Hey, hey, everybody! Welcome back to my Lifetime of Simpsons with yet another episode in this bold new version of the project. And boy do I have a scatterbrained episode to share with you today! It’s been a while since I’ve had an episode like this where we get two dueling plotlines, neither of which bows to the other, resulting in a real mishmash. Fun! Hell, the episode even starts off with a weird couch-gag that seems to imply the show has finally surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest-running scripted prime-time television show of all time, but they they realize that they’re a couple episodes off, which just seems like a poorly thought out waste of time. Just like this episode!
The story begins with Principal Skinner seemingly packing up his office, and closing down the place. He gives his secretary the key to the trophy case, apparently the final part in a retirement plan that he has. He seems to be keeping his impending retirement on the down-low, but as he’s talking to his secretary Martin happens by, and over hears.
Martin promises Skinner that he’ll keep the secret, but immediately breaks that promise. He goes and tells some kids in the band room, and the gossip starts to spread among the school, first within the student-body and then the faculty. And, before they know what happened, the entire school knows that this is Principal Skinner’s last day, and they suddenly have a final event planned, with Superintendent Chalmers in tow.
Skinner is allowed to give a final speech to the entire school, and Bart realizes that this is his last chance to pull a prank on Skinner. He prepares his most potent spitball and plans to fire it at Skinner’s head, but a weird Skinner mascot gets in the way, ruining his shot. But, Bart gets a second chance when Skinner randomly picks a student from a year book to come up and give a speech, and it ends up being Bart.
He prepares to fire the spitball, but right as he does it he learns that it was all a trap. Bart is covered in honey, then bird seed, and is then attacked by a bunch of birds. This was all a prank devised by Principal Skinner as revenge. He’s not retiring, he just wanted to publicly shame one of his students. And Bart is absolutely crushed. He just got played by his biggest mark, and he realizes that he’s going to have to do something huge to ever get his respect back.
Bart then plans a ridiculous comeback. He buys a bunch of Krusty masks and manages to sneak into the homes of all the faculty of Springfield Elementary, and superglues the masks onto them. The next morning the teachers wake up and are horrified to find themselves transformed into clowns. They begin running around the town, screaming in terror and pain and generally terrifying every single citizen they come across.
And, just like that, Springfield is scared of clowns. Everyone in town is suddenly terrified of clowns, catching up with the weird news stories from 2016. Which has a really big ramification on the biggest source of entertainment in town. Suddenly everyone hates Krusty the Clown. He’s terrifying all of the children who come to see his show, and realizes that his career is in serious jeopardy.
But, this isn’t just about Krusty. We’re going to follow Bart for a while too! He’s brought in front of some sort of children’s court to pay for the prank he just pulled on the whole town, and it seems like he’s going to skate. Even though he appears to be defending himself, which is weird. The judge is very sympathetic to the idea of “boys will be boys,” and is about to let him off easy when Marge suddenly has a bad reaction. She decides that Bart should finally be punished, and learn his lesson, and urges the judge to throw to book at her son. And he complies. Bart is then sent to some sort of rehab center for shitty kids.
Marge immediately starts second-guessing herself, worrying that she made the wrong decision to punish Bart like this. So, to take their minds off this, the family decide to go visit Krusty and see how he’s holding up during the aftermath of Bart’s prank. So, they go to his mansion and realize that he’s in a bad place. Krusty has lost his show and has hit rock bottom. He hates being a regular person, but knows that people don’t want to see his clown shtick anymore.
But, Lisa has an idea. She thinks he should try transitioning to serious acting, like so many other comedic actors have tried. Krusty is a little wary of the idea, but decides to give it a shot. He then heads over to try out some community theater, and gets cast as the lead in a ripoff of Death of a Salesman that’s being written and directed by Llewellyn Sinclair. Remember him?! Well, he’s back to help direct Krusty as the perfect Willie Loman.
Meanwhile, Bart is at this rehab facility for bad kids, hoping to cure him of his prankster ways. Marge has arrived to watch Bart’s progress, of which there isn’t much. But the doctor there is convinced he’s found a perfect way to fix Bart. He waits until Bart works up a prank, putting tacks on a chair, and then puts Marge in the path of the danger. Bart won’t let Marge get hurt by the tacks, and in doing so learns empathy, which is his first step.
Krusty has been doing his best to become a real actor, but it hasn’t been going well. Krusty is terrible at mining real emotion, and as a result is not making the transition to drama. However, Llewellyn doesn’t give up on him, and eventually taps into whatever anxieties Krusty has, letting him become a real actor. And he’s amazing. Krusty loves being showered with praise for this new type of acting, but he starts to get a strange worry. He begins seeing a version of himself decked out in the clown makeup, taunting him and promising that he’ll never be anything other than a stupid clown.
Bart finally gets out of his rehab center, and starts travelling around Springfield, going through a twelve step program. He makes amends for his pranks, and everyone is mad. Until he runs into Willie, who convinces him to fall off the wagon and prank Skinner with him. And, just like that, Bart is back to his old ways.
Bart then plans a massive event where a whole bunch of Springfield citizens will meet in the Elementary School gym in order to apologize to all of them. But, he’s actually planning a huge prank, dropping a bunch of water-balloons on them. However, right as he’s about to do it Marge marches up to him and says how proud she is that he’s gotten better. Bart has a crisis of conscious, and tries to stop the prank, but it still happens, and everyone loses respect for Bart.
Meanwhile, Krusty is getting ready for his first performance, and he’s still racked with self-doubt. He’s not sure if he can pull this off, but decides to give it his best shot. He starts to do well, but as the play goes on he starts to hear the mocking voice of Krusty the Clown, telling him that no one cares about his performance, and he needs to make them laugh. So, Krusty starts yelling at himself in front of everyone, and people actually like it. They laugh, and Krusty realizes he can make people laugh without being a clown. This apparently makes him happy and famous again. Episode over!
This episode is just incredibly strange. It’s just got a lot going on. Like I said earlier, I’m not a fan of episodes like this, which can’t seem to make its mind up what story it wants to tell. Usually the Simpsons has a major A-Plot and a minor B-Plot, but episodes like this are far too unbalanced, to the point where both stories get under-served. We don’t really get anything from the Bart story, because just like most Bart stories it features fake redemption followed by slipping back into his old shtick. The Krusty stuff is mildly more interesting, but it just feels like things we’ve seen before. We’ve seen Krusty’s career fall apart before, and we’ve also seen him flail and try to reinvent himself despite his massive self-doubt. I guess the idea of him becoming a dramatic actor is interesting, but it barely leads to anything, and just follows the same path that all of those episodes do. Not a fun one, folks!
“Fears of a Clown” was written by Michael Price and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2018.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons