By the Twenty Fourth season of the Simpsons, you would kind of assume that they’d have gotten to every character that they thought deserved some depth. We’ve learned a lot about folks like Apu, Moe, Mrs. Krabappel, and lots of other tertiary characters. But occasionally something odd happens, and we get an episode that gives us in depth information about characters that mostly exist for gags. And today we have such an episode. Because who among us hasn’t been deeply interested in the history and parentage of Carl Carlson, Homer’s buddy?
The episode starts off with Homer sitting around on the couch, watching some ladies tennis matches while laughing at their complicated Russian names. But this strange pastime is brought to an end when Bart and Lisa come marching in, announcing that they’re going to be changing the channel so they can watch some show called Ki-Ya Karate Monsters, which is basically just a bunch of Universal Monsters who are now ninjas.
Homer thinks this is kind of bullshit, but he doesn’t want to argue with the kids and have to verify with Marge that it’s okay for them to watch it, so he just submits and watches the show with the kids. And he can’t stand it. This show is the latest fad, and it’s all the kids want to watch or talk about, and it’s driving him insane. Marge too, because she ends up coming downstairs and says that the family are going to do something educational and therefore not fun.
So the family pack up and head out to the museum hoping to calm the kids down, only to find that they have a whole special exhibit on the Karate Monsters. The kids are psyched, and they look at all kinds of bogus museum dioramas. But eventually they leave that section of the museum, and get to the regular, boring part of it. In fact, it’s so boring that they have to sit through a weird cartoon explaining the idea of probability to them. A little cartoon Blaise Pascal tells the family all about probability and teaches them that playing the lottery is one of the dumbest things a person can do.
Homer then promptly leaves the museum and buys some lotto tickets. Like a genius. He then brings the ticket back to Moe’s, because this is apparently a tradition among him, Lenny, Carl, and Moe, and they all pick a number to play. Homer, Lenny, and Moe are all very open with why they pick the numbers they do, but Carl seems kind of cagey about his. But that doesn’t matter for now, because as they’re sitting there talking about their ticket they see something crazy on the TV. Their numbers have been picked, and they’ve won $200,000.
They all obviously freak out, and decide to plan a huge party to celebrate. They all give each other tasks, and then head off to get everything ready. The important part though, is that Carl offered to go pick up the money. The next day everyone gets together for the party, and they notice that Carl still hasn’t showed up. They spend the whole night hanging out in Moe’s, waiting for Carl to show up, while the other partygoers end up giving up and leaving.
And Carl never shows. Homer, Lenny, and Moe then freak out, and start worrying that Carl screwed them over. So they race to Carl’s apartment, and find it completely empty. They scour the place, looking for clues to where Carl is, before eventually finding an envelope addressed to them. They find a note inside, written by Carl, saying that he’s abandoning them, taking the money, and going back to his home country, never to return.
This really baffles and pisses the guys off, and they end up heading back to the Simpson’s house to have dinner and fume about it. Marge keeps trying to convince them that Carl must have had a good reason, since he was always such a good guy, and Lisa ends up tossing out a question that stumps them. She wonders what Carl’s home country is. The guys have no idea, and Marge is a little shocked that these men are best friends, and never talk about such things as country of origin.
But the guys won’t give up, so they begin examining some random picture of Carl that Lenny has for clues. And, shockingly, they find some. Because the picture of Carl is wearing sunglasses, and they notice that there’s a reflection in the glasses. It’s of a geyser and a sign that appears to be in Icelandic. This is more than a little confusing, but Lisa ends up telling them that Iceland has very thorough genealogical records, so they head to the internet and find that Carl was actually adopted and raised by an Icelandic family.
So the guys are going to Iceland for some revenge! Marge doesn’t seem to care about this, so the trio quickly just hop on a plane and heads straight out to Iceland. They get some sweaters and begin immediately pressing the locals on Carl. And, turns out they know him. And his family. Because the Carson’s are local pariahs, because centuries about they failed their duty as watchmen and let in an invading army that conquered the town.
But that does mean that everyone can point them in the direction of the Carlson home, so the guys are easily able to find it. Oh, and they find that the house number is the same one that Carl plays in the lotto, so that answers that. But, anyway, the guys begin staking out the Carlson home, until they finally see him leaving. They chase after Carl, and see him head into town, where the begin chasing after him again, but this time on foot. And, eventually they capture him.
The guys then drag Carl to a bar, and begin demanding some answers. And Carl comes clean. He apparently took their money and returned to Iceland to exonerate his family. The ancient epic that everyone uses as proof of his family’s betrayal is missing a page, and Carl used the money to get that missing page, which he’s convinced will tell the truth, and clear his family. Oh, and he also mentions that he felt comfortable doing this because he doesn’t actually think that they’re friends, since they never talk about anything important.
And this is the last goddamn straw for poor Lenny. This whole time he’s been defending Carl, insisting that it’ll all work out in the end, but hearing Carl say that he’s not their friend makes Lenny snap, and he start attacking Carl, beating the hell out of him. The guys then manage to steal the missing page away from Carl, and leave him in the streets, deciding that their revenge is complete, and that it’ll be fun to destroy the thing Carl spend $200,000 on.
But when they get to the hotel they start to feel sad. They also start to worry that maybe they aren’t friends, because they never do anything for each other. So, to deal with these conflicting feelings, they Skype Marge and ask her for advice. She then strongly recommends that they don’t destroy the page, and instead to actually read it, and learn something about their friend. They think this is a great idea, and then spend several days learning ancient Icelandic so that they can read the page and exonerate Carl’s family.
Unfortunately it turns out that this missing page reveals that the Carlson’s were even bigger cowards than previously thought. In fact, they openly aided the barbarians who sacked their homeland. So, that’s not god. But it does make the guys feel even worse for Carl. So worse that they decide to try and help him, in the weirdest way possible. They gather in the town square, draw a big crowd, and begins telling everyone what a great guy Carl is. This somehow manages to convince the people of Iceland that the Carlson’s are decent people, and Carl that his friends are in fact his friends. Everything then works out, the four friends go to the Blue Lagoon to relax in a spa, and then they return to Springfield and normalcy.
This is a profoundly silly episode. I think overall I liked it, even though it’s incredibly dumb. Carl is not a character I ever expected to really see an episode devoted to, and I think they went about it in the weirdest possible way. I mean, why on Earth did they pick Iceland of all places to tell us that Carl is randomly from? Oh, and I know this is getting completely pedantic and nerdy, but I write about the Simpsons ever goddamn day, so I guess I can be pedantic and nerdy. But we’ve seen Carl’s childhood. We’ve seen him as a kid in Springfield, growing up with Homer and Lenny. We’ve seen references to siblings of Carl’s. Hell, “the Seemlingly Never-Ending Story” had them go to a place called Carl’s Dad’s Cavern that had a sign with Carl’s dad on it. I know that this is a ridiculous thing to complain about, because Carl is barely a character normally, so it shouldn’t matter, but it did kind of bug me. But, not so much to ruin the episode, which is still pretty fun.
Take Away: Don’t take your friends for granted.
“The Saga of Carl” was written by Eric Kaplan and directed by Chuck Sheetz, 2013.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons