Wow. Seriously, wow. This was an episode that I remembered fondly, mainly for a lot of silly jokes and some fun animation, but I really didn’t remember how great this episode is. I have some issues with the end, because the whole concept of soul mates are a little iffy with me, as I’ve ranted about in my Anomalisa review, but everything else in this episode is spectacular.
We start off with Homer taking out all the boring parts of the newspaper before coming across a page that mysteriously has an article snipped out of it. But Marge definitely wasn’t the culprit, because she’s holding giant scissors to cut apart those corncob drapes in the kitchen. And Marge continues to not act sketchy at all as Homer gets a call from Lenny about getting a ride to some big festival before she starts vacuuming and knocking the phone line out, and then smoking in the family room, surely not to cover up some delicious scent. But the cigarette was just a little too much, because it causes Homer to go outside where he immediately recognizes the familiar smell of chili, realizing that he’s missing the big annual chili cook-off. Apparently Homer goes every year and always makes a drunken ass out of himself, so Marge sullenly permits Homer to go, on the condition that he doesn’t drink. Homer agrees, although he does give the amazing line “everything looks bad if you remember it.”
So the family head out to the chili cook-off, and immediately split up to busy themselves. And man do I love the fact that Marge’s mind is blown by a spice-rack with eight spices, and has never heard of oregano. But things really get going when Homer reaches the row of the festival where people have their chili submissions, because Homer is apparently a legend in the town when it comes to chili, and is the person that everyone is specifically trying to please. My office has a chili cook-off every April, and not to toot my own horn, but I’ve won every time I’ve participates, because chili is a lot of fun to make. And Homer begins walking around the festival, shaming everyone who participated, and we see that he apparently has a beef with Chief Wiggum, who has specifically made some horrible nightmare chili to spite Homer, including the spiciest chili peppers in the world, the Merciless Peppers of Quetzlzacatenango.
But Homer’s not impressed with the Guatemalan Insanity Peppers, and gladly grabs one to eat. Unfortunately just touching the damn thing to his tongue causes him to freak out and run around the festival looking for relief. And Homer’s bad-timing sets up the main conflict of the episode by attempting to chug a bunch of beers to help with the pain, only to have Marge see him and get pissed. So Homer sadly sits at a bench, drinking water, before almost drinking a candle before Ralph stops him. But it gives Homer a brilliant idea, and he ends up coating is mouth with candle wax before going back to Wiggum’s stand. He then makes a terrible mistake and eats five of the damn peppers whole, his tongue protected. Everyone is stunned, and Homer is trying to act cool at first, but his stomach quickly starts to make some ungodly noises, and then the insanity kicks in, and he basically starts tripping. So Homer runs out of the festival and into the sunset so he can have his vision quest/chili pepper freakout.
And holy crap is the animation in this scene fantastic. The Simpsons haven’t really been a beautifully animated show, although there have been brief moments of amazing visuals, and this scene tops everything that had been done before. It has this cool Southwestern motif while Homer wanders this crazy desert, tripping balls. And man do I laugh at the gag of Homer checking his pupils, only for the water to turn into a snake that hisses at him and slithers off, causing Homer to say “Ohhhhhhkay,” in the most hilariously acted line of the episode. And as he wanders around the desert he ends up coming across a mystical tortoise, which beckons Homer to follow him, which makes Homer mad so he just kicks the damn thing over the horizon. And when he finally finds where the turtle lands, he’s shown to a giant ziggurat that he has to climb, mainly because he kicked him.
Homer starts climbing the giant tower, and ends up at the top, where he finds Marge. But it’s not actually her, and it’s basically just her back continuously shown to him, unable to see her front. And as she turns to dust and blows away, Homer is introduced to his spirit guide, a mystical coyote voiced by Johnny Cash. The coyote says he has a message for Homer, to which Homer responds with “If it’s about laying off the insanity peppers, I’m way ahead of you.” But the coyote isn’t here for culinary advice, and is actually here to talk to Homer about soulmates, telling him he needs to find his. Homer tells the coyote that that’s ridiculous, since he already has Marge, but the coyote cryptically says that she may not be his soul mate before vanishing into the distance, as Homer comes to in the sand trap of a golf course.
Homer assumes that his crazy trip was all a dream, and explains everything away by things that are on this golf course, and decides that the whole soul mate thing was just a weird dream. So he heads back home only to find Marge furious with him for breaking his promise and staying out all night. Homer tries to make things better by calling her his soul mate, but that just pisses her off more, and he ends getting really freaked out and being forced to sleep on the couch that night. And as he thinks about it, he decides that there’s a chance Marge isn’t his soul mate and ends up walking the streets of Springfield in the search for his soul mate. And things don’t go well, because he tries talking to a sofa salesman, then hits up the barflies at Moe’s who all explain none of them are his soul-mates. Although I do love Moe’s line “I’m a well-wisher, in that I don’t wish you any specific harm.” He even calls a personal ad, but it escalates quickly and he gets creeped out.
And with no success, Homer ends up wandering the town before finally coming across a lighthouse, which he assumes will contain the loneliest man on earth, and a great potential soul mate. So he goes running into the lighthouse, trying to find Earl the lighthouse keeper, only to find that Earl is a computer program, and that there isn’t actually a keeper. So Homer logically decides the only course of action is to break the lighthouse, cause a ship crash, and befriend the survivors. So he breaks the light, and is shocked when Marge shows up. Turns out Marge has been incredibly worried about him, and demonstrates her true knowledge of Homer by finding him. They make up, and Homer realizes that she was his soul mate all along. They then try to fix the lighthouse in order to avoid the crash, which still ends up happening, spilling the ships contents of hotpants all over the beach. That then causes the citizens of Springfield to run to the beach and steal the hotpants while “Who Likes Short Shorts,” starts playing, because that’s the best way to end an episode ever.
That ending kind of doesn’t do it for me, but otherwise this episode is pretty flawless. The whole central conceit of the chili contest is pretty goofy, and led to some great stuff. I know there’s an episode later where Homer becomes a real bitchy food critic that shames everyone in town, and the scene of Homer judging everyone in town’s chili was probably the impetus of that, because it was actually really funny. Plus I absolutely adore the idea of Chief Wiggum and Homer having this weird rivalry, where Wiggum specifically buys some evil Insanity Peppers just to spite him. But the real centerpiece of the episode is the amazing trip scene, which I just can’t emphasize enough is seriously some of the most beautiful animation the show has ever done. It’s psychedelic and gorgeous as Homer trips out and goes on his vision quest. And while I think the idea of soul mates is a little hokey, it was still an interesting quest to have Homer go on, even though it’s pretty obvious that it’ll be Marge in the end. Although man do I adore their lines together when they acknowledge the fact that they’re made for each other:
Marge: “Homer, don’t you see? Out differences are only skin deep.”
Homer: “But our ‘sames’ go down to the bone.”
That’s pretty beautiful.
Take Away: You need to trip out and go on vision quests. And find someone whose sames go down to the bone.
“El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)” was written by Ken Keeler and directed by Jim Reardon, 1997.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons