Lifetime of Simpsons

S05 E09 – The Last Temptation of Homer

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Reel Talk

Creed and the Peril of Legacy

Creed Poster

Film series that go past four movie can be a really mixed bag. Usually the first movie is actually pretty good, because clearly there was something there to make profitable, but more often than not the movies decrease in quality pretty quickly. Especially when you’re looking at a movie that didn’t really start off as something that should be serialized. Slasher movies and superhero movies kind of come built in with the expectation that there’s going to be further adventures to see. But when you take a legitimately wonderful drama, and start checking in on the characters every few years, it may not always be the best bet. Rocky is an amazing movie. In every respect. It’s well made, well acted, and delivers both on drama and excitement all the way through. It’s a very interested character study of a truly lonely man who is trying to find success and happiness in the only way he can. And then the sequels happen. Yeah, Rocky movies can kind of be like James Bond movies, even if they’re not very good, there’s still things in them that can be enjoyable. They get really stupid, really quick, but they’re still a fun series. Then, in 2006 we all laughed when Sylvester Stallone announced there would be a sixth Rocky movie, just called Rocky Balboa. And shockingly, it was really good. It got rid of the ridiculousness of the 2nd through 5th movies, and went back to what the first movie had going for it. It was a refreshing take on a character who had become a punchline, and breathed new life in him. Then they didn’t make a 7th Rocky movie, and I think everyone just assumed that the character had been put out to pasture after finally getting a worthwhile send-off.

But then they finally got around to making a seventh movie in the franchise, even though it’s more of a spin-off. When I first heard about Creed, a movie about Apollo Creed’s son being trained by an old Rocky, I thought it sounded a little silly. It kind of seemed like some studio executive had the wonderful idea to make a Marvel Cinematic Universe with Rocky movies. Did we really need a movie about Apollo Creed’s kid? Hell yes! I went and checked out Creed the other day, and I’m here to tell you that it’s amazing. And you need to go see this. Once it came out I was pretty comfortable with calling Rocky Balboa the second best movie of the franchise, but that spot has now been taken over by this wonderful new flick. And it’s kind of making me want to go back and revisit Rocky, because who knows, this may be a better movie. This so easily could have been a cash-grab, a nostalgic waste of time that existed to bilk people out of some money around the holidays. But instead the team of director Ryan Coogler, writer Aaron Covington, and the three principal leads Sylvester Stallone, Michael B Jordan, and Tessa Thompson have crafted a truly wonderful movie that was far better and well-crafted than I think anyone else would have assumed.

Creed Prefight

Creed follows the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, who is hilariously named Adonis (but he goes by Donnie) who was rescued from a youth facility by Apollo’s wife Mary Anne, who has learned of her former husband’s child. She takes care of the boy, raising him to be a good man, but when he get old enough he starts to feel the desire to become a boxer like the father he never knew, even though he knows that it was boxing that killed him. And let me make a comment right here that I thought it was fascinating that this movie, which is incredibly dramatic and wonderful, made a lot of comments about the fact Apollo died in the ring, but wisely didn’t mention the fact that he died fighting a goddamn Russian cyborg while dressed like Uncle Sam. Probably was a good call. Anyway, Donnie leaves his life of luxury in Los Angeles, because all of the trainers in the town won’t take him seriously, since they know he’s the son of one of the best boxers in the world, and assume he’s just a spoiled rich kid who doesn’t want to actually earn anything for himself.

So Donnie packs up and moves to Philadelphia to get mentored by his fathers best friend and biggest rival, good old Rocky Balboa. He shows up at the restaurant that Rocky owns (called Adrian’s, which was wonderful and sad) and asks Rocky to train him, bringing up who his father is. Rocky is shocked that Apollo had a son, and respects Donnie’s idea to keep his parentage a secret from everyone else, but declines the offer. We think at first that it’s just because he’s old and grumpy now, but slowly the movie starts to reveal something amazing. They actually got a wonderful performance from the golem that we call Sylvester Stallone! And that performance shows the truly tortured and incredibly lonely life that Rocky Balboa lives now. Adrian, Mickey, and Paulie are all dead now. He has no one left in his life. He lives alone in a house, and just putters through life, reading the newspaper to the graves of his family. He doesn’t want to train Donnie because he’s given up on life, and doesn’t want any more attachments. But we quickly learn that Donnie is a very persistent man, both with Rocky and his new love interest, a musician who is gradually going deaf who lives in the apartment below him, Bianca. Donnie begins a relationship with both characters as he starts to bond with Rocky and fall in love with Bianca. He begins training like crazy with Rocky for a match coming up with a local champ. We get great training montage work of Donnie working as hard as he can to become the best fighter he can be. I’ve actually done some boxing training, and it’s really crazy how that kind of training actually is the best you can do. It’s also crazy how intense a workout just punching the heavy bag can be. It’ll kick your ass quick.

Creed Training

And of course, he wins the first match. Pretty handily actually. And it’s at this point that you realize how extremely well directed this movie was. The way the fight scenes are directed are truly wonderful, and are going to be the new gold standard for boxing movies for years to come. It mixes long shots that mimic the coverage you would get watching the match on HBO with very close up handheld cameras that dance and zoom around the two fighters giving an incredibly intimate and brutal viewing of the fight. But after the fight the manager of the loser leaks the information that Donnie Johnson is actually Adonis Creed, and the world goes crazy. We’re then introduced to the villain of the movie Pretty Ricky Conlan, who was maybe the weakest part of the whole thing. Rocky villains usually have a lot more depth to them, or at least menace. This British boxer is just kind of antagonistic and evil for no reason. His manager and him decide that this will be Ricky’s last match, and he’s deciding to go out on top by beating up the son of a legend. So Donnie and Rocky begin training hardcore for the match, even living together in a series of hilarious scenes.

But the drama of the movie starts to get cranked up around this point. Donne isn’t appreciating the attention he’s getting because of being Creed’s son, and starts to get a little standoffish about the whole thing. We then learn that Rocky was cancer, and in one of the most crushing and beautifully acted scenes of the movie, we see Rocky deny chemotherapy, wanting to just die. He explains to the doctor that everyone he loves has died, and he would rather join them than fight anymore. But Donnie learns about this, and gets super pissed, because Rocky is essentially saying that he doesn’t think Donnie is worth fighting for. So they have a little falling out, which leads to him getting in a fight and losing Bianca, reaching his lowpoint of the movie. But everything ends up okay, and he makes things better with Rocky, convincing him that life is worth fighting for again, and we get a truly wonderful training montage/Rocky getting chemo montage. And man was it effective seeing Michael B Jordan running through Philly with the classic Rocky theme pumping in the background while he’s followed by an army of teenagers on crotch-rockets and ATV’s. Which was a weird thing that the movie just kind of passed by. Apparently teenagers in Philly love just cruising around on little vehicles, doing wheelies, like it’s no big thing, and the movie just kind of barely acknowledges it  and moves on. So they head off to England for the big fight, and Bianca even shows up to resume the relationship. And the fight begins! He even gets a package from Mary Anne with new trunks styled after the kind Apollo won. Which is such an amazingly powerful scene. And the actual fights begins,and holy crap is it great. It’s a brutal fight where Conlan assumes he’s going to win right away, and spends most of the pre-fight making fun of Creed for being unworthy of the last name. The fight is beautifully choreographed, and even has some crazy moments that change the lighting so that the fighters are under a spotlight and the crowd fades away like it’s a damn Brechtian set. And all the while we hear the announcers talk about how no one thought Creed was going to get this far, and be this good, which is a wonderful meta-moment where the filmmakers are full on bragging about how they knocked this movie out of the park. And Donnie makes it the whole way. He knocks Conlan down, the first time in his career, and makes it to the end of the match, and just like Rocky, he loses, but by split decision, having earned the respect of Conlan, the boxing community, and himself. The movie then ends with Donnie and the extremely old looking Rocky climbing the steps that are so famous to the serious, letting Rocky get one last triumph.

This movie was so amazing, and so much more than I ever would have thought. The whole movie serves as an examination of the problems that come along with legacy, which make a wonderful story about Adonis Creed finally becoming worthy of his father and proving that he’s actually worth something, while also serving as a really interesting commentary about the movie itself. The Rocky franchise has a such a powerful legacy about it, and it must have been an incredibly daunting task to try and make a movie that would stand along some of the most beloved movies of all time. And boy did they do it. Everything about this movie worked for me, except maybe the kind of half-baked villain, and it just made me so happy to see Donnie and Rocky’s triumphs. It was incredibly emotionally effecting, and definitely brought some tears out at multiple times, without leaning to heavily on the whole nostalgia thing. It definitely tips in there some time, like using the music, the ending, and some slight references to characters from older movies, but it stand by itself too. It wasn’t an exercise in nostalgia, it was building a new story from the groundwork of another story, and succeeded in creating an equal film.

Although I’m curious if in ten years we’re going to get a fourth Creed movie where he solves the conflict in the Middle East by like, boxing an ISIS super-man.

Creed was written by Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington, directed by Ryan Coogler, and released by Warner Bros., 2015

Creed Triumph

Lifetime of Simpsons

S05 E08 – Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood

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Oh man. Oh man! Talk about a great way to end the week. This episode rocks, and I really forgot just how hilarious it is. It’s just all around great, as most Bart/Homer episodes in this era are.

 

Things start off with Bart and Milhouse playing at the Noiseland Arcade, which is always an excuse to show off some great sight gags, although hands down the best fake video game we see is Martin playing the My Dinner with Andre game, which is an amazing joke, and a game I would totally play out of morbid curiosity. Unfortunately things take a turn when Bart makes the rookie move of admitting out loud that he’s out of money, which causes an alarm to go off and the teenage manager to kick them out. Meanwhile we see Homer reading the ingredients of honey-roasted peanuts, which has never made them sound more disgusting, before badgering Marge to get them steak for dinner. When I lived with my buddies in college we would play out this scene to a ridiculous extent, pretty much anytime anyone asked what we wanted to do with dinner, which would inevitably lead to someone demanding steak. Anyway, Marge leaves as Homer is about to eat the last peanut in the container, but it falls under the couch. He tries to get it, but only finds a twenty dollar bill, leading to one of my favorite Homer and Homer’s brain exchanges in the history of the show:

 

Homer: “Aw, twenty dollars, I wanted a peanut!

Homer’s Brain: “Twenty dollars can buy many peanuts.”
Homer: “Explain how!”

Homer’s Brain: “Money can be exchanged for goods and services.”

 

This leads Homer to get excited about the money, but he ends up dropping it and it flies off in the wind. It floats around town before landing right on Bart and Milhouse’s lap, giving them the money to go crazy.

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The first thing they do is head to the Kwik-E-Mart and demand a Squishee made all of syrup from Apu. He shows some concern about the health risks involved in this, but still gives it to them. They try to drink the ridiculously thick drink, and end up getting super buzzed on sugar. They then go paint the town red, with their twenty bucks, while signing a ridiculous song about Springfield. They play arcade games, they test out skateboards, eat a lot of gum, and start hanging out with Barney who assumes that they’re magical pixies. But then their crazy night has to come to an end, and we see Bart in bed, hungover from his sugar binge. Lisa wakes him up, knowing that he’s made some terrible mistakes the previous night, and we see that while drunk on sugar Bart has joined the Junior Campers, a parody of the Boy Scouts. He’s terrified about this, lamenting his terrible luck the previous night, before we cut over to Barney who is trapped on some boat heading out to sea dressed like Mr. Smee, while saying “not again!”

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Bart heads down to the kitchen to get breakfast, and starts immediately trying to figure out who to weasel out of being a Camper. Homer supports this, because he keeps mocking Bart for being in the Campers, and he thinks weaseling out of stuff is a noble ability. Bart then goes to school with his Campers uniform, which of course earns him the ire of the bullies, who want to make fun of him for being in the Campers. Unfortunately Bart doesn’t actually want to be in the Campers, so the bullies have the threaten him to fight back and embrace their bullying. But a bright-side appears when Bart is able to skip a pop-quiz in class by going to a Junior Campers meeting with some little dweeb we don’t know. So Bart goes to the meeting to see that their patrol leader is Ned Flanders, and that their mission that day is to “sponge bathe the elderly,” which involves Jasper sitting nude in a giant bucket while ominously warning to “stay above the equator.”

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This is of course not something Bart is down with though, so he tries to bail before realizing that the Campers get to have pocket knives, something he desperately needs. But his fun is spoiled when Ned tells him that before he gets a knife he needs to read a safety book, which causes him to bail again. But when Bart heads off into the town he starts to see everyone enjoy knives. Moe and Moleman get into a knife fight outside the bar, Jimbo cuts open a box of cookies for Martin before stealing them, and Dr. Hibbert performs an emergency appendectomy while throwing it away before it explodes. So Bart gives in and starts reading the wonderfully titles book of “Don’t Do What Donny Don’t Does.” And slowly but surely, Bart starts to actually like the Campers, much to Homer’s shame and mockery. He even learns animal trapping skills which he uses to prank Homer, including snaring him to the ceiling with a floor pie, and causing him to fall down a pit in the driveway.

 

But things start to get intense between Homer and Bart, since Bart is actually loving the Campers. He even starts judging Itchy and Scratchy for using improper camping techniques, causing a crazy joke where Lisa says cartoon don’t have to be realistic while we see Homer walk by the window despite already sitting on the couch. But then Bart learns that there’s a father-son rafting trip coming up, which gets him nervous. We also learn that the dweeb in Bart’s class doesn’t have a dad, and Flanders has set it up to have Ernest Borgnine be his surrogate dad, which is so random, but he’s also introduced coming out of a bathroom for no reason, which I like a lot. So Bart announces to Homer that there’s a father-son rafting trip, causing Homer to say the wonderful like “you don’t have a son.” We then see Bart and Homer independently trying to come up with ways to get out of this, since neither want to participate, but it backfires and they accidentally agree to go together.

 

The rafting trip then begins and we see that of course Captain McCallister is in charge of the rafts. Homer picks the worst raft possible, which quickly sinks, before finding out that he and Bart have to be paired with Ned and Todd. So they set out while Homer starts to act all petulant about being on the trip, while being mad that Bart actually seems to like Ned. And things start to go wrong when Homer loses the map and starts to rely on a placemat from Krusty Burger that has a crude map of the USA with locations of Krusty Burgers. And it’s this map that causes them to go down the wrong fork in a river, washing them out to sea. And things escalate quickly. They start rationing their food and water, much to Homer’s chagrin. And of course, Homer starts to be a dick and waste their water washing his socks, and eating all their food.

 

And things get worse from there. They see a seagull fly by, hoping that they can follow it land before watching it die in mid-air and crash into the water. We also learn that the other group isn’t doing any better, and have somehow gotten into some sort of Deliverance river with rapist hillbillies watching them. But back with the Simpsons/Flanders raft, they find a plane flying by, and try to signal it to save them, unfortunately Homer blows it up with the flare gun. And after some unexplained amount of time goes by we see them starving and desperately trying to fish with a cheese doodle, which shockingly works. However no one tied off the fishing line, so the fish just steals the doodle and swims off. Then, as they apparently assume they’re dying, Homer gives Bart the pocket knife he planned on giving him at the end of the trip, which he stole from Ernest Borgning. We then quickly cut over to Borgnine and the other kids, because apparently all the other dads were lost on the Deliverance river, as he tries to fight off a bear without the knife. But the Borgning knife is cursed, and Bart ends up popping the raft with the magnifying glass. And as the group gets ready for their watery death, Homer starts to smell cheeseburgers, and they find that they’re close to an off-shore oil rig that has a Krusty Burger on it. So Homer guides them to the rig where they are saved! And Homer and Bart’s relationship is in good condition again. The episode then ends on the dark note of having Borgnine and the kids find an abandoned summer camp to stay in before getting attacked by a slasher.

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This episode is just crazy. I love episodes about Bart and Homer’s relationship, and this is one of the best. It’s just so fun, and full of great comedy moments. Bart’s whole sugar-bender in the beginning is wonderful, and everything about the Campers is spot on. I was in Boy Scouts as a kid, and it really does keep you going with the desire to have a knife. Nothing else was worth it. Although, I never did have to do anything like the raft trip, which is probably the best, because that sounded horrible. And it’s just wonderful that Homer’s gluttonous nose saves the day.

 

Take Away: Don’t go on sugar-benders. And also carry a pocket knife, in case you get attacked by rapists, bears, and Jason Vorhees.

 

“Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood” was written by Dan McGrath and directed by Jeffrey Lynch, 1993.

 

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Couch Potato

Exploring Trauma with Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones Logo

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Marvel comics, and their cinematic universe that continues to impress as one of the most well-oiled and well thought out phenomena in popular cinema I’ve ever heard of. And this year marked a new kind of addition to the MCU, the Netflix series’ that will eventually lead up to the crossover featuring the Defenders (which I still kind of object to them using, because I really love how crazy that team is in the comics, and it’s weird that they’re calling all the street-level heroes the Defenders, when that’s totally not what they were in the comics). I’ve already talked about Daredevil on this website earlier. And I loved that show. I love Daredevil the character, and that show really nailed him, and led to one of the best pieces of superhero fiction I’ve ever seen. And one of the things that really blew me away about the Daredevil show was the fact that it made me re-think how heroes work in fiction. So there was a pretty high bar for me with the next Defender to come on the scene. And that Defender was Jessica Jones, an extremely interesting character that I really don’t know all that much about. I’ve read Alias, and the Pulse, and Bendis’ run on New Avengers, which is actually most of the appearances she ever had, but I still feel like I don’t know that much of the character. She was definitely the biggest gamble of the Defenders series, the one people in generally would know the least about. So, just like I did with Daredevil when it first came out, I dove right into the series last weekend when it first was launched, and watched the entire 13 episode run in one weekend. And if Daredevil made me re-think heroes in fiction, Jessica Jones made me re-think how the genre of superheros can be used.

Superhero movies have become a genre of media, like Westerns, one with it’s own tropes and standard that give the stories cohesion. For the most part, superhero movies followed set plot beats, and really only changed smaller things to fit the characters. The standard superhero movie trilogy usually works pretty much like this: the first movie would be an origin story that would introduce the character and their abilities, while fighting their most recognizable and marketable villain. Then there would be a second movie that would usually be the best, since it got to skip all the boring origin stuff and get right to a fun superhero story, that would usually feature the hero doubting their abilities or desire to still be  a hero, before finally getting it together and coming back for a heroic climax. Then the trilogies usually end out with overwrought messes that try to do too much, adding multiple villains or love interests, which muddle the plot while doing everything it can to make a bigger story than any of the previous, instead of just making another good story. It’s a tried and true formula, which really has dictated the genre for years. But the last couple years at the Marvel universe have been showing something a little new. Instead of relying on the standard superhero structure, the most recent movies have been more looking at how superheroes would function in different genres. I’ve talked about this before, but its like how Cap 2 was basically a political thriller with Captain America, Ant-Man was a heist movie with Ant-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy was a crazy space-opera with superheroes. And Jessica Jones has given us our first real superhero/noir story, which is pretty great. But it’s not the noir thing that really has me loving this series, which I completely do, I don’t think I actually said that yet. No, the thing that really got me excited from Jessica Jones was that this was the first truly successful attempt at making a superhero story that served as an allegory for a serious social issue.

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Now, I will say that the X-Men movies have always tried to have the mutants serve as allegories for pretty much any minority, but so far I don’t think any of the movie have ever really nailed that. They’ve come close, but I think there’s just an inherent problem with that idea, because like I said, they’re usually allegories for minorities, not any specific one, so the message always just comes across kind of muddled. But Jessica Jones went with a very straight forward metaphor, that is pretty much explicitly explained in the later episodes, but it really works. And that allegory? Rape. Yikes. Not something that should be handled lightly, obviously, and this show knocks it out of the park with style and finesse. Now, the plot of this show is pretty similar to the one that was used as Jessica’s backstory in the Alias comic, but it certainly enhances on an already solid idea. It follows Jessica Jones (played by the truly fantastic Krysten Ritter), a bitter alcoholic Private Eye (are there any other kind?) who is trying to keep steady employment in New York, while not exactly flaunting the fact that she has abilities. She has super strength, heals faster than normal people, and can make incredible leaps. Are those all her powers? We don’t know, because she doesn’t know. It kind of makes sense, it’s not like you would just know that you had different powers, and as she and Luke Cage discuss later in the series, it’s not like you want to see if you’re bulletproof by shooting yourself. Jessica’s life is pretty rough. Her parents  and brother died when she was young, in the same accident that gave her her powers, and she went to live with the woman who would become her best friend, Patsy Walker (Hellcat in the comics) whose abusive mother has made her some sort of Hannah Montana child star. Which would be enough to give a woman some emotional problems when she got older, but that only scratches the surface of what makes Jessica so damaged.

At some point in the past of the show, Patsy encouraged Jessica to go be a superhero, so she actually went out and started using her abilities to help New York. Unfortunately, seemingly right away, she encounters a man who calls himself Kilgrave (and not Purple Man, which is kind of a bummer), played by the wonderful David Tennant, who has the ability to make people do whatever he says. He picks Jessica up, and essentially makes her his slave for months. He controls her every hour of ever day, forcing her to do what he wants while using his ability to make her think that it’s what she wants to do. It’s a naturally invasive, violating ability that really easily can be seen as a rape. Because it literally is! Kilgrave rapes people. Constantly! And the thing that makes him so terrifying as a character, even more than he does in the comics, is the fact that he doesn’t even realize he’s doing something wrong. They give Kilgrave a different backstory in the show than his traditional one (the old Stan Lee standard of random dude gets chemicals on him, gets powers and gets evil) and they made him so much creepier. He was experimented on as a child, got these powers before he ever learned the different between right and wrong, and then never had to learn that lesson. He can make anyone in the world do whatever he wants, with no consequences, which obviously turns him into a monster. He casually asks people to commit suicide, not even out of malice, more out of a sense that he just doesn’t know what else to do with people after he’s tormented them. He’s like a little kid killing ants. And here he is, the douchey date-rapist supervillain that is going around ruining peoples lives by molesting their minds and bodies, not even realizing that he’s doing something wrong. I’ve always thought that Purple Man was a terrifying villain, who usually didn’t get used to his full potential, but one that could be incredibly frighting in the right hands. And man did this show find the right hands, because he was easily the most terrifying villain in the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe so far.

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And while it was incredible to see a television show tackle such a horrible and real thing like rape, and handle it wonderfully, it was even more so to see it handled by a superhero show. And it was done wonderfully. And one of he most shocking things about the show is that it’s also incredibly enjoyable. It’s tense, extremely well made, funny, action-packed, and just all around great. It somehow still feels like a Marvel story, while being about rape instead of mean robots. They somehow made a season of television that featured a woman with super-strength, a man with unbreakable skin, a guy who can control minds and wears purple suits, and a guy who gets super-adrenaline powers by popping pills, made it about rape, and didn’t make it offensive. It was handled wonderfully. But rape isn’t the only theme that this show featured. Yeah, rape was a pretty big through-line for the show, but I think at it’s heart Jessica Jones is about trauma, and how people deal with trauma. Which, just like rape, is a pretty heavy topic to handle with superheroes.

Every major character has had a horrible trauma, either in the show or before it, and we get to see all the different ways that they respond to it. Jessica is the most visible character, and her trauma is her whole back story. And how does she deal with her trauma? Lots and lots of drinking, cutting ties with all her friends, and desperately trying to prove that her life is still worth something, if not to her to the people around her. She starts off not dealing with her trauma, and living as a horrible drunken wreck, before realizing that the best way to get through her trauma is to save people from Kilgrave, to become the hero that she was always too scared to actually be. It’s a pretty great arc for a really great character, but she’s not the only character to deal with some terrible problem in their past. Kilgrave’s powers came from terrible abuse from his scientist parents, and instead of ever getting over his trauma, he just became a monster. He never takes any responsibility for his actions, and lives his entire life doing whatever he pleases, not fearing any consequences. And that’s certainly one way to live after a problem, not the right way, but a way. We then have Luke Cage (played by Mike Colter in a way that makes me so extremely excited for his own series next year) who lost his wife (when Jessica killed her because of Kilgrave’s orders) a while back, and is dealing with that by basically removing himself from society. Luke escapes to his bar, ignoring the world beyond him, while occasionally trying to better the neighborhood with his abilities. By the end Luke realizes that he can be a better man, and that he needs to actually live his life. Then we have Patsy Walker, a woman who was extremely abused by her psychotic mother throughout her childhood, and she basically becomes paranoid to a crazy degree. She has built a fortress of an apartment with security rooms and reinforced doors, while spending all her spare time learning self defense. She’s been abused, and hasn’t learned how to handle herself, and deal with her life. She retreats into a scare mindframe while becoming suspicious of everyone around her, while being incredibly jealous of Jessica for her abilities to keep herself safe. By the end of the show she’s shown herself and Jessica that she has not only the physical ability, but the emotional ability to take care of herself and Jessica. It’s another great arc. And while there’s a lot of other minor characters who also deal with trauma, like Jessica’s junkie neighbor Malcolm, the last one I want to talk about is Officer Will Simpson. I didn’t realize going in that Simpson was going to be a real character on the show, and that he was a stealth cameo from a ridiculous Frank Miller character  Nuke. He’s an ex-Special Forces soldier who had been involved in a crazy experiment to create super soldiers with pills, and who is now a cop. Kilgrave takes control of his mind and uses him as a weapon to kill Patsy early in the series. Now, I would have imagined that this character would have been gone shortly after that, but he ends up sticking around after that, completely ashamed of himself for being taken advantage of, and desperately wishing that he could save Patsy. And as the show goes on, Simpson gets so obsessed with keeping Patsy safe and punishing Kilgrave that he goes back to the program and turns himself into a monster in order to feel safe again. It’s incredibly tragic. This show portrayed a bunch of different types of trauma, and showed that there’s lots of different ways to deal with your problems, both positive and negative. And to me, that’s an incredible things. I love superheroes, but by and large, they don’t often get used to tackle such an important topic. People love superheroes, and it’s great to see that people are now using them to teach people about serious social issues. It’s a way to get a dialogue going about something that can be very awkward to talk about, and I love that it worked out so well. Superheroes are a wonderful medium, and it’s so exciting to see the potential of using these movies and shows to create engaging stories about serious issues. The superhero genre is growing up guys.

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Jessica Jones was created by Melissa Rosenberg and was released by Marvel Television, 2015

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S05 E07 – Bart’s Inner Child

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Well, I found an episode that certainly aged better than I remember it. When I was growing up this was definitely an episode like “Whacking Day,” that I would just kind of skip over, but this go-around I was surprised to see that it was actually really fun.

 

It starts right off with Bart making faces at Lisa because they’re the most realistic siblings of all time, and when Marge tries to get Homer to scold Bart she sees he’s too busy making faces at Santa’s Little Helper and Snowball II. Now, I have to say, making faces at your pets or calling them goofy insulting names is a lot of fun, because more often than not they just look at you like you’re an idiot, which you are. Anyway, once Homer’s done mocking his pets he starts looking through the newspaper in some weird classified section that only has free stuff. And after briefly getting excited about soiled mattresses, he sees an ad for a free trampoline and loses his goddamn mind. He races off to get it, and it turns out it’s at Krusty’s house, which has a doorbell that squirts water at you. Krusty is giving up the trampoline because he’s adding more dirty limericks to his act, “there once was a man named Ennis.” Krusty acts kind of suspicious about the trampoline, like it might be haunted, and just sends Homer off with it. And everybody but Marge loves it! Homer, Bart, and Lisa bounce on the trampoline with glee while Homer gets a plan to start charging neighborhood kids to bounce on it, with the ultimate goal of creating a horrible amusement park in the backyard, featuring the trampoline, a mud pit, and a fort made of soiled mattresses. And man do I love the interaction in his mind when Milhouse comes out of the fort as says “it smells funny in there,” to which Homer just quickly responds with “no it doesn’t.”

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Business is booming at Homer’s weird trampoline scam with pretty much every kid, and Otto, in town showing up to play on it. But things start to turn pretty quickly when everyone starts injuring themselves, to the point that they give a crazy Gone With the Wind moment where they pan over a whole battlefield full of injured children. This convinces Homer that the whole trampoline thing isn’t a good idea, so he tries to get rid of it by giving it back to Krusty, but Krusty is apparently aware of its injury causing curse, and he threatens Homer with a shotgun to keep it. So Homer decides to throw the trampoline off a cliff, since this is a cartoon after all. Unfortunately the trampoline ends up bouncing back up from the bottom of the cliff, and smashes into Homer, pushing him through a rock like Wille E. Coyote. And after being stuck in the cliff all night before finally falling down it, Homer goes a little crazy and tries attacking it was a power saw. This doesn’t work either, and Bart finally helps out by showing him that if he locks the trampoline up with a bike-lock, Snake will show up and steal it. Problem solved.

 

But the real plot of the episode gets going later that night when Marge is mad at Homer for always making horrible decisions. They argue, and Marge realizes that the family doesn’t think she’s fun. So, mad, Marge leaves the house and goes to spend time with Patty and Selma, who tell Marge about this motivational speaker they’re obsessed with, Brad Goodman. They show her his infomercial, where he talks about all the emotional problems that can affect people on the Feel-Bad Rainbow, including the amazing Geriatric Profanity Disorder. So Marge decides this guy has some answers and ends up ordering his video to watch with Homer. He’s initially resistant, but they end up watching the video and both getting into it. And man is the video great. Troy McClure hosts it, of course, and lets us know that he previously hosted a self-help video called “Get Confident Stupid.” Then there’s Brad Goodman, a crazy Albert Brooks character who actually has no answers, or credentials, who just tells people platitudes and what they want to hear. But Marge and Homer are suckers for it, and start speaking in his stupid buzzwords. But it does seem to help, so I guess that’s okay. They then find out that Brad Goodman is coming to town for a lecture, and decide to get tickets to see if he can fix Bart.

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They get to the lecture, and his whole deal is telling people to listen to their inner child, which leads to some great gags. We see Ned, Homer, and Moe talk to their inner children, who live in their stomachs and it’s wonderful. Little Ned says everything is going swell, Little Homer just tells him that food goes in his stomach, and Little Moe says the hilarious line of “Hey Moe whatsamatta, you no talka with yo accent no mo’.” Wonderful. After that we see a wonderful scene where Goodman calls Principal Skinner up to unleash his true feelings on a dummy of his mother, which ends with him verbally and physically assaulting the dummy before having to awkwardly go sit back with Agnes. But then Bart starts to make a scene in the lecture, and Goodman calls him up to the stage. Turns out Bart is the perfect manifestation of Goodman’s whole Inner Child thing, and he encourages everyone to act more like Bart. He gets Marge and Homer to come up and tells the town that they should be more like little Rutiger (what a weird fake name Bart made) and tells everyone to just do what they want, and also to buy all his crap, which they do.

 

The town then starts to devolve into madness as they all start doing what they feel like. We see Reverend Lovejoy try to play “the Entertainer” from the Sting on the organ, but that was really the only thing before we check in on Bart. Turns out all the other kids in class, even Martin, have started to blurt out jokes and heckle Mrs. Krabappel, because they all want to do what they feel like. Bart starts to feel weird, since everyone is acting like him. He starts to get depressed, since people have stolen his identity, and he’s no longer a rebel, to which Lisa tells him to make a new identity for himself. Which doesn’t happen, but whatever. What does end up happening is that the town decides to have a “Do What You Feel Like” festival, and the plot ends up heading there.

 

We see the town preparing for the festival, including Willie loudly proclaiming how he’d kill everyone if he was elected mayor. And right from the beginning this festival is a shit-show. We see Smithers think about proclaiming his love to Mr. Burns before deciding that he should have done it at the “boat house.” They then get some entertainment when James Brown shows up to sing to the crowd, but while he’s performing the bandstand behind him collapses, because some dude didn’t bolt it together right. We then see that Willie didn’t oil the Ferris Wheel right either, which causes it to go rolling around town before smashing into the zoo, which releases all the animals into the angry and confused town. And then, since this is Springfield, a riot starts and everyone starts beating each other up. But then logic take over and they realize they shouldn’t beat each other up, they should beat Bart up, since he caused this whole fiasco. Bart runs off, and ends up trying to get away with Homer in a float, which doesn’t really work since it goes 5 miles an hour and blows all the flowers off, revealing them. But the town stops caring and heads off to get cider, keeping Bart alive. The family then heads home, content that Bart won’t be murdered and that the town will stop doing what they want while they argue about what the moral will be, even though this gag has already been made a couple episodes this season. They then decide they don’t care about the moral and decide to watch a show about a cop who solves crimes in his spare time, which is an incredibly solid joke.

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This episode was a lot more fun than I remember. Seeing Bart’ identity crisis was a lot of fun, and seeing what the town wants to do with no constraints is wonderful. There are some solid gags with what the town wants to do, and it’s just a super fun episode. And I’ve got to say, even though they’ve already used it a couple times, I love the joke of the family struggling to come up with a moral for the episode, like they know they’re in a TV show. So great.

 

Take Away: Listen to your inner child, and do things that you want…within reason.

 

“Bart’s Inner Child” was written by George Meyer and directed by Bob Anderson, 1993.

 

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S05 E06 – Marge on the Lam

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Yay, a really funny and great Marge episode! And one where the basic premise doesn’t completely revolve around the family being completely terrible. Yeah, Homer doesn’t come off great in the episode, but it’s not one that just hammers in how shitty of a husband he is.

 

We start off with the family watching a PBS telethon, because they know how to have a good time. There’s some Garrison Keillor-looking dude reading dull things, trying to entice people to donate, much to the family’s chagrin. After blaming the TV for not being funny we see Troy McClure tap Keillor out and actually put some life in the telethon by talking about his previous telethon credits, “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House,” being the best. Homer starts mocking the concept of a telethon for public broadcast, which begs the question of why he was even watching the telethon in the first place if he hates it so much. But while he’s mocking PBS he sees that Marge is donating some money and he gets very mad. She defends her choice to donate to PBS by telling him they gave her two tickets to the ballet, which Homer is shockingly excited for, mainly because he doesn’t understand what the ballet is. And this is one of my favorite Homer moments of all time, because Homer thinks that the ballet is a little bear wearing a fez driving a little car in circles while he cheers and sings the circus song. And I think the best part of this ridiculous idea is the fact that the crowd in his fantasy is sparsely attended, because even though he thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world, no one else likes it.

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But while Homer enjoys his mental picture of a ballet, the actual plot of the episode gets going when Ruth Powers stops by to borrow a power sander, since she still exists. Marge lends her the sander and then Lisa crushes Homer’s dreams by teaching him what ballet actually is. We then head over to the Nuclear Plant, the day of the ballet, while Homer is complaining that he has to go watch people prance around for three hours, and as he’s leaving he comes across a machine selling new Crystal Buzz Cola, and he knows he has to get some. But he doesn’t want to pay for it, so he just crams his hand up the machine to try and steal one, and ends up getting stuck, causing Lenny and Carl to run away in fear. And without his pal’s help he starts dragging the machine around, trying to get some aid, but he instead runs into a candy machine and ends up getting caught in two machines now. He gives Marge a call to let her know he’s trapped in vending machines, and she’s initially crushed, before realizing she can take Ruth to the ballet for some girl-time when she returns the sander.

 

So Ruth and Marge head off to the ballet, which is taking place in a high school gym. Man is the ballet uninteresting. I really like going to see live entertainment, musicals, play, opera, and the symphony, anything like that. And the ballet is the dullest thing I’ve ever sat through. But this one at least looks a little fun since it ends with the ballerina slam-dunking on the basketball hoop. Meanwhile back at the Plant the firemen are there to cut Homer’s arms off, but he’s pretty cool with it since he thinks they’ll grow back. Luckily though, it turns out the only reason Homer is stuck is because he’s just holding onto the stuff he’s trying to steal, so once he lets go he heads home in shame. And after Marge comes home from drinking coffee with Ruth, Homer gets all defensive and shows her the note the firemen wrote him to tell Marge his situation was real. But shockingly, Marge isn’t that mad at him, because she actually had a great time with Ruth, and is going to go out with her again the next night, which makes Homer despondent because he apparently doesn’t want her to have friends.

 

The next night comes around and Marge heads out to spend time with Ruth, and is shocked to see her in a muscle car, wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket. Turns out Ruth wants to have a wild night, which she shows by turning on a cassette that starts playing “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows” before realizing that that’s the wrong song and switches it over to “Welcome to the Jungle.” The two then speed off for their insane night. When Marge leaves though, Homer starts to get super jealous, and starts trying to figure out who he could spend time with. He calls some of his friends, and it doesn’t go well. Lenny is busy shaving some lady’s legs (wife? Mom?), Burns is free to hang out but is busy acting like a teenage girl in the 50’s, and he just hangs up the second Flanders answers his phone. He then decides to go out by himself, and decides he needs a babysitter since he has a handy card in his pocket that says “Always do the opposite of what Bart says.” And just in the nick of time Lionel Hutz shows up, since he was digging through their trash, and offers to babysit the kids.

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Meanwhile, Marge and Ruth are at a country bar called Shotkickers where people are fighting and Willie is confused why his chair is a mechanical bull. And after that they head to a rave where they run into Mayor Quimby and Otto. Then they head up to the Springfield sign and just take in the sights. But while that’s happening Homer is having a horrible night. Everyone at Moe’s treats him like crap, he gets kicked out of a Kwik-E-Mart for reading a magazine, and gets kicked out of a library for eating. We then pop over to see that while he’s babysitting, Lionel Hutz is burning all of his papers in their fireplace while claiming that he’s getting rid of the Lionel Hutz identity and becoming Miguel Sanchez. Marge and Ruth leave the sign to have some more adventures, and just narrowly miss Homer, who also comes to look at the view. But Homer ends up getting a buddy at the sign when he runs into Chief Wiggum, who is making moonshine by the sign. He offers to drive Homer home, and the plot starts to get nuts.

 

Wiggum is about to pull over Ruth because he thinks that one of her tail-lights is too small, and Ruth doesn’t pull over because it turns out the car is her ex-husbands, and she stole it, so they get into a late-night high-speed chase. And man do I laugh hard at the callback of having Wiggum’s chase music be “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows.” Anyway, while they’re chasing Homer realizes that Marge is in the car, and starts to get worried about her safety. Marge is also worrying, but Ruth gets away by turning off her light, causing Wiggum and Homer to assume that it was a ghost car. So Marge and Ruth get away, and end up at a diner in the early morning where Marge is going to leave her, since she’s too scared to be involved in the theft. Unfortunately the diner is full of women telling each other that they’ll stick together, even having the wonderful line from the cook when he says “stickin’ together is what good waffles do.” So Marge get back with Ruth while all the other clientele flee when Kearney comes by with a police siren.

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Turns out Wiggum and Homer were hanging out all night, and are trying to cook eggs on the cop car’s engine, when Ruth and Marge shoot past again and the chase begins anew. I love that Wiggum, ever the wonderful lawman gives his location by saying “I’m directly under the Earth’s sun….now!” We briefly pop back to the house, where Hutz has watched the kids all night, and they learn that Marge is involved in a high-speed chase while Kent Brockman starts having a breakdown about women disobeying and it being a sign of the end-times. “It’s in Revelations people!” But back in the car, Ruth is going to give up since every cop in the state is following them now, but Marge wants them to keep fighting and gets them to swerve into the desert, not knowing that they’re heading for a chasm. Homer then gets out a blowhorn and starts trying to talk down Marge while apologizing for the whole marriage. But in the middle of his apology he mentions the chasm, and they quickly pump the breaks, narrowly avoiding flying off. Wiggum and Homer aren’t as lucky though, and end up going over, only to be saved by the landfill that’s in the chasm now. The episode then ends with a goofy Dragnet parody where we see what everyone in the episode’s crimes and punishment were.

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This was a fun episode, especially for a Marge one. I feel like even though they’re often good, Marge episodes are usually a bummer. They’re usually so dour and about how badly the family treats her, but this one is a blast. Her and Ruth’s relationship is fun, and it’s great seeing Marge let her hair down and get in touch with her wild side. Plus the whole subplot with Homer and Wiggum is a blast, because those two are great together. It’s just a great episode all around.

 

Take Away: Ballets are boring, don’t be a crappy husband, and let your spouse have friends.

 

“Marge on the Lam” was written by Bill Canterbury and directed by Mark Kirkland, 1993.

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S05 E05 – Treehouse of Horror IV

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Treehouse of Horror time y’all! And it’s an amazing one. These recaps are always super long, so let’s just dive right in.

 

The episode starts right off without anyone warning us not to watch this year, and gets right to the graveyard sequence. I think the best this time is “Subtle Political Satire,” because that sure is true. Then after the zombie couch gag we get to the frame story of the episode, which has Bart walking around a museum like Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. He starts to walk by parodies of famous paintings with Simpsons characters put in while we learn that this year all the stories will come from painting. And then Marge and Maggie pop in to give us a sneaky warning not to watch the episode. They squeezed it in! But while Bart is holding Maggie he introduces us to the first story by showing a painting of the Devil.

 

The Devil and Homer Simpson

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The first story is a parody of the film the Devil and Daniel Webster, and it’s probably the most iconic of the three. It starts off with Homer dreaming about being in a fashion show for weird donut ladies, before he wakes up to actually eat one. Unfortunately the donut box is empty, so he runs back to his workstation to find the secret emergency donut he keeps in a hollowed out instruction manual, but it looks like he already had that idea and left a note for himself saying that he owes himself a donut, leading to the amazing Homer line of “Bastard! He’s always one step ahead of me!” Homer then makes the fatal mistake of saying that he would sell his soul for a donut, which leads Satan to show up and collect on that statement. And shocker, the Devil looks like Ned Flanders, because it’s always the person you least suspect. And man did I laugh hard at Burns watching this go down on the monitor and tell Smithers “Who is that goat-legged fellow? I like the cut of his jib.” So the Devil gives Homer a donut, and in a moment that’s a bit out of character, Homer outsmarts him by realizing that if he doesn’t finish the donut he doesn’t have to give up his soul. But Homer’s moment of intelligence is short lived, and that night he wakes up to eat his soul donut, causing the Devil to show back up and send Homer to Hell.

But before he’s taken away, the rest of the family shows up and Lisa says that he’s owed a trial. The Devil submits and decides that there will be a trial the next day, but Homer has to spend the day in Hell. We then briefly see what Hell is like as Homer gets cut up on a conveyer belt and turned into hot dog meat, and then see him get stuffed with all the donuts in the world in the ironic punishment department. But then the day is over and it’s time for the trial! Of course they hire Lionel Hutz, because they just can’t learn that lesson and he gets off to a terrible start by letting the Devil pick the jury. And man does he pick a crazy one. It consists of Benedict Arnold, Lizzy Borden, Richard Nixon (who was still alive at the time), John Wilkes Booth, Blackbeard the pirate, John Dilinger, and most baffling the starting line of the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers. Marge gets everyone chairs (“This chair be high, says I) and the trial gets started. Hutz gives up very quickly, leaving Homer without representation, and he loses the case pretty fast. But right as the Grim Reaper is about to sentence him to Hell Marge shows up with a photo album. Turns out Homer gave his soul to Marge when they got married, so it’s legal property of her, not the Devil. So the Simpsons win! But because you never get one over on the Devil, he gives Homer a parting gift of turning his head into a giant donut, which he starts to eat, since he’s just so sweet and tasty.

Terror at 5 ½ Feet

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The next story is introduced with a painting of a school bus, and is a parody of the wonderful Twilight Zone episode “Terror at 20,000 Feet.” It also starts off with a dream, where Bart is hanging out with Milhouse on the school bus as they look at Krusty’s lackluster trading cards. But then the bus crashes and everyone dies. Thankfully it’s a just a dream though, and everyone’s okay. Bart then goes downstairs, shaken by the dream, and then has to get right on the real school bus. Principal Skinner is on the bus with them, since apparently Agnes is punishing him for talking to a woman on the phone, which holy shit, that’s scarier than anything in the episode. The bus then gets going, and Bart quickly realizes that there is a small Gremlin crawling around the outside of the bus, dismantling it. Bart runs up to Otto to warn him of the Gremlin on the side of the bus, which causes Otto to ram Hans Moleman’s AMC Gremlin off the road, which gingerly touches a tree and explodes. Bart quickly goes crazy and starts demanding that everyone look at the Gremlin, while no one else seems to see it. We then get our obligatory Kang and Kodos cameo, who are apparently just watching Bart’s pain while mocking him, before realizing their space ship has a Gremlin as well. But back on Earth, Bart has really started to go crazy as the Gremlin begins taking off the wheel, which leads to him being tied up with Uter the German exchange student. Bart befriends Uter by eating his crazy iodine candy, and gets him to untie him so that he can continue attacking the Gremlin. Once untied, he grabs some flares that Jimbo has stuffed in Martin’s pants, and opens the bus window, which depressurizes the bus. He waves the flare at the Gremlin, causing it to fall off the bus, saving everyone. We then see Ned Flanders pull over and save the Gremlin, as it tries to claw his eyes out. But as the school bus finally gets to school and Bart is carted off to a “madhouse” they realize that the bus is destroyed, and the Gremlin was real. The episode then ends with the wonderful joke of Bart all tied up in the back of an ambulance before seeing the Gremlin pop up and show Bart Flanders’ severed head.

Bart Simpsons’ Dracula

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The last story at first begins by Bart showing up the painting of dogs playing poker, before explaining that the story they wrote about that painting was too horrifying to show, so they just threw something together with vampires, and the last segment begins. It’s just a Dracula story, but one that specifically borrows from the version Francis Ford Coppola directed, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It starts off with the family watching Kent Brockman report about a blood-drained peasant that was found with a black cape monogrammed Dracula, and how they’re completely baffled. We then see that Wiggum thinks it’s a mummy, while having his men destroy the Egyptology section of the museum. Lisa announces it’s obviously a vampire, but Homer mocks her by saying that vampires are fake like elves, gremlins, and Eskimos. We then learn that Mr. Burns has recently bought the Springfield Blood Bank, and has invited the family to a midnight dinner at his new castle in Pennsylvania! Which has always made me laugh, and has forever ruined my mind from taking that state’s name seriously. So they get to his crazy castle, and see that Burns is rocking the ridiculous Dracula costume Gary Oldman wore in that movie with the red capes and man-bun, and that Smithers is of course Renfield. And man is it great the Burns’ shadow plays with a yo-yo while he talks to them. So the Simpsons get ready for dinner and are served blood to drink, I’m sorry, free blood. Lisa freaks out and makes an excuse for her and Bart to sneak off and find evidence that Burns is a vampire. They start looking for his secret room, and accidently pull down a torch sconce, while reveals a hidden laundry room behind a brick wall, which is amazing to me. One of my ridiculous dreams has always been to have a room that’s hidden by a bookcase door in my house, even if that hidden room is something mundane like a bathroom, and this gag may be the impetus of that stupid dream. But anyway, right after the kids find the laundry room they come across a neon sign labeling the “Secret Vampire Room.” So they go down the steps and find a room full of coffins and a pedestal with a book called “Yes I am a Vampire,” written by Mr. Burns, with a forward by Steve Allen. But right then the coffins open and the vampires inside attack, causing the kids to run back up the stairs. Unfortunately when Bart gets to the top he finds a lever with a sign that says “Super Fun Happy Slide,” which he pull, causing him to slide back to the vampires just in time to get bitten by Burns. So Bart’s a vampire now, and he starts trying to get Lisa to turn as well, since he made most of the kids in the neighborhood vampires too. But as he tries to bite Lisa Homer, Marge, and Grandpa come in while Grandpa announces they need to kill Bart, without realizing he’s a vampire. Bart gets away and Lisa decides they need to kill the head vampire. So Lisa, Homer, Marge, and Maggie head back to Burns’ castle to kill him, and get down to the crypt pretty easily. Homer then stakes Burns in the crotch before correcting to the heart, killing the vampire. The family then come back home to have breakfast, while Lisa thinks they’re over the ordeal. But then it turns out everyone else is still a vampire, because Burns wasn’t the alpha, it was actually Marge. The episode then ends in one of the most baffling ending ever as the vampire family lunge at Lisa before breaking into the Peanuts Christmas song while snowflakes fall and Milhouse plays a tiny piano. It’s so weird and wonderful.

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This is such an amazing episode. It’s still not my favorite Treehouse of Horror, that’ll be next time, but this is probably second. It’s so wonderful. All three stories are great and are just firing on all cylinders. They’re all three wonderful parodies of great stories, and work perfectly as Treehouse of Horror segments. We get a lot of great character moments and some really classic jokes. It’s just A+ work all around.

Take Away: The Devil cheats, don’t drive AMC Gremlins, and never turn down free blood.

“Treehouse of Horror IV” was written by  Conan O’Brien, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Greg Daniels, Dan McGrath, and Bill Canterbury, and directed by David Silverman, 1993.

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