Lifetime of Simpsons

S24 E18 – Pulpit Friction

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Hey everyone, you know what a great way to end the week would be? That’s right, let’s have a plodding episode all about church politics! Fun! Although, I will say, there’s one really interesting aspect of this episode. During the couch gag they break the couch, and then when the episode begins the couch is broken. That’s weird and novel, right? Well, don’t get used to it, because from here on out things get pretty bland.

So, yeah, the episode starts right off with the Simpsons dealing with the tragedy of their couch being destroyed. They have no chance to fix the couch, so they decide to buy a new one. Marge then prepares herself for the grueling ordeal of dealing with furniture salesmen, until Homer takes the wind out of her sails and says that he just went ahead and ordered a new couch off the internet from a warehouse in New York, and it’ll be arriving shortly.

But that turns out to be a bad call, because when we get to cut over to the couch warehouse in New York we see that the couch the Simpsons have ordered is absolutely filled with bedbugs. The couch then arrives to Springfield, and the family begin to break the couch in, having no idea that they’ve now been infested with horrible bugs that will be feasting on their blood and causing them to break out in the itchiest welts known to man that will slowly drive them to the brink of madness. And, yes, if you’re wondering, I have dealt with bedbugs in my life. And they fucking suck.

Anyway, before the family discover what’s going on with their new couch, disaster strikes. Because one night Bart has several of his friends over for a sleep-over, and they end up sleeping in a fort built from the couch’s cushions. And this results in the bed bugs traveling to new homes, where they begin infesting the whole town, slowly but surely. Then, after just a few days, the entire town ends up falling victim to the horrible bloodsucking monsters.

And, in true Springfield fashion, things get dire quickly. The whole town is quickly thrown into chaos, with everyone scratching themselves like crazy, seeking out the trainspotters of the plague, and just straight up burning all wool in the town. Nowhere seems safe from the bedbugs or bedbug conversations. And you’d think this would lead us to seeing the town come together for a Town Hall meeting to discuss their plight, but instead this time they’re heading to church.

Unfortunately, things aren’t going well. Everyone just starts yelling at each other in church, and when Reverend Lovejoy arrives to calm them down, and then just reads passages from the Bible, they get ready to rebel. Luckily though as the crowd is about to go feral they get a surprise visitor. The Parson arrives, and is quickly able to calm the crowds down. And once that’s taken care of he reveals the real purpose of his visit, to bring a new associate pastor named Elijah Hooper to the church to try and reengage the bored and sinful people of Springfield.

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Not surprisingly, Reverend Lovejoy is pretty wary about this. But he can’t refuse the Parson, so he allows Hooper to begin preaching at the church, and Hooper even has a prepared sermon for the itchy people of Springfield. He recites his sermon, which is full of pop culture references and tries to be as relateable as possible, and it actually does seem to help people. It’s got a message of understanding, telling the people to be good to each other, and it actually seems to work. Much to the chagrin of Reverend Lovejoy.

But before we move on from this we need to get the really anemic B-Plot for this episode going. Because around this time the town has finally realized what to do about the bedbugs, and the whole town has started dry-cleaning all of their clothes to kill the bugs, and the Simpsons have just gotten their clothes back. But while going through everything Marge makes a startling discovery. Her wedding dress is missing, and they seem to have gotten one of Krusty’s suits in return. Marge immediately starts to freak out, so she and Lisa race to Krusty’s studios, only to find that he used the dress in a sketch and then threw it out.

Like I said though, this dress plot doesn’t have a lot to it, so it’s time to get back to the internal politics of Springfield’s church. Because Elijah Hooper sure isn’t here out of the goodness of his heart. He wants power. And to get that he decides to do something crazy. He’s going to try and get Homer, the most sinful person in the community, to become a deacon, because if Homer is engaged with church, everyone will be. That’s pretty specious reasoning, but whatever, it’s what we’re going with. And, against all logic, Homer decides to go with it.

Hooper then seems to wait to bring this fact to the church until it would be the most dramatic. And that time comes when Reverend Lovejoy slowly starts to realize that his parishioners like Hooper more than him. Hooper gradually begins taking over the whole show, and just when Lovejoy is at his lowest Hooper bring out Homer and shocks the entire crowd. At which point Lovejoy just utterly gives up, quits the church, and leaves while no one notices.

But hey, before we get to see whatever Reverend Lovejoy does with his sad life, let’s finish off that Marge plot. Because she is still devastated about the loss of her dress, and is spending a lot of time watching old videos of her buying the dress with Patty and Selma. Lisa ends up talking to Marge a bit about the dress, and learns that her real problem is the fact that she always imagined seeing Lisa married in it too, and now that will never happen.

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So Lisa heads out into the world to try and help her mother. And after some serious sleuthing and good old-fashioned policework, Lisa makes some headway. She comes and gets Marge and begins telling her the journey of her dress. Turns out the garbageman who found the dress after Krusty threw it out sold it to a Springfield performing arts center for a production of Mamma Mia. And when that production closed immediately it was bought by a young couple at auction, who are now getting married at the courthouse. So Lisa and Marge go to see the couple get married, and Marge is able to see her dress bringing someone happiness.

Anyway, back to church nonsense! Because things are getting weird. Homer has really taken to his new role as deacon, primarily because of the power that he’s decided comes along with that, and it’s really starting to bum Bart out. Homer is acting like he’s actually pious now, and doesn’t want to do any of his usual shenanigans with Bart, such as mooning the Oogle street-view truck as it comes by to document the area.

So Bart decides he needs to get Hooper gone. And that means he’ll need help. Luckily Bart finds another person who can’t stand Hooper and his new inclusive ways. Ned. Bart and Ned end up chatting and realize they both want rid of Hooper, so they begin plotting to bring Lovejoy back so the natural order can return. And the only way to do that is to convince Lovejoy to work with them. But when they go find him in his new life selling hottubs, Lovejoy tells them that he no longer cares about church, and doesn’t want to come back.

This setback really bothers Ned and Bart, and they begin trying to figure out ways to escalate things. And Bart finds the perfect answer. He’s going to bring a plague of pranks down upon Springfield. Unfortunately Ned has no interest in this, and ends up turning on Bart immediately, trying to bring him to the police station of punish him. But the police don’t care about this, and Bart is easily able to ditch Ned and get Milhouse involved instead.

So the plague plan is a go! And they begin by finding all of the dead bedbugs that the dry-cleaners had from earlier in the episode. They then take the bugs and create a path from some nearby swamps straight into the Church, causing an absurd amount of frogs to follow the trail and inundate the church. The parishioners then quickly begin freaking the hell out, and demand that Hooper help them. But when he just starts spouting his useless references, they turn on him. Luckily Reverend Lovejoy arrives, and begins reading his normal boring Bible stories, which manage to bore the frogs into submission. The town then kicks Hooper out, reinstates Lovejoy, and everything goes back to normal.

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Folks, I don’t even know what to say about this episode. It’s just so incredibly boring. And just full of weird ideas that don’t really gel with my personal beliefs. The whole Marge plot is so incredibly thin, but I do understand Marge’s sadness as losing her wedding dress. Until we learn that she was planning on forcing Lisa to wear the dress, against her wishes. That’s a little odd. But none of that holds a candle to the weirdness on display in the main plot. Any story that heavily revolves around the church, and the politics therein, is going to have to work hard to keep my interest, and this episode does not accomplish that. I find it weird that the moral of this episode ends up being that it’s best to keep with the stodgy and boring old Bible stories, because they’re more helpful that actually making the stories relateable and interesting. That’s weird, right? Yeah, Hooper wasn’t really able to help anyone, but Lovejoy really only manages to do it because he’s so goddamn boring? I don’t know, it’s just a really weird decision that makes it seem like Springfield would just be better off without Hooper and Lovejoy. Which maybe was the point, a weird and poorly thought out case for religion in general not being helpful, but if that’s the case they didn’t do a great job putting it forward.

Take Away: Bedbugs are the absolute worst.

 

“Pulpit Friction” was written by Bill Odenkirk and directed by Chris Clements, 2013.

 

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