couch gag: The Simpsons are swimming the length of a pool to get to the couch, but Homer is floating face down at the start
Director: Raymond S. Persi
Wren T. Brown as Virgil
Synopsis: When Lisa researches for a genealogy project, she finds Eliza Simpson, an ancestor who helped a black slave escape to freedom.
Discussion: American culture is enriched with stories about equality, even in times when it was a matter of life and death to the pioneers who sought to fight injustice. This is something Australian history doesn’t have, mostly because we’re a relatively young colony. As an aside, if anyone is interested in reading about how white Australians treated our Indigenous community, read about the Stolen Generations. It’s not pretty.
Anyhoo, Lisa’s doing a family tree and sees that most of the Simpsons weren’t exactly role models. She discovers an old diary by one Miss Eliza Simpson, who rescues a black slave from the Burns plantation. Through stories told via different means, the whole picture comes together, ending with Mabel Simpson (Eliza’s mother) escaping with Virgil to Canada, marrying him and birthing Grampa’s great-grandfather.
The story itself is quite good, although the execution of the storytelling is disjointed and lost in translation. For a start, Eliza’s diary is too damaged so the story is continued through an anecdote in a cookbook, then Milhouse’s ancestor’s diary, a video reel (in colour?) of Eliza Simpson’s story (apparently, she married Milhouse’s ancestor) and finally, through Grampa himself. Keeping the story to within one mode would make the episode run more smoothly, I think, although I do like Milhouse’s interjection at Lisa’s presentation. Maybe just keeping those two methods to fill out the story would make it run better. Give Grampa a surprise at the end to find out he’s descended from a freed slave.
There’s not many laughs in this episode, but slavery is never funny. I do like the setup at the beginning of Groundskeeper Willie blowing up a tree stump, thus giving Miss Hoover the idea of setting a family tree for homework. The rest of the ep, though, is disjointed and loses momentum every time an obstacle hits Lisa’s research. I finished the ep feeling unfulfilled; the basics for a great story were there, but the execution absolutely let it down.