Yesterday’s episode was a whole lot of fun, and helped prove that this week was going to be a step up from last week. That trend won’t exactly continue today. Because today’s a weird one, folks. Not necessarily bad, just very odd. Like, right from the beginning, what with the bizarre, although pretty cool, Bill Plympton couch gag that leans into some strange noir aesthetic.
But the actually episode begins with Lisa learning that things are about to get shook up in her classroom, because Ms. Hoover is going to be taking an extended absence because of her severe depression. And after awkwardly teaching the children about benzodiazepines Principal Skinner informs the students that they’ll be have a long-term substitute until Ms. Hoover is in a good enough place to return.
The substitute then arrives to the school, and Lisa is almost immediately psyched. She’s a Vassar graduate who is bringing her own advanced supplies named Ms. Cantwell, and Lisa is all ready to become her regular teacher’s pet self. However, as soon as she starts acting that way she’s shockingly shot down by Cantwell. Lisa is baffled by this behavior, and just keeps trying to double down, becoming more and more sycophantic and receiving more and more vitriol, until Lisa ends up straight up fainting.
This Lisa thing is just the B-Plot though, so now it’s time to set up the story that’s going to take up the bulk of the episode. It begins with Homer heading over to Ned’s house, seemingly just to eat his breakfast, when he finds that Ned’s beatnik parents are over. Ned seems awkward about having Homer over, but Homer actually loves it, and he and Ned’s parents end up having a great time just mocking Ned, and getting him all mad.
Ned ends up getting so irritated that he decides he needs to go for a walk to calm down. He finally manages to calm his spirits, and eventually returns to his home, only to find something odd going on. Homer is still there, and getting stoned with his parents while they watch Sesame Street. And Ned is furious. They’re disrespecting him in his house, and he decides to vent all of his anger at his parents on Homer, punching him straight in the face, and knocking him out.
Meanwhile, we see that Lisa is still struggling to figure out what’s up with Ms. Cantwell. She’s baffled at the idea that a teacher wouldn’t like her, and she keeps trying to fix things by being herself. Which Ms. Cantwell flatly rejects. She continues bullying Lisa, causing Lisa to go a little insane. Hell, she even goes to straight up ask Cantwell what her deal is, and just gets more bullying in return, not solving anything.
Apparently Ned has a serious punch, because he races Homer to the hospital to take care of the beating. Marge ends up showing up, and is horrified that Ned did something so violent, and Ned is beside himself he’s so sorry. Ned keeps apologizing, and tries over and over again to pray for Homer, and Homer just ignores him, and keeps messing with him, like by forcing Ned to pray to Superman for him, causing the two to end up squabbling.
That night Ned finds himself unable to sleep, too bothered by his actions. He tries waking Edna up to get advice, but she’s unable to convince him that he’s not a bad person. He finally does manage to fall asleep though, and immediately gets thrown into a crazy nightmare, where he’s brought to his own personal hell. It’s mainly just brief nudity, non-Jesus beards, and other tolerant things. But it’s enough to cause Ned to wake up, and find solace in the Bible. And after flipping through a bunch of smutty passages he stumbles upon the concept of ‘an eye for an eye,’ and gets an idea.
While all of this punching drama is going on though, Lisa is still being tormented by Ms. Cantwell. It’s even reached the point that she’s having trouble studying, because she just keeps thinking about how mean her teacher is. And that’s obviously not okay, so she goes to Homer and Marge for help. Unfortunately when Homer and Marge go talk to Principal Skinner they find that Cantwell has some sort of substitute tenure, and can’t be fired. Plus, on top of not being helpful, this meeting ends up getting Lisa in more trouble, because when Cantwell learns that Lisa tattled she ends up punishing her more, and starts sending her to detention.
But this psychological abuse plot is going to have to take a pause for a moment to get the physical abuse plot going again. Because one day while Homer is working at the Plant, Ned just comes strolling into his office with a proposition. Ned explains that he wants Homer to punch him in the eye, so that they’re both been punched and will therefore be equal and can move passed this whole thing. And Homer is certainly tempted.
However, Homer realizes that if he doesn’t punch Ned he’ll have something to hold over Ned, and remain the better man. And that’s too tantalizing an opportunity to pass up. Homer then begins gloating to Ned, telling him he’s never going to allow him to make things equal again. Which causes Ned to get so frustrated that he punches Homer again. And this was a bad call, because now Homer starts making this whole squabble very known, and the people of Springfield start looking at Ned weird, thinking of him now as some weird punch-happy lunatic. And Homer is loving it.
But it’s about time for both of these plots to collide. Because the day that Lisa gets sent to detention she ends up coming home and tells Homer that things have gotten worse. Lisa is incredibly depressed, and doesn’t know what to do. So, seeing his daughter’s pain, Homer decides that he needs to end this Ned feud and get some help. But he doesn’t want help from Ned, he wants help from Edna. So he goes over to their house and tells them that he’ll end this weird feud as long as Edna can figure out a way to get Cantwell out of the school.
Edna then cooks up a nuclear option, and sets a plan in motion that will get Cantwell out. Because they know that she can’t be fired, so they need to get her to quit. And they accomplish this by demoting Bart to second grade, and putting him in Cantwell’s class. Then, after about fifteen minutes, Bart causes so much chaos in the class that Cantwell flees from the school, never to return. Lisa does manage to catch up to Cantwell though, and begs her to tell her what’s going on. And, surprisingly, it turns out that Cantwell has a thing against Lisa because she can’t stand pretty girls. And, taking this as a compliment, Lisa’s okay with it.
Like I said up top, this episode isn’t that great, but it’s also not too objectionable. It’s not one that I particularly enjoyed, and I’ll probably forget it in just a couple weeks, but it had some fun parts. I like the idea of Homer getting along with Ned’s parents and getting high with them, and I think some of the interactions between Homer and Ned throughout the episode were fun, especially Homer trying to get Ned to pray to Superman. But the general premise of that plot, with Ned insisting that he needs to be seen as a good person again, and using the Bible to justify it, kind of bugs me. Ned did a shitty thing! But he’s human, he should be allowed to be mad. Thinking that they need to fix everything and Ned’s perfect image will come back is a little ridiculous. But that’s not a big deal to me. What is a big deal is the absolutely insane and upsetting B-Plot. Lisa is seriously psychologically attacked by this goddamn lunatic substitute, and is unable to find any recourse. Yeah, it starts off with Lisa upset that being a kissass isn’t working for this teacher, but it ends up crossing the line and making Cantwell a complete monster. If the plot had been about Lisa learning that being a brown-noser won’t work with every authority figure in her life, it would have been different. But instead we got a story were Lisa was tormented by a lunatic who hated her, with no way to fix it. And that’s just a bummer!
Take Away: I guess, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind? Oh, and don’t let your children be tormented by psychopaths.
“Black-Eyed, Please” was written by John Frink and directed by Matthew Schofield, 2013.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons
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