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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 24.18 - Pulpit Friction




Hey everyone, CFK’s unsuccessful date frees her up for another recap! Lucky you. Watch out for Edward Norton as a guest voice this week. Alley-oop.

We skip over basically all the opening credits. Couch gag: everyone parachutes out of a plane, but Homer’s chute fails to open. He crashes onto the others’ parachutes and takes them down with him. They crash through the roof of their house, past Grampa taking a bath in the bathroom, and onto the couch. The springs on the couch pop up, with one going right through Homer’s abdomen.

For the second time in a row (and if I remember correctly, the second time ever in the series), the couch gag becomes part of the episode. The Simpsons have a broken couch and it needs to be replaced. Homer wonders if they should get rid of something just because it’s a little old. Cue Grampa appearance. We heard this one back in Season 3.

Anyway, Grampa and the couch are put on the sidewalk and Homer settles down to watch TV. Balancing a bowl of popcorn on his lap, he cries out from the effort of maintaining a sitting position with no couch, which I must admit is funnier than having him just fall. Marge wants to take him couch shopping, but he explains that he’s already ordered an exact replacement online. Unfortunately, the couch arrives from Brooklyn full of bedbugs. When Bart has a sleepover and his friends crowd under their makeshift couch-fort, the bugs infiltrate and are immediately spread all over Springfield. Nonetheless, the Simpsons don’t figure it out even when bugs crawl all over them. Lisa eventually points it out. They begin to scratch.

The bug has spread to the entire population. Beds are thrown out like corpses, Ned Flanders’ wool sweater is burned, firefighters hose off townspeople. In Hazmat suits, Lenny and Carl are slowly devoured. Frink thinks he has developed a repellent with bear pheromones, but just winds up getting sexually harassed by a bear. I did not think this would happen twice in the series, but it did (remember Homer and the panda in Season 12). Sigh.

At church, Luann Van Houten accuses the Simpsons of giving Milhouse the bedbugs. Kirk blames Cletus and Brandine, and Helen Lovejoy wonders “why won’t somebody blame the children?†Flanders points out that at least it got people to church, but Lisa dashes this point by noting that in the days of the bubonic plague, going to church only spread the bug. The entire congregation breaks into argument until Marge calls them to a stop. She tells them that Reverend Lovejoy appears, and the crowd agrees that he will offer guidance. He launches into a droning reading of obscure Bible verses that quickly sends the congregation into an angry frenzy. Suddenly a light appears from the church doors. They turn and gasp – only to find a new preacher (dead ringer for Mr. Rogers/Bing Crosby), who quickly wins them over and pisses off the Reverend to no end. He in turn introduces their real new preacher (voiced by Edward Norton), Elijah Hooper, who does little to endear himself to the beleaguered preacher. The congregation loves him, though.

His theory – so revolutionary! – is that church should be a comfort and make you happy. His theory on the Bible, explained through Meet the Parents, is that “at the end of the day we all love each other and that’s all this thing really says.†Awww. FJ, I think we could adopt this one. He even actively discourages people from going to church in favour of socializing or watching Die Hard. The Reverend complains to his wife, only to find her taking selfies with Elijah.

Meanwhile, the bug exterminators are patrolling the town (and giving Otto his fix). Marge has sent all the clothes in the house to the cleaners, and Bart brings out his stash of dead bedbugs for Homer’s oatmeal. Unfortunately, the cleaners have mixed up Marge’s wedding dress with one of Krusty’s shirts (complete with vodka-squirting flower). She hurries over to Krusty’s to get her wedding dress. Homer, meanwhile, sits down for a bowl of oatmeal...

Krusty reveals that he does have the dress, which he put on Mr. Teeny in a sketch. He has since thrown it out the window. Marge’s search continues.

Lenny and Carl argue over that eternal question – wooden vs. plastic? I am, of course, referring to coffee stirrers. Reverend Elijah shows up. When confronted by Moe, he explains that he represents “an easygoing offshoot of Protestantism.†Meanwhile, he is almost exactly like all the Anglican archbishops CFK grew up with, causing her to reach for the vodka. Moe the snake handler is not amused and threatens him with a gun – which is full of salt to shoot raccoons and coat margarita classes.

Homer and Elijah wind up talking on their own. Naturally Homer makes a fool of himself, but the preacher does not seem fazed. After a few beers, he has basically criticized every aspect of the church. The reverend declares that he likes Homer’s passion. Does this guy ever get ruffled? He ends up asking Homer to be his deacon. What?! Oh, buddy, you haven’t been in town long, have you? Homer is skeptical, but eventually accepts. Elijah explains that it’s a way to let the town know that “religion can be funâ€. Uh-oh. You – you should ask Barney’s Bowl-a-Rama about Homer’s motivational efforts first, methinks. Homer accepts, getting in references to two former careers (snowplow driver and astronaut) in one line. Just so we can remember those golden days and long for them.

Marge sits on her bed, miserable, playing a video of her wedding day, where she shows Patty her wedding dress from Shotgun Mike’s. Unfortunately, Homer ruins it by walking in before the ceremony. Back in the present, Lisa tries to console her mother. Marge admits that she wanted Lisa to wear the dress one day, to which the eight-year-old confidently replies that she’s never getting married. Marge flips out at the idea of a woman never marrying and enlists Homer to chastise her. He points out that it would save them hundreds of dollars, but Marge isn’t buying it. He attempts to find out why Lisa thinks this way, noting that he let her stay up to watch the Royal Wedding. As she explains, she just has “a weakness for pompâ€. I guess this storyline isn’t going anywhere – and though it is nice to see a girl interested in a life besides marriage, it seems kind of...outdated coming from Lisa. I feel like this would have been better in the early ‘90s. Oh well.

Back to the church, where Elijah explains Jesus’ message through an episode of “Californicationâ€. Reverend Lovejoy tries to lead them in a Christian version of “Up Where We Belongâ€, but remember that episode where he tried to sing “Michael Row the Boat Ashoreâ€- oh, you do. Well, his musical skills have not improved. Elijah takes the opportunity to introduce Homer as deacon, which horrifies Lovejoy. Elijah’s theory is “You bring in the lost sheep, the others will follow.†Dejected, Lovejoy leaves the church – for like the second time this season. Come on guys, it’s one thing to repeat over twenty-four years, but twenty-four episodes? No one misses him.

Homer has fallen completely into his new role, practicing handing out church bulletins with great enthusiasm. Bart says it’s strange because Homer hates the church, but Homer explains that he only hated “The building, the people in it, and the spirit it represented.†It’s good to be part of something bigger than himself. He even manages to restrain himself from strangling Bart after the kid utters his usual fat joke. Maybe he will be a good deacon after all...for ten more minutes, anyway.

He carries out his duties faithfully, annoying Flanders but working like a champ to the sound of “Day by Day†from Godspell. Unfortunately his fellow parishioners don’t seem to be enthused – but he takes it in stride.

Marge is feeling “off†today, and is handling Maggie badly. Clearly she’s still depressed about the wedding dress. Fortunately, Lisa runs in at that moment and explains that she’s found it. She recounts a tortuous journey through alleys and theatre companies all the way to a young couple’s wedding at City Hall, which Marge and Lisa hurry to crash. However, upon seeing the ceremony, Marge concludes that she’s glad to see someone else use it. Lisa says that her mother shouldn’t give up hope, she might get married someday – “even if it’s only a green card marriage to keep a Chinese dissident from being deported.†Green card marriage or no, Marge is thrilled by the possibility and suggests a reception at a Chinese restaurant. That was...honestly kind of sweet.

Homer gets ready for church, singing “Day By Day†with his own made-up lyrics. The job is going swimmingly, for now anyway. Bart asks him to go moon the Google street view car while it photographs Springfield, but he’s not interested. As a deacon, his pants must remain on. Bart is dejected.

Equally annoyed is Flanders, who is horrified by the way the church is going. He’s sure Martin Presbyluther would be upset. Bart is incredulous. He questions Flanders, who admits that he’s annoyed. The least likely team in Springfield suddenly forms. They go to find Lovejoy in a place of “brimstone and exposed flesh†– a hot tub store.

Looking great with slicked-back hair and some seriously plaid pants, Lovejoy is selling a hot tub to Apu and Manjula. Flanders arrives to ask Lovejoy to come back. Lovejoy refuses, saying that he wasn’t right for the job. Bart frolics naked in the hot tub. Flanders takes this as an example of the church’s decline. He begs. However, Apu and Manjula pick that moment to say yes to the hot tub, and Lovejoy explains that he has found his calling. Flanders despairs.

On the drive back, Bart laments Homer’s new religion while Flanders decries the new church Twitter account. He comments that the church needs “leprosy and plagues†instead. Naturally, this gives Bart an idea. After convincing Flanders to get in on it (or at least look the other way), he settles on frogs. Cut to Ned turning Bart in to the police for “thinking of doing something naughtyâ€, and himself for waiting thirty seconds to bring him. Cut to Bart angrily telling Milhouse that Flanders will never be his partner in crime ever again – and thanks for the bail. The boys have collected bags of dead bedbugs, which they will use to attract frogs in a trail leading down to the church and driving Elijah Hooper crazy. Surprisingly, it works. Colonizing the town like they did Australia, they’ve soon covered everything, causing princesses to go on kissing sprees and Jim Henson to flee in fear. This is a genuinely funny sequence, complete with Frogger parody. The congregation steps out only to find the plague awaiting them. They panic, dodging the frogs. Moe thinks it’s the apocalypse and uses the opportunity to score with Lindsey Naegle. Wiggum enjoys a meal of Tased frog. The townspeople take refuge in the church. There is a general cry for leadership. Homer steps up and tells them to put their faith in an “almighty being†– Rev. Hooper. He attempts to explain it away with a reference to The Blind Side “with Sandy Bullockâ€, but the crowd’s not buying it. In a true crisis, pop culture references aren’t going to cut it. The Reverend is lost. A Fight Club reference occurs. CFK squeals. Suddenly, a holy hot tub is wheeled down the aisle – and out pops Reverend Lovejoy, energized and ready to take command. He launches into the 23rd Psalm, inspiring his flock and winning them over once again. Even better, it’s so boring that the frogs fall asleep. While Groundskeeper Willie and Lunchlady Doris collect the frogs (shudder), Lovejoy is reinstated. By next week, Lovejoy is back to boring from the pulpit, while the “Oogle†Street Map truck is confronted with two mooning Simpson men. Status quo is back, end episode.

So what did I think? The episode was uneven, no denying it, and some plot points were downright stupid – but it had some funny jokes. Norton felt wasted, which was unfortunate. Classic moments? Hardly. Enjoyable half-hour? Yes. I liked the frog plague, and enjoyed the hot tub selling scene. In short, if we can’t have classic Simpsons, I’ll still take what they’ve got now.

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