It sure does seem like in the current downslide of the Simpsons that they’re desperately mining nostalgia, trying to find something for people to connect to. That or the writing staff is now made up of people who grew up watching the show. Either way, let’s talk about the Pin Pals again.
The episode begins with Marge happily brining some Chinese take-out home for the family, passing them out to everyone while making punny observations about the food. But, the food is quickly outshined when Homer gets a surprise phone call. It’s from Mr. Burns, who apparently has some court-side basketball tickets and has been calling every Power Plant employee to see if they want to use them that night, and he’s finally reached Homer’s name.
Homer is stoked to get these tickets, and immediately decides that he in no way wants to bring his family along with his three spare tickets, and quickly excuses himself from dinner to go to Moe’s. Homer heads on over, proudly showing off his tickets, and invites Barney, Lenny, and Carl to go with him. They start leaving the bar, when Moe starts to object. He’s not sure why Homer didn’t invite him and asks what’s up.
The guys then explain that they’re all kind of mad at Moe for some recent slights, and Homer purposefully didn’t include him. He just didn’t want to admit that. They then leave, and Moe sadly watches the game on the TV, and even notices that there’s a seat next to the guys, implying that they actually had another ticket, and just didn’t want to bring him. Which really starts to bum him out. But, instead of getting too depressed, he decides to do something to change things.
The next time the guys all go to Moe’s though, they find that the bar is nice and cleaned up, and Moe is acting more pleasant to them. He apologizes for his old behavior, and promises them that he’s going to turn over a new leaf and be a better person and friend. The guys are pretty surprised by Moe’s new temperament, and appreciate the cleaner bar. Homer also appreciates a photo of the Pin Pals that Moe has now hung up, and comments on it.
Moe starts talking about the Pin Pals, and how much he misses those days. They apparently broke up the team after Apu had kids, and now they never bowl. So, seeing how sad he is about it, Homer suggests that they bring back the Pin Pals, but with Lenny and Carl instead of Apu and Otto. Moe loves this idea, but realizes that this will never work, because he now has some sort of beer-pouring wrist injury, and he doesn’t think that he’s going to be able to join the team.
The guys won’t accept that though, so they decide to have Barney join the team and then make Moe the coach. And Moe loves this idea. The Pin Pals start a new chapter of their career, and with Moe’s coaching they start to do great. They rip through a bunch of funny teams, winning every game, before finally beating Fat Tony and his mafia team to win their local championship. But, there’s still more bowling to be had.
Because they won their Springfield championship they’re now invited to play against the best bowling team in Capital City in order to compete for the State championship. The guys then head over to Capital City and find their way to the incredibly ritzy bowling alley that the championship game will be held at. It’s incredibly impressive, full of all sorts of ridiculous amenities, and they’re getting pretty intimidated.
They then meet the guys they’ll be bowling against, and they’re the absolute worst. They’re a bunch of frat-boy stock brokers, and the Pin Pals instantly hate them. Bart really likes them though, and starts acting like them, trying to get their attention and approval in exchange for the money they just toss around randomly. Oh, and Lisa’s there too, and she makes friends with some nerdy analysts who are also there, and who the bros are mean to. Shockingly.
The Pin Pals then begin playing their first game, since the championship will be best two out of three, and they actually do really well. They win the first game, pretty handily, and they start feeling pretty confident about their chances. And, once the first game is done, the bros ask the Pin Pals out for a lunch, trying to make it seems like a nice and friendly game. The Pin Pals agree, and go to a lavish restaurant to enjoy themselves.
Unfortunately, after the meal the bros start taunting Moe, saying that they like to break people down psychologically for fun, and they’ve decided that Moe is a fun target. They quickly start breaking Moe down, primarily by mocking how sad his last birthday was. Moe really starts to get depressed, but manages to pull himself out of a tailspin by saying that it’s all okay, because he appreciates his friends, and that makes everything okay.
The bros then decide to keep messing with Moe, and offer him a wager. They say that if they win the championship that they get Moe’s bar, and if the Pin Pals win the bros will promise to give the Pin Pals a wonderful experience that only their money can buy. Moe agrees for this, since they pretty easily beat the guys in the first round, and they head back to start playing again. And, as you’d guess, Moe just got played.
When the second game in the championship begins the bros are suddenly on fire, playing amazingly and even having special outfits to enhance their abilities. They’ve apparently been hustling them, and now that Moe’s bar is on the line they’re going to be ruthless. Moe starts to panic, especially when they end up winning the second game, putting his bar in jeopardy. It begins to seem like Moe is doomed, so he tries giving them an inspirational speech to make them win.
Moe even forces Barney to be sober, hoping that they will keep him sharp and able to help them win. Unfortunately, the bros notice this and get Barney drunk on some incredibly potent whiskey, taking away the Pin Pal’s secret weapon. Luckily, Lisa has a plan to balance things out. She and those nerds have been running some analytics, and she finds the perfect things to say to the bros to shatter their confidence, putting them on equal footing as the Pin Pals.
Moe’s still pretty worried, especially because the only way that they will win is if Homer gets three strikes in a row. But, when Homer starts succeeding, Moe realizes that he’s going to be safe. Until he starts thinking, and decides that if the bros destroy his life he can create a new life, move to Paris, and finally be happy. So, Moe tries to sabotage Homer, so that his life can be destroyed. But, Homer still manages to succeed, and the Pin Pals win, making Moe a little sad. Until he goes back home to his bar, and learns that the guys are there to surprise him, calling him their best friend. Oh, and they then get to go experience no gravity thanks to the rich guys.
There’s really nothing objectionable about this episode, but it still just kind of fell flat for me. Yeah, mining the nostalgia to bring back the Pin Pals, and then only to have one of them on the team, is a little strange, but the episode starts to become its own thing. It’s just not that interesting of a thing. The bros are incredibly unlikeable antagonists, but everything they do is pretty obvious. As soon as they start making the deal you realize what they’re doing, and then everything just marches out in the most obvious way possible. I think the idea of Moe wanting to change his life at the end was kind of interesting, but then that’s dashed and not brought up again, choosing instead of just sweep everything under the rug with a small gesture, like so many episodes do. I don’t know, it’s nothing special, and it’s just hard to really work up any real feeling towards this episode.
Take Away: Don’t get hustled by frat bros. And I guess be kind to your bartender?
“Singin’ In the Lane” was written by Ryan Koh and directed by Michael Polcino, 2017.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons