Lifetime of Simpsons

S08 E10 – The Springfield Files

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Oh look, the X-Files. That’s something we’re talking about again. Truths being out there and whatnot? I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen a single second of the X-Files, and besides Star Trek it’s probably my biggest blindspot as a geek, and the biggest thing people who know me are shocked I have no idea about. I’ve picked up a lot of references for things I’ve never experienced, like Star Trek, but X-Files is really something I’m clueless about, and barely can identify a reference to. I bet this episode has a lot of gags in it that would make a whole lot more sense if I had even a passing familiarity with the property. But it’s still pretty funny.

Things start off with the truly hilarious frame of Leonard Nimoy narrating this story, like it’s an episode of Unsolved Mysteries or something. He’s here to tell us that the episode will be about aliens, and false, entertaining lies. Which segues perfectly to Homer coming up with yet another new way to ditch work, this time inspired by the classic Keanu Reeves movie The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down. He has some VHS footage of him, Lenny, and Carl working, from the 70s, and hooks it up to the security monitor so Burns will think that they’re still there and working. And have fallen backwards in time. There’s then a weird montage of things people in town are doing since its Friday, but the only two funny gags are Milhouse spending 40 quarters on the Waterworld arcade game, and that the arcade has an old chain-smoking gorilla outside letting kids meet Donkey Kong.

But none of that’s important, and things start happening when Homer and the guys head to Moe’s to get a head start on their drinking. And since it’s Friday, Homer wants to try a special beer, and ends up drinking a micro-brew called Red Tick, which is apparently brewed with dogs swimming around in it. And since that sounds delicious, he drinks a shitload of them, and ends up trashed. And in a shocking display of responsibility, Moe makes Homer take a breathalyzer, and since he blows a ‘Boris Yeltsin,’ Moe tells him he’s not allowed to drive home. So Homer starts walking home, and immediately experiencing weird things. He gets followed by a bus with the Springfield Philharmonic Orchestra, who is playing the Psycho theme, he runs into a sign that says DIE, before being revealed to say DIET, and finally finds Grandpa, who has been wandering lost in the woods for days. But Homer is able to ignore all of those silly things, and starts running through the forest, before coming across a glowing green alien who bids him peace and love. Which causes Homer to get terrified and run away.

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So Homer makes it home, and start trying to tell the family about what he saw. Unfortunately no one believes him, since he reeks of all the beer he had the night before. Which is exactly the plot of Citizen Kang from just a couple episodes ago. That’s weird right? They wrote a Treehouse of Horror segment and decided to just adapt it to a full-length episode, with the supernatural stuff taken out? Whatever, Homer then becomes fixated on getting someone to believe him, and starts trying to do so. He tells the guys at work, who just laugh at him, and Chief Wiggum, who mocks him with his invisible typewriter. But luckily someone is interested, the X-Files crew! They hear about Homer’s encounter, and head over to Springfield to see what’s happening.

Mulder and Scully get to Springfield, and whenever they announce that they’re from the FBI everyone start freaking out and admitting crimes. Which is hilarious, especially when Marge’s secret crime is stealing a pen from the bank. But they pick Homer up, and bring him to the local FBI branch to go over the encounter. He ends up seeing a line-up of aliens which comprises of Marvin the Martian, ALF, Kang, Chebwacca, and Gort from the Day the Earth Stood Still. But none of them match up with the one Homer saw, so they move on. They run some basic tests on Homer, and when he fails them all they decide they need to have him retrace his steps. So they head over to Moe’s, who turns out to have Shamu trapped in the back on his bar, and where Homer gets trashed on Red Tick again, and takes them to the woods. Unfortunately the only thing they find there is Grandpa, and the two FBI agents give up, after Mulder gives an hour’s long rant about the unknown.

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So everyone has given up on Homer and written him off. Except Bart, who has made a 180 and now believes Homer, which spurs him to do something drastic, and go hunting for the alien in the woods. So Homer and Bart steal some camping supplies from Flanders and head out to the forest. They hang out, having a fun time while bonding and telling scary stories, like how much college will cost for Maggie, but still no alien. They’re about to give up and just consider it a camping trip, when the alien shows up again, wishing them peace and love. Homer tries to communicate with it, but ends up lighting his foot on fire, which scares it away. Luckily Bart was filming the whole thing though, and they now have footage! So Leonard Limoy ends the story on that happy note, not realizing that there’s still ten minutes left in the show. And when the Squeaky Voiced Teen points that out, he bails, leaving us narratorless for the last act.

And when we come back we see that Homer and Bart submitted their footage to the news, apparently without having watched it and it’s presented by Kent Brockman. Unfortunately the quality is pretty terrible, and Kent just kind of mocks it. But the footage succeeds in getting everyone in town to go to the woods in the hopes that the alien will show up again. It basically becomes a carnival, and Leonard Nimoy even shows up to get a hotdog. And then, as the whole town is waiting, the alien shows up, once again preaching love and peace. But since this is Springfield, they attack the alien. Luckily Lisa shows up, even though she basically hasn’t spoken this episode, and reveals that it isn’t an alien, its Mr. Burns. Smithers explains that every Friday Mr. Burns gets a bunch of weird procedures done to him that leave him giddy, with giant eyes, and very loose, which makes him act like the alien. And apparently he glows because of the Plant, but they kind of skip over that. Mr. Burns briefly comes back to reality, ready to curse the town, until Dr. Nick shows up and gives him more of the magic drugs, which makes him goofy again. The whole town then starts singing a song, as Springfield is wont to do, which even includes Mulder, Scully, and Chewbacca. And the episode ends with the hilarious moment of Squeaky Voice Teen finishing the story before telling us to keep watching the skis!

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What a silly episode. I guess this counts as a cross-over, like the Jay Sherman episode, but I feel like it handles it a little more subtly. And the episode is pretty funny, even though it’s kind of just a longer, more series version of Citizen Kang. There are some great gags with the aliens, especially that line-up scene, but I feel like a lot of the humor would probably hit me more if I knew X-Files. There are clearly a lot of things about the episode that are referencing tropes from X-Files, and I recognize them as jokes, but they still don’t quite hit for me. Who knows, maybe if I watch the X-Files this episode will make me laugh more. But really, the episode feels a little shaky. Bart completely switches sides half-way through the episode, and Lisa ends up solving the mystery even though she hasn’t been in the episode at all, and it hadn’t established that she was even investigating it. It’s got a lot of funny scenes, but it’s just kind of dumb when you actually think about it, and the Simpsons often holds up to scrutiny way better than this.

Take Away: Don’t make full episodes based on Treehouse of Horror segments. And I guess trust people when they say they’ve seen aliens?

 

“The Springfield Files,” was written by Reid Harrison and directed by Steven Dean, 1997.

 

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