Wow, the end of season 7 is already here. And man was it a good one. There were a couple pitfalls this season, but it may be the strongest. Who knows, if and when I ever finish this mad project I’ll probably try to sum things up and pick some favorites and least favorites of the series, and right now this one seems like a strong front-runner as my favorite season. Plus we get to end with a great Lisa episode, that while problematic at times, is still pretty great.
Things start off on the last day of school before summer break, as Bart gets assaulted by Milhouse’s impressions of various types of sprinklers, and his plan to play in them all. Bart doesn’t seem overly invested in the conversation, but luckily it ends when Milhouse goes running out of the classroom when the bell rings, despite that bell being the morning one. Milhouse is then brought back in by the police, who were on truant duty, and make him sit through the rest of the day. And while Milhouse is making as ass out of himself, we see Lisa and some girls who are somehow more square than she is, getting ready to pass out the yearbooks that they’ve slaved all year over, because of course Lisa was in yearbook.
We cut to the end of the day, which features a funny scene where Ms. Hoover actually seems to give a shit and is telling the kids about Lincoln’s assassination, before giving up when the bell rings. But the kids file out of the classrooms, and grab the yearbooks from Lisa after Nelson starts passing them out, since he doesn’t care about Lisa’s system. The kids start passing the books around and signing them, Bart even sets up a booth where he’s charging people, including Skinner, and Lisa does her best to get a signature. Unfortunately Lisa doesn’t really have any friends, and no one is willing to sign her yearbook. Which is monumentally depressing.
But the real plot of the story gets going when we see Homer having a chat with Ned, who is upset that he got called in for jury duty, and won’t be able to use the Flanders beach house for the next two weeks like they’d planned. He then offers Homer the use of the beach house in Little Pwagmattasquarmsettport in exchange for checking Homer’s septic system. So the Simpsons prepare for a fun little vacation, and Marge tells the kids that they’re allowed to bring a friend, which makes Lisa even more sad. So Lisa begins packing for the vacation, while feeling sad for herself, and vowing the make some changes. She’s mad that she’s such a dork, and that no one appreciates her for who she is. So in a move that’s super sad when compared with “Lisa’s Substitute,” Lisa decides that being “Lisa” isn’t working for her anymore, and she’s going to try and change who she is. So Lisa doesn’t even pack, and plans to get all new clothes when they get to the little beach town, and the family plus Milhouse heads off while Lisa says goodbye to her old self.
So they get to the beach house and we’re treated to the insane things the Flanders have done with the house, such as covering he house in sticky notes that spell out everything as if the Simpsons were idiots who lived in a cave. And when the family starts to get settled in the house Lisa reveals to Marge that she “forgot” to pack, so they head off to a store to get her some clothes. Marge tries to make Lisa dress like a baby, since she’s having some issues with Lisa growing up, and Lisa decides to dress in some clothes that are very 90’s. She then immediately ditches Marge, who just wanted to hang out with her daughter, and goes in search for kids her own age to spend time with. And since Lisa is a nerd her first guess is the local library, where she almost gets enticed by Pippy Longstockings and Alice to come join them, but ends up running away instead.
Lisa wanders the town until she comes across the beach where she finally hears some kids talking under the pier. Lisa makes her way down there, and spots four kids chatting before coming up with a gameplan to socialize with them. She wanders over to the kids, but right as she’s about to say something a seagull flies by a scares her, which leads to a great line from Lisa when she tries to calm herself down, “you don’t control the birds. You will someday, but not now.” So great. So Lisa gives that a second chance, and the kids start talking to her, becoming friendly pretty quick. They complain about the cops taking their skateboards away, and Lisa says that she knows an empty place they could all hang out.
So the kids head to the library and start skating there while Lisa starts trying to create her new identity, which is basically Bart. And while Lisa is getting the know the kids, especially the girl Erin, Bart and Milhouse show up. Bart gets mad that Lisa is getting attention, and skates over to the kids, showboating as much as possible. Unfortunately this rubs the kids the wrong way, and they assume Bart is a loser, which is hammered in when Lisa starts ragging on him too. This clearly irritates Bart, and his anger gets even worse that night when he sees Lisa hanging out with the kids on the beach while he’s stuck playing Mystery Date with Homer, Marge, and Milhouse. Although that does lead to the hilarious scene where Homer keeps bringing up how Milhouse looks like the “dud” card in Mystery Date, because I find it endlessly funny how mean Homer is to Milhouse.
We’re then treated to a brief scene where Homer goes to a local convenience store where he talks to a variant of Apu, and asks for illegal fireworks, after buying some normal things to disguise his true ambitions. The guy sells Homer what’s essentially dynamite, and he heads home with the other weird stuff which is: porno mags, large box of condoms, a bottle of Old Harper, a couple panty shields, and two disposable enemas. Which leads to the amazing line from Marge when she sees the stuff Homer bought “gee, I don’t know what you’ve got planned for tonight Homer, but count me out.” This then leads to Homer trying to light the firework with the kitchen stove, which gets it ready to explode way quicker than he thought it would, so he just shoves it in the dishwasher, which causes black sludge to come pouring out of the drains.
That night though, Lisa is off playing with the kids again while Bart’s jealousy reaches its fever point. He then grabs Lisa’s yearbook, and makes his way to the beach where he shows the kids just how much of a nerd Lisa is, revealing that she’s been lying about her personality the whole time. Lisa runs away crying, not even giving the kids a chance to say anything, and Bart seems pretty pleased with himself. The next morning he start gloating to her, which causes Lisa to grab Bart, threaten to pour honey in his eyes, and growl out that he’s the worst brother of all time, all while Milhouse was apparently sitting right there being ignored. Man is this a solid Milhouse episode.
Anyway, they find out that there’s a carnival in town that night, which is their last night in the house, so they all head out to enjoy it. But Lisa is pretty damned depressed, and really pissed at Bart. And the shitty thing is that Bart is mad also, not realizing what a terrible thing he did. The two squabble constantly in the carnival, until Lisa gets knocked out of the bumper car’s ring, since her didn’t even work and Bart rammed her as hard as possible. So she forlornly walks back to the house, only to find the kids doing something to their car. She assumes they’re doing something mean, and just gets more sad, until they reveal that they actually covered the car with beach stuff as a souvenir of the trip. They explain that they don’t care that Lisa lied, and that they like her no matter what. And to cut that emotional scene we have Homer show up, see what they did to his car, and shout out the amazing line “Sweet merciful crap!” So the family head back to town, and Bart somewhat redeems himself with the realization that he gave Lisa’s yearbook to the kids again before they left so that they could sign it, which really moves Lisa.
This episode is pretty amazing. I adore the interactions between Bart and Lisa, and the weird jealousy that come out when siblings are forced to kind of fight over friends. Bart just can’t wrap his head around kids liking Lisa and not him, to the point that he does some pretty shockingly mean things to her in this episode, all while assuming he’s the victim for most of the story. And I will say that Lisa’s central struggle over identity is immensely relatable and well handled. A lot of Lisa’s stories revolve around her trying to figure out who she is, usually to great results. And while “Lisa’s Substitute” has Lisa realize that it doesn’t matter who she is, as long as she’s Lisa Simpson, this episode shows us a Lisa who has kind of given up on that idea, because being Lisa Simpson has lead her to a pretty lonely life. So she decides to give up being herself, and tries to completely reinvent the person she used to be, like so many kids (including myself) did in college. Which kind of rubbed me the wrong way on this viewing, because it was such a moving lesson in “Lisa’s Substitute” that she learned, but I think that the ending kind of redeems her decision, because even though she tried not being herself, the ultimate lesson she learns this go around was that she didn’t need to create this new personality, because these new friends liked her for who she was. It wasn’t that not being Lisa was what got her friends, it was that she just found people who like her for show she is. Which is something that in times of loneliness you never think will happen. I completely understand why Lisa would make a decision like this, because when you reach the level of loneliness and solitude that she did in the beginning of this episode, you kind of have to assume that there’s something wrong with you. But you don’t realize that it could just be the world that you’re trapped in, and that there are people out there that will have things in common with you, you just have to put yourself out there, and not get beaten down by the depression that comes with loneliness.
And I’m going to be really real with you guys right now. I usually watch these episodes, write some notes about plot points, specific jokes, and feeling I had while watching the episode, and then just write the article up without really thinking about what I was going to write beforehand. And going into this episode I was ready to complain that I didn’t really like it, and it really wasn’t until I got to that last paragraph that I realized how much this episode moved me. And I think I’ve had a bit of a revelation about Lisa Simpson. When I was a kid I really didn’t like Lisa episodes, because they were preachy and “boring.” But this go through I’ve realized that I love them, because I totally was Lisa. I was the quiet kid who thought I was too smart for everyone else, and who didn’t have friends. I have a yearbook or two that no one signed. And it hurts. So I think watching Lisa episodes as a kid were hard because I could see myself in her, and didn’t want to think like that. I’m sure Lisa was a surrogate for most of the writers of this show, because they totally strike me as similar people to me, and that’s how they crafted the Lisa episodes to be so impactful to the lonely geek in me. Lisa is one of the bravest characters in fiction, in my opinion, because even though she has rough times in episodes like this, she sticks to her guns and stays herself. Clearly no one in Springfield really likes the personality Lisa has, but she doesn’t give up and truly become another person that would be more acceptable, she stays Lisa Simpson. Someday she’ll find people who truly appreciate her for who she is, like I did when I got out of my home neighborhood and got to college, even though it’s a hard road for a long time. But you just have to be like Lisa, and get through it.
Take Away: Things get better, and you just have to be true to yourself and wait until you find people who like you for you.
“Summer of 4 ft. 2” was written by Dan Greaney and directed by Mark Kirkland, 1996.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons