Do you remember a couple of seasons ago when we had an episode where the Simpsons and the Flanders’ went to Jerusalem and the two families didn’t get along? It wasn’t very good, and not particularly memorable, but it found a way to make a vacation episode, which I don’t even usually click with, even more hard to enjoy. Well, what if they did that again, and also stirred in some more or less needless flashback aspects? Apparently, it would looks a little something like this.
The episode begins with a pretty sweet notion, Homer standing in Maggie’s room, over her crib, singing her a lullaby to get her to fall asleep. And it’s not really working. So, Homer does a bunch of little parenting tricks, like warm milk and taking her for a drive, but none of it works. She’s still wide awake, and Homer realizes he’s going to have to do something that he really doesn’t want to. Read her a story.
Maggie apparently is obsessed with some Little Red Riding Hood book, and he’s clearly about to snap if he has to read it again. So, instead, he tells her that he’s going to tell her a real story that she’s never heard before. A story of something that happened to the family shortly before she was born. And thus begins the flashbacks.
A year or so ago Homer and several other folks from church are having to spend their Saturday going down to skid row and cleaning the place up. Oh, and Maude. This is pre-Maude’s death. Homer is of course very irritated about the whole thing, and complains the whole time that they’re sweeping up syringes and whatnot. Which really starts to wear down on Ned, the two begin squabbling while cleaning, and it becomes apparent that the two aren’t exactly on friendly terms at the moment.
After the cleaning is finished though, we learn that apparently there’s some sort of award for person who did the most cleaning. Reverend Lovejoy decides that Ned is the winner of this award, and gives him the prize, which is a trip to the Grand Canyon for his whole family, and another family. So, obviously Ned decides that the Lovejoys should get the blessing of spending a week in the Grand Canyon with them.
Helen Lovejoy however wants no part in that, and begins signaling to Tim to fix this. So, Reverend Lovejoy decides to trick Ned, and tells him that he should bring the Simpsons along because that would be the Christian thing to do so he can learn to love his neighbor. And, because he’s a sucker, Ned goes along with it. Homer isn’t particularly interested, and thinks about trying to bail on it, but Marge insists that this should be a good idea, and makes the whole family go.
The Simpsons then pile into their car and begin driving to the Grand Canyon. It’s a tense car-ride, because Bart and Lisa start fighting immediately and never stop until they reach the Canyon. But, the second that the family see the majesty of the Canyon, they stop their squabbling and are absolutely blown away. Well, until the Flanders’ show up singing some annoying little church son, instantly making the Simpsons irritated with their presence.
And thus begins the most awkward vacation of all time. The two families go out to dinner right away, and they start judging each other immediately. Marge and Maude keep firing barbs at each other, and Homer cannot stand Ned. And, after a lovely night where no one in either family is able to sleep because of Homer’s horrible snores they get ready to actually venture down into the canyon. They get some mules and a tour guide, and head down into the Canyon.
The beauty of the Canyon isn’t enough to keep the families in good behavior though. Homer and Bart keep fighting, Lisa is driving the tour guide slowly mad with her incessant questions, Homer picks on Ned, and Maude and Marge continue to be passive aggressive. They also have to step aside when a convoy of limos drive past them, containing a bunch of rich people who are going to pretend to camp down in the bottom of the Canyon.
But, disaster strikes when the tour guide randomly falls off the Canyon, apparently to his death. This leaves the two families alone and lost inside the Canyon, with no idea how to get back to safety. At this point we do see that in the present that Maggie has finally fallen asleep, but it turns out that Lisa has been listening too, and wants Homer to finish the story. Which seems like a plot element that really didn’t need to exist, but whatever.
Night arrives and the families are still trapped in the Canyon, so they decide to do something about it. Homer and Ned offer to go find food while Marge and Maude take care of the kids, specifically Todd’s night-terrors. Homer and Ned wander around in vain, hoping to find something edible, when they come across the millionaire’s camp. So, they decide to sneak down in the camp and raid it for all of their fancy food.
Homer and Ned succeed in getting a bunch of food, and pile it all onto a raft, and push it into the river. They then happily sail down the river, singing songs and deciding that they make a great team and should be better friends. Once that finishes they somehow get back to where the rest of the families are, and prepare them a massive breakfast from all of the food that they stole. And then, somehow, they get airlifted out of the Canyon and to safety.
So, with that, the story is over, and we return to the present where we see that the tale has now put both Maggie and Lisa to sleep. But, they weren’t the only two sleeping. Apparently Ned has been creeping outside the window the whole time, and he and Homer end up talking for a bit about how they occasionally have fun being friends, and that they should work harder to bridge that gap and work together. Even though it’ll never happen.
Yeah, this episode really didn’t do much for me. There’s nothing objectionable or wrong about it, other than the fact that this is a premise that we’ve seen so many times, it’s just kind of boring. Which, can often be the biggest sin a Simpsons episode can commit. Having the Simpsons and the Flanders comparing each other is something we’ve seen before. Having Homer and Ned try to be friends is something we’ve seen before. And awkward vacations are something we’ve seen a whole lot. So, there was nothing really new here. Plus, so much of this episode seems half-assed. How were they airlifted out of the Canyon? Why did the tour guide fall off the cliff? Why was it so easy to steal all of the food? Why did Homer and Ned decide they made a good team when nothing they accomplished had to do with their teamwork? I don’t know. And, really, it doesn’t matter. It was a filler episode. And it accomplished that goal.
Take Away: Don’t go on vacations with people you can’t stand. There’s nothing to be gained from it.
“Fland Canyon” was written by J Stewart Burns and directed by Michael Polcino, 2016.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons