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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 25.7 - Yellow Subterfuge




This feels like yet another episode they pretty much made up around a cool title. Oh well, we can give it a chance.

Blackboard: "I will stop asking when Santa goes to the bathroom." OMG, I have SO taught that kid before.

Couch gag: I'm pretty sure it came from my nightmares. The couch is for sale at a used couch lot (and there's a cameo from the Season 1 RV guy, HI RV GUY!). The Simpsons are those blown-up wind sock things that are used for advertising. Bart-the-wind-sock somehow gets hold of a pair of scissors and cuts Homer-the-wind-sock loose. He floats into the power lines above and gets electrocuted. The Bart wind sock continues to grin maniacally, because it's a fucking wind sock. Carnival music plays. Ye gads.

We get a cowboy-theme intro to Skinner, who rides in all bestubbled and badass-looking. His theme song is a weird fusion on Bond and spaghetti western and Blaxploitation, and I love it. The sequence is straight out of Peckinpah. He goes around old-timey Springfield on a horse, capturing outlaw students. Sherri and Terri are hookers. At one point, he shoots at Bart, causing him to drop his milk carton. There's a lingering shot of the spilled milk as Skinner rides away. I'm about to die.

He winds up riding Chalmers, which sounds like a different kind of fantasy, and we soon find out he was dreaming. He's at an assembly, about to announce an exciting new field trip. (Please box factory, please box factory.) They're going to have a ride on a nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Tom Clancy. Hey, they wrote this before Clancy died, right? Because that's a hell of a coincidence. Just to drive the message home, we get an "Yvan Eht Noij" flashed at us.

Predictably, pandemonium breaks loose. Skinner qualifies this by adding that there's only room for the best-behaved students, always a good idea in a small and highly volatile space. He's going to be generous, however, and give everyone a clean slate. Even Bart - who of course desperately wants to go.

At home, Bart tells his family that he resolves to be good forever. Everyone laughs uproariously. Even Marge, while assuring him she supports him, expresses her doubts.

Bart is truly serious this time, even throwing out his prank supplies. Lisa is impressed with his efforts, though his stuff keeps turning up in embarrassing places - particularly when it comes to Homer.

Lisa happens to pass by Krusty's house while all his stuff is getting repossessed. The clown admits he's going broke, because his show is unpopular and he invested in a bunch of near-defunct industries (mostly to do with paper books). Lisa has a solution right away, of course - selling the show's foreign rights to international distributors. She gives us a clip of Spongebob-as-telenovela for proof. Krusty is quickly on board with the idea.

Apparently inspired by his dream, Skinner patrols the school to spaghetti-western music. Sigh. TV, we've done this. If anyone throws a paintball I'll probably punch something. Anyway, he becomes the terror of the school, shutting down hallways as effectively as an outlaw riding through a frontier town. Armed with a list, he crosses off names at the drop of a hat. However, he's disconcerted by Bart's new angelic ways, especially since Bart translates "good" as "sucking up to all forms of authority". Well, considering that's how many of the powers-that-be define it, maybe Bart's got a point. (Lisa, meanwhile, is getting cause-y about Skinner's new authoritarian regime and requests to be removed from the list. Not like she'd enjoy a military field trip anyway.)

Skinner posts weird Soviet-esque propaganda posters all over the bus, which leads me to think maybe the man needs a touch of help. Just then, the bus breaks down. Bart goes into a panic attack, because if he's late, he'll lose his place on the list. Now, a sensible educator would understand that stuff like this happens, but since this is Skinner, I'm inclined to think Bart is right to be worried. He jumps out of the bus and dashes through the neighborhood, Ferris Bueller-style. He gets there on time - only to be taken off the list for having muddy feet. Seriously, Skinner, you're an asshole. Kids are kids! Give them some room to be human. Bart is devastated, of course.

Skinner is in the middle of yet another creepy phone call to his mom. Once he hangs up, the phone rings again. Bart's clearly-disguised voice asks him to hold for the president. Barack Obama, through a series of cobbled-together sound bites, tells Skinner to let Bart on the trip. It's actually pretty ingeniously done. Kudos, Bart, though I still wouldn't let you anywhere near a submarine. Skinner is about to cave when the sound bites become incomprehensible. A bird is pecking at Bart's laptop keyboard and messing with the recording. Skinner looks out the window and sees Bart at work. The trick is unraveled.

Krusty's agent welcomes the foreign distributors to a focus meeting, where they are given "Krusty Kits" full of novelty comedy objects. (The distributors are all stereotypes, of course - from the first shot, I count Jamaican, German, French, Pacific Islander, African and East Asian of some sort, English and possibly Swedish.) Krusty asks the distributors to do the show abroad, and send him 75% of the profits. Personally, I would totally watch the crap out of Russian Krusty. He would be slightly terrifying and completely awesome. Seriously, did you see what the USSR did with Winnie the Pooh? Okay, just to be nice, I'll include it for your viewing delight:


...I return forty minutes later after watching the complete Soviet Winnie the Pooh. Let's get down to business. Skinner is exploiting Bart's vulnerability by making him work super hard, including washing his car and doing his paper route. (We also get some hilariously surreal Groundskeeper Willie jokes - how I love that crazy Scotsman.) When he's done, he begs Skinner for another chance, claiming that this could be his turning point. His redemption would also be a major coup for Skinner's career as an educator. Skinner considers it - then leaves Bart on the fucking dock as the submarine goes under. This, my friends, is the point where Skinner officially crosses from assholery into sociopathy. Even the Captain thinks it's too much. Bart is left standing, alone, on the dock as his friends gleefully start their adventure.

In a way, this plot reminds me of the classic "Bart Gets an F" from Season 2, where Bart tries and tries, but still manages to fail at the end. Sometimes circumstances get the best of you. Sometimes your timing is bad. And sometimes there's an asshole in charge, as we see here. Even good effort can't win you success all the time - though the prevailing message of our society seems to say otherwise.

Krusty watches Jamaican Krusty, which includes "Itchomon Scratchomon", which a) is cringeworthy in terms of stereotypes and B) reminds me of Pokemon. Seriously, Pokemon would be so much better with Itchy and Scratchy. Allow me to cheerfully steal from Google.




Oh, fuck me, the entire episode is about Itchy and Scratchy getting high. Seriously, writers? Seriously? Okay, I would actually watch that, but as an illustration of Jamaican children's culture? Who the hell greenlit this?

We get "Rasta, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!", which is extraordinarily racist. WOW. Krusty likes it, though, especially since it's raking in the cash, along with Chinese Krusty and "Sideshow Mao", and Irish Krusty, who tells sad stories about his ma and is voiced by - well, I can't find the voice actor, but it doesn't sound like a regular. Krusty is thankful for Lisa's suggestion, and promises to bring her on his next tour entertaining the troops. (Not American troops.)

Bart mournfully stares into the water. Homer pulls up, and despite not knowing why Bart's upset, tries to offer comfort anyway. Bart begins to cry. To cheer him up, Homer suggests that maybe the submarine wasn't so much fun. Cut to Milhouse getting to fire a torpedo. Everything's coming up Milly!

Back on the dock, Bart asks Homer if he can fix the situation, which is a really bad idea - we've spent the past quarter-century learning that! Of course, he has a harebrained revenge scheme up his sleeve. It helps that Skinner's weakness is "everything".

Skinner wakes up confident the next morning, while his theme song plays. He is the dorkiest villain ever, drinking out of a "Princi-PAL" mug. However, his calm is shattered when he walks into the kitchen to find his mother stabbed to death. So wait, this is the character who dies? That's...pretty dark. Also, I find it hard to believe that anyone won an Emmy for voicing Agnes Skinner.

Skinner tries to cover up the murder - why? He didn't do it - and hears a knock on the door. It's Bart and Homer demanding restitution for the Submarine Incident. They then pretend to "uncover" Agnes' body in order to blackmail Skinner. The panicking principal dithers about what to do, but Bart and Homer want to get the police involved. Skinner imagines it. In a stunning example of Springfield justice, Wiggum has Skinner in a noose by the end of the day without any prior investigation. So - Bart and Homer are the villains now? Because this is really, really dark even for them.

Back in the Skinner kitchen, Homer suggests that they dispose of the body while Skinner goes to hide. After he leaves, they start to laugh - and reveal that Agnes is alive and playing along with the prank.

Skinner comes downstairs (and tell me those stairs aren't a parody of Psycho) to find Homer waving a bloody chainsaw. Bart tells him that his mother is in a better place. Skinner is at a loss, moaning that "If this were a movie, Mother wouldn't let me watch it." Homer and Bart advise him to go on the lam.

There's bad news in Krusty-land: Foreign Krusty is getting more popular than Regular Krusty, especially Irish Krusty, who has a depressing hit show on Broadway, and Romanian Krusty, now known as "President-For-Life". Sigh.

Bart and Homer burst in to alert Skinner that the cops are coming (in reality, Maggie and Milhouse are making siren noises). They're prepared to give him a new identity - Dick Fiddler - and send him to Mexico. Once he's out of town forever, Bart thanks Homer for his help. His dad says anytime, and oh, it would be great if Bart could repay the favor when Homer has to fake his own death - probably this Friday.

Unfortunately, they come home to find Skinner on the couch. He accepts what he's done and is prepared to face the music. Wait, where is the evidence that he actually might have done it? There's no cut scene to say he passed out or anything, no sign at all. He just kind of...got convinced of it somehow. Really sloppy writing here.

Deus ex Margina comes in. Having been told by her husband and son that it was a school project, she is no longer fooled and has brought the living Agnes over. Agnes tells Seymour she was thrilled to fake her death for the sake of punishment, but then Seymour said he was glad she died, so the prospect of being meaner than ever brought her back. Hearing this, Skinner chooses to flee town after all. The Skinner song plays once more as he rides through the streets of Juarez. A brothel populated by various copies of Agnes welcomes him. Its name? The Wilted Rose. I think I just threw up.

We get a cut scene where all the Krustys show up at a conference. Despite the stupidity of the plotline, I did have fun freeze-framing to find all the different nationalities. Pretty sure I located Russia and Canada in there. Also, Black Sideshow Mel is a really awkward image. Krusty's been getting complaints about his unfair share of the profits, so he offers a deal - he'll make a guest appearance on each of their shows. This results in him being chased out of the hotel by hundreds of angry Krustys. We fade out to the Jamaican Itchy and Scratchy song. Dumb story over, thank God.

Apart from the Obama gag, this episode pretty much sucked. Repetitive, dull, disjointed, out of character, sometimes genuinely offensive, it's hard to imagine how it got written. Oh, right - the title. Always the title. If they put half the effort into the actual episode, maybe we'd get better results. Next week, we have the Christmas episode. Let's hope I don't actually feel like roasting Simpsons on an open fire after...



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