Recently my sister-in-law sent me a link to some reddit page where someone had graphed out every episode of the Simpsons, and color-coded them by their imdb rating, letting someone get a feeling of the show’s declining quality over the years. Overall the episodes stayed pretty regular, except for one glaring dot that signified the lowest rated episode of them all. And, in my heart, I knew what it was. And I was right. It was the episode “Lisa Goes Gaga” from Season 23 that felt more like a recruitment video for a Lady Gaga themed cult more than an episode of the Simpsons. Which is a long-winded way for me to explain that episodes that fully revolve around who spectacular and amazing a real human being who is guest starring in the episode is, tend to be garbage. Oh, hey, look what we have here! An episode all about how amazing Elon Musk is!
The episode begins with the Simpsons sitting around in their backyard while Lisa proudly examines the bird-feeder that she’s built. However, it seems like she’s done too good a job, because the feeder has somehow summoned a bald eagle. Which, while momentarily awe-inspiring, becomes an issue when the eagle quickly begins viciously killing and eating the other birds, much to Lisa’s horror. Which isn’t anything you want your eight-year-old to see.
Homer isn’t quite sure what to do about the bird though, knowing that he probably shouldn’t mess with the symbol of the country. However, when the eagle then tries to carry Maggie off, he decides to push all of that aside and begins fighting this bird. He then devises a plan where they’ll trick the eagle into flying into the Simpson’s home, where they can then catch it in a garbage bag, beat it to death, and then presumably eat it?
Shockingly, this plan goes off without a hitch. Homer is able to capture the eagle in a garbage bag inside of Bart’s room, and then prepares to smash it against the mall repeatedly until it dies. However, Lisa obviously has a problem with this. She doesn’t want Homer to kill the bird, and it’s been injured in the process, so Lisa says that they should take care of the bird, and rehabilitate it until it’s ready to fly off on its own. They then mend the bird, and live with it for quite some time until it’s ready to be released.
They let the eagle out in the backyard, it soars into the air, and is promptly burnt to death by a space-ship that’s landing in the Simpson’s back yard. Oh fuck, are the Simpson’s going to space again this week? No, actually it’s weirder. The space-ship lands in their back yard, and opens up to reveal the pilot. Famous inventor Elon Musk. And no, he’s not an alien. He’s just normal old Elon Musk, and he just has a space-ship that he flies around the world on. Deal with it.
Musk then just invites himself into the Simpson’s home so he can have dinner with the family, and they’re just kind of cool with it. Lisa is obviously psyched to meet with Musk, but the rest of the family couldn’t care less. At Dinner Musk explains that he’s hit a serious dry patch when it comes to inventions, so he’s been travelling all around the world looking for sources of inspiration, and has now reached Springfield to see if they have anything to give him.
Homer then takes it upon himself to help Musk out, and he offers to take Musk with him to the Power Plant to see if that will spark anything. Musk agrees, and the next day they drive to the Plant while Musk continuously balls up pieces of paper instead of coming up with ideas. And, while driving, Homer mentions that they look like white meatballs. Which gives Musk an idea. He comes up with the idea of synthetic meat that can be 3D printed. His streak is over, and he’s found a wonderful source of inspiration. Homer.
They continue on to the Plant where Musk continues to pump Homer for insane ideas. Homer just says all sorts of nonsense, and Musk then comes up with legitimate ideas from the nonsense. The two spend the whole day together, while Musk and Homer grow into friends. And, to close out the day, Musk decides to drop a suggestion into Mr. Burns’ suggestion box, figuring that they’ll come back the next day and keep coming up with ideas.
Burns and Smithers then check the suggestion box, and they’re blown away by Musk’s suggestion. It basically revolutionizes the Plant, and has the potential to make in infinitely more efficient and profitable. They then begin searching out the source of this idea, and stumble upon Homer and Musk hanging out in Homer’s office. Smithers and Burns are shocked to see Musk, and they end up talking with him, convincing him that he should work at the Plant and help advance the Plant.
Musk agrees, and begins working at the Nuclear Plant, giving Burns all sorts of ideas. Homer and Musk continue to be friends while the Plant is being refurbished, and once it’s finished they get ready for the big announcements. Musk and Burns explain that the Plant will now power almost everything in the entire town. He’s given the town self-driving electric cars, and the Nuclear Plant is becoming more and more powerful. Which starts to make Smithers suspicious, but Burns doesn’t care as long as they’re making money.
Which of course means it’s time for everything to fall apart. It begins with Bart figuring out how to hack the self-driving car, managing to take it for a destructive joy-ride. But that didn’t seem to have any repercussions. What does have repercussions is when Musk proudly announces that the Plant is powering the entire city, at a massive loss. The Plant is going broke, but Musk explains that it’s okay because they’re helping the future advance at their loss.
Burns however doesn’t care about this noble intention. He’s horrified at the Plant’s failing financials, and decides to lay off everyone in the town, hoping to salvage his own riches. And, it turns out that Springfield is mostly employed by the Plant, so the layoffs then cause a massive depression, throwing Springfield back to a ridiculous Great Depression. The town becomes a hellhole, and everyone blames Musk for their problems.
Even Homer. He struggles with the idea, since he’s become very close to Musk, but it certainly seems like his innovations have destroyed the town. But when people then also start blaming Homer, since he brought Musk to the town, he decides he needs to break up with Musk. Which just so happens to be the same day that Mr. Burns hires a group of ancient assassins to kill Musk. They all fail, but it does spur Homer onto telling Musk he needs to leave. Musk agrees, and gives a farewell to the Simpsons while blasting off in his space-ship, leaving behind a fancy bird-feeder as a parting gift.
Compared to the Lady Gaga episode, this one isn’t terrible. But it’s still not very good. It treats Musk in a similarly deified manner, making him seem like the greatest genius who ever lived, while letting him steamroll the entire episode. However, I think Elon Musk actually deserves this more than Lady Gaga, what with the innovations that Musk has given society. He doesn’t seem nearly as egotistical as Lady Gaga, making the episode feel even weirder somehow, like this wasn’t Musk’s idea and he was probably uncomfortable acting in it. But I think the weirdest part of this episode is the idea that the episode seems to come down so hard on Musk’s brand of innovation. It could be just because Springfield is a civilization of idiots, but it seems like the moral of the episode is that Musk’s ideals of sacrificing the prosperity of the present to save the future would never work and would lead to ruin. Which is just a weird thing to go with. It’s not a great episode, but by not being as horrible as the closest thing to it, it at least looks better.
Take Away: We need to make some serious changes to the world to save the future, and it will apparently be hard to convince idiots that that’s worth it.
“The Musk Who Fell to Earth” was written by Neil Campbell and directed by Matthew Nastuk, 2015.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons