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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 25.12 - Diggs





So the Simpsons did something weird this week - after a month's hiatus (Sochi, Oscars, other stuff), they aired two shows in a single night, something I guess they need to catch up before the season ends in May. This means that tonight I'm going to attempt the impossible - three recaps in one crazy night. Can we do that? Pfft, I'm no amateur. Let's get going!

Leprechaun billboard, Bart draws his family tree in the classroom. As the family sits on the couch, we get an insane (and beautifully ugly - IT MAKES SENSE, PEOPLE) scene by Sylvain Chomet, responsible for the magnificent French film Les triplets de Belleville. The family even speaks French and eats paté, though Lisa quickly liberates the goose. They can't find Maggie. Homer is eventually revealed to be sitting on her. (She's fine.) I usually adore the guest couch gags, and think it's one of the few good things about the later season. This one is no exception. Short, sweet, and drawn in impeccable style, it's a great addition. Now let's hope the episode measures up.

Rev. Lovejoy is boring everyone as usual, but he introduces an Indonesian guest speaker, who reports tales of a terrible illness in his home village, which affects all the adorable children with which he has just won over the congregation. Lovejoy accidentally insults the speaker and uses the opportunity to take a second collection. Bart, of all people, is won over by the children's plight and begs his mother for some money. Unfortunately, Marge is all out and Homer only has twenties. Bart eventually wheedles his father into giving him some cash, on the condition that it is paid back. Thus his good deed for the year is accomplished.

By the time the collection plate is in the aisle, Homer asks for his money. In fact, he won't let up, obsessing over it to Hitchcockian levels. He even talks about it in his sleep. Bart is pretty down about it, obviously (no good deed goes unpunished), and vents to Milhouse. In desperation, he announces to the school that he'll eat anything for money. He winds up consuming any number of gross things, including drugs from Otto. As a final act, prompted by Jimbo, he decides to eat one of the dissection frogs. Lisa protests, citing not her animal-rights beliefs or the significant health risks involved, but his ensuing social status. Bart swallows the frog, collects his money...and winds up in the hospital from formaldehyde poisoning. Homer, meanwhile, has forgotten that Bart owed him anything. Fortunately, Dr. Hibber then starts up the "Where's my money?" routine with him. 

However, Bart's troubles are far from over, as no one will sit with the gross frog-eating kid. He becomes a pariah in every way possible, and a bullying victim to boot. However, just as Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney close in, Bart is saved by - a falcon of all things. Okay, Simpsons writers, you can tell me - did you write this when you were drunk?

The falcon belongs to Diggs, who is played by Daniel Radcliffe, who previously appeared as an Edward Cullen knock-off in one of the Halloween episodes. Also, he can manage a surprisingly good American accent. He is a recent transfer student who has secretly revived the school Falconry club. Eh, my school had weirder, so I won't begrudge that. He also wants to be left alone, just like Garbo. However, he does let Bart in after consulting with his birds. This gives Skinner high hopes for the Esperanto society.

Bart is so interested in his new friend that he arrives late for dinner, a first in Simpson history. We get a glimpse of Bart and Diggs enraptured by the birds. At home, Homer assumes that Bart is sneaking beer, and is very proud of the boy. He is sorely disappointed to hear that Bart was just enjoying nature, while Lisa is weirded out.

Bart's falconry lessons continue. Awesome 70's-style footage plays, showing us a montage of their hijinks. I have to say, the animation in this episode is excellent, not even counting the couch gag. They sit in a tree while Diggs recites poetry and Bart stares in awe. Just then, Diggs' really weird side comes out, and he jumps from the tree to the ground, injuring himself badly.

While visiting Diggs in the hospital, Bart reveals that he's adopted Freedom the Falcon as a pet, though Grandpa thinks it's a Korean masseuse. Diggs shows him his cast, which he's signed himself with all sorts of celebrities and fictional characters. I caught a screencap because it's just that awesome - "Clare Quilty" alone made me do a double take:


Diggs confesses that he jumped because, caught by the vision of the bird, he theorized that maybe people could fly, but had just forgotten how. Bart begins to suspect that maybe something's off. Another doctor comes to see Diggs, and he is taken to another hospital - mental, I assume. In fact, Marge confirms this right away, and gently evades Bart's requests to visit him. Homer, in turn, suggests that he look up Milhouse again. Lisa is on Bart's side, however, saying that though Diggs has issues, he's still a good friend.

Bart continues the falconry, though his heart isn't in it, and submits to the bullies' taunts. However, they find him just too sad a target and quickly move on. However, Diggs is waiting in the falconry room, out on a one-day pass to attend a local competition. Bart is a little frightened, but agrees to go with him.

The competition has its usual Springfield motley crew, including Comic Book Guy (sans new wife?) and Mr. Burns, getting his talons sharpened. While Diggs prepares Freedom for the competition, he and Bart plot to let all the falcons loose, Free Willy-style. For some reason he gets away with it. Well, that was a non-plot. He heads back to the hospital and passes the Falconry Club to Bart. Before he goes, he thanks Bart for being his friend, and leaves the boy alone. Fortunately, Milhouse is always waiting.

Marge cooks a bird, and everyone's a little scared. It's "just a duck", though, so everyone digs in while Lisa rolls her eyes. The credits come up over piano music.

So, this episode. Um. First of all, it was interesting to have only an A-plot, with nothing on the side involving Homer's wacky adventures or Marge's perpetual discontent. It made a nice change, as those episodes become increasingly rare. The treatment of mental illness was a tad problematic, but had some honest moments, especially with Lisa's support for her brother and Diggs. The falconry was a gimmick, nothing more, and overall the episode didn't really hang. However, Diggs did prove to be pretty interesting, and Radcliffe did a bang-up job - seriously, he was great. I also really liked Bart's portrayal this episode, avoiding the stereotypical brat and much more nuanced than usual. Overall, it was pretty poor, but marked by some real upsides. On to the next episode - and let the snark take flight!

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