Yesterday we talked all about how annoying it is that these goddamn millennials think that they need trophies for everything. And, to continue the Simpsons’ apparent decline into being a place for old people to gripe about the kids today, let’s talk about safe spaces.
The episode begins by establishing that it’s softball season. But, not children’s softball. No, this is fat, drunk adult softball. The most noble sport of all. And, of course, the Nuclear Power Plant has a team, and they’re all preparing to start their next game. Which cuts into their important drinking time. Plus, the other Power Plant team that they’re playing against are actually competent and skilled, which means they’re in for a rough game.
But while the two Plant teams are getting ready to struggle to play a children’s game, Mr. Burns and his counterpart at the other Plant are in their owner’s box, watching the game and chatting about how the nuclear energy business is going on. And the other owner isn’t very optimistic. He complains that no one seems interested in nuclear energy anymore, and predicts that they may be the last generation of Nuclear energy tycoons, because everyone else will give up on it.
Burns cannot accept this idea, and decides to make it his goal to go find the next generation of nuclear engineers to convince them to pursue nuclear power. So, he heads over to his alma mater, Yale, and starts implying that he’s willing to endow a whole nuclear energy program to them as long as they give him the graduates. And, the folks behind Yale are very into the idea of a lot of money from Mr. Burns, they just have a couple suggestions.
They tell Burns that this idea may not work, because the new student body of Yale will find Nuclear Energy to be too problematic. They then start tossing out a whole bunch of buzzwords like “ally” and “safe space” without really seeming to understand what they mean. And, neither does Burns. All he hears is that Yale, his glorious college, has been ruined to diversity and compassion, and he wants no part in it.
So, storming off, Burns heads over to Skull and Bones to try and gain some joy form his trip to Yale. And, while drinking from skulls he starts chatting with another alumnus, a fellow billionaire named Bourbon Verlander (what?) and Burns starts complaining about how he’s lost faith in Yale. Luckily, Verlander has a suggestion. His wealth has come from creating some low-tier colleges that are staffed by professors who were fired from real universities for not being PC enough.
Burns hears this idea, and decides he needs to run with it. He’s going to create his own university that will train the next generation of nuclear engineers! He then returns to Springfield, and starts planning his new college while burning all of his Yale stuff. And, while burning Yale memorabilia in a dumpster he encounters Homer, Lenny, and Carl, and tells them about his idea. And, not exactly understanding it, they ask if it’s one of these shady for-profit colleges they’ve heard about.
And this really blows Burns’ mind. He didn’t realize that there were for-profit colleges, and this is now his primary goal, both to train new engineers and to make a whole lot of money in the process. He then creates Burns University, a terrible school that’s staffed by Plant employees, and he releases a lame commercial to trick gullible and stupid students into enrolling so they don’t have to resort to terrible jobs. Like recapping television online! Hey…wait a minute…
The Plant employees are all made professors, and Homer really starts panicking about his class. He mentions this at home one day, and Lisa is absolutely horrified. She hates the idea that college has become so careless, and thinks that if Homer half-asses this new job that it somehow invalidates all real education that she’ll eventually give. So, she tells him that he needs to take this seriously, and actually impart some knowledge on these kids.
So, Burns University opens in a weird strip mall, and the students start learning the dubious knowledge that the Nuclear Power Plant employees have to impart. But, Homer is actually taking it seriously. Yeah, the information he’s giving them isn’t necessarily about nuclear safety, and more about how to survive in an office, but his students are actually learning something from him, unlike their other classes.
And, once he starts to do well, Homer decides that he could do even better. He talks to Lisa about this, convinced that he needs to prove to her that college is important, and she helps him in a very strange way. She makes him watch a bunch of movies about inspiring teachers, letting Homer absorb a slew of cinematic teaching styles, which he actually does use to inspire his students, quickly making him the most popular teacher in the school.
Which is when Bourbon Verlander shows back up. He wants to check in on Burns University, and sees what a wonderful teacher Homer is. He has a special project that he’s running, and decides to buy Homer’s contract away from Burns, giving him a new job. And, this is when this episode absolutely falls apart. Because now it’s no longer a parody of for-profit colleges. No. Now it’s an Ex Machina parody!
Homer is put in a helicopter and flown out into the middle of the wilderness to Verlander’s secret estate. He heads inside the building, and finds that he’s not the only person here. Verlanders has also assembled Suze Orman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ken Jennings, and Robert McKee. Why this random assortment of people? Well, Verlanders has decided that these people are the greatest educators on the planet, and he wants them to help educate a group of female robots that he’s created.
The teachers start teaching the robots, who are all named Sally, when Verlander explains his true goal. These robots have been created to apply for federal student loans, and then go to the universities that Verlander has bought so that he can funnel money from the government. What?! And, to make things more complicated, Homer and the teacher hate this idea, and decide to stop Verlander. So, Homer goes with the Sally’s to Yale, because apparently Verlander owns Yale now, and finds a way to destroy them. And he does this by doing a problematic robot impression, causing them to get so triggered that they explode, saving the day? I don’t know, the goddamn episode is over now.
Holy shit, everyone. This is one of the worst episodes that I’ve seen in a long time. It’s kind of mind-blowing how weird, disjointed, and just all-around crappy this episode is. The episode starts off pretty awful with the extended “takedown” of modern day college students, and their silly notions of equality and compassion. And it goes downhill from there. Honestly, the idea of Burns creating a for-profit college in order to screw people over, mirroring the travesty that is Trump University, was kind of fun. That stuff more or less worked. But then we started focusing on Homer way too much, having him struggle to be a terrible teacher. Which would have made for a weird and annoying episode, but a forgettable one. Where this episode becomes truly baffling and remarkable is when they swerve last minute into an Ex Machina parody, which suddenly has to get through an incredibly amount of information in about five minutes. We learn about the robots, the insane scam, and Homer’s eventual triumph over the robots in such a shockingly short amount of time that it feels like a whole new episode started. It’s just rough, folks. I can’t really say much other than that.
“The Caper Chase” was written by Jeff Westbrook and directed by Lance Kramer, 2017.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons