There are few things that make me more apprehensive of an upcoming episode of the Simpsons than seeing that it’s going to be about the family taking a vacation. I’ve talked about this at length over the years, but vacation episodes rarely do it for me, often falling into a really obnoxious pattern that makes them all feel the same. And yet, much to my complete shock, this episode completely bucks tradition and manages to tell an actual story while the family are on vacation. And it’s solid! What a world!
The episode begins with Marge picking Bart up from a sleepover at Milhouse’s, where they apparently spent the whole night drinking Five-Hour Energies, eating Nutella, and watching Russian dash-cam videos. Because, you know, the kids today. And, while Marge is chatting with Luanne she learns that the Van Houten’s are thinking of inviting the Simpsons on an infamous yearly vacation they take.
But, while you may assume that going on vacation with the Van Houten’s sounds like a nightmare, it’s apparently a huge honor. Every year they and a group of families go to Costa Rica and have a hell of a time together. And Marge is incredibly excited to be included this year. So, she races home as fast as humanly possible to pitch it to the family and get them on board.
Which, as you can guess, isn’t that difficult a job. Homer, Bart, and Lisa get on board with Costa Rica immediately. However, that night while Lisa is busy researching things to do in Costa Rica, she overhears Homer and Marge talking about the trip, and worrying about money. But, Marge argues that life is about experiences, not money, and convinces Homer they should just go with it and have a good time. Which, manages to transfer all that fiduciary stress straight to Lisa.
Lisa starts trying to convince the family that they shouldn’t go, but they all just ignore her and head to the airport to meet up with the other families. It’s going to be the Van Houten’s, the Hibbert’s, Superintendent Chalmers and Shauna, and in a twist, Patty and her new girlfriend Evelyn. Which, obviously makes Homer unhappy. But, Marge tells him to be on his best behavior, for her, and Homer agrees to try and play nice with Patty and her girlfriend.
The crew then head to Costa Rica, and find that they’ll be staying at a massive mansion. And, immediately, Kirk starts showing off, handing out authentic cocktails and ensuring everyone that they’re in paradise. They just have to stay with Pura Vida, the pure life state of mind that Costa Rica has that will make them all happy. Everyone except Lisa, who spends a fancy dinner just calculating everything they will owe, because these vacations have Kirk paying for everything, and then having everyone else settle up at the end of the trip.
And, during the dinner, Homer finds himself sitting next to Evelyn, growing bored prtty quickly. Until they both realize that they love professional corn hole. And, this makes them fast friends, quickly realizing that they’re essentially the same person. To the point where the next day they offer to stay behind and drink at the beach while everyone else sight-sees and shops.
And, that’s a problem, because when they all get back they find Homer and Evelyn drunk, sunburnt, and partying with a bunch of monkeys who have been let into the house. Everyone is pissed at them, and Marge begins yelling at Homer. She has a special dream of getting a perfect picture of the two of them at a famous waterfall, and is worried that Homer and Evelyn will ruin that, because she’s a bad influence on him.
Meanwhile, Lisa is still super stressed about the money, and tells Bart about these worries. To which Bart suggests they go steal Kirk’s settle-up book and see how much they owe to bring Marge and Homer back to reality. Lisa loves the idea, and they break into Kirk’s room, snooping around and seeing how sad the Van Houten’s are. And, in the process they find a suitcase of what appears to be rare artifacts, which make them thing the Van Houten’s are actually smuggling.
And, while they’re doing that, everyone else is on a hike, where Evelyn convinces Homer to day drink with her. So, when they finally get to the waterfall Homer is completely drunk. Marge is furious at him, but they do accidentally end up getting a great picture. Until Evelyn does a drunken cannonball, making Marge drop the phone and ruin it before the picture can be posted.
Marge is depressed about this, and Patty is furious, thinking Homer is making Evelyn act like this. But, Marge turns it around and says that Evelyn is a bad influence, going so far as to saying that Evelyn is a female version of Homer, which blows Patty’s mind and makes her absolutely disgusted.
And, pooping on everyone’s party even more, Lisa gets everyone together and reveals the stolen artifacts, explaining that this is how they afford the trips. But, Kirk reveals that they are actually fancy salt and pepper shakers, which were going to be gifts. So, now all of the Simpsons look like assholes, and they’ve decided to leave early. So, Kirk gives them their insane bill, and though it kills Homer’s soul, he writes a check. Oh, and Marge finds out that Patty has broken up with Evelyn.
The Simpsons begin leaving, until Homer realizes that Kirk charged them for the stupid salt and pepper shakers. So, they decide to go steal theirs, and in the process realize that this isn’t some random home that the Van Houten’s rented. They own it, because it was built by some ancestor of theirs. So, they’re charging people rent for a house that they aren’t paying for, pocketing the difference.
The Simpsons then confront everyone at a zip-line course, and reveal the scam that the Van Houten’s have been pulling. And, immediately the other families turn on them, and begin attacking the Van Houten’s, getting their checks back. Also, Marge talks with Patty, and tells her that loving a “Homer” is worth it, and that she should give Evelyn another chance. So, they make up, everyone gets their money back from Kirk, and they all had a great trip.
I was legitimately shocked about this episode. When it started and I realized right away that this was going to be an episode about the Simpsons going to Costa Rica, I was really bummed. Because it feels like they were just going to do what they always do. The Simpsons would go, they would go to all the famous sights, get into trouble while tossing out as many stereotypes as possible, and then get chased home, having realized that nowhere is better than Springfield. But, shockingly, they didn’t do that. It’s just an episode with a fun and different plot, that just so happens to take place on a vacation. And, I think it works! It might be because my expectations plummeted when I thought this was a vacation episode, but I really thought this was a decent episode. The main plot with Homer finding a kindred soul and ruining the vacation is pretty fun, and the Lisa stressing about money stuff is funny. Plus, it all dives together perfectly, coming up to that insane reveal where the Van Houten’s are scamming everyone. Taken in a vacuum, this maybe isn’t the greatest episode, but I think it’s probably hands down the best of the season so far.
“Livin La Pura Vida” was written by Brian Kelley, directed by Timothy Bailey, 2019.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons