Everybody loves Ralph Wiggum. He’s a wonderfully silly and goofy character that can be used expertly to deliver great jokes, but doesn’t get a lot of character development. “I Love Lisa” was a great episode that really gave some depth to the silly character. But we haven’t really seen much like that for Ralph since then. Until now!
The episode starts off with Mrs. Krabappel barely teaching the kids with the amazing line of “whose calculator can tell me what seven times eight is?” I took a “calculus for social science majors” class in college, and that’s essentially exactly what it was. But after that vigorous math class Principal Skinner comes in with a special surprise. Springfield has some new museum called the Knowledgium, and they’ve sent a robot to come shill for it. Which doesn’t end well for Skinner, since the robot reverts to its prime function, and starts strangling him.
But murderous robots weren’t enough to keep Bart from going, so that weekend the whole family head over to the Knowledgium, where after a brief introduction from Troy McClure, they get to play around in the pretty awesome museum. The family then wanders around for some sight gags, like Marge getting hit by the giant pendulum, Bart breaking an invisible computer, and Homer using some sort of sperm canon. But the plot gets going when Bart finds a Mars area, complete with a fake Martian surface that he uses as a skate-park. But his skating is ruined when he accidently runs into Ralph, who is just sitting there alone. And Ralph’s day gets worse when the bullies show up to pick on him, and end up shoving poor little Ralph into a giant ear diorama.
And when some employees show up to pry Ralph out of the ear while Chief Wiggum watches, Marge shows up kind of horrified at how Ralph was treated. She ends up chatting with Ralph and Wiggum, and decides that Ralph is a lonely boy, and needs a friend. And decides Bart will be the perfect candidate. So sometime later while Bart is busy planning some elaborate pranks on teachers, Ralph comes over for a play-date. Bart is less than thrilled about the whole play date idea, and after briefly looking in Bart’s room to establish he owns a cool rocket, he ends up just trying to lose Ralph in a closet while playing hide-and-go-seek. But Marge doesn’t think that that’s a very nice thing to do, so she makes Bart go outside with him.
And almost immediately they run into the bullies where Bart shoves Ralph into a bush so that he’s not seen with him. But after Ralph is done pulling prickers out of himself, they head over to Ralph’s house. Bart isn’t really impressed with Ralph’s backyard, despite seeing the rock that the leprechaun that tells Ralph to burn things lives. But Bart gets more interested when they go inside the house, and Ralph shows Bart Clancey’s secret police closet. They open it up and Bart starts riffling through the closet, finding a police report that shows Homer’s been to jail six times, and Marge only twice. But the kids freak out when they hear Wiggum show up, and they end up hiding in the closet, only for Wiggum to find them immediately. But he’s not angry, and is in fact thrilled that Ralph has a friend, and lets them wail on each other. And as they’re busy smacking each other with nightsticks, Bart spots Wiggum’s police master key, and starts to get an idea.
The first step of his plan is to come over for a sleep-over with Ralph. And that night when the Wiggum’s are asleep, Bart and Ralph sneak in and steal the master key from their room. They then hit the town, free to open any lock in town. First they go to a toy store where they goof off for a while, playing with everything, and then they hit up a bakery to eat a wedding cake and a pan of funeral fudge. But as they’re leaving they run into the bullies who start to mock Bart for hanging out with Ralph. That is until they realize they have the master key. At which point they decide there’s only one place they should go, the abandoned Morningwood Penitentiary.
Unfortunately, when they get to the creepy old prison Ralph starts to chicken out, not wanting to go inside. Bart gets a little irritated, since he wants to looks cool to the bullies, so he just steals the key from Ralph, who says the heartbreaking line of, “I thought we were friends.” But when they unlock the gates Bart starts to have second thoughts, which leads the bullies to grab the key, throw it into the prison, and leave. At which point Ralph gets his bravery and goes marches inside to get the key. And once inside, he and Bart decide to wander around, eventually finding the old electric chair. So they turn it on and practice on a little bride and groom they got from the bakery. But they hear the elderly caretaker coming, and flee, neglecting to turn off the electric chair.
So they next day Bart and Ralph continue to hang out, playing go-fish as a news story comes on the TV. Turns out Mayor Quimby is re-opening the penitentiary, and decides to do a dramatic reenactment of what the electric chair does. Unfortunately, as we know, the chair is actually armed, so Bart and Ralph spring into action. They try to call the prison, but that old caretaker is tying up the line, so Ralph comes up with the idea to ask Lisa. She then comes up with the idea to write a note about the power and fire the rocket to the prison to warn them. But it doesn’t work, and the rocket ends up missing and going to Mr. Burns’ office. Burns reads the letter, gets pissed that the penitentiary has been getting free energy, and shuts it off, saving the day. So the Simpsons celebrate and praise Ralph for coming up with the brilliant idea to ask Lisa as the leprechaun returns and gives Ralph the advice of “burn the house down. Burn them all!”
This is a really fun episode. I just love Ralph Wiggum so much, and I like to see him as a character, and not just a punchline. Seeing how lonely he is, and how happy he is to hang out with Bart is really sad, and ultimately was really sweet. The episode largely gave me that feeling that I’ve been getting where Bart’s actions seem more obnoxious than funny to me, but he redeemed himself nicely. He actually realizes that the way he’d been treating Ralph was bad, and by the end actually does kind of become his friend. It’s pretty sweet. This episode may not have been as important to the character of Ralph Wiggum as “I Love Lisa,” but it’s a really good one anyway.
Take Away: Don’t pick on someone else to please other people. And don’t leave electric chairs armed.
“This Little Wiggy” was written by Dan Greaney and directed by Neil Affleck, 1998.