What a lovely way to start off the week. This is one of those episodes that my mind wasn’t really remembering right, because I of course remembered and loved both the A and B plot of this episode, but I feel like I wouldn’t have remembered that they came together. They’re honestly both so strong, which is not usually something that happens, even in golden age of the show.
The episode starts off with Bart and Milhouse walking around the Android’s Dungeon and coming across the new Mad Magazine Special Edition. They start excitedly flipping through the magazine, noticing the vitriol for Spiro Agnew. I have never read an issue of Mad Magazine, and most of my knowledge about it comes from the Simpsons, which paints a kind of odd picture about the company. But as Bart and Milhouse read the magazine, they come across the fold-in, and since they fold it, they have to buy it. So Bart heads home with the magazine, which amuses him and Homer. And things start moving on Bart’s plot when he finds a collection of vaguely counter-culture patterns that can be ironed onto a shirt, which made me laugh a whole lot when I saw it. Is that still a thing? I can’t imagine people are still ironing decals onto shirts that they bought at Hobby Lobby. But if you are, more power to you!
But we take a break to see the Homer plot, which gets going when he hangs out with Moe at the bar, even though no one else is there. Apparently Lenny, Carl, and Barney all have mistresses and can’t be bothered to come sadly drink in the bar that night, so Homer convinces Moe to close the bar and go hang out with him, even though that means they narrowly missed the chance to sell a lot of beer to a flock of thirsty Quimbys. So Homer and Moe hit the town, and end up at the bowling alley, only to find that it’s league night, so they can’t play. Homer and Moe get irritated with that, and attempt to lie about having a team with Apu and Otto, but they still don’t get to play, since they don’t have the $500 league fee. So they obviously just go their separate ways and ignore this plan, since they didn’t get to play that night.
Wrong! Home immediately goes home and tries to get Marge to pay him $500 for sex, but she doesn’t have that much money for sex, so that plan doesn’t work. But Marge does come up with the plan to ask Mr. Burns for the money, which seems ridiculous, but Homer goes for it. And before Homer goes to try this horrible plan, we see what Bart’s been up to. He goes over to school with a new t-shirt on under a sweater, which he dramatically reveals during class. It says “Down With Homework,” which is some incredibly mild anarchy, but it does cause the students to absolutely flip out and start a goddamn riot. And wouldn’t you know, Superintendent Chalmers is there visiting, and gets attacked by the crazed mob of riled up children. This causes Skinner to bring Bart to his office, and rant about how some guy had a Mad magazine shirt in Nam, which ended up getting them caught and brought to a POW camp where he went crazy. But after that darkness Skinner sends Bart away, and starts planning on a punishment for the students.
But while Skinner plots his vengeance, we go see Homer approach Mr. Burns for the $500. But lucky for him, Mr. Burns is alone and high off his ass from the ether Smithers needed to dope him up with to trim his nails. This causes Mr. Burns to see Homer as Poppin’ Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and Burns happily gives Homer the money. Homer then announces to everyone that Burns is giving stuff away, leading to the wonderful gag when Moleman comes in to ask for a pushbroom re-bristling (not a new broom) and Burns think he’s the Lucky Charms Leprechaun, so of course responds by drilling a hole in Moleman’s forehead with a drill. “Oh no. My brain.” But Homer has his money, so he and the guys from earlier form their team, the Pin Pals, and start playing. Their first game is against the Channel 6 team, which is Krusty, Kent Brockman, Bumblebee Man, and Arnie Pie. The Channel 6 team is kicking their asses, until they have the idea to start chanting positive mottos to each other, which ends up working, getting Otto to win the game. The Pin Pals are off to a great start!
And while the Pin Pals are starting their meteoric rise, we see what Principal Skinner has been planning. Mandatory uniforms! The kids are brought into the auditorium while Martin and Lisa model the terrible uniforms while Lunchlady Doris is MCing, and all the kids in the audience are horrified. Side-note, this is the last time Doris Grau voiced Lunchlady Doris, because she passed away, which is super sad, because her performance as Lunchlady Doris was always spectacular, and created a wonderful character. But enough sadness, let’s get back to the bowling!
We see the Pin Palls take down some other goofy teams, like a DMV team, which is just Patty, Selma, and two random dudes, and a police team which is Wiggum, Eddie, Lou, and Snake (who just runs away when it’s his turn). And the Pin Palls handily beat them. The team is on a crazy roll, but they know they have to beat the best team in the league, the Holy Rollers, who are The Lovejoys and the Flanders. But Homer is getting pretty cocky, and is teaching Bart bad language by trash-talking on the phone, which leads to the wonderful line “got to go, my damn wiener kids are listening.” Not going to lie“damn wiener kids,” comes into my head any time I encounter a poorly behaved child in the world.
But things finally start to go wrong for the Pin Pals when Mr. Burns finally realizes that he got tricked and gave away $500 dollars. They find that the memo line in the check he wrote was addressed to Poppin’ Fresh, so they do a computer search and find that it had to be Homer. So Burns and Smithers head to the Bowlarama to confront Homer, while the Pin Pals are beating a team called the Homewreckers, which is comprised of Jacques, Mindy, Lurleen Lumpkin, and Princess Kashmir, which is wonderful. Burns goes up to Homer, and then shockingly doesn’t bust him, instead demanding to join the team. So Otto is booted out, and Burns is now a Pin Pal.
At this point we see how the whole uniform thing is going, and it’s not good. The kids have been drained of life, and are essentially zombies at this point, even blinking in unison. Bart has even forgotten how to be a prankster, and Nelson thinks his catchphrase is “Ha Ho.” And this plot ends when Chalmers is back for a visit, and is pleased to see that the uniforms have sapped the kids of their souls. But then it starts raining, and it’s revealed that water makes their uniforms turn tie-dye. This causes the kids to riot again, but Skinner and Chalmers don’t mind since Skinner realizes Agnes’ dress should be reacting the same way in the park, and they have to go check it out.
But it’s time to finish the bowling plot. Now that Burns is on the team, they’re doing terribly, even losing to a team called the Stereotypes, which is Luigi, Willie, Captain McCalister, and Cleetus. This causes Homer to panic, because he was so convinced they were going to win the trophy, but he doesn’t have the guts to kick Burns off the team. And their game with the Holy Roller is coming up. We then cut over to that game, where Moe’s plan is to pull a Tonya Harding (or a Shane Stant if you want to get technical) and break Burns’ knee with a pipe. But this only knocks it back in place, ensuring the can play the game.
And at this point Apu and Moe tell Homer that they’re going to quit unless Homer gets rid of Burns, so he promises he will. But things change when Burns shows up with some new bowling shirts, with a team logo and their names stitched in. All three men are incredibly touched by this gesture, and let Burns play with them. So the game gets going, and of course, Burns is dragging them down. But by the end, the Holy Rollers are up by one pin, and it’s all up to Burns. He throws his ball down, and it just barely taps a tin, which starts wobbling. But while this is going on, Otto is trying to win a Harvard diploma from a claw machine, and causes it to fall over, which sends a shockwave that gives Burns a strike, letting them win the game. They celebrate, and get the trophy, and as they’re getting ready to party, Burns decides to keep the trophy himself, and leaves them. The episode then ends with Otto, Apu, and Moe chanting for Homer while he breaks into Burns’ mansion to steal the trophy, which ends with Homer getting mauled by dogs.
This episode is a blast. The school uniform plot is a lot of fun, and really gets into how weird and terrible school uniforms can be, and remains one of the strongest and funniest B plots I remember. But we’re all here for the bowling plot. I really love the four characters that were chosen to be on the Pin Pals, and it was so fun seeing the different gimmicky bowling teams. And then, as I’ve talked about at length during this project, Mr. Burns shows up and makes any plot even better. He’s so silly, and I really loved seeing him have some male-bonding, and then turning heel and stealing the trophy. It’s not a particularly deep episode, but man is it fun.
Take Away: School uniforms are terrible and stamp out individuality and creativity, and don’t trust Mr. Burns.
“Team Homer” was written by Mike Sculley and directed by Mark Kirkland, 1996.