Oh look, a Marge episode that’s about her having a nervous breakdown, but one not caused by the family. That’s an anomaly. This episode is also wonderful. I’ve gotta tell you, we’re in a serious Golden Age people. I’m looking ahead at the episode that are coming up, and the one’s we’ve gotten to lately, and it’s nuts. It’s really shocking to see when you go through like this that it was basically classic episode after classic episode, each week.
Things get started as if this was going to be an incredibly wacky Homer episode, with Homer and the gang hanging out at Moe’s on April Fools. We watch the rest of the guys play horrific pranks on Moe, like getting him bit by a snake and having his apron lit on fire, but when Homer makes it so his sugar shaker spills all over the bar, everyone gets super pissed and kick Homer out. They ban him for life, take his caricature down from Mt. Lushmore, and take “It’s Raining Men,” out of the jukebox. So Homer heads home, depressed that he has to spend time with his family instead of his drunk buddies. But when Lisa points out that this crisis could be an opportunity, or Crisitunity, Homer heads out on a mission to find a new bar to hang out at. We’re then treated to an amazing montage of Homer exploring all the various bars in Springfield, and it’s a hoot. He goes to some ritzy bar that kicks him out almost immediately, he heads to Cheers and we see all of the loveable characters (except Fraser, which is kind of weird since Kelsey Grammar is on the show so often) until they start fighting each other and he gets scared and runs off, and the best one, which is Homer sitting in a lesbian bar, as he slowly realizes “Wait a minute, there’s something bothering me about this place. I know! This lesbian bar doesn’t have any fire exits! Enjoy your death trap ladies!” We then get an incredibly goofy scene where a man who looks exactly like Homer but with a top hat, a mustache, and a high pitched voice comes into Moe’s, calling himself Guy Incognito. The barflies then beat the hell out of Guy Incognito, and he gets thrown out of the bar, only to come across Homer, who is momentarily amazed that he has an exact double, before getting interested in a dog with a poofy tail.
But Homer’s quest for a new bar all ends when he finds the last bar in Springfield, The Little Black Box, a bar for pilot next to the airport. Homer heads in, and lies about being a pilot, even getting a loaner uniform to wear while he drinks. Unfortunately some guy comes rushing into the bar, saying they need a pilot to go to Chicago, and he ends up picking Homer, despite his constant pleas that he’s not actually a pilot. So he gets dragged onto a plane, and since Alan the copilot won’t do everything, Homer ends up retracting the landing gear and causing the plane to smash into the ground right away. He’s then briefed by the head of the airline, who would like to sweep this little incident under the rug, and offers Homer and his family tickets to anywhere in the contiguous United States. The Simpsons are going for a vacation!
So Homer goes home and tells the family that they get to go on a trip, and almost immediately Marge starts acting odd, but of course Homer doesn’t even notice. They plan a trip and the family heads to the airport, where Marge starts freaking out as soon as they get on the plane. I really love the gag of Bart and Lisa getting upgraded to First Class where they have miniature fire places in their seats for roasting marshmallows. But back in coach, the flight is about to leave, and Marge finally admits to Homer that she has a fear of flying, and freaks the hell out, causing the family to get kicked off the flight before it takes off. So the family heads home, and tries to come to terms with this realization that Marge has a weird fear. And it leads to one of my favorite interactions:
Marge: Everyone has a fear of something.
Homer: Not everyone.
Marge: Sock puppets!
Homer: Where!? Where!? Ahhhh!!!
Lisa suggests that Marge goes and sees a psychiatrist, which Homer is extremely against, since he thinks they’ll blame all of her problems on him, and he votes that they just ignore the issue, which Marge wants too. But it quickly becomes apparent that Marge needs help with her issues, because she starts taking out the stress from the phobia in odd ways. She tries to marry Santa’s Little Helper and Snowball II, she starts cooking and baking constantly, she mutters weird lessons her mother taught her as a girl, she fixes the roof, and keeps herself in a state of catlike readiness. This is all obviously still a problem, so Homer starts to try and fix her his way, which involves calling a radio psychic and making her watch movies about plane crashes. This obviously doesn’t work, and when Lisa points out that Marge is sitting in mid-air, he finally agrees that she should see a professional.
So they head to the Springfield Psychiatric Center, where they meet with Dr. Zweig, who Homer is instantly shitty to. But Dr. Zweig still takes Marge on as a patient, and they get to work trying to figure out her phobia. She starts off by asking Marge to remember the first time something bad happened to her, which turns out to be the first day of school, when Patty and Selma were mean to her, and some girl made fun of the Monkees. Marge starts to go to therapy more, and we see a couple scenes of her dealing with it. But progress finally happens when she tells Dr. Zweig about a dream she had when she was the mother from Lost in Space, which ends with Marge calling out to her “daddy.” Zweig obviously notices this, and asks Marge to talk about her father, who it turns out was a pilot.
Or at least that’s what Marge thought. She then uncovers a repressed memory from when she was a little a girl and followed her dad onto the plane, where it turned out he was actually a flight attendant, which apparently scared her. And with that, Dr. Zweig explains that being a male flight attendant isn’t bad, and that Marge should move on from it, which apparently fixes her issue. Marge also remembers some other plane stuff that probably screwed her up, like getting hit in the eye from and old lady trying to feed her with the “airplane” trick, little Marge being in a toy plane that caught on fire, and her and Jacqueline getting shot at by an airplane like North by Northwest. Zweig explains that it’s all a rich tapestry, and then starts to get into her relationship with Homer, which is cut short by Homer appearing and declaring that her therapy is over. The episode then ends with the family trying to get on a plane again, which immediately slides into the ocean.
This episode was a lot of fun, which was kind of surprising, because I kind of remembered not caring for it in the past. And I really can’t tell why I would have thought that now, because it’s pretty great. All the goofy stuff with Homer in the beginning is a lot of fun, but probably could have been from any number of stories, and once the whole fear of flying thing kicks in, this one becomes really interesting. I think I’ve mentioned before, but I studies psychology in college, and this episode was probably a pretty defining understanding of the field in my mind. Uncovering long lost memories while laying on a couch, talking with a person whose basically your guide is pretty much what I still expect therapy to be. And I really liked the idea that weird event in your childhood could be forgotten and completely shape you, although it’s a little odd that Marge was able to get over her phobia just by acknowledging it’s root, not by dealing with it at all. But whatever, it’s only a twenty-something minute show, they can’t really get all into Marge’s rehabilitation.
Take Away: Childhood memories will mess you up as an adult, and there’s nothing wrong with being a steward.
“Fear of Flying” was written by David Sacks and directed by Mark Kirkland, 1994.