Listen everybody, it’s been kind of rough week her on Lifetime of Simpsons. Things are starting to change on the show. The humor is shifting, and the quality is starting to slide a little. But hey, there are still great gems to be found in this era, and this episode is a shining example of that.
Things start off with Homer dozing in his office while listening to Casey Kasem. And because of that broadcast Homer wakes up thinking that it’s 1939. He freaks out and starts planning things to do with his knowledge of history. This is apparently a common occurrence, because Lenny and Carl calmly stroll in and fix things by switching to a more logical station that’s airing some event Bill and Marty are hosting, here people are getting wasted in the middle of day at some Irish pub. And because work is dumb, Lenny, Carl, and Homer decide to go do that instead, leading to a full day of drinking.
Which doesn’t really make any difference to the episode, other than having Homer wake up drunk on the lawn, having forgotten that this Saturday was one where he was supposed to do something special with the kids. They apparently take turns and go do stuff that either Bart or Lisa wants to do. And it’s a Lisa turn, which historically has led to some boring stuff. And after shooting down some educational, something enlightening, and a book fair, they decide to go to some sort of traveling exhibit of Smithsonian artifacts.
So Homer and the kids go look at historical treasures like Abe Lincoln’s hat and Fonzi’s jacket. Homer doesn’t really appreciate any of the artifacts, and ends up manhandling the Bill of Rights while sitting in Archie Bunker’s chair, which is honestly what pisses the security guards off more. And in true Homer fashion, he makes things worse, and ends up damaging the Bill of Rights. But it’s okay, because apparently the Smithsonian has been bought by a cell-phone company called Omni-Touch, and they’re willing to let Homer pay off the damages to the Bill of Rights by placing a new cell-phone reception tower in their house. Which he obviously does without consulting the rest of the family.
Which turns out to be a real issue when Lisa gets home from school, already irritated that they have an ugly tower in their house, and is horrified to learn that they’ve completely taken over her room for the tower’s control center. Yep, Homer gave away Lisa’s bedroom. Which she is not happy about. And it just gets worse when Homer’s plan is to just make her live in Bart’s room, instead of moving Maggie or the weird rumpus room that they have up there that they never go in. Eh, whatever, having Lisa and Bart reenact the Odd Couple is a better call I guess.
And while Bart starts make Lisa’s life even more of a living hell, we’re introduced to the little B-Plot where Marge finds that Maggie’s baby-monitor is picking up cell-phone transmissions, letting her eavesdrop on all of Springfield’s weird secrets. But before we really see that go anywhere, we see that Lisa is not doing so well. The stress and anger from the events of the day are really started to get to her, and it’s made even worse when Homer keeps trying to “help” and makes her stop studying to hang out with him. Which results in her starting to get a crazy stomach ache. So Homer takes Lisa to Dr. Hibbert’s to get checked out, and he decides that she’s having some stress related pain, and can either take harsh antacids or try some New Age crap.
Homer doesn’t really believe in the New Age method, and starts mocking it, but Lisa holds her ground, and insists that she wants to try it. She also has a heartbreaking scene where she tries to explain to Homer that they’re just too different of people to get along, and that chances are they’ll just keep growing apart. So to combat that, Homer agrees to take Lisa to the New Age store, Karmaceuticals. However, Homer isn’t really all that open minded, and just keeps making fun of everything in the place. That is until the hippie lady who runs the store shows them her two sensory deprivation pods, and Lisa insists on doing it for two hours.
And while Homer and Lisa are getting ready to dip in the deprivation pod, The Marge plot is still going on. Bart and Milhouse realize that Marge is getting addicting to listening to Springfield’s gossip, and decide to play a little prank on her. Bart heads up to Maggie’s room, and starts talking into the baby monitor, causing Marge to think that she’s picked up another call. But Bart’s pretending to be a 30s bank robber, and says he’s planning on coming into 742 Evergreen Terrace to hideout. Marge freaks out, and instinctively smashes poor Milhouse on the head with the monitor when he tries to open the door. So Marge learns her lesson not to snoop, and they hide Milhouse’s unconscious body.
Meanwhile, Lisa and Homer are getting used to their pods. Homer is really just laying in there singing the old Witchdoctor song, but Lisa is starting to get something out of hers. She’s even starting to hallucinate, and has a crazy vision where he’s Snowball II, only to swipe at Maggie and get attacked by Marge. Which is probably something she needs to talk to a therapist about, but who cares, because there are bigger things happening. Apparently the hippie lady hasn’t been paying her rent, so some repo men are there to take all of her products. They even take the pod that Homer’s in, saying they’ll come back for the second one later.
So now Lisa is in her pod, having visions, while Homer’s pod goes on a while trip. Because while transporting the truck full of stuff, Homer’s pod slips out the back, and goes careening down the highway before landing right in front of the Flanders’ car. Ned and the family pop out, and decide that they’ve clearly found a coffin, which mean they should probably bury it. So they dig a grave, toss Homer in, and leave, just in time for the hole to give out, causing Homer to fall into a sewer, before eventually getting swept out to sea. And once there, he ends up washing up on the beach, being found by Chief Wiggum, and sent back to the hippie store to be reunited with Lisa.
And while all of this is going on, Lisa has been having some crazy breakthroughs. She’s had a handful of visions, and another one is starting off. And much to her shame, it seems like she’s hallucinating that she’s Homer. She’s eating a big sandwich full of bacon, and then ends up in the body of Homer during a ballet show. She enjoys her sandwich, and ends up falling asleep, since ballet is boring, only to have another Lisa wake her up, and act ashamed. Which make her sad. She then wakes up, and has a pretty huge revelation. While Homer doesn’t really have a lot in common with her, he does try his damnedest. So while he may seem stupid and not aware of her feelings, he also always takes her to things like the ballet and the sensory pods, just to be with her and make her happy. And she kind of treats him like crap sometimes. So with this realization, she gets out of her pod, finds Homer banged up in his, and the two head out for some real fun, a trip to a monster truck rally, where Lisa is just happy she can have some quality time with her father.
This has been a bit of a rough week here on Lifetime of Simpsons. Things are starting to fall apart, and we’re getting ever closer to the era of the show where I stopped watching. But then there are episodes like this one, that really work for me. Yeah, the weird little Marge plot is pretty half-baked and needless, but that central story with Homer and Lisa is great. I’m clearly a sucker for Homer/Lisa plots, and this one is pretty much a typical entry in that genre. Homer does something stupid, doesn’t realize he did something stupid, tries to fix it, and Lisa realizes she should be less hard on the old man. It’s a pretty tried and true formula, and while it didn’t really do anything new to the pattern, it was still just a great example of it. It’s just a sweet episode, with some legitimate emotion, that honestly made me a bit misty-eyed there at the end when Lisa just sweetly hugs Homer at the demolition rally. And sometimes that’s all you need.
Take Away: Cut your parents some slack, they’re doing their best. And don’t eavesdrop on cellphone calls.
“Make Room for Lisa” was written by Brian Scully and directed by Matthew Nastuk, 1999.