Well, everyone, it’s happened. This episode of this Simpsons is their six hundredth and thirty sixth, which means that they’ve officially usurped Gunsmoke to become the longest-running primetime series of all time. It’s a pretty auspicious occasion, somewhat cut down by the recent controversy that’s surrounded the show and the creator’s pigheaded refusal to admit they may not be speaking for everyone. But, regardless of that, they’ve done it. And, on top of that historical significance of the episode, it’s actually pretty good. Homer/Grandpa stories that get into their father/son dynamic almost always work for me, and this episode is no difference. So, after a brief opening scene where Maggie defeats a cowboy who I assume has something to do with Gunsmoke in a duel, we’re tossed right in.
The episode begins with Homer hanging out at Moe’s trying his best to eat every single pickled egg that Moe has to win a bet. Everyone seems to be betting on him, and Homer’s pretty proud. But, when he finally gets the last egg inside of himself a horrible chain reaction is set off that causes Homer to spew all of the eggs, losing the bet and the respect of his weird buddies.
Homer then has to leave Moe’s, saddened, and as he does it his car smashes into a light-pole and knocks it over. He’s surprised by this, but gets very worried when some weird guy comes up to him and tells him he’s in trouble. The dude says that that light-pole was Mayor Quimby’s favorite one, and that Homer will be in big trouble. But, the guy also says that if Homer gives him his car, he’ll keep it a secret. And, because Homer’s an idiot, he agrees.
Homer manages to get home at this point and happily tells Marge the good news, that they’re going to be down one car, and he’ll need to start using hers. So, was this guy just a con-artist? Well, yes and no. Yes, he did trick Homer into giving him his car, but I guess he had a good reason. See, this guy is a professional demolition derby driver, and he wants to use Homer’s car in an upcoming derby. And, he’s given Homer and the rest of the family tickets to the show!
So, the whole family (including Grandpa) pile into Marge’s car and drive out to the arena where the demolition derby is taking place. Which means we get some weird gags, like weirdly named drivers, an in memorium reel, and a new and improved Truckasaurus with feathers that everyone hates. The real rally then begins, and Homer is impressed to see his car doing well. In fact, it gets down to the final duel.
But, right before the car reaches it’s climax, disaster strikes. Grandpa starts to have a heart-attack, and the family have to quickly escape the arena to get him to the hospital. And, when they get there, things don’t seem good. Dr. Hibbert doesn’t have a whole lot of hope in Abe’s chances, and tells Homer that he may need to go say his goodbyes to his father.
Homer heads into Abe’s room, and Abe clearly thinks that this is the end. So, before he goes, he wants to get something off his chest and seek forgiveness from Homer for something horrible he did. Homer promises, and Abe whispers something to Homer that we don’t get to hear. Homer is clearly aghast and mad at what Abe admits, but he promises to forgive Abe, since he’s about to die.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. Grandpa ends up bouncing back, and has a full recovery. He happily gets to leave the hospital and come home to be with the rest of the family. But, there’s one problem. Homer now knows the worst thing Abe has ever done, and is having problems forgiving him. Homer finds that he can’t even be in the same room with Abe, and starts acting like a petulant child. Everyone, from the family to Moe, try to fix their relationship, but nothing seems to work. They even go to an escape room in the hopes that this will fix them, but if anything it makes things worse.
The family is baffled at what Abe could have done to earn him this much ire, so Homer finally decides that he’s going to break his promise and tell them what Abe said. And it’s a doozey.
Apparently when Homer was a kid he used to frustrate Abe so much that the two never spent any time together. Which meant that Homer spent all of his time with Mona, and the two used to bake a lot of pies together. After every pie they’d make a recipe card for it, and Mona would put little notes on the back so that Homer would always remember their time together. But, when Mona left, they were the only thing Homer had to remind him of her. Unfortunately, they were also a reminder to Abe. So, the night that she left, Abe took the recipes and threw them off a cliff in the woods so that he wouldn’t have to be reminded of Mona. He then told Homer that Mona must have taken them with her, making it seem like Mona was purposefully spiting her son.
The whole family are shocked at Abe, and quickly decide to side with Homer, and begin hating him. They storm off, and Homer is kind of pleased to see that the family now hate Grandpa as much as he’s started to. They spend a whole dinner talking about how much they can’t stand him, and decide to return to the Retirement Castle that night to yell at him more.
But, when they get there, they find that Abe isn’t in his room. He has left a note though. Apparently Abe feels terribly about what he’s done to Homer, so he’s decided to go into the same forest he threw the recipe cards away in, in the vain hope that he’ll find them. So, the Simpsons race out to the forest and begin searching for Abe.
Homer finally finds Abe as he’s getting ready to lower himself down the cliff where he threw the box with the cards in it. Homer tries to stop him, and in the process the two end up both dangling by the same rope, hanging off a tree. But then, something ridiculous happens. Homer spots the little recipe box on a ledge, and starts lowering himself down to get it. But, when it becomes clear that he won’t be able to reach it, Abe decides to cut the line and plummet to the ground so that Homer can reach it.
Homer won’t let him do it though. He realizes in that moment that he’s been keeping Mona on a pedestal, and that while he’s spent his life focusing on the mother that left him he hasn’t appreciated the father who stayed and raised him. He and Grandpa still end up falling down the cliff, but they land on a mattress and are fine.
The recipe box also falls, and Homer is saddened to find that it’s empty. So, with a newfound respect for his father, Homer, Abe, and the rest of the family head to a nearby diner to have some pie and move on. And, while doing so Homer realizes how similar the pie is. He asks the owner, and it turns out that she found the recipe cards back in the day, and they saved her business. She also still has the original cards, and gives them to Homer, giving him a reminder of his mother while also reminding him of everything Abe has done for him.
This was a very sweet episode, and it’s nice that they chose it to be the episode that put them into the history books. Could you imagine if they’d stuck the Apu episode here? While they don’t seem to have a lot of understanding these days, it’s nice that they chose to put their best foot forward with such a landmark episode. Like I said up top, I’m a huge fan of episodes that revolve around father/son relationships, which is a little weird since I’ve always felt like I’ve had a great relationship with my own father, so it’s not like they’re overly familiar to me. But, regardless of why they work, this episode was a real success to me. I understand the role that Mona has played in his show, the missing parent that makes us wonder if Homer’s life would have been better if she’d stayed with him. But, they haven’t really tackled the role that Abe had on Homer’s life to the same degree. Yes, what Abe did was a terrible thing, but Homer doesn’t always manage to confront the fact that Abe did a lot for him. Abe was a man struggling with the most traumatic thing in his entire life, and did a selfish thing. But, he still stayed and raised Homer on his own. Mona did a selfish thing and continued to be selfish her entire life. And yet, Homer spends so much of his time idolizing this selfish mother who did very little good in his life, while vilifying the father who actually raised him. Abe certainly wasn’t the perfect father, but he was there. He did the work, and he doesn’t get the respect he deserves, and it’s nice to see an episode where Homer’s able to have that realization, even if it’s at the last minute.
Take Away: Cut your parents some slack, they’re doing the best they can. And it’s easy to think about what could have been rather than appreciating what was.
“Forgive and Regret” was written by Bill Odenkirk and directed by Rob Oliver, 2018.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons