There are several types of episodes that used to be really popular on the Simpsons, and that have fallen by the way-side. We of course get Treehouse of Horror episodes and the occasional triptych episode that follows that same formula. But we also have flash-back episodes, flash-forward, Homer/Lisa have ideological differences episodes, and so on. But one trope that’s kind of fallen off is one of the weirder ones. Random secondary character starts to live with the Simpsons! Well, we just so happen to have one of those today, so let’s see Nelson live with the Simpsons.
The episode starts off with Lisa proudly showing off some insanely intense hopscotch course, hoping to earn adulation from the other girls. Unfortunately all they care about is petty body-shaming, and the other girls, primarily Sherri and Terri, start making fun of Lisa because she has a big butt. This really upsets Lisa, who heads home to confide in Homer. Which is usually a bad call. And continues to be this time, because Homer just tells her that being fat is a Simpson trait and that she should live with it. He also teaches up how to draw a perfect Homer, which is pretty great.
But we have to take a momentary break on the heavy issue of female body-image to have Bart march in and proudly show off the results on a recent test on state capitals. It turns out Bart got a 100 on the test, and as per some bargain, he now is owed a party. Despite the fact that Bart getting a 100 on a test was a previous plot point, we move along to Homer being shocked at this turn of events, and not believing it. But they go and check with Mrs. Krabappel and find that she left out the map, and everyone got 100’s. But it still counts!
So while Bart begins pleading to his parents to throw him a party, Lisa heads to the mall to try and find some new clothes to make herself feel better about her body. Which is a terrible plan. As a legitimately fat dude, trying on clothes does nothing but make you feel worse. So Lisa goes to some little pre-teen store and is disgusted at how thin and slutty all the clothes is. But that’s apparently what she’s supposed to look like, so here comes an eating disorder! Otherwise she’s doomed to being fat and married to Milhouse.
Meanwhile, it’s time for Bart’s party. And it’s a dud! Marge apparently pulled this party out of her ass at the last second, because the people she’s gathered are Patty, Selma, Grandma Bouvier, Grandpa, Martin, and Ralph. Not even Milhouse could make it. So Bart sits around, gets terrible gifts, and has to deal with obnoxious party-games that Marge has come up with. And he is less than thrilled, quickly telling Marge that he’s let-down by the party, and disappointed in her.
And this really hits Marge hard. She goes to bed that night with Homer, worried that the kids aren’t appreciating everything that she does for them. She realizes that they’re getting to that age where they’re going to be annoyed with her, before moving away and she loses meaning in her life. And because she doesn’t have any hobbies to find new meaning in her life, she decides to double down on mothering.
Unfortunately Bart is still irritated with Marge over the party and Lisa is now too obsessed with her weight to hang out with Marge, so she’s left on her own again. Well, she still has Maggie, so she sullenly takes Maggie to the park to try and hold on to one of her kids. And while she’s at the park she notices Nelson trying to catch tadpoles out of a fountain to eat. She’s a little wary about Nelson at first, but she strikes up conversation with him, and realizes that he really needs someone in his life. Score.
Marge ends up having a good time with Nelson, giving him the lunch that Lisa didn’t want, and taking him to all the activities that she’d planned for the kids. They go to the zoo, and Nelson gradually starts to lower his guard, having a good time with Marge too. Nelson really likes having someone who cares about him, which is hammered in when Marge drops him off at his depressing house where his real mom is ignoring him and having a date with Moe.
And now that she’s had that taste of motherhood, Marge doesn’t want to give up, and keeps trying to hang out with her own children, but when they inevitably blow her off she just keeps going back to Nelson. The two go bowling and talk about Nelson’s drunken stripper mom and his dad who ran out on them. It’s all really depressing, and Marge even offers Nelson some money to do chores around the house that Bart and Lisa won’t do. So he comes home with Marge and start mowing the lawn, earning some money.
However things get rough when that night their doorbell rings and Nelson’s mom shows up, drunk and angry. She doesn’t want her son getting charity, and throws the money back at Marge, telling her to stay away from her son. But apparently her thought-process isn’t quite there, because that night she also leaves Springfield to become and actress, and abandons Nelson, who comes to Marge for help, having no other options.
So Marge takes Nelson in, and lets him sleep in Bart’s room, which obviously leads to Bart having to sleep under his own bed. And Nelson quickly makes himself part of the family, enjoying and appreciating just about everything that Marge does. And Nelson’s a weird house-guest. Bart finds him singing about his missing father one night, which is a little odd. But he does offer Lisa some help with her bullying problem, and agrees to prank Sherri and Terri with a skunk-attack, which does kind of even the scales a bit.
And when Nelson and Lisa come back to the Simpson’s house that day, they have a shock waiting for them. Nelson’s dad is there. Turns out he never ran away, he went to the Kwik-E-Mart to buy cigarettes and had a crazy allergic reaction that turned him into a swollen monster. He was then kidnapped by a circus who put him in a freak-show, which is where Bart ran into him. Bart freed him, and has brought him back to live with Nelson. Oh, and Mrs. Muntz shows back up, apparently having had success as an actress. So the Muntz’s are back together! Yay? Sure, it’s an ending. Except for Lisa’s eating-disorder, that’s still going strong!
I enjoyed this episode. It’s really forgettable, and kind of inconsequential, but there was nothing objectionable about it, so it’s better than a lot of stuff I’ve been having recently. Nelson is a really weird and sad character, and I liked the idea that Marge found a surrogate son when her own kids started to stop appreciating her. I kind of would have liked it even better if the episode was more about Marge feeling abandoned than suddenly shifting to become a Nelson episode, but as it stood it was still pretty interesting. And I really liked the Lisa sub-plot and her obsession with weight, which seemed really realistic and tragic, especially because they don’t wrap it up with a pretty bow by the end of the episode.
Take Away: Appreciate your parents! But also don’t wrap your entire concept of self-worth in your kids, maybe find a hobby?
“Sleeping with the Enemy” was written by Jon Vitti and directed by Lauren MacMullen, 2004.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons