Well folks, we’ve made it through another week. It wasn’t a fantastic week, but it wasn’t a terrible one. So, of course, that means we’re going to close things out with a real stinker. So get ready to go back to Brazil!
The episode begins with the students of Springfield Elementary having an assembly in the gym, instead of the auditorium for some reason, which they’re told is about history. And, when it actually begins, they find that they’re going to have to sit through two actors reenacting the Lincoln/Douglass debates. Which, why is this necessary? Of course a group of elementary school-aged children are going to hate this. And, not surprisingly, they do and begin loudly heckling the actors.
And this really bugs Superintendent Chalmers, who is of course there. He feels that these students don’t show enough respect, so to punish them he wants all of the students to have a competition where they write essays about who they respect and admire. For some reason Chalmers then says that they need a corporate sponsor for these essays, so that the kids get money, which leads Springfield Elementary to sell their cafeteria to a Stuffwhich Sandwich place, and they get to meet their weird Jared from Subway analog, which obviously wasn’t an issue when this episode came out, but was also in no way relevant.
But guess what? None of that sandwich stuff is going to matter in the slightest, so we can all just forget about it. What will matter is the hero essays, because of course Lisa is going to take it incredibly seriously. All of the kids write up their essays, and then the school holds some sort of fancy gala where the parents come to watch the kids read the essays on a stage. And Lisa thinks she’s a lock, because she’s written a very moving piece about Madame Curie.
However, as Lisa is waiting to give her presentation, disaster strikes. Because before Lisa can give her speech, Martin gets up and gives his own speech about Madame Curie. Lisa instantly begins panicking, and flees from the room, desperately trying to come up with some new hero to talk about. She ends up running into Bart, who is also apparently just roaming the halls, and he tells her to just blow it off, and say that Homer is her hero. She doesn’t like the idea of not taking the assignment seriously, but she’s out of time, and has no choice.
Lisa then gets up, and in order to best Martin’s apparently fantastic Madame Curie presentation, she lays on the schmaltz. She gives an ad-libbed presentation all about Homer, what a wonderful and thoughtful father he is. And, specifically, she talks a lot about the time that he was her soccer referee, and didn’t go easy on her, teaching her the importance of integrity. And, if you’re like me, you don’t even remember this story, it was the B-Plot in the Season Eighteen episode “Marge Gamer,” the one where Marge gets addicted to World of Warcraft.
People really loved Lisa’s speech, but they also really loved Martin’s. So the two kids tie, neither get the prize, and we can forget about this whole thing. What matters is that Homer is incredibly moved by Lisa’s speech, and decides that he’s going to need to actually live up to her ideals of him as a hero. Oh, and another big element that’s going to matter is the fact that Lisa’s speech will be put on the internet for anyone to read.
And, one of the people who actually reads it is a representative of the World Cup. He arrives at the Simpson’s home with a pretty absurd request. He wants Homer to be a referee at the World Cup in Brazil this year. He explains that the World Cup has been rife with corruption in the past, and they think that Homer’s soccer integrity will make him a perfect ref. Which is absolutely insane, but whatever, the Simpsons are going to Brazil! Again!
The Simpsons then arrive in Brazil, and we’re immediately tossed into the World Cup. And, surprisingly, Homer is taking this all very seriously. He’s still convinced that he’s Lisa’s hero, primarily due to his soccer integrity, and becomes relatively famous among the World Cup crowd. The Simpsons even get to dine in a very fancy Brazilian-style steakhouse where Homer is treated like a celebrity.
However, when Homer steps out of the steakhouse to get some fresh air, problems start to arise. Because a local gangster comes up to Homer and begins trying to bribe him into letting Brazil win the final match of the Cup. Homer refuses to take the bribe, even though the gangster remains pretty resilient. But he doesn’t let it get to him. Homer continues to be the best ref in the Cup, and starts to earn equal parts respect and ire from the participant of the Cup.
There’s one person who really can’t stand Homer’s new stance on bribes though. Bart. He can’t understand why he and Homer aren’t accepting all the money and living large in Brazil. So Homer explains that it’s all thanks to Lisa’s respect of him. Which means it’s time for Bart to ruin everything. He tells Homer that the only reason Lisa gave that speech was because Martin took her theme, and needed to spit something out quickly, so she just made up some bullshit.
Homer is then shattered, and doesn’t know what to do with himself. He actually has no interest in the soccer, and doesn’t really want to be a good ref now that he’s learned the truth about Lisa. Which is a perfect time for that gangster to show up again. Turns out that Brazil has been doing well even without the bribery, but the gangster still wants to make sure that they win, and they even offer Homer a million dollars to ensure Brazil wins. And, because he doesn’t actually have anyone looking up to him, he accepts.
However, when Lisa finds out what has happened, she decides she needs to fix it. She finds Homer, and tells him that she did in fact make up her respect for Homer, but she now legitimately respects Homer because he’s become the hero she describes. This really moves Homer, and he then goes out and does a good job as reffing, which puts Brazil in trouble. So, of course, once the game is done, the gangster returns to hurt Homer for backing out. But they’re luckily saved by the fact that Marge has been learning some basic Portuguese the whole time, and the fact that they were nice to the gangster’s mom on the plane. So, the Simpsons are safe, Lisa respects Homer, and they can all just go home.
Yeah, this episode did not work for me. As I’ve explained numerous times, I’m generally not a fan of these vacation episodes, even though I guess this episode shouldn’t qualify for that moniker. Because, yes, they are going to a foreign country, but that barely matters. They go to Brazil, which they’ve done before, and then it just focuses on this soccer plot. Which is just such a weird decision. I mean, why on Earth did they base the central premise of an episode about a really weak B-Plot from an episode from almost ten years ago? That’s such a bizarre choice. I think the central idea, of Homer wanting to be a better person because of Lisa writing a paper about him, but it’s surrounded by all this weak stuff that we’ve seen before. It all just felt so half-assed. They introduce all the Subway stuff, and it doesn’t make a difference. They make a big deal about the competition, and it doesn’t make a difference. They introduce some gangster shenanigans which barely make a difference. I don’t know, it’s just such a flustered episode, and it doesn’t really do anything for me.
Take Away: If you’re randomly invited to be a referee at the World Cup, have some decorum.
“You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee” was written by Michael Price and directed by Mark Kirkland, 2014.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons