You know, I haven’t really brought this up, but the episode titles have been really bad lately. Simpsons titles have always been super punny, but lately things have been dire. Episode titles have had even gone so far as to be based on a reference and then include two puns in them, making them virtually nonsense. Like, seriously, what does Beer have to do with this story? The Seven Year Snitch would have made just as much sense. Anyway, that’s been my little rant to end the week. Let’s get to a stupid episode about prison.
The episode begins with the Simpsons visiting Shelbyville for some reason. And while they’re wandering around the town they find that Shelbyville has a thriving theater district, and they decide to partake in a musical. So they obviously decide to go to a musical all about how great Shelbyville is, which sounds like just a treat. And, shock of all shocks, the Simpsons don’t enjoy the musical, especially the fact that it’s really critical of Springfield.
In the past Shelbyville has seemed like the more bumpkin version of Springfield, but apparently things have massively changed and Shelbyville is now the snooty upper class version of Springfield, and people now hold Springfieldians in utter disdain. Marge really gets upset by this revelation, and decides to go to the Springfield Cultural Activities Board to suggest that they do something to class Springfield up.
And for some reason this takes the form of Marge writing a letter to architect Frank Gehry and asking him to design them a massive concert hall for a symphony. He agrees to this proposal, and the townspeople of Springfield easily agree to a $30 million “screw-you” to Shelbyville and construction begins! We then cut straight to the night of the grand opening and see the Simpsons get all dressed up to go to the symphony.
And the whole damn town is there to partake in some culture. However, it turns out that the people of Springfield are incredibly uncultured (shocker) and as soon as the Beethoven begins they get bored and leave. Yep, this was a terrible plan! The town hates the symphony and quickly stop going to it, making the new concert hall a massive failure. It begins changing hands before it becomes abandoned and the town is left with a heft deficit.
The town is in serious financial straits at this time, and Quimby begins drafting plans to change the name of the town to avoid their creditors. But before that gets chosen they’re approached by a savior. Mr. Burns. He wants to buy the concert hall from the town and turn it into a for-profit prison. And because the town desperately needs the money, Quimby agrees and Burns gets to work retrofitting the hall into a ridiculous prison.
Once the prison is ready to get going though they begin to interview for prison guards, and Homer obviously applies. He does great in his interview, maybe because he was a juvie prison guard in the past, and he gets the job. Unfortunately Otto switches his urine sample with Homer’s, and Homer is disqualified for having every drug known to man in his system. But he’s not arrested for that, just disqualified. Which seems like an oversight.
Oh, and around here we’re introduced to a really dumb and strange B-Plot. It really didn’t do anything for me, so I’m just going to get the whole thing out of the way. Basically Bart and Lisa notice that Snowball II has been getting really fat lately, and start following her to see if she’s sneaking food. And it turns out that she is, but from a different family that she also sometimes lives with. Snowball is running a double life! They have Bart sneak into the house under false pretenses, and he learns that it’s a really nice and loving family that dote on Snowball. And nothing really comes of it. They just kind of accept that Snowball has two families and stop talking about it. Whatever.
Back to the real plot! It turns out things aren’t going great for Burns’ prison. Mainly because it’s for-profit, and they’re always needing new prisoners to break even. So, Burns goes to Quimby and demands that they start arresting more people, creating a prison-industrial complex in the town. And Wiggum is more than happy to start arresting people for all sorts of goofy old laws. Which is what lands Homer in jail, because he kicked a can too many times. Instead of all the drugs. Let’s go with the can thing.
So Homer is sent to prison, and quickly has to acclimate to prison culture. Which he is not good at. He even spots Snake break out of the prison and tells the guards, fearing that Snake hurt himself in the escape. Which turns out to be good for Homer, because he’s just found his new calling in prison. Homer’s going to be a prison snitch! He’s a little reluctant at first, but Mr. Burns promises him all sorts of little gifts in exchange for snitching, and Homer’s immediately on board.
And things start going great for him. He notices a “gang” tattoo on Drederick Tatum in the shower one day, and things just get better from there. He starts snitching on everyone and gets more and more gifts, even to the point that he’s able to give Marge presents. Which gets her suspicious, so during a visiting time one day she pressures him about the gifts, and she loudly accuses him of being a prison snitch, letting all the other prisoners learn the truth.
So Homer’s boned. But the convicts are going to be a little clever. They tell Homer that there’s going to be a break out that night, fully knowing that he’ll tell the guards. So Homer tells them about the break-out, and it quickly spreads up the ladder until Burns orders all of the guards out into the area around the prison to catch the convicts. But they have no intention of breaking out; they just wanted the guards out.
That night when the guards are all gone the prisoners escape their cells and head to Homer to shank him. Homer flees from the prisoners, hoping to hide in the kitchen as they continue to get closer to him. Oh, and while Homer is hiding in the kitchen he gets a sudden surprise guest. Marge! Apparently she had a key to the concert hall and they didn’t change the locks, so now she’s in the prison with Homer while the convicts are getting closer.
Homer and Marge run off to hide from the prisoners, and end up hiding in the gas chamber, which seems like a horrible idea. They hide inside, saying goodbye to each other while the prisoners try to break in, when they’re randomly saved by the guards. They come bursting back into the room, knocking the prisoners out with some gas. So things are going to go back to normal. Until Homer decides to use his snitching powers for good and tells the governor about the human rights violations going on inside the prison, and gets everything returned to status quo.
Yeah, I’m not a fan of this episode. It’s just really weird. Homer has been to jail so many times in the course of this show that sending him there for a whole episode just didn’t have that much impact or creativity. Hell, Bart was just in prison last season! I do like the idea of Homer becoming a prison snitch, but it was a good idea executed poorly in my opinion. The concert hall stuff was completely ridiculous, and randomly sticking Marge into the climax to up the stakes made little to know sense. Plus, that B-Plot was hot garbage. Just a real dud of an episode for me.
Take Away: For profit prisons are a terrible idea and lead to prison-industrial complexes that put people in prison unfairly so they can boost their bottom line.
“the Seven-Beer Snitch” was written by Bill Odenkirk and directed by Matthew Nastuk, 2005.