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!
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.
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.
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.