Well, I’m back from my little self-imposed exile, which can only mean one thing. Time to catch up on the Simpsons! Which, is not always the most positive endeavor to be embarking upon, especially this season. But, to my absolute shock, I found this to be a pretty decent little episode. Maybe it’s the abundance of Mr. Burns, but I actually found this episode to work pretty well for me. The A-Story at least.
The episode begins with Marge taking Maggie for a walk, heading to a playground. Unfortunately, their normal playground has been completely overrun by homeless people, which will not do, so Marge takes Maggie straight to the snootiest and fanciest playground she can find. Full of rich parents and spoiled babies. And, immediately Maggie comes in contact with a little boy baby named Hudson, and the two hit it off right away.
Maggie and Hudson play and bond, while Marge makes small talk with Hudson’s mother Courtney. And, right from the jump, Courtney is the worst. Just kind of everything people hate about Instagram moms. But, Marge does her best to deal with Courtney, because it’s clear that Maggie is enamored with Hudson. Even going to so far as to accept an offer for a playdate with Hudson in the near future.
Back at home, Marge tells the family about Maggie’s experience, and Homer absolutely derails everyone’s conversation by announcing that he’s not going to eat something terrible for breakfast, because he’s worried about his weight. This opens the floodgates, and the entire family begin pressuring him to care about his mortality, causing Homer to pick a single grapefruit for his breakfast.
But, this was all some strange scam, because Homer leaves the house with the grapefruit, and after throwing it away pulls his car over and pulls out some leftover pizza from his trunk to eat while driving. Which, was a bad call, because he ends up getting his hands incredibly greasy, causing him to lose control of his car and smash into a tree. Which, is really going to be a problem, because it’s going to make Homer late for an important meeting with Mr. Burns.
Luckily though, it turns out that Homer crashed his car right next to a stand where Cleetus is selling balloons. The hillbilly explains that he recently came across a vein of helium on his property, and has been selling people balloons to cheer up their day. So, Homer buys a bunch, and brings them to the meeting, instantly cheering Mr. Burns up. But, not because the old man loves balloons. He just really loves helium, because the Plant uses it to cool his reactors, and it’s quite expensive.
And, when Homer explains that he got the helium from a hick who doesn’t really understand what he’s found, Burns immediately decides they need to swindle him. So, Burns and Smithers head out to Cleetus’ shack, and try to make a deal for his helium. Cleetus seems interested in the idea of a deal, but insists that they drink moonshine together first, which causes Mr. Burns to become an old-timey cartoon character and pass out. He and Smithers admit that they can’t get into the mind of Cleetus, and need to find another idiot to befriend him. Enter Homer. They convince Homer that he needs to befriend Cleetus and help them ruin his life.
Meanwhile, it’s time for Marge and Maggie’s little playdate. So, they head out to Courtney’s huge house, and let the babies play while Courtney begins mocking Marge’s parenting style, asking invasive questions about her sexual history, and just generally being condescending. Which, eventually becomes too much for Marge to take. She grabs Maggie, and storms out of the house, ending the baby friendship, much to the absolute misery of Maggie.
We then see Homer begin his destruction of Cleetus. He shows up at Cleetus’ farm, where the yokel is mining for helium and collecting it with his mouth, storing it in balloons. Homer talks with the man, and convinces him that there’s a better way to mine and store helium, catching his interest. Cleetus decides that Homer is on the level, and they set up a mining operation, which Burns begins to exploit, while Homer keeps Cleetus distracted with friendship. They go catfish noodling, have a fish fry, and eventually agree to become official partners.
However, when Burns arrives to congratulate Homer on successfully screwing this innocent man over, Homer starts to feel guilty. And, it turns out that Marge is feeling quite guilty as well, so the two have some time sharing their shame as Homer talks about Cleetus and Marge admits that she’s ruining Maggie’s friendship. Even revealing that she didn’t tell Maggie about Hudson’s little birthday party.
Homer continues to work for Burns though, until he tells Home that they need a legally binding contract to continue screwing Cleetus over. Homer does bring the man the contract, but after seeing Cleetus prepare to sign it without even reading it, because he trusts Homer implicitly, Homer just cant take it anymore. He tells Cleetus the truth, and while he’s shocked at first, Cleetus quickly forgives Homer, because they’re buddies.
At which point Mr. Burns arrives with some goons to get vengeance on Homer and Cleetus. But, seeing his buddy is danger, Cleetus tells Burns that he’s willing to make a deal for the helium. But, a real deal, one where he won’t be getting screwed over. Burns ends up agreeing to this, especially after Cleetus’ family arrive with a bunch of guns, and they ink a formal agreement which keeps Cleetus taken care of.
Oh, and I guess we have to wrap up the Marge plot. So, We see Marge take Maggie to a playground to try and get her distracted, but it just makes her sad, thinking of Hudson. So, Marge swallows her pride and takes Maggie back to the snooty playground so she can reunite with Hudson, doing her best to put up with Courtney. But all that really matters is that Homer and Cleetus get to be BFFs again.
By and large, I feel like this episode works pretty well. The Marge/Maggie plot is pretty damn weak, falling into that saddening trend of recent episodes that seem to be the writers of the show just griping about the kids today. Courtney is incredibly annoying, but she also just wants to keep her kid safe, and Marge’s gripes really just kind of become hacky standup material. But, the main plot is pretty damn fun. I feel like it’s been forever since we had an episode with this much Mr. Burns, possibly because of Harry Shearer’s open disdain for the show at this point, and it was a lot of fun to just see him hatching schemes and getting Homer involved. Plus, the weird friendship of Homer and Cleetus actually works pretty well, leading to an episode that had decent jokes and some actual heart! What a concept!
“The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby” was written by Tom Gammill and Max Pross and directed by Bob Anderson, 2020.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons