After a week off for…baseball I think…the Simpsons are back to continue the incredibly strange 31st season. So far things have been…let’s say mixed. A few fine episodes, full of half-baked plots and a shocking number of direct references to better, more beloved episodes. So, you know what we need to right the ship? One of those episodes where we seemingly have two B-plots both jockeying for plot supremacy, neither of which end up getting there. Fun times!
The episode begins with the family arriving at a low-rent SeaWorld knockoff called Aquatraz, which is a decent joke. But, as you probably would have guessed from that title, and you know, reality, it’s a pretty depressing place. Full of animals crammed into tiny aquariums and hourly penguin funerals. Plus, it’s essentially empty, largely due to the effects of depressing documentaries, which signs specifically tell attendants to ignore.
Eventually the family end up at a whale show, because what else are you going to do at an aquarium park? And, it’s sad. But, it does lead to an incredibly strange sequence where Homer pictures himself as a whale, only to be caught and killed to make sushi, which he himself then eats. So, that’s something.
At the end of the show though, Lisa is overcome with depression and rage regarding this whole thing. She goes on a rant, yelling at the crowds about how sad the whale is, and how they need to free it. And, while Marge is dealing with all of this drama, Homer ends up taking Maggie outside the park so they can wander the marina that’s apparently attached to the park.
While wandering the docks Homer watches the rich people and their boats, and begins telling Maggie about how he’s always wanted a boat. Apparently when he was a little boy living with Abe, they frequently went fishing together, but never had enough money to buy a boat of their own, since Abe was a single father, and Homer has always viewed having a boat as a symbol of success. And, it just so happens that while Homer is telling Maggie about this a salesman approaches him, trying to sell him his used boat. And, because Homer is a simple man, it’s very easy to get that sale across the finish line, and Homer ends up walking away with his very own boat!
Meanwhile, the Aquatraz employees have decided they’ve had enough with Lisa’s calls for riots, and they ask the family to leave and never come back. So, they all head home, where Lisa finds herself obsessed with this whale. And it reaches the point that that night she approaches Bart, and asks for his help freeing the whale, wording it as an act of prankery.
So, Bart and Lisa meet up with Groundskeeper Willie, because he apparently works at the park during the summer, and they break into the place. Willie takes them to the control room, where he’s able to show them how to release the whale into the sea, where it escapes to freedom, after running into a cruise ship first. And, you might be wondering if Willie is here to make some sort of Free Willy joke…but no. It was just random, I guess.
After successfully freeing the whale though Bart is struck by a brand new feeling. Pride and altruism. He asks Lisa about this, and she tells him that this is what it feels like to do a good thing for another living being, and Bart decides that he likes that feeling quite a bit.
Meanwhile, Homer has to figure out how to tell Marge about the whole boat thing. And his idea is to blindfold her and the kids, bring them to the dock, and surprise them. But, Marge ends up thinking that Homer just rented it for the day, and loves the idea. So, he rolls with that, and the family spend a great day sailing around the vaguely defined waters of Springfield. And, at the end of the day, Homer tells her the truth, and prepares for a fight. But, surprisingly, Marge is fine with it. Homer was dumb, but he bought something that the whole family enjoys and can bond together with, so she’s going to roll with it.
And, because the boat is such a hit, Homer decides to go one step further and brings Abe out to the boat to show his father that he’s made their dream a reality. Abe is very suspicious of it all, but the two end up having a nice day together. Which is quashed when Homer returns to the dock that night, only for a mechanic to point out that the boat is in bad shape, and is actively sinking, meaning it need a lot of work.
And, while that’s going on, Bart has decided that he needs another altruism high. So, he teams up with Milhouse, and they begin planning another animal heist. But, because of the whole whale thing the aquarium has stepped up security, meaning they need to look elsewhere. And, luckily, Bart has learned about a very aggressive gorilla named Lolo at the Springfield zoo. So they decide to break the gorilla out.
And, at the same time, Homer has learned that his boat is going to cost a whole lot of money to fix. So, he decides that since he got conned, he’s just going to con more people. He approaches Lenny and Carl about essentially time-sharing the boat with him, and after using some reverse psychology gets them to sign on. Lenny and Carl actually have a good time with the boat though, and end up seeing it as a great deal.
But, it turns out that Homer also sold shares to basically everyone in town to maximize his profits. Which results in a whole bunch of people piling on to the boat, sinking it immediately. Homer attempts to sell the boat back to the conman, but he refuses, and sticks Homer with the sunken boat. Luckily, no one seems to mind, and this story just kind of peters out.
Back to the gorilla heist! Bart and Milhouse have scoped the place out, and realized that there’s a vine the gorilla could easily climb out of to freedom. So, they toss Milhouse into the enclosure to get the gorilla’s attention, and then Milhouse climbs the vine to save himself, showing the gorilla the way out. And, it follows perfectly. But, as soon as it’s free, it starts wrecking havoc in the zoo, and fleeing into the city, leaving behind a swath of destruction.
Bart calls Lisa, asking for help, and she lets him know that his entire idea was idiotic, because the gorilla didn’t have a natural habitat to enter into. So, she and Bart begin following the gorilla around town, trying to calm it down. And they end up finding it trashing the school, where Lisa is able to calm the gorilla down by showing it it’s favorite television show, Seinfeld.
She then brings the now docile gorilla back home, and dresses it as Homer to avoid suspicion while she looks for a gorilla sanctuary. But, that proves difficult, since one wants to train them to be Planet of the Apes, and another wants the gorillas to become Bruce Willis impersonators. But, she eventually find Jane Goodall’s organization, and they bring Lolo there to life in peace. Bart is happy that Lisa has undid the damage of his good deed, and his still feels pride. But, he also recognizes that he did it all because he likes chaos.
So yeah, this is kind of a scatterbrained episode. I’ve seen episodes like this before, where it seemed like they maybe had two ideas of episodes that they just couldn’t crack into being full A-plots, so instead decided to just stick two B-Plots together. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen one this clear about its origins. I mean, the title is a mixture of the two plots, neither of which really mix that well. It’s an episode where every other scene creates narrative whiplash, jumping between two radically different stories, neither of which fully work. I guess the boat one makes the most sense, and actually has some sweet moments with Homer’s childhood, but that gorilla thing is a mess. They miss a Free Willy joke, it begins as a Bart story before suddenly and drastically becoming a Lisa story, and it feels weird to have Jane Goodall in the show after they explicitly mocked her way back in the Africa episode. It’s just odd. Not too bad, and it actually didn’t explicitly reference a better episode, so I guess it’s better than most of the stuff we’ve gotten so far this season, but I don’t know if that’s exactly a glowing recommendation.
“Gorillas in the Mast” was written by Max Cohn and directed by Matthew Nastuk, 2019.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons