Lifetime of Simpsons

S05 E17 – Bart Gets an Elephant

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Well here’s another kind of weird episode. It’s not quite as ridiculous as “Deep Space Homer,” but it’s pretty damned close. Just the title is enough to show you that this is going to be an odd little story, since it kind of just sounds like the writer’s original pitch, encapsulated in just the title.

So the episode starts off kind of odd, almost as if this was going to be a Marge episode, since the family is acting super shitty. Marge wakes up and finds the house just covered in garbage and filth, to the point that she steps on a sandwich that’s been left on the stairs. There’s also underpants, just everywhere, which makes me remember a wonderful bit of advice Matt Groening gave on a commentary, possibly for this very episode. He explained that there are inherently funny words or phrases, and if you’re trying to be funny you should use those words instead of the blander synonyms. And underpants was his main example, explaining that the word underpants is so much funnier than any other word you could use, like underwear, and as a kid that thought blew my mind and is now certainly something I think about when trying to write in a humorous manner. Anyway, back in the episode everyone but Marge is planning on bailing to have a fun Saturday to themselves, but Marge lets them know that that won’t be happening, and that they have to clean the house, which was always my most dreaded weekend as a kid. No one likes to clean, especially when you’re a kid. And man is Bart’s suggestion that they just buy a new, cleaner house wonderful.

We then get a fun montage of the family using their own terrible methods of cleaning, primarily from Bart and Homer, since males are incompetent. Homer foolishly picks the basement as his area of the house to clean, which he attempts to do with a leaf blower. That doesn’t go well, mainly since the basement is full of old calendars and TV Guides, since Homer is apparently a hoarder. He also uses some caustic chemicals in the unventilated basement which causes him to hallucinate various cleaning mascots attacking him. Meanwhile we get a silly scene where Lisa is up in her room cleaning and lamenting the fact that she didn’t get to go play with her Little White Girl Jazz Quartet, only to see them walk be doing a performance with Bill Clinton, which was always a funny thing to see the show do. But the real plot gets going when Bart is cleaning while listening to Bill and Marty on KBBL. They announce that they’re doing a contest where they call random people and if they respond with “KBBL wants to give me something stupid,” they can either win some money or a gag prize. So Bart decides he’s going to win, and when he phone rings he yells the phrase out, before hanging up when it turns out to just be Grandpa having heart palpitations.

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So the family is finally done cleaning the house, before immediately making it filthy in a wonderful bit on animation when the kitchen door swings shut and Bart is still listening to radio. We hear them call Chief Wiggum, who is busy getting tasered by an escaped Snake, so the contest is still happening. But then the impossible happens and KBBL calls the Simpsons house, and Bart wins! But instead of taking the $10,000 they offer, he wants the gag gift, which is an African Elephant. They panic and hang up when it becomes clear that Bart won’t budge, and he really wants that elephant. The family discusses it, and everybody but Marge is for the money, Homer and Marge because they need the cash and Lisa because she thinks it’s wrong to have an elephant in a suburban neighborhood. But Bart remains deadest on having the elephant, so he meets with Bill and Marty, who try to get him to forget about the elephant and instead let them torment Principal Skinner for a year. But Bart remains steadfast, and they end up kicking him out. But Bart doesn’t give up and starts shouting about his elephant in the station, which carries over the airwaves, causing a minor controversy. So Bill and Marty meet with corporate, and it turns out that they’re getting such bad press that if they don’t get Bart and elephant they’re going to get replaced with a robot. So in ways that aren’t explained, they do, and the Simpsons wake up the next morning with an elephant on their doorstep.

The elephant is immediately awful, even scaring away Santa’s Little Helper and Snowball II. He starts smashing up everything in the backyard, which leads to Bart naming him Stampy. But it very quickly becomes apparent that the Simpsons have no idea how to take care of an elephant, even though Homer’s idea of solely feeding him with free peanuts at Moe’s is pretty genius. But a diet consisting only of peanuts isn’t too healthy since Stampy isn’t a cartoon elephant (well, he is, but you know what I mean) so with some advice from Lisa they end up taking him to the local arboretum (don’t you know where your town’s arboretum is?) and he just eats everything. But despite all of this, Bart is loving Stampy, even hanging out with him in the treehouse, which ends with Stampy attempting to eat him.

But Homer and Marge are starting to realize that keeping Stampy is an incredible financial burden, so while ignoring Santa’s Little Helper and Snowball, who have learned to balance on balls for attention, they go over the finances and realize that there’s no way they can keep Stampy. But Bart has the great idea of charging the neighborhood kids to see and ride Stampy, which they start doing right away. But this doesn’t really work, so Homer jacks the prices up to an untenable amount, and even tries to shake down Milhouse’s parents to give him more money. So, out of ideas, they decide they have to sell Stampy. But they don’t get many good options. First they get some weird guy who needs an elephant, but explains that Stampy isn’t up to snuff, which I still don’t 100% understand what he’s trying to say, they get a guy from a non-profit animal refuge that Homer doesn’t like, and an obvious ivory dealer.

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Homer goes with the ivory dealer, Mr. Blackheart, who also used to be president of the Fox Corporation, and Bart has one last night with Stampy. But Bart’s not down with this, and ends up letting Stampy free so he can run away, and Bart goes with him. So the next morning the family wakes up and they find both Stampy and Bart gone, so they head off to find them. Homer starts following a path of destruction, before realizing they’re following a tornado that has picked up Patty and Selma. But while the family hunts for Bart, he’s busy hunting for Stampy, who has already attacked a peanut factory. But Bart finally finds Stampy at the Springfield Tar Pits, and realizes that he’s lonely since Stampy is just sadly looking at the models of mammoths there. The family then shows up in a wonderful gag where they smash into a model of a deer, causing them to quote Sound of Music: “D’oh!” “A deer!” “A female deer!” So great. Anyway, the family shows up and Homer yells about having to give away Stampy before falling into the tar pit. Stampy then springs into action and after pulling Barney out, he gets Homer out of the tar, triggering one of my favorite interactions of all time,

Homer: “I’m alive! And I owe it all to this feisty feline!”

Lisa: “Dad, feline means cat.”
Homer: “Elephant, honey, it’s an elephant.”

I’ve mentions it before, but man do I love condescendingly stupid Homer. Well, after saving his life Homer decides that they can’t give Stampy to the ivory dealer, so they send him to the animal refuge. And it turns out that even with his own kind, Stampy, like some people, is just a jerk and will always be ill-tempered.

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This is a pretty fun episode. It’s certainly dumb, and doesn’t really pack the same kind of emotional punch that episodes about Bart defending Santa’s Little Helper have, but it’s still got a bit of that. It’s got some amazing quotes in it, most of which I couldn’t find reasons to mention here, (“Marge, I agree with you, in theory. In theory, communism works. In theory.”) and this is just a really great example of an episode with a kind of half-baked premise, that’s risen up to a wonderful status by the just truly stellar writing and animation that this era had. We’re in the golden age folks, and the talent that was around at this time could elevate even the goofiest premises.

Take Away: Always take the money in radio contests and some people are just born jerks.

 

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