Lifetime of Simpsons

S21 E18 – Chief of Hearts

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Howdy everyone, and welcome back to another week of Lifetime of Simpsons. And guess what? We’re in for another week of rather solid episodes! The show is absolutely spoiling us at this point! And we don’t even have a stinker vacation episode in there messing up the average this week. And it all starts with today’s episode about the wonderful friendship between Homer Simpson and Chief Clancy Wiggum.

The episode begins with Marge driving Bart and Lisa to a birthday party for a kid that neither of them really know. The kid was in some baby class with Bart, which is incredibly spurious logic, but it does lead to the realization that they don’t know what gender this kid is even supposed to be. And the fact that the party has activities for boys and girls doesn’t help, and just absolutely baffles Marge. So I guess they’ll just have to figure this out the hard way!

Or not, this is immediately dropped and no one cares about the birthday kid in the slightest. Instead we finds that while Bart is walking around the party, looking for something to do, he comes across a group of kids playing some sort of complicated game that involves collectible cards and little toys that fight each other. Bart has never heard of this game before, but quickly gets peer pressured into being interested in it.

But that’ll pay off later. For now we have to check in on Homer, who is strolling into a bank while eating a candy apple. He realizes that he can’t have food in the bank, and sticks it in his pocket. And almost immediately the combination of him holding something in his jacket pocket and the caramel’s effects on his mouth make everyone assume that he’s robbing the bank. So Homer has accidentally been launched into a robbery situation, and things quickly get dire.

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Homer ends up tasered and arrested. Things get ironed out at court though, but to punish his idiocy they still give him a sentence where he has to do community service. So Homer and a group of other petty criminals have to deal with community service. And it just so happens to be on a day where Chief Wiggum is not having a good time. He’s feeling very lonely, and seems to be taking it out on the folks he’s supervising.

However, things take a turn when he notices that Homer has a cooler full of sandwiches for his lunch. They look delicious, and he decides to have Homer hang out with him and eat the whole time the other people do their community service. And the two end up having a great day together! They sit around, chatting and eating, and by the end of the day agree that they should continue to hang out, and make plans to keep being friends, which Eddie and Lou find adorable.

But hey, let’s check in on Bart. He has really taken to this Battle Ball game, and has brought it into Springfield Elementary, where it quickly expands into being the schools new fad. All of the kids begin playing the game, and Bart becomes the mastermind behind it, carrying a backpack full of toys. Which is where things get complicated. Because one day Principal Skinner is watching the kids play around, and after seeing Bart giving the kids things from a secretive backpack, he starts to assume that Bart is dealing drugs.

Skinner calls Marge into his office to talk about it, and she’s of course immediately against it. You would think that she’d know that Bart recently spent a lot of money on these stupid cards, but whatever. Because Skinner actually manages to convince her that something is going on, and one day when she hears Milhouse and Bart goofing off in the basement she decides to snoop. And when she eavesdrops on them it sure sounds like they’re talking about drugs, so Marge instantly becomes convinced that Bart has become a drug dealer.

Meanwhile, Homer and Wiggum have become fast friends, and begin spending all of their time together. Homer even gets to drive around with Wiggum in the squad car while Homer edits his criminal record. And after a certain point Wiggum decides to bring Homer to his special place, a scenic overlook where you can see the whole town. Homer and Wiggum hang out on the overlook, talking about life and becoming deeper friends.

However, disaster strikes when Lou calls them about an armed robbery. And because Wiggum is a terrible cop he agrees to let Homer tag along. So Homer and Wiggum race off to the robbery, where Lou is begging to book various members of Fat Tony’s gang. However, when Wiggum and Homer arrive things go sideways, and Johnny Tightlips is able to grab Homer and threatens to kill him. Wiggum then freaks the hell out, and charges Johnny, trying to save his friend. At which point Johnny Tightlips shoots Chief Wiggum square in the chest.

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Wiggum is raced to the hospital, and Homer begins spending every waking hour at Wiggum’s bedside. Because things aren’t looking great. Dr. Hibbert does everything he can, and Homer doesn’t leave Wiggum for a second. And after about a week of intensive work, Wiggum finally wakes up, and is thrilled to see Homer. However, as soon as Homer suggests leaving and seeing his family, something changes in Wiggum, and he begins acting moody and petulant, holding it over Homer’s head that he literally took a bullet for him.

But before we get into what’s going to happen with this development, we need to finish that Bart plot. Because Marge has been utterly obsessed with finding the truth about Bart’s drug dealing, and ends up tearing his entire room apart. And once almost every possession of his is destroyed she finally decides to ask Bart what’s going on. And he easily explains that it’s this dumb game. And, to make matters worse, Marge decides that the game seems fun, utterly running it for Bart, who then gets rid of all of his cards and toys.

Anyway, things are getting weird for Homer. Wiggum is driving him insane, and he starts trying to hide from him. He hangs out at Moe’s hoping for some sanity in his life, when Wiggum comes storming in and attempts to arrest Homer for being a bad friend. So yeah, Wiggum has fallen off the deep end, and things are looking a little dire. It even reaches the point where Wiggum says that they’re no longer friends.

And despite Wiggum’s erratic behavior, this really bums Homer out. He was enjoying spending time with Wiggum, and is really sad about losing him. However, one day Eddie and Lou show up at the house and tell Homer that Wiggum is missing, and they don’t know where he might be. Homer immediately assumes that Wiggum is back at that scenic overlook from earlier, and races up to try and find the Chief.

And Homer guessed right! Wiggum is up there and they end up reconciling. However, they also run into some problems, because Fat Tony and his men are up there too. They quickly overpower Wiggum and Homer, and end up sticking them in their trunk while driving off to kill them. Homer gives Wiggum a pep-talk in the trunk though, and gives him the confidence to jump out of the trunk and beat up the goons. So, everything’s okay, their friendship is back and less intense than before, and everything goes back to normal.

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I had a whole lot of fun with this episode. I’ve always been a huge fan of Chief Wiggum, and it’s kind of shocking that there really hasn’t been any episodes that revolve around Wiggum to this extent. And the idea of making him and Homer friends is great. There’s been a lot of previous episodes where Homer and Wiggum ended up paling around for a bit, and it’s always been a fun dynamic that’s really worked for me. And this is no different. Plus, the idea of Wiggum taking a bullet for Homer and then becoming crazy about it is pretty great. The whole Battle Ball/drug thing is a little weird and didn’t do much for me, but it doesn’t do anything to take away from the fact that this is a really fun episode about two characters I love being friends. And that’s nice.

Take Away: It’s great to start new friendships, but don’t become an obsessive weirdo about it.

 

“Chief of Hearts” was written by Carolyn Omine and William Wright and directed by Chris Clements, 2010.

 

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Page Turners

The Black-Eyed Blonde is a Decent Knock-Off

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One of my favorite characters of all time is Raymond Chandler’s private detective Philip Marlowe. I haven’t really talked about Marlowe here on the site, mainly because I haven’t re-read one of the novels anytime soon, but I think by now I’ve made it clear that I’m a huge fan of noir in general. The hardboiled noir detective is maybe my favorite character archetypes in media, and while there’s a whole slew of great character to choose from, Marlowe will always be my favorite. I know that people really adore Sam Spade from The Maltese Falcon, or maybe even some of the televised characters like Jim Rockford, but no one will ever beat Philip Marlowe for me. And it absolutely blows my mind that we haven’t had any Marlowe adaptations in years. There hasn’t been a movie since the late 70’s, and while he’s popped around in television as recently as the 80’s and that is so utterly shocking. However, it seems like they’re planning on turning that around, because it was recently announced that Liam Neeson has signed on to play Marlowe in an adaptation of one of the novels. But not one of the Chandler novels. I’m not quite sure how I never heard about this novel, what with it being out since 2014, but apparently a crime-fiction writer named John Banville, under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, was allowed to write a new Philip Marlowe novel from the Raymond Chandler estate. And once I learned that there was a Marlowe novel out there that I hadn’t consumed, I knew that I had to give it a chance.

The novel picks up a bit after the final Chandler novel, Playback, (let’s not get into the complicated history of Poodle Springs) with Philip Marlowe struggling to get by, looking for a new case. And, as is the fashion, things start to move along when he’s approached by a woman named Claire Cavendish, a beautiful woman with blonde hair and black eyes. She’s asking Marlowe to investigate the disappearance of a friend of hers named Nico Peterson. It seems pretty simple and straight-forward case, until Marlowe quickly learns that Peterson died recently in a pretty brutal car-crash. But, as usual, things aren’t as they seem, because when Marlowe comes to tell Claire that, he learns that she was aware of the car-crash, but also happened to see him alive in San Francisco just the other day. And from there, things get more and more confusing.

Marlowe is thrown right into the mystery of Peterson’s disappearance and faked death, and ends up being dragged all around the city, meeting people at the top of society, and people at the bottom. Pretty standard detective stuff. He gets involved with Mexican drug cartel assassins, Claire’s millionaire mother, her drunken husband, a criminal organization operating out of a ritzy country club, and after coming across several murders he ends up getting involved with a lot of angry police. And it all boils down to why Nico Peterson vanished, why he faked his death, and why Clare Cavendish cares so much. And along the way, Marlowe ends up really falling for Claire, and getting much too close to her and the Cavendish family. Yet, as usual, Marlowe saves the day, solves the case, and ends up exactly where he was in the beginning of the novel.

This is a very quintessential Philip Marlowe story. It has all of the hallmarks of a Chandler novel, puts Marlowe through the usual ringers, and is written in a slavishly similar voice as Chandler. But it didn’t quite do it for me. I still enjoyed this novel, and if it had been about someone other than Philip Marlowe I may have loved it, but as it stands I can’t help feeling like this novel reeks of being a decent knock-off. And I think there’s two major causes for that. First, there’s the fact that the writing in this novel is trying to very hard to mimic Chandler. It does a decent job, but the entire time I was reading the novel I felt like Banville was trying so hard to do what Chandler did effortlessly. The writing occasionally reached a point of parody, straining so hard to be as hardboiled as one of the classic novels, and every time it tried too hard I was completely taken out of the story. But the second, and bigger, issue I had with the novel was the fact that it was oddly obsessed with continuity. The classic Chandler novels were all very self-contained, and didn’t often feature recurring characters. That changed a bit near the end, with The Long Goodbye  and Playback kind of working in tandem, but by and large you could read the Marlowe novels completely out of order and lose nothing. But this novel is obsessed with continuity. Characters and references from other books pop up all the time, and a significant portion of the novel falls directly from The Long Goodbye, to the point where you kind of need to have read that novel to know what’s even going on in parts. And while this made it occasionally satisfying being a huge Marlowe fan, it also just felt utterly un-Marlowe. There were a lot of things about this novel that worked beautifully for me, but enough that fell flat that I couldn’t quite bring myself to love it. It’ll scratch your Marlowe itch, but you’ll end up feeling pretty unsatisfied.

The Black-Eyed Blonde was written by John Banville, 2014.

Marvel Madness

That Time Iron Man and Dr. Doom Went to Camelot…In the Future!

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One of my favorite comic books stories that I’ve discussed in a Marvel Madness entry was an absolutely insane little story from Iron Man #150 known as “Doomquest,” wherein Iron Man and Doctor Doom travel back in time, meet King Arthur, and help him defeat Morgan la Fey. It’s delightfully weird, and became one of my favorite Doctor Doom stories, which is a high bar to pass. And, as luck would have it, it turns out that there’s a sequel to that story, something I had no idea about until just a couple days ago. See, I’ve recently been checking out an event that Marvel ran in 1989 and 1990 known as Acts of Vengeance. In case you’re not familiar with it, Acts of Vengeance was a storyline that had some loose structure to it, but basically amounted to Marvel releasing a series of comics where the heroes fought random villains. It leads to some ridiculous results, like Thor fighting Juggernaut and Dardevil fighting Ultron, and it’s basically the best. Every story I’ve read from this event has been a delight, and I’m kind of considering doing a whole series on all of the ridiculous Acts of Vengeance pairings. But while I was making my way through the series one completely jumped out at me. That’s right, in 1989 they decided to do a sequel to Doomquest, for the 250th issue of Iron Man that revolved around Iron Man and Doctor Doom being forced to team up again and travel back to Camelot. And folks, while this story may not be as good as Doomquest, it’s somehow even crazier. Because we’re going to the far-flung future of 2093 today to save Camelot from the grim legacy of Ronald Reagan! Buckle up.

The story actually begins in issue #249 to lay some necessary groundwork. And that means we need to check in on both Tony Stark and Victor von Doom to see what they’re up to. And, as you would expect, Doctor Doom is hanging out in exile from Latveria, but still being his usual self, forcing a kidnapped group of musicians to perform a new symphonic arrangement specially written for him, with the threat of death if it displeases him. You know, typical Doctor Doom stuff. Doom is getting pretty bored with the symphony when something weird happens. A glowing artifact suddenly appears in the room, terrifying everyone but him. Doom grabs the floating chalice and takes it off to his laboratory to examine, because something tells him that it holds the key to unimaginable power.

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Meanwhile, Tony Stark is arriving at the grand re-opening of a mall in California that he has recently bought in order to save it from bankruptcy. He of course arrives in his Iron Man armor, being essentially the mascot of Stark Enterprises. Which of course means that he has to fly over the crowd while heating up a fake meteor made of popcorn kernels so that the crowd will be rained upon with popcorn. Awesome. Iron Man then begins giving a speech, which is quickly cut short when that same mystical artifact appears over the crowd. He goes to investigate it, and decides he needs to bring it back to Stark Enterprises for closer examination. So Iron Man grabs the artifact and leaves the mall opening, heading back to a laboratory.

Iron Man drops the artifact off at one of his laboratories, puts it inside some device to protect and analyze it, and heads off to deal with some of his own personal stuff. See, this was during a period where Tony Stark had recently been shot and was temporarily paralyzed. At this point he’s out of a wheelchair, but is still walking around with canes when not in the Iron Man armor, and he’s trying to take stock of some stuff in his life. He orders some of his scientists to begin analyzing the artifact, hoping to figure out its secrets, and then heads off to his home, hoping to get some rest. Unfortunately we see that Doctor Doom has run into some issues while analyzing his artifact, and has begun pouring over news reports to see if any other artifacts have arrived on Earth. And, lucky for him, the news of Iron Man finding a mystical object at a grand-opening of a mall was deemed newsworthy, and Doom has a lead. So Doom and some of his goons pack up and head to California to confront Stark at his home. Tony is hanging out after speaking with a then current love-interest in the comics when Doom arrives and terrifies Tony’s maid.

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Doom then barges into Stark’s mansion and begins making demands. Like you do. Tony is rather concerned, since in his infirmed state he’ll be unable to reach his armor in time to defeat Doom, and just has to humor him for a while and listen to Doom mock his artistic tastes, because Doom is an asshole sometimes. And once those pleasantries are out of the way Doom just flat out demands that Tony give him the artifact. Tony refuses, saying that while he doesn’t know what it is, the fact that Doom wants it so bad is a red flag. So Doom storms out of the house, ready to make things much uglier. Which means that Tony is going to have to fortify things and prepare for the inevitable attack that Doom will launch to get the artifact. Tony heads to Stark Enterprises and meets up with good old James Rhodes, and the two begin preparing for attack. They place the artifact in an adamantium dome and cover it with explosives so they can destroy it if worse comes to worst. Then it’s time for the waiting game.

And they don’t have to wait long, because Doom quickly launches an attack on Stark Enterprises. Unfortunately he has a trick up his sleeve, and even in his exiled state he has enough influence to send a couple battalions of robots to Stark Enterprises. Iron Man begins fighting off as many of the robots as he can while Rhodey stays in the lab to protect the artifact. Iron Man manages to fight off most of the robots, but while he’s distracted Doom takes his chance and teleports into the lab. Where he finds Rhodey waiting for him with a mini-gun. But Rhodey knows he doesn’t stand a chance against Doom, and instead decides to just destroy the artifact. However, this doesn’t work, and it just ends up phasing through the adamantium dome, and Doom is able to retrieve it. Doom then takes the artifact and heads back to his base. And as soon as he’s gone, and Rhodey fills Iron Man in on what happened, Tony gives chase. He follows Doom to his temporary base, and discovers Doom attaching the artifacts, to no real result. However, as soon as Tony busts through a wall something begins happening. An energy erupts from the artifacts, and quickly envelops Iron Man and Doom. The two men are then thrown through time and space, and suddenly find themselves in a rather familiar setting.

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Yep! That’s a recreation of the splashpage in Doomquest where the two learned that they had been transported to Camelot! Except this time they’re in the future. But how have they been transported through time, and where are they? Well, luckily someone is waiting to explain everything. A certain someone named Merlin. Yup! Merlin’s here! And Doom instantly recognizes him and begins treating him with respect. However, Merlin’s also here to start dropping some huge bombs on them. Turns out that they’re now in London, in the year 2093, and Merlin has summoned these two warriors to help him and King Arthur save London from a horrible threat. Doom starts acting like a jerk, trying to posture and prove that he’s a powerful sorcerer as well as scientist, but Merlin quickly schools him and shows off just a modicum of his power. Doom and Iron Man then agree to travel with Merlin to meet the reincarnation of King Arthur who needs their help.

The trio then head into Arthur’s base where they learn some more about the world. Turns out that crime and war has been thoroughly eliminated in the future, and the world has grown very accustomed to peace. But now there’s a threat facing the world and no one knows what to do. Which isn’t helped by the fact that there was a slight mistake with the new King Arthur. He was destined to be alive in 2093, but his parents ended up freezing their embryo to have  a couple more selfish years, which has resulted in King Arthur only being a toddler in the world’s time of need. So, since Arthur will be unable to help save the world, they needed Iron Man and Doom, two heroes who once helped Arthur in the past to help him again now. Doom and Iron Man are pretty confused by all of this, and struggle to believe it, until Arthur tells them some things about their previous trip to Camelot that only Arthur would know. This proves it to the two men, and they ask what exactly this great crisis is. And it’s a doozey.

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You read that correctly. The failed Star Wars project is still orbiting Earth, and when it’s orbit began to decay a group offered to go up and deal with it, and the satellites now appear to be activated, and pose a great threat to the people of Earth. And Arthur needs Iron Man and Doctor Doom to stop it. This however was not what Doom wanted to hear, and he becomes furious that he’s being treated like a lackey, and flees from the base. He then flies off into the future, looking for a way to recreate his famous time-machine and return back to the present. And along the way he ends up robbing some slack-jawed bystanders and taking their rocket-belt, proving to himself that the people of the future are complete push-overs. At which point he realizes that the best plan may be to go back to his home time, and return with weapons to take over this future.

But while Doom is off being a jerk there’s still the matter of the giant space-lasers to deal with. And Iron Man is perfectly willing to help them stop them, but there’s a slight issue. His current armor isn’t equipped to travel to space, so he won’t be able to do much. However, with the right equipment he may be able to modify his suit and make it to space. Which means that Merlin and Iron Man are going to have to head out to get scientific equipment. And there’s only one place to do that. The mall! And more specifically, Radio Shack! Yep, Radio Shack is still around in the year 2093, as are malls, and they now sell the equipment that Iron Man needs to make his armor space-worthy. So Merlin and Iron Man head to Radio Shack and pick up all of the equipment he needs, while getting snarked at by the salesman who thinks he’s better than Tony Stark.

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Meanwhile, Doom has found a laboratory in the city, and decides that it will have everything he needs to make one of his time platforms. So he breaks in and easily scares off all of the scientists, since they’re so unaccustomed to violence, and gets to work building his time machine. And he’s not the only one who was busy, because with the future’s advanced technology Tony  is quickly able to modify his armor so that it’s safe to travel to space. So, adorned with Radio Shack logos, Iron Man heads into space to figure out what’s going on with the Star Wars satellite. And almost immediately it’s clear that something nefarious is going on. We realize that the satellite has a bunch of terrorists on it, and they’re being lead by some mysterious person who is also wearing armor. Tony gets to the satellite, and to protect it’s secrets the terrorists send out a couple waves of robotic soldiers to fight him off. But Iron Man is easily able to fight off the robots, clearing a path to the satellite. Which is when the leader of the group is revealed.

And he’s wearing some modified Iron Man armor. Not only that, the guy starts monologuing and ends up telling Iron Man that his name is Andros Stark, and that he’s a descendant of Tony. Apparently the Stark bloodline continued on the Iron Man tradition, building more and more sophisticated sets of armor to protect people. But when global peace was declared the armors were locked up and forgotten. But Andros has taken a set of amour, and is helping run this terrorist attack. Tony obviously has a lot of questions, but the Star Wars satellite is turned on and begins firing down deadly lasers on Earth, killing people, so he has bigger fish to fry. Iron Man and Andros begin fighting, and it quickly becomes apparent that Andros’ armor is much more advanced than Tony’s, and things start to go bad. Andros rather quickly gains the upper hand, and begins pummeling Iron Man. He even grabs him and starts inching him toward the Star Wars’ laser beam, hoping to disintegrate him. Tony is able to avoid this, but still gets hit by a powerful blast from Andros’ suit, and his armor ends up being horribly damaged. Tony then loses control of the armor, and begins plummeting back down to Earth.

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Luckily though part of the armor upgrade Tony did included some sort of reentry safety pod thing that extends from his suit and keeps him safe during reentry. It’s a rough landing, but Tony survives his ride back to Earth, and has to set out to figure out what to do about Andros. And he’s not the only one running into problems, because back at that laboratory Doom has completed his time platform and has found that there’s something wrong. Despite everything functioning correctly, the platform refuses to transport Doom back to his own time. And because Doom obviously did nothing wrong, there’s only one explanation. Merlin. So Doom heads back to Arthur’s base to confront the powerful sorcerer.

And while all of this is going on it’s time for the story to throw another curve-ball at us. Because it turns out that Andors isn’t the brains of the operation. He’s working with someone who is hiding out in a Stark Enterprises laboratory. Andros heads back to Earth and confront his secret partner, Victor Von Doom. Yep, Doctor Doom is still alive in the year 2093, albeit mostly a cyborg at this point. Doom has apparently gone even more insane in the decades that have passed, and now that the world has become completely pacifist he’s decided it’s time for this ultimate plan. He’s done the math, and has figured out that only 34.2% of the population of Earth is necessary to keep things running, and has decided to kill off the rest with the Star Wars weapons, leaving it much easier for him to take over control of the entire world. Thing are obviously tense between Andros and Doom, both knowing they can’t trust the either, but they also know that there’s a chance that this Iron Man could ruin their plan. They both decide that the only logical explanation is that this is the original Iron Man, who has traveled through time, and they also decide that that must mean Doom’s younger self is also in the present. So they’re going to need to take care of that.

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Meanwhile, our Doom has returned to Arthur’s base, furious that Merlin has done something to time. Merlin explains that because Doom traveled through time thanks to magic, that’s the only way he can return. And, not only that, because he came to the future with Iron Man he can only return with Iron Man. So he’s going to have to help them out and stop the threat to the world. Doom agrees to these terms, but that still doesn’t give them an idea on how to stop Andros. Luckily, li’l Arthur has a plan. To consult the Lady of the Lake! So Doom, Merlin, and Iron Man head to the magical Lake that the Lady resides in, and find that it’s been paved over for a parking lot. This pisses off Merlin. but he’s able to use magic to return the Lake, and the Lady. She then just tosses out Excalibur, hoping to speed things along. Doom obviously grabs the sword, assuming he’ll be worthy to wield it. To no success. So Tony gives it a shot, and is stunned to find that the sword accepts him, and also repairs his amour. Tony now has the weapon he needs to defeat Andros and the Star Wars satellite, and Doom decides his efforts will be best spent attacking whoever is pulling Andros’ strings. So the two separate for their missions, and fly off.

Iron Man flies right up to the Star Wars satellite and begins destroying it, causing Andros and his men to get sucked out of the satellite due to explosive decompression. Iron Man then fights Andros, easily defeating all of his weapons with the magical sword. Hell, it even automatically blocks blasts from Andros’ lasers. However, when all is said and done, Tony can’t bring himself to kill this man who is related to him, and instead just knocks him unconscious and returns him to Earth for prosecution.

And while this is going on, Doom has located the hidden Stark Enterprises laboratory that his future self is hiding out in. Doom is obviously shocked to find that he’s survived to the year 2093, and is pretty disgusted that he’s mostly replaced himself with machinery. Future Doom tries to explain that it was a necessary evil, and then attempts to capture Doom with a device he created to defeat Andros when the time to betray him came. Unfortunately this isn’t enough to defeat Doom, who quickly gains the upper hand. Future Doom then realizes he’s lost, and knows that our Doom will have to destroy him, as he once destroyed a future version of himself when he was placed in this exact same scenario. So Doom destroys his future self, and returns to Arthur, Merlin, and Iron Man. They’ve succeeded in keeping the world safe, and it’s now time for Merlin to return the two men to their own times. However, right as they’re about to head home, Doom drops a bombshell. While he was building his time machine he did a little research, and the history books have proved that Iron Man is Tony Stark. Tony is obviously terrified that Doom knows his secret identity, but there appears to be nothing he can do about it. Well, until they’re thrown back in time, and their memories are completely wiped of this entire adventure. Good job Merlin. So the two men find themselves in Doom’s castle, confused about what’s going on. But the artifacts that drew them together are gone, so they decide to just roll with it and leave each other alone, pretending that this never happened.

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This story is so goddamn much fun. I will say, it’s not as good as Doomquest, but it’s somehow even more crazy, which I appreciated. You wouldn’t think that there was any way for them to make a story crazier than the one where Doctor Doom and Iron Man went back in time to save King Arthur from an evil army of goblins lead by Mogan La Fey. But then you read this, and find that the inclusions of Merlin, Radio Shack, the future, Andros Stark, and a cyborg Doom somehow is able to get it across that threshold. This story is absolutely bonkers. It stuffs so many insane ideas into one over-sized issue that it almost feels like it was trying to set up some new universe for an ongoing to take place in. We learn all about Andros Stark, the world of the future, the rules that Merlin and Arthur have to deal with, and countless other weird quirks of this future, which I assume were never explored again. I can’t believe that they made a sequel to Doomquest, and that it’s this nuts. Part of me wants to research and see if they returned to the well and tried this story a third time, but I think it would be best if I stumble upon that fact organically. I don’t think a third Camelot story exists, but holy crap would I be delighted if it did. We just get so much great stuff from Iron Man, eventually leading to him wielding Excalibur to defeat his future ancestor. Plus we get some great Doctor Doom action, especially that ending where he’s so disgusted that his future self would disrespect his own body by becoming a machine. I adore Doctor Doom, and any story the guy is in is going to be a winner for me, but this one in particular was a whole lot of fun. And don’t worry, from what I’ve seen there’s plenty more where this is coming as I begin to dive deeper in Acts of Vengeance.

Iron Man 249-250 were written by David Michelinie, penciled by Bob Layton, lettered by Janice Chiang, and colored by Paul Becton, 1989.

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Bat Signal

Issue 595 – “Our Man in Havana”

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Hello everyone and welcome back to Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read every issue of Detective Comics, randomly, and with no context. And we’re in for something odd today folks. Because today’s issue the random number generator gods have decided to give us something we really haven’t tackled yet. An event tie-in issue. Yeah, we’ve had an issue from No Man’s Land, but that whole thing was all about Batman, so it still felt like a Batman story. But this time? Well, we’re getting into Invasion today, folks. And in case you aren’t familiar, Invasion was a big event that ran through DC comics in late 1988 to early 1989 that focused on Earth being invaded by a coalition of hostile aliens. It’s a pretty fun little event, not too long and full of crazy alien fighting, largely courtesy of the legendary Bill Mantlo. But, of course, when you have a big cross-company event, that means that even characters that seem a little out of place are going to get dragged in. Which is what we have to talk about today. Because if there’s one character that you don’t expect to see fighting in an alien war, it’s probably Batman. But, as we’re aware, Batman is the most competent human being on Earth, so he’s probably not in for a rough time.

The issue begins exactly where you’d think it would. With Batman flying a helicopter above Havana, Cuba, getting ready to infiltrate the island and fight the aliens who have captured it. Duh. Batman is pretty quickly shot down, and lands into the ocean. But he’s relatively unscathed, and swims ashore, ready to start kicking some alien ass. The shore is being patrolled by some brutish aliens known as Khunds, and Batman is able to get the drop on a pair of them, knocking them unconscious and tying them up. And once that’s taken care of he starts making his way into Havana, talking to himself so that we know what’s going on, and why Batman’s in Cuba.

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Apparently Batman was planning on staying out of this whole alien war thing, figuring that he didn’t have enough power to really get anything accomplished. Max Lord, the man who ran the JLI was trying to get Batman to help out, but he refused, saying that if things got really crazy he would lend a hand. Besides, Batman figured that he was going to be too busy keeping the streets of Gotham safe to care about alien nonsense. He then heads out into the streets of Gotham, ready to do his nightly patrol, when he comes across a semi-truck getting robbed at gunpoint. Batman prepares to jump down and attack the gunmen when something surprising happens.

The man driving the truck whips out some sort of energy-weapon and begins firing it at the gunmen, and vaporizing them. Batman then switches targets and begins fighting the driver who is quickly revealed to be some sort of shape-shifting alien. Batman struggles with the alien, eventually overpowering it and trying it up with its own tentacles. And, with the alien taken care of, Batman decides to take a look in the truck that the alien was driving. And it looks like it’s full of cigars from Havana called Muchacho Cigars. But when he cracks one of the crates open he finds that they’re full of weapons. Looks like there’s some sort of alien arms-deal going on, and Batman is not cool with that. Batman and Commissioner Gordon discuss this development and decide that the aliens are building some sort of fortification in Gotham. So, since they’re messing with his city, Batman decides it’s time to track down the cigars and bring the fight to the aliens in Cuba.

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We then get back to the beginning of the story, with Batman storming the beaches of Havana. He runs along the rooftops of the city, trying to avoid the aliens, when he comes across the Muchacho Cigar factory. Unfortunately the factory is very fortified by the Khunds, and even some Thanagarians who are flying around the rooftop. Batman figures that his best bet to get into the factory is the roof, so he watches the Thanagarians until he figures out their flight pattern. Batman then springs into action, and attempts to get into a skylight before he’s caught. But he runs into some difficulty when the skylight is covered in a mesh, and he’s unable to get in. The Thanagarians then attack Batman, and he has to fight off two hawk-people.

Batman ends up falling off the factory rooftop, and lands into the bay beneath the factory where several Khunds are loading up a boat with more weapons. Batman manages to play dead, letting his cape float in the water so the aliens think they’ve won, while he swims under the dock. He gets behind the aliens, and then begins fighting them with everything he’s got. He knocks several of them out, and ends up having to take refuge in the speedboat that they’re loading up with weapons. Which is a lucky break, because he ends up finding some sort of alien grenades, and comes up with a very ridiculous plan. He pulls the pin on one, and then steers the boat toward the factory, bailing out at the last second. The boat then becomes a high-speed bomb at this point, and launched into the factory, causing a massive explosion that probably kills a lot of aliens, and ruins a lot of their weaponry. Which is a score for Batman. He then presumably swims back to Gotham.

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There really wasn’t a whole lot of depth to this issue, but it was a whole lot of fun. It was basically Batman getting thrown into a big, dumb 80’s action movie with aliens, complete with a slew of ridiculous one-liners and explosions, which was something I very much enjoyed. I’m also a fan of the fact that Batman apparently didn’t give a rat’s ass about an alien invasion, until he realizes that it will affect Gotham City, which causes him to go full Rambo and blow up an alien weapon’s cache. That’s so ridiculous, and I love it. This was clearly a rather throw-away entry to the Invasion story, but for a character like Batman I think it’s kind of perfect. I don’t really want to see Batman go to war with aliens and be swept up into a big space war, but I totally want to see Batman involved in guerrilla warfare with aliens. That just seems right.

“Our Man in Havana” was written by Alan Grant and John Wagner, penciled by Irv Novick, inked by Steve Mitchell, colored by Adrienne Roy, and lettered by Todd Klein, 1988.

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S21 E17 – American History X-cellent

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Well folks, we’ve made it through another week here on Lifetime of Simpsons. And it was a pretty good one! Some speed bumps along the way, but more or less this was a week that I really enjoyed. And that momentum isn’t going to stop today, because we’re ending things with a very odd episode, but one that I had a lot of fun with.

The episode starts off in a very odd place. Inside the Springfield Penitentiary with Mr. Burns narrating. Yep, seems like we’re jumping into this episode in media res, and it looks like Mr. Burns has finally been sent to prison for his crimes. Burns seems quite content being in his cell, but we see three faceless prison guards march in and begin harassing him. Which is when the episode pauses, and Burns decides to hop backwards and explain what’s going on.

We jump back a couple week to when Mr. Burns is giving a speech for the entire Plant. And it’s not a good one. He’s basically telling them that he’s getting rid of their summer company picnic, and instead will be forcing the employees to come work for him, for free, at his mansion on the Fourth of July. But they can’t do anything about it, so they have to deal with it and go deal with some slave labor or else they’ll lose their jobs.

The episode then cuts over to Burns’ picnic, where he’s treating the employees absolutely terribly. Mr. Smithers tries to convince Burns that he should be lenient to the the employees or else they’ll do something rash. But Burns ignores him, and instead forces the employees to act out some absurd musical about the history of America that he wrote himself. And when the performance is over, he’s not that impressed. But he does agree that the employees can go home.

However, this isn’t good enough for Homer, Lenny, and Carl. They decide that they need something else to do. So they decide to break into Burns’ wine cellar and start ransacking the priceless booze inside. And, after several bottles of incredibly expensive alcohol, the guys become absolutely trashed and start heading into the mansion to wreck some havoc. They break a bunch of artifacts and end up playing Twister on some priceless paintings.

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Burns and Smithers finally find the guys though, and call the police in to arrest them. However, when Wiggum, Eddie, and Lou show up something surprising happens. Lou recognizes one of Burns’ paintings as a masterpiece that had been stolen a few years back, and is still missing. Burns clearly stole it, and the police have no choice but to arrest Burns for art theft, dragging him out of his own house after he called them in.

The whole town then immediately turns on Burns, especially after the police stick him in a wooden cage and drag him around town for people to huck rotten fruit at. Because Springfield is the classiest place on Earth. However, Burns’ arrest does lead to a big question. What’s going to happen to the Plant? Well, it looks like it’s Mr. Smithers’ lucky day, because he gets made the acting CEO of the Plant, and begins controlling it, but his way.

Meanwhile Burns is processed at the penitentiary, and the guards take special care to treat him as terribly as possible. They hose him down, take his possessions, and generally try to make him miserable. Burns of course tries to blackmail the warden into getting cushy treatment, but he’s really bad at it, and just gets thrown into a regular cell. He is paired up with a fellow white-collar criminal, but since the guy went to Dartmouth Burns is still horrified.

Oh, there’s also a B-Plot in this episode. It’s really dumb an inconsequential though, so I’ll just knock it out now. While the town was busy throwing fruit at Burns, Bart had no alternative but to hang out with Lisa, who was busy playing with an ant farm. Bart gets bored quickly though, and just sticks a Pop Tart into the farm, making Lisa crazy. The two begin arguing over the ant farm, bickering like angry parents who can’t agree on how to parent their children, when disaster strikes. They drop the ant farm.

The ants break out of the farm, and Santa’s Little Helper quickly runs up and eats them all. Well, all except one poor little ant that survived the slaughter. Bart and Lisa then decide that they need to take care of the lone survivor, and begin coddling it. They quickly realize that they can’t have an ant farm with one ant though, and head out to the woods to let it loose, realizing that they’ve grown closer as siblings. Santa’s Little Helper then eats the final ant, adding insult to injury.

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Anyway, Burns is continuing to live in the prison, but is struggling to understand the new culture he finds himself a part of. He wanders around the yard, thinking that the process of joining a gang is similar to joining a fraternity. There aren’t many takers though. Except for a giant dude modeled after the guy from the Green Mile, who claims Burns and begins wearing him like a scarf around the yard, showing him off.

Meanwhile, Mr. Smithers has taken over control of the Plant, but had decided to become a better boss. He gives the employees a medical plan that actually covers things, and even institutes a suggestion box that he actually reads. The employes obviously think that there’s a catch, but slowly start to realize that Smithers actually wants to be a better boss. Which obviously means that it’s time to start taking advantage of him.

Homer and the guys take Mr. Smithers to Moe’s, hoping to thank him for being a better person. But they quickly begins asking for time off, telling all sorts of sob-stories Smithers capitulates to their demands, and then heads outside to take a phone-call. However, when he comes back in he’s shocked to find Homer and the guy mocking Smithers, and bragging about how they’re taking advantage of him. And this make Smithers snap. He decides right then and there that he needs to be an even harsher boss than Mr. Burns ever was.

And while all of this is going on Mr. Burns is getting used to hanging out with the large man who took him under his wing. Turns out that this guy is obsessed with Jesus Christ, even though the book and the picture that he worships is actually Charles Manson, and he’s convinced he can make Burns become a better person. Well, that and he has some magical power that can drain the evil out of Burns, just like in Green Mile.

Back at the Plant, things have turned dire, and Mr. Smithers has become an utter tyrant. Homer and the guys start talking about what to do, and realize that they only have one option. They need to bring Burn back. So they dress up as prison guards, break into the penitentiary, and we’re brought back up to the beginning of the story. Homer and the guy break Burns out of prison, and once away from his cellmate his evil returns and Burns comes back to normal. He takes over the Plant again, and everything goes back to normal. Oh, and I guess everyone forgot the art theft?

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There’s not really a lot going on in this episode, but it’s one that I appreciated. We really haven’t had that many episodes lately that revolve around Mr. Burns, so I’ll be thankful for whatever I get. And we have some fun Burns action in this one. Having Mr. Burns be sent to prison, for such a random reason, and then struggling to adapt to the culture of prison was a whole lot of fun. Honestly, the episode may have been better if they ignored all of that Smithers stuff, and just had an episode that was Burns in prison, but they needed a reason for him to be released, so I guess it all shakes out. There’s really not much else to say about this one. It’s dumb, fun, and forgettable, but sometimes that’s all I need from the Simpsons.

Take Away: Don’t steal art.

“American History X-cellent” was written by Michael Price and directed by Bob Anderson, 2010.

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S21 E16 – The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed

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Well folks, today’s the day. At the beginning of the week I said that we were in for a good week here on Lifetime of Simpsons, with one big exception. And that exception is today’s episode! Because if I had to design an episode that would get on my nerves, I don’t think I could do better than today’s episode. A vacation episode with a grating celebrity cameo that’s stuffed to the gills with weird religious condescension? Fun times!

Things start off with Ned hosting a Bible study group at his house with the usual group of characters who would think that this was a good way to spend their time. Oh, and Jimbo’s there for some reason, mainly for a joke that kids need to have everything revolve around technology or else they’ll lose all interest in things. Great. But, other than that it seems like a pretty fine Bible study thing, so good for Ned.

And that’s all ruined when the group’s attention is suddenly drawn to the sound of Homer performing nude slip-n-slide stunts in his backyard. Ned tries to yell at Homer, but Homer just completely ignores him. Ned begins fuming about Homer, and complains to everyone about how hard it is to live next to someone as ungodly as Homer Simpson. So Reverend Lovejoy tells Ned that it’s his Christian duty to “fix” Homer and make him a better Christian, and therefore person.

Oh, and apparently Ned doesn’t do things by half-measures, because after he’s given his new orders he marches right over to Homer’s backyard and offers to take the Simpsons with him to visit the Holy Land. Homer and the kids aren’t interested in the slightest, but while Homer’s mocking Ned Marge overhears and comes out. She would love to visit Jerusalem, and tells Ned that the Simpsons would love to join him and the Bible group on their vacation. Yep, the Simpsons are going to Israel!

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We then skip right ahead to everyone landing in Jerusalem and getting ready for their trip. We have the Simpsons, Ned, Reverend Lovejoy and Helen, Dr. Hibbert and his wife, Agnes Skinner, and for some reason Krusty. Krusty explains that he’s there because as a Jew he needs to visit the Holy Land, but when Lisa teaches him that Jews don’t believe in Hell he loses most of his interest. But it’s this motley crew that head out to their hotel after quickly showing as many establishing shots of Jerusalem as they can.

We’re then introduced to their guide, voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen, Jacob. Now, I find Cohen irritating in almost everything, and the character he’s devised for Jacob is intensely dislikeable. He’s just loud and angry, and screams nonsense every time he’s in a scene. But whatever, he’s there to guide them around the Holy Land. Well, after everyone stops at the breakfast buffet, which Homer insists on, much to Ned’s chagrin.

Once they’re fed though they head out to some temple where Jacob can loudly rant and swear at some dude who wasn’t in the tour group for what seems like ten minutes. Once that’s over though the people of the tour begin praying, while we see that Ned is specifically praying that God will help Homer see the light and become a better person. Homer keeps acting like an asshole in the temple though, so Ned decides to start lecturing him, telling him to be a more reverent person. Homer ends up capitulating, and pretends to pray for a bit so Ned will leave him alone.

Next up the group heads to the Wailing Wall while Jacob explains what’s going on. Everyone begin submitting their prayers to the wall, and Homer and Bart just start acting like idiots. It ends up with the two of them getting in a fight, until Bart hops on his skateboard and begins skating around on top of the wall. This obviously pisses people off, and Jacob’s little niece has to go beat Bart up using krav maga. It doesn’t really lead to much other than Bart getting beat up.

After that they move onto the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus is supposedly entombed, and Ned is excited to pray at one of the most holy sites in the world for him. Unfortunately Homer is inside the tomb, sleeping on it. This is the last straw from Ned, and he completely loses it, just screaming at Homer about how he should be a good Christian. And it’s at this point of the episode that my notes simply read, “I hate Ned in this episode.” Ned then proclaims that Homer isn’t worth saving, and he gives up, storming out of the Church.

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Homer tries to chase after Ned, feeling bad for the fact that he just broke this man. However, it seems to Homer that Ned has wandered off into the desert he was so distraught. So, having no other choice, Homer decides to hop on a camel and wander off into the desert to find Ned. Which is a bummer, because Ned was actually just in a shop getting some tea, so Homer has now entered a desert for absolutely no reason.

Homer quickly gets lost in the middle of the desert, and a sandstorm kicks up, keeping him trapped. The camel abandons him and Homer begins wandering around, lost and terrified. He ends up coming across the Dead Sea, and tries to drink it, passing out. And when he wakes up and finds something miraculous. The Veggie Tales things have arrives to tell him that he’s the new messiah, and has been tasked with uniting the religions of Israel and bringing peace to the world.

Yep. This is happening. Luckily Marge and a soldier end up finding Homer at this point, and they bring him back to the hotel. Dr. Hibbert looks him over, and after Homer begins explaining how he’s the messiah and telling them about all of his plans, Hibbert makes a diagnosis. Apparently there’s a thing called Jerusalem Syndrome, where Western tourists get so overpowered by all of the religious iconography in the city that they start to delude themselves into thinking that they’re prophets. So that explains everything.

Unfortunately Homer doesn’t accept that diagnosis, and ends up fleeing from the hotel. Lisa then loudly explains that Homer is probably going to the Dome of the Rock, since it’s holy for all three major religions. Homer overhears that, and decides it’s the perfect place. Homer then heads to the Dome, with the rest of the tour group hot on his heels, and he begins preaching. Homer gets up on a stage and begins telling people that all Abrahamic religions are basically the same, and that since they all are cool with eating chicken that they should just embrace their similarities and stop fighting. People seem to like this message, including Ned, and it looks like everything is going to be okay. Until Agnes and Hibbert start acting like the messiah too, having also submitted to Jerusalem Syndrome. The group then returns to America, since they’re all messiah’s now, and everyone decides to forget this trip every happened.

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I just couldn’t stand this episode. Like I said up top, this is like a perfect storm of things that I don’t like in Simpson’s episodes. I’ve really started to dislike the vacation episodes, especially ones that are particularly lazy. Luckily this wasn’t one where they just wandered around meeting local celebrities, but it’s not much better. Instead we just got this bizarre and unpalatable performance from Sacha Baron Cohen. I legitimately have no idea what’s going on with Jacob as a character, but he’s so intensely unlikeable. But the thing that really gets me about this episode is how completely annoying and sanctimonious Ned is. I’ve made it very clear here on the site that I’m not a religious person. But I don’t think that I’m particularly anti-religion. I don’t care if people are religious, just as long as they keep it to themselves and it doesn’t affect me. But this is an episode where Ned decides that Homer is a bad person, and the only way to fix that is to make him more Christian, because only Christians are good people. He then flies the Simpsons to Israel and yells at Homer for being bored, and tells him how to be a Christian, and how to operate his faith. And that’s the fucking worst. I cannot stand this line of thinking, and it really bums me out when they make Ned act like this. Forcing your opinions on someone else, and then getting mad when they don’t obey you is so moronic and it’s such an ugly look for Ned Flanders. It’s just such a bummer of an episode folks. But tomorrow is interesting.

Take Away: Don’t stuff your religion down other people’s throats. People are allowed to believe whatever they want to believe, and practice their faith however they want to, as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else.

 

“The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed” was written by Kevin Curran and directed by Michael Polcino, 2010.

 

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S21 E15 – Stealing First Base

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So yesterday we got to see Bart being a bit of a monster, and trying to destroy both Springfield and his parent’s marriage for his own gain. But today we’re going to abruptly change gears, and instead focus on the more tender side of Bart Simpson, and his trials and tribulations while navigating the complicated world of hormones. Good luck, Bart!

The episode starts off with Homer proudly explaining to the kids that he has a new GPS system, and that it’s going to get them to school as efficiently as possible. However, the fact that the system uses metric units completely baffles Homer and the kids, which ends up causing them to get horribly lost in a construction field. And this of course ends with the car being destroyed, and Homer resorting to having the tow-truck driver drop the kids off at school.

So Bart’s a little late, and when he comes into class he finds something shocking. Mrs. Krabappel isn’t there and the students are basically rioting and destroying the room. But Principal Skinner comes and stops the anarchy, while explaining to the kids that Mrs. Krabappel had to head to Oregon to save her sister from a cult, and she won’t be back for a while. And because they can’t just get a long-term substitute for some reason, he’s decided to merge Krabappel’s class with the other fourth grade class in the building.

The kids are obviously unsure about this, but march with Skinner into their new classroom, where they’re going to have to sit with random other kids at their desks. We see a couple gags like Sherri and Terri having to sit with other twins, and Nelson finding some blind kid that becomes his side-kick for the whole episode. But this is a Bart episode, so it’s really his seat-mate that matters. And Bart has gotten stuck with a sort of gothy little girl named Nikki.

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But before we get into Nikki, we should probably go check in on Lisa and get the B-Plot going. It all starts when Lisa gets a test back, and is horrified to find that she’s gotten an F on it. This causes Lisa to have a slight break from reality, and she ends up spending the whole recess time sadly sitting by herself, moping for her GPA. However, things start to brighten up when a bunch of kids approach Lisa, wanting to hang out with her now that she’s not perfect, and seems approachable. Lisa’s social life is saved! Until Ms Hoover shows up and tells her that there was a mix up, and Lisa actually aced the test, causing everyone to abandon her again. Poor Lisa.

But we’ll get back with Lisa later, for now let’s see how things are going with Bart and Nikki. Not well! She can’t stand the idea of having Bart at her desk, and hates him from the get go. Bart also can’t stand her, because she’s a little aloof, and keeps reading some terrible Twilight book. However, when Bart starts to make fun of her for the book, and starts to show her gory drawings he made of vampires, she suddenly gets interested in him, and the two start to hit it off. They spend the rest of the day paling around, realizing they have a lot in common.

So much in common that after school Bart returns home with some questions for Homer. Yep, Bart’s looking for some lady advice. He thinks that he may like Nikki, and asks Homer what he should do about it. But Homer’s too busy dealing with fixing Marge’s car, and he tells Bart to go ask Grandpa instead. So, against better judgment, Bart goes and asks Grandpa for dating advice. And Grandpa’s big suggestion is to “steal a kiss” from Nikki to see if she likes him too.

The next day Bart heads back to school, and during recess he finds that Nikki loves skateboarding too. The two end up boarding all around the campus, doing a variety of crazy stunts while keeping up with each other. They end up sitting atop the slide, and Nikki asks Bart what he wants to do. So, taking Grandpa’s advice, Bart just plants a kiss on Nikki. And the shit hits the fan. Nikki is horrified that Bart kissed her without getting permission, and that her first kiss is with Bart Simpson, and she runs away screaming.

And things aren’t done escalating, because we then see that Homer and Marge have been brought in to talk to Skinner about the incident. They’re obviously worried that Bart did it, but think that it’s getting blown out of proportion. Which is when Nikki’s parents show up and threaten to sue the school unless the enforce a strict no-touching policy in Springfield Elementary. Skinner agrees, and Bart has to leave the school, confused about what’s going on. He thinks about going and apologizing to Nikki, but Homer doesn’t want Bart anywhere near her, and instead takes Bart to go see some weird Itchy and Scratchy movie that’s basically just Koyaanisqatsi.

But that’s enough Bart for a bit; let’s check back in on Lisa. Things aren’t great! She’s still incredibly depressed over seeing some fleeting friendship before having it dashed away by her achievements. We also learn that Lisa runs some sort of organic gardening blog, and she writes a long post about how no one appreciates her, and that she should just give up. But her spirits are brightened when she gets a random comment from someone telling her not to give up, and to stay strong.

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We’ll find out who this mysterious commenter is later though, because it’s time to see the school enact their new anti-touching policies! And the best way to do that is to host an assembly for the kids where they make Willie dress in drag and have Skinner dress as Bart and awkwardly kiss him. This makes the kids laugh, which makes Chalmers for Skinner and Willie to kiss longer and longer. So that’s a good time. But what’s not a good time is the fact that Bart is a total pariah now, since his mistake has lead to this weird new culture.

And things are complicated even further when something ridiculous happens. Nikki is waiting for Bart, inside his locker, and she kisses him. Turns out Nikki now has a crush on Bart, and wants to break the rules. So the two run up to the roof of the school to have some time together where no one will see them. And that’s also helped by the fact that something ridiculous is happening in the playground that’s keeping everyone’s attention held.

A random helicopter has landed on the playground, and some military officials hop out and begins securing the area. This obviously draws everyone’s attention, especially when they learn whose inside. Michelle Obama! Turns out that she’s that commenter on Lisa’s blog, and she’s come to Springfield Elementary to tell the kids to appreciate overachievers, because they’re the people who will be running the world in the future, and that everyone should be proud of being smart and passionate about things. So that’s cool!

Meanwhile, Bart is up on the roof with Nikki, and has learned something huge. He’s bad at being in a relationship, and starts second-guessing himself and freaking out about everything. This really bugs Nikki, and the two starts to fight, which distracts Bart, who slips and falls off the roof. Luckily the crowd was still gathered for Michelle Obama’s speech, so they’re there to run to Bart’s aid as he lays there unconscious.

Unfortunately there’s an issue. The new anti-touching rules make it so that no one, not even the faculty, can touch Bart and see if he’s okay. They call an ambulance, but Bart seems like he’s in rough shape. So Nikki comes to the rescue, riding her skateboard. She then performs CPR on Bart, which launches a truly hilarious montage of the greatest kisses in cinema history, and it’s amazing. Bart then wakes up, and tries to thank Nikki. She however has now lost interest in Bart, and officially breaks up with him, completely baffling Bart. Women, right?

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This episode is a lot of fun. We’ve seen Bart try to dip his toes in romance, but this is a really interesting way to tackle that topic that we haven’t seen before. This is one of the most accurate portrayals of young attraction that I’ve seen. Bart and Nikki have no idea what’s going on with their feelings, and have no idea what to do about them. They’re both utterly baffled, and just keep messing everything up. It also doesn’t help that Grandpa gave Bart some truly terrible advice, telling Bart to get physical with a girl without her consent. But that’s also an important thing for him to learn. Plus that B-Plot gave some good messages, telling kids that it’s okay to be weird and passionate about education, because the world will always need smart people. Until the GOP burns it to the ground. But let’s focus on nice things!

Take Away: Always get consent, don’t be a creep, and don’t be afraid to be an over-achiever.

 

“Stealing First Base” was written by John Frink and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2010.

 

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