Lifetime of Simpsons

S29 E05 – Grampy Can Ya Hear Me

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Well folks, I have some good new and I have some bad news. The good new is that we get to talk about Abe Simpsons today! The bad news is that it’s an episode about how his family hates him. Sounds like a load of laughs!

The episode begins with the family picking Grandpa up from the Retriement Castle to take him out for a fun day at the planetarium. Why? Well, it’s his birthday, and apparently they didn’t ask him what he wanted to do, so they all get to go to the nicest planetarium I’ve ever seen and listen to Abe complain about everything. He’s extremely fussy, and mad about basically everything in the planetarium, and it seems like no one involved is happy about the way things are going.

That doesn’t stop them from tossing out some sight-gags though. Such as seeing what Homer’s weight would be on the moon, which is unfortunate, and watching a very strange video of a disgruntled Pluto ranting about how its not a planet anymore. But, after that everyone heads into the actual show-room to watch the planet demonstration. They get to learn all about the universe, and while it’s going on we do see Lisa suddenly get very worried when they mention how old the universe theoretically is. But we’ll find out why later.

Unfortunately, Grandpa keeps getting cranky, and ends up causing such a scene that they have to leave. They then take him home during a very silent car-ride, before dropping him off at the Retirement Castle, glad to have him off their hands. Abe clearly hates his birthday, and things aren’t going to get any better, because when he heads into the Castle he finds that his other tenants are all ready to celebrate with him, and they even have presents for him.

Abe isn’t really interested in getting any gifts, until the Old Jewish Man him his git. It’s a set of hearing aids, and Abe is furious that the Old Jewish Man would even suggest he needed hearing aids. But, the Old Jewish Man insists that Abe try them, so he pops the aids in and gives them a whirl. And his mind is blown. He can suddenly hear everything perfectly, all the depressing sounds of the Retirement Castle, and he realizes everything he’s been missing.

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But this episode isn’t all about Abe’s hearing. No, there’s a B-Plot in this episode that feels very separate from the main plot, presented in two massive chunks instead of threaded through the A-Plot. It’s kind of weird. And it all begins with Lisa. See, the reason that she was so upset at the planetarium is because she realized she made a mistake on an astronomy paper for school, accidentally saying millions instead of billions. And that mistake starts to drive her insane.

So insane that she decides to ask Bart for help. Lisa wants Bart to help her break into the Elementary School so that she can fix her essay, and he’s immediately down with doing this. The siblings then head over to the school in the middle of the night, and they easily break into the building. They find their way to Ms. Hoover’s room and Lisa makes her change while Bart steals a package of nicotine gum, really just to mess with Hoover.

They then begin to leave the school, but as they do so they hear a strange sound coming from one of the storage rooms, and they decide to check on it. They open up the door and find that Principal Skinner is inside, apparently living inside the storage room. He’s pretty horrified to be caught by two of his students living on a cot, but for some reason he just starts chatting with them, letting them know what’s up with his life.

Apparently Skinner has recently left his mother’s house, because he’s just learned something horrific that Agnes did to him. It turns out that when Seymour was younger all he wanted in life was to be a drummer in a marching band, specifically in the Ohio State University marching band. This apparently ignores the whole Arman Tanzarian thing, but whatever. Skinner applied to Ohio State, but Agnes got a letter and told him that he’d been declined. So, he stayed home with her and became a principal. But, he’s just learned that this was all a lie. He got into the college, and Agnes lied to him, ruining his dreams.

But for now we’re going to drop this Skinner plot and check back in on Grandpa. He’s thrilled about his hearing aids, and has decided to stop by the Simpson’s house to show them off. However, before he tells them about the hearing aids he notices something troubling. The family have apparently become accustomed to talking under their breath, insulting Abe when he can’t hear it. But, now he can, and he’s not pleased.

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Abe yells at the family, revealing that he can finally hear what they were saying, and they’re pretty freaked out. They try their best to walk back some of the insults, but Grandpa doesn’t want to hear any of it, and storms out of the house. He then begins wandering the town, realizing that everywhere he goes people are insulting old people, thinking that they can’t hear it because they’re speaking lowly. But now Grandpa knows, and he’s pissed.

However, before we see Abe’s vengeance against the young, we need to finish off the whole “Principal Skinner wanted to play drums” plot. He ends up going to Ohio State to talk to the dean of admissions, who is still the same person from when Skinner applied, and the guy confirms that it was a huge disappointment that Skinner never came, and that he could have had a thriving career in marching band drumming.

Skinner then returns home, ready to confront Agnes. He tells her everything he knows, and she starts trying to explain herself. She tells him that she was just worried about losing him, and did it so that she wouldn’t be alone. She then just starts telling him that marching bands suck anyway, and starts to tear up about losing him. This for some reason convinces Skinner that she did the right thing, because he’s a broken man, and he forgives her, moving back in and accepting his life.

While all of this Skinner nonsense has been going on we see that Grandpa has apparently gone missing. Homer and the family don’t know where he is, and have grown quite worried. Luckily, he’s just been getting belligerent and drunk and a VFW, so the bartender calls Homer and sends Grandpa home. Abe’s mad about this, so when he gets to the Simpson’s front door he turns his hearing aids on as high as they can go to listen to them inside the house. And, surprisingly, they’re talking about how much they love and miss him. It turns out that this is from a script they’ve written, anticipating this outcome, but Abe doesn’t learn that. He just comes in and forgives the family, making everything go back to normal.

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This is an incredibly odd episode. And I don’t think that I liked it much at all. For one thing, it’s strange that it really does feel like two completely separate stories that have nothing to do with one another. That often happens with these A and B plots, but this episode is just so strangely structures, just getting out the Skinner plot in two massive chunks. And they really could have just dropped the whole thing, because that plot was dreadful. The idea that Skinner’s whole life was built around marching bands was ridiculous, but what was even more absurd was the idea that he just forgives Agnes for ostensibly destroying his life for no reason. I guess it’s because Skinner is an incredibly broken man who has been ruined by Agnes’ psychological torment for decades, but it ends up playing off her half-hearted apology as sweet instead of twisted. Oh, and speaking of twisted, it’s incredibly messed up that this episode ends with the Simpsons tricking Grandpa into thinking that they care about him. The whole premise of Abe learning that everyone shit-talks him under their breath is depressing enough, and the added salt in the wound of showing us that the family can’t even muster some nice things to say about him without a script is so fucked up. This episode is pretty awful folks. Just a whole lot of human misery on display.

Take Away: Don’t treat the elderly like garbage. And don’t care about marching bands?

 

“Grampy Can Ya Hear Me” was written by Bill Odenkirk and directed by Bob Anderson, 2017.

 

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