Lifetime of Simpsons

S30 E05 – Baby You Can’t Drive My Car

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So far Season 30 has not really been the best season of the Simpsons. It’s actually been pretty rough, giving us some of the most inconsistent and generally weak episodes I’ve seen in quite a long time, really giving me a lot of worry regarding the future of this season, and the rest of the show. But, I have some good news. Okay news at least. Today we’re going to be talking about easily the best episode of the season so far. I still wouldn’t call it a great episode, but it at least is jumping the incredibly low bar the rest of this season has created.

The episode starts off with Homer pulling up at a Krusty Burger drive thru, apparently to get chicken nuggets for breakfast. He then begins driving to work, eating all of the nuggets and setting up an incredibly elaborate dipping sauce situation. And, this is obviously a bad call, because he’s putting too much work into the chicken nuggets and ends up hitting the Squeaky Voiced Teen and an entire marching band.

But, things get especially problematic when he arrives at the Nuclear Power Plant, and a bump in the road causes him to choke on one of the nuggets. Homer starts swerving around, and ends up careening off of a bit of construction equipment, launching his car into the air and crashing into Mr. Burns’ office, destroying his brand new Faberge Chicken. And, as you’d guess, he’s fired.

This obviously happens all the time, but Homer really gets pissed off at Burns this time, and starts yelling at him and insulting him, burning all the bridges. We then skip ahead a few weeks to find Homer has gotten stuck in a terrible rut. He’s grown his beard out and is spending all of his time watching Korean soap operas, and Marge is getting fed up with him. She wants him to get off his ass and find a new job, but it’s like pulling teeth with Homer.

Luckily, right as they finish up their argument, the TV starts playing a news report about a major tech startup that has just moved to Springfield called CarGo. It’s a self-driving car company, and they’re looking to hire several Springfield citizens in order to test their prototype cars. Homer gets interested in this idea, and heads to the incredible new campus that CarGo has built. He interviews with the two owners of the company, and ends up impressing them with his terrible driving record and laziness.

They then give Homer a final test, which is to sit in a room with a bunch of other candidates for as long as possible, just to test his endurance. Homer then spends a ridiculous amount of time sitting in silence, even ignoring some sort of satanic ritual that goes on in the conference room in the middle of the night. And, when the owners show up the next day they officially give him the job.

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Homer’s then given one of their new prototype cars, and he can’t understand it at all. He doesn’t understand the lack of steering wheel, or how little he’s going to be involved in. But, he eventually gets a hang of it, and starts loving it. He just has to tell the car where he wants to go, and it takes him there. Homer then has the ability to do all sorts of strange stuff in the car now that he’s not responsible for the wheel, such as eating, trimming bonsai trees, sunbathing, doing keg stands, playing catch with Bart, and building model ships.

And, it’s going great. The techies love the data Homer is bringing them, and Homer loves working for a company that requires him to do absolutely nothing, and getting to use all the crazy amenities. And Marge loves it too! Homer seems happy and is making good money, so she comes by the office one day in order to check out the campus, looking at all the amazing amenities that company have put in for the employees, almost none of which is being used.

The coders that make up the bulk of the employees of CarGo are too busy and awkward to use any of these things, until Homer and Marge start encouraging them to cut loose every now and then. They end up starting a massive Foosball competition, which catches the attention of the two owners of the company. They love the team-building, and find that these distracting activities actually increase creativity. It’s a win-win!

So, the two owners call Homer and Marge into their office with a proposition. They want to promote Homer and hire Marge to be professional team-builders, paid to keep the coders happy. And they accept. They start spending all of their time in the campus, trying their best to make the coders happier and more fully-functioning human beings. And, as they get better at their jobs, so do the coders. To the point where CarGo starts becoming a massive company, stealing away all the talented employees of Springfield.

And this eventually starts to get the attention of Mr. Burns. All the Plant employees have quit to go work at CarGo, and he and Smithers have decided to destroy the company. Which mean they need to infiltrate CarGo. They both make up fraudulent resumes and get hired at CarGo, letting them wander the campus and look at all the amenities. Which really starts to interest Burns, seeing that he’s allowed to pay people less if he makes the work environment better.

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But, just as we’re starting to think that CarGo is some sort of utopia, we finally get a glimpse at some darkness. Because one day while Homer and Marge are heading home they notice that the car is listening to the things they say, and is taking them to places they didn’t ask it to. So, they go report the issue to the owners of the company, and they admit that that wasn’t an error. The car is listening to everything anyone says inside of it, and is activly mining their data and deliverng people to places that have been pre-arranged with corporate sponsors. Plus, Homer and Marge signed a non-disclosure agreement, so they can’t tell anyone about the ethical issues they’ve just discovered.

CarGo then launches their cars, and Springfield becomes completely overrun with self-driving cars, which then start spying on the entire town. Homer and Marge really start to get stressed out, since they’re the only ones who know the truth. But, surprisingly, Marge is the one who decides they should just ignore it and enjoy the money.

Homer can’t abide that though, and goes to drink at Moe’s to forget this all. And, when he gets there he shockingly finds Mr. Burns already there. Homer and Burns get talking, and they agree to destroy the company. Smithers then gets involved and the trio sneak into the CarGo campus in order to shut down the master computer and disable all of the cars.

They get into the main server room, and Smithers starts hacking the system, when Marge shows up to stop them. She doesn’t want things to change, and races off to tell the bosses what’s going on. But, when she gets there she finds them having a meeting to ratchet up the data mining, putting the microphone in the key fob to spy on people at all times.

This causes Marge to have a change of heart, and she runs from the conference room back to the server room where she helps Smithers destroy the company. He hacks the cars, their fuel cells deplete, and all the cars in Springfield stop working. This causes the stock to plummet and the company goes insolvent. Everyone then goes back to the Plant, and Burns rehires Homer, since his terrible memory doesn’t remember all the insults Homer spat at him earlier.

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This episode isn’t a complete home-run, but it ends up working pretty well. The whole “Homer gets fired and gets a new job” plot is one that’s been well-tred, but this is episode uses it fairly well. The whole idea of these weird tech companies making businesses full of great amenities while doing shady things to their employees isn’t exactly a topical thing anymore, we’ve all been aware of it for quite a while, but it was pretty well handled in this episode. I liked seeing Homer and Marge get to spend time together in such a fun way, instead of constantly arguing like we get so often now. Plus, this is the most Mr. Burns we’ve seen in a while, which is always a great thing. It’s a fun little episode, and ended up being a great palate cleanser for the really lackluster stuff we’ve been getting lately.

 

“Baby You Can’t Drive My Car” was written by Rob LaZebnik and directed by Timothy Bailey, 2018.

 

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