Lifetime of Simpsons

S30 E14 – The Clown Stays in the Picture

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Hey everybody, wanna talk about Krusty the Clown? Lately the answer to that question, at least from me, has been a resounding ‘no.’ But, in a pleasant surprise, this episode kind of works! And, as a weird bonus, it’s also a flashback episode that actually tries to do something new with Homer and Marge’s relationship we haven’t seen before. Plus, lots of Dune references! Let’s do this thing.

The episode begins with the kids of Springfield Elementary sullenly sitting on the school bus, which is inextricably locked in terrible traffic. Otto informs the kids that they’re going to be there for quite a while, so they all immediately take out their various devices and start entertaining themselves. Unfortunately, Bart’s phone is out of juice, meaning he’s going to have to mooch entertainment from Lisa. Which, is going to be hard, because she’s sitting there listening to a podcast.

And, like every eight-year old girl in the world, Lisa is listening to WTF with Marc Maron. She tells Bart about Maron’s show, and he’s not really interested. Until he realizes that Krusty the Clown recently recorded an episode, which he immediately puts on. Which is the last we’ll see of this bus thing. Not sure why it was really necessary. But, we just straight over to Marc Maron’s garage where Maron is giving his typical interview to Krusty, talking about pie phobias.

But, at a certain point Maron decides to ask Krusty something a little personal. He wants to hear the story about a movie called the Sands of Space that Krusty tried to make in the late eighties. Krusty is initially against sharing this apparently very dark chapter of this life, but quickly gives in and starts to regale Maron with his doomed vanity project. Because Krusty apparently stared in a buddy-cop movie in the eighties where he played a dog with the soul of a dead cop (like you do) and had earned himself enough clout to make whatever he wanted.

The studio wanted Krusty to make a sequel to the dog movie, but he demanded to star in an adaptation of his favorite novel of all time, an impenetrable and unfilmable sci-fi novel called The Sands of Space. The studio suits are initially against this idea, but eventually agree to it, sure that it will become a huge failure, forcing Krusty into staring in a whole bunch of terrible dog movies.

But, in order to get the movie made, it’s going to be an incredibly cheap production with an uninterested director, so Krusty decides to fully staff the film with volunteers from Springfield. Including a young and in love couple of Homer Simpson and Marge Bouvier. And, because the show has now decided that everyone older than the kids is of the same age group, we also see every single adult in Springfield as younger, late-eighties versions of themselves.

 

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They all then head to the deserts outside Juarez, and get ready to make the movie. Which Krusty is taking deadly seriously, insisting on making the film as accurate to the novel as possible. Clown makeup aside. And, this quickly puts him in conflict with the director, who immediately quits. But, Krusty decides that it makes perfect sense for him to write, direct, and star in this insane story, taking complete control of the crew of amateurs.

And, as you can imagine, this quickly starts to wear down on Krusty. He starts to go insane, paralyzed by indecision while trying to make the movie exactly what he had in his head. And, recognizing that panic, Marge decides to step up and try to help him. She suggests that he just make once decision at a time, and let the rest come naturally. And, it weirdly works. Krusty starts to actually make decisions, the movie starts to gain steam, and he decides that Marge is his new assistant, and that he can only make it with her direct help.

And Marge loves it! She convinces Krusty not to kill extras, to be nicer to actors, and how to pick fake prosthetic butts. But, while Marge is having a great time, Homer is hating it. He’s feeling neglected, having thought this would be a fun and romantic little trip, but hes just being ignored. So, Marge decides to give some attention to Homer, causing her to ignore some of Krusty’s beeper requests.

He does not take it well. Krusty decides that he’s too dependent on Marge, and wants her to be at his beck and call at all times of the day. He also wants her to dump Homer to not be a distraction. She refuses, but agrees to keep working with Krusty if he becomes more patient. He agrees to this compromise, and immediately starts planning a way to destroy Homer.

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Krusty starts giving Homer the most dangerous jobs on the shoot, hoping that he would just die “accidentally.” But, it keeps not working, and Homer starts to get suspicious. Marge tries to talk him down, but it becomes pretty hard to deny after Krusty sends Homer to the middle of the desert to find a rare lizard, resulting in him falling down a ravine and getting trapped.

Homer starts to hallucinate from the heat and the pain, and he ends up seeing weird cactus versions of Bart and Lisa. They convince Homer to keep going, otherwise they’ll never be born. They also tell Homer that he shouldn’t be mad about the way Marge is focusing on Krusty, because it’s training her to be a more patient woman who will be better at dealing with his own eccentricities and foul behavior. Which is insanely shitty! But, it works, and Homer is able to fight his way out of the ravine, and straight into the hands of a drug cartel. Whoops!

Back at the shoot, the movie is almost finished, and Krusty is thrilled. But, the mood is ruined when a ransom note from the drug cartel arrives, requesting a million dollars for Homer’s release. However, Krusty immediately says that they don’t have the money for that, and says they’ll just make a nice title card for him in the credits, honoring his sacrifice.

The rest of the crew doesn’t appreciate that. They revolt, and use the movie props to attack the drug dealers, storming the place like they’re in Fury Road. However, their prop weapons don’t exactly work, and things get dire quickly. Marge is able to calm the violence down though, and offers to give the cartel the movie in exchange for Homer’s freedom.

Krusty is mortified by this suggestion, and attempts to take his movie back, leaving Homer to die. But, Marge wins him over by reciting some passage from his nerdy book, making Krusty feel too guilty. So, he agrees to exchange the movie for Homer’s life, the cartel then supposedly never released it, and they all get to live. But, it ruined Krusty’s film career, and he goes back to kids TV forever. Marc Maron then wraps everything up by doing a commercial for cashews.

 

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When I sat down to watch this episode, and saw that it had “Clown” in the title and featured a picture of Krusty, I wasn’t really excited. I like Krusty, and he’s had some really good episodes that revolve around his exploits. But lately that has not been the case. Krusty episodes have been pretty terrible, and we already even got one just this season. But, this episode ended up being something very different. And, I kind of enjoyed it. The whole cactus scene where Homer decides Marge’s empathy can be used to his own gain is insanely bad, but it’s such a small detail that it doesn’t manage to tank an otherwise pretty fun little episode. The idea that in the period when Marge and Homer were dating, but before they got married, they went to Mexico and filmed a weird Dune ripoff with Krusty the Clown is incredibly insane, but in a good way. My only real complaint is that it gets a little muddled. I liked the episode quite a bit when it was Krusty going insane, a la Heart of Darkness, while making a weird vanity project with only Marge to steer him back to sanity. But, when it started switching over to focus on Homer’s insecurities, things got less interesting, culminating in that insane ending. But, overall, it was a fun episode, and I’ve learned to really appreciate those as of late.

 

“The Clown Stays in the Picture” was written by Matt Selman and directed by Timothy Bailey, 2019.

 

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