It’s been a big week folks. We’ve hit the 200th episode of the show, and with the episode, he beginning of Season Ten. Which is pretty mind-blowing. Time has kind of flown for me during this project, and I really can’t believe that I’ve gotten this far. It’s been a lot of fun rediscovering my love for this show, and I’m going to try to keep positive and not get too dragged down by the declining quality of the show, and do my best to find the good in the episodes I watch. But I know that we’re in the beginning of the end folks. But at least this episode is still pretty fun.
The episode starts off with the kids getting ready for the new school year, and going back to school shopping. Lisa is psyched about it, and starts looking at all the wonderful things to buy, while Bart is just buying staplers, claiming that “these days everything is done on computers. And staplers. Staplers and computers.” We also get to see Milhouse do his best to flirt with Lisa, which just ends with him putting glue in his hair and walking into a pen display.
But this episode isn’t just going to be about school, because we’re also introduced to the B-Plot, which starts when Homer goes to the Kwik-E-Mart to get his usual order of a hotdog, a bubblegum cigar, and Success Magazine. But when Homer eats the hotdog he notices it has a weird taste. Turns out Apu has sold all the grease that used to be in the hotdog machine. Which blows Homer’s mine, since he didn’t realize people could buy grease. So he’s found a new career! He heads home with Bart and starts frying up a lot of bacon, feeding it to Santa’s Little Helper while getting all the grease. And man do I love when Marge voices some concerns over this new job, and Homer has the amazing line about how they’re going to make money, “No, through savings and wise investments! Of course it’s grease!”
But while the grease plot is getting going, we also check out what Lisa is up to now that school has started. She’s called into Principal Skinner’s office for a thankless task that ends up being her showing a new student around. However that quickly turns problematic when that new student, a girl named Alex Whitney, is revealed to have been from California and is modern kid instead of the weird time-bubble kids that Springfield has. She’s put off by Springfield’s weird ways, and Lisa can’t comprehend her obsession with being more adult. Plus it’s ridiculous to hear Alex, who is voiced by Lisa Kudrow, say “don’t be a Phoebe” to Lisa.
Meanwhile, the grease plot is continuing to truck along. Homer and Bart have come to the place that buys grease with all of the bacon earnings, and make a whopping sixty-three cents for all their work, even though the bacon cost significantly more than that. And when Homer sees the Acne Grease Company’s enormous grease tanker, he decides they need to expand their operation.
But before we see what insanity that goal will bring, we check back in on Lisa, who is still showing Alex around. She takes Alex to the lunchroom in the hopes that she can get her some friends, even though Alex seems kind of weird. And Lisa’s plan works great, because all of the girls instantly take a liking to her, since she has a purse and a cell phone, ad they immediately run off with Alex, ditching poor little Lisa. So Lisa is pretty distraught, and that night she goes home and starts to complain about Alex to Marge and Homer. And after seeking advice, Homer recommends acting more like Alex, which is surely a great idea. But she gives it a shot, and the next day at school when Alex requests they have a school dance instead of an apple festival, Lisa agrees and starts to plan a dance.
So while Lisa is starting to plan the dance with the other girls, Homer and Bart are stepping up their grease game by going right to the source. Krusty Burger. They run in and after briefly creeping out Squeaky Voice Teen, they’re given permission to take all the grease that the place has. So they pull Marge’s car up to the back and start shoveling it in, while Homer says another great line “if your mother didn’t want her car ruined she should have don a better job hiding her keys.” But as they’re shoveling the goop into he car, it all starts to drain away, because Acne Grease is back, and stealing their grease. They then threaten Homer and Bart, telling them they run the grease in Springfield, and discourage him from continuing his job.
And Lisa’s job isn’t going much better. She and the other girls are going to the mall to get stuff for the party when Alex notices a trendy tween girl store called Dingo Junction, and gets all of them to go inside and find dresses for the party. The other girls are psyched about it, and have a montage showing their purchases, while Lisa refuses to play along, and starts to fight back, refusing to step in line with the other girls. Which promptly causes her to be ostracized from the group. Which causes her to go a little crazy.
The next day at school so decides that since she can’t beat the girls, she might as well join them, and walks around the playground in a cocktail dress and platform shoes, trying to get one of the boys to take her out, even though they’re busy talking about huckleberries. Unfortunatley all of the boys, even Wendell and Ralph, have dates. So with nowhere else to turn to, she lowers her standards and goes to ask Milhouse, who already has a date too. She briefly threatens Milhouse into taking her instead, but realizes she’s become a monster, and runs away, resigning herself to just running the dance and having no friends.
Meanwhile, Homer has gotten pretty sad that his grease business has failed, and is just moping around the house. She tries to get Homer excited about some new crazy scam, like an emu farm, but Bart comes to the rescue, coming up with one last great haul. Getting the grease from the Elementary School cafeteria. So they head out, the same night as the dance, as Lisa plans to just sit up in her room looking at her microscope. But Marge gives helping her family another shot, and goes up to convince Lisa to go. Which she accomplishes by basically embarrassing her with a proposed dance party between the two of them with homemade Pepsi.
So the plots start to converge while Homer and Bart go to the school to steal the grease and Lisa is going to the school to take tickets at the dance. And while Lisa is being embarrassed by everyone going to the dance and pitying her, Homer and Bart are breaking into the kitchen and making awkward chit chat while stealing the grease. Which becomes a problem when Willie walks in and freaks out at them stealing his “retirement grease.” He then starts chasing Homer and Bart through the air vents, beating the hell out of Homer while the dance is going on. Well, actually the dance isn’t going on, because after Skinner has to run out and leaves Lisa in charge as chaperone, she finds that no one is dancing, and the boys and girls are all afraid of each other. Alex is baffled by their behavoir, and complains to Lisa, who tries to explain that they’re just acting like kids, and that she should embrace her childhood. Alex ignores that, until the grease explodes in the air vents, causing it all to come raining down on the kids, who begin playing in it. Alex thinks that’s disgusting, but Lisa is able to get her to play and act like a kid, winning a minor victory.
This is a pretty fun little episode. It’s one of those rare ones where the A and B plots are kind of held on the same level, and it’s more or less a success. Lisa’s plot is certainly the more emotional one, and her refusal to go along with everyone else, at the expense of any friendship is pretty depressing. Lisa episodes are always great at showing how hard life could be in school when you were kind of odd, and didn’t go along with the status quo, and I’m sure it hits people like me really hard. It’s definitely not the best example of a story like this, but it’s pretty solid. And the rest of the episode is bolstered by a really solid stupid Homer plot. I’m always a fan of plots where Homer has some cockamamie scheme to get rich, and this grease one is one of the best. It also helps that it’s full of hilarious lines that are so quotable. The episode was a pretty great start to a season, showing all the strengths and weaknesses that the show will continue to have for a while.
Take Away: Don’t become someone else just for popularity. And grease is a very shaky business to try and break into.
“Lard of the Dance” was written by Jane O’Brien and directed by Dominic Polcino, 1998.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons