Lifetime of Simpsons

S04 E21 – Marge in Chains

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Yet another episode that was vastly misconstrued in my mind. This was never one of my favorites growing up, Marge episodes kind of fell on deaf ears for me back then, so I haven’t seen this one many times. But in my memory this episode was mainly about Marge being in jail, which in reality took up like, two minutes of the episode. Weird.

We start off with Homer watching the wonderful infomercial “I Can’t Believe They Invented It,” which is always a great gag. And man do I love all of the crap they mention as things that they’ve previously schilled, like a microwave for your pool, a little robot that compliments dogs as they come through doggie-doors, and a chandelier for your car. As usual it’s hosted by Troy McClure (“the President’s Neck is Missing” was my favorite credit this go-around) and the inventor is Dr. Nick, who really has a lot of time between malpractice lawsuits to invent crap. And this time he’s made what’s essentially an incredibly inefficient juicer, because apparently the people of Springfield make juice currently by smashing oranges against their foreheads. So Dr. Nick sells his crappy juicer and his suntan lotion that doubles as a laxative, and of course Homer needs it right now. He calls in an order and we see it getting fulfilled at a factory in Japan. The workers there, besides being hilariously poorly dubbed, cough into the boxes of juicers, letting their flu make its way to Springfield.

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Turns out everyone in Springfield wanted these terrible juicers, so they all get the Osaka flu, which stats ripping through town like it’s sentient. Pretty much everyone in town gets the flu and we get a fun montage of people suffering. Arnie Pie barfs out of his helicopter onto Otto, Bart makes his body submit to the flu to stay home from school, Quimby gives an emergency broadcast from the Bahamas, and Ned assumes that God is punishing his family with the flu because he once laughed at Married With Children. And man did I laugh at the tagline of “Watch Fox and be Damned for All Eternity.” They should really use that.

And since this was a Marge episode, we quickly see the rest of the family start treating her like shit. They all get the flu and she apparently remains healthy, and has to take care of them. Me, my dad, and my brother are all highly susceptible to Strep Throat, and my mom appears to be immune, so every year there would be a week where suddenly all the guy in the house would get laid out with this damn disease, and my mom would have to take care of a bunch of whiny babies, so I get Marge’s struggle. They all make demands about what they need from the Kwik-E-Mart, including Flintstones Chewable Morphine, and she heads out to get supplies for the family. She does her shopping, desperately trying to remember everything while her memory starts berating her with her families needy whining. But she gets everything she needs, and heads out of the store. Unfortunately in her worn out state she accidently left the store without paying for a bottle of Kwik-E-Mart brand bourbon. And apparently Apu is a jerk, so he calls the cops on her for “stealing” the bourbon.

Marge is in legal trouble, so of course her and Homer head right off to the mall to see Lionel Hutz. He offers them some sort of smoking monkey, which they ignore, and get to business. Unfortunately Hutz isn’t too confident, because the judge hearing the case is Judge Snyder, and he has it in for Hutz since Hutz apparently ran over his son repeatedly. Homer tries to talk Apu out of the lawsuit, but Apu is sticking to his guns and going through with it. Meanwhile, things are accidently escalating when Chief Wiggum gossips with Quimby during a sauna session, and Quimby starts spreading the gossip around town. And soon, everyone in town starts getting suspicious and judgy on Marge, even Maude Flanders, who watches her wash her hands in the bathroom like Norman Bates.

The trial gets going, and things aren’t going well right off the bat since Hutz is so impressed with the Blue-Haired Lawyer that he think he’ll win. And when it’s Hutz’s turn to do things, it doesn’t go well. He gets talking about the bourbon and gets so desperate for a drink he has to run out of the room and call his AA sponsor David Crosby (what?) and then he tries to discredit Apu by taking his tie off and insult Apu’s memory, but as with most things, he’s bad at it. So of course the jury finds her guilty, and Marge is sentenced to 30 days in jail. The family then leave the courthouse, depressed that Marge will be a convict, and Hutz prepares for his next case, where something called the National Council of Churches are suing him.

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Marge prepares to go to jail and shoots down Bart’s suggestion that he gets a wig and seduces the warden. She’ll just do her time. So she heads to prison and meets her new cellmate, a giant woman nick-named Phillips who apparently killer her husband with a screwdriver. We then just get a couple scenes of her being weirded out in prison like a half-hearted Orange is the New Black. She meets woman covered in tattoos who has a crazy Mad Magazine fold-in on her back and just sticks with Phillips. And surprisingly, the episode doesn’t really care about Marge’s prison time, and gets more interested in how Homer is taking care of the kids. Which isn’t well. I love that his plan for taking care of Maggie to just let her roam free in the backyard and let nature take its course. That’s some great parenting Homer. And since that’s an example of his parenting skills, the house quickly goes to hell.

The kids don’t have any clothes, since Homer doesn’t know how to do laundry, but he just tells them to find new clothes in the attic, which is why he’s walking around in a wedding dress. He also doesn’t know how to cook, which leads to Bart’s lunch at school being a pack of sugar and a playing card smeared with peanut butter. But one upside is that Bart and Nelson bond over the fact that their mothers are in jail. And they finally go to the prison to visit Marge, and just tell her how things have been at home, such as a the alligator that’s stuck in their toilet that Grandpa is in charge of fighting. She even gets a conjugal visit with Homer…I guess while the kids just wait. But back in Springfield things aren’t going well. Apparently Marge was an important part of the town, and things are falling apart without her. She wasn’t there to contribute to a bake-sale that was supposed to buy the town a statue of Abraham Lincoln, but since they didn’t have enough money they have to settle with one of Jimmy Carter, who as one random townsfolk says is history’s greatest monster. The town then starts to riot because Marge is gone. And luckily, it was only 30 days, and she’s soon released. And when she comes home she’s surprised to find the whole town waiting to congratulate her on being home, complete with the statue of Jimmy Carter, which they’ve attached her hair to. She then honors this gift by letting Bart and Lisa turn it into a tether-ball pole.

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What an odd episode. I don’t know why, but my memory really though more of this episode was set in the jail, and was more about Marge. It’s kind of weird that this episode, which has Marge’s name in the title, isn’t really about Marge that much. Even when she goes to jail it’s more about how Homer deals with having her gone, not really her experiences. This could have been a crazy episode that would have been like a precursor to Orange is the New Black, and been about prison, but it’s actually more about the court case, which is always great for a Simpsons episode since Lionel Hutz is the best. It was a fun episode, but another that’s not one of my favorites and one that I’ll probably forget about pretty quick.

Take Away: Don’t be a jerk when someone is taking care of you during illness. And don’t steal cheap bourbon.

“Marge in Chains” was written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein and directed by Jim Reardon, 1993.

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