We got pretty lucky this week on Lifetime of Simpsons. Just about every episode this week was surprisingly solid for this era of the show, which gives me some hope that we may be in for some good times for a while. Who knows it that’s actually going to pan out, but you kind of have to stay positive when staring down the barrel of almost ten more seasons. And what better way to end the week then with an episode-long Scorsese riff?
The episode begins with Marge trying to drive Bart and Lisa to school, and slowly being driven mad by their shitty behavior. Bart and Lisa are acting, in true sibling fashion, like assholes, just smacking each other and being obnoxious. And when Marge tries to focus on them and smack them back to get them to stop, she accidentally loses control of the car and ends up rear-ending Moleman. This really doesn’t lead to anything though, just to establish that Bart is getting to school late.
And when he finally does get to class, he finds something odd. There’s a new kid sitting in his seat. The kid’s name is Donnie and he apparently just got expelled from his old school, and is going to be stuck in Springfield Elementary. And almost immediately Donnie starts acting like he’s the new bad boy in school, not just taking Bart’s seat, but his role. This obviously leads Bart to become a little jealous, and he starts trying to upstage Donnie, which just makes him look like an idiot in the process.
Meanwhile, the B Plot gets going when Homer brings the car to the mechanic to get fixed after the accident. And much to Homer’s surprise, the mechanic gives him a loaner car until his gets repaired. And this loaner car is awesome. It’s much better than Homer’s old one, and actually seems to come from this century. Which leads Homer to start intimating that he does not plan on ever giving back this loaner.
The plots converge for a moment when Homer sees Bart walking home, and picks him up. Bart tells Homer all about his problems at school, and Homer gives Bart some pretty obvious advice. To just be more awesome than Donnie. Which means Bart’s going to have to come up with a crazy prank. So the next day he sneaks into the gym while Principal Skinner and Willie are playing basketball together, and Bart slips some metal insoles into Skinner’s shoes.
The next day Skinner is giving a boring assembly in front of the whole school, and Bart’s plan swings into action. He gets below the stage, and whips out two high-powered magnets, which he then uses on the metal insoles, dragging Skinner around the stage, and making him dance and slide around. Skinner looks like a complete idiot, and ends up getting flung out of a window and into a pile of used retainers. Bart then reveals himself as the culprit, right as Skinner comes inside, and full of vengeance.
Bart panics when he sees the fury in Skinner’s eyes, and worries about admitting that he did the prank, even though the children loved it. Which is when Donnie does something shocking, and takes the fall for it. He says that he did the whole thing, and is ordered down to Skinner’s office. Bart then is pretty shocked, and quickly speaks with Donnie, telling him that they just became friends, and offers for Donnie to come hang out with him after the yelling from Skinner.
But things are not as they seem, because when Donnie gets to Skinner’s office he doesn’t get yelled at, he gets congratulated. Because Donnie isn’t a bad kid, he’s an undercover agent brought in by Skinner and Chalmers to take down Bart and his mischief mafia. And everything is going according to plan, because now Bart has an in with Bart. So after Donnie gets “yelled at” he heads to Bart’s treehouse to hang out with Bart, Nelson, and Milhouse.
Donnie gets introduced to Bart’s criminal enterprises, and even gets some illustrious Blue Vines candy. He then gets to learn about their scams like fake cootie-catchers and bathroom passes, and is formally inducted into the gang. He’s then brought in on their next big prank, and it’s a huge one.
But before we get to that we have to check in on Homer’s plot, which is limping along in the background. He and Marge go on a romantic evening drive, taking advantage of all of the new car’s fancy gadgets and having a great time. But everything’s ruined when Homer gets a call telling him that his old car is ready to be picked up, and Homer decides that he’s going to steal this new car, and never give it back. And you know what, let’s just finish this plot off. Homer keeps driving the car around until he sees the mechanic selling his old car for $99 and gets sad that they’re disrespecting his car, causing him to take it back and return everything to normal.
Anyway, Bart’s new plan begins the next day at school when Nelson and Milhouse have a lunchbox fight on the playground, getting the attention of Skinner. And while Skinner is distracted Bart and Donnie sneak into his office, and get the key to the faculty lounge. They plan on releasing a bag of crickets into the coffee pot. Unfortunately when they get into the lounge they find that it’s been turned into a detention room and Skinner locks them in, having figured out their plan.
And this continues to happen. All of Bart’s pranks start getting ruined, and he can’t figure out why. It’s like Skinner is always five steps ahead of him. Which is when Willie shows up and tells Bart the secret, that Skinner has a rat in his organization. Bart doesn’t really want to believe that, but it does make sense, so he decides to go stalk Skinner and find the identity of the rat. And lo and behold Bart finds Skinner talking to some kid in the library, and begins chasing the mysterious kid. They run all through the school, and Bart eventually loses him.
Bart then calls Milhouse, Nelson, and Donnie together, and the four of them ride their bikes out into a random field. Bart then tells the other three kids that he knows there’s a rat in his organization, and he’s not going to abide that. He then decides that Milhouse is the rat, and locks him in a random locker that’s in the middle of the field. They then leave Milhouse there, and Donnie really starts to get worried that things are about to get crazy.
Bart’s still pretty suspicious about the rat, but still tells Nelson and Donnie about his new plan, to egg Skinner’s house with a collection of ostrich eggs he’s somehow gotten a hold of. The next day Bart is at school, finishing his egg plan, when he runs into Skinner and notices something. Skinner has a blue tongue, which could only have come from the Blue Vines that he gave to Donnie. Donnie therefore must be the rat.
So that night Bart, Donnie, and Nelson meet up and start riding their bikes to the school to pick up the eggs. But they make a stop at a storage shed near the school, where Bart says they have a surprise. And unfortunately for Donnie that surprise is the knowledge that they know he’s the rat. Donnie fully admits the truth, and ends up telling them that he was a violent orphan that Skinner and Chalmers specifically got to do this.
Bart then explains that the ostrich egg thing was a con, and that the real plan is to fill Skinner’s office with Mentos and diet soda, causing it to blow up. Which is when Skinner and Chalmers come out of the shadows, having been there the whole time. Because it turns out that Willie was also a rat, and he told Skinner about the shed. But Donnie starts to feel bad about betraying Bart, and ends up setting off the Mentos bomb to cause a distraction so that Bart, Nelson, and Donnie can escape. The two boys are then even, and Donnie escapes into the night.
This episode is a lot of fun. I know people’s opinions on the Departed have fluctuated a lot over the years, but I still really like it, and I just love what a crazy idea it was for the Simpsons to parody a violent crime movie about undercover agents infiltrating the mob, and put it in a grade school. That’s so delightfully ridiculous, and they pull it off perfectly. The idea of making Bart the mob boss of Springfield Elementary was great, and the idea of Skinner and Chalmers trying something drastic to stop him was pretty wonderful. The Homer side-plot with the car was pretty disposable, and really just distracted from the real plot whenever it showed up, but it never did enough damage to mess with the episode. As it stood this was a fun little episode, with some good gags, and a weird structure that did something I haven’t seen before on this show, which is certainly a hard thing to accomplish.
Take Away: Don’t trust the new kid. They’re undercover agents.
“The Debarted” was written by Joel H Cohen and directed by Matthew Nastuk, 2008.