Lifetime of Simpsons

S04 E17 – Last Exit to Springfield

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Union strikes! Dental Plans! Guys, this episode rocks. Man, we are really in the golden age of this show right now, and I feel like most of the articles for the next couple months are primarily going to be me just gushing about how wonderful the episode was, and kicking myself for letting my love of this show fall off.

We start right off the bat with some more wonderful McBain goodness. This time we see Mendoza hosting a party in honor of a new drug he’s created that’s super-addictive. Mendoza is a Senator right? Anyway, turns out McBain has crammed himself inside an ice sculpture and pops out with a machine gun and starts taking people down. He also says “Ice to meet you,” which is defiantly something that Mr. Freeze says in Batman and Robin in some weird parallel thinking. Then the wonderful McBain is taken down by a boobytrapped salmon puff. But as usual, McBain has nothing to do with anything, and we get to the real plot, where Mr. Burns is sitting in his office, getting ready to meet with a union rep to discuss the new benefits. Burns is really irritated with the whole union thing, even though the rep clearly has been killed and buried in a football field, and he longs for the days of yore when his grandfather ran the Plant. I love seeing crazy old Mr. Burns flashbacks, to his weird turn of the century Atom Mill where people are “smashing” atoms. But back in the present, Mr. Burns looks over the benefits proposal, and decides to save money by cutting out the dental plan, which gets the ball rolling.

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We then cut right to the office of a creepy dentist, who I have to assume is a reference to someone, but I can’t figure it out. The only evil dentists that came to mind was Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors and Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man, who are very different characters, and neither really line up with this dude. But it is nice to see him torture Ralph with the Big Book of British Smiles. And after he’s done messing with Ralph he sees the Simpsons kids, and ends up deciding Lisa needs braces, which she worries will make her more socially unpopular. I also love the crazy simulation he uses to scare Marge into paying for the braces that has her teeth piercing her head.

Marge is pretty worried about the cost of the braces, but Homer assures her that they won a dental plan in a previous strike that lead to him getting a scar from a burrito accident. However when he comes to his next union meeting, he finds out that Burns is attempting to get rid of the dental plan in exchange for a keg at their meetings. Homer then starts having his brain try to remind him that something is wrong by having Lenny say “dental plan” and Marge say “Lisa needs braces,” Over and over, which makes me laugh so hard, especially when his concentration comes to an end with Carl and Charlie dropping a pen into his buttcrack. Homer realizes that he needs the dental plan, so he rallies the Plant workers to shoot down Burns’ proposal, telling them to keep their dental plan. I love that he talks to some weird old prospector named Gummy Joe who only has one tooth that he opens soda cans with. What?

Turns out Mr. Burns has the beer keg wired with a camera to spy on the union, and he’s mad that Homer is getting the workers upset. I also laughed super hard at the fact that Burns doesn’t know who Homer is, and Smithers just lists every major life event of Burns’ that Homer and his family have been involved with. So Homer is made the head of the union, since the only person who dissents is one weird dude in the back who says Nay. It’s also pretty great that Homer has that crazy fantasy of him being the Godfather when he starts getting involved in labor unions, just completely open with the corruption that can come with that. Meanwhile, while the whole dental plan thing is up in the air, Lisa has to get these crazy old fashioned head-gear style ones that apparently predate stainless steel, so she can’t get them wet. So she gets gassed and after a crazy Yellow Submarine trip out, she wakes up with the new braces, and man do I love that they make that great Batman reference with her demanding the mirror.

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Homer meets with Mr. Burns, since Burns mistakenly thinks that Homer is going to be a great leader for the union, and while he’s trying to get Homer to take a bribe, Homer misunderstands him and assumes he’s hitting on him, leading to one of my favorite Homer lines of all time, “I’m sorry Mr. Burns, but I don’t go in for these back-door shenanigans, sure I’m flattered, maybe even a little curious, but the answer is no.” Oh Homer. But things then escalate when Homer is abducted by some hired goons and dragged to Mr. Burns’ mansion, where he continues to try and intimidate Homer. He takes Homer on a tour of the mansion, seeing the largest TV in the free world, a room with a thousand monkeys chained to a thousand typewriters that he’s trying to get make the world’s greatest novel, and his disappointing unfinished basement with a ping-pong table and a leaky water heater. Burns then tries to convince Homer to drop the issue and avoid a strike, but Homer needs to pee, and everything Burns says makes him need to do it more, leading to Homer run off and apparently just pee in a random room. Homer is then helicoptered home, and Mr. Burns flies off, cackling madly before falling out and getting brought off by an ambulance.

Homer then meets with the union, and accidently gets them to agree to a strike, once again getting shot down by the little weasel guy in the back. The strike then starts up and we get to hear Lisa’s great protest song while we see Burns’ plans to get rid of the protestors, which are just hiring Grandpa and his friends. And man is it wonderful that Grandpa’s strike-busting method is just to tell rambling stories to bore his opponents. “I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time.” But since that doesn’t work we get a crazy montage of Burns’ thoughts about running the Plant with just him and Smithers, which mainly involves them frolicking around with a two-headed mutant dog, and running from an army of angry robots.

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But we get to the end when Burns and Homer show up on Smartline to discuss the strike, and Burns ends up promising a terrible vengeance on the city because of the strike. We then see him and Smithers go through a series of complicated doors like the opening of Get Smart, which just leads to a gross room with a broken screen door and a mangy dog in it. Burns then uses the machine inside that room to shut off the power to the whole city. Unfortunately Burns’ plan doesn’t work, and the protesters continue singing, and we get a crazy Grinch scene where Burns realizes that people still aren’t bowing down to his whims, so he ends up calling Homer to compromise. He agrees to reinstate the dental plan in exchange for Homer leaving the head of the union, which is what Homer wanted anyway. We then end the episode with the crazy gag of Lisa getting her new clear braces put on, and everyone laughing at the pun of “That’s the tooth!” before realizing they’re all getting laughing gas.

This episode is so great. I’ve made it abundantly clear that love Mr. Burns, and his appearance in any episode makes it so much better. It’s kind of a weird premise, because the only job I ever had that had a union was when I worked in a grocery store in high school, and it was more a formality than anything people actually cared about. But it’s really clear from this episode that a strike would be a shitty thing, and that not having a dental plan when it comes time for dentists to make kids have braces for little reason would be pretty hard. But we don’t need to worry about the pathos of an episode like this one, it’s a goofy laugh-fest, and I love it.

Take Away: Fight for your dental plan! And never be a union boss, you’ll get hit on by your elderly boss and murdered.

“Last Exit to Springfield” was written by Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky and directed by Mark Kirkland, 1993.

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