Lifetime of Simpsons

S26 E05 – Opposites A-Frack

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Hey everyone. Wanna talk about fracking? Because this episode sure wants to have a cursory conversation about fracking. I guess fracking was really in the news, and the writers were desperate to jump at any story idea, so we have a whole episode about fracking! Lucky us!

The episode begins with the family sitting down for dinner, while Homer starts to notice something is amiss. Marge has cooked him his favorite meal and she’s set up a series of mirrors so he can watch hockey fights while eating. Homer voices these concerns, figuring that Marge is buttering him up before asking for a pretty extreme favor. And that instinct is completely correct, because Marge has a real doozy for Homer.

Apparently, Patty and Selma’s apartment is being renovated due to black mold, and since the show forgot that Selma had a baby the twins need somewhere to stay. And, of course, Marge has already told them that it’ll be fine if they come stay in the Simpson’s house. Homer is pretty terrified, but he knows he can’t refuse Marge’s request. Well, without a good reason, which he thinks he may have stumbled across. Because Homer now knows that smoking is bad for kids, and says that Patty and Selma shouldn’t be smoking around Bart, Lisa, and Maggie.

Marge actually does admit that that’s a pretty valid problem, and Patty and Selma start panicking. So, they tell Marge that they can make it the whole stay without smoking inside the house. And, because he’s an ass, Homer decides to buy dozens of smoke detectors and stick them all around the house, just waiting for the sisters to slip up so he has a justified reason for kicking them out of his house.

Patty and Selma don’t want to prove Homer right though, so they do their absolute best to never smoke inside the house. They attempt smoking outside, but some unseasonable rain storm put the kibosh to that plan. Next they go out a buy some eCigarettes, but they quickly realize that these are terrible, since they are moderately healthier. But, as they’re about to give up, they find something wonderful. A downstairs bathroom that’s never existed before doesn’t have a smoke detector in it.

Patty and Selma then go into the bathroom, put a towel on the bottom of the door like they’re smoking bad weed in a dorm, and turn on the faucet to create some noise. They then light their cigarettes, and promptly explode. They run out of the bathroom, minorly on fire, and are baffled about what’s going on. They explain that the faucet’s water lit on fire before exploding, and that it was a weird fluke. Homer still kicks them out of the house though.

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That doesn’t explain the explosion however. The family begin investigating the flaming tap water, and Lisa realizes that she recognizes it from a documentary she watched recently. Lisa looks it up and finds a scene from a documentary about fracking which has a similar moment in it, with a flaming faucet. Which was fake right? They’re referencing a real fracking documentary, and I know that fracking is terrible for the environment, but that particular scene was found to be bullshit, if I’m thinking of the right thing.

Anyway! The family are obviously concerned about the apparent fracking that’s going on in their neighborhood, so Bart and Lisa decide to go investigate. They somehow get a meeting with the Rich Texan, who they assume is behind the operation since he loves oil. But he assures them he has no interest in fracking, because he seems to have a very specific fetish involving oil, not natural gases. So that’s a bust.

They obviously don’t give up though, so Lisa continues investigating, and ends up finding out that there’s a hidden fracking site in their neighborhood, masquerading as a women’s baseball hall of fame, ensuring no one will ever go inside. Bart and Lisa sneak in, and immediately realize that there was a far more likely figure behind the fracking. Mr. Burns. He explains that there’s a shale reserve right underneath Evergreen Terrace, and there’s nothing that can stop him from fracking it.

Lisa knows that they won’t be able to stop Burns on their own, so she decides to go get some big guns. Because Springfield has a state assembly woman named Maxine Lombard who is well known to take on big business. So Lisa goes and talks to Lombard, and gets her on Burns’ trail. She begins publicly fighting with Burns and his fracking operation, and is even able to call a committee hearing that ends up finding Burns’ operation illegal, shuttering it.

But Burns won’t give up that easily. So after the decision he storms into Lombard’s office, and begins yelling at her. The two start fighting, and it slowly starts to turn a little romantically charged. Even though these two people couldn’t be more different, they end up finding themselves attracted to each other, and Burns and Lombard sleep together in her office. The next day they’re both pretty horrified, but they decide that they really enjoy each other, and decide to keep this relationship going.

However, Burns still really wants to do the fracking. He’s just going to need to do it legally now. So, he gets to work convincing the people of Evergreen Terrace to sign over their mineral rights. And to do this he needs someone to convince him. Burns ends up giving Homer a token promotion, and begins sending him door to door so that he can lie to his neighbors and convince them that fracking is a great idea.

Lisa is obviously not cool with Homer’s new job, so she ends up arranging a debate between Homer and Professor Frink, hoping to prove to the neighborhood that fracking is too dangerous to allow. Unfortunately, Professor Frink gives an accurate but boring lecture, and Homer promises everyone they’ll get $5,000 if they sign over their mineral right. So, of course, the people of Evergreen Terrace overwhelmingly pick the pro-fracking stance, and sell their mineral rights.

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Homer then heads over to tell Mr. Burns the good news, but notices that the old man is acting weird. Burns and Lombard have continued to have their affair, but Burns has become worried that things are moving too fast. So, he asks Homer for some advice, worried that he and Lombard are too different. Homer explains that it’s impossible to lead a double life forever, so Burns either needs to make things more official and be upfront, or harden his heart and break things off.

The day for the fracking project to begin again then arrives, and the town shows up to see Burns turn on the machine. However, as they’re about to get things going, they notice something horrible. One of the forms isn’t fully signed out. And, awkwardly, it’s the Simpsons. Turns out Marge is still very opposed to fracking, and she never signed it. And, because it had to be unanimous, the fracking operation fails yet again.

Burns is furious that Marge has destroyed his whole operation, but he doesn’t seem to have any other recourse. And, to cheer him up, Lombard arrives so she can tell Burns that even though he lost a lot of money, they found each other. However, Burns has taken Homer’s advice to heart, and has decided to destroy the relationship rather than go public with it. He brutally dumps Lombard, and storms off to be his usual crapulent self.

Later, Homer arrives at Burns’ mansion, hoping that he won’t be fired even though the whole thing fell apart. But, Homer’s shocked to find that Burns is pretty depressed about the whole Lombard thing. The two get talking about relationships again, and Homer starts to complain about how different he and Marge are, since she singlehandedly ruined this operation, and Burns starts to get fascinated that they’re so different, and yet have a marriage that works.

But that realization is ruined when Burns’ mansion starts to be torn down. Homer and Burns flee from the building, and confront some construction workers, who are there to destroy the mansion on the orders of Lombard. She explains that the government is claiming imminent domain and plans on turning Burns’ mansion into a recycling center/ American Indian reservation / condor sanctuary. Everything Burns hates I guess.

Burns then decides to escalate things, and drives off with Homer to the fracking site. Burns turns the machine on, and they begin triggering earthquakes all around Springfield. However, before things get too insane Lombard and Marge show up to calm down their idiot men. And while arguing with Marge Homer finally realizes that fracking is evil, and manages to destroy the machine, putting a stop to everything. And, while witnessing Homer change his mind for the woman he loves, Burns realizes that love can be worth some differences of opinion, and he and Lombard decide to give it another shot.

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Overall I was pretty into this episode. I think the general idea of the Simpsons handling a fracking episode is kind of silly, like a “ripped from the headlines” Law and Order or something, but whatever, I can’t fault the writers for jumping on any story idea that they come across at this point. And, honestly, the fracking stuff is probably the least interested aspect of this episode. Because this whole story kind of becomes a stealth Mr. Burns episode, something that we have far too few of. I’m a huge Burns fan, and back in the good old days we used to get all sorts of stories about the guy, but lately he’s barely been in the show. So, letting this fracking thing kind of fade away so the episode can be about Burns forging a relationship is pretty interesting. Especially because the episode really doesn’t seem to have that much information on fracking other than it’s fairly nefarious and probably terrible for the environment. So, making this fracking episode not really be about fracking was probably a good call.

Take Away: Don’t support fracking, and any relationship takes work and patience.

 

“Opposites A-Frack” was written by Valentina L Garza and directed by Matthew Nastuk, 2014.

 

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