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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 24.17 - What Animated Women Want





What can I say about the longest-running primetime sitcom? Are there any of you out there who aren’t at least marginally familiar with our favourite family? Hell, this is the Internet – most of you can probably quote entire episodes. Current debate rages over whether The Simpsons should have ended twelve seasons ago or whether it should have ended ten seasons ago, but they’re still going and will probably outlive each and every reader of this blog. I say, a world with The Simpsons is better than a world without them. In the meantime, I am here to account their adventures until they take that final couch gag.

One thing that has gotten better (or at least more interesting) since the show’s beginnings is the opening sequence. The couch gags are longer and more elaborate, the blackboard is snarkier – and sometimes they just do a complete overhaul. Tonight is a tribute to Breaking Bad, complete with periodic table credits. We see a dead-eyed Marge cooking something blue. “Crystal Blue Persuasion†plays. Homer, in a Heisenberg-style hat and sunglasses combo, sneaks a hand in the window to taste the mix. Bart – who, let’s admit it, is basically a younger Jesse Pinkman – takes the finished product away in a suitcase. Cut to the church bake sale, where Marge is peddling blue cupcakes while Homerberg watches through binoculars. Marge counts the money she made. The camera suddenly moves out to reveal Walt and Jesse (yes, Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston, live action) watching the show in their meth-cooking suits. Without even so much as a “created by†credit, we are into the episode. Fun little experiment, although it could have been much funnier and more interesting. I would have liked to hear a reaction from either Walt or Jesse, and the story itself was rather dull – far more inventive couch gags have been told in seconds. The length also makes me wonder about the quality of the episode, because usually their longest couch gags show up when they don’t have enough for the main narrative. Hopefully this just means they’re being concise.

We begin with The Herstory Channel  narrator wondering why the men of planet “Herth†always ask what women want, and fail “or shall we say maleâ€. Homer and Marge are out on a lunch date at Swankyfish Sushi, clearly not the same place that almost killed Homer with fugu poisoning way back in Season 2. We do get a cameo from Akira the waiter – and lots of making fun of Japanese people, as well as restaurants in general. Guess which one hasn’t aged well since Season 2. (Note: Listen for George Takei, who also guest starred in Season 10’s Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, as the sushi chef.)

Homer comes to the astounding conclusion that some restaurants are better than others, based on samples of the delicious offerings. He and Marge strike up a conversation with Akira. Marge realizes that they can have “sophisticated grown-up talkâ€, but Homer isn’t paying attention. She gets pissy. The date’s a flop. The narrator comments that all marriages reach a breaking point. Marge ends up storming out and taking a cab home. Homer is at his wit’s end. The narrator comments that he is in a “fight or flee†situation. Three guesses which one Homer picks. However, he soon realizes that fleeing means running, so he chooses the other option. Plot A is officially set up.

The narrator takes us to another part of town, where another battle of the sexes begins. Milhouse is wondering, for the millionth time, how he can get Lisa to pay attention to him. Just then, she comes over and asks if he has anything she can eat (a lunch mixup has left her without food). She ends up asking for his blue cupcake. Heh. Milhouse is totally prepared to give it away, until we get a flashback...

A Streetcar Named Desire is being played in class while Miss Hoover and Mrs. Krabappel (Mrs. Flanders?) exchange bon mots and smoke. Mrs. Kraflanders puts out a cigarette in Bart’s ear. Wha?! That seems harsh even for The Simpsons! Milhouse overhears Nelson commenting that chicks go for Brando (which prompts the bully to “drop this sophisticated actâ€). Inspired by the comment, Milhouse begins writing down reasons to imitates Brando in his notebook (though he notes that the play starring Flanders was better).

Back in the present, Milhouse asserts that the cupcake is his and Lisa can’t have it. Lisa is surprised, but backs off to “go think of you in a different lightâ€. Seconds later, she is back with an apology, and a comment that she respects him more for saying no. This is taking an odd turn. Fortunately they abandon this conversation when Milhouse sends Lisa to get him some milk. She happily acquiesces. We are treated to a Milhouse-as-Brando clip complete with stained wife-beater and weird accent. He fires a straw paper in her face. Lisa is besotted and invites him on a nature walk. He tells her to see if he shows up.

After a brief look at what Maggie’s doing (nothing much), the narrator brings us back to a very bitter Marge. Homer comes in on his knees telling her that he is ready to fight for her love, and hands her a bouquet of roses – from the place beside the gas station. Marge is not won over, and tired of his treatment of her to boot. She’s done. Homer is lost.

In the wilderness, Milhouse shows up in a leather jacket, which bowls Lisa over. She’s “lost in the blue of his eyebrowsâ€. He snaps back at her, and realizes that he’s turning into a mean person, which wasn’t quite the plan. He decides to talk it over with the school counselor (Wanda Sykes). His plea for help is useless, however, when she is quickly fired for no apparent reason. Milhouse flips the fuck out (by Milhouse standards), smashing things and wrecking her papers. As a last bit of advice, Counselor Wanda Sykes advises him to act more like his new persona rather than himself. He takes the advice, but not before cuddling a fluffy stuffed bunny – and then getting into a fight over it with the counselor.

Homer is still searching for answers to his love problem. He thinks of several options, but dismisses each one. He hits on the novel idea that if he does the things Marge wants, it might please her. He takes out the chore list, looks up the places where he might run errands, and promptly gets into a fight with Siri.

Lisa is still crushing on Milhouse, who left her alone in the forest to go see Wanda Sykes, and bakes him cookies. Dressed as Brando in Mutiny on the Bounty, Milhouse swings on a rope from the roof in an attempt to do some daring move – but instead breaks several branches and sends the treehouse crashing to the ground. (Since “demolishing the unsafe treehouse†was on Homer’s chore list, at least one person in the house is happy.)

Project Chore List continues. Marge interrupts Homer while he’s filing down the door. He proudly shows her the list. She’s disappointed. It turns out the list is six years old. This time Homer will not be getting an A for effort. He goes back to the sushi restaurant to eat away his sorrows, where Chef George Takei prepares him a sketchy-looking feast (paid for by Flanders’ credit card, naturally).

Lisa digs Milhouse and Bart out of the wreckage. Unsure of what to do in the situation, and out of Brando-advice, Milhouse considers turning to Karl Malden (okay, this really is animated Play It Again Sam, right guys?). Rather than take advice from Potato Nose, he flees. Lisa is crushed.

At the sushi restaurant, Homer confesses all his problems. Chef George Takei gives him advice, comparing marriage to fish in an incredibly labored analogy. Parodies of Japanese commercials ensue. Inspired by the chef’s analogy, Homer immediately leaves for home. He serves Marge a plate of sushi in bed and tells her that he really wants to make the marriage work. Marge realizes that he is trying and is prepared to give him a chance, as long as he allows her to take the first piece of sushi. He immediately screws up – several times. Marge goes to sleep without any acknowledgment. The sushi ends up being fed to Santa’s Little Helper. This wakes up an enraged sushi chef, who turns out to be married to (or at least involved with) the ex-school counselor. They argue over who has the worst of it. The battle never ends.

Milhouse goes up to Lisa on the playground, where he apologizes and promises to make it up to her. With a flourish, he presents the blue meth cupcake. Lisa is reluctant, but accepts when he presses. Delighted, he wonders whether Brando liked cupcakes. Yet another Fat Marlon Brando reference occurs.

As in so many occasions over the course of the series, Homer turns to Moe for advice. The bartender has been reading Fifty Shades of Grey (all together, now – shudder) and suggests he take charge in the bedroom. Er, Homer that is – not Moe. Thrilled, Homer runs home to make love to his wife. Moe has been inspired, too, and returns to his Andy Griffith slash fanfic.

At the local sex shop, Homer shyly browses through shelves of bondage gear. A very awkward encounter with the Lovejoys occurs. Let’s just say I never want to see the Reverend in leather again. The shop clerk takes pity on the hapless Homer and suggests role play, which turns out to be a terrible idea. We don’t get to see what Homer purchases.

From the kitchen, Marge hears Homer calling to her in a singsong voice. He has a surprise for her.  She goes to look (probably against her better judgment). With a few items from the sex shop, the garage has been converted into a “snuggle dungeonâ€.  She is intimidated and grossed out. Just as she complains that he doesn’t know her at all, he slips into the bottomless chair and hurts his back.

Homer is curled up in an impossible position at the hospital. Marge enters the room, silent – and then says with a smile that she’s glad he’ll recover. Progress! With a (placebo) injection from Dr. Hibbert, Homer is fixed. He and Marge discuss their marriage problems. She forgives him – though not because of the sex items – and admits that she admires his persistence. After a bit of coaxing, he gets her to confess to her fondness for one of the sex toys. However, she won’t tell him which one, only revealing that it takes sixteen D batteries. Later, Homer burns the entire contents of the snuggle dungeon – minus the bottomless chair, which he keeps.

The narrator moves us back to the Milhouse storyline. Lisa is disturbed from her reading when two blue cupcakes hit her window. She isn’t taken with him anymore, but finds the gesture sweet. Friends again. Awww.

Inside the dog’s stomach, the sushi discuss an escape route. Santa’s Little Helper begins to suffer digestive issues. Er, could have done without that one. The viewers are very grateful when the closing credits come up.

My response to this episode? Ehhhhhhh. It’s not as offensively horrible as, say, Homer v. Dignity, but it’s not very good, either. They could have done so much more with each plotline, and I was really hoping no one would ever mention Fifty Shades of Grey again. We have been over this Homer-and-Marge-fighting territory so much that it has become incredibly tiresome. Same goes for the Milhouse-is-a-geek-and-then-cool-for-three-minutes plot. Two sadly underused guest stars add to the episode’s total lack of inspiration. Is it time to put The Simpsons down? If this is all they have left, I don’t think saying goodbye will be too painful.

For more Simpsons, here is the FJ discussion thread.


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