Ooo, secret love-childs! The Simpsons have never been so soap-operatic. Plus we get some great jokes from the incomparable Rodney Dangerfield mixed with good old Mr. Burns. This is a mighty dumb episode, but it’s really fun.
Things start off with the Simpsons visiting the Mt. Swartzwelder Historic Cider Mill, which is a hilarious joke, on the day of the 7th game of the World Series. Homer is really mad about this, but for some reason they’re still going to a cider mill, even though no one really seems excited about it. They just wander around being bored about apples for a while until Homer tries to sneak off and runs into the Flanders family, who have season passes to the mill, because of course they do. Ned starts rambling about apples and cider, while Homer’s brain informs him that it’s giving up on the conversation, which leads to a hilariously animated scene where Homer’s body just crumples as his brain abandons him. And after a fun-filled day of apples the Simpsons start to drive back to Springfield while Lisa corrects Marge’s pronunciation.
But as the Simpsons drive off we get to see Mr. Burns and Smithers getting onto a train after watching a Harvard/Yale football game, because apparently Mt. Swartzwelder was close to either Yale or Harvard. Burns complains about how Harvard barely won as they get into his lavish train-car complete with fire-place and pool table. Unfortunately as the train begins heading back to Springfield things run into an issue when they come across a couch on the tracks, and no one knows what to do about it. Luckily though, there’s an odd man working in a souvenir stand in the middle of nowhere, who gets to run up to the train and try to sell his crap. And wouldn’t you know it, when he looks in on Burns’ car he immediately recognizes the face of our lovable old billionaire as his long lost father. So the man, named Larry, chases after the train, learning that it’s headed to Springfield.
Larry starts standing on the side of the road with a sign that says ‘Springfield’ on it in the hopes that someone will pick him up and the Simpsons somehow pass him. Homer really wants to pick the hitchhiker up and Marge doesn’t, which leads to an argument that lasts the entire way back to the house, but right as they’re pulling into the driveway Homer decides to just do it anyway, and drives all the way back to pick the guy up. Larry starts telling them about his dad, and everyone in the car explains all the horrible things Mr. Burns has done to them over the years, which makes for an awkward car ride. So the Simpsons dump him off at Burns’ mansion, and leave him to his fate.
Burns and Smithers come to the door, and while they’re both a little wary of the strange man, when he says that he’s Burns’ son, Burns just kind of roles with it. Burns then tells Larry the story of his conception, which is something everyone wants to hear. Turns out it was at Burns’ 25th Yale reunion when he ran into the young daughter of his college flame, and the two started dating. They watched Gone With the Wind and then had sex in a museum. But when it turned out she was pregnant her parents covered everything up, and gave Larry away to the orphanage. So in a shocking out of character moment, Burns says that Larry should stay with him and be father and son for a while. So Larry moves in!
And in some blatant nepotism, Burns gives Larry a job at the Plant where he works in the same office as Homer. Homer is a little werided out by having the bosses son be his co-worker, but the two quickly become best friends, since they have everything in common. But things already start getting bad for Larry when he comes with Burns to a fancy rich person ball where Larry makes an ass of himself and embarrasses Burns to no end. Although he does start calling Smithers “Chuckles,” which is hilarious. So Burns decides to make Larry a gentleman, and send him to Yale. Unfortunately his test scores are so terrible that Burns would need to bribe them with an international airport, which Burns isn’t in the mood for.
And things start to get even worse when Larry invites Homer over for dinner, and the three of them are treated to the most uncomfortable evening of their lives. Although we do get to hear Homer complain about how much he doesn’t like Milhouse, which always makes me laugh. And by the end of the night Burns loses his cool and starts yelling at Larry about what an embarrassment he is. So Larry and Homer wander off and start trying to come up with ways to get Burns to love him more, which ends up with them deciding that the most logical thing to do is fake a kidnapping.
So Homer “kidnaps” Larry, and sends Burns a note, which gets him furious at the idea that someone would steal his property. And while the manhunt begins we see that Larry and Homer are holed up in the Simpsons’ basement, which gives us this amazing little scene:
Marge: “Is every drifter we meet going to move in with us?”
Homer: “Of course not. We’ll decide that on a drifter-by-drifter basis.”
But eventually the news of the kidnapping gets on the news, especially after Homer’s botched call to the police gives them his address, and Marge finally figures out what’s going on, making them give up on the kidnapping and leave the house. Homer argues that this will make him look like an idiot, and it sure does! So now the cops are after Homer and Larry, and the two go on the run. They try to get to an abandoned warehouse that’s no longer abandoned, they hide in the bathroom of a costume shop instead of buying a costume, and finally end up at the Aztec Theater and get tickets to a movie called “Too Many Grandma’s” with Olympia Dukakis and Bo Derek.
Unfortunately the two start making fun of the movie too loud, and end up pissing off the only other movie-goer, Hans Moleman. And Moleman escalates things way too much and ends up calling the police about their talking, which destroys their intricate plot. So the police show up and Homer and Larry end up escaping to the roof in a terrible attempt to get away. But they’re caught as a crowd starts to gather around the theater and watch the stand-off. But Larry finally backs down and announces to Burns and the crowd that it was a phony kidnapping to get Burns to love him more. And this causes Homer to make a somewhat sweet speech about how you love your kids unconditionally even though they’re annoying sometimes. So Burns sees the error of his ways, and decides to love his some no matter what. Psych! He admits he can’t do it, and says that it’s best if Larry leaves forever. And Larry is now cool with that, and finally remembers that he has a wife and kids back in the middle of nowhere that he should probably go back to. And the episode ends with the ridiculous scene of everyone starting to have a ridiculous party where booze, music, and leis start coming from nowhere.
Like I said at the top, this episode is super dumb, but a whole lot of fun. Rodney Dangerfield and his endless string of one-liners are so great, and doesn’t even seem out of place in the episode. Larry Burns is just a goofy character, and works so hilariously with Mr. Burns. So many of Dangerfield’s great characters were based around this uncultured slob bothering fancy rich people, and it worked so great with Mr. Burns as that fancy rich guy. Plus it was great to see Larry and Homer be little pals, having a terrible kidnapping plan. Everything just worked perfectly for this episode, even though we didn’t get that much soul from it, even though Homer’s speech about unconditional love gets close.
Take Away: You’re supposed to love your kids unconditionally. Unless they act like Rodney Dangerfield.
“Burns, Baby Burns” was written by Ian Maxtone-Graham and directed by Jim Reardon, 1996.