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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 26.16 - Sky Police




Yeah, this is the episode I moaned about last week. Well, uh, maybe they've gone concept? Maybe this will be the greatest artistic endeavour the show has ever tried. Or maybe it will just be stupid. You decide.

I suppose I can't start this review without mentioning the death of Sam Simon, who passed away this week of cancer. You saw his name on the credits of every episode (or Sam "Sayonara" Simon when it was Treehouse of Horror), but he actually left the show in the first few seasons. Credited as a creator of the series, his work was a huge influence on the show's style, and continues to be felt to this day, both on the show and in the many comedic works that it inspired. Rest in Peace, Mr. Simon - you left this world a great legacy.

No opening credits. Lou wakes up a napping Chief Wiggum with news that there's a sniper in the Warehouse District. The chief chickens out of it. Lou and Eddie run off to potentially get killed in the line of duty. While lazing about, he is delivered a jetpack meant for a Clancy Wiggins. He decides, despite having no training whatsoever, to take it on (and come on, so would you). Triumphantly, he declares himself a member of the Sky Police.

After causing untold death and destruction with his new toy (all to a catchy theme song, of course), the Chief unfortunately has to give the jet pack up to Clancy Wiggins, who turns out to be military. He gives chase, so they shoot him down, though they somehow succeed in destroying the jet pack and NOT the human riding it. The pack burns down the church, which is like the umpteenth time something airborne has destroyed it in this series. The Simpsons, complaining about church, arrive to find it destroyed, whereupon Bart declares that his prayers truly have been answered. Marge, however, is devastated.

The church's insurance is rejected because "we believe everything is an act of God". Rev. Lovejoy holds an emergency meeting in the ruins, saying that they will soon be torn down and the land developed. Marge, of course, will not stand for this. She solicits donations, but is unsuccessful. Apu says he knows a way to get the money. Though he is not a Christian, he sees the church as a positive influence in the community, and wants it to keep going.

Apu is invited to Flanders' basement, where he is belittled, but encouraged to share his idea. He suggests they play at the casino. Uh, what? An exploration of gambling in Springfield? We've never seen that before. He explains that he won his way to America by playing blackjack, thus retconning a beloved character's backstory yet again. Ned Flanders suggests that this is may present a moral dilemma. The Reverend quickly points out that almost everyone in the Bible "drew lots" at some point. So yeah, we're going to have a parody of 21, and we won't even get Kevin Spacey to appear in it. For shame.

The entire church commitee is trained in card counting and casino survival. Not once is Marge's gambling addiction mentioned.  Apu tells them not to tell anyone, especially Homer, as Rev Lovejoy imagines his church being torn down and replaced with an Atheist Strip Club (I'm sure every FJer has worked in one of those at least once). So Marge weaves some elaborate lies about fundraising meetings, claiming that they're putting on a revue. I guess this revue will have to appear at some point, then.

The group goes to the casino and enacts a well-choreographed card-counting scheme. Soon enough, they're just this short of fixing the church. A delighted Marge goes home to "snuggle" with her husband - and even better, cook him 2 AM steak. While they're eating, Homer asks her all kinds of details about the revue. She makes it up on the fly. It's not terribly convincing, but this is Homer we're talking about.

They have one more night of gambling left to get the money, but since the casino's on to them, Apu insists that they go in disguise. The others gleefully create new personas, but Marge doubts the group's intentions. Flanders and Lovejoy shoot her worries down. Bart and Lisa arrive home to find Marge looking eerily like Amy Adams in American Hustle. For whatever reason, she tells them about the whole scheme, which is the dumbest thing I've ever seen her do. The kids seem to agree.

Also, Amy Adams-Marge is a total fox:



She tells them that she only told them the secret because they're grown-up and mature enough to handle it, a maneuver that is always catnip to little kids. They go to a casino called "La Belle Frottage" *spits coffee* and are dressed as the following:

  • Marge - the aforementioned American Hustle type
  • Flanders - sheik
  • Lovejoy - punk rocker
  • Agnes Skinner - cowgirl
  • Sideshow Mel (since when is he religious?) - biker
  • and best of all, Helen Lovejoy - dominatrix


They wind up making a ton of money, which they pray over (well, Agnes rolls in it instead, but I'll give her that). On another note, I love Lovejoy's purple eyeshadow. Marge happily calls Homer, prepared to tell the truth - only to find out that some casino goons have gotten to him first. He wonders why they couldn't have just done the revue instead.

It turns out that a worried Bart and Lisa spilled the beans. Homer went to the casino to find her, but the goons intercepted him when they saw him waving her picture. Marge runs to the Lovejoys, who appear to still be roleplaying their diguises. (Marge is invited to join, natch.) Unfortunately, the money is gone - Lovejoy paid the contractor already. Obviously, getting it back is not an option. Meanwhile, Homer confuses his captors by asking if counting cards is really stealing, or even cheating. They end up torturing him for it. Over at the church, Lovejoy assures Marge that her husband's suffering is part of God's plan. Marge angrily retorts that God is not "the Sky Police". Flanders immediately feels guilty for their sinful scheme, and the damage it has caused to his friend. Sideshow Mel suggests that they finally do the revue. However, Marge has a better solution - she goes to the casino and prays.

This is the most I've heard from Marge in several seasons, and frankly, the most she's sounded like Julie Kavner since before Julie was Marge. And she's phenomenal. She does not so much pray as reflect, on the nature of prayer and the goodness of the world and all the things she needs to change in her spiritual life. It's utterly sincere and very poignant. Even the CEO is moved - to complain about her unauthorized prayer disrupting the company profits. However, he also agrees to release Homer. Everyone winds up banned from the casino, but they got what they came for (though Homer launches a token protest, which goes nowhere). And STILL no one has mentioned Marge's gambling problem. I assume this is because the entire writing staff was born after 1993.

At the end, Homer and Marge sit in front of the newly repaired church. As the sun sets, the Hindu god Hanuman appears before them. Homer gives him the thumbs-up.

Okay, aside from the blatant retconning at work here, which is getting very tiresome (seriously, you do a whole episode about gambling Marge and then - gah), I didn't hate this. It was disjointed in parts, and as is a common plague in later seasons, the beginning and the rest of the episode shared an incredibly tenuous link. The plot was totally flimsy, and the jokes weren't too heavy - but it allowed for some interesting questions on faith, and on action, and on motives, mostly expressed through the near-saintly Marge. Ultimately, though the comic aspect more or less failed, her journey (and to a lesser extent, that of the group) redeemed the episode. The Simpsons has always been a reliable show when dealing with religious issues, funny but respectful, thoughtful but never dreary. (For further reading, I highly recommend Mark I. Pinsky's The Gospel According to the Simpsons, though by now it has missed at least half the show's run time.) This week, we got at least a taste of the show's capability. And all through a character most viewers can hardly stand half the time. That, at the very least, is an achievement worth noting.

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