You know what type of episode is often pretty fun? Ones where they take a tertiary character and let them be the focus, letting us learn more about them that we’d ever thought possible. There’s been dozens of episodes like these, and we’ve learned a lot of things about a lot of characters. Hell, Comic Book Guys has had at least two episodes like this, and he barely even has a name! But you know who we shockingly haven’t learned about by Season 17? Groundskeeper Willie. Let’s see what’s up with Willie!
Things start off with the fourth graders learning that their gym teacher Ms. Pommelhorst is going to be leaving so she can get a sex change and become their shop teacher. Which means that they’re going to need a new gym teacher, and Skinner has hired a legit crazy person. Coach Krupt is a clearly unbalanced person who is obsessed with a dodgeball-like game called bombardment, that’s just him hucking balls at children and hoping that it hurts them.
This apparently does not raise any red flags for the adults of Springfield Elementary, and they just keep allowing Krupt to pummel the small children to the point that Bart has PTSD from being bombarded so much. He comes to talk to Marge about his problem, but she just kind of ignores it to talk to Homer about the fact that he’s ripped his last pair of blue pants, and he needs to go get new ones. Don’t worry if that seems boring and irrelevant, because it’s the B-Plot.
So, since he didn’t get any good advice from his mother, Bart decides to take matters into his own hands, and plans some revenge. He steals one of the dodge-balls and takes it home so he could fill it with water before sticking it in the freezer. The next day he gets the dodgeball and brings it to school, now that it’s an ice ball. He walks into gym class and throws it right at Coach Krupt. Unfortunately Bart completely misses, and the heavy ball goes flying out a window, and crashes right into Willie’s shack, destroying it.
Willie is now homeless, and Skinner has Bart go outside to help him rebuild the shack. But the end of the day quickly arrives, and they’d barely built anything by the time Marge shows up to take Bart home. However, as Marge is ready to take Bart home, she notices that Willie is going to have to sleep outside in the rain, and she decides to invite him home to their house until he gets back on his feet. And after some prideful blustering, Willie accepts and comes home with the Simpsons.
Willie is incredibly awkward in their house, since he’s used to a life of squalor, but he seems legitimately happy, and starts to chat with the kids. He tells Lisa about how terrible his life is, and how he’s just used to being taken advantage of, and she decides to do something about it. Because right around now the episode suddenly reveals itself to be a musical episode, and Willie begins singing songs from My Fair Lady, where he wishes he could live an adequate life.
This song makes Lisa decide that there’s only one thing to do. She’s going to try and make Willie into a gentleman for her science fair project. Bart thinks that this is ridiculous, and even bets Lisa that she can’t do it, but she’s not deterred, and begins trying to teach Willie in the ways of poise, pronunciation, and posture. And Willie is terrible at all of them. He’s just loud, clumsy, and full of anger. Lisa has her work cut out for her.
Hey, let’s check in on Homer and his quest to buy pants! It’s not going well. Apparently no store in town is selling them, so Homer does what any sane person would, and goes straight to the factory. Unfortunately it turns out that they no longer sell those pants anymore, because after a disastrous Super Bowl ad the company has decided to discontinue them. So Homer announces that he’s going to come up with a brilliant marketing scheme so that people will want the pants again, and he can get some. And what’s that idea? Drawing an advertisement on the back of his head! Genius!
That’s enough of that for a while, let’s get back to Willie. It’s not going well. Willie continues to be a terrible student, and just doesn’t seem to be able to learn proper behavior. That is until Lisa gives him a pep talk where she talks about how much she believes in him. And just like that, everything clicks. Willie can then start speaking like a gentlemen, and even signs a lovely song about snot, proving that he’s finally understood the lessons, and is ready to be a lesson.
And this revelation came just in time, because the Elementary School is getting ready for their black-tie science fair/gala event. All sorts of high society are coming to the fair, for some goddamn reason, and Lisa rolls in with a suave stranger, GK Willington. Willie has become and handsome and mysterious foreigner, and everyone is obsessed with him, not a single one of them recognizing them. Willie charms the entire crowd, and when Lisa reveals his true identity at the end of the day, people are flabbergasted. She’s given the first prize ribbon for her project, for some reason, and everything works out nicely.
Until the next day when Willie shows up at the Simpson’s house again, ready for his next lesson. And when Lisa tells him that there’s nothing more for him to learn, he feels a little lost. He’s completely changed his life, but now has nothing to focus on. So Lisa does him another solid and gets him a job as the maitre d of the Gilded Truffle, which will let him hob nob with Springfield’s classiest citizens and show off his poise.
Unfortunately in the time it takes for us to learn that Homer’s headvertising worked so well that he’s now covering himself in ads, we see that things have gone to hell for Willie. The people of the Gilded Truffle are just as slovenly and rude as the rest of humanity, and Willie quickly loses his affection for class. Which reaches a fever-pitch when he has a particularly ugly encounter with Krusty, where he decides to give up on his new life, and return to his low-brow and thuggish life. So Willie quits his job, puts on his normal clothes, and goes back to Springfield Elementary, where they’ve even rebuilt his shack, returning everything to normal.
I’m sort of ambivalent towards this episode. I really like Willie as a character, and I’m kind of stunned that it’s taken this long to have an episode that focused on him. But there’s something about this episode that made me feel like this wasn’t the episode I wanted. It could be the weird decision to make it a parody of My Fair Lady, complete with music. Or, honestly, it may have just been the idea of Willie trying to be a different person, which results in us getting an episode about Willie that’s actually about Willie doing everything he can to not be himself. I’m not sure what it is about the episode, but it just didn’t really work for me, but not to the point that I disliked it. It’s just kind of so average that it’s hard to muster any sort of feeling towards it one way or another. But, especially compared to the other episodes from this week we’ve had so far, I guess that’s a win.
Take Away: It’s important to be yourself, because being someone your not will only lead to you beating up a clown in a fancy restaurant.
“My Fair Laddy” was written by Michael Price and directed by Bob Anderson.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons