Oh look, a kind of sequel to an amazing episode! I’ve obviously already talked about “Moaning Lisa,” and how wonderful it is, and this episode is a worthy successor. It’s not as emotional or foundational as that episode, and represents a very different era of the show, but it’s still spectacular.
Things start off with the family watching Krusty’s show in the kitchen while eating breakfast, because his show appears to be on 24/7 in Springfield. He’s telling the kids about his sexual harassment suite, and how he’s being mandated to have a new character on his show, Ms. No-Means-No. Which doesn’t go well for Krusty. But back in the Simpson’s kitchen we see Bart chowing down on some Krusty-O’s while informing Homer that he’s studied for history test by dropping the tidbit that George Washington Carver was the guy who “chopped up” George Washington. But while Bart’s eating his cereal, he happens to eat the special “serrated metal” cereal piece, which immediately starts causing him some intestinal problems. Homer and Marge mock him, while Lisa is a little concerned about Bart’s pain, but he’s still sent to class. And when there, Mrs. Krabappel informs him that according to the School Charter “no teacher shall be held accountable if Bart Simpson dies,” so he’s out of luck.
But Bart struggles through his test, and finally convinces Mrs. Krabappel to send him to the nurse, which he finds out is now Lunchlady Doris, while Willie is also the French teacher. But Lunchlady Doris’ medical knowledge doesn’t really help, so Bart is brought to the hospital where he’s diagnosed with acute appendicitis. Drs. Hibbert and Nick spring into action and start operating on Bart, while Homer and Marge eat hotdogs in the observation bay. And, surprisingly since Dr. Nick was involved, the operation is a success! Lisa and some classmates of Bart come to visit him while he shows off his scar. This inspires the rest of the kids to ask Dr. Hibbert to take their appendixes out, and he gleefully agrees.
Lisa didn’t want to get surgery that day though, so she heads out to leave the hospital, and as she’s walking the halls she comes across a familiar face. Her jazz mentor Bleeding Gums Murphy! He’s apparently really sick and not doing well, and since he doesn’t realize Dr. Hibbert is his brother, he has no family to take care of him, so Lisa is his first visitor. So the two catch up, and Murphy ends up telling Lisa his life story, since their last encounter was pretty quick and didn’t really dig deep. We learn that he learned jazz from a blind man who played an umbrella, was on the Cosby show, recorded one album, and lost all his money to his expensive Faberge Egg habit. This ends up teaching Lisa that a lifetime of jazz makes you sad and lonely, but they still have fun bonding together.
Meanwhile, in the Bart plot, we learn that Krusty is under a lot of heat for the metal cereal incident, and is getting pressure to settle out of court with Bart’s medical claims. But that was really just laying groundwork for the rest of the episode, so we hop back right away to Lisa. She’s still hanging out with Murphy, while getting ready for a recital she has that night. They talk about the blues, and end up jamming together. And in the end, he gives her his saxophone as a good luck charm, and she heads off for the show. But when she gets there she finds that all of the other orchestra members are getting their appendixes out, so it’s just her, Martin with a triangle, and Ralph with a flute up his nose, so the recital doesn’t go well. That is until she steps up and just starts doing awesome sax solos. So, triumphant that she just had an amazing gig, she heads back to the hospital to tell Bleeding Gums how awesome she was. But when she gets there, she finds that while she was performing he passed.
So Lisa is obviously incredibly depressed, since her biggest idol just died unknown and alone. Homer tries to cheer her up by telling her that they’ll do the same thing as when Snowball I died and go down to the pound to get a new jazzman, but that doesn’t really help her. So Lisa starts going around to different family members to get some advice on death. Bart explains his beliefs in reincarnation, which are primarily built around post-mortem revenge. Homer tells her to get a tattoo to honor Bleeding Gums Murphy, but then reveals that that will backfire since he hates the Starland Vocal Band. And Grandpa is no help, since he just explains that at his age he sees death everywhere.
And things get even worse when Lisa goes to Bleeding Gums Murphy’s funeral, only to find that she’s the only person there, and that Reverend Lovejoy doesn’t even know his name. Meanwhile, we see that Lionel Hutz has apparently been working on Bart’s Kruty-O related suite, robbing us of goofy court-room scenes, and just shows up at his house to tell him they won a settlement. Hutz then scams Bart and only gives him $500 of the vast settlement. So, with more money than he’s ever had before, Bart starts to think about what to blow it on, with his main goal of just losing it all on a single play of roulette.
But back in Lisa’s plot, she’s gone to the local Jazz radio station to try and convince them to do a memorial show for Bleeding Gums Murphy. The DJ says he would love to do it, but they don’t have a copy of Sax on the Beach, so they can’t play it. Plus, even if they did have it, their reach is terrible, so no one would be able to hear it. So Lisa heads out on a mission to find Sax on the Beach, and somehow finds it at Android’s Dungeon. And Comic Book Guy is charging $250 for it, until he learns he died, which he then makes $500. So Lisa leaves, depressed, and Bart shows up anxious to buy a $500 super-Pog. But when he sees the album, he has a twinge of sibling loyalty and ends up buying the album for Lisa. He gives it to her and tells her that he got it for her because when he said his stomach hurt in the beginning of the episode, she was the only one who cared. So Lisa heads of with the album, and gives it to the DJ. And in an act of God, lightning hits the radio beacon, which amps it up so that everyone in town hears the album. And with her mission to have everyone in town appreciate Bleeding Gums Murphy, she visited by his soul in the forms of some clouds. And after scaring away Mufasa, Darth Vader, and James Earl Jones, the two have a sweet chat and end up jamming together.
This episode is so sweet. I love seeing Lisa meet up with her hero, and learning that his life isn’t going that well. Bleeding Gums Murphy’s life really fell apart, and it’s really emotional to see how much his final days were brightened by having Lisa there. They really grew close, and then Lisa had to see yet another mentor leave her. The scene when she comes to tell him how good her gig was, only to find he’s dead, was so sad. And then pretty much everything in that last act was great. Bart getting rid of his money to make Lisa happy, because he wanted to thank her was amazing, and so was seeing her have a final conversation with her hero after she’s made sure his memory lives on. It’s just some great, funny and emotional stuff people.
Take Away: A lifetime of jazz makes you sad and lonely, and the best way to deal with someone’s death is to honor their memory.
“‘Round Springfield” was written by Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 1995.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons