Hey everybody, you know what’s fun to talk about in this day and age? Medical benefits! That’s not a sticky topic at all! Well. Let’s do this thing.
The episode begins with the Simpsons heading to Springfield’s aviation museum, stoked that Mr. Burns has apparently reserved the entire museum for a Nuclear Plant party. Which seems like an oddly nice thing for Mr. Burns to do, which doesn’t pass by Bart and Lisa. But they just roll with it and start checking out the museum, hanging out with a guy in a Burns mascot costume, watching a video about museum videos, and watching footage of Agnes Skinner walking on biplane’s in the 20’s.
Oh, and they also encounter a giant plane made of wood called the Plywood Pelican. They check out the massive plane, which could barely fly, and are shocked that Mr. Burns actually built and flew it, since he’s apparently Howard Hughes now. Surely that won’t come back! Anyway, people continue to enjoy the party, and how nice Burns is being. That is until he announces that there’s an ulterior motive to the party, and that’s not announce that they’re getting rid of the employee pharmaceutical plan, and they’ll all have to start paying for their own pills.
So the Simpsons head home and start trying to figure out how to cope with the fact that they’ll now have to pay for the absurdly expensive medication themselves. And after some though they decide that the only option is for Homer to get a second job that includes medical insurance. So Homer starts looking for a new job, but doesn’t have a lot of luck finding one that has medical insurance, because it turns out that most of the other businesses in Springfield are following suit and getting rid of their prescription drug plans as well.
So the whole town is screwed, mainly because prescription drugs are ludicrously expensive for no reason. But as Dr. Hibbert explains to the news, it doesn’t matter, because they have a monopoly and can charge whatever crazy price they want. Lisa and Marge try to go to a drug company, and doesn’t have much luck talking to an executive about prices, and instead just learn about Huey Lewis and the News.
But the craziest part about the whole thing is that the Retirement Castle has decided that the medications for the residents is just too damned expensive, and they decide to let the old folks just go Cold Turkey and presumably die. But Grandpa isn’t going to stand for that. He heads over to the Simpson’s house and starts trying to come up with a plan with Homer. And they end up coming up with a decent one.
Grandpa apparently has a friend who lives in Winnepeg that he knows from the War, and Grandpa thinks that if he and Homer go up to Canada and use the friend’s medical card they can stock up on pills and smuggle them down to Springfield. So Homer and Grandpa cross the border, meet up with Grandpa’s friend Johnny, and they get to go to a drug-store and buy all the pills they could ever want. They then easily sneak right past the US Border Patrol and bring a whole shipment of drugs to Springfield.
And people are stoked. The old folks are thrilled to have their pills, and the rest of the Simpson family see Homer as a hero, especially now that they’re all heavily medicated. But obviously when word gets out about Homer and Grandpa’s scam, the rest of the town wants in. They all begin sucking up to Homer, putting in requests. And after some consternation Homer allows Apu and Ned to come to Canada with them to stock up on meds themselves.
So they get back to Winnipeg, meet up with Johnny again, and after Ned talks with some weird Canadian clone of himself, they head back to the United States. Unfortunately, when they’re in line at the border Apu decides to have some hot coffee, which obviously makes him start making stereotypical terrorist noises. Oh, and Ned puts a towel around his head like a turban. And in a ridiculous bit of political commentary, the US Border Patrol freaks out about an Indian guy acting weird, and arrest them.
So they’re arrested and brought to jail where they’re informed that they’re being kicked out of Canada and forbidden from returning. They eventually get back to Springfield, and just like that the town stops seeing them as heroes. But Grandpa can’t let it go, and tells Homer that he wants one last big score, they just need a pilot to get them across the border.
Luckily, Mr. Burns has had a change of heart about his drug exploitation, because it turns out Smithers has some crazy thyroid issue, and without his medication he’s starting to die. So Burns decides to help Grandpa and Homer, and offers to fly the Plywood Pelican from earlier over the Canadian border and bring back as many cheap drugs as they possibly can. So they presumably break into the Aviation Museum, get the plane ready, and fly over the border.
They meet with Johnny and load the Pelican up with a whole shit-load of drugs and start trekking back to America. Unfortunately as they begin traveling across the border they hit some bad weather, and a bolt of lightning hits the plane, causing it to start crashing. Burns bails out at that point, and Homer and Grandpa have to try to crash-land the plane. They just barely accomplish this, crashing into the Town Square where the whole town shows up to get some pills. At first Wiggum is going to arrest Grandpa and Homer, but when the town announces they don’t want them to get in trouble, they decide not to punish them, and everything goes back to normal.
I’m not crazy about this episode, but there’s nothing really objectionable about it. It takes a strong stance against the pharmaceutical industry, which isn’t exactly a bold stance, but it’s an accurate one. Prescription drugs are an absurd business, and they gouge us to ridiculous extremes, keeping us in a state of sickness to increase their own profit margins, and the episode paints an interesting picture of what it would be like to live in a world without medical insurance. The people of Springfield go to ridiculous extremes to avoid paying for absurd pharmaceuticals, even running elaborate drug-smuggling operations. So hey, maybe tell your Representatives that we shouldn’t get rid of the Affordable Care Act? Don’t want to get to political, but it’s kind of monstrous that this country just tells sick people to die, instead of helping them.
Take Away: The pharmaceutical industry is terrible, and we should do whatever we can to help people with medication needs.
“Midnight Rx” was written by Marc Wilmore and directed by Nancy Kruse, 2005.