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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