Things last week got a little bleak here on Lifetime of Simpsons, just a general angst at the show’s continuing existence and it’s slide into irritatingly low quality. But, I was a little hopeful for today’s episode, not necessarily to turn things around, but to at least be better. And, generally, I think that today’s episode is better than what we’ve seen for a while. But, it’s certainly not a masterpiece. But, hey, true crime documentaries sure were popular a few years ago, right? Time to hop on that bandwagon after it’s left town.
This entire episode is structured like a documentary, but specifically like a Dateline episode. At least, I assume so. The episode specifically calls itself Dateline Springfield, because I’ve legitimately never watched Dateline, so I’ll take their word for it. And, after establishing the day to day routine of the voice-over guy who narrates the episode, things get going.
And, as you probably could assume, this is a crime story involving the Simpsons. So, the documentary does a quick job of establishing who the Simpsons are, what their lives are like, and then dances around the actual topic of the crime. We get interviews with people, melodramatic voice-over, and needless exposition, teaching us what Springfield is like. Which, is weird since this is apparently a Springfield-centric Dateline, but whatever.
Things actually kick into gear when we get a goofy reenactment showing Marge and Lisa returning home after grocery shopping to reveal a secret. Apparently the two of them keep a little bit of hidden college money inside a can of cleaning solvent under the sink, but when they go to put some more money inside they find that the can is completely empty. Someone has stolen Lisa’s college fund! And, after a slightly aggressive call to 911, the police are on the case!
Wiggum and Lou show up to investigate the home, and things pretty quickly stop adding up. There was no forced entry and Santa’s Little Helper never barked at any sort of intruder, so it makes them think that this theft was an inside job. Which means it’s time to start investigating the family members, one at a time. Marge is convinced that it couldn’t possibly have been a family member, but the police still open up a tip line to get some leads.
And, pretty quickly they get a call from Helen Lovejoy talking about how Marge is a gambling addict, so she probably stole the money. However, the police find irrefutable proof that Marge has given up her gambling addiction, largely because they had footage of her walking into a casino and leaving without gambling, and that’s enough for them to cross her off their list.
Which, brings them to Homer. Primarily because the night of the theft Homer was kicked out of Moe’s for not being able to pay off a massive tab. And, they have proof that Homer spent time in the kitchen, while quite drunk and desperate for money, because Professor Frink has run some tests that show that drunken Homer ate an unconscionable amount of spaghetti leftovers, putting sauce all over the room like a murder scene.
And it’s that sauce that really gets the police interested, because the next morning there wasn’t any sign of the mess, so Homer clearly had to clean up, and the money was inside some cleaning products. But, they need to get Homer’s pants to really prove he did it! Why? Not sure, but they host a sting that’s able to get a hold of Homer’s pants, which unfortunately doesn’t lead to any conclusive proof. Which means that the documentary has to toss out something absurd for a commercial break cliffhanger, suggesting that Mr. Burns did it for no reason.
However, that still means they need to clear Homer, even though the pants thing should have done it. Luckily, they have disturbing proof that Homer didn’t use the cleaning product. He licked the kitchen clean for hours. And, how do the police know that? Why, because Homer butt dialed Disco Stu and left a massive voicemail of him licking walls, and like any concerned citizen would do, Disco Stu passed this horrifying file off to the police. Which, clears Homer.
Next up is the most obvious candidate, Bart. Which really gains traction after Milhouse rats Bart out. Bart does admit to the documentary that he knows about the money and has taken some in the past, but has always repaid it. And, specifically, he did so after an ill-advised slime venture. You know, slime? That fad kids cared about a few years ago.
Well, this episode shows Bart being some sort of Walter White-esque slime maganate, who fully invested in a Slime operation with Lisa’s money, right before the bottom fell out. But, Bart was able to sell all of the Slime to Comic Book Guy to recoup his losses, because Comic Book Guy didn’t realize the fad had already passed, and Bart was able to pay back the “loan” he took from Lisa’s fund, clearing him.
And, this just leaves Lisa. Which seems weird, but Wiggum did notice that when they asked Lisa what she’d been doing the night of the theft, she got very suspicious. Plus, they find evidence that Lisa had been pining after a brand new saxophone at King Toot’s that she spent hours playing. But, that’s a false lead, because it turned out that Krusty the Clown actually bought that saxophone, not Lisa.
So, what was Lisa doing during the robbery? Well, to clear her daughter’s name Marge goes ahead and admits something embarrassing. Lisa is terrible at hopscotch and has been employing a hopscotch tutor, and was busy dealing with these lessons while the theft happened. And, that clears Lisa, meaning that the police are officially out of suspects.
The documentary crew are still very suspicious of the family though, and keep digging in, until Marge snaps and kicks them out, forcing them to apologize before leaving. The family then have a big fight on their front lawn about who stole the money, since everyone appears to have been cleared. The documentary explains that the robbery remained unsolved, but that’s okay, because we got to enjoy bad things happening to people who aren’t us.
However, while watching the premiere of the documentary, Marge hows off a new clip-on coaster that she invented. Which, reveals a tangled web. It turns out that Marge actually stole the money to invest in this new invention, leading to a teary explanation where she says that she was hoping to make something of herself with this invention, and thought that no one would notice the missing money until the investment paid off. Homer feels bad about this though, and decides to keep the secret, telling the kids that rats ate the money because of Grandpa. And, they accept that, and move on with their lives.
Was this a great episode of the Simpsons? No, not really. But, by and large, it was much better than most of the episodes we’ve gotten this season, especially in this incredibly lackluster later half. Crime documentaries may be a little past their prime in the public consciousness, but at this point it would be noteworthy if the show referenced something contemporary instead of the other way around. It is funny that they seemed to be aware that crime documentaries were popular, and then assumed that that meant Dateline, not real documentaries, but whatever, they’re doing their best I guess. And, as it stands, this was a pretty good parody of a Dateline style true crime story. The fact that it all revolves around the Simpsons’ internal drama, which the police for some reason care about, is a little ridiculous, but we’ve seen sweatier concepts on this show. It had some decent jokes, and it didn’t actively make me dislike one of the lead characters, so at this point I guess we’re going to take that as a win.
“Woo-Hoo Dunnit?” was written by Brian Kelley and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2019.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons