Lifetime of Simpsons

S12 E16 – Bye Bye Nerdie

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The Simpsons gods have been pretty kind to me this week. Some slight and enjoyable episodes that were pretty fun. Not as good as the Golden Age, but hey, I want to stay positive. It’s fun! But we’re going to take a real dip down in quality to end out the week here. Buckle up!

The episode starts off with Homer and kids watching TV and checking out a crazy commercial for an Itchy and Scratchy cereal called Stabby-O’s. But while they’re watching the commercial Marge comes wandering in and freaks the hell out, since the kids are supposed to be getting ready for school. And when she sees the school bus approaching Marge has to quickly drag Bart and Lisa around the house, trying to get them ready as fast as possible.

But it didn’t work out, and Otto leaves the house just as she gets them presentable. But Marge isn’t going to give up like that! She hops in the car and starts chasing after the school bus, trying to get Otto to stop and let the kids aboard. Otto for some reason decides that Marge is trying to race with him however, and starts drag-racing through Springfield, even visiting the weird aqueducts from Terminator 2. And after a crazy race Marge manages to beat Otto! Right as they get to the school. So Marge makes the kids get into the bus right as it’s at the school.

But it wasn’t going to be a pyrrhic victory though, because right before Otto lets them all loose he remembers he was supposed to be picking up a new girl and races off to get her. So the bus heads back into the neighborhood while the other kids start to guess what this new kid will be like. And they’re all disappointed when she’s a quiet redhead named Francine. No one wants to talk with Francine, and it gets to the point that even Lisa starts to feel bad for her, and she goes to talk with her at lunch. Unfortunately when Lisa talks to Francine, she responds by punching her right in the goddamn face.

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But let’s take a brief break from that shocking revelation to talk about the bizarre little B-Plot. Back at the Simpsons house Homer is apparently skipping work, and he and Marge are just sitting around having awkward chit-chat when they get a visitor. It’s a woman who works from some sort of baby-proofing company, and like suckers they invite her in to fear-monger. She tells them about all the horrible things in their house, and gets them terrified. But the price-tag that comes along with the baby-proofing is too much, and Homer decides to just do it himself.

And they’re still working on that when the kids get home from school and Lisa tells them about her new bully issue. Homer decides to help out by telling a story about how he used to bully Smithers in high school by beating him up to the tune of “Kung Fu Fighting,” but that wasn’t a lot of help. Marge takes a stab though and tells Lisa that she should find something Francine and herself have in common and bond over that. So they decide on Malibu Stacy, and Lisa brings one to school to talk about.

Unfortunately when she goes to talk to Francine she finds that she’s broken into her locker, stolen the Malibu Stacy, and destroyed it, just to spite Lisa. So that’s horrible. And before we see Lisa’s next move we cut back to Homer where he’s getting to work baby-proofing the house, only to end up with a bunch of nails in his hands. But, even though he’s kind of terrible at it, he’s got a lot of passion, and his idea technically work, so he’s found a bit of a new calling. He even starts a new business and goes around saving all the children of Springfield.

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But back with Lisa, she’s decides that befriending Francine is never going to work, so she goes to talk to Nelson and the other bullies to offer them a job as bodyguards. They refuse this though, because they have a strict code against hurting girls, and Nelson decides to teach her about the rich history of bullies. And at the end of the talk Lisa starts to notice something about Francine’s patterns. She only beats up nerds. This shocks Lisa for some reason, and she starts researching.

Her first step in this research was to find Willie and get him to show her the school security tapes. So Willie brings her into a shady closet and she starts watching footage of Francine beating her up, when she notices that the only time Francine didn’t beat her up was when she was wearing a nose-plug for swimming. And this gives her the idea that scent has something to do with the bullying, which results in her getting beaten up again.

So with this new theory Lisa decides to do some testing. And the first step of that is to get some nerd stink! So she gets Martin, Milhouse, and Database to get on Stairmasters and squeegees the sweat off their back to collect their drippings. And with the nerd scene on hand, she goes to Bart’s class where Drederick Tatum happens to be visiting, and asks him to put some sweat on his suit for science. He agrees, and the scent instantly triggers Nelson to get out of his seat, and start trying to beat up Tatum. A correlation is found!

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Oh, and before we finish off with Lisa’s founding we have to wrap up Homer’s dumb plot. He’s watching TV one day and sees a report about how his baby safety crusade has bankrupted several businesses in town that relied on injured babies, and he’s realized he’s gone too far. So he races around town, telling babies to hurt themselves again. That’s it. Moving on!

Anyway, with Lisa’s findings she decides to let the scientific world know of her breakthrough, and signs up to talk at some sort of science symposium that Springfield is holding. Which she does by bringing Francine out in a cage, and explains her theory that bullies only hate smart people because of pheromones. And to test her theory she frees Francine, and sprays some salad dressing on herself, blocking the smell-receptors and turning Francine docile. So all the nerds of the science community are thrilled, Lisa gets a prize, and Francine goes on a nerd-bashing fit with the crowd, before attacking the viewer for the nerds we all are.

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Oof. This one does nothing for me folks. The homer side-plot is just generally bad, and really the only thing about it that I have anything positive to say about is that I’m glad it wasn’t an A-plot in a separate episode. There were a few good gags in there, but it just felt like a bunch of recycled Homer ideas slightly tweaked. And really, this Lisa plot doesn’t do much for me. It’s very different from your typical Lisa plot, and really I think the reason that it doesn’t click for me is the complaint I make a lot on her lately, it’s kind of ridiculous. Listen, I know that this is a cartoon, but the Simpson’s used to have a little more grounding in reality, rather than Lisa finding the secret of bullying with pheromones. Bullying is obviously a very real and problematic thing in the world, and this episode could have been an interesting commentary on what the lives of bullies are like. But nope, bullies are just animals that respond to bad smells and lash out violently. Maybe I’m looking for too much from these episode, but this could have been a good, emotional episode about Lisa finding common-ground between a bully and finding that she has a bad life, and instead it was just goofy and full of lackluster jokes. Sorry to bring it down here at the end of the week, but hey, at least we had four other fun episodes!

Take Away: Baby-proofing is a solid business, and bullying has a rich and storied history.

 

“Bye Bye Nerdie” was written by John Frink and Don Payne and directed by Lauren MacMullan, 2001.

 

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