What a strange episode. There have been a couple of these older ones that have really just slipped out of my head, and I spend most of the episode trying to remember what was going to happen. I know this one was never one of my favorites as a kid and teenager, not one I dislike really, just one I didn’t care about. I remember going through the box sets and would often just skip right over this one, because it just didn’t do anything for me. And really, I guess I liked it better than I did as a kid, but I’m still not super enthralled with this episode. As always, there are good jokes, but the story just is kind of a dud for me.
The episode does start with the introduction of one of my favorite tertiary characters, Superintendant Chalmers! This go-through has really shown me that I love Principal Skinner more than I’d ever realized, and Chalmers is such a great foil to Skinner. At the beginning of the episode we see Skinner freaking out because he’s learned that Chalmers will be doing an unscheduled visit, and he’s desperate to get the school ship-shape. And one of the most important parts of that is getting all of the bad students out of the way. So he goes over the intercom and gets Bart, Nelson, Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney to come down to a basement closet to get free mountain bikes they’ve won. This is of course a trap, and Skinner just locks them in the closet so they can’t cause a ruckus. I love that Skinner briefly talks with Willie about throwing the key away and leaving them locked until they die. Chalmers then shows up, barley hiding his contempt for Skinner, and starts to walk around and judge the school. Skinner gets him to visit Ms. Hoover’s class and picks Lisa at “random” to prove how smart the kids are, even though Ralph doesn’t know what a battle is. Meanwhile, the bullies and Bart find a vent in the room, and Bart sneaks out through it with the intention of saving the bullies. However, as Bart is escaping, Willie is trying to get his tractor all ready for Chalmers, and ends up leaving it unattended because he meets some Scottish woman and they go off to wash her hair in Willie’s pool. Bart gets out of the vent, finds the tractor, and goes on a joy-ride. Unfortunately Chalmers is finishing his visit by inspecting the grounds, and after he bends over to get a coin, Bart smashes the tractor into his ass. Chalmers is pissed, denied Skinner a promotion, and Skinner decides this is the worst thing Bart had done, and expels him.
But the Bart stuff really just becomes a B-plot in this episode, and the main plot gets going after the act break when we come into an episode of Eye on Springfield. I love that one of the upcoming stories Kent Brockman teases is “where are the munchkins from Wizard of Oz now?” and it just cuts to a graveyard. Holy crap I laughed so hard at that. But the main report is on the fast approaching local holiday, Whacking Day. Whacking Day is some crazy holiday where Springfielders chase all the snakes in town to the town square, and beat them to death. Stay classy Springfield. Anyway, we see that Lisa is going to be against Whacking Day, because duh. That’s the most anti-Lisa thing I’ve ever heard of. And Homer loves Whacking Day, because also duh.
But until we get more into the Whacking Day plot, we get a goofy scene of Marge trying to get Bart a new school, and they end up taking him to some crazy Christian school. And it’s very short lived because one of the first thing the Christian teacher asks of Bart is to say a Psalm, and Bart responds with “Beans beans the magical fruit.” This causes the Christians for freak out and chase him out of the school. So they still need to find some education for Bart, since they don’t approve of his idea to just not get educated and taste dangerous food additives (“pleasant taste, slight monsterism”). And since they can’t come up with a better idea, Marge decides that she’s going to homeschool Bart. And I love how seriously Marge takes it; she even sets up a school bell in the garage where they’re learning. It’s also so great that Bart is still a trouble-maker, making fart noises and stuff even though he’s the only student. She even gets Grandpa to come be a guest lecturer about WWII, even though he just tells some crazy story about him posing as a cabaret singer that seduces Hitler.
Whacking Day is approaching rapidly, and Homer is getting excited. He even has a new Whacking stick to beat the snakes to death with. And he’s training like a goddamn ninja in the back yard to be the best whacker there is. And after a crazy joke of an episode of Itchy and Scratchy that’s guest directed by Oliver Stone (Itchy just shoots Scratchy like Jack Ruby) we see that Bart is actually starting to learn things with Marge. He’s sitting there reading Johnny Tremain (“Johnny Tremain, they should call this book Johnny Deformed!) and he’s gotten really into colonial history. Marge then decides to embrace that interest in history by taking Bart to a colonial Springfield town. And after seeing a drunken Barney try to be the governor, they see an exhibit on Whacking Day, and how it was founded by Jebediah Springfield. But Bart notices that the dates don’t make sense, and begins to think that Whacking Day may be a bullshit holiday.
Which is a timely revelation, because Whacking Day is upon us! I love that we see Apu try to have a Whacking Day marketing even at the Kwik-E-Mart, which just leads to people smashing all his merchandise. Lisa is of course still not cool with the holiday, and even goes to Reverend Lovejoy to try and get guidance, but he just makes up a fake Bible verse that says it’s okay to kill snakes. And with everyone against her, Lisa still tries to get Homer to not participate in Whacking Day, but he doesn’t go for that. We then cut over to the town square where the holiday is about to begin, and we see the Grand Marshall of the holiday is Barry White, who didn’t even get the holiday explained to him, and he’s disgusted.
Back at the house, Lisa is dejected, and Bart is reading a book about Whacking Day that is written by Bob Woodward, and learns that snakes respond to vibrations. The two then come up with a crazy plan to get a lot of speakers, face them to the ground, and play heavy bass to attract the snakes away from the stupid townsfolk, and to their house for protection. And it just so happens Barry White is walking by, and they enlist his help to save the snakes. They get him to sing a song, and it works! All the snakes in town show up and get into the Simpsons’ house (which is disgusting). And like clockwork, the whole town shows up as an angry mob to yell about the lack of snakes. Bart and Lisa then explain that the whole holiday is a sham, and it used to be about beating the Irish. This convinces the town, and they now hate Whacking Day, and they allow the snakes to slither off into the sunset. Skinner then shows up, telling Bart how proud he is about Bart’s out of school learning, and tells him he can come back to school. He then realizes that, like us, he’d forgotten about the other bullies, and they’re still locked in that closet. Willie and Skinner then race to the school with mountain bikes, hoping they’re still alive and won’t sue.
I don’t know what it is about this episode, but it just kind of falls flat for me. I really loved the Chalmers stuff at the beginning, and that crazy joke about Skinner forgetting the bullies pays of beautifully for me. And really the Bart being homeschooled by Marge stuff is pretty great, especially the joke of Homer constantly forgetting they’re in the garage and almost hitting them. But I think it’s the snake stuff that just doesn’t work. It’s just such a weird idea, even though I love that town have their own little insane customs, and it just doesn’t work for me. It’s very quintessential “Lisa complaining about something that should be common sense,” which I usually enjoy, but I guess I just don’t like snakes? I don’t know. There’s some good to this episode, but overall it’s just kind of a dud for me.
Take Away: It’s fun to learn about history! And don’t kill snakes for no reason!
“Whacking Day” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Jeff Lynch, 1993.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons