You know, with all the horrors and sadness in the world, can’t we just be happy and watch a silly-ass Simpsons episode where Grandpa’s kidneys explode and Homer meets Peter Lorre?
We start off this little tragedy with the family heading out to a ghost town for a fun little trip, which is extra funny because they’re heading to a place called Bloodbath Gulch, which if you’re obsessed to the ridiculous Simpsons Tapped Out phone game, is where the latest little event is taking place. But that doesn’t have anything to do with anything, so let’s just talk about how funny it is that Homer keeps electrical tape over his “check engine” light, which obviously solves that problem. That is until the car craps out right in front of the Retirement Castle. And wouldn’t you know it, its Grandpa’s birthday, and he sadly assumes that the family is here to visit him, and shuffles out to their car, coming along with them on their ghost town adventures.
And now that Grandpa is in the car they drive out to the middle of nowhere and finally get to Bloodbath Gulch. They briefly take part in the tour, where they learn that the whole little town was basically a prostitute factory. The rest of the tour is very boring, so they wander off to the weird robotic saloon where they have some sarsaparilla and get attacked by a bunch of dilapidated robots. We also see that Homer is wanted for lewd behavior, the town has a ridiculous fake shoot-out where a man drowns to death, and that Grandpa has just been drinking sarsaparilla after sarsaparilla. And when the family finally has had enough “fun,” they decide to drive home, after not letting Grandpa pee all that terrible soda out of his system. Which surely isn’t going to cause any problem.
The family head back to Springfield, driving through the endless desert, while Homer just keeps refusing to let Grandpa out of the car to pee in a bush like a goddamn animal. And after what is apparently hours of painful urine pain, the ridiculous happens, and Grandpa’s kidney’s just straight up explode. They take Grandpa to the hospital where he gets checked out by Dr. Hibbert, who is frankly stunned that Grandpa’s still alive. Without a single kidney Grandpa is definitely going to die, unless he gets a donation. And since that could take ages, Grandpa’s only hope is to have Homer donate one of his. Which Homer agrees to immediately, not really having any idea what he’s agreeing to.
But one thing that Homer knows is that everyone is treating him great now that he’s agreed to do it. Marge, Bart, and Lisa are waiting on him, hand and foot, just making his life as great as they can while he just feels like a hero. But that all comes crashing down when he goes to Moe’s and the barflies finally let him know what he just signed up for. And it isn’t even them discussing the mortality rate of the procedure that gets to him, it’s the fact that he can’t drink as much which finally pushes him over the line. So Homer starts to get some doubts, especially since the date of the operation is racing up, but Marge helps reassure him. Although that does include Marge promising to blow up the hospital if he dies, which she probably wasn’t anticipating.
And the next day Homer heads to the hospital to get his kidney yanked out. He and Grandpa get ready in the OR while Dr. Hibbert prepares the operation. However, right when Hibbert is about to start things off, he turns around and finds Homer gone, having run out the open window. Homer runs away from the hospital, stealing a little rail-cart and fleeing for his life. He finally makes it to some seedy docks, and begins to finally feel shame about his horrible decision to flee and leave his father to die. Home decides that he’s too full of shame to live on the land anymore, and will now start a new life on the sea.
And that new life isn’t off to a good start, because after buying some sailor clothes he attempts to get a job aboard a ship that turns out to be a taffy stand. But after that failure he sees a real ship leaving port, and jumps aboard, begging Captain McCallister for a job. Which does lead to this amazing scene:
Captain McCallister: “Welcome aboard the ship of…[dramatic] lost souls!”
Homer: “The name on the back says Honeybunch.”
Captain McCallister: “Yar, I’ve been meaning to paint over that.”
And now that Homer is part of the Ship of Lost Souls, he’s introduced to the insane people that live on it. Besides a guy who is clearly Peter Lorre, I’m not sure exactly who these people are parodying, but I’m sure it’s something. They’re like characters from 40’s noirs or something, like a jilted bride, a French accordion player, and a guy who fights tigers. They tell Homer all about their depressing and dark back-stories, but when it’s Homer’s turn and he tells them about abandoning Abe, they’re so disgusted they throw him off the ship.
And with no other choices left, Homer gives up and decides to go back to Abe, and go through with the kidney operation. So he makes his way back to the hospital, briefly cowards out again, and finally makes it into the OR again. But, once again, right as the surgery is about to begin, Homer runs out again. This time his freedom is much shorter though, because he ends up running into a car-transporter being driven by Hans Moleman, and a sedan is dropped on top of him. Homer then wakes up some time later, in traction and covered with wounds from the car accident, only to find that while he was out, they took his kidney. Grandpa then gloats over Homer’s broken body and dances out of the room while Homer swears his revenge, and begins plotting his theft of Bart’s kidney.
Okay, this is a stupid episode. The idea of Grandpa’s kidney blowing up, and then Homer flaking on donating a kidney is pretty dumb, and could probably come off super mean-spirited under a lesser show. But for some reason, this episode really works for me. It may be nostalgia, because I know this episode played ad naseum, so I have a lot of love for this one. Plus, it’s just really well written. It’s certainly not a particularly emotional episode, which is weird since it’s about the potential death of Homer’s father, but boy is it funny. Listen, I think I would give this episode a positive opinion just for the crazy Ship of Lost Souls gag with the lineup of weird character actors I assume John Swartzwelder loves. So yeah, it’s not the most nuanced episode they’ve ever made, but sometimes you just want to watch some goofy entertainment and giggle to yourself, and this episode certainly delivers on that front.
Take Away: Don’t flippantly agree to be an organ donor, and if you do agree, don’t flake out. Oh, and never trust the strangest people on Earth.
“Homer Simpson in: “Kidney Trouble.”” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Mike B Anderson, 1998.