Things have kind of been all over the place here on Lifetime of Simpsons. We’ve had some solid episodes, some clunkers, and quite a few just fine ones. We’ve also gotten quite weird lately. Remember a couple weeks ago when Homer hung out with robots? Well, we aren’t getting quite that strange today, but we sure are in for an odd one.
The episode begins with Homer having a dream where he’s playing baseball, and about to win the World Series while playing for the amusement of sentient food. However, when he hits his last magnificent home run the ball ends up striking the sky, and shattering it, letting in a whole ocean world that submerges the ballpark. So that’s kind of strange. But the reason the ocean just got flooded into Homer’s dream is pretty clear, because it turns out he’s outside in his hammock, and it has started to rain.
The rain wakes Homer up, and he heads into the house, where he sees chaos. Turns out it’s been raining for a while now, and their roof is leaking, which has caused it to essentially be raining inside. The family all start complaining to Homer, telling him that it’s his fault the roof is leaking. And this quickly causes Homer to give up and storm out of the house so he can go get drunk at Moe’s, letting his family figure out this whole flooding thing on their own.
Homer then gets to Moe’s and promptly starts complaining about how terrible his life is lately. We aren’t really given many reason for why Homer’s in a funk, but he’s really brining down the whole mood of Moe’s, causing Moe to call up Duffman to get a party going. But even that doesn’t work. Homer remains depressed and even manages to bum out Duffman. So, after a bit, Homer leaves the bar, only to find Chief Wiggum putting a boot on his car.
Homer ends up having to walk home in the rain, and when he finally gets there he’s immediately told that it’s time for the whole family to go to a school fundraiser, continuing his streak of bad luck. So the family head to the school, and Homer sullenly wanders around, being a grouch. Oddly enough there aren’t that many sight-gags with the fundraiser, other than seeing Principal Skinner creep on Ned and Edna. Which is weird, but whatever.
Anyway, Homer is just sulking around the fundraiser, being irritable, when Lisa tries to cheer him up. She’s bought him a raffle ticket, and tries to give him some glimmer of hope. Homer takes the ticket, but remains petulant while the raffle begins. And, shockingly, Homer ends up winning the raffle. And what he wins is a Mapple MyPad, the latest gimmicky toy. And he is stoked! Because just like that, Homer’s luck has changed.
Homer ends up instantly becoming addicted to the MyPad, spending all of his time playing dumb games, messing around with apps, and watching videos. However, it pretty quickly becomes ridiculous. Homer is spending all of his time playing around with the MyPad, and it starts to worry Marge, even though it is brightening Homer’s sour mood. But she is right to worry, because all of his MyPad usage is starting to make Homer fog out of reality. He spends all of his time playing some little pizza game, to the point that one day while walking with Maggie he’s too distracted, and doesn’t notice an open manhole cover. So, of course, Homer walks right into the manhole, and plummets down to the floor of the sewer.
Homer is then immediately brought to the hospital, since he sustained a pretty big fall. But, luckily, he’s more or less fine. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the MyPad. It’s completely shattered and destroyed. And, just like that, Homer goes back to his depressed ways, becoming a grouch again. Until one day when Ned comes over to the house to tell them that something amazing has happened. Homer follows, hoping his MyPad has come back to life, and he’s a little disappointed with what they find.
It’s not a MyPad. It’s just one of the trees in the Simpson’s backyard. But the reason that Ned is interested in it is the fact that it has the word HOPE written on it, in tree sap. Ned is convinced that this is some divine bullshit, and tries to give Homer a speech about God, which Homer promptly ignores. He’s too busy trying to figure out what he really thinks of the tree. At first he thinks it’s just a weird coincidence, but slowly he starts to believe that there’s something to this message.
Homer then becomes a complete convert to the idea of his magic tree, and tries to spread the good word at every opportunity. He manages to give the whole congregation a speech about the tree one day at church, and convinces a whole lot more people that the tree is magic. And, as you would expect from Springfield, this quickly becomes a whole thing. People start coming over to the Simpson’s house to see the HOPE tree, and everyone in town starts to obsess over it.
Except for one person. Kent Brockman is deadest on exposing this whole thing as a hoax. He keeps trying to get close to the tree to prove it’s all bullcrap. And why is he this weird? Well apparently he used to be idealistic when he was a kid, but it was all ruined when he saw that Mickey Mouse was a guy in a costume. Sure, whatever. And, eventually, Brockman is able to prove that the message in the sap isn’t magical, it was done by a person and it’s just maple syrup.
And, just like that, everyone stops caring about the tree. Everyone decides to give up on hope, and go back to their old lives. Even Homer. He starts to turn back to his old grumpy self, until Marge convinces him that even though the tree was fake, the hope wasn’t. And this moves him enough to become less of a grouch. We then learn that the message of hope was actually written by Homer himself, while he was sleepwalking.
Oh, and then the episode ends with a strange little vignette that’s a parody of that Logorama film, where we see a Happy Little Elf win the affections of Malibu Stacy by defeating a rampaging Funzo. It’s weird, but fun.
So I’m not quite sure how I feel about this episode. It’s got some elements that I really like, but it does kind of feel like it was maybe two different ideas they couldn’t work out, smooshed together. The episode just never quite felt like it got to anything substantive to me. For one thing, it’s weird that Homer is acting so depressed, while then also being a total asshole the whole episode. I feel like we should be sympathizing with him that he’s in a rut, but he just keeps acting like a jerk the whole episode, so I certainly didn’t. But, even beyond that, the episode just kind of felt like it couldn’t make up its mind about what it’s about. Homer getting a MyPad and getting addicted to it was fine I guess, but it felt more like a B-Plot than anything else. And the tree stuff was fine, I just feel like it’s weird that it comes out of nowhere in the third act. Having a quasi-magical tree brought in after a meandering first and third act just made me feel like the script just wasn’t working out, and they mixed two of them together. I do appreciate the messages of hope, and trying to convince Homer that hope in a better tomorrow can help his rotten today, but it just felt a little unearned, since it just randomly appears at the very end of the episode.
Take Away: Hope is an important emotion, and while it’s foolish to say everything will work out in the end, it’s still helpful to remain positive and hope it will.
“A Tree Grows in Springfield,” was written by Stephanie Gillis and directed by Timothy Bailey, 2012.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons