Hey, you know how there’s been an episode where Lisa starts dating Nelson and we get to learn about his character better? And then there’s an episode about Marge getting to know Nelson and teach us more about his character? Well, guess what? It’s Bart’s turn.
Things start off with Bart and Lisa standing outside of Homer and Marge’s room, being awkward that they’re having a really loud and angry fight. Which turns out to be a scam, because they’ve just recorded themselves having a fight, and are pumping it out the door while they have sex. Unfortunately, something goes wrong with the tape, and it ends up playing “Horse With No Name,” causing Lisa and Bart to get curious and open the door. Which was a terrible plan.
We then see Bart hanging out with Milhouse, having some PTSD after seeing his parents having sex. However, this little therapy session is cut short when Nelson comes trotting up to pick on them and take their lunch money. Oh, and he also gives them both an invitation to his birthday party. Which really pisses of Bart. He’s sick of Nelson always picking on them and making their lives miserable, and he manages to convince all the other boys to not go to Nelson’s birthday party, hopefully crushing him.
However, Bart’s master plan hits a snag when he heads home and is loudly talking to Lisa all about how great his plan to screw over Nelson is, and Marge overhears. Marge is horrified that Bart is going to do this to Nelson, and demands that he goes to the party, despite the fact that he’ll be the only other person there. But Marge doesn’t care, and has Homer drive Bart out to the party and leave him there, forcing him to hang out with Nelson.
And, shockingly, the party seems okay. There’s bounce-house, cake, and pizza. Everything a kid’s party should have. Nelson comes strolling out, thrilled that someone is finally at his party, and he starts hanging out with Bart, trying to play cool about the lack of other attendants. Which is helped when some dudes in a Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus costumes show up and Bart and Nelson have a great time beating them up. Which shocks Bart, because he had a really great time.
However, the next morning Bart learns that Nelson now thinks that they’re best friends, and wants to continue hanging out. He forces Bart to sit with him on the bus, and just generally starts acting obsessed and creepy. Which causes Bart to start quickly coming up with ways to ditch Nelson. That comes to a close though when Bart finds himself being picked on by Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney, when he’s suddenly saved by Nelson, who fights for Bart’s honor. And just like that, Bart has found a reason to be friends with Nelson.
Meanwhile, we get to see the pretty great B-Plot, which revolves around Homer and Lisa. It starts off with Homer tucking Lisa in for bedtime, and trying to speed the whole process up so he can go have sex with Marge. However, Lisa insists that Homer read a book to her before bed. And she’s chosen some sort of Harry Potter parody called “Angelica Button and the Dragon King’s Trundle Bed.” So Homer accepts and starts reading to Lisa. And, shockingly, he ends up loving it. To the point that he tries to spend the whole night reading and gets shot down by Lisa who finally has to go to sleep.
But enough about that, let’s check back in on Bart and Nelson’s burgeoning friendship. Because things are going great. Nelson has given Bart a vest of his own, and the two are now running the school. We even get a great Goodfellas scene where Bart and Nelson walk through the school, being treated like kings. But all things must come to an end, and that end is brought on by Milhouse, who is getting jealous of Bart spending all of his time with Nelson. Milhouse mocks Bart by calling him Nelson’s side-kick, and Bart decides to prove him wrong by flying kites with Milhouse. Which Nelson sees.
Before we see the ramifications of that though, there’s more going on in the Homer B-Plot. Because Homer is now obsessed with this book, and can’t stand the idea of not finishing it. And he gets bad news when he comes home and finds that Lisa is spending the night at Janey’s house, meaning he can’t read the book that night. So Homer decides to go into Lisa’s room and read ahead, learning that the book ends with the headmaster, who he’s been picturing as himself, dying gruesomely. And Homer is crushed.
Back to Nelson! He’s pissed. He spotted Bart and Milhouse flying kites together, and is then waiting for Bart at his house to yell at him. Bart shows up, trying to lie, when Nelson starts confronting him about the cheating. At which point Nelson becomes an abusive spouse, threatening Bart and then trying to win him over while making it clear that Bart can never spend time with anyone else. So, things aren’t going well for Bart.
Now that the full force of Nelson’s insane obsession has come out, Bart is starting to actively fear for his safety, worried that he’ll do something to set Nelson off. Which isn’t helped by the fact that Nelson is hiding in Bart’s locker, waiting to apologize for being crazy. But, despite how horrifying this scenario would be, Bart holds steady and tells Nelson that he doesn’t want to be friends with him anymore, because he’s insane. Surprisingly, Nelson accepts this, but does give him some veiled threats about the future.
But before we finish off that plot, let’s wrap up the Homer/Lisa subplot. Because Homer is really worried about finishing this book with Lisa now, knowing how depressing it is. He’s concerned that it’s too dark for Lisa, and decides to just make up his own ending to the book, where everything ends up great and everyone is happy. Homer then leaves to go to bed, while Lisa actually reads the end, and decides that Homer’s ending was better anyway.
And now that that’s taken care of, let’s see how Nelson plans to kill Bart. Because he sure has a good opportunity when the fourth graders go on a field trip to check out little ecosystems on the beach, and Nelson volunteers to be Bart’s “buddy.” At which point they promptly leave the group and end up in some secluded cave, where Bart assumes he’s about to be gruesomely murdered. This however, is not what happens.
Instead Nelson decides to bare his soul a bit, and tell Bar that he was a bad friend. Nelson explains that Bart only ever liked him because he protected him from other bullies, and never actually liked the real Nelson. Bart accepts that, but also fights back by saying that Nelson was crazy and obsessive. So they’re both at faults. However, this arguments is brushed aside when the tide suddenly rises, and the two boys are swept out in to the ocean. Nelson then heroically saves Bart, but lets him know that this changes nothing, and they are still not friends. The episode then ends with a really weird Brokeback Mountain reference, with Bart remembering the good times he had with Nelson.
I’m not really sure why “Simpson family member gets close to Nelson Muntz” has become a type of episode, but I think this one is better than the Marge one. It’s not as good as the one when he and Lisa start to date, but there’s still a lot of like about this episode. I really like Bart and Nelson being friends, even though it gets really weird when it starts to become a metaphor for an abusive relationship. Although I really think that the ending where they both realize that they were bad friends was pretty great, and something that seems fairly novel to me for a Simpson’s episode. I can’t readily think of an example of this sort of plot happening before. Plus, that B-Plot is really solid. I’m not a Harry Potter guy, but I love the idea of Homer and Lisa bonding while becoming obsessed with the same book, and Homer becoming worried about Lisa learning a harsh truth about reality too early. I also adore the fact that Lisa didn’t care about the actual ending of the book, and was more loving the time she was spending with Homer. That’s great. All together this was a pretty decent episode, especially for the eighteenth season, and I think I’ll remember it fondly.
Take Away: Don’t be an obsessive creep, in any type of relationship.
“The Haw-Hawed Couple” was written by Matt Selman and directed by Chris Clements, 2006.