Lifetime of Simpsons

S18 E14 – Yokel Chords

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Hey, so yesterday was fun, right? An enjoyable episode that used a weird structure to tell fun stories? Well today we have something very different. A fairly mediocre to bad episode all about Cleetus’ kids being exploited while somehow also being a parody of the Sound of Music! Sure does seem like they just pulled some ideas out of a hat and stuck them together, but whatever, let’s roll with it.

Things start off with the incredibly odd image of Marge sitting on a beach, reading a James Patterson novel, when James Patterson himself comes riding up on a horse. Marge hops on the horse and gets ready to have an erotic journey, when she’s suddenly awoken by her alarm clock. She has apparently slept in too late, and is now panicking that things will fall apart because she wasn’t there to help get the family going.

Luckily though, Homer woke up when he was supposed to, and he got the family’s day going. Which of course results in Lisa getting a schematic of a sandwich for lunch, while Bart gets Grandpa’s pills. Lisa seems fine with not getting lunch that day, but Bart decides he needs to do something drastic, and insane, to get lunch. And it all begins with telling Milhouse and Martin a very inventive ghost story when they get to school.

Bart tells them that this day is the anniversary of some horrible event when an old cafeteria worker named Stanley snapped and killed a bunch of kids and served them as food. And I really am not sure what this segment is reference, but it’s fascinating. The animation is super weird, it has really creepy music, and feels far more creative than the rest of the episode. And once Bart is done telling the boys this story it quickly travels around the whole school, until every kid has learned the tale of Dark Stanley, and are terrified of him.

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Which is when the next stage of Bart’s plan arrives, and he begins telling the entire school more about Dark Stanley during lunch. He gets up in the cafeteria, and ends up staging an elaborate prank where it looks like Stanley has killed him. This scares all the children, and they go running out of the school, too horrified to stay, at which point Bart just eats everyone’s abandoned lunch. And while this is going on the stampede of children flood through the school, and end up running into Skinner and Chalmers, destroying Chalmer’s collection of vintage cologne bottles.

This infuriates Skinner, who sends Willie out to wrangle the children and bring them all back. We then get a fun montage of Willie hunting children, until he catches all of them. However, when Skinner is doing a tally of children, he finds that Willie has come across some extra ones. Children who aren’t registered as students. Turns out they’re Cleetus’ children, and Skinner has been keeping them out of school so that they’re terrible test scores wouldn’t drag down the school’s average. Which horrifies Lisa.

Lisa is super pissed about this, and threatens to investigate and write about it for the school paper. Which starts to worry Skinner and Chalmers. So of course they need to sing a song about how they’re going to obstruct Lisa. And after the song they realize that they way they’re going to go about that is to call Lisa’s bluff, and have her tutor the children. Lisa then heads out to Cleetus’ shack, and starts to teach the children, all while singing Sound of Music songs.

Meanwhile, we go back to Bart and his whole Dark Stanley prank, and see that Homer and Marge are worried about this display. They decide to send Bart to a childhood psychiatrist to try and deal with these issues, so Homer takes him to a shrink while he gets drunk at the Chinese restaurant next door. And Bart is not pleased with being brought to a psychiatrist. He remains obstinate, and promises that he’s not going to tell her anything. She doesn’t really seem to care though, and just lets Bart play video games, while secretly studying him.

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But this doesn’t really come up again for a while, so let’s get back to Lisa. Things aren’t progressing that well. She’s trying to teach the kids, however she’s decided to start things off by talking about Presidential vetoes. Which flies right over the children’s heads. So instead Lisa takes them to the city, hoping that it could expand their horizons. And she succeeds. They learn about all kinds of things, like different cultures, lattes, art films, tapas, and books. All while the kids are singing.

And it’s that last part that gets the plot moving along. Because while the kids are signing about the city, Krusty happens to walk by. And he smells money. Apparently the children have some great voices, and Krusty knows that he can exploit that. Especially when he learns they don’t know what agents are. So Krusty heads to Cleetus and convinces him to sign some shady contract that allows Krusty to put the kids on his show as some hillbilly stereotype singers.

Oh, let’s talk about Bart. He’s actually been having a great time with his therapist, and she’s found some tricky ways to get Bart to open up. He’s telling her all about his life, and seems to genuinely enjoy therapy. However, the school only bought five sessions, and once they’re up he’s on his own. He begins moping around, craving his therapy, until Marge scrapes together enough money for one final session. So Bart goes, talks to the therapist, and completely opens up and figures out all of his issues, which primarily narrow down to him doing bad things so that Marge and Homer will be mad at him and not each other. And just like that, he’s fixed, and done with therapy.

Meanwhile, things are getting pretty crazy with Cleetus’ kids. Krusty is beating a dead horse with the kids, getting them all over the place. He even gets Steven Sondheim to write music for a primetime special for them. But Lisa is still furious about the whole thing, and when she learns that Krusty is going to make the kids go on a hillbilly comedy tour, she does something drastic. She goes and finds their mother. Now, this plot point made no sense to me. Apparently Brandine has been in Iraq the whole episode? That wasn’t established at all, and comes completely out of nowhere, but whatever. Brandine gets home, she gets them out of the contract because Cleetus isn’t actually any of their father. So everything goes back to normal.

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I don’t know what exactly it is about this episode, but it is just not my cup of tea. It’s one of those episodes that I find completely forgettable. Like, I can almost guarantee you that in a week I’ll barely remember this episode. The musical episodes have just been really lax lately, and this one is no different. Last week I talked about how some characters just can’t support their own episodes, and Cleetus’ random kids who have never really been in the show before certainly are among those characters. There’s nothing interesting about them, and other than Lisa just being mad the whole time, there’s nothing really compelling about the story. Plus, I legitimately don’t know what was up with the Brandine thing. I’ve been watching all of these episodes, and I have no clue why she was in Iraq. I’m curious if in a couple episodes I’m going to see her get enlisted, and figure out that this episode was released out of order or something. It’s just so strange. The Dark Stanley thing was cool. That was about it.

Take Away: Read contracts before you sign them. Especially if it’s with a clown.

“Yokel Chords” was written by Michael Price and directed by Susie Dietter, 2007.

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