Lifetime of Simpsons

S29 E12 – “Homer Is Where the Art Isn’t”

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Well, this is a tad anticlimactic, isn’t it? After three weeks of wrap-up, and two weeks off, I’m back talking about the Simpsons. I just can’t escape it. I was wondering what to do about the rest of the series’ run, and decided against waiting for a whole season to wrap and talk about it, instead opting to just do occasional entries into the series like this, after a new episode airs. So, I’ll still be talking about the Simpsons, just not as frequent as before. The main project just so happened to coast to a halt during a brief hiatus for show, and that’s now over. And they brought it all back with a truly bizarre episode that I kind of adored.

The episode starts off in the middle of a story, with Homer, Mr. Burns, and a rich woman we’ve never seen before named Megan Matheson all bidding for an abstract painting known as “the Poetess” from painted Joan Miro. We’re not quite sure why Homer cares so much about this painting, but as you could assume, he loses pretty handily when Megan Matheson easily outbids him. And it pisses Homer off so much that he ends up having to be escorted out of the auction house by some armed guards.

The painting is then locked up inside a vault in the auction house in preparation to be transported to Matheson’s mansion the next morning. And, after a night in the vault, it’s loaded up by two armed guards and taken out to Matheson’s mansion outside of Springfield. However, when they get there they find something shocking. The painting is no longer inside the case. Someone has stolen it!

We then figure out why the episode has been structured so strangely up until now. Because this whole episode is a parody of 70’s detective shows, predominately the Rockford Files. Because once the insurance company hears about the art-theft they call in the greatest private eye in the business, a man known as Manacek. We even get to see a fun title sequence for his show which we’re apparently watching.

Manacek heads into the insurance office, showing us absolutely every step of the process in an incredibly solid and accurate gag. He finally reaches the office of the auctioneer, and finds Chief Wiggum waiting as well. Manacek is very antagonistic to Wiggum, but lays out the basics of his case, saying that Matheson, Homer, and Mr. Burns are the logical suspects that he’s going to begin investigating.

Manacek then heads out to interview Matheson at her mansion, while she’s engaging in some sort of insane workout. She swears she wasn’t involved in the theft of her own painting, even after Manacek points out that the painting was insured for more than it was worth, which could point to insurance fraud. But she says it’s completely unreasonable to suspect her, and points out that Mr. Burns is the obvious thief, since he’s a well-known super-villain in Springfield.

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Manacek then heads over to Burns’ mansion, moving down the suspect-list. Burns and Manacek exchange some banter while skeet shooting, while Burns also swears that he played no part in it. Manacek suggests that Burns did it all because he couldn’t stand to be outbid by a woman, but Burns quashes that suggestion, saying that Homer probably did it since he lost his goddamn mind when he couldn’t afford that.

Manacek does have to admit that Homer’s reaction was odd, and heads over to the Plant to talk to Homer. Which is when he notices something incredibly strange. Homer is clearly obsessed with this painting, even having a coffee mug that features it. Homer promises he had nothing to do with the theft, even though he’s tossing up red-flags like crazy. So, Manacek heads home to ruminate over everything, when he gets a surprise guest.

Marge! She’s arrived to tell Manacek that Homer had nothing to do with the theft, and even invites him over for dinner so they can tell him what’s really going on. Marge does her best to explain that Homer’s a decent man, but it’s Bart who actually has some information for them. He tells Manacek that Homer recently chaperoned a group of fourth-graders to a trip to the Springfield Art Museum, which is where Homer found “the Poetess,” and became fascinated with it.

Homer ended up spending the entire day transfixed by the abstract painting, and couldn’t get it out of his mind. He discussed it with Marge when he got home that night, and even she was shocked to find that he could be so moved and interested in art. But, Lisa loved the idea of Homer becoming more artistic, and started trying to encourage his new passion. The two even started going to the museum together, letting Homer appreciate the art even more.

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But, one day when they got to the museum they find something horrible. The museum is being shut down, and all of the art is being taken out to be sold at auction. Homer and Lisa attempt to join a group protesting the closing of the museum, but Mayor Quimby insists that there just wasn’t enough money to keep the museum open, and they had to sell everything to make up the museum’s losses.

So, with no alternative, Homer and Lisa decide to go to the auction and see the painting one last time. But, Homer finds himself unable to separate from the painting, and starts bidding, even though they quickly confirm he has no funds, and is kept from contributing. We’re then caught up with the beginning of the episode, and we see Matheson win, and Homer lose.

Manecek is then caught up, but still thinks that Homer is the one with the greatest motive. Which is bad news for Homer, who decides to flee from the house, not exactly helping with the whole suspicion thing. But, Manacek is quickly able to find Homer, who just went to the old museum to look at the area where “the Poetess” used to be hung. And, shockingly, Manacek announces that Homer is innocent, and that he’s solved the case.

Manacek then calls in everyone involved in the case, and starts to explai nwhat happened. He says that Matheson stole the painting for the insurance money, because her latest tech venture had failed, and she was in desperate need for money. So, she hired the two armed guard’s identical twins to knock them out and steal the painting. But that’s not all! Because the painting they stole wasn’t the real one! Mr. Burns actually created a forgery, and built a duplicate auction house to trick everyone.

But that’s not all! Because the painting that they were all bidding on wasn’t the real one either! Lisa actually had the real one, because she stole it for Homer! Yeah, things get complicated. She admits what happened, and the Simpsons give the real painting back to Mayor Quimby, who decides to hang it in a place of honor in a football stadium where Homer and Lisa can continue looking at it whenever they want.

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This episode is so bizarre, but I had a hell of a time with it. I’m a real sucker for 70’s detective shoes, Rockford Files in particular, so I was clicking with this whole aesthetic like crazy. Its just a very, very strange thing to do. I have no idea why they decided to do an episode structured like a Rockford Files episode, while having Bill Hader voice a private eye who appears to have time traveled to modern day. But, somehow it worked. It’s a fun little mystery, even if it ends up making absolutely no sense, but the real reason it works for me is a factor that I’ve kind of beat to death. It’s an episode about Homer and Lisa sharing a passion! I love the idea of Homer becoming fascinated with a piece of art, and Lisa being so impressed that she commits art-theft to encourage him. That’s fun! And the fact that that’s surrounded by an absurd private eye story line for no reason is just icing on the cake.

 

Take Away: You’ll never know what work of art will inspire you.

 

“Homer is Where the Art Isn’t” was written by Kevin Curran and directed by Timothy Bailey, 2018.

 

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