Hey there everyone! Well, after yesterday’s kind of bummer of an episode, how about we brighten things up with what may be the best episode I’ve seen in a couple seasons. Which isn’t a slam of the other episodes, this one is just legitimately great. I mean, it’s about Lisa learning magic, how could it not be fun?
Things start off with the family hanging out in some peach orchard, picking their own peaches. I’m not quite sure why, but apparently they get to keep everything they pick, which causes Marge to go a little insane, forcing them to come home with a veritable truckload of peaches. They even get visited by a charming hillbilly who sings them songs to keep them occupied while they pick more peaches than common sense should allow.
But in the end of the day they return home with a frankly absurd amount of peaches, and now it’s Marge’s mission to find creative way to have them get eaten. Which means that the Simpsons are going to eat basically nothing but peaches for the foreseeable future. And, shockingly, this drives them all insane. But Marge won’t give up her insane goal, causing them have to reach drastic measures to rid themselves of the peaches.
Homer decides to take Marge out for a couple massage, and while he has Marge away from the house and occupied the kids are tasked with removing the peaches. They pile them up into wagons and head into the city to get rid of them. Bart tries to have the bullies throw them at a group of people, but they just beat him up and take the peaches themselves. Which is still a success. But Lisa was hoping to take them to a shelter where they could be eaten by needy people, which of course means she gets lost in a really rough part of town.
Lisa wanders around a run-down area, until she’s attacked by a raccoon. She flees into the night, being chased by the raccoon, and ends up finding an old brownstone whose door is open. She runs inside and appears to be the only person in the house. So she pokes around and finds that while it’s dirty and in disrepair, the house is really cool, full of weird items and artifacts.
However, she then hears the owner of the house arriving, confused about the open door. The man, an older gentleman, begins looking around in his house for an intruder, and ends up finding Lisa. Lisa manages to bullshit her way out of her intrusion, and the two start chatting, which is when Lisa learns that the man is a former stage magician who went by the name the Great Raymondo. And Lisa is instantly fascinated.
Raymondo begins showing off his skills and his memorabilia, explaining that he used to be the greatest magician in the world, even having some spectacular milk-can escape that Houdini himself taught him. But it’s been years since he’s done magic, and he’s old the bitter now. Especially since he lost his wife/assistant. So now he lives alone, being sad. And Lisa won’t let this happen. She asks Raymondo if he’d be willing to teach her magic, but after losing his wife he has no interest in teaching women magic. Until Lisa proves that he has a natural skill with illusions, mastering the three-rings trick quickly. This was enough to convince Raymondo that Lisa maybe would make a good magician, and teaches her a coin trick to master.
Lisa then returns home, showing off her trick and her new interest to the family. And Grandpa is super impressed, having heard of Raymondo. So Lisa begins practicing the coin trick, perfecting it, and then returning to Raymondo’s house to get further training. But when she gets there she finds that he’s in a foul mood, brought on by some terrible “punk” magician named Craigg Demon, obviously a parody of Criss Angel, and Raymondo laments the state of magic.
But to combat that feeling about the decline of his art, Raymondo decides to keep training Lisa. And she takes to it beautifully. Lisa begins performing her magic at the school, becoming super popular, and she’s learning new tricks all the time from Raymondo, and just generally making his life better. Hell, she even cleans his house for him. And one day while she’s dusting she ends up finding a secret room that holds the fabled milk-can and a book explaining the trick.
Raymondo finds her, and decides that she’s ready to learn the trick. Raymondo reveals that his late wife and himself were never able to have a child, and Lisa has taken on that symbolic role, warming his heart. So he decided to pass down the secret of the trick to her. Turns out that the top is fake, so while you’re put in and locked you can easily unscrew the whole base and escape while keeping the locks intact.
So Lisa takes the milk-can and heads to give another performance at the school. Everyone comes to watch it, and they’re all completely thrilled and baffled at how effortlessly Lisa is able to pull off this amazing trick. They all congratulate her, and afterword she’s approached by a cute boy who begins showing interest in her. He says that he was so worried she’s be hurt, and she decides that to allay his fear she’ll teach him the secret of the trick, so he won’t be worried.
Which was a bad call. Because it turns out this kid is a mole, and he’s actually Craigg Demon’s son. So now Craigg Demon knows the secret to Raymondo’s greatest trick, and Lisa has brought shame to Raymondo. He’s furious that Lisa gave his greatest enemy the secret to his trick, and he banishes her not only from his home, but from magic in general. So Lisa returns home, destroyed, and wishing she could fix everything.
Lisa is sitting in her room, throwing out all of her magician equipment when Homer notices her and decides he needs to do something. So Homer heads over to Raymondo’s house, and after getting caught in a trap set for him, Home and Raymondo have a heart to heart. Raymondo realizes that he’s been too harsh, and is pushing the only friend he’s had in years away. So he comes back to the Simpson’s house with Homer and apologizes to Lisa.
Because he’s going to need Lisa’s help to stop Craigg Demon from performing his trick at a special magician conference. So Lisa and Raymondo head to Springfield’s Magic Castle, where a magician showcase is about to begin. They watch as Demon begins the milk-can trick, while adding in a bunch of needless flash and gimmicks, much to Raymondo’s chagrin. However, something clearly is going wrong, because it looks like Demon is unable to successfully get out of the milk-can.
Raymondo decides that they should just let Demon die, but Lisa can’t abide that. So she runs back stage to save Demon, and ends up being accosted by a group of other magicians made up of Ricky Jay, Penn and Teller, and David Copperfield. They also want Demon to die, since he steals all of their jokes, and they won’t let Lisa save him. But Raymondo’s decency gets the better of him, and he comes to help Lisa fight off the other magicians, and then use some new illusion to save Demon, thus regaining his role as the greatest magician in the world. Raymondo and Lisa then get to have a great show in front of an adoring audience, showing how great they are.
There are a lot of things I love in this episode. It’s a Lisa episode, it’s about her finding a new passion, it’s about old-timey magicians, and it featured a lot of mocking Criss Angel. That’s all great. So there was probably a good chance that I was going to like this episode now matter what, but it takes all of those great ideas and crafts a truly fantastic episode from them. There’s really nothing about this episode that I don’t like, and it’s a blast. Oddly enough it’s really similar to that episode where Bart meets Buck McCoy the old cowboy, complete with Grandpa being impressed, but this handles a similar premise much better. I love seeing Lisa embrace magic, something that seems a little outside of her normal interests, and the relationship that blossoms between Lisa and Raymondo is great. Martin Landau delivers a hell of a performance as Raymondo, and seeing him and Lisa become best friends and then vanquish the horror of Craigg Demon is a goddamn delight. I may hold this episode in a special light because of how many of my buttons it’s clicking, but I have to assume that this is a universally liked episode, because it really and truly feels like it could have been from the classic seasons. It’s that good.
Take Away: A magician never reveals their secrets.
“The Great Simpsina” was written by Matt Warburton and directed by Chris Clements, 2011.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons