Lifetime of Simpsons

S23 E17 – Them, Robot

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Hey everyone. Yesterday’s episode was a little weird, right? Thing got a little sci-fi for a Simpsons episode, what with the family literally transporting themselves into Homer’s subconscious? Well, turns out that that wasn’t a one-off, because today’s going to feel shockingly sci-fi as well. Get ready for robots folks!

The episode starts off with Homer sitting at his work station, fast asleep. He starts rolling all around his control panel, intermittently causing black-outs all over town. Luckily Lenny and Carl stop by to wake Homer up, since it’s time to go home. But before they can peace out and flee from work they have to deal with some sort of afternoon announcements that Mr. Burns apparently does. But it appears to feature a live big-band, so that’s neat.

Burns gives a couple of announcements, getting them all ready for the weekend, when he drops a pretty huge bombshell. The Plant will be having some drug tests on Monday, and alcohol is included. Which obviously starts to panic everyone working at the Plant, especially Homer. He becomes paranoid about the alcohol, and feels like he’s doomed already. So he swears to the family that he’ll stay away from booze the whole weekend. Which is going to be a bummer, because his agenda for the weekend involves brunch with Patty and Selma, running a Preteen Braves meeting, writing haiku with Lisa, and studying some sort of municipal voting laws. Fun!

But, in true Homer fashion, he ruins this almost immediately. Because the next morning while the family is at brunch they realize that Homer is not aware that there’s alcohol in mimosas. And he’s polished off a whole bunch of them. Homer panics a bit, but he realizes it’s just time to face the music. So that Monday he heads back to the Plant, along with all the other terrified employees, and faces the music of the drug test.

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We then see Mr. Burns going over the results of the tests with his lawyer and doctor, and learns something shocking. First of all, most of his employees abuse drugs, but second of all, they’re all in terrible shape. Which is going to really harm him, since he’s responsible for their health insurance. So, Burns does the only reasonable thing, and decides to fire all of his human employees and replace them with genetically modified kangaroos. And when that’s revealed to be impossible, he settles on robots.

Burns and Smithers then hold an all-employee meeting, where Burns proudly explains that every single human employee is going to be replaced by a robot. And, not just that, they’re going to train their robotic replacements. So everyone is pretty bummed, and they all start leaving the Plant, when Burns is informed that he still needs one other human being, to basically function as a scapegoat. And, of course, Homer just happens to walk into his office at this point to tell him off. Burns then decides that Homer is the perfect human candidate, and keeps Homer on as the sole employee of the Nuclear Power Plant. Yep, even Smithers is being fired.

Homer then begins this new chapter in his career, awkwardly walking around the silent Plant, trying to deal with his boredom. The robot are unable to speak, and don’t have any interest in hanging out with him, so Homer quickly becomes depressed. And, because he’s the only person who didn’t get laid off, none of his friends have any interest hearing about Homer’s loneliness. Oh, and we also learn that the Plant is responsible for most of the jobs in Springfield, so these mass lay-offs have caused economic devastation in Springfield.

But we don’t care about any of that for now, it’s time to focus on Homer and his slow slide into insanity. Which does get averted at this point, because while tinkering around with one of the robots he learns that they technically do have the capability to speak. So, after a little experimentation that leads to several blown up robots, Homer manages to turn on all of their language centers, finally giving himself some companionship.

And Homer immediately starts taking advantage of this. Even though they don’t really have personalities, and just respond to verbal prompts, Homer decides that these robots are his buddies, and wants to hang out with them. His first choice is for them all to go to Moe’s, but they tell him that their programming won’t allow it. Some Homer messes with their programming, finds a loophole, and eventually manages to get them to play baseball with him.

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Homer really starts to grow attaching to the robots, and even though they spoil some of the fun of baseball, he has a really good time with them. And while chatting with one of the robots Homer learns about the concept of the Laws of Robotics, and that they’re programmed to protect him. He decides to test this out a bit, and ends up killing several robots by having them walk into traffic. But, Homer’s not a monster, so he decides to hold a Viking funeral for his fallen robotic companions.

And this is where things fall apart. Because at the funeral Homer decides to get drunk, in honor of his friends, when he’s stopped. The robots tell him that their programming insists they preserve human life, and that alcohol is no longer allowed. So, Homer has no choice but to start performing robot lobotomies with a power-drill. And, it works! Homer has successfully removed their impediments. Which now makes them want to kill humanity.

Yeah, Homer just started the robot apocalypse. He quickly has to flee from the pack of homicidal robots, trying to stay one step ahead of them, until he eventually finds his way to Burns’ mansion, hoping Burns has a way to deactivate the robots. Burns really doesn’t care about Homer’s concerns though, and just makes things worse, causing the robots to attack both Burns and Homer. The two flee into Burns’ mansion, and end up hiding in a solarium. Which is a bad call, because the robots just break in, and prepare to kill them. However, they’re saved at the last moment when all of the former employees, now either un or under-employed, come racing in to fight the robots. Eventually they’re able to defeat their mechanical foes, and Burns has no choice but to rehire the whole town, bringing things back to normal.

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I’m not really sure why there was this bizarre, back-to-back pair of episodes that took things in a shockingly sci-fi direction, but I kind of dig it. Yesterday’s episode was pretty fun, but I think its biggest hindrance was the fact that it chose to directly parody Inception. Today’s episode also gets very weird, and still feels sort of out of place for a regular, non-Treehouse of Horror episode, but I think the fact that it’s not directly parodying anything helps it. The idea of the Plant dealing with automation is actually a premise that I’m shocked we haven’t dealt with before. But that premise easily could be the biggest bummer imaginable, so I think it’s a good call that instead of traditional industrial robots they straight up made them androids. Because seeing Homer pal around with some robots and then accidentally give them free-will and a hatred for humanity is a whole of fun. It’s not exactly the deepest episode, but I had a whole lot of fun with it.

Take Away: Automation is really killing traditional American jobs, and we probably need to figure out a way to help that. Oh, and don’t give robots lobotomies!

 

“Them, Robot” was written by Michael Price and directed by Michael Polcino, 2012.

 

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