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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 25.17 - Luca$






This episode does not look remotely promising, but I will suck it up anyway and review. Rumor has it that every latter-day Simpson episode earns you at least a couple weeks off your time in Purgatory.

At first I wonder if we've time travelled to the 80's, but not, it's just an opening-credits tribute to Minecraft. I don't play it, but my students are obsessed with it, so er, cool I guess. The artwork's pretty cool, anyway.

We go back to regular animation. Homer has passed out, tangled in playground equipment. An exasperated Marge picks him and asks what happened. This prompts an elaborate flashback, naturally. At Moe's, the gang indulges in a complicated drinking game. With a little help from Moe, who calls in a story which happens to use all their keywords, they get supremely wasted and head to the playground. That's where Homer got jammed in the pole-slidey thing and his best friends in the world just kind of left him. Marge is not impressed. Especially because the kids are with her.

This shameful episode makes Bart late for school, which gives Skinner an excuse to use corporal punishment. He's thrilled, of course. While bumbling around looking for a switch, though, he gives Bart a chance to escape on his skateboard. A death-defying chase ensues, at about two kilometres an hour. Skinner winds up going backwards down a hill and totaling his car. Bart gets away, but his luck runs out pretty quickly when he finds Snake hiding in his treehouse.

The convict explains that he is on the run from the cops, but only stole a bunch of money to get his son braces. Wiggum shows up and tries to bribe Bart with candy, but Bart misdirects him. Snake thanks him profusely. Bart dismisses it, attributing his kindness to some sort of outlaw code. In gratitude, Snake offers him tickets to the school production of Fiddler on the Roof, in which his son Jeremy has a small role. Sorry, guys, Community has already got the "crappy school production of Fiddler" thing covered. If by crappy you mean awesome.



We don't get to see it for now, though, because we cut to Lisa's story. She finds a super fat kid indulging in some kind of pizza-eating contest. When he starts choking, she saves him with a quick Heimlich. The kid, Luca$ (pronounced "Luca-Dollar", is played by Zach Galifianakis, and I'm really proud I didn't have to Google to spell that. He's a competitive eater. I'd say something about incredibly contrived plots here, but really I'm just relieved they didn't shoehorn Homer into this, Lollapalooza-cannonball style. That shit only works for, like, ten seasons. Lisa is somewhat creeped out by the kid, but thinks he's kind of sweet too, especially since he appears to suck at his sport of choice. Maybe against her better judgement, she decides to have lunch with "Ralph with a dream".

Bart arrives home to find a brand-new gaming system waiting in his room. Since there's no receipt, he figures out who it came from pretty quickly. Milhouse is horrified, though happy enough to join in on the pixellated fun. Luca$ arrives at the Simpson house, where Marge does not seem overly warm to him, especially when he accidentally informs Homer that competitive eating exists. In the backyard, Lisa helps Luca$ train while Patty and Selma laugh at him from the kitchen. They convince Marge that Lisa's dating the kid because he reminds her of Homer. This creeps Marge out to no end, and she lies awake feeling nervous about it.

Bart keeps getting extravagant presents from Snake, including a live tiger trapped under a shopping cart and a real suit of armor. Um, how long is this gratitude thing going to go on? Surely the stolen game console was enough. We get a Roadrunner and Coyote tribute out of nowhere, which would really be more appropriate on Family Guy. Losing your target demographic, eh?

Lisa continues to help Luca$ in his training, drawing up complicated plans. She wonders if maybe he isn't cut out for this. They try different foods, but ice cream gives him such a brain freeze that she has to knock him unconscious out of mercy. Watching the two of them, Marge imagines Lisa's future - living in a broken-down shack and bringing endless plates of food to her extremely obese husband, who eventually eats her. Okay, I'm not saying competitive eating is a wise thing to do, but the level of fat-shaming in this episode is extreme. Fuck this.

Bart goes to his nicely decked-out treehouse, where he's bored by all the gifts waiting for him. However, he does look at a new tablet, which - dun dun DUN! - belongs to Milhouse. Bart calms his friend down, then explains what happened with Snake. After a quick Squishee bender (the machine is now part of the treehouse), Bart and Milhouse watch a news report on Snake's crimes. Apparently, Snake has been caught and is slated to be executed. Milhouse tearfully admits that he snitched. When he hears that Snake has a kid, he's even more remorseful. They decide to make a plan.

Marge shows Homer an article from "Dissatisfied Wife Magazine", about what fathers should do for their daughters. The advice involves taking your daughter out on dates and behaving "like a gentleman", so that she can expect the same from men later on. WTF? Did all the fundie dads on FJ get together and write this? He thinks it's intended as a punishment, but agrees to do it on the promise of food. Marge admits that she thinks Lisa might wind up marrying someone like Homer if they're not careful, which of course wounds him deeply. Um, you think? For all that Homer's portrayed as the bad guy for most of the series, Marge really can be a heartless wench. (Anyway, we know Lisa marries Milhouse down the line, so things are pretty hopeless from the get-go.) Infuriated, Homer goes to sleep on Flanders' couch.

Homer then goes to the bar to ask his friends how to ask Lisa on a date. Yes, this actually happens. He calls her and asks her to go to dinner, and you guys? It's creepy. Fortunately, Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel is hanging out nearby to bring in some absurd commentary.

Bart and Milhouse plead for Snake's life, which gets them nowhere. Fortunately, the execution has been delayed, because Lou is still trying to assemble the electric chair - he bought it at "Ikillya" and the instructions are in Swedish. Um, if you're trying to make fun of IKEA, they do all their instructions in pictures, but never mind. Snake claims he can read Swedish, and when they let him out to help, he immediately overpowers them. He's off to escape once more, but tells Bart that next time he's caught, it'll end in "suicide by cop". Well, gee, that's cheerful.

Homer has totally dressed up for dinner with Lisa, and I don't know guys, if my dad did this I'd find it really weird. He's been possessed by Jim Bob or something, right? Right? However, it turns out he's exaggerating all his "sophisticated" mannerisms, in order to prove to Marge that she was being awful when she said those things. After all, wouldn't want Lisa to end up with a guy who doesn't put his napkin in his lap, right? Marge makes a minor adjustment to his outfit and he blows up.

However, he lives up to his promise to Lisa, and they go to the Gilded Truffle. The evening is going nicely when Marge shows up, telling him they need to have a conversation "in loud whispers". She admits she felt bad about what she said, and tells him she's "stuck with him" - because she will always love him no matter what, which is kind of like a trap I guess? I don't know. Even trying to be nice, Marge still sounds awful. Still, she's wearing a sexy dress, so Homer forgives her. While they wait for Marge to be added to the party, she waits at the bar, where she's immediately hit on by a suited-up Jimbo Jones. Aaand the creepiness continues.

Later on, Lisa finds Luca$ in the cafeteria, eating a normal amount of food. He's given up eating competitions, and wants to become "whatever Adele is". Lisa's skeptical, so he finally settles on learning how to whistle. Unfortunately, he's terrible at that, too. End credits.

Okay, this episode was weird and kind of terrible. Zach Galifianakis was barely in it, the whole story felt rushed and made no sense. They meet and are suddenly best friends in two minutes? Marge thinks an eight-year-old's friendship will determine the man she marries? And then we get a fundie-worthy plot that was only missing a Purity Ball? The Snake story provided a couple of laughs, but was also rushed and wore thin very fast. What was most noteworthy was the sheer amount of hostility between Homer and Marge. They've gone from a regular married couple with normal ups and downs, to two wretched miserable people who can't stop arguing. Maybe the show should pull a Robin-and-Barney on them, just so we can finally stop repeating the Marge-is-dissatisfied-but-also-kind-of-a-terrible-person story eight hundred times. It's a shame that so many good guest stars have been coaxed onto this show in the past decade or so, when The Simpsons gives them so little to work with.

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