Lifetime of Simpsons

S21 E09 – Thursdays with Abie

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So, yesterday I mentioned that this is going to be a week of surprisingly solid episodes here on Lifetime of Simpsons. And today is the beginning of that trend. Because, folks? This is a fascinatingly weird, but really fun episode. For some bizarre reason we barely get any Grandpa-focused episodes anymore, but today’s episode is certainly going to scratch that itch.

The episode starts off with the Simpsons, featuring Grandpa, heading to some sort of aquatic theme park, a la Sea World. And it’s a rather dull place. Which means that we’re going to get some sight gags. We see Grandpa complaining about everything, Maggie is terrified of her clam-shaped stroller, Lisa is disgusted by all of the sea food being featured next to all of the sea animals, and Bart loots the lost and found for booty.

But it seems like the main reason that the family are at this park is to check out a famous octopus named Slimu. He has a whole show built around him, and the family eagerly head into the auditorium to check it out. Except for Grandpa. He’s not interested, and was too busy telling his stories to no one, so he just sits outside the auditorium on a bench, minding his own business while the family head in to check out the show. Slimu’s show is mainly just him being tormented by humans to do stupid tricks, which disgusts Lisa to no end.

However, this isn’t an episode about Lisa finding a new cause to fight for. Nope, this is a Grandpa episode. So we check back in on Abe, sitting on that bench, when he gets a surprising guest. Some random guy sits down next to Grandpa, and the two begin chatting. And when Grandpa makes an offhand comment about offhand reference to him dealing with sharks during World War II, he’s shocked to find that the man is actually interested in the story.

Grandpa then launches into an insane story, which basically is the story of the USS Indianapolis but with a better outcome. Their battleship is sunk in the middle of the ocean, and the sailors are trapped in some shark-infested water, waiting for rescue. A couple sailors get eaten, but the survivors pretty quickly learn that if you stand on the shark’s back it’s unable to eat you, so they all start training the sharks, riding them like goddamn Aquaman.

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So yeah, it’s a pretty typical Grandpa story. However, the man is fascinated. Which stuns Grandpa. Turns out that this man is named Marshall Goldman, and he’s a syndicated columnist who specializes in human interest stories, and thinks that Grandpa’s rambling would be perfect to write about. Yep, Grandpa found a guy whose job could be bettered by listening to his litany of insane stories. Basically Grandpa’s version of heaven.

But hey, let’s talk about a B-Plot. Because we have a really weird one. It all starts at Mrs. Krabappel’s classroom, where we learn that the fourth-graders have some little stuffed lamb named Larry that the kids have to take home and do fun things with. Everyone loves Larry. Everyone except Bart. Who of course is the person who gets randomly selected to take Larry home for the weekend. Uh-oh! Shenanigans abound! But not for a while.

Anyway, it turns out that Marshall wrote about some of Grandpa’s stories, and they get put in the newspaper. Ned points this out to Homer, and he’s a little shocked that people care about Grandpa. And there’s no sign of it stopping, because Marshall has discovered a never-ending supply of stories. He begins hanging out at the Retirement Castle, hearing more and more of Grandpa’s stories. And people are eating it up.

We see a couple of them, like when Grandpa was a child and shined shoes at a train station where we saw celebrates. This lead to Grandpa meeting a whole slew of period specific stars, including one memorable interaction where he met Clark Gabel, and told him to read Gone With the Wind. And these stories are really dominating the paper, causing people all over Springfield to become fascinated with Abe. Which starts to really bother Homer.

But before we get into Homer’s daddy issues, let’s see how Bart and Larry are doing. Turns out not well. Bart has gotten very bored with Larry, and decides to torment the little stuffed lamb, throwing it around and trying to ruin it. Lisa sees this, and is horrified. So she decides to take Larry away from Bart, and decides to take the lamb around town, showing it the site. However, while she’s trying to take the lamb to a jazz club disaster strikes. Larry falls down into a storm drain, and is trapped in the sewer.

Anyway, Homer is really angry that people are giving Grandpa all of this attention, and is hurt that Grandpa never told him these stories. Marge then just explains that Homer never appreciated Grandpa, so he kind of deserves this. So Homer decides to appreciate Abe more, and heads over to the Retirement Castle to talk with him. Unfortunately he finds that Marshall is there, listening to Grandpa. Homer causes a huge fuss, and Grandpa ends up telling Homer that he only cares about him because he’s famous now. So they two get in a massive fight, and Homer ends up storming out.

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Hey, let’s just finish off the Larry plot. Because Lisa is terrified that she lost Larry, and tries to trick Bart by giving him a bag with a bunch of cotton balls in it instead. This does not work, and Bart is kind of terrified. Mainly because Nelson is a lunatic, and threatens Bart with pain if anything happens to Larry. So Bart and Lisa have a quest now to save Larry the Lamb. Which means they’re headed to the sewer!

Bart and Lisa’s first mission is to go steal a rope from the Elementary School gym so that Bart can shimmy down into the storm drain. And once he’s in there, he’s treated to the wonderful world of the sewers! Such as the roving gangs of rats and cats. Bart gets chases around the sewers by all these feral animals, and ends up getting cornered by them. However, he does come across Larry, and uses him like a zip-line to escape the sewer. And in the process destroys the damned lamb. And that’s the end of the story. Guess Bart’s going to get killed by Nelson now? I don’t know.

Anyway, ever since Homer and Grandpa had their fight Homer has been storming around, complaining. Marge does her best to convince Homer that he’s actually just mad at himself, but Homer refuses to acknowledge that, and instead decides that to get back at Grandpa he’s going to have to find a new father figure, and write about him. So Homer goes and listens to Mr. Burns for a while, learning about how to win opium wars. It’s an awkward experience, but Homer does get enough details to write his own human interest story.

Homer then heads down to the newspaper, hoping to submit the story for publication. The people at the paper flatly ignore him, but while he’s there he decides to poke around. He finds Marshall’s office, and of course breaks in. And he finds something horrifying. Turns out that Marshall has submitted some of his work for a Pulitzer Prize, and has already written a book about Grandpa that’s contingent on the fact that Grandpa has died. Yep, Marshall is planning on killing Grandpa and then getting famous writing the emotional story of their friendship.

Meanwhile, Marshall has convinced Grandpa to take a fancy train ride with him, on that train from the Clark Gabel story, where he plans on killing Abe. Homer races to save Grandpa, who has fallen asleep on the train, leading Marshall to prepare the murder. Homer manages to get into the train right before Marshall smothers Grandpa, however he ends up getting a gun pulled on him, and is held captive as well. Marshall begins monologuing about his evil plan, until something wonderful happens. Grandpa had been playing possum the whole time, and springs into action, taking Marshall down and saving all of their lives. So Marshall is thwarted, and Homer and Grandpa have a newfound respect for each other. Grandpa even teaches Homer how to tell rambling stories, ushering him into a new stage of fatherhood.

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I really, really liked this episode. It could be because I’ve just had a serious hankering for a good Grandpa episode, but it’s really even more than that. Grandpa’s silly stories, and the fact that the family hold them in utter contempt, have long been a mainstay for the Simpsons, and to see an episode revolve around them was a lot of fun. I also really liked that we had an episode where Homer has to learn to appreciate Abe more, which is a basic premise which has worked very well for me in the past. And this one was no different. Plus, I was a big fan of the fact that the episode turns into a weird crime story at the end, which is kind of brilliant. Marshall had just been kind of weird and awkward the whole time, but the reveal that he was just trying to find someone to screw over and make him famous is pretty brilliant. The whole Bart and Lisa plot was kind of ridiculous, especially because they set up some stakes for saving Larry and then just ignore the ramifications, but whatever, B-Plots aren’t always winners.

Take Away: Appreciate your family member and their stories while they’re still around.

 

“Thursdays with Abie” was written by Mitchell Glazer and Don Payne and directed by Michael Polcino, 2010.

 

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