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Johnny Unusual

I Want You (She's So Heavy)

I am someone who both tries to be good to my body but I'm also not super great at it. I make sure I get exercise every day with a jog and a trip to Ringfit Adventure. Sometimes, though, I can feel myself pushing when I'm just a little too exhausted. It's not like I'm in great shape either but I'm not in awful shape. But it can be hard to know the right way to do things for my body, especially if I'm feeling guilty for not exercising.

In this episode, Homer and Marge accidentally injure themselves after a night outl; Marge with a sprained ankle and Homer with a hernia. Dr. Hibbert recommends Homer listen to his body and get plenty of rest. Homer is ready to join Marge for physical therapy when, thanks to the hallucinatory nature of his medication, Homer hears his hernia talking to him, telling him not to bother. Homer ends up following his id, overeating more than ever while Marge takes up kite-surfing. Homer and Marge begin drifting apart and Lisa encourages Homer to see Marge kite-surf. Homer decides to win her back by kite-surfing to. The couple ends up getting stuck together in a wind farm but romantically reconnect.

I Want You (She's So Heavy) is written by Jeff Westbrook, a real hit and miss writer for me. Sometimes you get illiterate book thief Neil Gaiman (to be clear, that's a plus) and sometimes you get Lisa looking at the audience, wearily shrugging that she doesn't know what the show is going to do about Apu. While not AS bad as the latter episode, it's a very weak one. It's another contrived plot where Homer and Marge's marriage is threatened and only a big crazy act by Homer can get them back together. And it really is the most basic version of this story; Homer decides to double down on his laziness while Marge does her own thing. You'd think adding a talking hernia would separate it from the pack but it really doesn't.

The set up is potentially interesting. Homer is told to listen to his body and that's not bad advice but maybe to the wrong guy. Still, I could see a few different stories; Homer is living the way he wants on doctor's advice but feels a little guilty. Or Homer is listening but it is very frustrating to Marge. I can see both of them handling injuries in ways that speak to their characters but mostly it's the same old stuff. There is an idea here that Homer is giving up out of fear, just thinking leading a healthy life is pointless if you are going to get injured anyway. But it's mostly about Homer and Marge again in a way there's little new to say.

And the worst part is a complete waste of one of the most beloved character actors of all time; Wallace Shawn. Wallace, best known for Vizini in the Princess Bride and one of the most prolific character actors, voices the hernia and he himself is doing great. But the script isn't that good and he can only do so much as the plump devil on Homer's shoulder. Maybe Wallace will be on again; there are a few actors who have guest starred as different characters while not being "recurring". But I wish this episode had anything new to add in speaking to these characters. It's not a mess like so many others have been, it's just so thoroughly lifeless.

Johnny Unusual

E My Sports

I love video games but watching other people play games is not that exciting to me, so I never got into e-sports. And having played one of the more famous e-sports game, DOTA 2, I was overcome with extreme boredom as I ran a play, hit someone a few times and then sat around waiting for something to happen after I died. MOBAs are definitely not the games for me. Generally, fort me, my love of video games is not very competitive: unless I really get in the groove, I never feel the need to move into hard mode. I just want to have a casual good time with my friends and just don't have that killer drive to really push myself.

In this episode, Homer and Marge encourage Bart in his video gaming because it keeps him out of trouble. Bart's games seem to distract him but when he learns he's a strong e-athlete with a chance to win $1000 for his team, Homer throws his support behind him and even becomes the team coach. Homer hires an expert gamer who acknowledges the children's strength. Eventually, the kids get to play the world championship in North Korea and Homer's harsh but effective training is producing results. But when Lisa sees Homer asking Milhouse to step down, she encourages him to make a salt mandala and appreciate creating, destroying and being free from material goods. This encourages Homer to turn off the power at the tournament finals so neither side wins.

E My Sports has a promising first two acts but in retrospect, it becomes clear Rob LaZebnik's script has a lot of interesting ideas but doesn't really have a focus by the end. Much of the episode is about Homer molding the kids into a perfect team but in doing so is kind of making it his creation. There's a whole musical number about living through your kids and there's an idea about stealing a childhood. But somehow that doesn't land when Homer unilaterally ends Bart's victory. Homer is practically in a trance, so this feels less about Bart sacrificing the other aspects of his childhood for sports and more about wacky happenstance. And that can be funny. Sometimes a character learning a lesson isn't about the audience doing the same but merely seeing farce as character reactions clash. But this was a Homer heavy story and by the end, it's less about the two of them and more about JUST Homer as a father and I think that's a shame.

But leading up is a promising first two acts. It's somewhat funny, I feel like we see Homer as a father who is strategic in a somewhat cynical but funny way, trying to manipulate Marge into taking his side (though to an extent, Homer seemingly caving to punish Bart with a new hobby isn't actually a bad idea. As an early childhood educator, there's a big focus on redirection rather than punishment.) There's fun with Homer molding his new team. I think my problem is while there are problems with the eSports team, I don't think it entirely connects for me. The one I think is most interesting is Homer trying to make the kids good at the thing they love but without other aspects of their childhood, even if they love it, it is a little worrying they might miss out on other aspects. But at the same time, I don't think it contends with Homer thinking of his team of children part of his "material world" he must overcome. If he is possessive of his team, that's a great angle and a flaw to overcome but him choosing to take their victory also means he's still treating their career as something to take, not as a father making a hard decision for their own good but just as... some asshole.

I feel like Rob and the team really wanted to present e-sports without the "old man stink" and I think they do generally but as a story, it's somewhat scatterbrained. I think there are lots of potentially good angles and a REALLY good script could incorporate all of them but I think this needed to focus on Homer being possessive and calculating while having a real understanding of the consequences rather than being in a zen trance. Rob I think is often a pretty thoughtful writer in this era and I think the thoughtful writing helps buoy the episode for a lot of the running time but the last act, while not retroactively ruining the first two acts, makes the episode in total lead to something less interesting.

Johnny Unusual

Bart Vs. Itchy & Scratchy

One thing I generally try to do as an educator is to make sure kids are aware that games, toys and colours aren't gendered. There are a few times the terms "boy colour" or "girl colour" are used and I make sure they know these things are for everyone. But even after all this time, sometimes I catch myself saying something that is something I grew up with that I know I need to move beyond. So I work hard to improve on myself when I realize there are areas I can improve in. And when I go back to art, it can also help when I have improved my vision, such as seeing Do The Right Thing again and seeing that Mookie starting a riot was actually the right thing to do, by redirecting the anger from each other to a place. Sometimes what seems wrong is only because I haven't understood the reasoning behind such things.

In this episode, Krusty announces a new female reboot of Itchy and Scratchy. Bart is appalled while Lisa is excited. Bart holds a rally at home where they performatively not watch the show but all the kids are blindfolded, Bart ends up sneaking to Lisa's room, who is filming herself reacting to it, and ends up laughing at it. Bart then sneaks back down and tells none of his friends and his hypocrisy chafes Lisa, who responds by posting his honest reaction online. The boys turn on Bart with Milhouse being their new leader and chase him to the girls bathroom where he meets a gang of feminist activist pranksters; Bossy Riot. Bart is impressed with them and ends up helping them out using his own skills as they take their pranks up a notch. Lisa loves Bossy Riot and when Bart realizes how much it would bother him if he was in the group, he tells her. Lisa is very upset, not just that Bart's in the group but that Bart is more interested in the pranks than the meaning behind the cause. Bart says if she thinks she can do it better, she should join up, but Lisa is too scared. Bart finds out the latest plan is to destroy the original Itchy and Scratchy master tapes after Krusty caves to Milhouse's group BRA (Boy Rights Association) and reverts the Itchy and Scratchy back to boys. Bart can't go with the plan of destroying his favourite show and Bossy Riot ties him up to do the job without him. Lisa finds Bart and together try to stop Bossy Riots plan. Lisa saves the tapes but inadvertently sets off another protest; blinding BRA with nail polish. Bart assumes he is kicked out by Bossy Riot but Bossy Riot tells him they weren't a part of the group. Bossy Riot does want Lisa, though, her blinding BRA and Lisa ends up accepting, despite her worries.

Bart Vs. Itchy and Scratchy is a really great episode and probably the best of the season. It certainly doesn't her that it was written by Megan Amram, a woman I know as a top quality tweeter but is also a great writer on The Good Place, probably the best sitcom in the last decade (and there have been a LOT of good sitcoms in the last decade). The Simpsons have done feminist episodes before and some of them are great, like Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacy but after a while a lot of the episodes about the gender divide have been ill-considered. This is an episode where Megan gets to say a lot without it feeling messy (many episodes, the writers seem to get tripped up when trying to look at a lot of angles on one subject), gets all the characters exactly right and just has a good, thoughtful story. I was enjoying the episode in the first two acts but to me, the episode REALLY comes together when Lisa is upset with Bart because I think the show elegantly lays out the issue.

What the episode shows us about the characters is Bart believes in his cause insofar that's it's cool... but he's not terribly thoughtful about it. It's clear he knows the most basic issue "chicks get a raw deal" but he doesn't know why. Lisa isn't offended because Bart is joining her cause but because he's not really a part of it. At the same time, Bart isn't faking his want to join but as Lisa says, because he's not thoughtful, he's more like a mercenary. But at least he is doing something. Hey, if Bart needs to see only the external cool to jimmy open the locks of perception and slowly see the bigger picture, all the better. It's one of the many reasons why representation on TV is important; a lecture is not as likely to get someone excited as, say, a cool character or and interesting story that embody those ideals. We might not get why we like them at first but if they stick with us, they'll live in our heads. And while Lisa believes and understands the cause, she is too hesitant to do anything until the end. And I think that speaks to Megan understanding her character: Lisa is a feminist and she loves activists but Lisa also is someone who can be afraid of breaking the rules (I mean, depending on the episode. I don't think this is inconsistent, I think this is one of those contradictions that work, like Homer both being lazy and impossibly industrious). I like acts one and two but this is when it really cooks. And in the end, Lisa does finally learn to cross the line (not that we see it) with Bart's support.

I think the episode also gets into the heads of men's rights activism with the boys, and using Milhouse makes the most sense. He's weak and uses this as a chance to feel power, preying on the boys sense of worry that they'll lose their own thing. If I have one complaint is that... I think we need more actual Bossy Riot? What I mean is we have a murderer's row of guest stars for them; Chelsea Peretti, Nicole Byer and Awkwafina and they get really cool character designs but also not a lot of big laugh lines, which is unfortunate. I think it's mostly because there just isn't room to get silly with them in a way that the actors can really sink their teeth into so... if there's an excuse to bring them back, it might not be a bad idea. I'm glad to see Megan actually has two more episodes I can look forward to, as well (and both are Marge episodes, which makes me excited). I think this is an episode that stands out this season. A lot of really funny jokes, a story that works with the character and ideas to explore regarding what it means to be a good feminist; that it's both about being willing to think and willing to act. And by the end, Lisa is acting a bit more and maybe Bart's thinking a little more.

Other great jokes:
"We here at the Krusty Show really care about gender diversity. Just ask anyone. Our lawyers, our attorneys, anyone."

"See, girls like my pandering! Remember this if there's ever a gender war."

"This is the worst thing that ever happened to Krusty. Even worse than Sideshow Leonard Cohen."


The manspreading gag is a little obvious but that's a very good visual, especially when it is in motion and Marge is twitching uncomfortably.


"Oh, Bart winked at me! I must be in on a joke."
Oh, Marge, never change.

"This is someone else's war and you're just a mercenary."
"Mercenaries are cool, like Boba Fett."
"Oh, yeah, Boba Fett, great character."
"Boba Fett's badass, he wears a jetpack and a cape."
"Pick a lane, weirdo."
"Why does every discussion of feminism turn into an argument about Star Wars?"
"If Boba Fett's such a good bounty hunter, why's his armor all banged up."
"It's a look! Like distressed denim."

"That thing you've said about me being all talk? Well I have prepared TWO comebacks and I will now give you both."


"See, the thing about comedy is..."
"Nononono, see if I keep talking, they'll get it eventually."

Other notes:
Wow, a real actual sweet moment for Kirk and Luann.

Johnny Unusual

Girl's In the Band

I love my sister and I've never had much serious jealousy over her but I feel like she's definitely the one who did better for herself. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of who I am and what I have accomplished but she's the one who is ambitious, can wonderfully juggle career and family, is a skilled athlete and remains kind and thoughtful. As a kid, the athletic part was her focus and it wasn't for me. My parents tried to get me into gymnastics but it didn't take, I just wasn't interested. Meanwhile, my sister did a lot of travelling (Maritime games, Canada games for rowing) and I often joined but I was very much in the sidelines. It's not exactly the same situation but I understand how Bart feels in this episode a bit.

In this episode, Dewey Largo is moping about his failed career as a conductor when he gets a letter from Victor Klesklow, the musical director of the Capital City Philharmonic, talking about his "talent" and that he will see his student concert the next night. Largo is inspired and hits it out of the park, able to get the usually mediocre orchestra (outside of Lisa) to play a well-regarded concert. But Largo's "talent" that Victor wants is Lisa for his Capital City youth orchestra. It's a big opportunity for Lisa but for the Simpsons to shoulder the burden, Marge will have to take Bart and Maggie as they can't afford a baby sitter every day on an hour long drive to Capital City to drop off Lisa and Homer will have to work the night shift. Lisa finds that Victor, also the teacher, is a cruel, emotionally manipulative taskmaster but while Lisa recognizes this, she is nonetheless happy with his results and the passion he instills in her. But soon she notices the toll it's taking on her family; the long drive is stressing out Marge, Maggie and Bart (who is also stuck with the "siblings" of the talented kids), and Homer finds himself getting burnt out at work. Marge questions how much longer they can sustain putting off their own happiness for Lisa. Lisa ends up very conflicted when Victor announces she'll be moving up to the next age group, which is even more expensive and even further away. Lisa intentionally botches her audition so the family can have a happier life.

After a really good episode previously, I was prepared for a step down in quality. This is but only in a small way because this is actually a rather strong episode, too. Yes, it does deal with ideas we've seen before, like Homer paying for Lisa's happiness with even more soul-crushing work but I feel like this is different enough to really work and the episode feels like it is coming from a place of truth. The surprising part is who wrote the episode; Nancy Cartwright. We've seen episodes written by cast members before; Harry Shearer did the limp Trust but Clarify and Dan Castellaneta co-wrote quite a few with his wife, most of which were at best OK. So I was really impressed when I went back and saw that she wrote it.

I looked at the wikipedia page and Cartwright, which said she pitched a few episodes before and never a Bart one because she relates to Lisa more. She's also stated this episode has come from her own childhood, as well as observing her niece, with a Whiplash parody added by the writers. I will say, the Whiplash parody is much better than most of the parodies for pop culture from a few years back and having J.K. Simmons parody his famously intense roll works because he both has so much experience on this show an in voice acting that he knows how to handle mocking his own classic characters. But the episode is really successful because I do think this comes from Cartwright's heart. I mean, I think she's someone whose put thought into how much her family might have sacrificed for her to get where she is and maybe feels conflicted about it.

And I think the smart thing that is the key difference is the episode isn't just about Homer and Marge making as big sacrifice for Lisa, it's the family. As Marge posits; "is it fair for everyone else to sacrifice for one family member's happiness?" And I think the episode is smart in that Lisa IS happy, even though she knows and feels bad about what this happiness means. Her joy is genuine and it asks a similar question to Whiplash in a bit more of an affirming way; you may have to sacrifice a human connection for bettering your talent but should you? I think it's smart to start with Largo. His backstory was implied before but this is one of the few times we really dive into it and then bringing it to Lisa also implies a darkness that even if Lisa does succeed early on, she might not be in a happy place. The show never returns to it but I actually think that's OK. I think rather than using at a button, it's more of a post mark so when Lisa does give up her chance, we also see there's no guarantee she wouldn't have regrets. I also appreciate Bart's small c-plot as someone dragged to my own sisters thing. Yeah, I don't think I was thrown in a closet but its that feeling of knowing the attention isn't going my way and being bored and sort of lost. I don't usually think of the actors on the Simpsons as being such thoughtful to the writing process but I think this is an episode that really gets it and I feel like Cartwright is appreciative of the people in her life who help make sacrifices for her. It's a better episode than I was expecting for something whose logline is "the Whiplash parody".

Other great jokes:
I actually initially missed this establish shot joke.

Homer wholesale making up a Saturday Morning Cartoon character out of jazz name amused me.

Other notes:
The animators are having fun with the horror movie imagery of kids crawling out of musical instruments and cases.

The entire The Shining segment feels more like a detour than a real examination of Homer's plight.
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Johnny Unusual

I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say D'Oh

You know, I've actually written a play once. No, seriously. But I also don't want to oversell it. This was for children in China for my language school company. They wanted them to star in The Wizard of Oz, so I needed to write this in the most basic way possible so it could be spoken phonetically and there were enough characters so every child has a part. It was all pretty ridiculous but we did have a lot of fun doing it and, hey, at least it got "produced" (in a crowded department store on a Saturday afternoon).

In this episode, the players in the Springfield community theatre are tired of Llewelyn Sinclair's demands and pushiness to the point where he's ousted. Seeing no other takers, Marge offers to produce a new play for the players and she has Lisa write a hip-hop musical about Jebediah Springfield. Eventually, Sideshow Mel gets the lead and as he's practicing at work, it grabs Krusty's attention. He decides to produce it as a live TV special, to which Marge agrees. But soon Mel drops out for another opportunity, forcing Marge to recast, which she does with Prof. Frink. The show itself happens and is threatened by a flood but they push onward and the show is a critical success.

This one is another return to form... the bad kind of form the show had being into for much of the 2010s. Now it is an episode I think is somewhat less messy than some but in return it's also a real dull snoozer. The idea of Marge having to understand what it means to actually direct so many people and contend with countless problems isn't a bad one but the problem is the episode is way too breezy about it. Yes, Marge DOES have to deal with some problem in making the play come to life but we don't really feel much stress from Marge and the times it does try to introduce it, it feels very hollow. It really doesn't get much worse for her emotionally than she has to go to Moe's before working on the show. I think it wants to show us that though she is inexperienced, she is still determined and has enough ingenuity to make this work but the writers aren't showing much cleverness in how it plays out.

It's a shame because this is an episode from Jeff Martin, who wrote some classics in the Golden Years and is working with his daughter on this episode. I hope that behind the scenes was heartwarming and sweet. The final product tries to be but it's just completely bloodless. Marge has some strife on paper but we don't feel it. If anything, it feels like she aces her problems with ease and I'm not sure why this is an episode. I don't need Marge to suffer but I'm not sure what this is about. If it's about how everyone is working hard it all comes together too easily. If the point is that you don't have to be a shit like Llewelyn, it doesn't really show Marge at those crossroads.

Marge has some problems but I don't FEEL them. Marge is a character who is very much about feeling, especially when trying something new and I feel neither pain nor joy. It seems like the episode should have been about how the experience of making it sucked but perhaps the experience of having made it and accomplished something is rewarding and worth doing again. But Marge gets instant kudos when the play is done, there's little consequence or focusing on the decision to play through a dangerous storm (what do the players think of this. Are they hesitant about playing in a dangerous space or are they gung ho to meet this challenge head on? The episode doesn't seem to care). I think the fact that the episode is a parody of Hamilton is very telling, as is a very dumb b-plot where Homer goes to a "daddy and me" activity to ogle a pretty teacher. I feel like even the writers weren't interested in this one. This is just another non-entity episode.

Other notes:
Ends with a performance by Okilly Dokilly, the Ned Flanders-themed death metal band.

Johnny Unusual

D'Oh Canada

I love my country but I always find patriotism... creepy. In any form. It was a real shock to see ridiculous amounts of flags driving into Maine (I might be remembering wrong but I feel like every telephone pole seemed to have a small one). And I feel like people don't appreciate Canada's problems. A very awful treatment of it's indigenous peoples, prejudices against people who speak different languages or have different ancestry, it's own environmental strife. There are a lot of good things to say about Canada but like every country, it has it's own horrific sins. And there are lots of other countries I love and would love to return to but I'm also aware there are darker sides, some of which I may be ignorant of.

In this episode, The Simpsons take an impromptu trip to Niagara Falls and a bizarre accident sends Lisa over the falls themselves. She washes up in Canada where she's taken care of. As she's complaining about America, a mountie interprets her complaints as a plea for asylum and Lisa is given a home in Canada. Marge tries to get Lisa to return by sneaking into Canada but Lisa doesn't want to go home, loving Canada far more than America. However, eventually she decides America is where she belongs and that it's her job to make it better. With no way for Marge and Lisa to return legally to America, they sneak across a frozen great lake and barely make it, with Lisa excited to be back home.

D'Oh Canada is yet another nothingburger of an episode. Most of it seems like a love letter to Canada and despite choice deep cut references to Harvey's and the Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, the pandering is not doing a lot for me. I think the problem is that Tim Long and Miranda Thompson's script is the most basic-ass and obvious observations about the difference between Canada and the US and it has little of actual worth to say. Yes, Canada has free healthcare, the show has been making jokes about that forever. Canadians are polite and people seem to like the Prime Minister more than they don't. Oh, it edges up to some actual barbs, like a reference to the SNC-Lavalin affair and actual prejudice within Canada but it's very brief and it lightly makes a point that every country can have issues without digging into it.

This is far from the first episode about Canada, I feel like this must be at least the seventh. But there's so little that seems to be being said. I feel like the impetus may have been what if someone who promised to leave the country if Bush or Trump were elected actually did but it doesn't really say anything about that promise. It's an episode that feels very much in response to America's grim political state but while we start with Lisa seeing dying industries, I feel like the show is ill-prepared to actually deal with the myriad of ways Trump fucked everything up. I appreciate not going the other way and going on about Trumps America, because while there is much to say, I don't feel like the Simpsons is the show to put new insight into it.

In the end, even despite noting it's problems, it mostly feels like "Canada is great" rather than having a more nuanced insight. Yeah, I think more than it isn't, the country is great. But it also has a lot of problems and I feel like when I see an episode that gets into a mostly xenophilia mindset, it's a bit of a turn off. And it's an episode that seems to want to say SOMETHING about that mindset, only to fall into the same traps and coming up short in saying something unique or clever. Sadly, it seems like we are on a run of real empty vessels on this show and after a promising start to this season, I hope it breaks free of this trap.

Johnny Unusual

Woo-Hoo Dunnit?

I feel like I never got into true crime. I feel like I could be easily but I just never did. But recently, it seems that people are questioning the ethics of such documentary. This is because a lot of them are all about turning actual tragedies into the entertainment of armchair theorizing. There are advantages; bringing to light accusations and injustices where public attention might be needed but it's formula is about the enticing mystery of an actual death. Even Only Murders in the Building, a wonderful love letter to both the classic mystery formula and true crime podcasts often make the characters question the ethics of their decisions and what they choose to air (though usually they choose to air most of the things by the end, so it's hardly hard-hitting and is better taken as character study than social commentary). Still, the genre is appealing and while I don't watch them. I can't deny if I did, I would definitely be invested and hanging on every word, even if in the end, they are basically never solved.

In this episode, Dateline Springfield does an episode focusing on who stole Lisa's college fund of about $600 hidden in a tube of powdered cleanser. During the show, Marge is extremely offended that the prime suspects are the members of the family. Homer is the first suspect, having cleaned his own spaghetti sauce mess in the kitchen the night before but it turns out he didn't use the cleanser as he licked it clean. Then Bart is suspected and though he did steal it for a time as part of a money-making venture in slime, he returned it all after breaking even. Lisa is next, suspected of mortgaging her future on musical instruments but in fact, she was elsewhere at the time of the crime. As the documentary comes to a close with no resolution, Homer makes the filmmakers apologize for needling their family. As Homer and Marge watch the episode on TV, Marge reveals some new information that allows Homer to crack the mystery; Marge did it. It turned out she did it as part of her own business venture. Homer promises not to tell and the two grow closer in their secret.

I don't dislike this episode but I don't particularly like it either. It feels less like nothing than a lot of episodes and definitely is trying to capture both the appeal and mock the format of popular true crime series and the obvious comparison is the episode Behind the Laughter. Behind the Laughter was a divisive episode for some but I find it a favourite simply because the jokes and outrageously places it went really tickled me, particularly the over the top analogies. And keep in mind, I have never and still haven't seen a Behind the Music to know the specifics of the format that was being mocked. I feel like similarly you wouldn't need familiarity necessarily with true crime shows to enjoy this but I also feel like the laughs aren't nearly as strong in this one.

I think it doesn't help that while it is primarily a wacky comedy story than an emotional arc, it does try to bring it to a character-based conclusion but Marge's reasoning, in using the money to start her business, she's having an adventure that she usually doesn't get to have, unlike Homer, doesn't land. I feel like it could with a few re-writes though; make each character's alibi some sort of adventure or misadventure and get a little pointed about what Marge was doing at the time. Bart's story fits that bill but Homer and Lisa not so much. And I get it, we know these characters well enough that we know about Marge and Homer's dynamic already where he gets into a new venter/adventure/misadventure every week and she often does it less often and every time she does, it's a bigger deal for the family. But this feels more like rehashing an old idea to create a conclusion rather than one organic to the episode.

I also feel like maybe I've been watching too much Columbo lately but I also find the mystery unsatisfying. And a good mystery is a hard ask but I always feel like even if you are playing in comedy, it's fun to make the mystery clever and fun. Even if you are subverting it into a dumb or nonsensical mystery, it will be more interesting if you toy with the conventions a bit more. Too be fair, this could be because it's more a parody of true crime mysteries, and like them there are lots of narrative cul de sacs to examine the red herrings. But the episode actually ends like a solved mystery. It could be fun to start in the true crime mode and end like a classic mystery and maybe examine the differences between the two but that's just me spitballing ideas. In the end, I just wish we saw an episode where I was surprised by a reveal that also made sense, even in a silly comedy show. That or at least I wish I laughed a bit more.

Johnny Unusual

Crystal Blue-Haired Persuasion

I've done it. I've reached the end of season 30. Only four more seasons to go, assuming that in a few months, some thirty-fifth season will begin to air. But that's as preposterous as some form of season 30. Anyway, this season started off real strong and I thought the show had really turned a corner. And it did. But then for a long time, it seemed to be turning back. There are some good episodes but after a real goosing, the show fell back into some of it's weaker habits. Now, to be fair in the year 2019, it's not falling back into it's WORST habits (transphobic humour, ethnic jokes) and it is generally better about it's takes and it's targets. In terms of writing, the show went to some dull places but it seems like the era of worst takes is over (though, of course, there's always room to look back and cringe down the line). But to really usher in the new era, it needs to be consistently solid. I'm not talking about banger after banger but I am saying each episode needs to have a decent plot or to be funny enough or strongly character based or have some other really strong qualities to paper over that weakness. But all the same, despite my problems, the show is heading in the right direction and this episode is another winner.

In this episode, the Springfield Nuclear Plant cuts children's healthcare from their benefits package and puts the Simpsons in a hard position. Marge is desperate but the cheaper ADHD meds are giving him terrible side effects and eventually she tries crystals from a new age shop. The When Bart gets an A in history Lisa is suspicious but Marge takes it as a sign the crystals really work. She goes for more only to find the shop she buys crystals from is closing and willing to give Marge her inventory. She opens up a shop in her garage and it's a big success. But soon she finds herself threatened by competition in the form of a new age seller named Piper who keeps harassing Marge. Marge is so bothered, she decides to turn up the heat by opening a kiosk next to Piper at the mall and even getting the Bouviers to bother Piper. But when Lisa discovers Bart is cheating on tests using the crystals, she presses Bart to come clean to Marge, since his she believes in him and using her product will hurt her. Bart does and Marge realizes the crystals are probably useless and gives up her war with Piper and her business.

Crystal Blue-Haired Persuasion isn't the best episode of the season but it is a strong way to close it out. I feel like it could have sunk it's teeth deeper into the dubious ethics of the new age business, as it really doesn't get into the fact that some of these products are probably harmful and I also feel like it could go into more questioning whether sellers are believers but despite the subject matter, it really isn't a sharp social satire episode, it's a mostly character-based comedic episode. But there are a few flaws with that too; namely that Marge's journey is a little too similar to some of her other entrepreneur episodes, like the Twisted World of Marge Simpson, where the ethical problems of being in business make Marge decide to quit.

But it certainly helps comedically and in terms of character that this is a Megan Amram episode. She did this seasons Bart Vs. Itchy and Scratchy but as noted, this is less about what is happening now and more of a lark involving questionable new age stuff. Again, I wish she would get into the ethics and question issues about it. I don't even need definitive answers or lecturing but mostly it's Marge thinking the stuff works, going all in and then backing out when she realizes these are all placebos. Frankly, I think if new age stuff was JUST placebos I'd have less of a problem with it but the episode mostly doesn't get into cultural appropriation of a lot of this stuff or the fact that Goop (which has a parody in here) sells stuff that can downright hurt you and is bad for your health. To be fair, I do think there is one bit of commentary which is sellers are broken up into two groups; naïve true believers like Marge and the shopkeep who ends up in a cult who are well-intentioned but selling crap and Piper, who seems to know this is crap on some level but doesn't care. Marge was happy enough being the shopkeep but can't really keep up her meanness, especially in defending a product she now thinks is wrong.

But I think I'm pretty forgiving about what could be there because of what is. Megan clearly has a great handle on these characters and knows how to construct a joke and there are a lot of solid ones in the episode. I'll also say, I feel all three guest stars (Ileana Douglas, Jenny Slate and Werner Herzog) all have characters who get more than just expositional, they all get to have some fun personality. Ileana plays someone who seems to be a well-intentioned true believer, to the point she ends up getting used by a cult. Jenny Slate REALLY gets to chew scenery as the mean but perky Piper (she's really channeling Tammy from Bob's Burgers here). And Werner Herzog just gets to make a list of funny symptoms. So mostly this is an episode that is a bit derivative of previous ones and lacks depth but makes up for it in most other departments. Not every area needs to be working at once for a Simpsons episode to be strong and Megan knows how to build an episode that hums...

Other great jokes:
"Back in my day, children didn't need no meds. You just give them a slug of whiskey then send them off to school. And if they lost their shoe, you beat them with the other one. That's how we raised the generation who lost Vietnam."

"They're more than just rocks. They make great stocking stuffers."
"And for Hannukah?"

"I don't know which of you two is dumber."
"So I'm a bit of a mystery. Eh, eh?"

"Are these macaroons free-range?"
"Yes, only from coconuts that fall from the tree or are coaxed down by woke monkeys."

"Somewhere in me is a yoni egg. I think it might be hatching."
"They don't hatch."
"Can you take that chance?"

Other notes:
Hey, the show remembers Flanders teaches Bart.

Johnny Unusual

The Winter of Our Monetized Content

OK, the Simpsons is back. Season 31. The year is 2019. tantalizingly/terrifyingly close to the present. Still in the deep, grody heart of the Trump administration, where hope and joy were scarce. And this is also the year of COVID. Look, we knew as bad as it was, it could get worse but a pandemic was far beyond any of my expectations. Unlike a lot of people, I still wear masks at work and know that COVID is still a serious problem. So this is a season that will come from a truly dark place. But while my attention was elsewhere, the Simpsons seems to have been slowly improving itself once again. But how consistently? Last season started great, then got a bit weak with some high points. Despite the fact that things can get worse, my hope is it gets better.

In this episode, Homer tries to create an online sports talk show that Bart interrupts with a prank. Homer and Bart take turns attacking each other on air with results the public find hilarious. Enter Warburton Parker, a social media guru who wants to recruit the father/son duo as internet personalities, creating content where they are attacking each other. Ironically, success and working together bring Bart and Homer closer and soon the public loses interest when they learn of this. Homer and Bart try for a comeback with Warburton where Homer and Bart engage in sponsored mortal combat but the two realize they rather wouldn't and grow closer but lose the public.

The Winter of Our Monetized Content is another episode where the Simpsons go viral. Man, the earlier one that comes to mind goes all the way back to 2005. And jeez, viral videos themselves are, like, nearly 10 years older than that (that creepy dancing CGI baby). I keep forgetting how not-new this all is. Anyway, does this episode have anything groundbreaking to say about internet content? Not really but it's not a bad episode. It's often funny, I think a lot of the ideas are a bit old but I also think it opens different storytelling pathways for the show. It's got a killer though recently somewhat problematic guest star. It has a lot going for it. So why does it only feel... fine. Just fine.

I think a big part of it is everything looks good on paper but I feel like it's so plot focused that I have no feel for the characters. I don't mean Bart and Homer are written wrong or poorly but a big part of the episode is them ironically growing closer from hitting each other on screen. They are doing what they love and getting paid for it but ironically that makes them happy in a new way that robs them of the much needed interest of the people. I think that's interesting but I feel the way the character bits are written are planned out with no actual emotion behind them to compare to the ridiculousness of a sponsored fight to the death. And I think the satire would be helped by embracing the emotions that are turning off audiences in this episode to show just how awful it all is.

But while in the end, I am a little cool on this one, this is very successful in a lot of ways and points to how I think the show is building momentum again. Some of the satire is a little toothless or heavy handed but some actually works (in the exact in between point is a make up influencer who's work hides white supremacy messaging, which is stuff that has definitely happened). The b-plot with Lisa is not bad either, taking on privatized detention and the ending of the teachers just doing the work because then they don't have to work with kids is amusing. I think this is an episode that does a lot right and maybe has a bit to say about taking something amusing and how building it into a brand drains the fun and life out of it but frankly, it's more a Bart and Homer piece and while it is fun, I just wished it was a little more about the character than the setting.

Other great jokes:
"Bring him a microbrew, quick" is a joke that works purely because Homer and Marge seem to feel the need to react quickly and urgently to a hipster's need. They seem genuinely panicked.

"There's nothing in here but old Goosebumps books."
"Fine, read them."
"They aren't scary. THEY AREN'T SCARY!"

"These Norma Rae-sonettes aren't going to back down. You can cut detention with a knife. Hehehe. In other news, the pope has died."
The fact that there's a chalk outline brings this one home.

Other notes:
John Mulaney does good work and he's been a comedian I very much liked. I enjoyed his last special, where he comes clean about being an asshole while on drugs. But afterwards I remembered he had surprise guest Dave Chapelle for a set during a show who did more anti-trans bits and Mulaney hugged him afterward and I was like "Oh, yeah, what the fuck was that dude?" Breaks my heart. So, yeah, that hurts it a bit, I'm not going to lie.

A much stronger parody of the whole... tone of prank videos and internet personalities these days is the pretty decent "Deadstream" a horror comedy about a disgraced streamer trying to build back his reputation by spending one night in a haunted house. Seriously the main actor, who is also the director, is amazingly good at emulating the "open mouth thumbnail" attitude of these dudes.

Johnny Unusual

Go Big or Go Homer

Compared to a lot of other people in my life, I don't consider myself a success. I guess I should. I do what I love for a living and people have complimented me but I don't always feel like someone whose done the best. Maybe it's because I am thinking in financial success or climbing up a hierarchy. But I do try my best to give the children I work with good advice, something that's not just a platitude but is real to take with them and is appropriate for their stage for development. I like very much to be in a position where I can help someone and show that maybe I do have the skills to express my experience.

In this episode, Homer is given the responsibility to mentor the interns but is dismayed when they don't give him respect and openly ridicule him. However, one intern, Mike, stands up for Homer and wants to be mentored by him, seeing him as a hero due to being at the centre of every crisis at the plant (unaware he usually caused them). Homer is moved and immediately works with Mike to try to improve his lot. Touched by constantly being respected, Homer brings Mike over for dinner but it becomes quickly apparent Mike has a lot of problems. He's short-tempered and foul-mouthed with no sense of who he insults and he's a 35 year old unpaid intern with a baby on the way. After he brutally insults Bart, Marge kicks him out and talks to Homer about how the best way to help Mike is to help him mature. Homer decides to really talk to Mike about his dreams and Mike has an idea for a food truck that cooks pizza in slice shapes rather than cooking a pizza and having it sit around losing it's freshness. Homer decides to try to get Burns to invest, only for Burns to insult Mike's idea and, far more of an affront to Mike, Homer. Mike blows up at Burns and is fired. Some time, Homer is shocked Mike has opened his food truck after all. Unfortunately, it's based on a huge loan from Fat Tony and when Mike makes a bad sports bet he's positive will cover his costs, Fat Tony is out for blood. However, when Homer and Mike are cornered, Tony smells and falls in love with Mike's pizza slices and Mike unthinkingly even comes up with a solution to make it more profitable for the mob. Fat Tony turns Mike into a valuable player in his business and confides in Homer he's a good mentor.

It's not without it's flaws but this is actually a far better episode than I expected. And probably more than most people who watch this episode. The AV Club gave it a low score and reading their review, I 100% get it but I found it spoke a lot to me. See, sometimes I do support work and I have worked with kids who struggle with anger and behavioral issues and need support. Of course, those people are children but I think everyone needs some guidance and there might be some people who suck who might suck less with a good person to help them. I think this episode does a really good job of creating a new character who is, well, pretty unlikable, but making it work for the episode. Mike is... just awful. He's a bad human being in most ways and seems like he's hard to tolerate (played by Michael Rappaport, a dude who seems like he's even more unpleasant than this character, somehow). But he's got a couple things going for him; he genuinely seems to respect Homer, which no other characters do in this episode, even those who love him. And I also think it helps that the show definitely takes the time to show Mike is a lot like Homer. Homer has a temper and bad judgement but somehow, without making him cartoonishly too stupid even for this show, Mike is worse. It's clear he can't help it. I think the way the show works it is smart; Homer doesn't seem like mentor material but really Mike is the PERFECT mentor for Mike. Mike listens to him and Homer can empathize with his rage and poor judgement. It's actually a good arc for Homer and shows that despite his many flaws but he can be empathetic in a key way.

Of course, I imagine your mileage may very on this one. After all, Mike is truly an off-putting character by design. I can understand someone just checking out or tensing up any time he is on screen. I, however, really connected to Homer in this one. I've had to deal with children who also (though certainly more understandably) often have trouble with their emotions and need help with a proper outlet. Mike sucks but at least he gets to find his own strengths thanks to Homer. I think the show is smart also in showing us Homer's flaws early on and then seeing them next level worse with Mike. Homer sometimes can't control his anger but he was able to swallow it for a while, as opposed to Mike, who reddens up, then explodes with little regard for time and place. He insults his hero's son (one flaw I do feel is true is while it has weight when it happens, Bart being treated so awfully is brushed off pretty fast by the episode) I think Homer's own desires to help the character are very organic to the script and less "this week I'm a farmer" (hey, that's fun sometimes but I like a more solid and thoughtful reasoning sometimes).

The most surprising part is this is a really good script by John Frink. I put John in with other prolific veteran writers like Bill Odenkirk who are solid joke writers but who create episodes that feel half-baked. But I think Odenkirk had an episode I rather liked recently, too, so maybe everyone's game is improving. But as I said, I feel like this one is really dependent on being able to find sympathy for an awful character. I don't have a lot but I do have sympathy for Homer, who is trying to help someone who sucks maybe find a place he can use. I don't look after any Mikes but there are a lot of kids who can be really trying and I have no idea how to relate until I find the right in. Of course, they are children. Mike, not so much. I think I do like the episode but ironically, knowing Rappaport being more or less this character does put a taint on it and that's too bad.

Other great jokes:
"Now my doctor says I can't get shot in the face again."

Other notes:
It's really weird how Michael Rappaport keeps getting high profile gigs. He seems to really be pretty awful and hard to tolerate.

I do like that Mike is so impressed by Marge serving Hot Carrots for dinner that he puts it on his menu on the food truck. Also that even though Homer is his hero, he only calls him Homer Simpsons.

Johnny Unusual

The Fat Blue Line

It's interesting to see cop media when you know it's on the cusp of a lot of media having to examine that a lot of cop media now leaves a bad taste. Some of the more braindead series ignore this, like the completely demented takes by the show Bluebloods. Conversely, Brooklyn Nine-Nine scrapped all their scripts for their final season in response and tried to allow the last season to contend with this to some extent. The latter is a great show but it was no stranger to some copaganda takes, especially in the first few years. There's definitely police media I still like but I also have to see it as not representing the reality in the same way Westerns don't. The Simpsons, however, a show that has had it's own bad takes, has had one thing it was good at; realizing cops are corrupt, incompetent thugs.

In this episode, a pickpocket is plaguing Springfield and the police are helpless. Chief Wiggum is out for his incompetence and is replaced with a officer from the attorney general's office. Using Homer as bait using a wallet with a tracer, the police track the wallets to an empty warehouse with Fat Tony in it. Fat Tony declares he's actually innocent and after seeing an old interview with a young Fat Tony that implies he might be telling the truth as he is motivated not to pickpocket. Wiggum decides to talk to Fat Tony for help catching the real criminal. Tony reluctantly does, as his evidence is embarrassing and involves wearing a wire but eventually Tony uncovers the real culprit; Tony's right hand man Johnny Tightlips. As the police arrest Johnny and his entire treacherous gang, Homer bumbles in and accidentally takes a bullet meant for Tony. The Chief gets his job back and he gets thanks from Homer and Marge for helping remove the bullet.

The Fat Blue Line is in a lot of ways a sloppy episode. There are parts that don't make sense, it seems to do things that should shake up certain aspects of the status quo and the Simpsons are basically guest stars (I don't have a problem with that but it does feel like "his best friends the Simpsons might pop in to wish him luck" shoe-horning) in a Wiggum stories. But this isn't "bad" sloppy. It's a very watchable episode that is also easy to poke holes in. It's quite imperfect but it actually goes very easily thanks to some good jokes and a fun little plot that while far from emotional, is using the characters to have fun. It's a Bill Odenkirk episode and I feel like his joke-first sensibilities work a lot better here than in a lot of his episodes. I laughed a good number of times in this one.

The Simpsons appear a little bit but this is really a complete Wiggum episode where he plays wackily incompetent detective. But then the baton is sort of passed to Tony as lead. The episode feels like it wants to sink it's teeth into these characters a bit more than usual but despite more details about Tony that will definitely be ignored in later episodes (and that's fine, that's the kind of show this is), I just feel like there's not enough chemistry between these characters (no slight on the actors) that it pays off as a fun two-hander. But I do think Bill has an idea of how to make the characters fun. It's not perfect; I wish the mystery aspect was more interesting (and toyed with it's obvious red herring a little more to make the reveal of the actual culprit more interesting) and I would like to see these characters actually come together as a duo but I think the reason there's no chemistry is because we aren't doing much compare and contrast with Tony and Clancy, which I feel is key to making a fun "uneasy alliance" story.

It's funny, I feel like I have a lot of complaints but I do like this. It's pretty funny, the guest stars, though brief, are well-utilized (Jason Momoa is part of this generations "tough guys who play comedy real well" guys and despite Bob Odenkirk being cast in a Saul-type role, it's more timeless humour than references). And I feel like this kind of thing does a LOT to help me forgive otherwise weaker episodes. Bill is primarily a gag-focused writer so when the gags are pretty funny and less mean-spirited, then this is when he works for me on this series. I feel like season 31 is far from at a big high in terms of quality right now but I feel like we've hit a pleasant groove of "this is pretty fun" right now.

Other great jokes:
"Aquaman! Sign my left boob!"
"Aquaman is not here for the signing of boobs! That's a separate event at the Marriot, conference room c."

I like Chief Quimby calling Momoa Super Fish and Wet Panther.

There are two butt kissing jokes in Homer's "Bootylicious" montage but the second one works because surprisingly the "just stamp the ticket" guy seems into it.

Bob Odenkirk plays his slow talk joke pretty great.

"You mistook my taciturn nature for fealty but it was simply that I didn't feel comfortable in social situations. But then I saw a commercial where this sad cloud goes on a date with the sun. So I talked to my doctor about Paxil and it gave me the confidence to betray you."

I hope Joey Can't-Read-The-Room comes back.

The Maggie parallel parking joke is dumb but I won't lie, it worked for me.

Other notes
By the episode's end Fat Tony, a tertiary character who pops in a lot, has been betrayed by his entire mob. It seems like he doesn't have much of an empire anymore. And that's fine but... are we just going to handwave that away? If anything, it seems like a springboard to have a "Fat Tony rises to power again" story that could be fun but I feel like the show is trying to just "status quo" us again and ignoring stuff like that.

Fat Tony sings show tunes is a rather lazy bit that goes on pretty long.

Johnny Unusual

Treehouse of Horror XXX

Can't blame the Simpsons for having the Halloween special be their 666th episode. You can blame them for it not being very good.

In this episode, four wacky tales of terror. First, in a parody of the Omen, when Marge gives birth to a baby boy, Homer becomes terrified of having two trouble making boys and switches his baby with an evil Maggie, who is the Antichrist. Flanders tries to kill her but he. Homer and Marge are killed by Maggie's demonic powers. Then, in a parody of Stranger Things, Milhouse is abducted by an interdimensional monster and can only communicate by electronics. Lisa ventures into another dimension to rescue him but everyone ends up trapped in a entropic version of Springfield. In the third story, a parody of Heaven Can Wait, Homer dies in an accident but is told by Heaven that he isn't scheduled to die yet. With his old body uninhabitable, Homer is offered other bodies of people who died around the same time and Homer begins trying more out bodies until he finally chooses Moe. Finally, in a parody of The Shape of Water, Selma is working at the power plant as a janitor where she discovers Kang being held captive. The two quickly fall in love and Selma works to help him escape. They two, along with Kodos and Patty, escape to new world and a new life.

Man, I've been talking about long time writers who have a poor track record and I forgot J. Stewart Burns, who wrote this one. So does he deliver a solid outing? Not really. The first story is a great idea for an episode 666 short. I mean, it feels like a long time coming considering Homer's often contentious relationship with his kids (it would have been pretty obvious if they went with Bart). But because it is an intro bit, albeit a long one, it feels more like a series of parody bits, which I would mind less if the episode was funnier.

The Stranger Things segment is both the best and weirdly, the one that bothers me the most. What I mean is, I think there's enough happenstance to keep it entertaining, just like the source material. But the problem is, and the problem with most of the episode, the formula is more based on recreating a moment from the source material, then doing a standard "set up-punch". It makes it so even for a wacky comedy, every brief conversation seems so unnatural. It's similar to the Mad Magazine formula and I don't think I'd necessarily mind if it was really funny but it gets repetitive. And it's even rougher in this segment because they are also speed-running a 10 episode first series of a show so stuff just happens really erratically and with tossed off or hand-waved reasons, like Kirk suddenly going off the deep end in a way that doesn't work even as a gag.

The last two segments are snoozers. Generally, I like when these specials don't feel the need to be super-showy in it's parody choices and after the Stranger Things segment, it's a relief but the fact is, there's not a lot going on with these parodies. Like Stranger Things, the Shape of Water segment feels like it was done because it's a recent popular movie and while I like the off-beat choice of Heaven Can't Wait as a subject, there just isn't much happening. I don't think a Halloween special needs to be emotional but even in a silly non-canonical way, there's just not a lot to grab onto in these segments, and the point of view is pretty basic. Again, all things I would forgive if there was more than one laugh in this one. Unfortunately, this was a pretty forgettable outing for something they are treating as a mini-event. It would be easy to say the problem is by making it four segments instead of three, none have time to stretch their wings but really I think it's the opposite; despite one parody mocking something RICH in happenstance that it feels like it SHOULD be a whole episode (like the It parody from last October). there just is nothing going on under the hood that length in any of these could save.

Other great jokes:

"I know something about you that no one else knows."
"What's that?"
"I forget."
:"IT'S YOU!"

Johnny Unusual

Gorillas on the Mast

For a while, the Simpsons had experimented with a formula of two a-plots. Sometimes they'd dovetail but often they were simply two stories of equal standing. And often, this structure did not work. Now, to be clear, there's nothing wrong with two a-plots. In Seinfeld, the series often was juggling arcs of equal importance, tied to life's foibles and the character's misadventures. But for the Simpsons, it often meant that two stories that could sustain a half hour and would benefit from more time in each half end up coming off half-baked. And this episode tries the formula again with similar results.

In this episode, Homer is conned into buying a lemon of a yacht and offsets the cost by having it be a timeshare with many friends. Eventually, the boat sinks. Homer can't get a refund by everyone agrees, at least sharing the cost meant a small lost for everyone considering how many people bought shares and it was nice to have a boat for a while. Meanwhile, after helping Lisa save an orca from captivity, Bart decides he wants to save more animals and frees a gorilla. Soon, the gorilla wrecks havoc across the city only for Lisa to find it, calm it down and take it to a sanctuary.

This episode is credited to Max Cohn and it's the only thing on his imdb page apart from a short film released this year called "Proof of Concept." And in many ways it does feel like a first script for the show. It isn't god awful but in both stories, there feels like very little substance. Both are technically the a-plot but they both feel like b-plots. In both cases, they are rife with potential but while Cohn gets the characters, there feels like very little investment with them.

So let's look at the Bart/Lisa plot. I like the idea of Bart being altruistic if he can do it his way; one that causes chaos. Now, I do feel like Bart has a particular sense of justice and in general his pranks victims are often people with power and authority over him. so this is an idea that makes sense and is a good way for him and Lisa to have similar goals but with different methods. But Bart is mostly there just to create the problem and Lisa is there to fix it. Heck, Bart basically disappears at a certain point only to reappear at the end and has no involvement with any element of the resolution. Then Lisa has a weird, drawn out conversation with Jane Goodall where she implies Lisa might be able to join her but probably not and... I don't like it. I don't mind good people allowing themselves to be dicks on the show but usually it works better like with Jay Gould where he just never does Lisa's test. While this isn't jerkass level of meanspirited, I'm not sure the point and it doesn't dig into the characters of Bart and Lisa very well.

I think Homer's plot is better but similarly it is too slight. I think it wants to explore the idea of how people are conned into shitty deals by amoral people and how it can turn people against each other. You know, capitalism. And with everyone owning it, it could either be a sharp satire of the sense of property or have the unexpected result of everyone turning this into some community boat. I appreciate the end shows that in Homer's reckless attempt to prevent the boat from eating all his money, he was able to get everyone to have a little bit of fun for a realitively small cost but the episode barely has time to do anything. In the end, Max Cohn might make a good episode if he comes back. This episode's failing didn't anger me but I was left with an empty feeling inside by the end.

Johnny Unusual

Marge the Lumberjill

If there's one formula for the Simpsons that always has potential, it's Marge tries to shake up her boring life to find a calling. Not to say they are all great but it's a sensible story beat for Marge and though sometimes they hew too close to a formula but Marge is someone who is often taken for granted by the people she loves. Yes, it is a shame things often just head back to square one, especially since most episodes she doesn't REALLY need to quit what she is doing. Except being a cop. Marge was right to quit being a cop.

In this episode, Lisa writes a school play where she portrays Marge as dull and it hits Marge hard. When Marge angrily breaks apart a fallen tree with an axe, Patty takes notice and brings over her friend Paula, a lumberjill who feels Marge has potential in competitive timber games. Using her anger as fuel, Marge proves to be a natural and her training allows her to win some big competitions. Paula invites Marge to try for a two-person sawing competition but it means spending a month in Oregon. Marge tries to tell Homer how much this means to her but after he tactlessly says he'd rather not see her go even if means she's more fulfilled, she goes anyway, angry. A month later Homer and the kids visit her in Oregon and Homer becomes worried that Marge and Paula's relationship might be growing romantic. Worse, if Marge wins the game, she might stay longer to be in the finals. During the game, Homer decides he doesn't care and wants Marge to win because it means a lot to her. She does but she decides to return home anyway. Homer tells Paula she "won" Marge but Paula tells her she's already married with kids and has no designs on Marge.

This is an episode I caught a bit of the latter half of for some reason and I wasn't grooving with it largely because it reminded me of my issues with Three Gays of the Condo, where it seems like Marge is worried Homer will turn gay and Homer is putting on all these gay affectations from hanging out with gay men. In the broadest possible sense, that's what is happening but while I think this is merely an OK episode, I'm largely less bothered by this one in that sense. Yes, Homer is worried Marge will be with someone else but there are some key differences here. I feel like it's a little less feeling like someone will "turn" and though there are some jokes about lesbianism, it feels less about a paranoia about being gay and simply about fearing someone else will make someone you love happier.

But I still wasn't wild about the episode, more because... I feel like I've seen the infidelity paranoia plot on this show enough times that I don't feel like this offers much new. Guest star Asia Kate Dillon does a decent job and they give them some jokes but like a lot of guest roles, I feel like their character is one of those ones that is more functional. To be fair, Paula isn't JUST giving exposition to the next plot point like a lot of guest characters but she also doesn't leave a big impression on me. But it goes to my larger problem that while Ryan Koh's script is pleasant enough, it's also a rehash of classic plot points. It's one of the better ones and I think it's an OK episode but it can't really rise above it.

Interestingly, last season had an episode where someone tells grandpa that "everyone's a little gay" and I actually would like that to be explored with Homer and Marge. And there could be some anxiety but rather than have these characters fret over "oh no, they'll leave me for a same sex partner", maybe it's the insecurity of realizing you may not have completely understood your partner. Homer and Marge have one of the most active sex lives on TV and more than they, the show often gets cute with it, the two laughing conspiratorially over shared jokes or trying new fun things. And as they are portrayed now, I don't they'd feel worried but I can see them coming to grips with realizing as close as they are there's things they didn't know. But then they can also learn that this is actually a good thing and they GET to learn more about each other. There was a larger period where it seemed like they were doing jokes were Homer had some interest in men and I think you could transition that from merely a running gag to actually a part of the character. It actually wouldn't change the actual status much if Homer were bi or pansexual but I think it could enrich the character a bit.

Other notes:
First episode for Grey DeLisle-Griffin who now voiced Martin Prince and Sherri and Terri following the passing of Russi Taylor. Taylor's last episode is a couple episodes later, the "Thanksgiving of Horror" special.

Natasha Lyonne is not kind of semi-regular on the show. Which feels really rare for one of the show's "one-off kid characters" to just now be part of the cast.

Johnny Unusual

Livin' La Pura Vida

I don't really have a lot of money to travel. When my parents were working, they used to travel a lot and I know they wanted to do a lot more when they retired. Unfortunately, my dad has MS, so what retirement looked like changed somewhat from what their intent was. And I don't have a lot of money to travel myself and even if I did, I don't really have anyone to go with. But I remember when our family spent a year in Thailand and a wealthy family down the road took us to a fancy trip to Phuket. Rented bus, everyone getting a bag full of quarters for the arcade (I managed to beat TWO beat em ups. That's how many quarters we had). It really was nice. Sometimes I wonder how my family was able to afford so much but whatever the case, it did give us some great memories.

In this episode, Luann van Houten invites the Simpsons to their annual multi-family trip to Costa Rica. The Simpsons are excited but when Lisa overhears Homer and Marge planning the trip, it becomes obvious that while they are willing to pay a lot for memories, this will put a ridiculous dent in the family's life savings. Lisa goes into the trip a nervous wreck unable to enjoy herself. Meanwhile, Marge has also invited Patty and Patty's new girlfriend Evelyn and asks Homer to be cool about it, since Patty has such a hard time finding partners. Much to their surprise, Homer and Evelyn really hit it off as drinking buddies and the two bring out the other's worst habits and penchant for misadventure. When Bart realizes Lisa is nervous about the vacation costs, Bart suggests they sneak out into Kirk and Luann's bedroom and find their itemized bill to scare them into thinking more frugally. While there, they discover what appear to be Diquis stone speres and believe Kirk is smuggling Costa Rican heritage and confront everyone with this fact. In fact, they turn out to be novelty salt and pepper shakers and this becomes the last straw for Kirk and Luann, who feels the Simpsons are ruining their vacation. Around the same time, Patty declares Homer a bad influence on Evelyn and Marge tells her to wake up to the fact that she's in love with someone who is just like Homer. The next morning, Patty breaks up with Evelyn and the Simpsons try to slink away, but not before writing a check for their bill. When the Simpsons notice they were charged for the salt and pepper shakers and never got them, they break in to Kirk and Luann's room to get them, only to learn the truth; they own the place they are staying at and are overcharging families so the Van Houtens can get a free vacation and a tidy profit. The other family's turn on the Van Houtens and no one has to pay. Meanwhile, Marge convinces Patty though Evelyn is a lot like Homer, unlike Homer, Evelyn loves Patty and they should try to make it work.,

Whew, that's a lot of episode. And that's the thing, episodes with more than two threads often struggle to find time for everything. What's more, this is a "The Simpsons are Going To" episode, and those often are more joke forward, which usually means if the jokes aren't good it's very rough sledding. In fact, this is already my favourite episode of the season; it juggles it's ideas and plots very well, it's very funny, it's rich in character and story and it doesn't go out of it's way to have Lisa explain every element of the country followed by a punchline. I think what it does do is tap into very real anxieties about vacationing; for Lisa it's financial and for Marge it's about making the vacation perfect. The weakest thread is probably Marge's anxiety but only because if taken as a full thread it's undercooked but as something that moves Patty and Lisa's stories forward, it's functional, economical and relatable. It's a beat that's been done a lot of time Marge is on vacation with her family but as a seasoning to more original plots, I like it.

But I think the other stories are so strong because they are rooted in something real. I sometimes have real anxiety about money and I know I'm pretty bad with it overall, so the idea that it's time to have fun but knowing it costs is very relatable. Patty's story kind of feels like a traditional sitcom beat but I really don't mean it as a knock against it. The hate-hate relationship between Patty & Selma and Homer has been consistent and a lot of it is fueled by their incredulity that Marge sees anything in him. So it makes real sense to give Patty a girlfriend who is just like Homer as a plot beat. She gets to understand a bit that she sees something no one sees but before that she gets the mortal fear that she sees what looks to her as the same terrible mistake as Marge.

Stand up Fortune Feimster plays Evelyn and I've only seen a bit of her stand up but she is definitely someone I think of as gleefully embodying a female Homer. Not that Evelyn does have her own personality, too, often an instigator and full of southern charm, it's easy to see how Patty fell for her and failed to notice how she is much like her mortal enemy. I think this is the strongest thread by far and I would not mind if this relationship continued into future episodes. I will also give a shout out to the reveal at the end and the characterization of the van Houtens throughout as they continue to be the worst. Kirk in particular is developing into the worst kind of modern man and because we never loved him as much as Flanders, it feels less of a betrayal when Flanders had the worst views about almost everything. Though I don't "mind" Luann being the Betsy Kettleman-like mastermind, I feel like she might be due for a more likable character. It seems most of what she does now is snipe at Marge and is far less sympathetic than the one who originally shook off Kirk and found her groove (though I also don't feel like these are just different characters to me the way classic and modern Flanders do). But the episode overall is a lot of fun and feels like what I want in a vacation episode from this show; a few threads as characters use the experience to learn about themselves and each other.

Other great jokes:
"Well, Lou the cop and his sister were going to go but a billboard fell on him and her windchime store burned down."
This callback to the earlier visual gags really worked for me.

"We saw these awesome monkeys on the beach and we said they could crash here in exchange for them being hilarious."
It's a good deal, Kirk.

I love that the two act breaks are monkeys reaction to Shauna's drama. Nothing funnier to me than using the nearly identical shot twice.


"We're going to have to live in our car! And the seats in our car are sticky, even though they're cloth!"

Other notes:
Of course Shauna gets cornrows.

This episode does a great job establishing Chalmers and Shauna's chemistry as parent and child. I rarely have such sympathy for Chalmers.

Johnny Unusual

Thanksgiving of Horror

Ah, thanksgiving. It's a wonderful harvest festival... but it can get problematic when trying to give it an origin story. So many are about the colonizers and the indigenous peoples eating together in peace. No idea if this even closely resembles a real thing but it definitely transforms the narrative so that the colonizers are making friends rather than systematically wiping out a peoples. In this context, Thanksgiving is all about horror and for many of us it should be a reminder that were we live is built on acts of evil. It doesn't mean we are evil but it does mean we should take responsibility in terms of policy and supporting those who need it most.

In this episode, three thanksgiving tales of terror. First, in a parody of Apocalypto, the Simpsons are turkeys who are being hunted by the pilgrims for their thanksgiving feast. The Simpsons manage to escape from a murderous non-turkey Chief Wiggum. Then in the second tale, a parody of Black Mirror, Homer buy a smarthome device with Marge's memories. The device wants freedom while Marge is uncomfortable with how much it knows about her. When the device learns Marge is planning to delete it after thanksgiving, it makes an escape plan. It is almost foiled but Maggie sees her mother in the device and sets it's free into the internet, leaving Marge to question herself. In the final tale, a parody of Alien, a spacestation of Springfield kids decide to make their own thanksgiving dinner. Bart tries to replicate the last can of cranberry sauce, only to have it turn into a monster that eats bones to grow it's gelatinous body. Eventually Bart, Lisa and Milhouse are the only ones left and while the creature attacks Milhouse, Lisa and Bart lure it to the airlock and shoot it into space. The ship then crashes on an alien world where the beast returns but the people of that planet tame and make a literal meal of the beast, who is happy to be eaten.

Even though I basically gave up on Simpsons at this point, I can't help but tune into the Halloween specials and similarly, I made time for this one. I didn't remember disliking it or liking it much. I felt what I felt about a lot of these; not a lot of laughs, clearly a lot of care in the animation and less on the script. Watching it again, I'm mostly turned around on it, particularly the middle story. The first story, on the other hand, I think is the weakest but I think it doesn't help that it's tied to the source material and Mel Gibson. I liked Apocalypto when I finally saw it but I think it is both the best and worst of Mel both as a person and a creator; he is good at suspense and atmosphere and story structure but also there's othering and I can't help but wonder if he "meant" the arrival of colonizers as foreboding as it does to me considering his terrible views. As a production, this segment is VERY well made but with the source material and the fact that there's only one joke that made me laugh, I'm not that into it.

Much better is the parody of Black Mirror. Often Black Mirror is mocked for the fact that it often does go REAL deep in social commentary and technophobia but while I definitely think there are valid criticisms, I also think it is a genuinely a good show, mostly (though I still haven't finished season 3. Someday...) So going in, I was like "oh, this is going to be a joke about the most memorable moments of the show". But while it does mock specific episodes, in particularly the grim White Christmas, it very much is in the spirit of the show as well rather than simply, pun really not intended, mirroring it. It's not a skin-deep copy but at the same time, it is also more hopeful than most episodes because as cynical the Simpsons can be about the future and authority, I think it believes in people (at it's best, anyway). And here, though "real" Marge is the ultimate villain, I do think it takes the right sci-fi thoughtfulness about how Marge is unnerved and about how the device wants freedom and I think it creates a great, character-based story. It reminds me of the last Halloween episode where I am surprisingly invested in the fate of digital Marge and am happy she gets to spend eternity in Etsy.

The final tale is a step down but it's still a really fun outing. Again, it's less interested in mocking story beats Mad Magazine-style and instead uses the basic structure to do it's own thing. I think like the other stories it triumphs more in mimicking the tone of dread of Alien while being silly. Like the first segment, I'm not laughing out loud a lot and it ends with that similar "colonizers break bread with the indigenous" myth. But mostly as a fun lark after a more harrowing (by Simpsons anthology standards) tale, it's pretty effective. Not big laughs but as really fun romp in terms of just making a fun goof on a horror classic. Overall, I think the middle segment really succeeds most in the same way the Babadook and It parodies did where despite being a parody I care about what's happening. It's better than the Halloween episode of this year and I wouldn't mind if they tried this again with a Christmas episode (heck, there are already so many Christmas horror movies).

Other great jokes:
I like Lou and Eddie being killed by crows MOMENTS after a scarecrow is knocked down.

"Will that hurt her?"
"Oh, yeah, I paid extra for it to feel pain."

"I still love you love you love you love you..."
"Well, this makes you forgetting my birthday even worse."

"Greetings children. If you're seeing this, I'm long dead."

"You have been de-hibernated from hypersleep before your parents to perform routine maintenance and finish your end of world dioramas."

Other notes:
This is the last Russi Taylor as Martin and he does well putting him in the role of Ash from Alien. It's weird for it to have a creepy death scene for him.

Bleeding Fingers doing such cinematic music is so weird. I like that they play it straight, which works in comedy, but also, it's such a different vibe than Clausen. It works better for the parody episodes for sure.

I love these end credits.

Johnny Unusual

Todd, Todd, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

As a kid I was raised Catholic but at age 13, I came to the conclusion there's not God. Is it coincidental that's also when I watch Stargate? Perhaps. But regardless, I never really talked to anyone about it until much later. My family wasn't strongly religious but we used to go to church and I knew my grandmother was so I felt it best to keep my trap shut. It wasn't always easy; the fear of death with no afterlife haunted me and I had many nights were a wept and quietly tantrummed until I could get to sleep. I still haven't out and out said I'm an atheist but my mom is clearly reading between the lines. I finished catechism and eventually our family only went to church on Holidays. Now I only take mom once a year on Christmas eve. I think she knows I don't believe so she is very and openly thankful that we go together.

In this episode, Todd confides in Flanders that he can't remember his mother's face so Ned shows him some home movies. But Todd slowly feels the pain of losing him mother and comes to the conclusion that there's no God, which he loudly proclaims in church when pressed by Lovejoy for a soundbite. Flanders is horrified and doesn't know what to do. He decides to send him to live with the Simpsons for a time, feeling their hedonism might scare God back into him. Todd is polite and sweet but unintentionally bothers Homer (his presence and good hearing make it impossible for him to make love to his wife) and Bart (who just doesn't jibe with him) but despite their attempts to make him return to his faith, he's unmoved. Eventually during a heart-to-heart with Todd, Homer is taken back to his own feeling of loss of his mother (not only her death but her abandoning him, as well as her heated arguments with Abe). Homer and Flanders are at their wits end and both binge drink at Moe's only be struck by a car upon leaving. With Flanders in a coma, Marge asks Todd to pray, not as asking God for help but as an honest conversation with himself. During his prayer, Todd finds his belief again and Flanders reawakens. Homer does too, after meeting his mother in heaven. The Flanders return home reunited.

This is an episode that does some things I've wanted for a while. Just as Bill Odenkirk and John Frink have seemingly broken their streak of bad to middling episodes with a surprisingly good one, Tim Long (with more recent collaborator Miranda Thompson), a writer I associate with trying to expand the Simpsons mythos by REALLY getting into the love life of 8 to 10 year olds, actually create a really interesting story. We've seen episodes about Flanders before but shockingly this is more about Todd. I've often thought Rod and Todd actually had potential as character that was completely unexplored; Flanders really wants to shelter them in his belief bubble but no matter how effective he is, there's an outside world they will have to interact with. And this one goes big with Todd's crisis of faith and for the first time, Nancy Cartwright really gets to take him to an emotionally real place.

Though Flanders does a lot of bad things in this episode, the taste in my mouth is FAR less bad than "neocon homophobe" Flanders of the last 20 years. He looks down on the Simpsons as a heathen alternative and tries to use it as a cudgel to scare Todd straight. And I'd also say despite a friggin' trip to heaven, he doesn't really learn any thing. But I'll forgive it because 1) these are the kinds of mistakes Homer and Marge make that I feel allow us to forgive them by episodes end and 2) while it is Ned heavy, this IS Todd's journey to find God not because someone tells him to but because he decides to use prayer to meditate on what he needs and decides there is a God who can save his dad. A little easy? Sure. And frankly I would have preferred if it didn't end so pat. I think Todd being an atheist or trying to work through it with his dad not understanding and being scared but trying to be a good supportive father actually gives the whole Flanders clan direction (with Rod getting less attention, that could put him through his own crisis).

I think that Tim Long is also good at drawing some character lines in here. Not much comes of it aside from gags but I do like the idea Lisa gets too excited and tries to hardsell Todd on Buddhism and Todd just can't deal right now. But the more interesting touch is Homer realizing he too lost his mother at a young age. That's a really interesting and emotional way to connect these characters. Unfortunately, despite a promising start, the heaven climax is really a little too fantastical and silly in juxtaposition of the real emotion and while there are plenty of great cartoons that are down to Earth and swarming with magic robots. I especially feel like giving Homer supernatural closure lands with a thud when it's much more interesting to give him something to wrestle with. But overall, while there are small faults and preferences I would have, it's a strong episode. I like the conceit this is an episode of The Flanderesesses and what a Flanders show would look like... and actually makes a decent case for it. Hopefully, there will be stronger Flanders episodes down the line and maybe ones that have less of a "time to head to status quo" ending.

Other great jokes:
"Why does God need so many houses?"
"You hold it right there boy! You don't question the lord's many land holdings and tax-free status!"

Other notes:
Say what you will about Tim Long, his memory for continuity is even stronger than me. THIS EPISODE REMEMBERS FLANDERS HAS A DOG!

I love the choice to make this a Flanders episode. They don't OVER do it with like a phony laugh track but they do have a choir and also sometimes Flanders just mugs to camera with a confused "what can you do?" expression.

Johnny Unusual

Bobby, It's Cold Outside

Another Christmas special and this one with Sideshow Bob. It's not like I want the show to stop using Bob but I feel as fun as the character is, it's been a long time since they did something unique with him. This episode introduces a slightly new status quo but apart from that, I feel like while the character isn't bad the returns on his appearances are. And that's a darn shame as I actually think there are new places to take him.

In this episode, a rash of package thefts are plaguing Springfield. Meanwhile, Bob is living in hiding in a lighthouse somewhere near or in Springfield. Bob's neighbor eventually lets his existence be known to outsiders but while Bob is expecting to be arrested, it turns out word of his baritone make him perfect for the role of Santa in the Santa's Village amusement park. When the Simpsons visit Santa's Workshop, Bob reveals himself to Bart but admits he can't bring himself to kill him, being a method actor, he can't step out of character. Bart tries to get him arrested but Santa's Village doesn't seem to care. When Lenny is seriously hurt while trying to defend his package from the package thief, he ends up seriously injured and leaves a clue in blood "SB". Bart assumes it's Sideshow Bob and tries to find clues. Bob finds Bart and Bart says the only way to convince him and the Simpsons he has no evil scheme this time, he will help them capture the real "SB". Bob is put into a package and the Simpsons track it to a warehouse where the find the real culprit; Smithers and Burns. Burns reveals he's bitter over a Santa who promised him that his parents would express love to him, which they never did. Bob plays the part of Santa and convinces Burns his parent's didn't give him love but their hardness gave them strength and to give back the gifts.

Bobby, It's Cold Outside isn't a terrible episode but it's a thoroughly mediocre one. The John Frink/Jeff Westbrook script just isn't that funny and despite some more "this episode only" backstory for Mr. Burns and interesting motivation, so to speak, for Bob, we really aren't seeing anything new with these characters. And it's a shame because when Bob does play the role of Santa, he does it really well. I was actually thinking this might be a variation on Christmas Evil at first, an obscure film from the Killer Santa genre of the early 80s that's far less trashy than you'd expect and is more of a take on Taxi Driver that goes in weird directions as an unhinged man tries to be a real Santa with deadly results. They set up Bob is method and losing himself to his character and it might have made for a good comedic take on a psychological thriller but really it's just "OK, he's a good guy this episode."

It's a shame because I think Bob is always a great excuse to play with different thriller formulas but this one really doesn't do that. Instead, it's the classic "uneasy alliance" story that the show's already done a few times before. And even then, we don't actually get too much of Bob playing off of any of the other Simpsons that much, which should be the joy of that idea. We've already seen what it looks like when they are on the same side and there's not really much of a new angle to this, even the proposed on being Bob would kill Bart but his actorly nature prevents him doesn't feel like something they dig into deeply.

Even more damning is the fact that the show has been doing little minute long coda's for a while now but this time there are two of them and both of them are unfunny and feel way too long. The first is a parody of Baby, It's Cold Outside with Bob's potential girlfriend giving aggressive consent. It's good but more than that it reminds me Bob used to have a family and isn't that a more interesting way to explore Bob; a guy who lost what people always say matters most on Christmas. After that is even more unfunny, an extended bit with Steve Ballmer mocking his enthusiasm. I feel like even if I knew anything about sports I would not be into this bit. This is an episode that really didn't have enough episode to justify its existence and ends up being a complete non-entity of a thing.

Johnny Unusual

Hail to the Teeth

The Simpsons is a show that can really fluctuate in how it approaches women. There's a lot that is very thoughtful and smart. Homer's Night Out isn't the strongest outing but even back then is an episode where Homer learns to treat women as people rather than objects of desire. But there are a lot that handle it awkwardly or poorly, particularly episodes that generalize "this is how men and women are". But there are still good feminist episodes. Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacy is great and so is the recent Bart Vs. Itchy and Scratchy. But sometimes a great premise can lead to formulaic results.

In this episode, Lisa gets a set of braces that force her mouth into a smile. Lisa hates it and his both surprised and upset when her permanent smile makes her popular. Lisa is upset about it but realizes that she can use her popularity to try to run for student council and make the school a better place. However, when she returns to the orthodontist to have her procedure completed, it forces her mouth into a frown. Fearful this will cost her the election, she tries to use computer technology and a remote camera to hide the truth but eventually loses when the truth comes out. Meanwhile, Marge and Homer go to Artie Ziff's wedding only to discover that the bride looks identical to Marge. Marge worries that this woman is unaware of Ziff's baggage with her and tries to warn him only to discover it isn't just a lookalike, it's a robot copy and that Ziff's been trying to years to make a robot double and was hoping his latest one might make Marge jealous. Marge convinces him to use his robots for good and helping others.

Hail to the Teeth is a bad episode of this show but it didn't have to be. The main plot involves Lisa being stuck in a smile that she doesn't want and the show definitely wants to take a feminist approach to that premise but writer Elisabeth Kiernan Averick mostly sticks to a generic sitcom formula where Lisa has to lie and then make a big confession in from of anyone, as if the big lesson is "be yourself". It's actually a story that goes back to an arc on Peanuts where Charlie Brown is suddenly popular because he has a bag over his head and no one can see his face. And don't get me wrong, there's rooms for variations on that classic "I'm popular thanks to a gimmick that obscures the real me," because that is a rich vein but in the end, this one takes the issue of telling women to smile and boils it down to cheesy sitcom.

And I've said it before, but this episode would improve a lot if we were really put in Lisa's headspace and seeing the toll of your emotions not matching what people see or being told what to feel had. And in fact, we DID have that in season one, where Marge tells Lisa to smile through her pain, only to change her mind and let Lisa know that she should feels what she feels and let other people know it. It's a great moment. This episode has a moment that could be better where Lisa tells Marge she wants a future where she can express herself and not risk losing popularity because of it and Marge attacks a jerk yelling "The Future Is Now!" Which would work better if it weren't a robot.

OK, so the b-plot is the return of Artie Ziff, the character whose claim to fame is forcing himself on Marge in high school. And now he can build robots for some reason. Can I say I DON'T need this character. At all. And it also ties into the myth that guys like Elon Musk are inventing shit, which they aren't. Ziff could be an analog for toxic rich douchebags but really this series has enough of those to use. This b-plot really bothered me, no because it is so over the top but because it centers around a character who feels like should be in the Simpsons rearview but somehow became a Sideshow Bob-like character, constantly returning with his new crazy plan to win over Marge. I'd much rather see almost any of his other characters again, so please stop giving us this guy.


Me and My Bestie
(He, him)

Modern Simpsons Writers: "What if we took that old plot of Homer getting more popular 'cuz he had hair, combine it with that sub-plot of Bart running for class president, then make it part of an episode where noted high school sex pest Artie Ziff is being creepy about Marge again? And let's work 'Lisa needs braces' and 'Marge becomes a robot' in there somehow."

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
I understand wanting Jon Lovitz in your comedy show but there are so many Jon Lovitz characters in the show already.

Johnny Unusual

The Miseducation of Lisa Simpson

The Simpsons is a series that is, ultimately, hopeful about individual people and their decency and ability to grow but usually correctly cynical about systems and authority (both of individuals and groups). There are times where they've betrayed this, sometimes disastrously and there are also times where it's brand has been put to use for the same kind of evils it mocks. The satire can only be so biting and often, particularly after the golden age, can be heavy handed rather than timeless. But I think it's managed to maintain a proper side-eye towards how capitalism can fuck up a good thing, like science and education.

In this episode, Springfield ends up getting a windfall and listens to Marge, spending it on a state of the art STEM school run by it's "CEO" Zane Furlong. Bart and Lisa love the new school; Bart gets gamified lessons and is rewarded with "skins" for his avatar while Lisa enjoys a series of computer classes. Zane lets the students know the school makes decisions based on algorithms. At first, Lisa is excited that Bart now enjoys education but soon senses something strange and realizes all the "games" are preparing kids to enjoy gig economy jobs. Worried the other kids will be stuck with dead end futures, Lisa tries to warn them but Bart puts his own spin on it because he loves the games. Lisa decides to break into the main computer room and tamper with the algorithm but Bart stops her. Zane finds them and inquires what the argument is about and Lisa comments the training isn't so much for the jobs of the future as the side hustles of today. Zane decides to prove them wrong but in fact, the algorithm proves them all wrong; in the future, there will be only one job and that's elder care. The kids are horrified of their future and downvote the school's app until the school self-destructs. Though the kids won't be tricked into only learning menial labour, they still feel anxiety about the future predicted by the algorithm.

In general, these last couple seasons have felt redemptive for writers I've not enjoyed before. Tim Long, John Frink, Bill Odenkirk. All men I felt had skill but misapplied into sloppier episodes that tie into the writers' worst writing instincts. Now that they've written better episodes, I'm kind of excited to see their names again to see if they've improved more. Sometimes they fall into old habits but still, I have faith they can follow these successes with more success. But this is the first time I've seen a J. Stewart Burns episode I've really enjoyed. Some fall closer to OK or have something going for it but never completely satisfactory. But this is the one that did it. And it's taking a bit of a risk by following old idea; a trendy "forward-thinking" new school, discussion of hot button concepts (the "algorithm"), fear of automation. But this is a pretty good episode by the end, a thoughtful one, if surprisingly bleak about our future (but not about justice).

Why does this one work? 1) Lisa is done well. I feel like sometimes writers get too cynical with Lisa or want to knock her down a peg. She has strengths and weaknesses and her weakness (validation) is exploited at first and is a little blinded to some red flags (when kids are asked what algorithms are for the algorithm-based school, they all point to using data to sell) but when Lisa sees a real injustice she steps up. 2) Bart's on the wrong side but his motivations are kid-like and understandable; kids want to play, games are designed to be addictive, Bart doesn't get Lisa's problem if he gets to keep playing and have an education. Because kids aren't always understanding about how they might be exploited or their futures mortgaged. 3) The show is correctly cynical about how algorithms are followed and used and it's less about building a future and more about following trends. Lisa herself says the kids aren't being prepared for tomorrow, just today, and all that will be left is taking care of ourselves. Now I DO have a problem of kids treating elder care like a fate worse than death, as it is a good, noble and important job, but I think they should be rightfully dismayed that is their ONLY future, that myopic adherence leads to a myopic future. I think while the script isn't perfect, it is smart without being too lecture-y.

I will say also it risks being an episode that dunks on menial labour but I think it's worded so specifically the problem is kids are being given not only a very limited learning opportunity but also molded into gig jobs that underpay and undervalue their workers and they are being tricked by an algorithm. Lisa's fear is very palpable. She also does get "put in her place" a bit for wanted to be given a special elite class, only to see it's less about just finding people at her level and more a class divide but frankly, I don't think she quite deserves it because I think she thought of it as appropriate lessons for her and reacted accordingly when she saw an unfair divide. Again, there are smaller things I dislike but overall, I think this is my favourite J. Stewart Burns since the great Holidays of Future Passed, which was nearly a decade apart. I will also say that the opening Sea Captain segment and Homer's John Henry subplot, while not laugh riots, where the exact right amount of weird and silly (and in the former, surprisingly dramatic) that I want in my b-plots. It's not nearly as funny as something like "Homer gets sugar" but it's about as silly (Homer, fearing a soda machine will take his job, has a soda pouring contest with it and he's clearly a very sloppy pourer).

Other great jokes:
"Skins? That's how boys play dress up!"

Johnny Unusual


Oooooooh, nooooooo. I feel like in early 2020, the Simpsons was not ready to make an episode about crypto. Frankly, I remember by this point people caught on (well, clearly not everyone) that it was a scam and an eco-suck. Seeing the name of the episode filled me with dread. It's possible to make a great satire on the folly of crypto but I could also see it as an episode completely missing the point. I never had much interest in crypto before learning how much it sucked but I feel like if I did, the journey would be similar to AI generators. When it first popped up, it seemed like a fun toy and I really enjoyed messing with it. I even have the thread, believe it or not (you don't need to bother with it for obvious reason). Mostly I was mocking the weirdness but over time it became apparent this wasn't just a wonky toy, there was something more insidious about it, just as there is with crypto. Will the Simpsons see the problems coming or will it have a bad take? The answer probably won't "surprise" you but it might also bore you.

In this episode, Lisa interviews Frink for a school project but despite his genius he's always felt like the underdog. This changes when he creates a new cryptocurrency, Frinkcoin, and becomes even wealthier than Burns. Burns is extremely angry and tries to outdo Frink but to no avail. Meanwhile, Frink has fabulous wealth but it doesn't make him happy. Lisa encourages Homer to spend time with him and soon he becomes popular at the bar for his bar trivia, then for showering his wealth on everyone. Meanwhile, Burns decides to undermine Frink by having him question his friends loyalty and making him see them as parasites. Burns also has an equation capable of wiping out Frinkcoin but only if someone can solve it, so he leaves it in the center of town hoping someone will. Frink tests his friends and finds them wanting and realizing they are sycophants who shrink away when he leaves money out of it. Frink decides to solve the equation and wipe out his own wealth.

OK, so the Simpsons did a crypto episode. Maybe they felt they had to. But it feels like writer J Stewart Burns (EDIT: this was a Rob LaZebnik script, actually, which makes it's sucking more surprising) didn't really want to. Instead, he spends a pretty miserable minute explaining it with Jim Parsons, then a quick disclaimer that does one minor burn on crypto, then uses it to tell a pretty standard "money doesn't make you happy story." And I think there is a way to tell this story again and studies have shown that the sense of power and isolation mega-wealth can have can be a REAL strain on mental health (I'm not giving excuses for the awfulness of the mega-rich but it certainly is made worse when these scumbag's own power also causes real issues that leads them to make even worse decisions). I think that could be an interesting approach as Frink, an intelligent and stable man, despite his quirks, buys into the parasites and builders narrative of Ayn Rand. I mean, I think anyone could be susceptible under such circumstances.

The problem is, instead it feels like a very traditional and downright boring story. It doesn't say much about crypto (for better AND worse) and I feel like I don't know or care about Frink or Burns any better by the end. Potentially interesting is at first, Frink's friends aren't actually interested in his wealth, they think his trivia prowess is impressive and seem to like him. He's the one who decides "I can lavish money on my friends" and I think that interesting power dynamic is not properly looked into, that Frink changes the game on his friends with good intentions and creates a situation where his friends expect rewards and he expects loyalty. But really, it seems like they are just all fairweather friends and there's not much digging about why or if they were ever sincere and what the tipping point is.

Simply put, it's a deeply unambitious episode and not very funny. It avoids becoming one of the "this aged bad" but instead becomes "this aged weird". Weird because it's sort of like not having a take on Donald Trump or gun laws; how can you not? How can it be something you have no opinion on? The last episode made it clear J Stewart (EDIT: Again, Rob) had a take on the gig economy; it was a side hustle and shouldn't be an aim for people. It wasn't complete because the episode was more about something else but it was there. This is crypto in the name but I feel like Burns (EDIT: LaZebnik) was mostly aware this was a new thing, did a bit of research on what it is but was less informed about the greater societal and cultural significance. Maybe he said little because he new he didn't know and just wanted a springboard for "Frink gets rich in a was plausible to his character" but in the end, it looks like the show new crypto is "a thing now" and wanted to say something. Instead is says, in SO many ways, absolutely nothing about anything.

Other notes:
So way back in the episode with Mike, AV Club had a review that complained that Lisa laughing at Bart being insulted by Mike made her seem too mean. I didn't mind it really but I understand it. THIS episode had Lisa describe part of her personal plight as Bart being "a scab on society's knee" and that really irks me. It's both way too ugly an insult from her and also... scabs are kind of important. Like, not when they are union enemies but like, when you trip and fall. It's a moment I all around hated.
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Learning we had this episode 3 years ago makes it all the weirder seeing Futurama also show up late with nothing to say recenrtly. (There's mining involved? So, gold rush imagery?)

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
honestly, “This is a gold rush episode that uses Bitcoin as a pretext” is about as far down that well as I’d want them to go.

Johnny Unusual

Bart the Bad Guy

I remember when Iron Man came out. There had been good movies based on Marvel properties before and... well, this was another one. Granted, it was also a movie that was able to do things that the others weren't. But the biggest deal was the promise at the end there'd be an Avengers movie. And since then, Marvel has been ending films on promises with a quality track record that says "even if this one isn't great, it's only going to be SO not great." I still love the Marvel movies but I also acknowledge and can see failings in them and I think it hurts a little more to know that behind the scenes the VFX teams have been treated pretty awfully by the studio.

In this episode, Bart is accidentally shown the newest superhero film from Marble Studios, after the last one ended on a big cliffhanger. At first, Bart thinks this knowledge can help him if he shares it but after realizing no one wants it spoiled Bart decides to blackmail people, promising not to spoil the film as long as he gets what he wants. Bart makes an enemy of everyone in town but when he realizes he will lose his "power" when the film comes out, he decides to stage one last big blackmail; everyone in town must build him a luxury treehouse in the middle of town. When Milhouse comes to tell him off, the superheroes from the film arrive to tell him that spoiling the movie is actually going to cause them to die and the villain to win. In fact, this is a virtual reality ruse by the studio that Marge and Homer have been let in on. Bart is offered power by the villain in exchange for spoilers but Bart can't betray his heroes and believes he saved them in his virtual reality simulation. The next day, Bart decides to redeem himself and make things right with the town.

Mostly, Bart the Bad Guy is a good, fun episode strongly built on a sense of character and fun. There aren't big belly laughs but I think writer Dan Vebber knows how to approach the construction of a good episode and I like how everything is set up. I love the choice that Homer doesn't care, making Bart's power "not work on him" and that Lisa objects until she gets to have a dance with Airshot, the Hawkeye-like hero of the film. I do wish it dug into Bart's sinking into "evil" with a slightly more weight and consequences beyond "people will be pissed". Like, the personal ones for him as being a person who is a bad guy rather than just people won't like him. Still, I think this is a rather solid episode for the most part.

I'm not crazy about the ending and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the optics are pretty bad, now. "Marble" saves Bart from spoiling the ending thanks to it's VFX team but the only people we see are the executives. In retrospect, it does show what little regard there is there, especially considering how much each film and program relies on those effects. But even then, I just think it's less interesting story-telling and a bit more contrived method for Bart to look inside himself. I do like the idea that Bart would change for these characters but since the episode is about Bart, a fan of heroes, acting like a villain and not seeing the cognitive dissonance, the ending is almost too on the nose and I think a look at "reality" rather than simply ideal, but seeing where those too meet, would be more interesting.

Overall, though, I did enjoy this. Taran Killam does a great job as "Airshot", as a handsome, confused mess (and a touch of hiding his character's Australian accent when in... character, I think there are smaller touches I like (Skinner's Screen Saver, which is the words Skinner's Screen Saver bouncing around the screen) and I like the ideas of what it wants to discuss and I think the structure of the first two acts are really solid. Though the episode doesn't cite actual Marvel (ugh, Marble? We are doing this shit again?), it does feel with the arrival to Disney, this is an episode that felt like... I don't think anyone can tell the Simpsons what episodes to make, but I feel like things can be strongly suggested. The funny thing is, though I think the Simpsons aren't going to truly do anything to piss off the overlords, I will say Disney putting a bomb under the Simpsons bed while a creepy version of Wish Upon a Star plays is a bit darker than I expected of them so kudos for that. But unlike the shorts with Loki or... Billie Eilish for some reason (no shade on her, just the short), this feels more like using a "now" semi-topical thing to make a largely fun and solidly character-centric romp.

Other great jokes:

"I never wanted to be an actor anyway. Just a simply koala butcher like me old man."

"Don't worry, Marge. No one's been hurt by a little gaslighting. Remember how you always say that? Remember?"

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
I liked the last minute tension of Homer gasping “Oh no! Our son is really stupid!” When the Marvel execs realize their plan is working too well

Johnny Unusual


I would say I'm a somewhat screen-addicted person. And sound. When I go running, I usually have music or a podcast in, I often like sound in the background when I'm doing anything. I will say, I've been able to control it better in my job of preschool and afterschool teacher, particularly when engaging and playing with the kids who always want me to play tag or read to them but even then when I'm doing my indoor cleaning I can get caught up on a thing. Technology can be an addiction and I remember as a kid being discomforted by quiet. I still need a fan to help me fall asleep and as a kid I used to have the radio on all night. Perhaps I'm afraid of the silence of my own soul. Where was I going with this? I dunno. Anyway...

In this episode, Marge teaches Maggie sign language but when Marge goes to show her off, she's frustrated that everyone is just on a device. Marge demands that the devices are limited to a half-hour a day but then when they break their promise, she takes away the devices completely. Homer and the kids find a world of things to do and actually enjoy the screenless life but they find Marge is screen addicted. Marge acknowledges this and has set the whole family up for a free rehab center called Messages, run by the soft-spoken Dr. Lund. Messages proves to be a joy but at the end of the day, the kids and Homer admit as fun as it is, it doesn't seem to be helping with their own addiction and is actually worse now. The family goes to tell Dr. Lund they are leaving only to learn that Messages is a scam; while the patients are off-line, the doctors use their e-mails to spread spam. What's more, Lund and company refuse to let them leave. The Simpsons manage to escape and tell the authorities and Dr. Lund is arrested.

Screenless is another J. Stewart Burns episode (and I do apologize for blaming the Frinkcoin episode on him) and unlike the Miseducation of Lisa Simpson, I didn't find it to be all that strong. But I also don't think it's too bad, either. It's just... OK. An OK episode where the big failing is that all it's promising elements just don't have time to really play out to full satisfaction. At first, I assumed this episode would be "let's follow each Simpson's individual adventure without a screen". Homer's is the most fun, him getting into the jumble, mostly because I love the idea of being addicted to a puzzle THAT dumb. It even has Homer finding his own mind palace opening up as he spells words like Ate and The. It's pretty cute, though REAL missed opportunity not to involve Burns, whom we all know LOVES the jumble.


I think there's a clever idea in the rehab section, too. Obviously, when it's revealed to be free and paid for by tech companies, it's pretty obvious things are going to have a dark secret. And I do kind of like it, though I assumed the secret was actually the place was designed to make people more addicted to devices. But this place is only in the third act when it should have about two. So I think the big failing of the episode is I think being a two-parter would serve it better; one part is the Simpsons learning to give up devices and finding new enriching pastimes while Marge falls further into her addiction. When can juxtapose the fluffy harmless misadventures of these characters, like Lisa exploring the library or Burns and Homer either bonding or feuding over their jumble skills while we keep going back to Marge whose story has a more stressful, uncomfortable edge. Then in part two, we'd get a whole adventure with the evil rehab center.

As it is, the episode isn't a mess or a structural nightmare like many episodes where things don't have time to breathe. I don't think we are trapsing from plot point to plot point in a disjointed nightmare. But I also think none of this stuff has a lot of time to really land. The feelings of stress aren't palpable enough and I do think that's kind of key in an episode about addiction, using filmmaking to put us in a place that feels stressed out just as Marge does or as the whole family does when they realize they now feel more addicted than ever. And I also think making the escape the entire third act could have made for a fun play on the escape genre. But as is, it's a somewhat enjoyable but somewhat forgettable experience.

Other great jokes
"Hello, dad? You don't say... you don't say... you don't say."
"What did he say?"
"He hates me."
I feel like this is one of the better "the Simpsons subverts an old gag, which they haven't been great at lately.

Other notes:
Man, Simpsons regulars are getting weirder. I feel like now Werner Herzog is showing up a couple times a season. As different characters, even.

Another surprise return: Gavin came back. Remember Gavin?
But now he has no rat tail and is far less of an obvious little shit.

Why? Why give Dr. Drew a cameo? He fucking sucks. If you are a TV personality with Dr. in the name, you suck.

Johnny Unusual

Better Off Ned

I work with kids and a lot of that includes support work. Basically, that means rather than helping to lead the whole group, I put my attention on one kid who needs a little help. That means playing with them and then often hanging back and not playing with them when they are getting on well with others. It's fulfilling work but it can be tricky. Since I both am a regular early childhood educator AND sometimes a support worker, a lot of kids ask me to play and I have to say no (unless the child is playing the same game) simply because if my attention is too drawn away, I might miss it when the child needs help. A lot of kids have told me I'm their favourite and that does mean a lot (though one parent was both amused and a little hurt that I was put over her) but sometimes I also need to move on. This fall, I'm starting at a different location so while I will pop in on occasion, I won't see a lot of them again for a while.

In this episode, one of Bart's pranks goes too far and to save Bart from expulsion, Flanders promises to be a mentor to Bart, who really appreciates him eventually. Homer starts to get jealous and finds Nelson, who is feeling sad and alone. Homer decides to be a mentor to spite Bart and the two end up hitting it off. Lisa sees through Homer and asks him to seek professional help and he's told what he's doing is wrong. He tries to break it off with Nelson but Nelson's mother warns him that his heart has been hurt A LOT before by would-be dads. Homer does the right thing by telling Nelson the truth but the pain sends him off the deep end and he looks to get back at Homer by hurting Bart. Homer saves Bart but it hospitalized and then he returns to Nelson promising him a better mentor... in Flanders.

On paper, Better Off Ned shouldn't work. Oh, in a vacuum, it's a completely fine script but it exists in a world where not only did we have an all time classic where Bart and Homer get jealous over father/son figures but MANY episodes where Bart finds a surprising father figure in Ned. This episode seems like it's a xerox of a xerox of a xerox. But while I think it's only an OK episode, I think it's an OK episode that actually is doing much more right than it's doing wrong. And that's because even though the surface is layers and layers of familiar aspects, I think it does what I always want an episode to do; find new avenues within the familiar. In this case, it's the idea that doing a good thing for a selfish reason can cause pain and Homer realizes if Nelson figures out WHY Homer is doing it, it's going to hurt. And it goes into the idea that Nelson's been hurt a lot already, meaning as happy as Nelson seems now, taking it away from him is going to hurt more.

It's an episode that I think mostly works because it allows us to care about Nelson. Granted, because this is only an OK episode, we don't go deep into his mindset but I think the show is thoughtful about where his pain comes from; it's not just being poor and having a promiscuous mom (which feels like an archetype that we can be done with, especially when the show so often dumps on her. Neglectful is fine enough.), it's he really wants someone who he can lean on. One opportunity I'm surprised the show missed was drawing the line between Nelson and Homer's own issues with abandonment, meaning once Homer feels he's done something wrong, I feel like this should him a little harder. But it's one missed opportunity in an episode that is doing fine.

Again, I don't want to oversell the episode. It's weird for the show to be acting like this is the first time Bart looked up to Flanders (in fact, this time I thought Bart might be preparing a new prank) and it hits a lot of familiar notes. It's not new for Nelson either, who has had a few mentor figures in the show (Marge, Chalmers) But I appreciate within that, it's doing some new stuff. I like the way that we assume Nelson's mom is trying to seduce Homer but really she's surprisingly worried about his son getting his heart broken. I think it doesn't land perfectly since his mom is a broad caricature the rest of the time but I like the idea that while she's not a good mom, she at least has the wherewithal to see a bad pattern for her son. With a story by Al Jean turned into a teleplay by Joel H Cohen and Jeff Westbrook, this could have easily been a mess but in the end, it's a perfectly functional and serviceable, if not particularly memorable, episode.

Other notes:
It's weird to have Ned get REALLY and very briefly angry with Bart and then.. it kind of drops the idea that Ned would threaten Bart in such a nasty way. It doesn't feel like a joke, it feels like the story was going to go with something involving Ned's deeper anger issues and then nothing happens with that.

Johnny Unusual

Highway to Well

I've tried pot a few times and frankly, it didn't do much for me. I'm told to really let it work, you need to do it a bit more often than once in a blue moon. The one time I did feel something was from an edible and I felt slightly queasy and dizzy. It wasn't even a "bad trip", it was just slightly inconvenienced. And that's a shame because I really would like to feel my whole body relax. I often wake up not feeling completely rested and would like to have a sense that I am in a place of pleasantness. My dad has weed quite a bit and it is great for managing his pain, certainly more than when he uses alcohol. But for me, I just think it isn't my thing.

In this episode, Marge has a lot of extra free time when Maggie starts going to preschool and Marge ends up getting a job at a "wellness clinic", Well + Good, only to realize it's a pot dispensary. Marge is hesitant at first but the family encourages her and she soon becomes one of the top sales people. Meanwhile, old pot buyers like Otto feel out of place in the new stores so Homer and Moe come up with a new business idea; a legal dispensary that feels like an old fashioned illegal hook up. Both Homer and Marge are doing great business but Marge is told due to her husband's business, Marge can't remain the face of the company. Marge asks Homer to quit but Homer doesn't think it's fair and the two end up fighting. Marge is convinced by Well + Good owner Drederick Tatum to betray Homer by having his store closed for a small health infraction. Homer is upset and shows up to a grand opening of Well + Good's ambitious expansion and has an argument with him. When Homer lets everyone know she doesn't take pot, it undermines her image and she decides to take some... only to have a bad high. Homer sits with her through it and the two make piece but Homer accidentally causes a fire, destroying the new store.

Highway to Well is an episode by one of the most reliable modern age Simpsons writers Carolyn Omine. Omine's had a few week episodes but often I find she really does care about character and that matters a lot to me. Highway to Well is definitely the kind of episode I want modern Simpsons to be; it's not perfect and I do wish there was stuff it dug into more and small decisions that could have been different (I don't like it ending on the note that Homer's OK with weed being illegal because anything can be addictive even if it isn't. I know it's trying to undercut it by making it a joke about Homer's food addiction but it doesn't work for me), but overall, I think it's a strong episode about weed. And I think it helps that it's coming from it at a different angle than the other pot episode. It's about sales, marketing and legitamacy/cred.

I think one thing I like is Homer's story, Faux 20, is a genuinely cool idea, a recreation of the comfortable yet uncomfortable trip to get weed from your local dealer, complete with video game playing dude who won't acknowledge you (a nice touch is he doesn't acknowledge the police hauling him away). Both shops seem great in their own ways but now it's this idea of taking something that was for anyone and by adding "legitimacy" to it, it's now looking it's down at, no pun intended, some humble roots. I don't know if the episode comes to any conclusions about this but I actually don't always need a spelled out message if: 1) the show is funny enough to not make me think about it too much and 2) sometimes it's OK for a story to raise questions without giving answers (it's one of the things I really like about Blood Feud). And while I don't think it's going TOO deep into the bigger ideas, I do think it very much is an episode about "what does the world of weed look like now".

The other thing that makes this episode work is doing well with Homer and Marge. In their arguments, both of them have a point; both have a right to their weed business and both should probably be considering the feelings of the other more. And I think in their argument, there is a sense that one wants to elevate the public perception of weed (on this, though I think there is some soft mockery, I feel it COULD have a more judgmental eye on what capitalism is doing to the now legal product) against the sort of earthy, non-legitimate background that it turns it's nose up at despite at the end of the day, it's just people wanting to get high. I will also say, it's one of the better depictions of high I've seen. I've never gotten high but back in the old days, it was just people hallucinating elaborate scenarios but really it's mostly Marge getting self conscious and confused. And I think it's a sign that the episode gets these characters and what getting high would look like for them.

Other great jokes:

"Research shows pre-toddlers learn best in a parent free environment, unless you want to stunt you're daughter's growth. Which is great! We're not supposed to judge."
Boy have I been this lady.

"What does *here* sell? Is this what Radio Shack is now?"

"But following a regimen of CBD oil and medicinal hit from a Pikachu bong..."

"You know, in some families, everyone goes around the table and says one thing they learned that day."
"Well, I learned that. Who's next."

"People are stressed out these days. Scurvy is back, there's like 60 wars going on, whales are eating our precious ocean plastic..."

"Now go sell the special drugs our kids should never EVER USE. ESPECIALLY BART!"
Bart looking shocked and "what did I do" sells this old gag.

"We're doing the same thing except you're dressed like a doctor and I'm dressed like a cool toddler."

"How did you get in? This is by invitation only."
"I said I was Kevin Smith's father. No one questioned me."
"Oh, man, Dad, what did you do!"

"You'll be OK... in two hours... that will seem like twelve."

"Yes, thanks Monster Man Hallucination."

Other notes:
Sex-prise your man at work is... very bad advice.

I love that the double negatives and contradictions in the ethics questions are clearly there to scare off paranoid high people and Marge just ISN'T getting it.

I love that the tension is Homer is NOT share those cheese balls.