Look what we have here folks, one of the rarest types of episodes. A Lisa episode about her completely being in the wrong, and it not involving Homer being an idiot. It’s also a pretty great episode with some really classic moments. Let’s go!
Things start off with everyone in church, being bored out of their minds, while Reverend Lovejoy is messing with everyone and essentially vamping for time. And when he finally ends the sermon everyone starts running out of the church like their life depended on it, while the Simpsons go to their traditional Sunday brunch. Raiding the free samples at a fancy grocery store. They just descend on the store, eating anything that has a toothpick in it with no intention of buying anything. And after a couple sight gags we set up the two plots, both involving Homer. First, he makes Lisa get into the ice cream freezer to find him a good Ben and Jerry’s flavor, which causes her to get sick, and second, Homer approaches the lobster tank, and comes up with the plan to buy a one pound lobster and fatten it up to a decent weight instead of paying for a big lobster.
And with these plots in motion the family head home and things start to percolate. The next morning Homer begins cooking bacon and eggs for his lobster Pinchy, while Lisa wakes up sick as a dog. Marge insists she stay home sick, even though Lisa hates the idea. Marge wins though, and Lisa heads up to her room to watch nature documentaries instead of Price is Right, like a normal person. Instead Marge makes her play some of Bart’s videogames, namely Dash Dingo. Which, while it’s funny that it’s a Crash Bandicoot reference, is strange, because in the season opener the girls went to a tween clothes store called Dingo Junction that used Dash as a mascot, which seems weird. Did the video game come first, or is Dash Dingo a video game based on a clothing store? Well, regardless of that answer, Lisa quickly becomes addicted to Dash Dingo, and ends up playing it all day.
And that becomes a problem when later that day Ralph shows up and gives Lisa a copy of the Wind in the Willows, which they’re supposed to read for a test, and she just ignores it. And if that’s not enough, she plays the damn game the whole night, and even fakes sick the next morning to ditch school and play it all day again. And this continues for three straight days, until Marge finally loses her patience, and makes Lisa go back to school, and get that Dingo off her back. However this becomes an issue when she gets to school and finds that they’re going to have a big test on the Wind and the Willows, which she hasn’t even started.
This obviously causes Lisa to start having a panic attack, including a dream where her 0 on this test gets her refused by Harvard, so she needs to do something drastic. She asks Ms. Hoover to go get a drink of water, and as she’s wandering the halls, looking for something to do, she runs into Bart, who is also ditching out on class. And when she asks him for help, he brings her to the boys restroom, where Nelson has a little office selling the answers to tests. Lisa is obviously not cool with this, but ends up changing her mind when she sees Groundskeeper Willie’s life as a cautionary tale, and decides she can’t risk getting a single 0. So she buys the answers, and completely aces the test, getting an A+++.
Meanwhile, Homer has been gradually fattening Pinchy the Lobster up, and bonding with it. Which becomes a problem when it’s time to cook the lobster, and Homer can’t bring himself to kill his new pet, instead choosing to just make it a part of the family. And to deal with that bad news, Marge informs everyone about Lisa’s amazing score, and the family starts to make a big deal about it. Which gets Lisa’s guilt firing up. And that guilt gets even worse when the next day she’s called into Principal Skinner’s office, since that single score has moved their school-wide GPA up to the minimum standards, which lets them apply for a grant. Which Skinner has already spent. And Lisa just can’t take it any longer, and finally breaks down, telling Skinner that she cheated.
And Skinner’s response isn’t really what you’d expect. He just wants to cover it up, because one little lie can get the school a whole lot of money. Lisa is obviously horrified about this decision, and goes over Skinner’s head to Superintendant Chalmers. Who also wants to just lie. This blows Lisa’s mind, so Chalmers and Skinner take her around the school, looking at how horrible it is in the hopes that it will spur Lisa onto their side. They talk about getting real tetherballs, real periodic tables, and finally getting a computer, which is introduced with Gil teaching Ralph how to operate a computer, where he hilariously refers to Chalmers as “Supernintendo Chalmers.” And the guilt trip works, because Lisa agrees to lie and let the school keep the grant.
And before we see what kind of ramifications that causes, we get a silly scene where Homer and Marge are taking Pinchy for a walk on the beach before learning that Captain McCallister shows up trying to pitch a lobster boarding school. Which doesn’t go anywhere, because the Pinchy plot is pretty half-baked. But enough of that, let’s get over to the school for the big ceremony where the State Comptroller gives them their grant check. However, much as you would assume, Lisa’s conscience gets the better of her, and she admits to the entire crowd that she cheated. Which shocks everyone. But the Comptroller ends up coming to the rescue, and says that the school can keep the grant, because we should reward the conviction it took for Lisa to tell the truth. She then leaves with the family, happy that things turned out right. And as soon as she leaves we learn it was all an elaborate scam, the Comptroller was really Otto, and they just did it to make her feel better so they can scam the real Comptroller for the money. The episode then ends with the horrifying joke of Homer accidently killing Pinchy with a hot bath, and then solemnly eating his pet while weeping.
I like this episode a lot, even though it’s really a mixed bag. The Lisa episode is pretty great, and that Homer lobster plot is one of the weakest B-Plots I’ve ever come across. The episode really would have been better without the ridiculous Pinchy plot, because it just kept meandering around, accomplishing nothing other than detracting from the interesting morality that the Lisa story deals with. I think seeing Lisa be bad for once, and immediately being forced to face the consequences was really interested. I’ve really come to love the Lisa episodes, but she can come off a little sanctimonious some times, since she’s almost always in the right, and most of her lessons revolve around her learning to deal with other people. But here she makes a stupid mistake that lots of other kids her age would make, and then has to pay the prices for it. And then that added little moral wrinkle of Skinner and Chalmers wanting to just brush it under the rug for the greater good was great, even though it paints Lisa as a tad naïve when they just scam her to keep the money.
Take Away: Own up to your mistakes, unless it helps everyone around you be pretending they didn’t happen I guess.
“Lisa Gets an “A”” was written by Ian Maxtone-Graham and directed by Bob Anderson, 1998.