Lifetime of Simpsons

S11 E15 – Missionary: Impossible

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Welcome back to bummer week everybody! Now, I’m not going to walk back my statement that this whole week is full of episodes with crazy dark subject matters, but this one is kind of the outlier. I mean, it’s a goofy episode for sure, but it still does end with the supposed fiery death of a central character, so I guess it still counts.

The episode starts off, oddly enough, with Homer watching PBS, which is completely shocking to Bart. But it turns out the reason he’s doing something so out of character is because they’re playing some crazy British sitcom called “Do Shut Up,” about a family of furious soccer hooligans beating the hell out of each other. Quality television! However their fun afternoon of TV watching is ruined when PBS breaks to commercial so some random dude and Betty White can explain that they’re doing a telethon.

PBS is obviously hard up for cash and are requesting people call in donations, otherwise they’ll just keep talking and not letting Homer and Bart watch their hooligans. So Homer does the only thing left to do, and calls PBS to offer an anonymous $10,000 donation, so they’ll shut up. But Homer’s feeling good, because he said it was anonymous and didn’t give them any info, so he’s in the clear. That is until Betty White reveals they were able to trace the call, and they send the Pledge Enforcement Van to go get him.

So the people of PBS show up at the Simpson’s house, ready to take Homer’s massive donation. Homer does his best to stall while trying to think of a way out of this crazy spot, but he can’t come up with anything, so he has to go to the bank with them. And since his lackluster bank robbery fails, he has to admit he doesn’t actually have the money. At which point PBS loses its mind, and attacks him. So Homer runs away, trying to escape from the PBS mob, which includes Mr. Rogers, Yo Yo Ma, the Teletubbies, and Big Bird. But he’s able to get away from them, and finally finds a place to hide. The church! He runs in, requesting sanctuary from Reverend Lovejoy. And after Elmo and Oscar the Grouch break in and intimidate Homer, Lovejoy comes up with an idea. He stuff Homer in a sack that he claims are children’s letters to God, and is able to pass by the PBS mob by claiming he’s going to throw them away. But it isn’t the dump they’re going to; it’s an airstrip, because Lovejoy’s great idea is to send Homer to the South Pacific as a missionary.

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Some timer later Lovejoy stops by the Simpson’s house to let Marge and the kids know that Homer has been sent to an island for some unspecified amount of time. And while the family is acclimating to this news, we see Homer land on the island, and briefly chat with the previous missionaries. Unfortunately they leave right away, and Homer’s left on his own with the people of the island. And after meeting the three most important natives, Qtoktok, Ak, and a girl he calls Lisa, Jr, he starts to begin his new life.

And things aren’t going well, because Homer quickly establishes that they don’t have TV, couches, or beer. So he’s ready for suicide. That is until he finds out they have psychedelic toads that can cause hallucinations when licked. So at least there’s something to live for. And as he’s having a toad hallucination he gets a call from the family on his ham radio, where he fills them in on things and promotes everyone so that Bart’s the man of the house, Lisa’s the boy, Maggie’s the brainy girl, and the toaster is Maggie.

But while Homer came up with a wonderful way to handling things back home, he now has to deal with teaching these islanders about the Bible, a subject he’s pretty shaky on. So he decides to bail on the whole Bible thing, and changes focus to giving the islanders some “razzle dazzle.” Which obviously means he needs to build them a casino!

Homer gets all the islanders to begin working on the casino, killing a pelican that was being used as a cement mixer. And after a while, it all turns out great. He opens the casino, the Lucky Savage, to the public, and they take to it quickly. He has gambling, all you can eat buffets, and a bar with some loose approximation of beer. And the islanders take to it like crazy, having a grand old time.

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Well, for a little bit. Because this greed and drunkenness quickly takes over the islander’s simple society, causing their entire civilization to crumble. So Homer decides that his little experiment was a failure, and gets to work fixing them by finishing their chapel. The islanders stumble up to him, and after he tells them they’re all going to hell they decide to help build it with him. And after some work they finish their pretty nice cage for God, and everyone gets ready to pray.

That is until Homer begins ringing the bell like crazy, which causes this crazy chain reaction that ends with an earthquake splitting the ground around the chapel, causing it to sink into the lava. How are Homer and Lisa, Jr going to get out of this!? They don’t. They fall right into the lava. But right before we see them explode, we cut over to Betty White, who is hosting a telethon for Fox with the celebrity phone-answerers including Bender, Rupert Murdock, Luke Perry, the guy from the PJs (remember that?), Hank Hill, and Mulder and Sculley. The episode then ends with the ridiculous joke of Bart calling in a big donation, and then telling Rupert Murdoch that it wouldn’t be the first time he’d saved Fox.

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I’m not sure how I feel about this episode. I’ve talked lately about how much I don’t like the show’s downslide into ridiculousness. The show was always silly, but it was at least sort of grounded in reality. And here’s an episode about Homer going to be a missionary that seemingly ends with his death. It’s weird. That ending always bugged the hell out of me when I was younger, and it still kind of does. And I’m not really sure why, because it’s actually a similar ending to “Das Bus,” where the episode just kind of ends without any resolution and we just get a voiceover explaining how things got fixed. But this one doesn’t even have that. Homer dies! Unless Superman flew in and saved his ass, there’s no way out of this one. Is this not a real episode? Did this not happen? I know it’s stupid to complain about a Simpsons episode not making sense. It’s a cartoon. And it’s a widely known gag that every episode ends in a way that resets everything so they can go back to normal in the next episode. But it still bugs me. It’s weird. I don’t know, I’m sure this is a stupid complaint and I’m sure there are other people who find the ending hilarious. And more power to them, it’s just not me.

Take Away: Being a missionary isn’t worth it. Although it’s a good way to hide out from PBS.

 

“Missionary: Impossible” was written by Ron Hauge and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2000.

 

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