Lifetime of Simpsons

S04 E15 – I Love Lisa

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So, one of the main goals of this whole project was to reignite my love for this show. And man has that been accomplished. This show is so amazing! I either completely forgot, or never gave proper appreciation for just how great the show was at this point. It was just firing on all cylinders. Yeah, maybe some of these episodes haven’t held up perfectly for me, but it’s just astounding that I’ve reached a point where just about every episode I’m watching is a classic. And this one is no different.

I absolutely adore the fact that we start this Valentine’s day episode with KBBL playing “Monster Mash.” While Marty desperately tries to explain why he played it “It’s kind of a love song, monsters enjoying each others company, dancing, keeping their evil in check,” we see Bart carefully crafting some smart-ass candy hearts to pass around with sayings like “Bite Me.” Then he heads down for breakfast where Marge has made Homer a special love breakfast and refers to it as a special day. Homer starts panicking trying to remember what the day is, and takes a lucky guess of Valentines Day. Marge is happy he remembered, and Bart screws with him by asking about Marge’s present. So Homer sneaks out of the house (by falling out of a second floor window right in front of the family) and races off to the Kwik-E-Mart to get a present. Turns out Apu does have an ancient box of chocolates for Homer, but is gouging the price like crazy, which a desperate Homer accepts and buys.

But this isn’t an episode about Homer and Marge’s relationship, so we hop over to the Elementary School, specifically Lisa’s class where they’re getting ready to hand out Valentine’s day cards. This was such a weird tradition. Buying a bunch of store-bought generic Valentine’s Day cards, one for every single person in class, not just the people you like, and then going through the motions and passing them out so you end up with thirty-some cards that you probably aren’t going to look at. Anyway, enough of that rant. The kids start making little mailboxes for the cards and we learn that poor Ralph isn’t allowed to use scissors, and he also ate his red crayon. And while the kids are making fun of him we get a announcement from Principal Skinner about the candy hearts Bart made, and we see a crazy flashback of his of some kid in Vietnam getting machine gunned on a boat while making a Valentine Card, leading him to scream “Johnny!” over the intercom. I love that Bart’s reaction is “cool, I broke his brain.”

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But back in Lisa’s class the kids have passed out their cards, and Lisa notices that no one gave a single card to Ralph, and he starts crying. She feels pity for him, and quickly erases her name from one of the cards, and addresses it to Ralph. She then drops off the famous “I Choo-Choo-Choose You” card to Ralph, who is incredibly appreciative of it, and he pretty much immediately falls in love with her. After a disturbing scene where we see Lunch Lady Doris is serving the kids beef hearts for lunch, the kids leave and we see Ralph is waiting for Lisa outside school to walk her home. Ralph is incredibly awkward, clearly unsure how to talk to Lisa, and just keeps saying how much he loved the card. And man can I sum up any awkward interaction with a girl I’ve liked with Ralph’s line “So, do you like stuff?”

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After they get to the house Lisa runs off, creeped out by Ralph, and runs past Homer and Bart on the couch. Turns out there’s a 29th anniversary special for the Krusty the Klown show, and Bart is desperate to go. I love that they entice the kids to come by showing a clip of Krusty’s show where Sideshow Mel is drunk and cursing at Krusty. Lisa is talking with Marge, trying to get advice on how to break the news to Ralph that she doesn’t like him, and as usual Homer has wonderful advice, saying she should just say six little words, “I’m not gay, but I’ll learn.” Meanwhile Ralph is asking his dad for dating advice, and I’m super surprised that this is the first mention that Chief Wiggum is Ralph’s dad. It’s also wonderful that he’s giving Ralph advice on women while cracking walnuts with his pistol.
Ralph starts trying to woo Lisa by basically being everywhere she is…which is pretty much what Homer’s plan to woo Marge was. He shows up to talk to Lisa, but she gets Homer to answer the door and he wonderfully says “She’s in the can, go away.” But he doesn’t go away and Homer ends up using him to re-tar the roof, because Homer is a class act. We also see that Lisa’s class is starting auditions for the upcoming President’s Day pageant, and Chief Wiggum blackmails Ms. Hoover to get Ralph the lead in the pageant co-starring Lisa. Ralph then escalates things by dropping off a Malibu Stacy convertible at her door. But when Lisa gets the toy, she finds that there’s also a ticket to the Krusty anniversary show in the trunk. She feels guilty about going to the show with Ralph since she doesn’t like him, but Homer teaches her to not worry about her conscience.

So she ends up going and gets driven there by Chief Wiggum in his cop car while he tells them that he got the tickets from Krusty in a porno theater because Krusty thought it was a bust. Keep classy Chief Wiggum. Anyway, they get to the show, which has Bill and Hillary Clinton in the audience, and we’re treated to a montage of crazy old clips from Krusty’s past. We see him dump a bunch of snow on Robert Frost, him singing the Doors while high as shit in the 60’s, and his experience with a former sidekick called Sideshow Rahim, who seems to be a member of the black panthers. How old is Krusty? Obviously people’s ages in this show are pretty fluid, but Krusty must be super old. Then we get to the real famous scene where Krusty comes to talk to the audience, and decides to ask Ralph is Lisa is his girlfriend. Ralph proudly proclaims that he loves her and is going to marry Lisa someday, and she explodes, yelling that she doesn’t like him, and only gave him the card out of pity. Then we see Bart freeze-frame the tape of Ralph’s reaction to find the exact moment his heart rips in half.

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Ralph is then super depressed, and I kind of love that Wiggum gets all defensive and pulls Homer over to break his tail-light. Wiggum isn’t always portrayed as a very morally sound guy, but it’s super precious that he’s being unethical here because he’s upset his son’s heart has been broken. Anyway, the President’s Day pageant has begun, and oh boy is it great. We start right off with Principal Skinner and Willie discussing the economics of selling their orange drink, and I really love any time Principal Skinner and Willie hang out. The pageant starts and man do I enjoy Skinner’s welcoming statement, “welcome to a wonderful night of theater and picking up after yourself.” Oh man, I love Skinner. Then the pageant itself begins with the wonderful “Mediocre Presidents” song. Poor William Henry Harrison. While that’s going on Ralph shows up back stage, and Lisa is acting pretty awkward to him, but he just wants to ignore what’s happened between them and be a professional.

We see the fourth grade special where Milhouse plays Abraham Lincoln and Bart busts in as John Wilkes Booth with a Nerf machine gun. I laughed so hard at Homer yelling out “C’mon boy, finish him off,” while Bart is killing the fake President. Plus the wonderful scene of Bart shooting at the mediocre President’s and saying “you’re next Chester A Arthur.” But then the real show begins because the second graders are putting on a whole show about the life of George Washington. And man is it tragic that Ralph is looking at the Choo-Choo-Choose You card while trying to get in character, and throws it into the fireplace before beginning. And it turns out Ralph is an excellent actor, and really brings the audience to tears. And after the wonderful performance ends a giant Mount Rushmore statue comes down from the ceiling and Principal Skinner starts speaking through Teddy Roosevelt and thanks everyone for coming and recommends drinking Orange Drink. Then as the episode rolls the a close, Ralph walks away from his groupies who are fawning over his performance, and sits with Lisa on some swings. They end up putting their problems behind them, and Lisa gives him a new card, Let’s Bee Friends, and they agree to stay friends. The episode then ends with the tender sounds of “Monster Mash.”

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Man this episode is amazing. There’s so many great jokes in this episode, especially the “Monster Mash,” joke and Principal Skinner’s Vietnam flashback. But really the strength of the episode is it’s heart. Once again we have an amazing episode that didn’t need a B plot and instead allowed the whole episode to revolve around this wonderful story. It’s actually a pretty sad and wonderfully relatable story. I’m sure everyone can relate to the idea of liking someone who doesn’t like you, and the horrible pains that can cause. As much as I really liked the episode from a couple weeks ago, “New Kid on the Block,” I kind of feel this episode got it better. I think the thing that makes this episode work a little better is that this one doesn’t have the person with the unrequited love be the Simpson kid. We see the unrequited love from the side of the person who doesn’t like the other person. And we really see how incredibly awkward it is for poor Lisa, who doesn’t want to break Ralph’s heart because he mistook kindness for love. This episode is kind of prescient in the modern world where there’s these whiny “Men’s right activists” complaining about how girls aren’t giving them the attention they deserve, and that they’re bitches because they’re leading them on. Those people suck. Don’t be like them, be like Ralph, he moves on.

Take Away: You’re going to get you heart broken, but you just have to move on. Affection doesn’t equal attraction.

“I Love Lisa” was written by Frank Mula and directed by Wesley Archer, 1993.

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