After yesterday’s weird episode and its confounding message, let’s just settle back and enjoy a nice, traditional story about a boy, his father, and their murderous robot.
We start off with Milhouse running through the streets of Springfield, holding a little box, and clearly trying to get to Bart as quickly as he can. He hops fences and endangers himself several times, but he finally gets to the Simpson’s house, triumphant. Until Homer just opens the door, smashes Milhouse’s head with it, and leaves Milhouse laying on the ground, unconscious. And he just kind of stays there for a few hours until Bart finally comes outside and finds the presumably dead Milhouse.
But Bart doesn’t really care about this, but he is interested in the box Milhouse came with. It’s some sort of box of gaudy crap to pimp out your bicycle to pretend that it’s a motorcycle. Milhouse wakes up while Bart finds the box, and the two set up Bart’s bike, because Milhouse bought this for Bart I guess? Whatever, Bart has his new bike all set up, and he and Milhouse hop on and begin biking around the neighborhood, pretending to be cool.
That hits snag though when the bullies show up on mountain bikes, and begin mocking Bart and Milhouse for their childish bike. Bart is pissed about this turn of events, and heads back home to try and trick Homer into buying him a mountain bike when Marge says no. Homer sticks by Marge though, and tells Bart that he won’t buy him a new bike when his old one still works. Which is why Bart decides to toss his bike out into the path of Dr. Hibbert’s car!
Dr. Hibbert destroys the bike, and pulls over to talk to the family. He promises to pay for Bart to get a new bike, and everything seems to have worked itself out! That is until Dr. Hibbert leaves and accidently runs over Snowball II. The family freak the hell out, and hold a funeral for Snowball II in the backyard while Lisa reads depressing poetry.
However Lisa’s cat being brutally killed in front of her is only the B-Plot, so we’re going to abandon that for a while and focus on Bart. He and Homer go to a bike store and pick out a great new mountain bike, but because Homer’s cheap, he just buys the bike unassembled and assumes that he can put it together. Which proves to be much more difficult than he anticipated. He takes all the pieces down to the basement and gets to work, building the damn thing all night.
The next morning Bart wakes up, surprised to find that Homer has actually built the bike. He grabs in and heads out into the morning, looking for the bullies. He runs into them and starts mocking them, when the bike starts to fall apart. The bike slowly disintegrates and the bullies just ride past him, mocking him because Homer’s not handy. And now Bart has a problem with Homer, because despite the fact that Homer spent all night building him a bike, it didn’t work, so now he hates him.
Which really upsets Homer. He keeps trying to reconnect with Bart, but Bart’s being obstinate. However, Homer does notice that Bart’s watching some show called Robot Rumble where children and their fathers build robots that then fight to the death. And he obviously decides that this is going to be the perfect way to win back Bart’s love, and announces that he’s going to build his own robot, heading down to the basement again to start building.
And while this is going on Lisa’s incredibly depressing B-Plot is continuing. It begins with her and Marge heading to an animal shelter to get a new cat. Lisa is against the idea at first, saying that no cat will compare to Snowball, but she still picks a new one, names it Snowball III and brings it home. But that’s enough about that for now, because we need to focus on Homer’s inability to make a robot, just creating a horrible thing that falls apart.
Homer’s about to give up when he remembers words of wisdom that Grandpa once gave him, “if you can’t build a robot, be a robot.” Homer takes that advice to heart, and begins making a new robot, which is just a shell that he will then get inside and pilot, pretending to have created a real robot. He finishes the shell, and brings it up to Bart’s room, slipping inside so that when Bart wakes up the next morning he think that Homer actually succeeded.
Bart is immediately thrilled, and gets ready to sign up the new robot in the Rumble, forgiving Homer instantly. And while all of this is going on, disaster strikes Lisa’s plot once again. She’s getting ready to feed Snowball III for the first time, and when she isn’t looking the cat falls in the fish-tank and straight up drowns. So that’s two cats dead in one episode! Fun! They hold another cat funeral and Homer and Bart peace out to go compete in their first Robot Rumble.
When they get to the stadium where the Rumble is happening Homer establishes that because of his secret, he’s going to be pulling some Peter Parker nonsense this episode. He sneaks off, telling Bart that he has to go meet an old Army buddy, and then gets inside the robot, which they name Chief Knock-A-Homer. They give the robot a mallet, and it wheels out to fight the competitor, which has a robot with a buzzsaw. Homer fights the robot for a while, even getting his own arm viciously cut by the buzz saw before grabbing it and killing the robot with its own weapon. Homer won!
Before we continue on with the robot plot though, let’s check in on Lisa and Marge! They stop by the shelter again, and pick up a cat named Coltrane that Lisa thinks is a sign. They get the cat, bring it home, and Lisa starts playing some Coltrane for the cat, causing it to freak and jump out the window, dying immediately. Lovely!
But let’s ignore the cat genocide and enjoy a lovely montage where Bart and the robot bond while killing a bunch of other ones. All while Homer continues to get grievously wounded. Bart does notice that Homer always seems to be missing when the robot fights are happening, but puts it out of his mind since they just keep winning. Hell, they win so much that they end up in the championship against Professor Frink and his child, against their robot which basically looks like ED-209, and will surely kill Homer.
Bart and Homer head back home to research Frink’s robot, and realize that they basically don’t have any chance. The thing is vicious and seems to be unstoppable, but Homer still won’t admit that there really isn’t a robot, and it’s just him getting killed. Mainly because Bart is respecting him now, and because their robot war has inspired the bullies to start respecting Bart, solving all of the episode’s problems. Except for the rampant cat murder.
Speaking of which! Let’s check back in on Marge and Lisa. Turns out they’re back at that damn shelter, but are kicked out when the workers recognize them, not wanting them to murder any more cats. So they head back home, depressed, and Lisa begins sitting outside to be by herself. Which is when something wonderful happens. The Crazy Cat Lady comes out of nowhere and throws a cat that looks exactly like Snowball II at her.
At first Lisa doesn’t want to keep the cat, realizing that she has some sort of curse about her, and she tells the cat to go live somewhere else where it’ll be safe. And just as the cat leaves, it’s almost run over by Gil, who ends up swerving at the last second, crashing his car violently. But the cat survives, and Lisa decides that the cat is immortal enough to keep, and decides to name it Snowball II and pretend the entire plot never happened. Which is met with approval by Principal Armin Tanzarian who walks past.
Anyway, back to the robots! Homer and Bart are at the Robot Rumble arena, getting ready to lose terribly to Frink’s robot. Homer slips away and gets into the robot, ready to go out to die. His robot wheels into the arena, and is quickly ravished by Frink’s robot, surviving long enough though to go to a brief break. Bart realizes that the robot is in bad shape though, and opens it up for maintenance when he finds Homer’s ass.
Homer realizes that the jig is up and gets out of the robot, admitting what he did. The two have a really sweet moment where Bart says that he’s even more impressed with Homer now, knowing that he’s been killing robots. Unfortunately the two don’t wrap up their conversation fast enough, because Homer gets dragged out by Frink’s robot for round 2. But right as the robot is about to kill Homer’s robot, Homer pops out and the robot suddenly stops. Frink explains that the robot follows Asimov’s Rules of Robotics, and won’t kill Homer, making him the winner! Everyone is pissed about this call, but we need to wrap up the episode, so everything is forgiven.
And there you have it! A thoroughly strange episode! It’s been a while since I’ve seen an episode that has had such incongruous A and B plots. The A plot is actually a lot of fun. I really like Homer and Bart being little buddies, and seeing them work together to make a killer robot was a lot of fun. Especially when Homer becomes that robot. I love the idea that Homer so wanted to make things up to Bart that he’d endanger himself by fighting robots, just wanting to be a better father. It’s a great idea for a plot. But then there’s that B plot. Holy crap was it dark! Especially because it ends in a way that makes everything worthless. They just killed a bunch of cats and then had us forget it all happened. It was like tonal whiplash moving between these plots, and just ended up creating a really weird episode that I’m not quite sure how I feel about.
Take Away: Robots are surprisingly easy to kill with your bare hands.
“I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot” was written by Dan Greaney and Allen Glazier, and directed by Lauren MacMullan, 2004.