing Monopoly, and just like 90% of Monopoly games, it ends with violence as Herb punches Homer again. But when the family start discussing what to do with the money, Herb suggests that they give it to him for his invention idea. Herb then gives the family a presentation on his baby translator idea, and everybody but Homer is interested in it. Homer is far more interested in Herb’s water-drinking bird toy. And when Herb agrees to give Homer the toy, they decide to give Herb the money for his invention.

Herb then begins hanging out with Maggie, spending all his time with her and cataloging all the noises she makes while trying to figure out what she’s trying to say. And after what seems like weeks to work, he’s finally done, and it seems to work, for Maggie at least. His invention looks like crap, but when he shows it to the family, it pretty accurately explains what Maggie is trying to say, even the amazing line “I have soiled myself. How embarrassing.” Herb then heads off to some sort of baby invention convention to sell his invention. I love seeing Professor Frink demonstrating some sort of remote-controlled baby airplane, which goes flying out of a window, a kid inside, leading Frink to say my “my wife is going to kill me.” And we never saw that kid, or a wife again, so I guess Frink is a pretty tragic character. Then people see that Herb’s invention work, and it becomes a huge success, even being bought by a baby supply-store, making Herb rich again. He then heads off to live his life again, giving each of the Simpsons their own present as an act of thanks. He gets Lisa a membership to a service that sends her the great books of Western Civilization, Bart a membership in the NRA, Maggie whatever she wants when she’s older, Marge a new washer and dryer, and he gives Homer the greatest gift of all, brotherly love and forgiveness. Oh and the wonderful chair. Herb then leaves the family, and we end on the lovely visual of Homer’s sterile sperm jiggling in the massage chair.

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This was a fun episode, primarily because Herb is such a fun character. I love how tough his life is, all because of Homer, and it’s nice to see Homer help his brother, however reluctantly. Plus it’s fun to see Herb occasionally punch Homer in the face, just on principal. The baby-translator was kind a weird idea, but it was funny and lead to some good Maggie scenes, which I always appreciate.

Take Away: Inventing things to help parents deal with their babies is a lucrative market. And forgive your family members I guess.

“Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Rich Moore.

2001

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