Things have been pretty nice here in Season 22. We’ve had a lot of quality Lisa episodes, a decent Treehouse of Horror, and a bizarre Mr. Burns story. So I guess that means it’s time for a serious bummer of an episode. Because it’s been a while since we’ve had an episode that features a member of the Simpsons hating Santa’s Little Helper.
The episode starts off by establishing that Springfield is getting hammered by an incredibly loud thunderstorm. Ned is trying to be a good dad and soothe his children by telling them about angels bowling. Meanwhile, Homer has decided that the best way to spend his time is getting Bart, Lisa, and Maggie even more terrified. He tells them some scary stories about a ghost sailor who goes around strangling people, and the kids are horrified.
Which makes it that much worse when Bart’s bedroom window suddenly shatters. Homer flees in terror, but the kids are interested in what happened. And it turns out that a pigeon has crashed through the window, and has thus broken its wing. Bart and Lisa investigate the bird, and find that it must be a homing pigeon, because it has a phone number on its leg. They give the number a call and the guy who answers says that he won’t come get the bird, and doesn’t want it back unless it can fly.
So Bart and Lisa need to help heal the bird. And because Lisa has an insane fear of pigeons she’s out. So it’s all up to Bart! And he actually liked it quite a bit. He works with the pigeon, who he calls Ray, and slowly the bird begins to heal until it can finally fly by itself. Bart then brings Ray to the woods, hoping to let him finally be free. But Ray refuses to leave, having grown attached to Bart, so Bart decides to just keep Ray for himself.
Bart then becomes a pigeon guy, and convinces Homer to help him build a coop on the side of the house. It doesn’t go very well, but it does give Bart some time to teach Ray about the hierarchy of the family, and how Ray is better than Milhouse. And while Bart becomes more and more into pigeons he finds something interesting. After watching a documentary about colorized World War II footage he learns about the concept of carrier pigeons, and decides that he can now use Ray for communication.
And this works brilliantly. Bart begins sending Ray all around Springfield, sending out messages as if he was just texting with Ray. He and Milhouse talk, he picks on Krabappel, Skinner, and Burns, and just generally has a great time with it. Plus, after word of Ray spreads around town he and Homer get approached by Moe with an idea. There’s apparently some sort of pigeon racing competition, and Moe wants to use Ray.
This is a scam, but it doesn’t matter, because while they’re talking to Moe about the race, disaster strikes. Santa’s Little Helper jumps at Ray as he’s leaving the coop, and Santa’s Little Helper ends up killing and eating Ray. And this obviously crushes Bart, who becomes incredibly depressed. They have a funeral for Ray, but Bart just can’t get over the fact that Santa’s Little Helper killed his new little friend.
And this gets worse and worse. Bart just can’t get over what Santa’s Little Helper did, and it just keeps escalating. Bart watches an Itchy and Scratchy episode all about a dog getting executed for committing crimes against other animals, which features a bunch of cameos from actors from the 40’s for some reason. It even begins affecting Bart’s personality, while a little beneficial, because his grades are going up and his pranks have gotten less volatile.
But Homer and Marge know that they have to do something about all of this. So they decide to do something insane, and find a therapist who will do couple’s counseling between a boy and his dog. The therapist meets with Bart and Santa’s Little Helper, and tries to get Bart to understand that Santa’s Little Helper is an animal, and he lives on instincts, so it’ll be up to Bart to forgive him, because Santa’s Little Helper won’t be able to apologize. But Bart refuses.
The therapist then talks with Homer and Marge, and tells them some brutal truths. She says that Bart may never forgive Santa’s Little Helper, and the only thing to do may be to get rid of Santa’s Little Helper. So, with a heavy heart Homer and Marge decide that that’s what they should do, and tell the family that he’s going to a farm upstate where he can be happy. But this isn’t actually bullshit, they actually found a farm upstate, and take the family up to see him off.
The farm raises ostriches for burgers, and it has plenty of land for Santa’s Little Helper to run around and play. Bart is conflicted about all of this, and decides to have a talk with Santa’s Little Helper. He tells him that he loves him, but that killing a bird is a horrible thing, and something he can’t forgive. Meanwhile, Homer has gotten in a fight with an ostrich, which leads to an angry one escaping its pen and attacking Bart. Bart tries to get Santa’s Little Helper to save him, but Bart’s constant haranguing about not killing birds has sunk in, and Santa’s Little Helper refuses. Bart is then forced to kill the ostrich himself, saving his own life. This for some reason makes Bart forgive Santa’s Little Helper, and the all return home with a potentially dead ostrich to eat.
This is an incredibly weird episode. For a while it was giving me flash-backs to “Bart the Mother” with Bart finding a wounded animals and trying to take care of it. He and Ray have a cute little relationship, and the idea that Bart happens upon a wounded animal and helps it becomes healthy again, and thus becoming friends, is a pretty solid premise. Where the episode loses me is when Santa’s Little Helper eats Ray. The episode then becomes incredibly strange and distasteful. Bart becomes an absolute shit, punished Santa’s Little Helper for something that he has no concept of. Hell, in “Bart the Mother” Bart killed a bird! Nobody’s perfect, least of all a dog! And I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with that ended. Bart has to strangle a living creature to death, and that makes him forgive Santa’s Little Helper? Because it’s okay to kill birds now? I have no idea. They needed a reason to have everything get swept under the rug, and I guess this was the best they had.
Take Away: You can’t hold animals to human standards of morality.
“How Munched Is That Birdie in the Window?” was written by Kevin Curran and directed by Michael Polcino, 2010.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons