Lifetime of Simpsons

S28 E12 – The Great Phatsby

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Well everyone, the last two days haven’t exactly been the best here on Lifetime of Simpsons. But that’s going to change today. Because, while this episode is extremely confounding, it’s also a lot of fun. Although, I can’t understate how bizarre this episode is. Because who hasn’t always wanted a double-length episode that more or less tells the story of the Great Gatsby, while also parodying various adaptations of that story, while also being about rap culture? All told by the Simpsons. Makes sense to me!

The episode straight up begins with Homer standing on a pier in a suit, acting like he’s Nick Carraway. He’s here to narrate the story, and it all begins with Mr. Burns sitting in his mansion, sadly looking through old photo albums to revisit precious memories. It turns out that in the 1920’s Burns was a serious partier, and used to hold massive bacchanalias in his mansion, just giving into the excess of the decade. And, even though Burns generally hates people, he apparently really misses being a host.

So, Smithers comes up with a plan. They’re going to throw a massive party at Burns’ summer mansion and try to rekindle his old magic. And Burns is down with that. Smithers then prepares to plan the whole thing, but Burns ends up only giving him two tasks. To drop off the invitations, and to go to the Arctic to pick up a wagon of ice. Unfortunately, almost everyone that Burns plans on inviting are actually dead or fictional, so he’s not going to be able to send off those invitations.

Smithers then does what everyone in Springfield does when put in a predicament. He passes it off on Homer Simpson. Smithers gives Homer full reign to invite whoever he wants to Burns’ massive party, and Homer obviously goes hog-wild. He invites a whole litany of Springfield citizens, who all don their finest 1920’s clothes and they take a bus up to the Springfield Hamptons where Burns’ old summer mansion is, ready to party like it’s 1929.

Unfortunately, when they get to the mansion it turns out that Burns isn’t really the best host anymore. He cheaped out like crazy, there’s only two old guys in the band, they all have to wear booties on their shoes to protect his floor, it’s a cash bar, and there’s terrible food. Everyone promptly decides that they hate this party, and Burns is absolutely crushed. Even though this seemed to be a real passion project of his, he just kind of flaked on everything, and ended up creating a really terrible party.

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Burns leaves the mansion and ends up sadly standing on his dock, staring across the bay. Homer comes to try and make him feel better, and while they start chatting Burns notices that the mansion across the bay is also having a huge party, and is flashing a green light at them. So, Homer decides that the perfect way to cheer Burns up would be to have them cross the bay and crash the party, showing Burns that he still has what it takes to party.

The two then row across the bay and walk into the party, which is absolutely insane. It’s clearly thrown by someone in the hip hop world, and it’s just an explosion of debauchery. Basically, the stuff from that dreadful Baz Luhrmann Gatsby movie. It’s an amazing party, and Burns is incredibly impressed by this disgusting display of wealth, and decides that he absolutely must meet the person throwing the party. So, they wander around and eventually are pointed to the host of the party, who is in his office.

Homer and Burns wander in, and meet hip hop record producer and mogul, Jay G. He’s not exactly pleased to meet these two randos who have just wandered into his office, until he recognizes Burns. And completely changes his tune. Turns out that in the 1980’s Burns wrote a book about how to succeed in business, and that book completely changed Jay’s life. He based his entire career off this book, and it’s what brought him to the place that he is now. He particularily loved Burns’ idea to build his brand around a single image, which I why absolutely every business venture he’s a part of is Golden Goose, including his pet goose. So, because he considers Burns his idol, he invites Homer and Burns to stick around at the party and continue hanging out with him.

Now, this episode is kind of weirdly structured. Because we spend most of the time with Homer, Burns, and Jay, but there’s also a couple really minor side-plots revolving around the rest of the family as they get to stay in the Hamptons while Homer is off palling around with a goose. The main thrust of it revolves around Marge, who has found a small store for sale, and has purchased it to sell random nicknacks. That’s really all there is to it. She just gets way to invested in selling garbage, and slowly starts to hate it over the course of the episode.

Really, we can knock off the Lisa plot in two paragraphs too, because there’s not too much to it. It starts when she and the family are at an ice cream shop, and encounter a horrible child whose dad is the richest person in the Hamptons. Lisa tells the kid off, and he’s instantly infatuated with her, to the point that he invites her out to watch whales with him. Lisa is intrigued, but when she sees how horrible and cruel he is, she just yells at him again and storm off.

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Sometime later though Lisa ends up running back into the boy, who has now started checking his privilege. He’s apparently obsessed with Lisa now, and has joined a group that’s protesting the cruelty to horses at a stable, and she’s pretty impressed. Until some random other kid shows up and asks Lisa to hang out with him and ride horses, and she quickly drops her morals and hangs out with that kid. Nice, Lisa.

Oh, and at one point Bart is mad that no one is paying attention to him, and he ends up running into a mysterious guy who runs a candle kiosk and who seems to hate Jay G. Foreshadowing!

Anyway! None of that, other than the candle guy, is important at all. So, let’s get back to Burns and Jay. Because they’re getting along famously. Burns is incredibly impressed by Jay’s empire, Homer loves Jay’s goose, and Jay seems to genuinely love being around his mentor. In fact, he starts to try and teach Burns about how to spend money, and live like a baller. Burns is really hesitant to this at first, but quickly gets a taste for it, he starts buying whatever he wants, ignoring the cost, and he absolutely loves it. Plus, he doesn’t have a Smithers to nay-say him, since he’s still trapped in the Arctic looking for ice.

Burns quickly starts to go insane, living in his summer mansion full-time and employing Homer and all his dumb buddies to be his hangers on. He’s basically turned this mansion into an episode of Cribs, and things have gotten untenable. In fact, it turns out that he’s spent so much money that he’s now broke. The credit card that Jay helped him get is now being declined, and all of Burns’ assets are now being repossessed, leaving him baffled and broke.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this was an accident. Because, as Homer points out, the day that Burns lost everything Jay dropped a new single. And it’s all about how Jay purposefully befriended Burns and taught him how to ruin himself. Jay actually owns the credit card company, and now all of Burns’ assets belong to Jay. This was all planned, and now Jay has won, leaving Burns at absolute rock-bottom.

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However, Homer decides to stick by him. Jay now owns the Power Plant, but Homer promises to stick with Burns, and continue being loyal to him. Well, until he runs that by Marge, and she tells Homer that his job is more important that some weird loyalty he’s built up to Burns over the last couple days. So, Homer has to break that promise to Burns, and goes to work for Jay at the new Power Plant, which has kind of turned into a club.

Jay ends up calling Homer to his office, not sure if he can trust his loyalty. He figures that Homer is still loyal to Burns, so in order to show who he actually works for, Jay decides to have Homer personally destroy all of Burns’ belongings in the Plant, destroying all signs of him ever being the owner. And, even though it’s hard for Homer, he does it. Jay is thrilled, and ends up rewarding him with all the cobbler he can eat.

Homer then heads home, stuffed with cobbler, and ends up taking a shortcut through the cemetery. Like you do. And, along the way, he ends up walking past the Burns family mausoleum, which is where Burns is living in. Homer feels really bad for betraying Burns, and decides to double-cross Jay and help him get revenge. And, if they’re going to get revenge on someone, they’re going to need an expert.

Enter Bart. Homer finally brings Bart into the plot, and asks him for advice on Burns’ revenge. Bart decides that the way to accomplish this will be to destroy Jay’s rep. And, to accomplish this, they need some research. So, they head to Milhouse, who is apparently an expert on early 90’s Springfield hip hop. He tells them that Jay used to be part of an R&B, Boys 2 Men style band. And, as Milhouse explains this, Bart recognizes one of his bandmates. The guy from the candle store. Turns out this guy is Jazzy James, and he was Jay’s lyricist until Jay screwed him over.

Burns, Homer, and Bart then head back up to the Hamptons where they encounter James, who is still selling candles. He confirms that the story is true. He was the brains behind all of Jay’s rhymes, but Jay screwed him over as soon as he could, ruining him. So, he hates Jay now, and is fully on board with helping them get revenge. And, what better way to do that than for Jay to write and perform a devastating rap that exposes Jay for the fraud that he is.

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James is initially worried that he doesn’t have the skill to rap anymore, but they end up threatening him to accomplish that, and he starts freestyling the rap that will destroy Jay. And, as luck would have it, Jay’s ex-wife Praline hears about this and comes to help. She too hates Jay, and has brought along some other nemesis of his to help. Namely, Common, Snoop, and RZA. The four rappers then get together and finish their fiery song.

With the song complete, Burns prepares for a massive party where he can drop the track and expose Jay. Unfortunately, before Burns can play the song something ridiculous happens. A hologram of Jay shows up with some bad news. He bought the master recording of the song, and is destroying it. Turns out he bribed Jazzy James, Praline, Common, Snoop, and RZA, and is now going to continue to be evil and destroy Burns.

Burns and Homer are pretty distraught by this turn of events, and they have go back to the Hamptons so Homer can tell Marge the truth. She’s obviously not pleased that he ended up siding with Burns, but she forgives him. And, as Burns is awkwardly standing around listening to a marital discussion, he ends up coming up with a new plan to defeat Jay. And it’s going to get dark.

That night Jay returns to his mansion, and goes to see how his goose is doing, only to find him missing. There’s some very clear signs that the goose was goosenapped, and there could be no one else but Burns behind it. So, Jay races over to Burns’ old mansion, and finds Burns sitting out on the lawn with a freshly baked goose. And it even has the necklace that Jay’s goose wears. Jay is obviously horrified by this, and breaks down.

But, as Jay begin weeping Homer ends up racing out of the mansion, being attacked by the real goose. This wasn’t the plan, but apparently Homer got too attached to the goose, and couldn’t bring himself to kill it. So, seeing that the goose is still alive, Jay and Burns have to run at it, trying to capture it first. They end up getting in a zany chase, running through Burns’ mansion, and eventually end up both getting trapped on a chandelier that slowly begins to break.

Burns and Jay are probably going to get really injured when the chandelier breaks, so they decide to finally talk. Burns asks Jay why he did all of this, and Jay tells him that it was all part of Burns’ book. Apparently, the last chapter outlined that you have to destroy the person that made you, so Jay was just following orders. The two end up forgiving each other, and right as the chandelier finally breaks they come careening down to the floor, only to be saved by Smithers, who has finally returned with the tank of ice, which is now slushy water, saving the two men. They apologize for their behavior, and I guess Jay gives Burns all his assets back? I don’t know, the episode ends at this point.

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I really have no idea why this episode exists, but I’m glad that it does. The idea that the Simpsons decided to do their first hour-long episode as a riff on the Great Gatsby as it relates to the hip hop industry is completely baffling, but it ends up working pretty well. Honestly, the episode isn’t that much based on the Great Gatsby, just the first little bit. But, that’s kind of enough for me, because I’m one of those weird dudes who actually adored Gatsby when he had to read it in high school. But, beyond a minor Gatsby riff, I think the reason that this episode really shines for me is the fact that it’s a great Mr. Burns episode. I’m not much of a hip hop guy, so I don’t know if this episode is referencing anything or anyone in particular, but it was a lot of fun. Jay G is a fun villain, and I like seeing his quest to destroy Burns, only to force Burns to claw his way back on top. I just love Mr. Burns, and seeing him in this position is a blast, especially by having him rely so heavily on Homer once Smithers was indisposed. Really the only thing that I think kind of hampers the episode are the completely needless Marge and Lisa plots, especially because they just kind of fade away in the second half of the episode. It could have been even tighter without those, and provided us with even more Jay and Burns stuff. But, as it stands, this was a very solid, if a little bizarre, episode that I liked quite a bit.

Take Away: Don’t trust credit card companies. Geese aren’t good pets.

 

“The Great Phatsby” was written by Dan Greaney and Matt Selman and directed by Chris Clements and Timothy Bailey, 2017.

 

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