Lifetime of Simpsons

S25 E22 – The Yellow Badge of Cowardge

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Hi there everyone, and welcome to another week of Lifetime of Simpsons. And, listen, we’re up for a very strange week, folks. First of all, today we’re closing out Season 25 and we’ll soon be starting Season 26. But there’s also the matter of the rather insane thing we’ll be discussing tomorrow. Get ready for some garbage. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, because today we’ll be talking about the Season 25 closer, which is very bland.

The episode is narrated occasionally by Lisa, and begins with her explaining some teachings of the Buddha, before just showing us that Bart has woken up before everyone else, and is thrilled. Why is he thrilled? Well, because it’s the last day of school, and he’s incredibly excited that he now get several months of freedom, and he gets to burn all of his old school belongings. The rest of the family just kind of ignore him though, and get along with their day.

But the only family member besides Bart who is going to matter in today’s episode is Homer, so it’s a nice time to set up his own B-Plot right off the bat. Because as the family are sitting around eating breakfast and ignoring Bart, Homer notices something horrible in the newspaper. Turns out Springfield won’t be putting on a big fireworks display for the Fourth of July this year. And it’s not because of fire warning, or anything like that, it’s just because the city is broke. And Homer cannot abide that.

That’s not going to come back for a while though. For now it’s time to follow Bart to school, where we see that the last day of school is when Springfield Elementary decides to hold a field day for some reason. We see several gags, like the kids pelting Skinner with eggs and Cleetus’ mutant children cheating at various events.

The last event though is a fabled race around the school, which is apparently a very big deal at Springfield Elementary. But as Bart and Milhouse are preparing, Milhouse drops a bomb. He’s apparently been training all year, while wearing a fake fat-suit, and is actually in amazing shape. He wants Bart to keep it a secret though, so he can just randomly impress all of the students here at the end of the year.

Unfortunately, as Milhouse is telling Bart about this Martin happens to overhear. And he immediately heads over to the bullies, who are running a gambling ring around the race. Martin sees that Milhouse has crazy odds against him winning, and puts some money down in the assumption that he’ll be the only one to win. The race then begins, and as Milhouse starts to take the lead the bullies realize they’ve been duped, and start to panic.

They don’t want to pay out the massive amount of money Martin would win, so they decide to do something to get rid of Milhouse. Nelson is then sent into a small wooded area behind the school, where the race will pass through, and he waits there to jump Milhouse. And when Milhouse comes into the wooded area Nelson jumps him, and starts beating him up. But, as the beating begins, Bart comes running into the area as well, and sees his friend getting beaten up.

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But Bart isn’t sure what to do. Narrator Lisa explains that Bart has two choices, to have self-preservation or help his friend. And Bart picks self-preservation. Bart runs right past, and ends up getting in first place, but with a heavy conscious. However, as Bart is receiving his award for getting in first, Milhouse comes stumbling out of the bushes. And, luckily for Bart, he seems to have some sort of amnesia, and doesn’t remember getting beaten up, or Bart leaving him behind.

Before we see what ramifications this has on Bart though, it’s time to check back in on Homer. Because he’s still fuming about the city not holding the fireworks display. And why is he so adamant on getting the display? Well, it’s because during the annual fireworks displays on the Fourth of July he actually got to ignore Abe and Mona’s constant arguing. When the fireworks were going on he could tune them out, and be happy.

Homer has years of wonderful memories watching the fireworks and ignoring his parents, and one of those years he even went to talk to the man who controlled the fireworks. Homer chatted with the man, and got his business card. And when Homer remembers that he ridiculously succeeds in tracking down that card, and finds that the man’s name was Giuseppe, and Homer somehow manages to find the man, who is now retired and living alone. Homer goes to talk to Giuseppe, and he convinces the old man to come back for one last show.

Back in the Bart plot we see that things aren’t going great. Even though Milhouse has no memory of what happened Bart can’t help but feel guilty. He starts having nightmares where he keeps letting Milhouse get harmed while not helping. So, he decides to start spending more time with Milhouse, and being nice to him, but whenever he spends time with Milhouse he starts to feel too guilty, and just can’t be with him without thinking about how he let him down.

Things get really awkward though when Bart gets invited to join some group of philanthropic athletes in Springfield. Because winning a random Elementary School fun run apparently makes Bart a local celebrity. He gets up on a stage in the Town Center and is given an award, all while feeling incredibly guilty. He briefly considers bringing Milhouse up and exposing his own horrible behavior, but decides not to and just brings Milhouse up as a friend instead.

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However, as Bart is accepting the award Milhouse gets bonked on the head, and since this is a cartoon, his memory comes back. And he’s pissed. Milhouse exposes Bart as a traitor and bad friend, and the people of Springfield immediately turn on him, and start booing him and calling him a coward. The crowd then chases Bart through the town, until he finds sanctuary in the Retirement Castle. Bart then chats with Grandpa and some of the other old guys, and they tell him that it’s fine being a coward, because cowards gets to live long lives. They think that Bart should just own it, and be a proud coward.

While all of this is going on, Homer and Giuseppe have been acquiring a shocking amount of explosives, and have managed to build a whole armory of fireworks in Giuseppe’s little cottage. They have the whole show planned out, and when the Fourth of July arrives they head out onto a barge on a lake and make the final preparations for the show. The whole town then arrives, and begins sitting around the lake, ready to watch a show.

And one of the people who arrives is Bart, who is still feeling terrible about being outed as a coward. Homer spots him on the shore, and starts to feel really bad for his son. He thinks that the firework show will cheer Bart up, and he starts to get the show ready early. But Giuseppe won’t abide this, saying that they need to wait for the perfect amount of darkness. Homer won’t accept this either though, and the two get into a little fight, which ends up tipping the barge over so that the fireworks are all ready to just bombard the waiting crowd.

Bart realizes what’s going on, and sees a chance to redeem himself. He grabs Milhouse, and drags him up to the parking lot, while Milhouse complains. Bart tosses Milhouse in a van from the Retirement Castle, and drives it down to the shore, managing to park the van between the crowd and the baragge or fireworks as they fire into the crowd. The van saves everyone, and Bart decides to push Milhouse out of the van, making it look like he was a hero. Bart didn’t want to redeem himself, he just wanted to give Milhouse the adoration he deserved. And with that, his conscience is cleared.

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This episode is fine. There’s not a whole lot to it, and it’s one that I’ll probably forget almost immediately, but it’s fine. Bart does a very shitty thing in this episode, but I think they found a good way to have him fix it. The Homer firework plot doesn’t have a whole lot going on for it, but it does set up a nice climax for Bart to save the day. I think the idea of Bart finding some solace for the thing he did by boosting Milhouse up, rather than proving to people he’s not a coward was a good idea, and succeeded in making Bart seem less egotistical. It’s a nice plot, it’s just kind of ordinary. It feels weird that this is how they chose to finish out the season, especially after having that big gimmicky Lego episode just a few before, which felt like the perfect way to close things out. There’s nothing wrong with this episode, it’s just a little run of the mill. But don’t worry, things are going to spice up tomorrow. Ugh.

Take Away: Don’t screw over your friends.

 

“The Yellow Badge of Cowardge” was written by Billy Kimball and Ian Maxtone-Graham and directed by Timothy Bailey, 2014.

 

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