Hey, you know what I never get sick of? Episodes were we have to see Homer and Marge get in yet another massive fight that jeopardizes their marriage, only for it to be more or less magically fixed in the last half of the third act. Oh, did I say never get sick of? I meant to say “cannot stand.” And, to make things better, we get to see MRA Milhouse in this episode! A cavalcade of riches!
The story begins with some pans over Springfield while a mysterious voice-over lady tells us that for all of eternity men have been struggling to understand what women want, and what makes them happy. Sure, let’s go with this. And specifically we’re going to settle in on Homer, who is at the Nuclear Plant getting all dressed up. He has fancy clothes, cologne, and tells the guys that he’s going to take Marge out for a romantic lunch just the two of them.
Homer and Marge then meet up at a new fancy sushi restaurant in town that seems kind of odd. It’s basically the sushi equivalent of the Soup Nazi place from Seinfeld, where the food is really good but the chef just screams at people for all of their sushi sins. But, despite the weird lack of ambiance, Homer and Marge actually do have a pretty good time, at least at first. They have some good food, and realize that they are finally able to have some adult conversation without the kids.
However, while Marge keeps trying to talk to Homer, mostly about the kids, she notices that he’s barely listening to her, because he’s mainly focused on eating as fast as possible. And, of course, this leads to a huge fight. It even gets so bad that Marge ends up storming out of the restaurant and taking a cab home, instead of dealing with Homer. And as Homer stands there, baffled, the narrator lets us know that Marge has reached a breaking point in their marriage. She also explains that when put n a situation like this Homer is going to have to either fight or flee. He of course chooses flee, until he realizes how much running is involved, and has to fight for his marriage.
But this episode isn’t going to revolve around just one damaged relationship while doling out terrible advice. No, we get two! And the second one will revolve around Lisa and Milhouse. It starts with Milhouse fixating on Lisa at lunch time, and then panicking when she comes over to him and Bart. But she’s only over there because they apparently mixed up their lunches, and she has Bart’s huge meat sandwich. Unfortunately Bart has thrown out her lunch, leaving Lisa hungry.
Unless she can convince Milhouse to give her some of his food. Lisa gives this a shot, and tries to get Milhouse to give her his cupcakes. Milhouse is obviously about to give into her demands, and hand her his cupcake, when he suddenly has a flashback to class from a couple days ago. For some reason the class was watching the Streetcar Named Desire film, and Milhouse overheard Mrs. Krabappel say how attractive Marlon Brando was in the film. So, afraid that he’s being walked all over, Milhouse decides to act like Brando and be a bad boy. And, shockingly, it works great. Lisa suddenly finds herself respecting Milhouse more than she ever has, and he realizes that women like bad boys.
Meanwhile, Homer is still trying to figure out how to fight for Marge, and save their marriage, and his best idea is to return homer with a rose and an apology. And, at first, it actually works. Marge is ready to forgive his rudeness, until she realizes that this is what Homer always does. He promises to be better and then breaks that promise. She ends up storming out of the house, and Homer realizes he needs to do something bigger to fix things. So, taking that thought literally, Homer finds a chore list Marge gave him and he decides to actually fix things.
But before we check in on how that works out for Homer, we need to see Milhouse again. Because, against all logic, his whole ‘act like Marlon Brando’ thing is working. She’s starting to fawn all over Milhouse the most he acts aloof. However, this does start to worry him, since now he has to wonder if she’s falling for someone who isn’t him. This ends up bothering him enough that he goes to talk to a school psychiatrist, who does start to tell him that he should be himself, until she’s fired in the middle of their session and stops caring, so she just tells him to never be himself, because it’s clearly not working for him.
Hey, things sure are jumping around a lot, huh? Anyway, back to Homer! We see that he’s actually completed the chore list, and he’s now eagerly awaiting Marge to arrive back at the house to show off his handiwork. However, when she does show up it turns out that that list was from six years ago, and she just gets mad all over again. So, not having any ideas left on how to fix his marriage, Homer just kind of gives up and leaves the house.
He ends up going back to that sushi restaurant from earlier, and sits at the counter, asking the chef to prepare him whatever he feels like. The chef then begins preparing all sorts of elaborate sushi for Homer, while the two begin chatting. They end up talking about love, relationships, and sushi, and in the end Homer decides that he just needs to be a better and more attentive husband. So he heads home, with the sushi, and prepares to show Marge how much he’s grown by having the two actually eat the romantic meal they were supposed to eat in the beginning. Well, until Homer ends up eating several pieces first, showing Marge that he still hasn’t figured out what’s bothering her.
And while all of this is going on, Milhouse is continuing to be Marlon Brando, pushing it farther and farther. Although, he reaches a point where he seems to run out of bad boy roles, and just starts going off book. Because he ends up trying to impress Lisa by reenacting Mutiny on the Bounty by swinging off the Simpson’s roof and into the treehouse. Which goes catastrophically bad, causing Milhouse to fall out of the tree and crash into the ground. Lisa comes to save him, and Milhouse finally realizes that this whole thing is ridiculous, and promises to go back to being normal, while apologizing to Lisa for being such a creep lately.
Well, now that that’s taken care of, it’s time to finish off the Homer plot. And buckle up folks, things are about to get weird. Because, left with no other options, Homer decides to go ask Moe for romance advice. And Moe’s only advice is that women seem to really be into that Fifty Shades of Gray thing, so Homer should probably go make things kinky. And, Homer’s down for that, and goes to a sex-shop to buy all the necessary equipment for this very own sex dungeon.
Not surprisingly, Marge is less than thrilled when Homer reveals this sex dungeon to her, so he tries to show her how cool it is by demonstrating some weird chair. And, in doing so, Homer horribly hurts his back, causing Marge to race him to the hospital. Dr. Hibbert is pretty easily able to fix Homer, and while they’re in the hospital Marge finally forgives him, realizing that Homer will never stop trying to make her happy. They then go home and burn all their weird sex toys, their marriage fixed until the next time the writers can’t come up with an idea.
This episode just exhausts me. It’s the same damn plot that we’ve seen countless times. Honestly the Milhouse stuff is pretty fresh, but it’s still reeking in a horrible whiny “men’s rights activist” aesthetic, where Milhouse is complaining that he deserves to be with Lisa, and that women only like guys who are shitty to them. And, he ends up being kind of right, which is absurd and a really toxic message. But, aside from that we’re given a boilerplate “Homer and Marge’s marriage is in trouble episode” that seems to have had very little thought put into it. They don’t really give Marge a real reason for being upset, other than Homer being inconsiderate, which he always is. And, yeah, Homer is an ass in this episode, but it also bugs me that Marge just keeps expecting him to puzzle this out without talking about anything. They just paint over their problems in the end, as always, and it just frustrates the hell out of me. They’re both in the wrong, and things could have been so easily fixed if they just sat down and talked to each other. I can’t see why something like that can’t be the solution to one of these episodes, because it would be a real lesson instead of showing us that grand romantic gestures work in the long-term, which they often don’t. I don’t know, this show used to make really interesting comments and statements about marriage, but it just seems incapable of that now, which is a huge bummer.
Take Away: Talk to your partner, don’t just expect them to magically fix everything. It takes both sides working together to make a relationship function.
“What Animated Women Want” was written by J Stewart Burns and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2013.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons