Hey everybody! Let’s talk about gambling addictions! And the importance of Florida. Well, after a bunch of strange false starts.
The episode starts with a wonderful old newsreel from the 40’s called “News on Parade” that’s teaching Springfield about what’s going on in their town, and how they’re better than Utica. We see all the technological innovations in the town, like television, atomic bombs, and their weird factory that makes Aqua-Cars. We then find out that Grandpa and Jasper are watching the newsreel in a movie theater in the 40s, since they’ve apparently been friends for a lifetime. But they’re both pretty pessimistic about the town, even though its streets are literally paved with gold. But this whole thing is kind of pointless, and just sets up a gag of Grandpa in the past complaining about getting money for nothing before walking into a Social Security office in the present.
Anyway, actual plot stuff starts happening when we see Homer at the Power Plant, finding something wonderful in a toilet. Glasses! And because Homer isn’t the brightest person in the world, he just starts wearing these toilet glasses, despite not having the right prescription. It turns out the glasses belong to Henry Kissinger who is visiting Burns, but that doesn’t really end up mattering at all. But we do see that Homer wearing the glasses saves him from random firings by Burns, since he just picks people at random on the monitors, and assumes Homer is smart because he’s wearing glasses. But that still doesn’t have absolutely anything to do with the plot, because as great as this episode gets by the end, it has a lot of weird false-starts.
Finally, the plot actually gets going when Homer takes his toilet glasses off to watch Kent Brockman give a report about the economic slump that has hit Springfield. Apparently all the problems can be traced back to when the government closed Fort Springfield, crippling the liquor and prostitution business. So an emergency town hall meeting is called to discuss the town’s bleak economic fortunes. And as always, town hall meetings are wonderful. Everyone is mad, and apparently Mayor Quimby’s only plan is to take the remaining money from the treasury and fly to a more prosperous town, where he’ll become mayor and send for everyone else to move there. This idea doesn’t gain much traction, but Principal Skinner has the idea to legalize gambling. It takes a while, but everyone ends up being on board for it, especially Mr. Burns, since he plans on building the casino to increase his stranglehold on the town. Even Marge, much to the shock of everyone in town. It must suck to be so widely known as a stick in the mud in a small town.
We then start to see Mr. Burns plan his new gambling empire by choosing the Springfield Waterfront as the location of his new casino, since he has happy memories of crippling and Irishman with a bumper car there as a child. He then asks for submissions of casino ideas, and doesn’t really get many good results. Some British guy suggest Britannia, an England themed casino, a hippie just has a model that says Woodstock that Burns kicks out immediately, and Captain McCallister shows up asking to get money to sail around the world to bring back spices, because he didn’t understand the prompt apparently. Burns decides he doesn’t need any help, and we cut right to his new casino, called the Mr. Burns Casino, fully built and ready to go.
Before the gambling plot really gets going they set a little seed where Lisa informs Marge that she has some sort of pageant about states coming up and needs a costume that’s shaped like Florida. But we’ll pass by this foreshadowing to see Homer teaching Maggie how to play blackjack, because he’s gotten a new job as a blackjack dealer at the casino. And not surprisingly, Homer is terrible at being a dealer. He just busts every time, much to the joy of all the gamblers, including the first appearance of the Rich Texan, a wonderfully crazy character. It’s also hilarious to see that the whole town is no apparently spending all of their time at this enormous casino. Business is booming I guess. They can even afford to have the Flamboyant Magic of Ernst and Gunter, which is a hilarious gag, especially when we see the weird call-ahead reference of the tiger mauling them.
They then introduce a fun little sub-plot where Bart is caught gambling at the casino, and is kicked out by the Squeaky Voice Teen, who dares him to make his own casino. So he does. And it’s great. But while we’re introducing the sub-plot, the real plot of the episode starts to get going when Marge shows up to see how Homer is doing as a dealer. Homer starts to give her shit, since he incorrectly remembers her as being opposed to gambling, even explaining his crazy “photographic” memory of how the town hall meeting went down. Apu has three heads, Marge has green hair and complains about gambling, there’s a bearded baby, and Homer is super ripped and gets a call from the president. But while Homer is rambling about his false memories, Marge wanders off and finds a quarter on the floor. After thinking about finding a Lost and Found, she puts it in a slot machine, wins right away, and becomes addicted.
We then get a series of goofy gags about both the real casino and Bart’s. We see that Milhouse is a bad magician in the treehouse casino, and that they’re gambling over whether Mrs. Krabappel will have a nervous breakdown. Meanwhile, Rainman and Tom Cruise show up to scam Homer’s blackjack table, and we see Krusty’s terrible stand up show, which is mainly him drunkenly yelling about herpes. We also learn that Mr. Burns has really gotten into the whole casino business, to the point where he becomes a Howard Hughes parody, never leaving his control room, building miniature planes, and becoming a weird recluse. Burns even is now able to see the germs on Smithers face, which inform him that “Freemasons run the country.” Anyway, back to the real plot. Marge is still just sitting there becoming a slot-jockey, while Maggie is becoming increasingly bored. And when her pacifier accidently gets taken away by a drink lady, she follows and almost gets eaten by Ernst and Gunter’s tiger, but is saved at the last moment by Barney. “Your little boy Bart almost got eaten by that pony!” And right after that Homer’s shift ends and goes to find Marge. He’s confused why she’s acting all distracted, and assumes that it’s about her hating gambling, so he just leaves her there to fall deeper into her addiction.
And the family starts to fall apart pretty quickly. Marge never comes home and as we’ve learned several times before, Homer is a terrible solo-parent. Although he does feel like they will be able to get along without Marge, that is until he eats a wonderful meal of cloves, Tom Collins mix, and a frozen pie crust, which quickly shows him they need Marge. This lesson is hammered in even harder when some night Lisa comes to wake Homer up after having had a nightmare about the Boogeyman, which leads to Homer becoming terrified of the Boogeyman. He then barricades himself, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie behind a mattress and gets a shotgun, because that’s just how you should behave when you have kids. This whole event kind of freaks Marge out, and she promises to be home more often, and tells Lisa that she will help make the Florida costume.
Bart’s little plot wraps up after he convinces Robert Goulet to come perform in his casino instead of Mr. Burns’. It was kind of a pointless little plot, but it had some really solid gags in it. Anyway, we see that Marge has quickly failed at her promise, and wasn’t there to make the costume, leading Homer to have to help. And boy did he do a terrible job. She ends up wearing this insane rubber thing that says FLORIDA and has an orange taped to it. Lisa starts crying, which then pisses Homer off enough to storm to the casino with the plan of forcibly taking Marge away. He runs amok in the casino, which draws the attention of Mr. Burns, who finally remembers the joy he had running the plant, and decides to become normal again after forcing Smithers to get into his miniature plane. Homer finally finds Marge, and after rambling some nonsense, he tells her that she broke a promise to her daughter. Marge realizes what a crappy mom she had been, and vows to stop gambling. So the two head out, just assuming that her serious addiction is over, while Homer acts like an asshole and taunts her.
This episode really started in kind of a weird place, but ended up so great. As soon as they get to the town hall, the episode really hits its stride and becomes wonderful. I’m pretty on the record as a huge fan of Mr. Burns, and it was especially great to see him as a crazy Howard Hughes analogue that runs his casino from a weird germ free bunker. And it was fun to see Marge be the one with a flaw for once. She doesn’t try to be a bad parent; she just gets sucked into an addictive rut, which is a really real and terrifying prospect. Addiction is super terrifying, and can really ruin a person’s life, and it was interesting to see how it would influence the Simpsons.
Take Away: Gambling is fun, but watch out for gambling addictions, those will wreck your life.
“$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)” was written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein and directed by Wes Archer, 1993.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons