Lifetime of Simpsons

S31 E13 – Frinkcoin

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Well, after an accidental lapse in coverage, we’re back talking about more Simpsons episodes folks! And, it wouldn’t be a modern episode of the show if the subject wasn’t at least four years out of date! That’s right, who wants to talk about cryptocurrency again? But, at least they were contemporary enough to have the couch gag become a fever-dream reference to the insane Cats movie. So, that’s something, I guess.

The actual episode begins with the Simpsons visiting Springfield’s only vegan restaurant, indulging Lisa’s interests for once. Which, makes her pretty damn suspicious from the get-go, assuming that there’s some sort of ploy going on here. Bart assumes it’s because she’s dying and the parents are trying to do one last thing for her, but the actual answer is somehow weirder.

It turns out that Lisa is supposed to be writing some essay about the most interesting person she knows, Homer and Marge have learned about said essay, and have decided to bribe her with a trip to a vegan restaurant in order to convince her to write about one of them. Which, she promptly shoots down, insisting that she’s already picked her topic.

Professor Frink! It’s not exactly explained why, other than him being interested in science, but Lisa has set up an appointment to meet with Frink and write about him. She goes and visits his small office in Springfield University, which he shares with a humanities professor who seems to hate him, and they get chatting. And it’s sad! Frink explains that he has loved science every since he was a child, because he was a test-tube baby, and was raised by two prominent scientists.

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However, Frink is depressed because he’s never invented anything that has made him successful, which he thinks is the key to happiness. Luckily though, he’s come up with something he thinks will turn his luck around. Crytpo! That’s right, Professor Frink thinks he’s going to set the world ablaze with a new cryptocurrency, and even plays a weird little video featuring that Sheldon guy attempting to explain the blockchain to the old people watching Fox in Schoolhouse Rock terms.

Frink then releases his crypto, Frinkcoin, and it immediately becomes the most stable source of currency in the world somehow. And, just like that, Professor Frink is a billionaire, and the richest man in Springfield. Which, really pisses of the previous holder of that title, Mr. Burns. He’s furious that Frink has taken his spot, and has Smithers explain crypto to him, only to get more bothered by the fact that Smithers calls him Monty, and promptly stops listening.

But, while Burns is scheming, we see that instant fame and fortune hasn’t done much to cheer Frink up. Lisa comes to visit him and he’s still just as depressed, even though he spent the first couple million dollars of his fortune paying off his student loans. Frink does everything he think will make him happy, like buying a mansion and a bunch of stuff, but he’s still feeling unfulfilled.

Lisa starts to think that the reason Frink is so sad is that he doesn’t have anyone to share his life with, and tries to encourage Homer to become Frink’s friend. And, in order to avoid an evening with Patty and Selma, Homer agrees to take Frink to Moe’s for a night of bar trivia. And, thanks to Frink’s vast knowledge base, he ends up cleaning up at the trivia game, and ingratiates himself with the guys, and he actually starts to feel happy for once.

Meanwhile, Burns is still mad about Frink, and weirdly Smithers for the name thing, and Smithers has been tasked with finding a way to make Burns richer again. And, the only way they see that being possible is to invent his own crypto. So, they hire Homer’s old nerd buddies to create a new cryptocurrency, but they’re unable to create an algorithm better than Frinks. So, instead they shift gears and come up with a way to destroy all cryptocurrency, which would wipe away Frink’s wealth. But, it’s going to take a while to create, so Burns moves on to a plan B.

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By this time Frink has been having a great time with his new buddies, leading lives of excess and rich shaninigans. And, while they’re hanging out on Frink’s yacht they get a surprise visit from Burns, who wants to have a billionaire to billionaire chat with Frink. He informs him that his newfound friends are only interested in him for his money, and starts seeding Frink with the realization that these guys are just leeches here to take advantage of him. And, after doing a couple experiments he gets the confirmation that the guys actually don’t want to spend any time with him, unless hes paying for stuff to do.

So, Frink is sad again, and has another heart-to-heart with Lisa, where she has a very strange explanation of her own depressing reality, talking about having the same depressing stories happen to her over and over again for the last 31 seasons. But, that doesn’t really help Frink out at all, so he continues to search for meaning in his life.

And, while that’s happening, Burns has decided to crowd-source the answer to his crypto-killing algorithm. He and Smithers have placed a white-board in the Town Square with the algorithm, expecting someone to just wander by and solve it, Good Will Hunting style. Which, seems foolish, because the idiots of Springfield can’t make heads or tails of the algorithm.

But, unexpectedly, one night the algorithm is solved. Burns, Smithers, and basically everyone in town come to look at the algorithm, before Burns apparently uses it to immediately erase everyone’s crypto-fortunes, which seems like it would have a pretty big impact on the world, but whatever. And, not surprisingly, we learn that the person who solved the problem was Frink himself, who has freed himself from the burden of wealth. And, he’s even found himself a real friend in the form of Lisa, even though she does make it clear that any adult who befriends her usually ends up dead or in some depressing state, which is pretty ominous. But, the episode does end on a slightly happy note by showing us that he and the humanities professor have decided to start hooking up. So, that’s nice!

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This is a pretty forgettable episode. It’s pretty common for the writers of this show to decide they want to showcase one of the oddball tertiary characters every now and then, hoping to get some sort of depth out of them, and Professor Frink is a character that I enjoy. But, saddling him with a plot all about the capricious nature of fame and fortune is sort of a weird choice, since it’s a story that really could have been applied to almost any character. The only thing that actually makes this Frink related is the whole cryptocurrency angle, which really feels about three years out of being relevant. But, I like Frink, and we got a pretty fun little side-story of Mr. Burns scheming ways to become richer than him, and it’s always nice to see Burns. Even though that weird Smithers C-Plot of him being punished for calling him Monty is strange and just kept coming up only to have no real payoff. But, hey, it’s a modern Simpsons episode, and I guess I’ll take what I can get, and a decent if somewhat forgettable episode is sometimes the best I can hope for.

 

“Frinkcoin” was written by Rob LaZebnik and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2020.

 

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