Lifetime of Simpsons

S23 E02 – Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts

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Well, another week has been taken care of here on Lifetime of Simpsons. We’ve seen the end of Season 22, entered into Season 23, and learned that Edna Krabappel and Ned Flanders are now a couple, thanks to fan interaction. And we’re going to end this week on an incredibly odd episode. Because I’m sure we were all clamoring for a Superintendent Chalmers-centric episode.

Things start off with the family heading over to the Elementary School after hours for some sort of fundraiser night that’s underwater themed. They wander around a bit, buying shirts from better schools, before settling in for the big event of the night. A live auction with items that include items made by students. What a bargain! Well, except for the fact that the first item up is an incredibly shoddily made bench that Homer seems to have a specific vendetta against.

But things take a significant turn when Skinner gets a call for a bid over the phone from a wealthy British dowager. And it’s Bart. Of course it’s Bart. But Skinner doesn’t realize and accepts all sorts of crazy bids from the dowager throughout the night. They then break all previous records for the auction as this dowager puts down thousands of dollars for the school. Which is of course when Bart comes strolling out, revealing that it’s all been a semi-elaborate prank.

Everyone is irritated that they just wasted an evening, and storm out of the school without anyone actually bidding anything. Skinner asks if Homer will honor Bart’s bids, but that a big no. So they’re kind of screwed. Which means Skinner is going to be in trouble. The next day Superintendent Chalmers arrives at the school and starts making fun of Skinner in the teacher’s lounge, mocking his inability to keep Bart under control.

But this was apparently the final straw that broke Skinner’s back, because he ends up freaking out at Chalmers. He says that Bart is impossible to control, and if Chalmers can do a better job then he should put his money where his mouth is. And because he doesn’t want to be shown up by Seymour Goddamn Skinner, Chalmers has no choice but to accept the challenge. He then immediately start panicking because he has no idea how to teach anyone.

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Chalmers isn’t going to give up though, so he decides to go grab Bart and take him out for some independent teaching. The two then head to the Springfield Library, away from school, and Chalmers attempts to reach Bart. He starts off by doing some light American history, and tries to see if Bart can name the presidents. He cannot. So Chalmers decides to do something odd, and picks one specific president to focus Bart’s attention on.

And if you have to pick one president out of the forty-five we’ve had, there’s certainly one that’s going to appeal to a ten-year old boy, and a 27-year old dork writing this website. Teddy Roosevelt. Chalmers gives a rough explanation of Teddy Roosevelt’s career, including the fact that he was essentially a cowboy president, and Bart gets hooked. The two then spend the entire goddamn day sitting in the library, ripping through several books and biographies on Roosevelt. And Bart is stoked.

Since this method actually worked, Chalmers decides to keep rolling with it. So the next day when Bart is ready for school he gets picked up by Chalmers again, and the two head to the Springfield National Park to spend the day riding horses and learning about Roosevelt, nature, and what makes a man a man. Which is certainly a good way to get a kid interested in education. Bart continues to be obsessed with Roosevelt, and all ancillary historical facts, and even ends up getting in a big debate with Lisa about whether Theodore or Franklin was the better Roosevelt.

But things really take a turn when Bart starts to dress like Theodore Roosevelt and regale the other boys in the stories of this truly ridiculous man. And, much like Bart, the boys end up getting really interested in Roosevelt. So Bart, Milhouse, Dolph, Kearney, Jimbo, and Nelson all decide to leave school and go hang out with Superintendent Chalmers so he can start teaching them too. And, of course, Chalmers is super flattered, and lonely, so he agrees.

The boys and Chalmers all end up hanging out in his study, talking about how the modern world has stopped caring about men. Which is absurd and ridiculous, but whatever it’s what we’ve got to deal with for the plot to progress. Because Chalmers has a fun idea for the boys. Somewhere in Springfield National Park is supposedly a pair of Teddy’s spectacles, and he wants himself and the boys to go camping and find them.

So the crew head out to the Park and end up having a lovely time together. Chalmers teaches them how to be men, and they get to camp and have fun in nature. There’s also a weird moment where Chalmers talks to the boys about how lonely he’s been since his wife died, which really comes out of left field and is a total bummer. And after some unexplained amount of time Nelson calls the rest of them over to a cliff side. He’s found the glasses, on a nearby ledge, and starts to reach down for them. And he promptly falls down the cliff, and really hurts his arm. Whoops! Not a good call Gary Chalmers!

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Chalmers is then brought into a meeting with Nelson’s mother, who is preparing to personally sue him because of how dangerous this unofficial field trip was. And because the district can’t handle this much drama, they have no choice but to fire Chalmers from being Superintendent. Which also means Bart is going to have to go back to regular school. Which he hates. But after school that day as he’s heading home he notices Chalmers fishing in a lake, and goes to talk to him, realizing how defeated Chalmers is.

So Bart and the rest of the boys get together, ready to figure out some plan to get Chalmers rehired. They begin calling themselves the Brotherhood of the Spectacles, and come up with a lovely plan. They’re going to hold the school hostage until their demands are met. Yeesh. Apparently this is the best plan they come up with, so the next day they all head into the school, go to their separate locations, and prepare to overthrow the school.

Jimbo goes and distracts a councilor in Skinner’s office, letting Bart and Nelson sneak by and get into Skinner’s office. They then have Nelson go over the PA system to tell everyone that a nondescriptly terrible car has its lights on. This causes ever single teacher to panic, assuming it’s their terrible car, and they all flee from the school. And as soon as every single teacher is out of the building the remaining crew locks the door, keeping all of the children inside.

Bart then puts on his little Roosevelt costume and awaits the arrival of the police and the media, ready to cover the fact that group of children have taken a school hostage. The boys then begin to give their demands, namely to reinstate Chalmers’ position. Which is when Chalmers shows up, shocked that things have escalated this far. He convinces Bart and the other boys to stand down, and in doing so impresses the school board enough that they give him his job back, making everything go back to normal, without arresting Bart and the other boys for some form of terrorism.

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This episode is very odd, and while I don’t exactly love it, I don’t really mind it either. I think the decision to make an episode focused on Superintendent Chalmers is a little odd, personally. Certain characters work best when we know very little about them, and they’re just forces of narrative, rather than characters. And I think Chalmers is one of these. He’s and amazing foil to Principal Skinner, but knowing that he’s lonely has a widower is kind of more than I needed to know about him. That’s just my opinion though, obviously. What I do enjoy about this episode is how easily Bart begins to love Teddy Roosevelt. Because that guy was amazing. Yeah, some things he did are not great, especially in the modern world, but he’s an endlessly fascinating man, and despite whatever motives he had, the forming of the National Park Service is terrific. Where the episode really loses me though is Bart and the boys taking over the school. That’s a little odd. Strangely enough, it’s similar to the end of “Elementary School Confidential” when Skinner and Edna locked the school up until Chalmers would accept their relationship. But this time it’s children holding a whole school of other children hostage, and it’s just a little strange to me. But whatever, it’s a harmless little episode and a decent way to end the week.

Take Away: School isn’t the only place that you can get education, and if there’s something that interests you there’s no problem with doing some independent learning.

 

“Bart Stops to smell the Roosevelts” was written by Tim Long and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2011.

 

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