Hey, remember how a couple seasons back there was an episode where Homer was involved in a documentary and it all boiled down to how he thinks he misled his life and wishes it was better? Well let’s do that again. Oh, and we also get our first episode in high definition, with the new opening, which is basically like the old one just more busy and with characters that are still recognizable. It’s neat.
Once the episode actually begins we see that the family are going to a ceremony at the Springfield Wall of Fame, where famous citizens get special plaques. And that day they’re celebrating a local beloved businessman named Vance Carter. Who Homer hates. Which begs the question of why they went to this, but whatever. But why does Homer hate some dude that we’ve literally never heard of until now and will most likely never hear from again?
Why, it’s because back in high school Homer ran for student body president against Vance, and lost badly. And once he tells the kids that we’re treated to a flashback to high school in the 70s. We see Homer and Vance at a debate in front of the students, where Vance is incredibly charming and hammy, like a politician, and Homer is ill-prepared and rambling, ripping up his notes and then realizing that this was a horrible decision and free-balling. So not really a shock that he didn’t win.
So present-day Homer is still holding a grudge against Vance, and he’s pissed that Vance is getting a plaque. Plus, every woman in the crowd, even Marge, is swooning over Vance, pushing Homer to go and yell at Vance. He corner the man, and begins begging him to have some secret agony in his life that will give Homer satisfaction. But no such luck. Vance is apparently perfect. So Homer is crushed, and goes to Moe’s to drown his woes.
And while he’s sitting there being depressed and whining about how Vance winning the election ruined his life, Lenny and Carl start giving each other suspicious looks. Turns out they have a secret regarding the election that they’ve never told Homer. They tell him that back in the day they were approached by Principal Dondelinger and were told to go and bury the ballot box from that election, because Dondelinger never wanted anyone to learn the true results.
This shocks Homer to his core, and it becomes all he can think about. To the point that that night he shows up in Lenny’s house and demands that Lenny help him find the ballot box to solve the mystery. So the pair goes to the woods and dig up the box, holding the secret results of the election. Homer brings the box home and the family sort through it, finding something shocking. Homer beat Vance in the election, and was supposed to have been student body president.
And, of course, Homer blames Principal Dondelinger. So he drives out to the old-folks home that Dondelinger is living in, and gets ready to confront him. He finds Dondelinger golfing and seemingly ready to tell Homer about what happened. Because he did hide the results of the election. But he did it for good reasons. Apparently right before the election Dondelinger overheard a group of jocks talking about how they’re going to convince everyone to vote for Homer as a joke, so that they can mock him for years to come.
So, Homer wasn’t made class president, but it was done out of kindness. And Homer doesn’t really know how to feel about that. He’s mad, but he’s also grateful that he wasn’t made a fool of. And that kind of gray-area is of course going to keep Homer wondering. He can’t help but think about what his life could have been like, and he keeps bringing it up. Including during a dinner at Luigi’s, which gets Luigi’s attention.
Luigi comes over and tells Homer that there’s a man working in the kitchen who has a magical gift to show people alternate realities though his spaghetti sauce. So Homer and the family pile into Luigi’s kitchen and they get a gander at a world where Homer had actually won the election. And it’s quite different. Because while the jocks did make fun of him at first, he proved to be a competent president and quickly became the most popular and beloved student in the school.
Homer even becomes so popular that he doesn’t meet Marge, and invites the cheerleader Debbie Pinser to prom with him. Marge and the kids use this as proof that Homer’s real life is better, since he ended up with Marge in reality. But back in the sauce timeline we see that during the prom Homer ditched Debbie, met Marge, and started dating her. And everything seemed better. Marge loves Homer, Patty and Selma aren’t mean to him, and they never had kids, becoming wealthy and powerful and happy.
So, that’s a bummer. Homer genuinely believes that the sauce Homer had a better life, and becomes despondent that that’s not the life he’s getting to lead. He starts sitting around in a kiddie-pool of sadness, just becoming more and more forlorn. However, the family decide to turn things around for him, and bring him to the Wall of Fame for a surprise. They’ve put up a plaque of Homer, labeling him the student body president. And this small gesture is enough for Homer to realize that he’s leading a good life, and he stops being depressed.
This is a very weird episode, and I’m not quite sure what I think about it. On one hand I really like seeing flashbacks of Homer and Marge at highschool, and having Homer unravel this conspiracy about his failed campaign for student body president was a whole lot of fun. I also really like the idea of Homer wondering what his life could have been, since that’s an incredibly relateable and human action. However, where the episode kind of loses me is Homer’s sauce dreams of his future. Because Homer becomes convinced that a life without kids is the life he wants. Which is incredibly shitty. Some of the bests episodes of the series have been about Homer bonding with the kids, and learning about them and himself, and this episode is trying to make us believe that Homer thinks it would be better without them? And the family aren’t even mad, they try to make him happier. I get that they needed to end the episode, but it’s insane to me that Homer flat out told them all that this isn’t a life he enjoys, and that he wishes he didn’t have kids, and they go out of their way to make him happy. That’s so weird and antithetical to what you would expect to happen. So this ends up being an episode with some fun ideas, and a solid first two acts that completely crashes and burns at the end in my opinion.
Take Away: Don’t get to concerned with what could have been, and focus on what could be.
“Take My Life, Please” was written by Don Payne and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2009.