Lifetime of Simpsons

S21 E19 – The Squirt and the Whale

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Hey everyone, are you ready to get bummed the hell out on a Tuesday? It’s been a while since the Simpsons has really elicited a strong emotional reaction for me, but that streak is going to end today. Because we’re going to get into some seriously depressing stuff today. Buckle up!

The episode starts off with Bart and Lisa watching a trailer for some upcoming summer blockbuster that’s basically a gritty and dramatic update of tic-tac-toe. And it’s the best. It’s hilarious, and is shockingly accurate to the kind of crap that the Michael Bay’s of the world produce. However, things abruptly end when Homer yanks the power chord from the wall, turning the TV off and earning the ire of his children.

Turns out that Homer was looking at the family’s electric bill, and has found that it’s absurdly high. So he’s going to make them cut down their power usage, which means a total and complete purge of electricity instead of just making small changes. However, Lisa explains that they should just make changes to their consumption, and then suggests that the family start investing in alternative energy sources and get off the reliance of the electric company.

Homer loves this idea, and the family then head off to some sort of late-night alternative energy expo to try and find a new source of power. We get to see a couple weird energy ideas, like Barney having belch powered electricity and Ralph just running in circles, until we get to something real. Lisa has found a display on wind power, and the Danish man running the booth ends up convincing Homer to buy a turbine to power their house.

So the Simpsons return home and set up their turbine, and it actually starts to work well. Homer is so impressed in fact that he decides he should call up the Nuclear Plant and cancel his service, hoping to rely completely on wind power. Which does not end well! Because basically as soon as Homer takes the family off the grid he learns that if the wind isn’t blowing they don’t have power. But Homer Simpson is a very stubborn man, and refuses to crawl back to the Power Plant, and just deals with intermittent power.

The family tries to deal with this terrible new lifestyle choice, and largely fail. First Homer powers the turbine by stealing a bunch of fans and pointing them at the turbine while stealing power from Ned’s house, but that gets ruined by Ned. So they then send Bart up onto the turbine to manually turn the blades in order to get enough juice for them to watch TV, but it’s not exactly efficient.

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However, things take a dramatic turn when Springfield is suddenly hit by some horrible hurricane-like weather. Insane winds begins pounding down on Springfield, destroying a lot of property, and basically super-charging the Simpson’s house to the point that it becomes some horrible blast of energy. However, once the storm is over the wind turbine plot is abruptly dropped. Once the storm is done Bart and Lisa head out to look at all the storm damage that was caused, and end up finding something remarkable on the beach.

A whale. Turns out the horrible storm has caused a blue whale to get beached on the shores outside Springfield. And Lisa is obviously horrified. She freaks out, rushing up to the whale and begins trying to figure out how to help it. Bart largely doesn’t care, but Lisa finally convinces him that they need to try and get the whale back into the ocean. She even tries to convince the bullies to help her push the whale back in, to no success.

So Lisa and Bart return back to the house, and Lisa tries to get Homer and Marge on board. Homer immediately agrees, although Marge is rather concerned. Not because she doesn’t want to save the whale, but because she’s aware that beached whales often die, and she’s scared that Lisa will get emotionally attached to the whale and then be devastated when it dies. But Homer ignores this and insists that he’ll find a way to save the whale.

Homer then begins organizing several groups to try and help the whale. His first plan to is get all of Springfield’s strongest men together to try and push it. This does not work. Next he decides to get Springfield’s smartest people together, but then has them compete in some sort of head-based tug-of-war. This also doesn’t work. Next he gets a series of boats to try and pull the whale into the ocean. This causes all of the boats to break and sink.

But no one is giving up. Especially Lisa. Lisa has begun spending all of her time together, even giving the name the whale Bluella. Lisa spends all of her time with Bluella, and reads her stories at night. Then, one day something miraculous happens. The military show up and manage to use a series of helicopters to lift the whale up and bring Bluella to safety, saving her life! Unfortunately, this was a dream. And when Lisa wakes up something horrible has happened. Bluella has died.

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Lisa is obviously crushed about this, and Homer does everything he can to cheer his daughter up. But there doesn’t seem to be anything to do. Meanwhile, Bart and basically everyone else in town, head over to the whale to watch the town attempt to now get rid of the corpse. And, just like countless stupid towns have done in the past, they decide to load it up with dynamite, causing a massive explosion that just rains flaming hunk of whale down on the city.

Springfield then starts to move on, utilizing every bit of the whale to honor her. But Lisa is still struggling with everything, and she begins noticing that every little sound reminds her of Bluella. She becomes obsessed with Bluella still being alive, and wanders the town, getting sadder and sadder because everything seems like her. She eventually gets down to the shore, sitting in the pit that Bluella had made, when something insane happens. More whales show up. And, using deductive reasoning, Lisa realizes that it’s Bluella’s children, come to find her.

Lisa becomes incredibly distraught that Bluella’s family has arrived, and even more so when she notices a group of sharks arriving to harass Bluella’s children. Lisa becomes terrified that the sharks will kill the children when Homer suddenly arrives, ready to kill all of the sharks and save the babies. His rescue attempt is ruined though when some PETA folks show up to stop Homer, arguing that you should care for all animals, and this is the natural order. They end up convincing Lisa, and Homer gets ready to come back to shore. Unfortunately he ends up falling out of his boat, and is almost attacked by the sharks. Luckily the father to Bluella’s children shows up, scares the sharks off, and saves Homer, bringing him back to shore. The whales then head off, ready to continue living their lives, and Lisa has learned some important lessons about nature and death.

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I really, really liked this episode. The first act, all about the wind turbine, was a lot of fun, although largely forgettable. The idea of Homer taking the family off the electrical grid and forcing them to survive on wind power is a pretty hilarious idea, and I think it worked rather well. But the episode takes an abrupt shift in tone and quality when the storm hits and the whale is revealed. I’m always a huge sucker for Lisa episodes, and seeing Lisa find such an important task is really great. Of course Lisa is going to become obsessed with helping this poor innocent whale, and seeing her grow attached while also knowing that things probably aren’t going to work out was actually really powerful. And then it dies, and we actually get some really emotional and beautifully silent scenes of Lisa just grieving with this poor whale. Some of the most emotional moments on the Simpsons have known to slow down and let the moments speak for themselves. It’s something I haven’t seen a lot on the show in the last few seasons. When they do actually what to hit an emotional note it’s usually quick and followed by some joke to cut the mood. But this episode showed up the dead whale, and let us linger on Lisa’s reaction before continuing to show the ramifications. They didn’t undermine themselves and put in dumb joke to make things more palatable. They showed Lisa’s grief for what it was, and I really appreciated that. Things do get pretty silly by the end of the episode, but by and large it was a story that I really loved and one that worked beautifully for me.

Take Away: Sometimes you can’t fight nature, and just have to accept that things will happen out of your control.

 

“The Squirt and the Whale” was written by Matt Warburton and directed by Mark Kirkland, 2010.

 

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