We get a lot of episodes about Bart and Lisa’s relationship. Hell, we had one yesterday. Their sibling dynamic is really interesting, and can be used to great effect. But you know what we don’t get that often? A sibling episode that’s about Maggie. Let’s do that.
The episode starts off with Bart waking up in the morning and wandering into the bathroom to take care of his morning needs. And as soon as he’s in the bathroom we see Homer sneak out of nowhere, waiting excitedly for Bart’s reaction. Because Homer’s apparently installed some sort of prank toilet-seat that will spray Bart with water when he sits down. So Homer stands outside the door, waiting for his brilliant prank to happen.
And when Bart comes out of the bathroom without the prank having gone off, Homer is confused. Until Bart explains that he’s a dude and didn’t have to sit down. So Homer loses his cool and tries to force Bart to sit on the seat and have the prank go off. This of course leads to a slapstick fight between Homer and Bart where they hurt each other with bathroom implements before fleeing the destroyed bathroom and running up to the rest of the family. And to ignore what they just did, Homer announces that they’re going out for pancakes!
So the Simpsons head out to a breakfast restaurant, and while they’re standing outside staring at the building they realize that there’s a commotion behind them. There’s apparently a snooty preschool right next to the restaurant, and there’s a line down to the street of parents desperate to get their kids enrolled. The Simpsons strike up a conversation with Apu and Manjula, who explain how important it is to get a head start at a school like this, and they end up convincing Homer that he needs to get Maggie enrolled as well.
The Simpsons then wait in line forever until they finally get to meet with the man in charge of deciding if the babies get to get in, Simon Cowell from American Idol. I don’t know if he’s playing a character or not, because they never call the guy by a name, but he’s clearly just doing his asshole American Idol schtick, and since American Idol was popular at the time, he gets to be on the Simpsons. And he is not impressed with Maggie. Especially because she can’t talk yet. So he kicks her out almost immediately.
And even though they tried to have Maggie join the school on a lark, Homer and Marge are now devastated by her not getting in. Marge starts freaking out, and Lisa decides that she’s going to try to help out by mentoring Maggie. The two start hanging out while Lisa talks to Maggie, trying to get her to speak, when she finds something insane. Maggie seems to be talking to her using letter blocks, and she seems to be really smart.
So with that knowledge at hand, Lisa convinces everyone to go back to the fancy school and get Cowell to give her an IQ test, just not using verbal skills. So Cowel begins asking Maggie questions, and to everyone’s surprise, she starts kicking the tests ass. She does so well that at the end Cowell has to call in the director of the school to tell her that Maggie has ace the test and has an IQ of 167. Which shocks everyone. Especially Lisa, because that means Maggie is smarter than her.
And that’s where things turn. Because the family starts dotting on Maggie, treating her like the new genius of the family and Lisa is quickly getting incredibly jealous. Because Lisa’s whole self-identity is so wrapped up in being the smartest person around, so having her baby sister be smarter is wrecking her. Which means there’s only one answer. Finding a new identity!
The next couple days at school Lisa tries to find a new personality that people will like. She tries to be a stand-up comedian, but no one likes her jokes and just get embarrassed for her. Next she tries to be Goth, but she’s too creeped out by Milhouse and decides to quit it. Then she rapidly becomes a cheerleader, a gangsta, a soccer player, and a cowgirl, all of while seem disastrous. So Lisa’s screwed! She’s stuck in her old life as a smart person, but with her baby sister being smarter than her.
So Lisa just resigns herself to a life of disappointment, and heads home to see Homer fawning over Maggie. They’ve gotten a box of stuff from Maggie’s new school and are rifling through it, finding some crazy plastic frog that speaks phonetically. And when Homer runs off to use the frog to get him out of work, Lisa says that she’ll help Maggie with some flash cards. And when Maggie starts getting all the cards right, Lisa decides to be shitty and try to tell her that she’s wrong.
Marge sees Lisa trying to sabotage her little sister though, and yells at her, which causes Lisa to finally snap. That night she has an insane Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? dream where she lives with a still mute Maggie before trying to murder her, and when she wakes up she realizes that things are getting ridiculous. So, with no other recourse in her mind, she decides she needs to abandon her family and start a new life on her own.
So Lisa heads out to make a new life. Which doesn’t seem like a good call since she literally has no money. She begins wandering town, trying to find somewhere free to live, and ends up coming across the Springfield Natural History Museum, and decides that this will be a perfect place to live. So she spends the day stealing food from trash-cans before hiding out at the end of the day so she can sleep once it’s closed. At which points she plays with dinosaurs, makes a dress from pins, and plays her saxophone on the moon. She even makes a little house inside the mouth of a giant plastic human.
And while she’s creating a new life, the rest of the family are freaking out. They call the police to help when they realize she’s gone, but don’t get a lot of help from them and instead have to fill out a bunch of surveys. But when they begin wandering the town trying to find her, Chief Wiggum shows up with a lead. Apparently they found Lisa’s belongings at the museum, so he goes with the Simpsons to check it out.
Lisa apparently didn’t realize that her belongings were taken by the cops, but as she’s walking back to her home in the giant body, she sees her family inspecting it. She tries to hide from them while watching Homer, Marge, and Bart go inside the mouth of the giant. At which point Maggie presses a button on a control panel, and the model starts eating the Simpsons, pushing them down into the stomach. They try to get Maggie to save them, but she hits another wrong button, and just starts getting them digested.
Lisa finally freaks out enough to try and save her family, and calls up to Maggie, trying to calm her down. She talks with her sister, and gets her to finally press the right button, which sends the Simpsons through the digestive track of the model. And once they’re out everyone is a little confused, because if Maggie is a genius, why did she have such a hard time finding the right button? Well Simon Cowell is back to explain everything. Apparently Maggie is not a genius, she was being subconsciously helped by Lisa during the test, and was being told all the right answers. Which doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but whatever, they need the episode to end with Maggie not being a genius, so there we go.
I really like this episode, even though the ending makes no sense. I mentioned up top, but I’m shocked that we don’t get many episodes about Maggie and her siblings. We’ve had Maggie episodes revolving around Homer and Marge, hell we’ve even had ones revolving around Moe, but not really any with Lisa and Bart. And I think this was an interesting premise. Back in the day they used to slip in a lot of gags that suggested Maggie was a genius, so it was cool seeing that plot pan out a bit, and I love the idea that Lisa gets so jealous. Because Lisa really is wrapped up in her intelligence. We’ve had so many episode about Lisa trying to come to terms with her self-image, and who would have thought that she’d have to deal with a threat from Maggie on that front. But then there’s that ending. Maggie just cheated the whole time, because Lisa was trying to help her? But what about when she was speaking to her with the blocks, or when Maggie was getting all of the flash cards right? Was Lisa cheating then too? I don’t know, it doesn’t really make that much sense. But whatever, these episodes need to reset at the end, so I guess they did what they needed to do.
Take Away: Just because someone is better than you at something doesn’t mean it has to destroy your life.
“Smart and Smarter” was written by Carolyn Omine and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2004.