Yesterday I lamented the fact that we don’t really get that many Grandpa episodes anymore. Well, I’ve noticed a strange inverse to this phenomena. We’re getting a whole bunch of Fat Tony episodes lately. I’m not necessarily complaining about this, I like Fat Tony, but it’s kind of odd how many mob-related stories the show has had in the last couple of season. And here’s another!
The episode begins by showing us that apparently Homer, Moe, and Apu still get together and bowl sometimes as the Pin Pals. Otto isn’t involved though, because they’ve gotten some new rando named Dan to help out. We see the Pin Pals playing against a new version of the Holy Rollers, and it’s all up to this new Dan guy to win the game for them. However, right as he’s about to bowl his last frame he gets an emergency call from his job, and he’s forced to bail and run off into the night.
What could be so important to this guy we just met? Well, it’s because he works for Fat Tony’s mob. Specifically he’s their accountant, and that kind of makes him something of an outsider to the group. He gets to Luigi’s and meets up with the rest of the mob, eager to see what was so important. Turns out that Fat Tony has just gotten called in for jury duty, and he’ll be tied up for a while dealing with the case. And, as a result, he needs someone to run the mob for him while he’s sequestered. He looks around at his men, and realizes that they’re all pretty shady, and willing to screw him over, so he picks the least likely candidate, Dan.
But this mafia plot was apparently a tad undercooked, because at this point we’re introduced to a surprisingly beefy B-Plot. And it all begins with that family going to see Lisa perform at some terrible band recital. She’s about to walk up and save the day with her saxophone skills, when she faints. They race Lisa off to Dr. Hibbert, and he pretty quickly finds that her problem was that her iron levels were shockingly low. He says that this is due to her vegetarianism, and says that she needs to start taking massive iron supplements in order to remain healthy.
Lisa does try to give it a shot, but the pills are insanely big, and they just keep causing her problems. So one day she’s sitting alone at school, sadly trying to eat her pills, when she strikes up an unlikely conversation with Lunchlady Doris. Turns out that Doris is also a vegetarian, and she gives Lisa a bite of a special meal she eats to deal with iron deficiency. And Lisa loves it! Until Doris explains that it’s some sort of insect mush. That puts her off. But Doris is able to explain that insects don’t count as meat, and they’re a great source of iron, so Lisa decides to give it a shot.
Anyway, Dan has begun leading the mafia, and he’s actually doing a decent job. He’s fixated on making the organization more financially solvent, which really starts to piss off the other guys. This really starts to wear down on Dan, and he ends up going to Moe’s to drown his sorrows. But when he comes in Homer and Moe start yelling at him for bailing on them. Dan tries to explain that things are tough at work, and Moe decides to give him some advice. He tells Dan that the best way fix any business problems is to take charge and get mean.
And this really clicks for Dan. He leaves Moe’s confident that he can turn the mob around, and make it a tighter ship. He then starts being a total hardass, running the mob like a dictator, and putting some fear into the other mobsters. But that wasn’t enough apparently, because we see that one day Dan goes to talk to Fat Tony, who is still dealing with jury duty, and suggests that they start laying some people off. Fat Tony loves this idea. But he then explains that the way you do that in the mob is by killing people. Which will now be Dan’s job.
But before we see how Dan deals with the idea of murder, we need to check back in on Lisa and her bug-eating. She actually has started to really enjoy it, and ends up joining some weird club that eats bug. It even gets to the point that Lisa decides it makes sense to become some sort of grasshopper rancher. She buys a terrarium and a whole bunch of grasshopper eggs, and gets to work raising them. However, Snowball ends up knocking in the whole bag of eggs, filling the terrarium with hundreds of eggs.
Things get a little difficult later that night though when Lisa is eating some of her bugs at dinner, and Marge makes the case that she should be able to eat shrimp now. Lisa seriously contemplates it, but ends up deciding not to, struggling with the moral line. And that night she ends up having a weird nightmare where an ant and a grasshopper tell her that they feel pain. So she wakes up and decides that she can’t eat bugs anymore. She then asks Bart to go down and get rid of her grasshoppers. He agrees, but just goes downstairs and smashes the terrarium, letting the hundreds of grasshoppers loose into the basement.
That’s going to come back later. For now it’s time to see how Dan is doing. Not well! He’s hiding in Homer’s trunk, waiting to get the jump on Homer so he can ask him for advice. Dan just lays it all out, and tells Homer that he works for the mob, and that he’s been tasked with killing a bunch of people. But the problem is, he kind of wants to. Dan has realized that killing people makes a lot of actuarial sense, and he needs Homer to talk him out of it.
Homer agrees to this task, and decides to take Dan home to keep him from killing anyone. He even goes so far as to tie Dan up, and hide him in the basement. Uh oh. Yeah, Dan is quickly mobbed by an army of grasshoppers, and Homer for some reason doesn’t hear his screams of terror. So, several hours later, when Homer goes down to check on Dan he finds that he’s kind of gone insane from grasshopper torture.
Dan then manages to escape the Simpson’s house and heads off to kill a bunch of mobsters. Homer has no choice but to chase after Dan, hoping to thwart his assassinations. We then see Homer chase down Dan as he attempts to kill Johnny Tight-Lips, Louie, Legs, and Frankie the Squealer. And, eventually Homer finally wins. Dan agrees not to kill anyone, and we’re given a weird series of epilogues. We see that Fat Tony has taken over the mob again, and doesn’t want things to be handled efficiently anymore, we see Lisa and Marge let the grasshoppers loose in a cornmaze, and we see that Dan is now working at an ear-piercing place.
This is a very odd episode. I think I more or less liked it, but the central plot is very odd. It’s pretty rare that we focus so much on a character who isn’t a member of the Simpsons, especially a one-and-done guest character. I can understand having an episode at this point that focuses on Apu or something, but we have no idea who Dan is, and we’re suddenly just put in Dan’s story. The whole Lisa bug-eating plot it really goofy and weird, but at least it feels like a Simpsons episode. Focusing on Steve Carell’s Dan is just kind of a weird idea. It almost feels like a cameo episode, like that Lady Gaga one, where the guest start came in and completely took over the episode. Except this isn’t Steve Carell. It’s Dan the mafia accountant. I don’t know, this just kind of feels strange. Not necessarily in a bad way, just in a way that left me feeling kind of odd about the episode.
Take Away: Don’t work in the mafia!
“Penny-Wiseguys” was written by Michael Price and directed by Mark Kirkland, 2012.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons