Well here’s another episode that really didn’t hold up in my memory that well. Little pieces were there, but this was a real joy to revisit, because despite my shaky recollections, this episode rocks. I mean, it’s Bart and Lisa solving a mystery that involves Krusty, that’s checking off a lot of boxes for me.
So the episode starts off with possibly the strangest non-Treehouse of Horror opening I’ve ever seen on this show. We see the family in a lawyer’s office (who isn’t Lionel Hutz) who is telling Homer that his great-aunt Hortence has passed away, and has bequeathed them some money, but only on the condition that they spend a night in a haunted house. So the family head to this creepy mansion, confident that there’s no such thing as ghosts, and we then cut to the next morning where absolutely nothing went wrong, since ghosts don’t exist. The creepy lawyer then shows up and gives them each $100, which is apparently all they were left. I have absolutely no idea why this was the beginning of this episode, but hey, the characters all have $100, so let’s see what they do with it.
Bart quickly decides that he wants to buy 100 tacos with his money, and Lisa just wants to donate hers to PBS, which doesn’t fly with Marge, so they take the kids to the bank to let them open their first bank accounts. Which upsets Bart because right next to the bank was the little taco stand that just sold Comic Book Guy 100 tacos for a Doctor Who marathon. But things get better for Bart when he gets his checking account, with his hilarious checks that are a flip-book of the Hindenburg disaster. So a ten year old has a check book, which obviously leads to some shenanigans. He gives Lisa a check for a couple cents, Milhouse one for a million dollars that can’t be cashed until the year 10,000, and even pays off Jimbo to stop abusing him. But the plot really gets going when Bart wants an autograph from Krusty, and decides the easiest way is to give Krusty a check, which will then come back to him endorsed. Which is a thing? I’ve never been a big check user, since I was born in 1989, but I’m not aware at all of you getting the checks you wrote mailed back with the endorsements on the back. But whatever, it gets the plot going.
Bart is excited to get the checks back, but when they come, he finds that Krusty didn’t sign it, and instead stamped it with some information from his Cayman Island holding company, the sketchiest thing in the world. So Bart takes the check and heads to the bank to complain, which gets the bank teller suspicious. He starts investigating, and in a shockingly quick span of time a whole investigation gets going, especially after the creepy Sidney Greenstreet dude who runs the Cayman Island company admits that it’s an illegal account. And it all ends with Krusty being arrested for massive tax fraud. Good work Bart!
So things aren’t going well for Krusty. But unlike Wesley Snipes, the IRS tell Krusty that they don’t want to send him to jail, and will instead garnish his salary. Massively. Which leads to the IRS basically taking over the Krusty brand. They change the name of his show to Herschel Krustofsky’s Clown-Related Entertainment Show, and make him cut out all the frills, like “sets, props, costumes, and Sideshow Mel,” which makes for an incredibly depressing show. The IRS also takes over Krusty Burger, turning it into IRS Burger. But things really get bad when he comes home to his mansion, only to find the IRS auctioning off all of his possessions. And man did I laugh hard at the ridiculous joke where they’re selling dozens of boxes of pornography, which Jasper can’t afford because “all I bought was a dime, I didn’t know there’d be pornography.”
And in the end, everything is sold. All of his belongings, and even the mansion, making Krusty essentially a homeless man. Bart happens to come by, and talks with Krusty, apologizing for being the one who accidently orchestrated his downfall, even offering to let Krusty punch him. Krusty really considers punching a ten-year old, but ends up passing while telling him about how much he hates people like teachers and scientists getting more respect than him. Bart then heads home, and later that night we see how Krusty is dealing with all of this strain, which is flying around town in his own prop plane while crying. We briefly see him cut the tension of an awkward moment where Principal Skinner found out Superintendant Chalmers and Agnes were going on a date, but things end poorly when Krusty crashes his plane right into a mountain.
Everyone in town runs to the wreckage, and Chief Wiggum invites everyone to gather around the flaming wreck. They then announce that Krusty has died, since they can’t find a body. It’s then time for Krusty’s funeral, which is hosted by Troy McClure, and features a lot of weirdos weeping while they look as his weird tombstone, which is shaped like his head with “See you real soon kids,” written on it. There’s also the hilarious scene where Troy makes Bob Newhart talk about Krusty, even though he didn’t know him and was just waiting for a different funeral.
And pretty quickly Bart starts to really freak out about Krusty’s death, since it’s always horrible when one of your idols die, but I bet it’s even worse when you could easily convince yourself that you personally were responsible. Homer tries to make him feel better by saying anyone could die at any moment, but that doesn’t really help. And things become worse when Bart starts to see someone who looks like Krusty around town. He sees this same guy driving a truck full of aquatic equipment, the guy scuba diving, and at Dr. Hibbert’s getting a prescription for sea-sickness. So Bart begins to get Lisa’s advice, since this isn’t adding up to him.
Lisa explains that it’s all his subconscious, but they finally decide to go check out the docks, and see if he’s there. So they talk to Captain McCallister, and we’re treated to one of my favorite, bizarre scenes of any Simpsons episode. Bart and Lisa ask McCallister if he recognizes Krusty, and instead of using a picture they blow up a balloon with his face on it. But they don’t blow the balloon up all the way, so it makes this deformed Krusty. McCallister then says that he does know that person, his name is Handsome Pete, and he dances for nickels. This then causes a little dwarf with a grotesque Krusty face to run in and dance with an accordion. But Bart and Lisa ignore that, and blow up the balloon all the way, which gets McCallister to admit he doesn’t know him.
But luckily Bart sees a check on McCallister’s desk that has a signature similar to Krusty’s, and they go race off to the dock that this person, Rory Bellows, has rented. And as they leave they give Handsome Pete a quarter, which will keep him dancing for hours. They then find Bellows, who is obviously Krusty. Turns out he faked his death to avoid the tax problems, and is now a scrap metal salvager. Bart and Lisa then try to get him to come back, but he refuses, sailing off to the sunset. But before he can get away Bart and Lisa start playing reverse psychology, and end up mentioning that if Krusty leaves show business behind, teachers and scientists will get all the attention he deserves. Which pisses him off enough to give up his scam, and go back to being Krusty. And luckily the life of Rory Bellows is very well insured, and Krusty fakes another death to end up on top again!
What a ridiculous episode. I’m well on record for being an enormous fan of Krusty episodes, and this is one of the best. The part of the show where Krusty’s life is being destroyed by the IRS is just perfect, especially how horrible his show gets, and man is his faked suicide great. Especially the little tidbit where the town had to vote whether a commemorative stamp will feature a happy Krusty, or the flaming plane wreckage. And I’ll say it again, Handsome Pete is one of my favorite moments in Simpsons history, and makes me crack the hell up every time I even think about the little bastard. It’s just a great episode, with some fun mystery and truly ridiculous gags. Just a great effort all around.
Take Away: Don’t cheat on your taxes. And always bring more than a dime to an auction, because they may have very cheap pornography.
“Bart the Fink” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Jim Reardon, 1996.