Weird week, huh? Yeah, things aren’t great on the Simpsons. We’re firmly in the era where I was checking out as a teenager, and most of the episode I either have absolutely no memory of, or just the faintest recollection, where I probably was half-watching it the night it aired and never saw it again. And we just have another nothing of an episode here today. Because if you want to check out a meandering episode where Bart and Homer are hating each other the whole time, you’re in luck!
The episode starts off with Bart strolling into Principal Skinner’s office and dealing with the sudden appearance of a secretary that he’s never had before. But Bart seems to know this lady really well, and they banter back and forth for a while like James Bond and Mrs. Moneypenny, before heading on in to deal with Seymour. And lucky for Bart, Skinner is busy hanging out in the parking lot, messing with his new car. Which means Bart has access to Skinner’s office with no supervision.
Bart obviously then start riffling through Skinner’s desk, trying to find something fun to torment Skinner with. And he hits the jackpot. Because apparently Springfield Elementary runs of steam-power, and Bart stumbles upon the keys to the steam tunnels underneath the school. So he obviously swipes the key, goes to get Milhouse, and the two head down into the tunnels to see how much damage they can cause.
Before we see what’s in the tunnels we briefly check in on Homer, and learn that he and his buddies are getting ready to go to Las Vegas with Moe, who has rented a party bus. But that’s just a tease, because we immediately hop back to the tunnels, where Bart and Milhouse have found a room full of valves. So they obviously have to twist one valve. They choose the smallest one, and just give it a slight twist, hoping that nothing major will happen.
They were wrong. Because that one little valve causes a chain reaction that ends up wrecking the whole system, causing all of the radiators in the school to explode, covering the school in boiling steam. So the entire school flees from the building as the steam quickly ruins the entire school. And right as Skinner begins furiously trying to figure out what’s going on Bart and Milhouse just happen to pop out of the tunnel, and are immediately caught.
And Skinner is not pleased. He calls in Homer and Marge to discuss Bart’s latest crime, and announces that this time he’s going to force them to send Bart to one of those programs that should be illegal where they kidnap children and torture them. This one’s called Upward Bound, and it’s in the middle of nowhere Oregon. Shockingly, Marge and Homer are down with this idea though, and Homer decides to drive Bart to the airport to ship him off immediately.
Homer makes a quick pitstop to Moe’s to tell the guys to wait for him, and then drives Bart off to the airport. Which is where things start to go wrong. Because it turns out that Bart is on the no-fly list, and can’t travel alone. And instead of flying to Oregon with him, Homer decides that he’s going to drive Bart all the way to Oregon, missing out on his trip with the guys. Which is going to make for an awkward car ride! Especially with Bart trying to manipulate Homer into being lazy and giving up the entire time.
But it’s not all about the road-trip from hell, because we’re also given a really odd little B-Plot around now. There’s really not much to it, so I’m just going to fly through it right now. Basically it revolves around Marge and Lisa deciding to have a yard sale while the guys are away, and it’s a total trainwreck. No one wants to buy the Simpson’s garbage. Until Otto shows up and finds that Marge is selling Homer’s expired pain medicine.
Otto buys all of the pills, and word quickly spreads all around town. Soon all the shady creeps of Springfield are flocking to the Simpson’s house to buy all of their pills. And Marge doesn’t seem to mind, because she’s making bank. That is until the next day arrives and she’s still getting sketchy dudes show up at the house asking for pills, which obviously leads to Chief Wiggum showing up and arresting Marge for selling drugs.
Anyway! Homer and Bart are continuing to drive to Oregon, and things are getting weird. The two kind of bond for a while, talking about how much both of their lives suck, but things just get back to Bart begging not to be sent to torture camp and Homer refusing. Which is a perfect time for a pit stop! The two pull off at some greasy little diner, and actually have a nice time mocking some other family for getting along.
However, things get hairy again when Bart excuses himself to the restroom while Homer is eating a pile of bacon. And after a significant amount of time alone, Homer gets suspicious and heads into the bathroom, only to find it empty and the window open. So Homer tries to get through the window and gets stuck. Which is what Bart planned on, because he’s actually hiding in the bathroom, and he sneaks off, but not before telling the fry-cook that Homer’s trying to skip out on his bill so that he’ll go into the restroom and beat Homer up.
But when Homer escapes he quickly finds Bart on the side of the road, and tries to chase him down. This obviously leads to Homer almost driving off a cliff, and needing Bart to save him. Which happens. Unfortunately, Homer still doesn’t think that this is enough for him to not bring Bart to the torture camp, so he chains Bart up and heads off to the evil camp, dropping him off to be tormented to the point of suicide.
Homer then begins driving off to Vegas to meet up with his friends, when something shocking happens. He starts to get bothered by his conscience. He begins to feel bad for Bart, and miss him, and after a while of contemplation Homer decides to flip around and save Bart from the camp. He gets there just as Bart begins grueling labor, and the two drive off to Vegas! Which is where we get a genuinely funny little epilogue where Lisa comes home from school and finds two voicemails, one from Marge in jail, and one from Homer in jail in Vegas. She then realizes that it’s just her and Maggie, and gets ready to find a job and raise Maggie on her own.
I don’t know what it is about this episode, but it just bugs the hell out of me. It may be the fact that at this point in the show if there’s one recycled plot that’s more trodden than “Homer and Marge’s marriage is on the rocks,” it’s “Bart has done something at school, and it’s the last straw again!” They seriously just keep doing this same plot, and it’s just so ridiculous. Just a handful of episode ago Skinner assumed that he put rats in a pie and expelled him. But now he’s back, has done something bad, and is kicked out of school again to get something ridiculous done to him. And they don’t even do the ridiculous thing! It’s all just about Bart and Homer going on a terrible road trip before Homer decides he doesn’t want to leave him there. There’s just nothing to this episode. It just never got going, and felt like it was going in circles or something. It’s like there was not third act. I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting beaten down by the declining quality of the show, but this episode is a real nothing.
Take Away: Don’t send your kids to one of those insane camps! They’re twisted and are based around physically and mentally scarring children.
“We’re on the Road to D’oh-where” was written by Kevin Curran and directed by Nancy Kruse, 2006.