Our week of mostly fine episodes continues today with a story that contains two things I’m shocked we’ve never examined before. Lacrosse and Kirk Van Houten. How will those two things combine? Let’s find out!
The episode begins by establishing that it’s the first Saturday of September, which can only mean one thing. It’s time for pee-wee football to begin! The whole damn town shows up to watch the first game of the Springfield Nutrinos, and it’s clear that they’re going super overboard, having lasers, fog machines, and all sorts of other gimmicks. Which was a bad call, because when the boys come racing out to start the game they get disorientated in the fog, and all smash into each other.
The parents of the players them immediately freak out, terrified that their children have gotten concussions from football. They flood Springfield Hospital, and demand that the physicians save them from the bevy of neurological problems that come from football. And, this insane incident causes some immediate ramifications to Springfield. The town decides to ban the play of football, and they decide to host a Town Hall meeting to discuss whatever sport they’ll force kids to play now.
All of the citizens pile into Town Hall, and they begin arguing about what sports are still legitimate after all of the injuries and substance abuse scandals over the years. People start tossing out all sorts of insane options, like biathlon, baseball, and some sort of tooth-based fighting. But, drowned out in this sea of insanity is Kirk Van Houten, who actually has a well-researched and solid idea. There’s only one problem. He’s too shy to speak up.
Marge notices Kirk, and starts to feel bad for him, especially because she can tell that Luanne is mocking his ambitions. So, Marge asks Homer to help Kirk, and he of course goes through with it. He grabs Kirk and drags him up to the front of the crowd, and yells for everyone to be quiet, and even calls Kirk his buddy. And, this gives Kirk the confidence that he needs to tell the town about the sport that he thinks will revolutionize the town.
Lacrosse. Kirk apparently knows all about the sport, and thanks to the confidence that he got from Homer he’s able to enthusiastically sell the sport. And he does a great job. Even though lacrosse is second only to football in concussion-rates, they decide that that’s a good difference, and fully embrace the sport. And, because Kirk is the only person who knows about lacrosse, they make him the coach. And he accepts, on the condition that Homer be his assistant coach, since he now thinks they’re buddies.
Homer instantly becomes worried about this whole situation, mainly because he doesn’t want to be saddled with boring old Kirk Van Houten all the time. He also expects lacrosse to be an incredibly boring sport that the kids are terrible at. However, something unexpected happens. The kids are great. Kirk knows what he’s talking about, and he’s able to coach the kids into a fine-machine, easily winning their first match.
Homer is honestly impressed that Kirk is so good at this, and against his best interests asks about Kirk’s life. And, enthusiastic that someone is showing an interest in him, Kirk tells Homer all about it. Turns out Kirk was a star lacrosse player in college, and was going to go pro until a horrible accident ruined his career. He high-fived their mascot, who wore a suit of armor, and shattered his wrist. This made Kirk lose interest in lacrosse and high-fives until he got a confidence boost from Homer that night.
Unfortunately, this slight interest in him gives Kirk some insane ideas. He not thinks that Homer is his best friend, which means it’s time to start including him in all of the weird aspects of his life. Which just so happens to coincide with a big weekend tournament that he and Kirk will have to bring the kids to. So, Homer gets to sit in a van, listen to rockabilly music, and hear Kirk’s thoughts of vaping. He’s dead set on making Homer his new bro.
Homer of course wants no part in Kirk’s obnoxious friendship. There’s just one issue. He’s a great lacrosse coach. The kids continue to dominate, and they’re finally all good at something. And, Homer realizes that that’s something he can’t give up. So, Homer decides to just grit his teeth and deal with Kirk, even when he eagerly tries to convince Homer to go to strip-clubs with him. Homer’s really creeped out by Kirk’s life, but he decides to deal with it for the good of the children.
The lacrosse team continues to do great, but Homer is quickly reaching a snapping point. He just can’t stand Kirk anymore. Meanwhile, Kirk is telling Luanne how Homer is his new best friend, completely oblivious to the truth. The two then have a weird sequence where they wander around Springfield, singing about their perspectives on their friendship. However, at the end of the song we see that they’ve run into each other, and Kirk ends up hearing the truth about what Homer thinks of him. And he’s not pleased.
The championship lacrosse game then arrives, and the kids are convinced that with Kirk’s coaching they’re going to be able to win. Unfortunately, at the rally before the game, Kirk never shows up. Everyone’s worried that Kirk isn’t coming, and Luanne confirms that he’s been really depressed. So, it’s up to Homer to find Kirk and apologize to him. And, because Kirk is sad, Homer figures there’s only one place he’ll be.
Homer then heads to the stripper district of Springfield, and has to go through several clubs to find Kirk. Which is very hard, because the clientele at strip clubs at 10 in the morning is almost exclusively dudes who look and act like Kirk. However, Homer finally overhears some of the dancers talking about Kirk, and learns that he’s inside on the champagne rooms, and he’s been in there for ages. But, it turns out it’s not all about stripping. Kirk is paying the dancers to sit with him and listen to his stories.
Homer goes into the room, and starts trying to apologize to Kirk for telling the truth about him. Homer ends up admitting that he doesn’t like Kirk, but he respects him and his skills. And, since respect is the one thing that Kirk can’t buy, he ends up accepting Homer’s apology. Unfortunately, they’re going to be late to the game now, because it took too much time. But, the dancers take pity on Homer and Kirk, and end up lending them their helicopter so they can fly to the game, just in time. The team then wins the championship, and to celebrate, Homer gives Kirk his first high-five in decades. And they promptly do it wrong and break their wrists.
This episode is actually a lot of fun. I feel like Kirk Van Houten is a character that we never really needed to learn a whole lot about. What we got from “A Milhouse Divided” is really all we ever needed to know. That he’s a huge loser. And, it’s nice to see that this episode really just builds off that canon. We don’t really get any hidden depth from Kirk, other than some lacrosse knowledge. He’s actually exactly like you’d expect. And having Homer be forced to befriend Kirk because the one thing he’s good at is a great benefit to the kids is a very solid idea. I love how frustrated Homer is with Kirk, and how irritated in general he is with having to deal with his kids’ sports. It’s a story that I’m sure will get funnier when I have kids and am forced to deal with their activities and the parents of their friends. But, even as it stands, this is a very funny episode.
Take Away: It’s possible for people to respect you, but not like you.
“There Will Be Buds” was written by Matt Selman and directed by Matthew Faughnan, 2016.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons