Well, after yesterday’s stumbling start the week is off to the races! Because today’s episode was one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Despite the fact that this episode just kind of lays down some huge character truths like it’s no big deal. Because, I feel like I would have noticed if there was episode prior to this one where they finally cut the bullshit and established Waylon Smithers as being gay. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s get into it.
The episode starts off with Homer, Lenny, and Carl getting ready to leave the Plant at the end of the day. However, as they’re leaving they run into their weird night-shift doppelgangers. This of course leads to a brawl between the two factions, which ends up spilling out until the entire Power Plant is fighting. So of course Mr. Smithers has to run into Mr. Burns’ office to try and get some advice on how to handle the melee.
But he doesn’t get much assistance, because Burns is busy signing his new will. And, of course, Smithers is more than a little curious about what it entails. However, when he tries to ask Burns about it he only gets cagey responses. So, logically, that night Smithers breaks into Burns’ office and takes a peak at the will. And he is not pleased. Burns isn’t leaving a single cent to Smithers, despite everything Smithers does for him.
The next day Smithers confronts Burns about this, and Burns actually has a semblance of a reason for this, not just typical assholery. Burns only respects self-made people, and since Smithers just works for him, he doesn’t respect him and doesn’t think that he’s worthy of his riches after he dies. This is obviously a huge blow to Smithers, but he decides that it’s also a call to action, and he leave the Plant in the hopes of creating a purpose for himself.
But before that he’s got to drown his sorrows a bit. So Smithers heads over to the delightfully named League of Extra-Horny Gentlemen, a local gay bar, and tries to get in. Unfortunately the bouncer considers Smithers too square to be let in. So, with no alternative, Smithers decides to pop over to the closest bar, which turns out to be Moe’s. And, since it’s absolutely empty, he gets to strike up a conversation with Moe.
Moe complains about how poor the business has been lately, and wishes he had better clientele. And at the same time Smithers complains about how there’s no gay bar in town for the average person. So, to kill two birds with one stone, they decide that Moe should rebrand and change the bar to become a more inclusive gay bar. So, after a quick transition we see the newly re-opened Moe’s, as Smithers convinces all of the less traditionally attractive gay men in Springfield to start frequenting it.
At first Moe is a little awkward with the whole thing, but they’re making so much money together that he just kind of ignores it and continues making his bar the biggest thing in the Springfield gay scene. Homer and the other regulars are a little put off at first, but when Moe mentions that he’s changed the bar several times before, and they’ve all been failures, they decide to just deal with it and hope that the gamble pays off this time.
Oh, and Moe’s new business model starts having some far-reaching side effects. Because it turns out that Mr. Largo, the Elementary School music teacher, has met a man he’s fallen head over heels for, and they decide to move away together. Which means that the school is going to need a new music teacher. And the person they get is a woman named Ms. Juniper, a fun and free-spirited hippie woman who encourages the children to embrace music in a way that Mr. Largo never did.
But that’s not going to pay off for a bit. What matters now is the fact that Moe’s is becoming a huge success. He’s developed a new group of devoted regulars, and even kept on his old ones. Homer and Marge actually spend a lot of time together at the new bar, having a great time. However, Marge does notice that a lot of the new regulars are tending to flirt with Moe, not realizing that he’s straight. She tells him that this is a little unethical, but when he thinks about the possibility of the business failing when he comes clean, he decides to keep lying and milk this for all it’s worth.
And this keeps going on this way for a little bit, Moe becoming increasingly popular while the bar does better and better business. Things even go so well that Smithers invites Burns down to the bar to show him everything he’s accomplished. And you know what? Burns is impressed. He’s finally respecting Smithers, and everything seems to be wrapped up on that front. But while Smithers is there he notices Moe flirting back to some of the new regulars, and is pretty offended. He tells Moe that this isn’t right, and that he’s just leading these poor men on, but Moe just blows him off and continues doing it.
While all of this is going on Ms. Juniper has continued to become an incredibly popular new teacher at the Elementary School. She even brings the kids out to some field so that they can get in touch with nature. However, she apparently didn’t fill out the permission slips correctly, so Principal Skinner has to follow them to the field to fix things. And while he’s there he instantly falls in love with Juniper, having a crazy fantasy about the two of them going on a magical voyage together.
Skinner doesn’t want to screw this up, so he does some research and finds that Ms. Juniper has a daughter named Melody who is in the third grade and has a huge crush on Bart. So he calls Bart to his office and the two strike up a bargain for Bart to wingman for Skinner. The four of them then go to some arcade while Melody paws all over Bart, giving Skinner ample time to get to know Ms. Juniper. And, after some dancing and flirting, Skinner gets invited over for the night. Which is pretty fast for him, but he goes with it.
But things are getting a little crazy over at Moe’s too. One day a group of the new regulars begin complaining about how the city isn’t letting them march in the upcoming Founder’s Day parade. They say that it’s because there isn’t a gay person on the city council, and they need to rectify that. And, because he’s so popular, they decide that Moe is the obvious choice. And, because he’s becoming a bit narcissistic, Moe agrees. Which really pisses off Mr. Smithers. He yells at Moe, telling him how duplicitous this all is, but Moe just ignores him and agrees that he’ll run for city council.
Before we see how that pans out though, we should finish up the Skinner side-plot. Because things suddenly start moving very quickly. He’s become a much happier person now that he’s sleeping with Ms. Juniper, and things seem to be going well again. However, when Bart can’t take Melody any more, and “breaks up” with her, things start to fall apart. Ms. Juniper decides that she and Melody have to move again, and she suggests that Skinner should move with them. It’s obviously an insane request, but Skinner realizes he’s barely done anything impulsive in his life, and decides to give it a shot.
Meanwhile, Moe has announced his candidacy for the city council, and gets a huge crowd together to cheer him on. Thing seem to be going pretty well for Moe, until Smithers arrives to ruin it all. He tries to get Moe to come clean, but Moe just keeps doubling down, refusing to tell the truth. Until Smithers decides to call his bluff, and tries to kiss Moe. This causes Moe to finally blink, and he comes clean about everything. The crowd is pretty angry at him, and abandon him, and presumably the bar. Which really bums Moe out. But he still decides to plant a huge kiss on Smithers, just to give it a shot. It’s not for him, and he moves on. Oh, and Skinner quickly comes back to Springfield, finding Juniper’s life a little to extreme for him. So everything’s back to normal.
I actually like this episode quite a bit. The side-plot with Skinner and Ms. Juniper was a tad half-baked, and kind of felt like it had the potential to be stretched out into a full episode, given what a huge development this could have been to his character. But this episode isn’t about that story, so it’s fine if it’s a little lean. Because the real draw comes from this central idea of Moe and Mr. Smithers creating a safe space for the gay community of Springfield. Which was pretty great. And, while it kind of threw me off at first, I think I’ve decided that I really like how they handled Smithers’ sexuality. Mr. Smithers being gay has always been a bit of a joke, something to hint at but never explicitly say. And this episode wasn’t about him coming out. They just stated it as fact, and moved on. No one seemed shocked that Smithers was going to a gay bar, and starting his own, they just progressed the story along. And I really thought that was a good way to go. Obviously coming out is a major thing in a person’s life, but just having it be this natural and accepted was also a great way to handle it. We’ve all known Smithers was gay, they’ve all known Smithers was gay, so making a big deal about it wasn’t necessary. And I kind of loved that. Plus, the plot that that was bolstered in was a lot of fun, and lead to some great moments between Smithers and Moe that I enjoyed quite a bit. Hell, that bit at the end where Moe decides that he has nothing wrong with people being gay, it’s just not his cup of tea is fantastic, and a mindset that more people should hold.
Take Away: Be who you are, and don’t be ashamed of that.
“Flaming Moe” was written by Matt Selman and directed by Chuck Sheetz, 2011.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons