Lifetime of Simpsons

S08 E06 – A Milhouse Divided

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Yay, Silly Week! This sure has been a fun week right? Just a bunch of goofy and fun episodes that took things lightly and were just a nonstop barrage of fun and humor. And we’re going to do it more today right? Right? Uh oh…what’s this? A really serious look at divorce and the frailty of marriages? Hmm…bye Silly Week.

So let’s dive on it, shall we? Things start off with Marge being frustrated at how uncivil the family is. They’re all eating dinner in front of the television, doing their best not to talk to each other while Homer wishes they had see-through plates so he could lick them while still watching TV. We also see that this disgusting world they’ve created has Maggie, Snowball II, and Santa’s Little Helper sitting on the floor and getting ready to fight over a dropped meatball, just for the sustenance. Marge tries her best to better her family and speak to them, but doesn’t have any success, so she goes out to the dining room to talk to herself. Although it does lead to the amazing Homer moment where he just yells “quiet down in there everybody!” while Marge talks to herself.

But in the end of the day, Marge decided that they need to do more classy things in their lives and marriage, and she tells Homer she wants to throw a fancy dinner party. So the family head to a cooking-ware store called Stoner’s Pot Palace, which has the amazing joke of Otto coming out while yelling about false advertising. So they wander around the store, looking at all the weird cooking implements that people somehow find uses for as they stock up on party essentials. And when they get home Marge really starts going crazy as she washes the toilet seats in the dishwasher and puts so much glaze on a ham that it seems radioactive. But in the end they get the house ready, except for Homer sitting in his underwear playing with slot-cars in the living room, and the guests start to pour in.

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We see the usual adult friends of the Simpsons come in including the Lovejoys, the Flanders’, the Hibberts, and the Van Houten’s. And right away we see Kirk and Luanne are pretry irritated with each other, and keep sniping insults the whole night. Which is a little weird, because Kirk and Luanne have never really been that unhappy. They’ve never really been much of anything before this episode, but certainly not unhappy. But whatever, it’s the nature of the episode. We start to see the adults sit around eating dinner while the kids are stuck in the living room at the kids table. There’s also this incredibly weird moment where Kirk is complaining about Luanne, and Homer starts talking about needing a comic strip called “Love Is” that’s about two naked eight-year olds who are married. Now, for most of my life I thought that that was just a super bizarre and nonsensical line that was just Homer being weird, until I was wandering through a Barns and Nobel’s comic section where they have those trade-paperbacks of newspaper comics like Garfield strips. And what did I find? Love is! And it’s exactly what Homer described it as! What the hell? Who thought that was a good idea? But I will say, there’s an even crazier revelation I had once about a reference the Simpsons made that turned out to be a real thing, and I’ll get to that eventually.

Anyway, things really start to fall apart when dinner is over, the kids are sent upstairs, and the adults begin playing Pictionary, which is probably second only to Monopoly as the game most likely to cause a relationship fight. And wouldn’t you know it, when Kirk is forced to draw dignity for Luanne, and she’s unable to figure it out, it brings the two to a full on fight. And after a lot of yelling about dignity, cracker factories, and unhappiness Luanne finally drops the big bomb, and tells Kirk she wants a divorce. Which really has a way of derailing a party. So everyone awkwardly leaves, while Homer assumes the night was a huge success!

And right away we start to see how everyone is doing with the divorce. We see Nelson bonding with Milhouse over their parents being divorced, Marge hanging out with Luanne while she burns Kirk’s clothes, and Homer spending time with Kirk at his incredibly sad divorced man apartment where he sleeps in a racecar bed. And as if things couldn’t get worse for Kirk, he’s let go at the cracker factory, since apparently single people don’t eat crackers. We also see Milhouse start to act up and just act generally shitty, which you would think would then be the plot of the episode, but it’s barely brought up again, and more serves as an excuse to see that Luanne is already dating a stuntman/American Gladiator. But we do get an amazing scene where Bart smashes a chair over Homer’s back while he’s taking a bath, hoping Homer can handle a simple stunt.

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But a new plot starts growing while Homer sits in his bath, reeling from a chair-beating, and talks with Marge about a double-date with Luanne and her Gladiator. Homer cause a fuss, and blows off the date so he can just go to Moe’s. And while at Moe’s we see Kirk hanging out with some gross woman he’s apparently dating, who then steals his car and throws out his cassette demo tape for his sappy love-song, “Can I Borrow a Feeling,” which is the silliest thing ever. And while Homer is laughing his ass off about Kirk’s terrible song, Kirk starts to warn Homer about not taking his marriage for granted, and talks about the horror of thawing hot-dogs in a gas-station bathroom sink as the pinnacle of post-divorce horror. But Homer laughs it off, and heads home, only to find Marge still at that double-date and some hotdogs thawing in the sink. A harbinger of doom!

So Homer sits in the kitchen, sadly dunking hotdogs in mustard while ruminating about his potentially failing marriage, and ends up asking Lisa for advice, since she’s walking by for a late-night soda. Lisa explains that Marge puts up with a lot of shit from Homer, and probably will put up with a lot more, and gives Homer no real advice. Although we do get a brief flash-back to Homer and Marge’s sad wedding, followed up by the two of them eating a whale-shaped cake on their own outside a cake-store, which was their reception. So Homer decides to do what he always does when he’s scared that there’s something wrong with one of his relationships, he goes way overboard the other direction!

Homer begins smothering Marge with his attention in a variety of insane ways. He goes out and buys theater tickets from the place Marge went on that double-date, makes weird ocean sounds to help lull her to sleep, and makes the dumbest decision of all time and cuts hair for her. And shockingly this doesn’t have the desired effect, and only makes Marge mad at him. So Homer does the only thing he could possibly do, and goes to file for a preemptive divorce. Marge and the kids then come home from the dentist, and we think she’s about to be hit with Homer’s divorce, only to find out that Homer got the divorce so that they could have a second, better wedding. Reverend Lovejoy is there to officiate, and all their friends and family are waiting to witness the wedding in their living room. Which is pretty sweet, but really stupid too. So they have their ceremony, get re-married, and everyone starts to party at the reception. And, swept up in the romance of the evening, Kirk decides this is the perfect, Hollywood-moment for him to win Luanne back by singing his terrible song. Unfortunately when he finishes she tells him she doesn’t want him back, and the episode ends with their marriage ending for good.

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What a heavy episode. It really came as a weird finale to this silly little week we had going here. But that’s not to complain about the episode, because it’s actually really good. The writers clearly wanted to write an episode about divorce, but knew that it wouldn’t work to actually make Homer and Marge split, so they seemed to pick a random ancillary couple to split them up. The Van Houten’s really were never portrayed as being unhappy, but that doesn’t really matter, because they barely ever showed up anyway. And really, the thing about this episode I found most shocking was that it wasn’t focused on Milhouse. You would think we would have gotten an episode about how divorce affects children, and we would have seen Milhouse struggling with the divorce through Bart’s eyes. Which still would have been a good premise, but having it be about the frailty of marriages, and how Homer starts to worry that he’s taking his own marriage for granted is probably a more interesting way to go. Most sitcoms never really acknowledge the fact that the wives in the marriages would probably leave their shitty husbands a thousand times over in the course of the show, and it was really interested to see Homer get scared that he was a bad husband. Marge has already gotten pissed at him before in the past, even kicking him out of the house before, so it was a realistic look at the panic a guy would feel if he’s worried he’s destroyed his marriage. I really don’t think getting a divorce just to get remarried is a really logical way to spice up their marriage, but it works for Homer, and it was at least a sweet gesture for him to display his love. Plus, that ending is so good. We’ve probably all seen TV episodes and movies that would have characters like Kirk and Luanne reconcile in the end, because that’s the way Hollywood romances work, and it was so refreshing and realistic to show that Luanne has absolutely no interest in getting back together with Kirk. Marriages aren’t actually fixed through song in the real world.

Take Away: I feel like I’ve used this Take Away a lot, but it’s a message that the Simpsons like to hit again and again, and it’s that you shouldn’t take your marriage for granted. Relationships take work and can’t be neglected. Don’t be like Kirk, be like Homer. Get a divorce today!

“A Milhouse Divided” was written by Steve Tompkins and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 1996.

 

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