What a way to start off the week. This is such a fun and silly episode. I love episodes that put Homer and Lisa together, but man does Bart and Grandpa work well together too. We get a really fun episode, that has some great emotion in it too, the stuff we all love from this period of the show.
We start off with Bart bringing Grandpa to the Elementary School, since it’s some sort of “Bring your Grandparent to School,” day, where the grandparents I guess just lecture the classes about what they do. And Bart is stuck with good old Grandpa, who is busy spitting into Bart’s desk since they don’t have adequate spittoons. And after mocking Milhouse’s grandpa and his RV, and Nelson’s judge grandpa (who has sentenced 47 men to death) Krabappel finally lets Grandpa get up and ramble at the class. He then proceeds to sit in front of the class and yell about nonsense, like how the Kaiser stole our word from 20, and that he invented the “terlet.” Which makes the kids in class laugh, Grandpa get mad, and Bart get embarrassed.
That night Bart complains about Grandpa at dinner, saying that he hates how Grandpa just lies all the time and makes up his crazy stories. And while that’s going on, we cut over to the Retirement Castle, where Grandpa is sadly sitting alone in his room, going through junk mail before contemplating sleeping for days until some good mail builds up. But the last letter Grandpa opens is just a piece of paper with a single sentence written on it “Asa Phelps has died.” This freaks Grandpa out, and he starts talking to himself about something called the Hellfish Bonanza, because this episode really does a good job at making the plot mysterious.
So Grandpa heads to the cemetery, where he attends the funeral for this Asa Phelps, where the only other person besides Reverend Lovejoy that’s there is Mr. Burns. The two give each other intense looks and pull keys out of their pockets while Lovejoy talks about Phelps serving in World War II, and when Lovejoy finishes and leaves, the two men finally speak. We see that a giant monument in the Springfield Cemetery that has an engraving of the Hellfish logo has a hidden safe in it, and using their keys they open it to cross Asa’s name off the list. We then learn that there’s apparently some sort of treasure that Burns and Grandpa are waiting to collect, and that whichever of them survives longest gets it. And with that knowledge, Burns announces to Smithers that he wants Grandpa killed to get the treasure quicker.
Smithers finds this plan of action a little strange, since just waiting for time to kill Grandpa is feasible, but Burns disagrees, and gives a call to a Latin American assassin named Fernando Vidal. He faxes over a photo of Grandpa eating peas, and Vidal is on the case, flying to Springfield to kill the old man. First he tries to poison Grandpa’s teeth while he’s sleeping, but when he wakes up he accidently puts his alarm clock in his mouth and throws his teeth away, ruining the plan. Next up they try to get Grandpa to come out to the common area by saying he has family visiting, but it’s just Vidal, Burns, and Smithers dressed as the Simpsons, while he throws a knife at Grandpa. And after these two failures, Vidal just decides to bust into the Retirement Castle with a machine gun, firing wildly. Grandpa flees and Vidal is fought off by the nurse, who has a shotgun for some reason, and Grandpa escapes to the Simpsons house for sanctuary.
But when Grandpa gets to the house, he for some reason refuses to tell them about the Hellfish Bonanza, so they just think he’s crazy, and make him stay in Bart’s room. Which Bart isn’t happy about. But for whatever reason, Grandpa decides that he can tell Bart the truth, and not the rest of the family, and shows Bart the tattoo he got in WWII saying that he’s a member of the Flying Hellfish, a badass unit from Springfield. Grandpa then tells him the tale of how he and a bunch of family members of character we know (like Barney, Skinner, Flanders, and Wiggum) went to war, along with their annoying partner Mr. Burns. And after some adventures in WWII, like Grandpa almost assassinating Hitler, the unit finds a German castle that’s full of stolen artwork. So they decide to take the art, but keep it hidden for a while since it’s stolen. So the group seal the artwork in a safe, and enter into a tontine, which will make the last surviving member of the unit get the paintings.
Bart doesn’t believe any of Grandpa’s story, but changes his mind when right on cue Mr. Burns busts into his room with a cherry picker. Burns is there to steal Grandpa’s key, which will give him the Bonanza, and Grandpa capitulates immediately. Bart then acts like he’s changing sides by hugging Burns, but in actuality he stole both of the keys without Burns noticing. So Grandpa and Bart run off to the cemetery to get to the treasure before Burns realizes what they did, and when they put all the keys into the monument, it’s eye sends a beam of light out into a lake, which shows the place where the treasure is kept. Grandpa then steals Ned’s boat, who is very accommodating about the whole thing, and the pair head off into the lake.
Bart puts on some scuba gear, and Grandpa comes up with a complicated system of pulling on ropes before Bart jumps out into the lake. He swims down to the bottom and finds the safe full of paintings, and after Grandpa briefly thinks Bart is signifying that he ran out of air, they bring the treasure up to the boat, victorious. They open up the safe, and fawn over the paintings, before Mr. Burns ominously appears on their boat in a really well animated moment. Burns then steals the paintings, and in one of the cruelest things he’s ever done, kicks Bart into the safe and knocks it off the boat, leaving him to drown. But Grandpa springs into action and dives into the lake, saving Bart. And once Bart is safe, the two chase after Burns’ speedboat, which leads to a crazy scene where Grandpa water-skis with a harpoon gun before having a drag-out fist fight with Burns. And in the end Grandpa wins and formally kicks Burns out of the unit, which means the paintings are his. Unfortunatley right as they grab the paintings, some Feds show up, because they’ve apparently been hunting these paintings for decades. So they take them away and give them to some shitty German techno guy, who drives off with them. And the episode ends with Grandpa and Bart embracing, because Bart doesn’t care who knows he loves his Grandpa.
What a wonderful episode. It’s so fun and thrilling, while still having a really great emotional through line. This episode felt like a really good thriller, or even a mystery more akin to a Sideshow Bob episode. We learns about the Hellfish Bonanza throughout the episode, in bits and pieces which makes it really intriguing, and it really brings a new side of Grandpa out. I’m on record of loving Grandpa Simpson, and he’s in great form in this episode. I really loved seeing him be a badass soldier when he was younger, and while it was funny seeing him incompetently beating the assassin, it was awesome to see Grandpa spring into action there in the end, save Bart and beat up Burns. Plus, even with all of the fun Hellfish stuff, we also get that amazing ending. I’ve lost half of my grandparents so far, so stories about people realizing not to take their grandparents for granted, and to love spending time with them while you can really get to me and this one was really well done. That ending with Bart hugging Grandpa, and saying he doesn’t care who knows he loves his Grandpa is so moving, and I loved it so much. Plus we get Mr. Burns, so perfect episode!
Take Away: Cherish your grandparents. And believe them if they claim they’re being hunted by assassins.
“Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in “The Curse of the Flying Hellfish”” was written by Jonathan Collier and directed by Jeffrey Lynch, 1996.