Hey, last week was pretty good right? Lots of surprisingly decent episodes? Well, I was kind of worried that last week was going to be a bit of an aberration, since most of the beginning of Season 19 was pretty rough. But guess what? This week is mostly great too! Not as great as last week, but we sure start off with an absolutely insane and enjoyable episode. So let’s get to it!
The episode starts off with Homer and Marge in bed, ready to start having sex. But they run into some problems when Homer is too lazy to even roll over, and when he finally does try he just runs out of breath. Not a great sign. And Marge is really worried, since that seems horrible. Especially when he passes out. So Marge has to do something drastic to get Homer back in shape, which involves her calling up a nutritionist.
So the next evening Homer comes home, expecting some fattening food, and instead he finds this nutritionist who has a pretty easy diet for him. He’s going to be eating nothing but bell peppers. That’s basically it. And Homer decides to give it a shot, and just starts to eat bell peppers non-stop. And after a week of doing it they weigh Homer, and find that he’s somehow gained seven pounds. Which confounds the nutritionist and Marge.
Marge becomes convinced that Homer must be cheating on his diet, seeing no other alternative to the weight gain. Homer refuses, but Marge remains unconvinced, and starts ripping the house apart to find evidence that he’s cheating on the diet. But she just can’t find anything. Which is when she notices Bart and Lisa watching some show called Sneakers that’s about people finding if their significant others are cheating on them, and Marge figures that this is a logical route to take. So Marge calls the show, tells them her problem, and they agree to begin stalking and filming Homer for an episode.
Meanwhile, the kids decide to leave the house and go hang out in nature for a while. They get on their bikes and ride out to Springfield National Park, exploring the beauty of nature. Such as watching animals fight to the death. And while doing so they run into Martin, who is excavating for arrow heads. Lisa is immediately into this project, and begins helping Martin. Bart however is not interested in digging in dirt, and starts wandering around to find something to occupy himself.
Which he finds in a sleeping Sideshow Mel. Bart spots the bone in his hair and decides to steal it and trick Martin and Lisa into thinking he found some discovery. So Bart buries the bone next to a scenic overlook, and calls the other two over. Martin is stunned by this discovery, and begins examining it. Which is when Bart pulls his prank, and pulls on a hidden string, causing the bone to spring out of the ground and whack Martin. Causing him to fall off the overlook.
Bart and Lisa obviously freak out, and run to the side of the cliff, finding that Martin has landed on some little precipice. Martin isn’t conscious, and Bart and Lisa try to save him. And in the process they drop him off the precipice and watch him fall off a cliff and down into the forest far below. So, Martin’s dead. And Bart and Lisa immediately flee. They run from the Park, unsure of what to do about the accident, and just go home, horrified at what they saw.
When they get home Lisa tries to convince Bart that they need to do something about Martin, to try and find a help him. But Bart keeps being obstinate, until they turn on the news and learn something. The police have found the tattered remains of Martin’s clothes, at the bottom of that cliff, near a cougar cave. The police then assume that Martin had been mauled and eaten by the cougar, and announce that he’s dead.
Bart and Lisa are obviously horrified about this, and Bart decides that now he needs to call the police and admit what they did. But while Bart is about to do that Lisa suddenly has a fantasy where she’s trapped in jail for the rest of her life for being an accessory to murder, and realizes that she does not want to go to jail. So she convinces Bart that he should not call the police, and that they should just keep their mouths shut and pretend they didn’t see a thing.
Hey, this is probably a good time to go check in on Homer’s diet right? In the middle of all the death? Sure. The people behind Sneakers have been following Homer, trying to figure out if he’s actually cheating on his diet, and they’ve established that he is. He says he’s going to work on a Saturday, and is actually going to an all-you-can-eat Indian restaurant and gorging himself. But I guess that’s not enough evidence, because we also see them follow him to a sleazy motel where he eats a rack of lamb all night, while they watch.
Meanwhile, back to the death of a popular character. The school is having a funeral for Martin in the gym, and it’s super depressing. Mainly because it’s just people talking about how lame Martin was, and probably would have been. And while it’s all going on Bart really starts to go crazy. The guilt is eating him alive, and Lisa is desperately trying to keep him quiet. And someone notices them acting strangely, and decides that they should start investigating. And who would that be? Why Nelson of course.
Nelson begins investigating Martin’s accident, and even goes to the scene of the crime to look for clues. He manages to find Sideshow Mel’s bone, and notices the string on it, which gets him even more suspicious. And while Nelson is investigating Bart and Lisa just are getting more and more guilty. Which is a coincidence, because Homer is also super guilty while eating a briefcase full of chips and salsa. Homer and the kids run into each other, all super suspicious and awkward, and they all run away when Marge shows up, knowing that they would all fold under pressure.
That night Bart can’t sleep, still wracked with guilt, and he ends up reading a journal of Martin’s, which he got from the funeral. He flips through it, and makes some decision that we aren’t clued in on right now. The next day we see Lisa hanging out in the Kwik-E-Mart, acting super suspicious to the point that Lou the cop tries to ask her some questions. But she avoids Lou, and goes to talk to Bart in the store, trying to calm down.
Which was bad timing, because while they’re freaking out Nelson comes strolling over. He has the bone with him, and begins messing with them, pointing out that he’s onto them and basically becoming Columbo. They becomes convinced that Nelson has them figured out, and Lisa begins planning ways to fix things. She finally comes up with a plan that involves robbing a morgue, and when she comes to tell Bart she finds something shocking.
Bart is not in his room, and has left a note saying that he’s going to go to Martin’s parents to confess. Lisa freaks out and runs to Martin’s house, only to find Bart in the backyard, messing with some sort of butterfly enclosure. Turns out Martin’s journal was all about how he was raising butterflies, and Bart has decided to help them. And as they’re standing there the butterflies begin hatching, and a tape recording of Martin starts playing.
It’s mainly Martin talking to the butterflies and playing his lute, and it really freaks out Bart and Lisa. They manage to find the tape, and turn it off. But the lute keeps playing. This causes them to really freak out, and Lisa finally realizes that they’ve become monsters. The guilt finally gets to her, and she loudly proclaims to the heavens that she and Bart killed Martin. Which is when the lute playing ends, and Nelson comes strolling out of the shadows.
Lisa and Bart start to panic, and Lisa even tries to flirt her way out of his issue. But it doesn’t matter, because while they’re talking to Nelson something unexpected happens. Martin shows up. He’s not dead, and he has a ridiculous story. Turns out the day of the fall his extra-stretchy underwear got snagged on a branch, which slowed his descent. The cougar found him, and pulled on him, causing his clothes to come off and him to get sling-shot to a secluded island. He was trapped on it for days, and just escaped. So Bart and Lisa didn’t kill Martin, and everything is okay. Lisa has learned she has a dark side, Bart realized killing nerds isn’t fun, and Nelson learned he’s a good detective.
Oh, and the Homer plot got wrapped up somewhere in there too. Basically Marge confronted him at a restaurant and realized that the Sneakers show was sketchy and just trying to break them up, so she forgives Homer and everything is fine.
I really dug this episode. Honestly it kind of reminded me of last Monday’s episode, “Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind.” Both are really odd episodes with structures that you don’t normally see in a Simpsons episode to tell a type of story that they don’t usually tell. We literally got a crazy murder mystery plot from this episode, but from the side of the murderers. That would be like following Sideshow Bob for an episode. True, they didn’t actually turn out to be murderers, but it was nuts to see Bart and Lisa dealing with the guilt and shame of witnessing, and perhaps creating, a crime that lead to a friend of theirs death. Plus, the idea to have Nelson become Columbo and start investigating the case was a sheer delight. Really the only thing that bugged me about this episode was that B-Plot. This episode did not need that plot. The idea of Homer cheating on a diet and being stalked by a reality show to prove that isn’t a terrible idea, but it sure felt wrong in this episode. Cutting away from Bart and Lisa talking about a murder they may have committed to seeing Homer eating food in secret has way too much tonal whiplash, and really felt weird. They don’t often do episodes with just a central plot, but I think it really would have helped the tone of this episode. But regardless of this it’s a great episode that I liked quite a bit.
Take Away: Maybe tell the police if you think you may have witnessed a death. And apparently wear really stretchy underwear.
“Dial “N” For Nerder” was written by Carolyn Omine and William Wright and directed by Bob Anderson, 2008.