Lifetime of Simpsons

S04 E11 – Homer’s Triple Bypass

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Well here’s a depressing episode. I haven’t seen a lot of these older ones in quite a while, and this one in particular I don’t think I’ve seen since high school, because the fear of losing a parent definitely wouldn’t have resonated with me the same way as a kid as it did this viewing since my family has gone through my mom’s fight with breast cancer. And watching this episode through that lens is pretty intense.

The episode starts off with Homer watching an episode of COPs, but set in Springfield. I never got into COPS, it didn’t seem like a fun show to watch, just crazy hillbillies, but man is this gag funny. It’s primarily seeing Chief Wiggum and the rest of Springfield’s finest being incompetent, and then a random shot of them fighting a mummy. It also features an amazing scene of Wiggum trying to catch Snake from cattle-rustling, and then calling in a ridiculous APB, “suspect is driving a car of some sort, heading in the direction of that place that sells chili. Suspect is hatless, I repeat, hatless.” So good. We pan out of the episode to see Homer is watching TV while eating a lot of food in bed, and right off the bat we see Homer start to feel some heart pains, but he ignores it and keeps eating a giant turkey leg like he’s in Disneyland.

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The next morning Homer wakes up and Marge tells him she has a special surprise for him, which he assumes is a whole roasted pig, but is actually oatmeal because Marge is worried about his health. Unfortunately Homer claims there’s a bug in the oatmeal, and just tosses it and eats eggs and bacon. His heart trouble continues as he tries driving to work and gets stuck behind Hans Moleman who is driving a truck with the birthplace of Edgar Allen Poe, which is such a weird joke. But it’s always great to see Moleman being left in charge of things that he shouldn’t be, and I don’t know why it always makes me laugh seeing Moleman’s various vehicles get rammed off the road and explode. And while Homer is callously murdering Moleman, he starts to hear a weird thumping sound in the car, and heads to a mechanic. But it turns out that the thumping isn’t his car, it’s his heart, which doesn’t really bother Homer. Homer finally gets to work and gets busy eating donuts, much to the fury of Mr. Burns, who is just watching him eat on his monitor. Apparently Burns wanted random donuts filled with poison, but the lawyers shot that down, so he’s taking out his fury by randomly firing Homer. Homer is brought into the office and Mr. Burns starts screwing with him by alternating yelling and calming him down, all while we see Homer’s heart freaking out in a picture-in-picture screen, finally leading him to have a heart attack when Burns officially fires him. I love that Burns doesn’t care about Homer’s corpse, and simply tells Smithers to “send a ham to his widow.” But that promise of ham is enough to bring Homer back to life, and is then rushed to the hospital.

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Homer has his life flash before his eyes, and it’s basically just a montage of Homer making Abe mad, which is pretty funny. We see baby Homer eating a pizza in the hospital, and a scene of Homer being a gifted castrati vocalist in a church, until his voice changes and it switches to Dan Castellenetta’s voice. Homer wakes up and Dr. Hibbert starts taking care of him, and man is Dr. Hibbert great in this episode. He starts off by telling Homer that the heart attack has made him weak as a kitten, and starts picking on him, giving him noogies and tickling him, while Homer lamely whines “remember your hippopotamus oath.” Hibbert then lets him know that they can’t fix his heart, but they can tell him how damaged it is, because American healthcare rocks. They do a bunch of tests of Homer, and end up deciding that he needs a coronary bypass surgery, or as Dr. Hibbert explains it “they’re going to cut you open and tinker with you ticker,” which will cost the family $30,000 which causes him to have another heart attack, raising the cost to $40,000.

Homer and Marge sit up in bed, going over their finances trying to figure out how to afford the surgery. Apparently Homer doesn’t health insurance at the Plant, because they traded that away for a pinball machine in the break room, because priorities are something you’re going to have to deal with as an adult. Homer then tries to get his own policy, unfortunately right before he’s able to sign it he has another heart attack, which is a red flag for the underwriter, and he doesn’t get coverage. He then tries to go the religious route, and asks Reverend Lovejoy, Rabbi Krustofski, and some Hindu guru for the money, but that doesn’t work either. But luckily for Homer he sees a well-timed commercial for Dr. Nick’s discount surgery, where he promises to do any surgery for only $129.99. And in case you aren’t convinced on how legit he is, he ends the commercial with “You tried the best, now try the rest. Call my number, 1-800-DOCTORB, the B is for bargain!” Dr. Nick is the best.

But at that time the kids finally have to be told, since they notice Marge and Homer talking about Dr. Nick, and Homer has to explain the surgery to the kids, with finger puppets. The aorta faries take princess left ventricle to marry a leg vein, oh Homer. The kids are obviously worried, because holy crap is it terrifying knowing your parent is going through some bad medical problems, and Lisa starts researching the procedure, trying to learn about it to make herself feel better. Homer then heads to the hospital to get Dr. Nick working on him, while he enjoys the bed being able to move. “Bed goes up, bed goes down.” Unluckily for Homer, he’s sharing a room with Ned Flanders, who is just donating a kidney and lung, for the hell of it apparently, which just pisses Homer off. Homer starts to get worried about the procedure, and even prays. The day of the surgery he gets some visits from people, like Krusty whose there to talk about going through the bypass since he did too, Grandpa who makes fun of him for dying before he does, and Barney and Moe who sneak him in beer. Barney also misunderstood something, and thought that Homer was getting a sex change.

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Things aren’t looking good for Homer though, because we see Dr. Nick learning how to do the procedure at the library by watching a video explaining it. Unfortunately someone taped over the video with some crazy TV special about “People Who Look Like Things,” including a man who looks like a jack-o-lantern and a guy who looks like a cash register. Which isn’t going to be very educational for Dr. Nick. We then get a really sad scene of Homer preparing his family for the possibility that he might not make it. He talks with Marge, telling her he loves her, and telling her that if he dies he wants to be stuffed and kept on the couch as a constant reminder of their marital vows, which I would love to have slipped into my vows. He then tries to talk to the kids, and has problems coming up with what to say, and ends up getting Lisa to tell him what to say to Bart, and Bart telling him what to say to Lisa. It’s incredibly adorable and sweet, and brought me pretty close to choking up. The surgery then starts, and Lisa watches from the observation deck, which TV has taught me all surgeries have. And it’s a good thing she’s there, because Dr. Nick quickly has no idea what to do, and Lisa is able to walk him through the surgery since she’s been researching it for days now. Then with Lisa’s help, the surgery goes off without a hitch, and Homer’s fine! And things remain to the status quo.

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This is a really weird episode. It had a great emotional core at it, but I feel like it either needed to drop some of the wackiness and make it a more series episode, or amp up the silliness, because it just became pretty depressing at the end. But it’s still really great. And man is it a different experience now that I’ve gone through a parent having a serious life-threatening medical problem. I know what it’s like from Bart and Lisa’s perspective, but I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be Homer in that position, trying to be brave for your kids and your wife. So depressing guys.

Take Away: Take care of your heart, because medical problems can really screw with your family. And don’t trust Dr. Nick.

“Homer’s Triple Bypass” was written by  Gary Apple and Michael Carrington and directed by David Silverman, 1992.

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