I did not see teacher siphoning gas
Couch gag: Each of the Simpsons come out from a cuckoo clock.
Director: Matthew Faughnan
Synopsis: On a family vacation, Marge and Homer relate a story of a time when their love was tested.
Discussion: Usually the romantic flashbacks chronicling Marge and Homer’s life are sweet, nostalgic and romantic. This one misses the mark completely. Flashback eps are full of temptation, where Homer realises he really loves Marge after some mishap, and although this one fulfills that criteria, it’s still missing something.
There are three timelines in this episode: twenty years earlier when Homer and Marge agreed not to marry and were picked up by a newly married Ned and Maude Flanders; five years earlier when Homer and Marge were fighting and tempted by others; and the present where Homer and Marge want some snuggle time away from the kids. None of these stories adds anything to the canon, except that it’s nice to see Ned gettin’ some action because I was really starting to wonder how he got kids…
Whatever the point was of the episode, I missed it completely. It just didn’t gel.
Rome-Old and Julie-Eh
Couch gag: The Simpsons parody the opening to Bonanza
Director: Nancy Kruse
Jane Kaczmarek as Judge Constance Harm
Synopsis: Abe and Selma find love, while Lisa and Bart build a fortress out of cardboard boxes.
Discussion: I’m not sure what to think about this episode. On one hand, it’s bucking against the grain in terms of surprises: we’ve not seen a couple this mismatched since Agnes Skinner and Comic Book Guy. On the other hand… Abe and Selma? Ewwwwwwwww. And then we have the almighty battle to save Boxingham Palace… What?
We’ll start from the beginning. Homer builds a rec room in the basement, and files for bankruptcy. In the phase of cutting expenses, Grampa is kicked out of the retirement castle to come live with the Simpsons. OK, OK, yes, good, I can deal with that. Homer and Marge go out for dinner and Selma is invited over to help babysit. Well… OK… And then Grampa and Selma start smooching, dating, and marrying. I think it’s a good avenue to explore- it’s completely unexpected but not without small inconsistencies. For example, Selma is called over to help babysit yet leaves her baby with Abe while she works very long hours. OK, so Grampa destroying the kitchen happens after they marry… but where’s the baby?
The subplot of Lisa and Bart building a fort from cardboard boxes is weak. The battle versus the shipping company is a parody of a battle from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, but I’m not really buying it. At most, it’s only slightly interesting as Bart, Lisa and Nelson use cardboard weapons to deliver blows to defeat their enemy, who only want their boxes back. After the mighty battle, they hose down the fort until it’s nothing but a pile of soggy cardboard. What an anti-climax!
I’m going to go with my first instinct here and say this episode is average. I’m torn between it being brilliant for the use of unexpected coupledom (even though we really don’t need to see it…) and it being really bad, mostly for the same reason plus the cardboard fortress is kinda lame.
Milhouse of Sand and Fog
Couch gag: A pop-up menu appears after the family have sat down, and the unseen person chooses “Delete recording”.
Director: Steven Dean Moore
Synopsis: Milhouse’s parents look like they’re getting back together but Milhouse misses the attention, so he and Bart plot to break them up again.
Discussion: Unlike the previous two atrocities, this episode isn’t eye-stabbingly bad. In fact, it has moments where glimpses of Classic Simpsons shine through. Sadly those moments don’t last long, but hey! I didn’t want to stab out my eyes with a rusty spoon so it’s all good.
Milhouse’s parents have been separated since season 8’s ‘A Milhouse Divided‘. Now that they might get back together, Milhouse misses the extra attention he gets from both parents competing for his love, so he and Bart plan to break up the new couple. Cue Bart planting Marge’s bra to make Luann think Kirk has been cheating… but Bart didn’t realise his mother’s name is sewn onto the lingerie. Ooooh!
All of this is great- the plot works, it goes smoothly, there’s no reason to cry (unless you’re Milhouse and you have a remainder in your long division). Bart’s final prank to get his own parents back together is a bit stupid and cliched but I’m willing to forgive it because the rest of the ep is so different to what I’ve recently been subjected to.
Whether Luann and Kirk stay together is another story… Don’t look at me, I don’t know the answer. I’m beyond the limits of what I’ve seen previously (apart from the odd one here and there). And no spoilers either!
A Milhouse Divided
couch gag: The family sit on the couch and Bart is fuzzy. Homer tunes the TV, causing Bart to changes colours. Finally Homer smacks Bart and he returns to normal.
Director: Steven Dean Moore
Synopsis: When Milhouse’s parents split up at the Simpsons’ dinner party, Homer reassesses his own marriage.
Discussion: This is another episode in which the events carry on past this one ep. Lisa’s vegetarianism is another example. Kirk and Luann Van Houten are clearly having problems and it all boils over at Marge’s dinner party with the couple deciding to divorce. Despite the episode’s title, Milhouse doesn’t really feature much except in the scene where he’s driving a race car around his house. Apart from this scene, he’s not shown as feeling conflicted or sad. You’d think there’d at least be a scene where his parents are asking him where he’d like to live. That seems a logical scene from the title, doesn’t it?
In any case, in the third act, the focus shifts from the Van Houtens to the Simpsons, and Homer reassesses his own marriage, thinking Marge might take a leaf from Luann’s book and divorce him as well. This was done because the writers thought a whole episode about the Van Houtens wouldn’t hold the audience’s interest… maybe so, but shifting the focus makes the ep feel disjointed. Having said that, this is a technique the writers use a lot: the beginning scenes are often just the set-up for what comes later, not necessarily having anything to do with the final plot.
In any case, Milhouse’s parents are now separated and will stay that way. There are future episodes which toy with them getting back together, but we’ll get to those in good time.