Welcome to Season 28 everyone! We’re in the home stretch now, folks, and here at the end of this project I’ve made a startling discovery. We’re suddenly getting Mr. Burns-centric episodes again. I had kind of assumed that this type of episode, one of my favorites, had long since faded away. But, out of nowhere, we’re suddenly getting a barrage of Burns episodes! Which would be better if the episodes were great, but I guess beggars can’t be choosers.
The episode begins with the Simpsons going for a nice relaxing stroll around the streets of Springfield. They’re doing this because Homer got drunk and forgot where he parked his car, but Marge isn’t going to let that ruin the nice family time that they’re getting.
But, as they’re walking about, they end up running into a crowd of people who are staring at the sky in absolute horror. The family then try to see what they’re looking at, but the real question is what they’re not looking at. Turns out that they’re all standing there because the Lard Lad statue is missing. The police are there investigating, and they don’t seem to have any ideas, so the people milling about have an important decision to make. Riot, or not riot?
Surprisingly, two different contingents break out, and they begin battling each other, with half of the crowd cleaning up everything the rioters do. But, once that’s cleaned up they still have to deal with the missing statue. Which never really is explained. They just announce that the Lard Lad company is going to rebrand and create a new mascot. This moves very quickly, and the company ends up unveiling their new statue.
It’s very strange. A weird metal modern-art thing that vaguely looks like the classic Lard Lad statue. The people of Springfield really don’t care for it, but it gradually grows on them and they end up loving it. Well, until it turns out that there’s a fatal flaw in the design of the statue where it can reflect sunlight into a powerful beam of destructive heat. That beam races around town, and ends up lighting most of Springfield of fire, destroying the town.
The town quickly tarps up the statue, but now they have to deal with the destroyed town. Mayor Quimby proudly proclaims that the town will quickly be repaired. And this is not true. We cut ahead six months and find that the town is still destroyed, and no one seems to care. So, Marge and the family decide to take matters into their own hands, and come up with a plan to have at least part of the town rebuilt. They’re just going to need a donor.
Cue Mr. Burns! Marge and the rest of the family somehow manage to get a meeting with Burns in his home, and he is of course not interested in helping Springfield. Well, until Marge starts listing off various landmarks in town, telling him to at least fix one thing up to give people joy. And one of the places that Marge lists is the Springfield Bowl, a massive auditorium in town. And it instantly jogs memories for Burns of him as a child, getting ready to perform much to the joy of his mother.
This memory is enough to convince Burns to rebuild the Springfield Bowl. But on one condition. He gets to put on a variety show which he’ll direct. So, Burns becomes the talk of the town, and everyone with a talent shows up at the Bowl to start auditioning. And, despite some solid auditions like the Crazy Cat Lady’s beautiful singing voice, Burns isn’t feeling satisfied. Until he starts thinking again about his childhood and remembers something important about the show from back in the day. It was all children.
Burns then heads to Springfield Elementary, looking for a bunch of kids he can showcase in his variety show. He does eventually run into Lisa, but he’s not interested in his saxophone, he’s interested in her ability to be an assistant. So, with Lisa’s help, Burns begins auditioning all sorts of children, hoping to find some talented ones. And it’s a struggle. He can’t find anyone that he thinks is good enough, and Lisa starts to get suspicious about his motives. Which we then get some insight into, because it turns out that when Burns did his show in his own childhood it went terribly and everyone laughed at him. So, he’s determined to make a show so perfect that no one could ever laugh at it.
Oh, but there’s another plot in this episode. I hesitate to even call it a B-Plot because it’s so minor, but it revolves around the fact that the Nuclear Plant has essentially become a frat house without Burns or Smithers around. Homer really loves it, and parties with all his coworkers, until Marge starts to get worried at all the shenanigans. She then convinces Homer that since he’s a little taller, his friends view him as a leader, and it’s up to him to reign them all in.
But that doesn’t come back for a while. For now it’s time to check back in on Mr. Burns, because things aren’t going well. Now that he’s remembered the mocking laughter of his childhood he’s obsessed with creating a perfect show, and it quickly starts to wear down on the few children he accepted into the show. And, because he’s crazy now, he ends up shutting the whole show down, disappointing plenty of kids.
Lisa is very confused by Burns’ behavior, and she decides to go to his mansion to figure out what’s going on. She runs into Smithers, and he confirm that Burns is acting very strangely, and they go to investigate. Turns out Burns has some ancient video of himself as a child, and he’s been watching it nonstop. It shows that in the middle of his dance routine his pants fell down and everyone saw his butt, leading to uproarious laughter. So, that’s what he’s been worrying about. But, Lisa thinks that this is ridiculous, and ends up giving Burns a rousing speech that convinces him to put on the show, and prove that he’s talented.
I guess we need to peek back in on the Homer plot around now though. Because taking Marge’s advice Homer shows up at the Plant, and does his best to get everyone to stop partying and actually do their job. And, shockingly, they start to listen to him, and things start to go back to normal. But, they randomly don’t later, so none of this really matters.
Anyway! The night of Burns’ show finally arrives, and the Bowl is packed with people eager to watch it. Burns recorded a silly movie with him and Smithers racing to the show, which precedes him walking out and introducing the show. We then see a cavalcade of children talents. We see Rod and Todd aping the Smothers Brothers, Nelson doing sad ventriloquism, Apu’s octuplets playing bells, Sherri and Terri do some magic, and the evening even ends with fireworks randomly shooting out of the Nuclear Plant, because the folks there are still goofing off and have put fireworks inside the reactor core.
The show was a rousing success! But, before it can close, Mr. Burns announces that there’s something he needs to do. So, he dons a little sailor suit and heads out onto the stage to finally show off his dance routine from childhood. And, just on time, his pants light on fire, and everyone sees his wrinkly old butt again. He’s furious, and ends up yelling at Lisa a bit after the show, but for some reason he can’t stay mad at her, and she ends up playing her saxophone for him to calm him down. The end!
This episode is pretty fun, but it has its fair share of problems. I’m of course psyched to see a Mr. Burns episode, and one where he’s allowed to actually have some depth, but there’s some weird aspects of it. I like the idea of Burns deciding to put on a show that he was never able to accomplish as a child, and having Burns deal with a bunch of talented children is a really funny idea. I also really enjoy Burns and Lisa’s relationship, even though I’m not sure why he’s so endeared to her at the very end. Also, the idea of Burns harboring a deep childhood problem that he’s not informing people about and acting like a lunatic is always enjoyable, and very in the vein of Bobo. But, the end of the episode just feels kind of weird to me. He fails, yells at Lisa, and then stops caring. It just feels like yet another episode where they just kind of shrugged, and ended the story. You would think that the story would have a more satisfying conclusion, and possibly one that actually pays off in some way. But, oh well, it’s still mostly a fun episode.
Take Away: Your childhood embarrassments will haunt you for the rest of your life.
“Monty Burns’ Fleeing Circus” was written by Tom Gammill & Max Pross and directed by Matthew Nastuk, 2016.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons
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