What a fascinating episode to end the week on! I’ve said it a lot lately, but things are getting weird on the show around this point, and we’re increasingly leaving any sort of reality. So get ready for an episode that takes place in normal continuity where Homer and Mr. Burns meet the Loch Ness Monster!
The episode kind of takes a while to find its legs, and there are several little plots happening. The first one has Homer watching some sort of Antiques Roadshow going on in Springfield, and laughing at Moe’s fiduciary woes when it turns out the antique beertap he owns that would be worth a lot of money is worthless because Homer carved his initials onto it. But that’s abandoned when Marge announces the family have to start getting more active, and convinces them to go out on a family walk.
And the family is obviously not okay with this, and complains the entire time they’re walking. Although it does have the hilarious gag where Barney drives by and yells “get a horse!” at them, which is a great thing to yell at your friends when you see them walking somewhere. However, the walk comes to an end when they happen to walk by some huge crowd of people, and they have no choice but to see what’s going on. Turns out there’s a new Fortune Megastore opening, and there’s a huge celebration going on to celebrate that fact.
So the family wait in line, and start spending time in the humongous department store, looking at all the crazy things they can buy. We briefly get a fake-out where Apu shows up, and is sad that everyone loves this store more than the Kwik-E-Mart, but that’s not what this episode is going to be about, so they just ignore that. Instead we get to see the bullies visit the shoplifting department, Lisa mock Kevin Costner at a display where he’s doing a live commentary for the Postman, and Bart derails a toddler train. But things actually start happening when the billionaire Arthur Fortune shows up in a hot-air balloon to welcome everyone to his store and pass out dollar bills.
And since the entire town is either at the Megastore or the Antiques Roadshow, it makes sense that Mr. Burns would happen to drive by, and also get intrigued by the crowd. So he and Smithers make their way in, cattle-prodding everyone in their path, and he starts to cynically check out the store. And matters are made worse when he sees everyone showering Arthur Fortune with praise, and is disgusted with the idea of people liking a billionaire instead of fearing him.
However, even though he found the idea of people liking billionaire ridiculous at the store, it starts to weigh down on him, and make him sad that no one but Smithers likes him. So Burns decides to make some changes, and get people to like him. And the first step in that plan involves getting Homer on board, since Burns saw Homer loving Fortune at the Megastore. And since Homer’s always game for a crazy Mr. Burns scheme, he agrees and they get to work.
And they fail ridiculously. First they decide to shower the people of Springfield with dollars like Arthur Fortune, but pick silver dollars instead of bills, and just end up raining metal down on the townspeople, injuring them. Next up they try charity, but due to a miscommunication because Homer delivered the massive check to the hospital, they assume that he was the one donating the money and thank him instead of Burns. And when that doesn’t work they decide to improve his public image, and get him on the most popular radio show of the day, Jerry Rude and the Bathroom Bunch. Which also fails miserably, and mainly just makes Burns look like a weird, angry, gay, farty old man.
So three strikes. But Burns isn’t giving up! Instead he decides to do one last crazy scheme, and realizes that the one thing people love is big, crazy stunts. So he and Homer set up a team of experts (Willie and Frink) and decide to strike out to Scotland in order to find the Loch Ness Monster. Yep, that’s where this episode is going. The four men make it to Scotland, and set up their base, getting ready to do everything they can to find the monster.
First off they stick Homer in a diving suit, and have him go explore the bottom of the Loch, but that doesn’t work since he just goes out the other side and plays pinball in Willie’s folks’ pub. Second they try to use Frink’s Monsterometer to find the creature, but that fails when they find out he accidently brought the Frog Exaggerator instead. And with no other options, Mr. Burns decides to go for their contingency plan, and has Frink drain the entire Loch using a simple pump, and floods the entire town.
And now that the Loch is drained the four men start exploring it, trying to find the monster. They think they find pay-dirt quickly, but it turns out to just be a float from a local highschool homecoming parade. However, as they’re complaining about the float, the real Monster shows up, proving to be real. Mr. Burns then somehow overpowers the creature, and they fly it back to Springfield where they present the creature on the docks of the city like King Kong. But the setup is a misdirection, because it isn’t the Loch Ness Monster that goes crazy when the press shows up, it’s Burns, who scares everyone away. Apparently no one cares about the Monster, and more care about Burns being crazy, so he’s screwed. But the episode ends with Burns deciding it’s better being feared than loved, making the whole episode pointless, and they just get the Monster a job working at a casino in Vegas.
This episode…is so weird. The Simpsons have done weird stuff before. I mean, one of my favorite episodes of all time has Homer accidently working for a Bond villain. That’s not really a realistic problem. But this episode kind of goes too far for me. I love the Treehouse of Horror episodes going in weird directions and dealing with supernatural things, but this one is just strange. They flat out find the Loch Ness Monster, capture it, no one cares, and they get it a job at a casino. I don’t know, it’s just a little too surreal for the Simpsons. I obviously really love the more serious, grounded episodes of the show, they’re great, and I also love more wacky, silly episodes, but this one just goes a little too far. It’s a very big red flag that the seasons to come are not afraid to stay in the realm of reality any longer. Things are going to get weird. And I guess I just don’t like weird Simpsons as much. It’s my own thing. The episode is funny, and has some great jokes. It’s written by John Swartzwelder, so there’s a lot of goofy gags that I love, but that last act just really throws me off.
Take Away: It’s easier to be hated than loved, so don’t even bother trying.
“Monty Can’t Buy Me Love” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Mark Ervin, 1999.