Ah, Christmas time. It’s been kind of a crazy week for the Simpsons, tones all over the place and a serious bummer yesterday. So let’s have a healthy dose of holiday cheer! Oh, wait…this is a bummer Christmas episode? Sounds about right.
And things start off with Homer and Marge driving to the Try-N-Save, on Christmas Eve, to get Christmas presents for the kids. Because they’re great parents. And to make matters worse, the heater is broken and just sprays snow at Marge the whole time. But when they get to the store Homer actually does something devious, since there are ridiculous lines which should ensure they never get anything. He basically just pretends to be a cashier and takes all the gifts the other people have brought up. Although he doesn’t steal them, he stuffs some money into the register, so hey, at least there’s no theft.
Plus it turns out they’re waiting to do everything until the last minute this year, because that night they’re also putting up the tree, baking cookies, and putting the lights up on the house. Which is ridiculous. But whatever, we get to see Homer’s terrible lights and Bart’s bloody spear-head cookies. And after looking at Homer’s lights, they go inside and everyone starts trying to guess what their presents are, until Marge tells them they don’t get to open any until 7 am the next morning. She even stole all of their alarm clocks so no one can wake up early and get a head start. But that kind of shit isn’t going to stand for Bartholomew J Simpson! He decides to drink 12 whole glasses of water, hoping that his bladder will explode sometime before 7, waking him up before everyone else.
So around 5 am Bart wakes up, after having a crazy dream about water and peeing, and after having the most satisfying urination of all time, he heads on downstairs to get a head start. He runs down, opens up his present from Santa, and is psyched to find a remote-controlled fire-truck. So he gets it out of the box, and starts racing the truck around the living room, having a blast. That is until he accidentally lights the truck on fire, and runs it into the tree, which ends up lighting it on fire. Bart does everything he can to put the fire out, but doesn’t succeed. The tree, being plastic, melts down around the presents, creating a giant green plastic blob. And knowing that this is a really bad thing to have done, Bart decides to hide his deeds, and drags the blob outside she he can bury it in the snow, covering up his deeds forever!
Pretty much as soon as Bart’s done, the rest of the family wake up, and head downstairs, stunned to find the tree and gifts missing. They start freaking out, and notice Bart coming inside with his boots, and thinking quickly, Bart explains that he saw a robber steal all of their possessions, and he was trying to chase him. The family of course believe Bart, and call the police over to make their report. And after Bart gives the most ridiculous descriptions of all time, the police head out and the Simpsons have to deal with their Christmas being ruined. But after a couple moments of ennui, they decide that the thing to cheer them up will be talking to Grandpa, since he’ll be even sadder than them. Unfortunately it turns out the Retirement Castle have been visited by the pharmaceutical reps, who have doped them up with happy drugs.
So the family heads back, only to find Kent Brockman waiting for them, getting ready to do a report on them and their depressing Christmas. And that report spurs the rest of the town to get in the Christmas spirit, and come give the Simpsons money. They all come in, just handing over handfuls of cash. And by the end they have $15,000 and the townsfolk tell them to go wild and splurge on something crazy. So they head out the next day and buy a fancy new car! Which they immediately drive into a lake. Which then explodes. So they’re back to square one. And by this point Bart has been racked with guilt for pretty much the entire episode, and finally breaks down, telling the family the truth. Which results in Homer, Lisa, and Maggie strangling him.
But Brockman comes back to do a follow-up, so they awkwardly play along with the reality they’ve constructed, telling the viewers that they’re super sad about it, and that everyone should probably give up trying to find the crook. Which is almost going to be the end of Brockman’s visit, until the lights that the news crew set up for the shoot starts to melt the snow, revealing the plastic blob. Brockman then swings into attack mode, trying to figure out what the hell is going on. And Homer immediately folds, admitting that Bart lied, and that they squandered the town’s money. But we’ve seen over and over that Springfield is a town full of sane, rational people, so surely nothing bad is going to happen now.
Psych! They get super pissed, throw fruit at the house, and make the Simpsons pariahs. It even reaches the point that people leave places they come into, Ms Hoover refuses to teach Lisa, and everyone at the Plant would rather die than believe Homer about an impending disaster. So it becomes clear that the only thing they can do is to pay the town back. But they don’t have $15,000, so they do the only thing they can. Send Marge to win the money from Jeopardy. But she does terribly, and they end up having to flee the studio before Alex Trebek steals their money.
So the family head home, despondent that they’re going to stay pariahs. There’s just nothing more they can do to pay back the town. But, shockingly, they get home and find the whole town waiting for them, happy again. Turns out everything worked out great. Oh, and the town has also decided to just steal everything the Simpsons own to pay back the $15,000 they wasted. And after picking over the entire house, the town leaves them, with nothing but a wash cloth left behind. But they aren’t pariahs anymore! And the episode ends with the sweet moment of the family fighting over the wash cloth, turning it into a fun little game, saving at least a bit of Christmas cheer.
This is a weird little episode. Christmas ones often kind of fall flat for me, and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe they get too sappy? I don’t know. But this one is kind of shockingly mean-spirited. Of all the things that I thought was going to happen during this crazy project, I never thought that my decreasing interest in Bart would happen. Bart was the man when I was a kid. He was pretty much why I watched the show. But now? He’s kind of my least favorite family member. He’s pretty rarely given character, and there are so many episodes like this one, where he’s just pretty shitty the entire time, and then doesn’t really get any repercussions. Yeah, he admits he did something wrong, but immediately after that the episode becomes about the family having to deal with the problem he’s put them in. He doesn’t really ever have to be punished for the remarkably shitty thing he did. The episode kind of turns things around right at the end, because I found the family tussling over the wash cloth super endearing and sweet, but the whole Bart thing just really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Take Away: Don’t ruin Christmas.
“Miracle on Evergreen Terrace” was written by Ron Hauge and directed by Bob Anderson, 1997.