You know what I just realized today? This week has a bit of a theme. And an unfortunate one. As luck would have it, this week is kind of full of episodes where the Simpsons attempt to build an episode around something that’s kind of already past its relevancy. Fracking and the controversy around it will be around for a while it seems, but having the Simpsons discuss it in 2014 seems a little behind the curve. Likewise, having a Futurama crossover a year after Futurama left the air is a little odd. Anyway, this was just a longwinded way to say, the Simpsons are talking about Burning Man today.
The episode begins with several principals from Springfield’s school district sitting inside the Springfield Elementary auditorium after work one day for a strange little event. Apparently, every years Superintendent Chalmers hosts an event where each school has the opportunity to trade its worst teacher for another school’s worst teacher. Basically, moving all the bad teachers around like the Catholic church does with priests, but with presumably less pedophilia.
Which of course means that Springfield Elementary will be getting a new teacher. And, finally, they’re doing something about the passing of Marcia Wallace, and having this new teacher be in charge of Bart’s fourth grade class. Unfortunately, the teacher who has been drafted into this position is a lunatic named Mr. Lassen, a nutcase who everyone seems terrified of, and who can’t be fired despite a rather violent streak toward the students.
Lassen begins teaching in Bart’s class, and he’s immediately intimidating and crazy. Hell, he even operates by prison rules and the first thing he does is absolutely shatter Nelson’s self-confidence, taking down the biggest and baddest student in the class. But, of course, Bart thinks that he has the talent to continue pranking Lassen. So, Bart pulls off a really lame prank, and instantly makes enemies of Lassen, who decides to get some revenge on Bart, by taking out clippers and shaving a bald patch down Bart’s head.
Yeah, apparently, it’s okay for a teacher to shave a student. That’s cool. And when Bart gets home that night he finds that most of the family don’t care about the shaving, and instead find it hilarious. Except for Marge. She’s aghast, and begins planning to complain about Lassen, until she gets detoured when she remembers that the family have a camping trip coming up. Which is news to Homer, who was supposed to rent the camping ground. He completely forgot, and now they won’t be going to the fancy park that he had promised. But, Homer promises that he’ll figure something out.
But before we see Homer struggle to find a park for camping, we need to check back in on Bart, who has decided not to give up. He continues trying to prank Lassen, and just keeps getting abused, even getting shocked by a high-powered plasma orb. Bart then has to admit that he needs something more intense, and comes up with a plan. He places a camera in the teacher’s lounge to spy on Lassen, hoping to find a weakness for Bart and Milhouse to exploit.
And they hit paydirt. Because with the camera they’re able to see Lassen attempt to hit on Ms. Hoover. So, knowing that he’s that desperate, they decide to Catfish Lassen, and make a fake Facebook profile for Hoover. When Lassen friends this fake Hoover, they then have access to his interests, and find something shocking. Lassen is a big fan of an annual festival called Blazing Guy, which is an obvious Burning Man parody. And, to make things even better, Lassen has been chosen as this year’s ceremonial figure who will light the Blazing Guy ablaze.
Bart and Milhouse then immediately realize what they need to do. They need to go to Blazing Guy and get incriminating footage of Lassen to blackmail him with. And Bart gets even luckier, because Homer still has had no luck finding a camping ground for their vacation that year, so when Bart tells him that he found a perfect place for them to camp Homer jumps on it without questioning. That’s right! The Simpsons are going to Burning Man!
The Simpsons and Milhouse then pack up and drive out to the middle of the desert, while no one but Bart and Milhouse know where they’re going. And when they find out what Blazing Guy is, the reactions are interesting. Lisa loves the anarchic artistry of it, Homer loves the people dressed as food, and Marge is absolutely horrified. But then some random lady gives Marge what appears to be peyote tea, so that calms her down.
The family then spread out, and all start to go investigate the festival and have their own little adventures. Lisa finds a drum circle and gets to have a fun jam session with the other weird musicians. Homer gawks at all the nudity and assorted weirdoes, and Marge starts tripping balls and dancing around in a sandstorm while having all sorts of hallucinations. But, by and large, the family is having a great time.
And while all of that is going on Bart and Milhouse begin their mission. They start wandering around the festival, until they come across Lassen. And when they do they begin stalking him, and learning all about his job to light the Blazing Guy. Which is when Bart gets an idea. If everybody’s going to be watching Lassen light a statue on fire, wouldn’t it be embarrassing if it didn’t ignite? So Bart goes to find some fire retardant chemicals, and gets to work dousing the Blazing Guy statue with it.
The night of the ignition then arrives, and the Simpsons go to check it out, while Bart is incredibly excited. Lassen arrives in his ceremonial garb, picks up a torch, and gets ready to ignite the Blazing Guy. And nothing happens. He tries again and again, but the statue never ignites, and everyone quickly starts mocking him. They publicly strip him of his role, and the whole crowd starts laughing at him, earning Bart his blackmail material.
Unfortunately, Lassen then recognizes Bart. He instantly understands what’s going on, and begins chasing Bart, planning on lighting him on fire instead. Lassen chases Bart up onto the Blazing Guy, and Homer has no choice but to catapult himself up onto the Guy to save his son. This fails, but it does draw attention to Lassen. The Blazing Guy people then realize he’s crazy, and arrest him. The Simpsons then decide to head home, where we learn that the Blazing Guy leaders have contacted Springfield Elementary, leading to Lassen getting fired. But it’s okay, because now he’s a prison guard and gets to talk to Sideshow Bob about a potential team up.
Overall I had fun with this episode. I think the idea of the Simpsons going to Burning Man is kind of a ridiculous idea, even more so in 2014. But, despite the fact that this whole idea seemed rather dated, it was still fun. I liked seeing Homer, Marge, and Lisa have a blast at Burning Man, and each finding their own fun experiences there. To me, Burning Man seems absolutely intolerable. But, I do get the appeal, for a different type of person, and seeing the Simpsons each find some aspect of the festival that spoke to them was fun to see. Yeah, it kind of bugged me that they couldn’t come up with a funnier pun that Blazing Guy, which is just a simple word substitution, but that’s fine. Lassen is kind of a psychotic character, and it is a little unpleasant to see a character harass Bart so physically, but I guess we needed a reason to travel to Burning Man, so I’ll give it a pass. Let’s just see how long it takes before we see another replacement for Mrs. Krabappel!
“Blazed and Confused” was written by Carolyn Omine and William Wright and directed by Rob Oliver, 2014.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons