Well here’s a strange episode. I remember really liking this one as a kid, and while there’s still some incredibly solid jokes in it that I loved, it hasn’t aged well for me. So let’s learn about how Bart steals a blind man’s only companion!
The episode starts off with the silly gag of Santa’s Little Helper smashing full steam into the front door because he’s so excited the mail is there, just to hammer in the idea of what a spazzy dog he is. So the family starts sorting through the mail, the most exciting part of the day, and they all get something. Marge gets a sample of gasoline, Lisa gets a German verb-wheel, and Homer gets some weird magazine. But there’s nothing for Bart, and since Marge feels oddly bad about that, she lets him have all the junk mail. And in after all the weird termite fliers, he comes across one of those shady credit card applications with terrible interest rates. And since Bart is a goddamn ten-year old, he just goes for it, and applies for a credit card. He claims that he’s a butt doctor whose income comprises of “What I finds, I keeps,” and says his name is Santa’s Little Helper.
And shockingly, that application goes through. A couple of weeks later he gets a brand new credit card in the name of Santos L Halper, and immediately plans his shopping spree. He heads to the Android’s Dungeon to start buying up every comic that hit the rack that week, but runs into some issue when Comic Book Guy points out he knows his name is Bart Simpson, not Santos L Halper, and knows it’s a fake card. Bart hadn’t anticipated this little wrinkle, and gets bummed out that his scam won’t work. That is until he comes across a catalog for a bunch of weird mail-order crap, that he can order over the phone, removing the danger of being found out. So Bart gets shopping!
I suppose to throw the scent off with the family, he lavishes them with presents at first. He gives Marge some salmon and a frying pan with a build in radio, Maggie gets a toy, Homer gets a golf shirt with his logo on it, and Lisa gets some Trucker’s Choice pep-pills. And once his family is happy, Bart starts pimping out his room, making it awesome. Lisa of course starts to get a little suspicious, but Bart just blames that on her pill addiction, and she gives up investigating. But apparently Bart doesn’t have enough crap, and starts flipping through the catalog to find something else to get. And what he finds is a specially trained dog you can buy that’s pretty much the perfect dog. And at only $12,000 it’s a steal! So Bart orders up a new dog, since you can apparently get a living creature mailed to your house.
So a couple days later Bart wakes up and heads outside with Santa’s Little Helper to find a giant crate on their doorstep. And inside is a wonderful Collie that’s named Laddie, who immediately starts proving that he’s the most magnificent dog ever. Bart and the family start swooning over Laddie almost immediately, and start ignoring Santa’s Little Helper. The family marvels at Laddie’s intelligence, and his ability to apparently print and bring them little notes that tell them what he needs. He even helps Bart ignore a threatening call from the credit card company, who are starting to wonder when they’re getting their money. Bart and Laddie head out to the woods to bury the credit card, while ignoring poor Santa’s Little Helper, who was apparently sitting outside all night, happily wanting inside the house in what was probably the most heartbreaking scene of the episode.
But since the credit card is buried in the woods, that’s certainly the end of Bart’s financial woes right? Nope! Because when he gets home he’s shocked to find some repo guys taking back all of the crap that Bart bought. And when it comes time for them to take the dog he ordered, Bart does one of the shittiest things he’s ever done, and tells them that they can take Santa’s Little Helper. The family continues to lavish on Laddie, Homer even goes so far as to wear a tie to impress him, but Lisa finally notices that Santa’s Little Helper has been missing, which Bart explains away by saying he put him in a kennel until Laddie gets acclimated. But Bart finally starts to feel bad about the horrible thing he did when they take Laddie to the dog park, where we learn Laddie was apparently in Skull and Bones, and where Milhouse starts ragging on Santa’s Little Helper. Although we do learn that Santa’s Little Helper apparently ate Milhouse’s goldfish, and Bart tried to cover it up by telling Milhouse he never had a goldfish. “Then why’d I have the bowl Bart? Why did I have the bowl?!”
And Bart’s longing for Santa’s Little Helper amps up when out of nowhere the family starts to not care about Laddie anymore and honestly kind of resent him. But Bart fixes that when he’s out walking Laddie, only for the dog to end up saving baby Gerald from a fire. And during a ceremony to give Laddie a medal for heroism, Bart ends up giving Laddie to Chief Wiggum to be a police dog. So now they have no dogs, which the family notices pretty quick. And when they call Bart on it, he starts breaking down, despondent that he lost the family both of their dogs. But Homer gives him a rousing speech about finding the dog instead of crying there eating dog food, and Bart decides to heroically go save Santa’s Little Helper. Even though Homer’s ulterior motive was to get Bart to eat dog food.
Bart then starts sleuthing, trying to find the beloved dog he gave away. He makes it to the repo store, where the guy working there tells him they sold Santa’s Little Helper to a “guy in a dress.” So after briefly stopping by to check with Patty and Selma, Bart ends up with Groundskeeper Willie, who it turns out did buy the dog, but gave him to the church because he’s kind of a horrible dog. So Bart heads to the church, only to find that they too got rid of Santa’s Little Helper, since he unholied the holy water, and gave him to a blind parishioner. So Bart heads off to try and convince this blind guy that he wants his dog back.
So Bart gets to the blind man’s house, preparing his best fake crying. But when he starts talking to the man, who considers “Sprinkles,” his only companion since his bird died. Bart can’t bring himself to asking for Santa’s Little Helper back, and instead decides that the better idea is to head back that night and steal him. That night Bart gets back to the house, and breaks into the backyard, only to find Santa’s Little Helper is now inside the house. So he gets in through a doggy-door, and has a pretty sweet reunion with Santa’s Little Helper, who unfortunately ruins things when he starts barking. The blind guy comes downstairs, thinking there’s a burglar in the house, and he manages to chase Bart into a closet before calling the cops. Bart admits everything he did to the blind guy, and the two start arguing about who should get Santa’s Little Helper. So they decide to let Santa’s Little Helper decide who he wants to be with, and after chasing his tail a bit, he chooses Bart. The two celebrate as the police burst into the house to get the burglar. The blind guy explains the situation, and as he’s talking Laddie comes in, and starts loving on him. Or at least that’s what it looks like, turns out he’s actually finding a baggie of weed in the guys pocket. So Bart and Santa’s Little Helper awkwardly head home while the rest of the cops in the city show up to smoke week with the blind guy while the episode ends with some Bob Marley.
This is a really weird episode. There are some great jokes in here, like Santos L Halper and how quickly the family turns on Laddie. But really, it just came off as a really mean episode to me now. I’ve really realized in this go-through of the series that I’m having a similar reaction to Bart as I’ve had with the Joker. I really liked him as a kid, and kind of don’t anymore. There are still some great Bart episodes that I loved as a kid, and love now, but a lot of Bart’s antics seemed hilarious as a kid, and now come off as just shitty. He got rid of his dog! A dog that he’s lost several times before in the series already?! How many times is Bart going to learn the same damn lesson that he should appreciate Santa’s Little Helper? Yeah, he’s not a great dog, he’s dumb and misbehaves, but he’s still your damn dog. I’ve had a lot of bad and/or stupid dogs in my life, and I would never in a million years think about getting rid of the poor thing. They’re your family! Yeah, Bart learns the same damn lesson he’s learned several times before by the end of the episode, but I feel like he didn’t learn it enough. Things work out great for him, and he deprives a blind guy from having a companion, all because he was shitty and selfish. I don’t know, this one didn’t do it for me guys.
Take Away: Love your pets! And don’t rack up credit card debt.
“The Canine Mutiny” was written by Ron Hauge and directed by Dominic Polcino, 1997.