Here’s an episode I’ve been waiting for for a long time. I obviously remembered this episode, and remembered it fondly, but what I’ve been waiting for is another episode about Ned. Ned Flanders and I really don’t line up on a lot of philosophies, but I find the character really interesting, especially when we dive into him and he’s not just used as a joke. And from the episodes I’ve seen this is probably the most in depth we get into the guy, and it’s great.
The episode starts off with Homer dozing in his hammock while the weather starts to freak out. Lisa is the only one who’s noticed, and since she’s a huge dork she checks her barometer and other meteorological equipment, which leads her to realize that there’s a hurricane a brewin’. She tries to warn Homer, but he claims Springfield never gets hurricanes, even though Lisa brings up the fact that that’s according to the hall of records, which got blown away in the 1970’s. But when the wind blows away Santa’s Little Helper, Homer finally accepts the impending hurricane, and the whole town starts freaking out.
We see the crazy riot that’s about to break out at the Kwik-E-Mart while the townsfolks are desperate to get some food before the weather apocalypse. But Apu has everything under control, with his shotgun perch on the roof, and ends up letting everyone in. People are grabbing everything they can reach while Marge frets about the horrible selections, but that’s the least of her worries when Mrs. Glick steals Lisa, since she thinks she’s a pineapple. But she’s in good company, since she also thought Ralph was a pumpkin. But Marge apparently rescues Lisa, because we next see them get back to the house where Homer is incompetently boarding up all the windows to keep the house safe. We see that Ned has expertly battened down the hatches on his house, and even invites the Simpsons over, but Homer blows him off, and they all get down into their cellar.
The family hole up in the cellar while we only get one weird hurricane gag, where a death-row inmate is lifted out of the jail and thrown into the electrical wires, which was kind of odd. But the family are entertaining themselves by telling Marge what to do while playing with a Rubik’s cube, which seems extremely aggravating. Especially when you hear Bart’s advice of “spin the middle side top-wise.” So I guess they just sit there in sullen silence until Homer tries to run out in the eye of the storm, before almost being swept away when it kicks back up. But in the end, they make it through the storm, and come out to see that the house is completely fine. In fact, everything in town is completely fine, except the Bowlarama, which got flung off onto an overpass. Oh, and the Flanders house has been completely destroyed. Buried the lead on that one.
The neighborhood gathers around the wreckage of the Flanders home, seeing what they can do. And things aren’t looking good since the house has been completely leveled, and they don’t have insurance since Ned thinks it’s a form of gambling. So they head out to the church, which has a wonderful sign that reads “God Welcomes His Victims.” And since they’re the only ones, they get their pick of the sad cots! The Flanders family start preparing for their stay in the church, including Rod and Todd wearing their Butthole Surfers and I’m With Stupid t-shirts. And the hits just keep on coming when they turn on a TV and see that the city is destroying the Leftorium out of anger for the storm not really doing anything. And this all builds up to Ned walking around the church at night, struggling with what has happened. And when he cuts his finger on a page of the Bible, he finally breaks down and has a really depressing conflict of faith.
Ned: “Why me, Lord? Where have I gone wrong? I’ve always been nice to people. I don’t drink or dance or swear. I’ve even kept Kosher just to be on the safe side. I’ve done everything the Bible says, even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff. What more could I do? I feel like I’m coming apart here. I want to yell out but I just can’t dang-diddily-do-dang, do-dang-diddily-darn do it!”
So Ned’s pretty much at his darkest. But the next day Marge shows up at the church to tell Ned that something wonderful has happened. So the Flanders family rush back to their house with Marge, only to find that the entire town has gathered together and rebuilt the Flanders’s home. The Flanders’ are obviously moved, and start to get shown around the house, which quickly is revealed to be a disaster. There are loose nails everywhere, a toilet in the kitchen because they didn’t want to haul it upstairs, a load-bearing poster that’s keeping Rod and Todd’s bedroom together, an increasingly smaller hallway like Willy Wonka’s factory, and just painted dirt instead of floor-boards. And the icing on the cake is that as soon as they go outside the house just falls apart and is reduced back to rubble. Which finally makes Ned snap, causing him to absolutely lose his shit and starts yelling at everyone there. The whole scene is amazing, but I think my favorite insults are calling Lisa the “answer to a question no one asked,” and just calling Homer “the worst human being I’ve ever met.”
And with that Ned gets in his car and drives off, and ends up smashing through the gates of the Calmwood Mental Hospital. And why did Ned go there? Turns out he’s kind of crazy, and has had a history of mental issues. We see a nurse recognize Ned and immediately call a psychiatrist called Dr. Foster. And from there we learn that when he was a child Ned was a horrible child, just running around punching people and being terrible, which is demonstrated with some footage of Ned kicking kids and calling them Dick Tracy names, which cuts off right before he calls a kid Dick Face. Apparently Ned’s weird beatnik parents had no idea how to discipline him, and just restored to giving him to a psychiatrist to handle. And his plan is to just spank Ned for eight months straight. And once that’s over Ned is no longer a terrible child, but he’s also completely crazy and repressed, starting all his diddily-doodley crap.
And because of Ned’s outburst, Dr. Foster realizes that he needs to do something to get Ned to vent his frustrations so he doesn’t blow up like that again, and they begin experimenting on him to incite anger. And if they need anger, there’s only one person they can call. Homer and the family head over to the mental hospital and the family get to wander the grounds while Homer goes and messes with Ned. I also love that we see Mrs. Botz, John Swartzwelder, and Jay Sherman in the mental hospital. So Homer is brought into a room where he’s separated from Ned by a wall, and is supposed to read these incredibly lame scientific insults. None of them work, not even the maximum hostility insult, “I engaged in sexual intercourse with your spouse or significant other.” Which leads to Homer just adlibbing and messing with Ned. And in the end Ned is able to admit that he hates the Post Office, and his parents. This proves to Dr. Foster that Ned is cured, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but Ned is released to applause from the town. He now knows how to control his anger and is brought back into society.
This is a pretty great episode that kind of gets on shaky legs there by the end. The hurricane stuff in the beginning is pretty fun, although it doesn’t really take full advantage of the premise and only gives us a couple of silly jokes about how much people freak out when there’s strange weather about. But the episode really hits its stride when Ned’s house is destroyed, because we really get an interesting look at Ned’s internal struggles. Now, I’ve made it abundantly clear at this point that I’m not a religious man, but I assume going through a major tragedy like Ned does must really mess with your faith. Ned’s lived his whole life believing that good things should happen to him because he’s living his life the way the Bible tells him to. And then something horrible like this happens, and I’m sure it’s devastating. We’ve seen gags before in the show where Ned prays and something magical ends up happening in his favor, and here things just completely fall apart, and God is nowhere to be found. I feel like this whole thing would really hit me harder if I had any interest in faith, but even with none it still hits pretty hard. And the psychiatric stuff near the end is pretty interesting, but kind of fell apart near the end. I really like the idea that Ned was a terrible hellion when he was little, and that the reason he’s so weird and repressed now is that he’s trying to bottle down all of his feelings. The thing I just don’t like is that he’s apparently magically cured when he admits he hates his parents, because that’s how mental disorders work. But whatever, it was a great middle that didn’t quite stick the landing, but still adds a lot of great characterization to Ned.
Take Away: Don’t bottle down your emotions, otherwise you may explode.
“Hurricane Neddy” was written by Steve Young and directed by Bob Anderson, 1996.