Lifetime of Simpsons

S05 E03 – Homer Goes to College

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Nerds! Oh man guys, this is a crazy one. We’re really reaching the era of the show when they stopped writing Homer as a remotely realistic father, and more an insane cartoon character that gets into fun shenanigans. So here we go, even though we just had an episode where Homer finally graduated high school in “the Front,” we’re getting an episode where he’s going to college!

The episode starts off by taking a look at the Nuclear Plant, where naptime is in full swing. But instead of just Homer napping, like usual, it’s everyone. Even Mr. Burns and Smithers, who is sleeping at his feet like a dog. But their naps are rudely interrupted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They’re here to have a surprise safety investigation of the Plant, so Burns quickly scrambles and gets everything in ship-shape, which is oddly similar to the beginning of “Whacking Day.” And that similarity continues when we see that Burns and Principal Skinner think along the same lines and he gets all the stupid people in the Planet locked away in the basement, and of course Homer is one of them. He’s sent down with two random yokels and given the important task of guarding a jar with a bee in it. Unfortunately, just as the Plant is about to pass the exam, Homer breaks the bee jar and goes chasing after it. And after getting stung in the butt he ends up coming out of a manhole right next to the Regulatory agents, who make him take the test as well. And because Homer is just so incompetent, he causes a nuclear disaster in the model van, even though it didn’t contain any nuclear materials.

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We then start to get some amazing Mr. Burns scenes when the Regulatory folks come back to his office to talk about just how unsafe Homer is. They demand that Homer needs to have a college education, and Mr. Burns retorts with this wonderful bribe:

Mr. Burns: “You can either have the washer and dryer, or you can trade it all in for what’s in the mystery box.”

Regulatory Agent: “The box! The box!”

So great. But the agent who wasn’t fascinated with the Box remains calm and lets Burns know that there’s no bribing that will work, and that Homer will have to go to school. So Burns and his lawyers show up at the Simpsons home that night to inform him that he needs to get an education…instead of just firing him? Whatever. Although it does then lead to one of my favorite Mr. Burns lines of all time. There’s a couple times this season when Mr. Burns says some incredibly strange things, as if there’s another plot going on that we’re missing and he’s forgetting which characters are involved, and I love that gag so much. And this one is amazing:

Mr. Burns: Remember, your job depends on your successful completion of Nuclear Physics 101. Oh, and one more thing… You must find the Jade Monkey before the next full moon.

Smithers: Actually, sir, we found the Jade Monkey. It was in your glove compartment.

Mr. Burns: And the road maps, and ice scraper?

Smithers: They were in there, too, sir.

Mr. Burns: Excellent! It’s all falling into place…

What the hell? Jade monkey? It’s so strange, but I love it so much. Mr. Burns is so wonderful.

But Homer is off to a bad start, since he’s in charge of writing his college entrance essays himself, and as we all know, Homer isn’t exactly a witty chap. So we see him struggle with some essays and rejections while he prepares for college by watching bad movies. He watches something called the School of Hard Knockers that seems like a bad Animal House ripoff that has the hero and a nerd create a bra-bomb that attacks the visiting President. I’m sure National Lampoons would take that plot. But we do set up that Homer has an unexplainable hatred of Deans. But for all his rigorous research, he doesn’t get into any of the colleges. So Mr. Burns uses his weight at Springfield University with his evil chair to get Homer into the college, even though he has to hit one of the guys with a bat. And once Homer learns that he’s been accepted into college we get one of the best moments of all time. He lights his GED on fire, while it’s still on the wall, and dances around singing “I am so smart, I am so smart, S-M-R-T, I mean S-M-A-R-T!” It’s so wonderful, and if I remember my commentary knowledge, that wasn’t in the script. Dan Castellaneta just messed up, because being in character as Homer drops his IQ.

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So Homer goes off to college, and quickly establishes himself as a jerk by yelling “Nerds!” as some guys while explaining to Marge that he’s a jock. He then goes to a freshmen mixer, which must be super sad to see a dude in his forties there, and he decides to be cool and spike the punch. But the kids find there’s alcohol in the punch and get rid of it, leading Homer to assume that the school must be ruled by a bitter old Dean. However it turns out the Dean is super cool, and used to play bass for the Pretenders, but Homer still hates him, because of tropes. Homer then starts going to the Nuclear Physics class, and things aren’t going well. He doesn’t understand the professors joke, but does laugh when he drops his notes, and ends up causing a nuclear accident when he offers to demonstrate how a proton accelerator works. And that nuclear accident causes the dean to recommend Homer get tutors, which introduces him to the nerds.

Homer meets Benjamin, Doug and Gary three super nerd who live together and offer to help tutor him in nuclear physics. And even though Homer assumes he should have a hatred for nerd, he doesn’t notice that they’re nerds. But he does realize that he still doesn’t give a crap about science, so he starts trying to get the nerd to party. He convinces them to go on a roadtrip with him, but ends up having to take Bart and Lisa too. But not surprisingly, Bart and Lisa aren’t the ones who spoil the trip, because the nerds just ruin everything. And with that dream of college fun ruined, Homer decides that their next project has to be pulling a huge prank. Homer tries to come up with a prank, but isn’t very good at it, and the day is saved when Bart tells them a ridiculous idea he has. They’re going to kidnap the mascot of rival college Springfield A&M, a pig named Sir Oinks-a-lot. And they pull that off with shocking ease. But things start to unravel when Homer gets super drunk with the pig and the Dean finds them after recognizing the sound of a pig passing out. And unfortunately for the nerds, he has to expel them.

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Homer feels bad for the nerds, especially after seeing them getting mugged by Snake, who is pretending to be the Wallet Inspector. So he invites them to live in their house, since at this point in the series the Simpsons’ home is basically a hostel for weird tertiary characters. But the rest of the family doesn’t click with the nerds. Marge is put off by the terrible internet dial-up noise when she tries to use the phone, and they unplug the TV right as Bart and Lisa are about the see some horribly violent episode of Itchy and Scratchy that finally has Scratchy win. So the family tell Homer to get rid of the nerds, and he decides that the only way to do that is get them back in college. And the only way to do that, as far as Homer sees, is to have them save the Dean’s life. So Homer comes up with the plan to hit the Dean with his car and have the nerds push him out of the way…but it doesn’t really work out and the Dean ends up in the hospital. But as everyone visits him he decides to readmit them, and the plot is over. Psych! They completely forgot about the whole reason Homer was in college, and realize that there’s no way he’s going to pass his test. So they train Homer and cram as much knowledge as they can…and he still flunks. So the episode wraps up by having the nerds change his grade in the computer, having them learn nothing. But Marge isn’t happy about that and just tells Homer to take the class again, but the episode is over so I guess he did it since we then see the credits over a montage of photos showing Homer’s college misadventures.

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This episode is super wacky. But there really isn’t anything more to say about it. It’s just kind of a fun throw-away episode without a lot of depth. There’s not really any emotional stakes, and it mainly just serves as a series of fun gags about how weird college is. It’s fun seeing Homer embrace all the clichés of college, like making a bookshelf with cinderblocks in his and Marge’s room, but there’s not really a lot of pathos in this one. It’s fun though. Lots of great jokes and I really love the three nerds.

Take Away: Go to college I guess. And even though it’s apparently easy, don’t change your grade with a computer.

“Homer Goes to College” was written by Conan O’Brien and directed by Jim Reardon, 1993.

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