The Burns Cage
Billboard gag: Apu advertising Easter eggs. “They never go bad because they were never that good”.
If Villanova doesn’t win, we lose everything.
Couch gag: Homer types family emojis plus a couch on his smartphone, earning a reply “Meh. I don’t get it.”
George Takei as himself
Director: Rob Oliver
Synopsis: When Smithers realises Mr Burns doesn’t return his affections, Homer finds Smithers a boyfriend. Springfield Elementary’s new production is Casablanca, starring Lisa as Ilsa.
Discussion: What, Smithers is gay?!? Colour me shocked!
Let me begin with a rant. Much of the humour with the Smithers/Burns relationship comes from a not-so-secret understanding of Smithers’ sexuality, such as his fantasy sequence of Mr Burns floating through the window or his copy of ‘It’s Raining Men’. Having Smithers officially come out is a “well duh!” moment plus it adds nothing to his character or the continuing narrative. The audience is well aware of Smithers’ affections towards Mr Burns even if Burns himself is completely in the dark. The producers have previously joked that Smithers is not gay, he’s Burns-sexual.
Having said that, the episode begins with Smithers singing a melancholy ditty about his unrequited love. It’s actually a really sad song which sums up everything perfectly. After this, there’s a few jokes which are actually amusing (whoda thunk it?) Annnd then the episode descends into Moe explaining a long-standing narrative point (“Yeah but Burns doesn’t dig Smithers!”) and Homer using the internet (or rather, a gay dating app) to find Smithers a boyfriend. This whole scene feels like the writers needed to explain what was about to happen because the audience is clearly stupid.
Comic Book Guy dressed as Hello Kitty, lol.
Sadly, there’s no actual motivation for this episode other than the writer wanted a gay-themed episode for his son’s benefit.
The B plot in this travesty is Lisa’s school production of Casablanca. Compared to the series’ other productions such as Planet of the Apes or A Streetcar Named Desire, this pales in comparison and the Bogart homages are just… weird.
The ep ends with Smithers and Milhouse in Moe’s Bar talking about the thrill of the chase, with Moe setting off to find gold a la The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
Yep, more homage.
All in all, yet another disappointing entry into the Simpsons canon. Am I surprised? No. There’s a lot of good material here, wasted on substandard writing and retconning Smithers. Sure, it’s happened before, most notably with Principal Skinners being ousted as Armin Tamzarian… and look how that turned out: that ep is widely thought to be the point where the show jumped the shark.