Lifetime of Simpsons

S11 E14 – Alone Again, Natura-Diddly

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Hey everybody! Welcome to bummer week! I don’t know how it happened to shake out this week, but we have a full five days of really weird episodes with some shockingly dark subject matter in them. It’s super weird, but hey, it’s what we’ve been dealt. So let’s start things off with the random killing of secondary character!

The episode starts off with the Simpsons getting ready for a little family outing that was clearly picked by Lisa. They’re going on a nature hike to some sort of bird sanctuary, and no one else but Lisa seems remotely interested. But things start to get exciting when they hear some sort of strange noise that they assume are killer bees. And after Homer protects his groin, they realize it’s not bees, it’s cars, because Springfield has allowed a NASCAR track to be build surrounding the bird sanctuary. America!

The Simpsons then run across the racetrack, and spend a little bit of time in the bizarre sanctuary. Which has adapted quite nicely. They see beavers making dams with tires, some squirrels fighting with tire irons, and some dirty parrots who demand to see Marge’s boobs. But their lovely afternoon is messed up when a car comes careening into their picnic. The driver hops out and briefly chats with the Simpsons before agreeing to take Bart for a drive around the track, even though we just saw him have a fiery crash.

So Bart goes for a brief trek around the track, and the driver gives the family some tickets to the real race. They stick around for a while, until the rest of the town shows up for the race, and take their seats. And wouldn’t you know, they’re right in front of the Flanders, who get to deal with the Simpsons swearing and shirtlessness.

The race then begins, and no one really cares much at all about it, except for the hope that someone will have a horrible crash. Which I think is the whole point of watching NASCAR? I don’t know, never clicked with me. Anyway, something interesting finally happens when some scantily clad ladies with T-shirt cannons show up to blast shirts at people. And obviously, Homer really wants one. So he starts making an ass of himself, to the point that Maude excuses herself to go get hotdogs. Unfortunately, she comes back right as all the ladies fire their cannons at Homer, at which point he bends down to get a bobby pin, causing all of the t-shirt to hit Maude, and knock her off the damn grandstand.

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That’s right! Maude Flanders, wife of Ned Flanders, was just killed by a barrage of t-shirts. Sure, why not. Anyway, we cut straight to the funeral, where the Simpsons are getting ready to host everyone, and take care of Ned. And Ned is obviously devastated, but at least he gets to blow off some steam when Moe comes up and makes creepy comments about Maude, letting Ned beat him up. Oh, and Bart gets to go play Billy Graham’s Bible Blaster with Rod and Todd. It’s a bleak day for everybody.

And even though Ned seems to be doing as good as he can, that night he comes and wakes Homer up, and the two have a pretty sweet heart to heart on a swingset. Ned confides that he’s not sure how to get through life on his own, and just feels depressed that he didn’t have a sweet moment with Maude before she died. So Homer decides he’s going to help Ned in the only way he can. Making a crazy dating video!

Homer then begins stalking Ned with a video camera, getting a lot of insane footage of Ned that he has Lisa edit together into a little VHS for video dating, which is a crazy antiquated idea. Plus, the video’s not great. It shows Homer maceing Ned to make him cry, it shows Ned’s bank code, it features Ned showering with his enormous penis, and it has footage of Maggie being born. So Ned’s really not on board. That is until he has a particularly bleak evening of playing Scrabble with himself, where he finally breaks down and submits his tape.

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And after some time passes Ned goes to the video dating place and picks up the tapes of the women that were interested in him, and starts going on some dates. Which doesn’t go well. Lindsey Naegle is too busy with her career to give Ned much thought, Edna only went on a date to make Skinner jealous, and some crazy woman only talks about her issues with her mother and talks to her dog the whole time. So things aren’t going well! Which kind of crushes Ned, to the point that he decides to turn against God, since it feels like Ned is getting picked on for no reason.

So Ned refuses to take Rod and Todd to church, and acts like he’s going to give up on religion in general. Which lasts for like two minutes, because we then see Ned racing to church while apologizing to God. And when he gets there, he’s shocked to find that there’s some terrible Christian Rock group there performing, led by a beautiful lady named Rachel Jordan. So after the service Ned goes to chat with Rachel, and after awkwardly mentioning that his wife just died, the two strike up conversation. They both seem kind of interested in each other, but Ned admits that he’s not ready to date, so they agree to meet up next time she’s in town, and see where they’re at.

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What a weird episode. I feel like I’m saying that more and more in these articles, but this one is just bizarre. Now, I would never dare to say that Maude was a popular, or even interesting character, but this is just such a strange way to kill her off. It just feels so dark. Yeah, the show was really leaning more into the world of being a cartoon during this time period, but Maude was still a human being who was killed by a barrage of t-shirts. What the hell? And I think the thing that leaves the weirdest taste in my mouth about this whole episode is that it’s not really about Maude. It’s all about Ned, and how he feels sad that he’s alone before deciding he can date again. Which is an important story, but it feels strange that once Maude is dead, she’s basically forgotten in the episode. They talk about Ned’s loss, but it’s not really about Maude. This wasn’t an episode where people remember Maude and think about how she’ll be missed. It’s just about how Ned will get by. And I don’t know, that just seems odd to me. I feel like Maude just wasn’t popular, and they axed her from the series, never to speak of her again. From what I remember that remains pretty true. I don’t remember her even coming up that much after this episode. She’s just been stricken from the record, in favor of giving up a single dad Ned. And I think single dad Ned is interesting, it’s just weird that Maude made so little impact that she’s barely mentioned in this episode that’s ostensibly about her death. I don’t know if that makes much sense, but it’s something that really bothered me about the episode on this go around.

Take Away: If your spouse is more interesting than you, no one will care when you die.

 

“Alone Again, Natura-Diddly” was written by Ian Maxtone-Grahame and directed by Jim Reardon, 2000.

 

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