Hey, you know what type of episode we don’t get that much anymore? Ones that focus on Homer and Lisa’s relationship. Used to be that was a go-to plot for Simpsons episodes, and they mostly were all pretty great. But now they’re pretty rare, which makes today’s entry to the genre a welcome little treat.
The episode begins with Bart and Lisa selling some lemonade on the curb outside their house. Well, “selling” is an overstatement, they’re standing there desperate for some customers. But after Bart tosses a dollar in their jar to prime it, they’re suddenly bombarded with customers desperate to have some lemonade. And one of those customers turns out to be Homer, who was out walking Santa’s Little Helper and got incredibly thirsty.
Homer storms up to the little stand and starts demanding that Bart and Lisa give him a tab so he can have free lemonade. They refuse this request, no matter how much Homer starts complaining. This of course leads Homer to deciding that he should just quit and go drink beer at Moe’s. Unfortunately his care won’t start, so he has to borrow Lisa’s bike and sadly and pathetically slowly ride his way to get drunk in the middle of the day.
However, when Homer finally gets to Moe’s he finds that something interesting is happening. Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner are at the bar, and Edna is getting ready to dump Skinner. Because they’re apparently been dating again. But Edna just can’t get the words out, and comes over to Homer and the barflies with a proposition. She says she’ll buy them beer if they break up with Skinner for her. And Homer is obviously down with free alcohol.
Homer then strolls right over to Skinner and breaks the bad news. Which you would think would maybe be depressing and blunt. But Homer somehow finds a way to lift Skinner’s confidence, by telling him what a catch he is, and that he’ll be back on his feet soon. Yeah, it turns out Homer is great at breaking up with people. So great the Lenny then asks Homer to break up with his horrible girlfriend for him, which Homer nails again. Looks like Homer’s found a new calling!
Meanwhile, Bart and Lisa’s great lemonade stand is still raking in cash, and business is booming. Well, until the Blue Haired Lawyer shows up, representing the Springfield Department of Commerce. Turns out Bart and Lisa didn’t get the proper license to operate this little stand, and he has to shut them down. So Bart and Lisa have to go downtown and get a license in order to open their business back up. Which is easier said than done.
They get to the horrible government office where they have to get the license, and they find that there’s a massive line. Mainly because the worker is busy filling out a crossword puzzle instead of helping people out. They stand in line for a while, getting frustrated, until Lisa just walks up and helps him finish the crossword. And it turns out that she’s a natural at crosswords, and quickly finishes it, getting them their license, and giving Lisa a new hobby.
Yep, both Homer and Lisa have found new things they’re passionate about, which means we’re going to start alternating between the two, checking in on how their new crafts are evolving. Homer gets a call from his old roommate Grady, who asks Homer to break up with his boyfriend for him. So Homer heads to a gay club and ends up breaking up with Grady’s boyfriend and basically everyone else in the club, making him realize that there’s a demand for this.
Lisa is also having success, realizing that she’s amazing at crossword puzzles. She’s kind of going crazy though, just sitting in her room filling out as many as she possibly can. She also starts to get a really swollen head about it, mocking Grandpa for doing the local one instead of the New York Times puzzle. And it all comes together when she goes to school and turns the whole playground in to a massive puzzle, earning the attention of Superintendant Chalmers. He approaches Lisa and tells her about a local crossword competition that’s coming up, telling her she should apply.
And while this is going on Homer has realized that since he’s so good at breaking people up he should start charging for it. So he starts a little business, running it out of the Plant, and begins ending relationships all over town. Which really starts to bother Marge. She doesn’t like that so many relationships are ending at the first sign of trouble, and isn’t pleased with Homer’s new business. Which leads to Homer having a nightmare where he’s visited by the ghosts of all the relationships he’s destroyed. Homer then decides to end his business, and tries to figure out what to do with his profits.
All of this happens the night before Lisa’s big competition, and the next morning Homer takes her to the hotel where the crossword competition is going to happen. Homer drops her off in the ballroom where the competition is going to take place, and of course wanders his way into the bar. But when he gets inside he finds something surprising. There’s people inside betting on the outcome of the competition. And since Homer has a huge wad of cash from his break-up business, he decides to start betting on his daughter.
Which was a good call, because Lisa begins wrecking shop, dominating the competition. She’s winning every single match she participates in, and Homer ends up raking in even more cash due to his gambling. And it all comes down to Lisa getting in the final showdown. Which is when she tells Homer that she’s worried she’ll lose. She tells Homer that she always self-sabotages herself when she’s about to win, and is convinced that she’ll lose. So Homer does the smart thing and bets against his daughter, looking for the biggest payout.
It’s then time for the final showdown, and we see that Lisa is up against Gil. Which normally would seem like a good thing. Lisa’s pretty confident that Gil is going to lose, especially when he starts talking about how he’s not that great and is only doing this to honor his dead wife. And when the match begins, poor Gil’s luck starts up and he drops his glasses. Lisa feels pity on Gil, and heads off the stage to get his glasses. Which is when she realizes she’s been hustled. The glasses are fake, Gil didn’t have a wife, and while she was getting the glasses he’s flown through the crossword, winning the competition.
But someone else won big. Homer. He’s bad a bundle on the gambling, and can’t quite hide the happiness he’s feeling when he tries to console Lisa. She begins picking up on Homer’s happiness over the next couple days, and begins grilling Homer on it. And then it all comes out. He admits that he’s happy because he won a bunch of money betting against her. And guess what? Lisa is not pleased. In fact, she’s furious. But she doesn’t show it. She just suddenly gets really quiet.
Homer knows that something is wrong with Lisa, and begins pestering her to tell him what’s wrong. And it finally does work when Lisa absolutely explodes. She screams at Homer, telling how hurt she is that he bet against her. She then announces that Homer is dead to her, and that she’s now taking Marge’s maiden name, preferring to pretend that Homer doesn’t, and never, existed. So things are getting pretty tense.
Homer is crushed by this revelation, and ends up moping around at Moe’s, looking for advice. And the drunks tell him to do something nice for her. Genius. But Homer decides to do that. We then cut to sometime later while Lisa is doing the New York Times crossword when she notices that some of the letters spell out “DUMB DAD SORRY FOR HIS BET.” This is intriguing to her, and she goes to ask Homer if he did it.
And it turns out he did. With the help of Will Shortz and Merl Reagle, who work on the puzzles. He also had a longer message hidden in the clues, but the point is the same, Homer is incredibly sorry for what he did, and has apologized using something Lisa is passionate about. And it all ends with him saying that he cherishes his daughter. And that’s enough to get Lisa to forgive him, ending the episode with the two hugging.
I actually really liked this episode. I’m definitely a huge sucker for Homer/Lisa episodes, and this one hit me right in the soul. I will say, the central conflict is a little despicable, and kind of makes me irritated that they swept it away so easily. But that’s kind of something that happens all the time with Homer. He’s always doing something horrible, then getting it forgiven by doing one sweet thing that probably isn’t equal. Betting against Lisa and basically rooting for her failure is incredibly shitty, and while I do think that the idea of Homer apologizing through the crosswords, something he know she’s passionate about, is incredibly sweet, it kind of doesn’t equate to what he did. But, ignoring that, this is an episode I like quite a bit. I really like that the two plots end up merging at the competition, and that they’re both about Homer and Lisa finding something that they’re good at. And of course, any time we get an emotional ending with something as sweet as Homer saying he cherishes Lisa is enough to get me all emotional. It’s a solid episode folks.
Take Away: DON’T ROOT FOR YOUR CHILD’S FAILURE.
“Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words” was written by Tim Long and directed by Nancy Kruse, 2008.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons