Another Monday, another one of my favorite episodes of all time. This was always kind of a weird one to say that was one of my favorite episodes, especially as a kid, since it’s one about marital infidelity which you wouldn’t think would be down the alley of a teenager, but it works so well. This episode is great. It’s got such a great emotional core to it, and at the same time is jam-packed with some truly wonderful gags. Golden age of the Simpsons guys. Hell, it even starts off with some amazing pre-episode stuff, which I don’t usually talk about. Bart’s chalkboard gag of “All work and no play makes Bart a dull boy” is truly wonderful, and man did I laugh at the super weird couch gag where they are being interviewed by David Letterman, who just kind of spins around in his chair and stares at them menacingly.
Anyway, the real episode starts off with a truly great Bart prank, where he has repainted all of the parking lines in the teacher parking lot, making them just a couple inches closer. This leads to all the teachers arriving at once, and being unable to open their doors, since they’re now just a little too close. So weird and wonderful. But of course it was Bart, so when class starts Mrs. Krabappel starts tormenting him by announcing that for the rest of the year Bart will be the first person called on for all questions. She then writes ‘photosynthesis’ on the board and asks Bart to pronounce it, leading to fury from Martin, and the realization that Bart has vision problems, which may be the cause of his poor grades, which Bart sums up with the wonderful line “It ain’t me noggin it’s me peepers?” I love when Bart is Cockney for no reason.
But that’s setting up the Bart B-plot, let’s go over to the Power Plant to talk about the real story. We start off seeing Homer goose a guy working with some sort of gas with a robotic claw, which is hilarious at first, but then the gas gets out and it looks like Homer, Lenny, Carl, and Charlie are about to die, especially when it turns out the safety door is fake. But we then cut straight to Charlie talking with Mr. Burns, basically saying he doesn’t want to get into how they survived, but asking for more safety in the Plant. Burns responds by pressing a button and getting Charlie sucked up into a giant pneumatic tube, which is one of my favorite gags of all time. Burns then asks Smithers where the tube goes, and Smithers tells him that it was there when they moved in, which then cuts to goddamn Agrabah where Charlie falls from a ceiling onto a table full of Middle Eastern caricatures from the freaking 1800’s as they demand he dance. So weird and wonderful. Anyway, Mr. Burns realizes he needs to re-hire Charlie’s position, and we see him hire good old Zutroy, a weird Eastern European man who works for a penny a day. But while Burns is personally training Zutroy, when the Department of Labor shows up to punish Burns for his terrible hiring habits, including Stewart the Duck, who is a duck with a hard hat that drags a wagon of nuclear waste. They end up just deciding that Burns has to hire at least one woman, since Marge quit the year before.
We peak back in on Bart’s plot where Marge has brought Bart to Dr. Hibbert’s new HMO where he starts to get every procedure under the sun done to fix all these ailments that Bart apparently has. This ends up making him look and sound like Jerry Lewis, which is such a great gag. Another great gag? The fact that Dr. Hibbert also has one of those roof tube things which he almost uses on Marge before establishing that she has the proper insurance. Anyway, we go back to the Power Plant to see that Burns has hired a new worker, and her name is Mindy Simmons. Lenny and Carl don’t really care about meeting her, but when Homer sees her he immediately gets a crush and has a fantasy of her as the Birth of Venus painting, with Lenny and Carl acting as little cherubs covering her with a cloth. And man is little cherub Carl’s line of “whatsa matter Homer? Ain’t you never seen a naked chick riding a clam before?” amazing. Homer’s a little worried about this crush, especially when he sees her after work while he’s stealing boxes of pens, and has another fantasy leading him to crash into a fish hatchery.
Side-note: most of my memories of watching the Simpsons as a kid involve my Grandma, since she watched us as kids and would graciously sit through dozens if not hundreds of episodes of this show. But that specific joke of Homer stealing a box of pens from work every day for no real reason other than to spite his office really cracked my Grandpa up one time when he was home early enough to watch it. He worked at a factory that made and fixed bumpers, so I don’t think stealing pens was a really relatable thing, but I have a good memory of him loving that joke, and just thought I’d share that.
Back with Bart we see that things aren’t going well for him at school with all these medical objects. Between the special shoes, the giant glasses, and the medicated sap in his hair he’s looking a lot like a nerd, and the bullies are punishing him accordingly. I love that he tries to ride his skateboard and accidently gets a bunch of books to fall on him, leading to the bullies saying “he’s learning on his own!” before beating him up. Anyway, we check back in on Homer, who is also not going well. He keeps talking about Mindy to Lenny and Carl, and is really starting to worry about his crush. He even asks Moe and Barney for advice at the bar, which leads to the wonderful scene of Barney reading the bar napkin telling Homer to talk with her and realize they have nothing in common. But it turns out to be bad advice, because when Homer approaches her in the break room and strikes up a conversation, he learns that they actually have everything in common. He even then runs into her on an elevator, which makes him need to think unsexy thoughts in this confined space, which leads to him thinking about Patty and Selma shaving their legs, and Barney dancing and singing in a bikini. But it turns out Mindy is also needing to think unsexy thoughts, and Homer can’t stand the sexual tension, so he just gets out of the elevator, and ends up falling down the cooling tower.
And things get even worse for Homer when he goes home and finds that things in his life aren’t going great. Marge is super sick and unhappy, Bart looks like a dork, Lisa is trying to get him to eat burnt fish sticks, and Grandpa is chasing Santa’s Little Helper around since he stole his lamb chop. Homer then tries to have a discussion with Marge to see if they connect as much as Mindy and he did, but all she has to talk about is showing him a t-shirt she made with her smeary face on it. He then tries to get out of the conversation by watching TV, but everything on is about affairs, even a weird commercial for the National Ringworm Association (the other NRA) which is just ladies in exercise outfits gyrating around before telling the viewers to check their scalps for ringworms. Homer then even calls a marriage hotline from a payphone to admit that he’s having thoughts about having an affair, but the person on the other side of the line is Flanders, which freaks Homer the hell out, so he smashes into the payphone and faints. Luckily he’s woken up by his guardian angel, who is there to help him with this decision, and he’s taken the form of Sir Isaac Newton to help him. But Homer of course doesn’t know who Isaac Newton is, so he changes into Colonel Klink from Hogan’s Heroes. Klink then shows Homer what his life would be like if he married Mindy instead of Marge…and he does a bad job because it turns out they’d be rich and happy, and Marge would be the President. C’mon Klink, what a terrible job.
And Colonel Klink’s advice doesn’t do much, so Homer continues to ignore the crush, leading him to sing a version of Barry Manilow’s song “Mandy,” where he changes the lyrics to Mindy, and then Andy. But there’s an awkward moment where Lisa was listening, and tells Homer that she assumes that means he’s infatuated with a woman named Mindy, or a man named Andy. Homer deflects that, and gets out of the house with the plan of telling Mindy they can’t spend time together. Unfortunately Burns sees them talking on the monitor, and assumes they’re buddies, so he has them go to represent the Plant at a Power Convention. I recently went to a conference for my job, and its super weird to be the representative of your company.
So Homer and Mindy go to Capital City, and there’s an awkward moment where a creepy bellboy assumes Homer will be getting laid in his giant bed, leading to Homer’s wonderful line of using the bed for sleeping, eating, and maybe building a little fort. We then get another incredible strange gag where Mindy orders them room service, and we cut over to Mr. Burns’ office where an alarm goes off, causing him to release some flying monkeys to attack them. But the monkeys jump out of his window and go plummeting to their hilarious death, causing Mr. Burns to give the deadpan line of “continue the research.” It’s such a stupid joke, but it makes me cry with laughter. Why do they have these?! Anyway, we pop over to finish Bart’s plot, where he shows back up at school without all the nerdy stuff, but still gets beaten up by the bullies. So I guess that’s over. Anyway, Homer and Mindy are at the conference, and they get named the Energy Queen and King, which doesn’t help Homer’s wish to stay away from her. So the two have to go to a romantic dinner at a fancy Chinese food restaurant, and Homer gets a fortune cookie saying he’ll find romance with a new love, sealing his fate. So they two end up in his room, and Homer starts crying, assuming that he doesn’t have a choice, and he’s going to have to have an affair. Mindy says that she’s open to having sex, but it’s up to Homer. We then get the great ending where it turns out Homer got rid of Mindy and gets Marge to come and spend the night with him in the hotel, staying faithful.
This episode is wonderful. The Bart plot is a little goofy and doesn’t work great for me, even though there are some great individual gags and scenes in it. But it’s the Homer plot that makes the episode wonderful. The emotional core to the episode s so great. It’s kind of a companion piece to “Life on the Fast Lane,” but even more believable, because Marge was going to cheat with Jacques because she was just feeling unappreciated and Jacques gave her attention, but Homer and Mindy actually had a real connection. It’s such a realistic and scary problem. Of course there’s going to be the chance that you’ll meet someone who connects with you even more than your spouse, and Homer reacts in a really honest way. He’s so worried, and feels like he doesn’t have a say in the matter. But he sticks with his wife, which is probably the right call. Plus it’s bonkers funny, and really cements that Mr. Burns is a supervillain.
Take Away: Your marriage may be tested, and you may have to make really hard decisions about your love-life. Oh, and ordering room service is a dangerous decision.
“The Last Temptation of Homer” was written by Frank Mula and directed by Carlos Baeza, 1993.