Brother, Can You Spare Me Two Dimes?
I will not fake seizures.
Couch gag: The family cartwheel to the couch.
Director: Rich Moore
Danny DeVito as Herb
Joe Frazier as himself
Synopsis: To compensate Homer for his lazy sperm caused by exposure to radiation, Mr Burns gives Homer $2000 and a fancy award. Homer’s brother, now destitute, asks for the money to build a baby translator to make him rich again.
Discussion: This episode is a sequel to season two’s Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? That episode ended sadly as Homer completely destroyed Herb’s fortune and livelihood, so it’s only fair that Homer make amends… in classic Simpsons fashion.
Giving Homer money is usually not a good idea, he’ll waste it all within minutes if he can. Good thing Herb has a brilliant idea that every mother in the country is going to want. With Maggie’s help, Herb develops a baby translator with the borrowed $2000 and showcases it at a baby convention. Instant riches, everyone’s happy, it’s a warm and fuzzy episode.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s the ep that had to happen. Homer just had to make amends for his half-brother and this is a great way to do it. It’s not overly warm and fuzzy, there are plenty of funny moments such as Homer’s trip in the Spinemelter 2000, Maggie’s musings as Herb tries to learn what she’s saying, and Mr Burns’ over-the-top award just so Homer won’t sue over his sterility (the comparison of Homer’s lazy sperm with Smithers’ healthy sperm is also pretty funny, but you may want to have The Talk with younger kids before they see it).
Overall, it’s a fitting end to season 3. Always leave on a high note.
Bart’s Friend Falls in Love
I will not snap bras
Couch gag: The family sit on the couch and it falls backwards through the wall.
Director: Jim Reardon
First appearance of:
Kirk Van Houten
Kimmy Robertson as Samantha
Synopsis: There’s a new girl at school and Milhouse develops an instant crush on her. Meanwhile, Homer listens to subliminal vocabulary tapes when the company runs out of weight loss tapes.
Discussion: This post was very nearly called Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You-Know-What after a video the kids watch in Mrs Krabappel’s class. We’ve all been the third wheel when our best friend finds a partner. They want to spend all their time with them, and there’s not a moment’s peace, even at the movies. You ask, “Remember the bit where…?” only find they missed it because they were lip wrestling. It’s such a strain on the friendship and a huge pain in the ass as well. Bart ends up giving Milhouse a lesson in bros before hos.
I have two favourite sequences from this ep: the homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark and the aforementioned Fuzzy Bunny video. Homer’s vocab is also pretty hilarious, especially when he asks for a thingy to dig food. We also meet Milhouse’s dad, Kirk, back when he and Luann are still happily married (whoops, was that a spoiler?)
And for those playing Simpsons Logo Quiz, you can now add in Samantha. One day I’ll publish the solution to that whole game… but right now I’ve only completed two levels. I know the characters, but stuffed if I can remember their names. Instead of Googling the cheats, I’m waiting to watch the episodes. Takes a while but it’s more satisfying that cheating. (I only mention this because I can see what search terms are used to find my blog, and Simpsons Logo Quiz comes up regularly).
Funny noises aren’t funny
Couch gag: Burglars are stealing the couch, the family sit on it but are thrown off.
Director: David Silverman
Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob
Synopsis: As part of the prison pen-pals scheme, Aunt Selma starts writing to Sideshow Bob. When he’s released, he marries her with the intent of killing her on the honeymoon. His plan is foiled by Bart.
Discussion: Following on from the first season episode where Krusty is framed, Bob is released from prison intent on marrying Bart’s Aunt Selma, who is desperate for a man in her life. Both are themes carried throughout the series: Sideshow Bob’s continued hatred of Bart and Selma’s continued need for a man.
This ep isn’t in the usual format of the show, instead it takes form of a mystery which is solved by Bart, whose mistrust of Sideshow Bob is still quite evident. Good thing too… or maybe not; Homer wouldn’t mind so much if the plan had gone ahead, but that’s another story. The shows featuring Sideshow Bob are usually very clever and this one isn’t a disappointment. Featuring a love story between Selma and Bob is inspired as it fulfills both needs as well as furthering the Bob/Bart saga. Most seasons have at least one Bob episode, and as always Kelsey Grammer is the perfect voice for the role.
I will not conduct my own fire drills
Director: Mark Kirkland
First appearance of:
Beverley D’Angelo as Lurleen
Synopsis: After fighting with Marge, Homer heads to a redneck bar and discovers a singing waitress named Lurleen. He agrees to be her manager, however her failure means the Simpson family is broke and her success means Homer is always away from his family. Lurleen asks Homer to “bunk with her” and Homer refuses, selling her contract and going home to Marge.
Discussion: Homer and Marge’s marriage isn’t perfect. This is one of those things that add to the show’s realism and lead it away from the cartoonish iconography we’re used to. In this episode, Homer manages a country singer who, amazingly, has the hots for him. Maybe she’s attracted to married men, maybe she’s attracted to power… or maybe she has a fetish for overweight and balding men. Who knows? In any case, she doesn’t hide this crush and Marge notices. Homer is 100% faithful to his wife and gives up his new career to be with his family. Lurleen is young, pretty and talented and has the goods to go a very long way with her career, but Homer chooses to be with his family instead.
You know, when this ep first aired, I had no idea Beverley D’Angelo was the voice. I knew her from the National Lampoon movies and here she’s (surprisingly) perfectly cast. Wikipedia tells me that she even wrote two of Lurleen’s songs and performed them herself! It’s really great to see this kind of diversity in a guest role and should be encouraged.
Country music isn’t really my thing, however the songs in the episode are catchy. I don’t find myself singing them to my bowling ball though…
Dog of Death
I saw nothing unusual in the teacher’s lounge
Couch gag: Homer lies on the couch and the family sit on him
Director: Jim Reardon
Synopsis: Santa’s Little Helper needs an operation and the family all sacrifice something in order to raise the money needed. After the operation, the family blame the dog for them going without and the dog, feeling unloved, runs away.
Discussion: Losing a pet is never easy, and most people would do anything they can to save their beloved pet. However, making sacrifices such as enduring chub night (“Chub night? I don’t even know what that is!”) and having free haircuts at barber college make the family resent the dog, but when the dog runs away, they realise they love him after all. Aww!
There are loads of cultural and self-referential references in the episode, but what really stands out is the realism of the situation. For those who read the first blog post, this is what the writers aimed for: even though it’s an animated show, it misses the “cartoonish” behaviour such as jaws dropping etc and brought realism to family television. (Coincidentally, this episode also trumped The Cosby Show in the ratings, also a goal for the network.) Many families don’t budget for sudden expenses, including when a beloved pet is taken ill (pet insurance is totally worth it, by the way). Although this episode has a happy ending, the first act will bring up many emotions in people who have ever lost a pet.
Of course, the other main theme of the ep is Mr Burns’ possession of the dog and teaching him to be one of the Hounds who are released to terrorise anyone silly enough to knock on Mr Burns’ door. And let’s face it- who hasn’t wished they had hounds to release when some undesirable knocks on their door? (Do Not Knock stickers are also totally worth it, by the way). Santa’s Little Helper recognising Bart just before tearing him to bits is just the sweetened ending the episode deserves. Because let’s face it- we all love our pets.
I will not barf unless I’m sick
Couch gag: The family sit down and Bart flops across their laps
Director: Jeffrey Lynch
Steve Allen as Bart testifying in court
First appearance of:
Synopsis:Bart and Lisa take aptitude tests at school. Lisa is disappointed to see hers is Homemaker and Bart is surprised to learn he should be a police officer. Fearing her hard work is for nothing, Lisa ditches music and education and becomes a “bad girl”. Bart becomes a good guy and trusted by Principal Skinner.
Discussion: Here we have the tables turned with each Simpson kid (“Marge, the dog doesn’t count as a kid!”) swapping characteristics. Bart becomes good (but ultimately takes the fall for Lisa’s wrongdoing) and Lisa becomes a bad girl. Bart’s fling with authority means he becomes a trusty within the school and all but eliminates bad behaviour and bullying. In turn, Lisa aids in vandalising school property and talking back to the teacher.
It’s clearly a fun episode to write and direct. You can imagine the writers sitting around working out ways how to encourage Lisa and Bart to play swapsies for the episode. In the meantime, we’re introduced to Snake, Springfield’s resident criminal and also see the underbelly of Springfield life and continued police corruption.
I’m glad the writers decided on the sweet ending- Bart taking the fall for Lisa means all’s well in the Simpsons canon once more, neatly tied up in the requisite half an hour.
Homer at the Bat
I will not aim for the head
Couch gag: As the family rush in, they knock heads and only Maggie ends up on the couch.
Director: Jim Reardon
Ken Griffey Jr
Terry Cashman (singing the song over the end credits)
Synopsis: Thanks to Homer and his home-made Wonderbat, the nuclear power plant’s softball team are undefeated and through to the Championship game against Shelbyville. Mr Burns makes a side bet and has Smithers hire nine professional baseballers in order to secure the Championship. Eight of the nine players suffer misfortunes, taking them out of the game. Homer is on the bench but Mr Burns replaces Daryl Strawberry with Homer as he is right-handed, allowing Homer’s hit on the head to win the game.
Discussion: As previously mentioned, I’m not a sports fan. But thanks to the Umpire’s rules and Marge’s commentary, I am now totally confident in knowing how softball is played!
Despite the episode being about a game I don’t play and featuring people I’ve never heard of, it’s quite enjoyable. I think this is because much of the episode surrounds the players and characters, not the game itself. We have Smithers tracking down the players and then the various misfortunes that befall them. All of which are hilarious and kudos to the players for taking part. Wikipedia tells me that one of the players was somewhat annoying to deal with but his rewritten part of heroism works well and is one of the funniest misfortunes (“The dryer goes on the left…”).
It’s also nice to get away from the family dynamic again and focus on something else. The family bonding episodes so far this season are repetitive.
For those playing at home with the Simpsons Logo Quiz, I’m stuck on Level 2. The last character I need appears in this episode but his name isn’t revealed. He’s the guy who says, “My sister let me use her wooden leg”. I think his name might be Charles? Anyone here know?
Bart the Lover
Couch gag: There’s an alien on the couch who escapes through a trapdoor before the family come in.
Director: Carlos Baeza
Synopsis: Bart’s teacher places a personal ad, so Bart decides to answer it using a pseudonym. Meanwhile, Homer’s swearing is offending Ned Flanders, so Marge begins a swear jar.
Discussion: Who knew Bart was such a romantic? Well, OK, he only did it to humiliate his teacher but he did write some very nice things. There’s some very good bits here which deserve their own space.
Let’s start with the first act of the episode. We start with an ode to zinc in one of those educational videos from when Jesus was a boy. (“Come back, zinc! Come back!”) In a special assembly with questionable educational value, the Twirl Kings dazzle the kids with their yo-yo tricks. Who remembers phases of games that swept through the school regularly? For my school, we played elastics, skipping and handball til we got bored, but they always became popular again. Don’t ever recall yo-yos though, except those Coca-Cola ones that every kid in the 80s and never quite got the hang of… Anyhoo, I digress. Bart breaks the class fish bowl and earns himself detention, whereby discovering Mrs Krabappel’s personal ad.
Lisa’s smooching noises in Bart’s direction is classic sibling teasing when the opposite sex is involved. Oooooooooh you have a girlfriend! *smoochy noises* Bart gets inspiration for his letters to Edna from various sources such as watching old movies and Homer’s one love postcard to Marge (“Five dollars? Get outta here!”) Homer’s swear montage is brilliant and much funnier than if they’d left the swearing in. Ned is very annoying in this episode but for good reason; he’s the antagonist to Homer’s swearing plus it’s another fun poke at his seriousness over religion when he phones Rev Lovejoy yet again (“Is this about the stupid quarter again?”).
Finally, we see Woodrow breaking up with Edna after standing her up at the fanciest restaurant in town. Bart feels at least partly responsible… It’s a great way to end the ep, having the whole family contribute to the letter. Even Homer pulls out a good parting line after suggesting they simply write, “P.S. I am gay”.
I will not spank others
Couch gag: The family form a human pyramid on the couch
Director: Mark Kirkland
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure and the guy on the radio
Synopsis: Under a lot of stress, Marge finally cracks and spends some time in Rancho Relaxo to unwind. Lisa and Bart stay with her sisters while Maggie remains with Homer but escapes to find Marge.
Discussion: Finally, an episode not about family bonding! Instead, a link from the Simpsons family chain is taken away, and chaos inevitably ensues. Having Bart and Lisa away from the home is a great idea because Homer would probably go down the same path as Marge in a day or two (having both adults at the ranch could have been interesting…) Maggie’s sojourn to find Marge is one of those warm and fuzzy plots but it works to show Homer’s reaction to losing one of his children and how he’s going to explain this to Marge. Imagine if Maggie resented Homer for “sending” Marge away and she resorted to violence or playing dead? Hmm…
Patty and Selma’s fondness for MacGyver is first shown in this episode, plus we get a little bit of insight into their home. Who eats tongue sandwiches? It’s not post-war rations here, they’ve chosen to eat offal. Eww! For once, Bart isn’t in a pranky mood, he’s just as scared as Lisa and when he promises Marge at the end that they’ll all step up to help, he’s sincere. Who’d want to share a room with Aunty Snore-face again?
Great episode! The viewer already knew Marge was the glue that holds the family together, and by taking her out of the picture, the resulting episode is enjoyably chaotic and fun.
Oh, and for those playing at home with Android’s Simpsons Logo Quiz, today we can fill in Arnie Pie and Krusty’s monkey, Mr Genie.
Lisa the Greek
Couch gag: Homer sits on Santa’s Little Helper
Guest voice: Phil Hartman as Troy McClure
Synopsis: Lisa is upset when Homer ignores her over the television and on Marge’s suggestion that she compromise in order to bond with her father, starts spending every Sunday watching football with him. Meanwhile, Marge and Bart spend some time together too.
Discussion: I don’t love this episode. There’s a pattern emerging in season 3 where Homer is bonding with the kids. The twist in this episode is that this time, it’s Lisa’s idea. At first she enjoys picking the winning teams and keeping the secret wagers from her mother, but then she correctly suspects that Homer is just using her for profitability and not really enjoying their daddy-daughter day.
Since the episode is largely dedicated to football, I lose interest. American football is not widely followed here in Australia, although we do get the Superbowl every year. I tried to watch it once to see what the fuss is about- how the hell does a 60 minute game go for over 3 hours?? I thought soccer was bad enough… Anyhoo, I digress. There’s nothing new here: Homer screws up bonding with his kid. The redeeming feature is Marge and Bart’s clothes shopping expedition which is still funny after all these years.