Howdy everyone, and welcome back to another week of Lifetime of Simpsons. And, guess what? We’re in for a pretty good week again. I never would have imagined this when I started this project almost two years ago, but Season 22 has been shockingly solid. And while today’s episode sure has a bizarre ending, it’s a whole lot of fun. So let’s dive on in!
The episode starts off with a very weird sequence showing a road runner being chased by a coyote, blatantly referencing the classic short when they put fake Latin names under them, before they’re both hit by Otto’s bus. And why is Otto’s bus in a desert? Well the children of Springfield Elementary are off to a field trip in the Springfield Desert State Park. And, as usual, it doesn’t appear to be any consistent group of students, just a jumble of the most popular ones, regardless of grade.
And since we have our characters in an unfamiliar location, you know what that means. Sight-gags! We get to see a montage of silly moments, such as Bart tricking Skinner into thinking there’s a rattlesnake nearby, Martin meeting some insane anti-government lunatics who are hiding out in the desert, Bart and the boys finding some old-timey French erotica in an abandoned gold mine, and a park ranger lamenting the psychotic climbers who infest the Park.
Once that’s all over though, we start to follow Lisa as she wanders around alone in the desert, approaching a plot. She’s enjoying the beauty of nature, before she slips and falls into a patch of flowers. And when she starts to get up she realizes that there are two scorpions on her. She obviously freaks out about this, but notices that when she’s around the flowers, the Springfield Silvertongue, they become very docile and stop bothering her.
This fascinates Lisa, so she decides to take the scorpions and some of the Silvertongue back home with her to keep doing experiments. She has found a correlation, but isn’t sure if there’s a causation yet, and she’s sure she can find one. So the kids head back home, and along the way we’re introduced to another plot element. Because as the kids are waiting in traffic they happen to stop by the Retirement Castle, and see Grandpa getting evicted because he’s too cranky.
Which of course means that Grandpa is going to come live with the Simpsons. And no one is pleased. Grandpa has become far more irritable than normal, and no one wants to bunk with him, so they just come up with a system where he takes turns sleeping in everyone’s room. But while all of this is going on Lisa is continuing to mess around with the Silvertongue, and has managed to make a spray with the flower in it, which consistently calms down the scorpions.
Lisa decides to show Homer her amazing discovery, and after also proving that it fixes the stains on his shirt, he decides to try it on Grandpa to see if it calms him down. Lisa is not a fan of this idea, jumping straight to human trials, and she refuses. However, the next morning when Bart and Lisa plan on fleeing the house early so they can’t be bothered by Grandpa, they find something shocking. Grandpa is being very charming.
Which is of course a massive red flag for Lisa. She instantly starts accusing Homer of drugging Grandpa’s coffee with the untested drug, and Homer does a very bad job of lying to her. Lisa knows what’s going on, and decides that the right thing will be to tell Grandpa the truth. And, much to her surprise, he doesn’t mind. He’s very upfront about how unpleasant he’s been lately, and he appreciates that this drug is making him more pleasant around his loved ones.
Unfortunately Lisa cannot deal with this, and decides to flush the drug down the toilet, convinced that this cannot lead to anything good. And the effects are immediate. Grandpa becomes his cranky self pretty quickly, and the family begin hating him again. He comes along with Homer to Moe’s one day, and makes such a scene that something needs to be done. And, luckily, there’s someone sitting in the bar that could help them.
The man’s name is Walter Hotenhoffer, and he’s the owner of a pharmaceutical company. He overhears Homer and Grandpa mention this magic drug that made Grandpa happy, and he’s very interested. So he comes up, finds a droplet of the spray on Grandpa’s skin, and takes Homer and Grandpa back to his laboratory to try and synthesize the drug. They make a couple different compounds from the droplet, and end up replicating the pleasantness that Grandpa was feeling.
So Walter’s company begins mass-producing the drug and send out their army of pharma-reps to sell it people. However, Walter also tells them that the drug is still not approved by the FDA, so the Simpsons probably shouldn’t use or sell it quite yet. But he still gives them a bottle of the pills, and Bart immediately decides that what he should do is sell them. He dresses up like a rep and starts hocking the pills all around town, giving them to the Retirement Castle, Skinner for Agnes, and Smithers for Burns.
And it’s a huge success. Bart continues to sell the pills all around town, until he runs out. And that means a whole mess of old people are now very happy and pleasant. Unfortunately, Lisa notices this, and figures out what’s going on. And she is not pleased. So Homer and Grandpa decide to lie to her, and have Grandpa pretend to be cranky so that she won’t get mad. But Lisa has kind of stopped caring now, just accepting that it makes Grandpa happy, even if it isn’t “real” happiness, and she just moves on.
Which is when the shit hits the fan. Because it turns out that there’s a massive side-effect to prolonged usage of Springfield Silvertongue. Your goddamn eyes pop out. Yep, full-on Tex Avery style. Your eyeballs fall out of your head, and hang from the optic nerve. And Grandpa has it happen to him! Which obviously horrifies the family. Luckily Grandpa is too blessed out to care, but it’s obviously something to be alarmed about.
Lisa then races upstairs and finds that the same thing has happened to the scorpions, so it’s clearly going to happen to everyone who took the drug. And, thanks to Bart, just about every goddamn old person in town has taken the drug. So the Simpsons race over to Walter’s office, and he’s pretty horrified. Especially when a mob of elderly arrive at his doorstep. But, shockingly, they aren’t mad. They still love the drug, despite the whole eyeball thing. But Walter can’t allow himself to profit off their pain, so he decides to destroy the drug, letting the old people go back to normal, with their eyes intact. They just have to deal with their crankiness, and use it to fix their children’s generation.
I had a lot of fun with this episode. It’s weird as hell, and becomes completely absurd by the end, but it’s still a lot of fun. It’s certainly one of the sillier episodes I’ve seen in a while, but there’s actually some interesting stuff going on in here. Yeah, I’m not a big fan of Lisa being so sanctimonious, not allowing Grandpa the chance to be happy because it’s something she doesn’t personally believe in it, but whatever, she comes around. What really makes the episode interesting to me is the frank and honest discussions that they have about the nature of medicated happiness. Grandpa is old, he hurts and he’s cranky, and he knows that that makes him unpleasant around his loved ones. So, yeah, this drug isn’t “real” happiness, but it makes him happy and makes his loved ones tolerate him. So doesn’t that mean it’s real happiness. I don’t know, and the episode doesn’t try to make us believe one thing or the other, but it invites you to think about it, which is a shockingly deep idea to tackle in an episode that also features old people bouncing their eyeballs off each other like a Newton’s Cradle.
Take Away: Sometimes you’re going to have to deal with the pros and cons of medicated happiness.
“The Scorpion’s Tale” was written by Billy Kimball and Ian Maxtone-Graham and directed by Matthew Schofield, 2011.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons