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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 24.19 - Whiskey Business





From the title, this sounds like yet another episode where Moe reinvents his business. I know it’s hard to come up with storylines after twenty-four years, but could we at least do plotlines that have only been explored like, once or twice instead of every couple of seasons? We’ve seen a gay bar, an English pub, a hipster bar, a family restaurant, Flaming Moe’s...wait, before I get into too heavy a rant I should probably actually watch the episode first. Let’s go.


Couch gag: The family and couch are carved out of an ice sculpture. Grampa comes into the room, shivers, and turns up the heat. They melt. FINALLY a gag that isn’t connected to the plot, after several weeks. I don’t know why those bugged me, but they did. Couch gags are holy and sacred and must be kept separate.

Lisa interrupts Homer’s latest snack to tell him that Marge is deleting shows off the DVR. Horrified, he runs into the living room. Unable to let go of the 2009 Oscar Red Carpet (or any other pun-based shows), he demands that she delete something else. Marge is about to remove “Itchy and Mitchy†when Bart intervenes by threatening to rip up a family photo for every episode lost.  I fully support him in this endeavour. No one touches my cartoons. Fielding opposition even from the pets, Marge is stuck.

At Moe’s, Homer tells them that he stayed up 87 hours straight watching his portion of the DVR. “Nothing’s going to delete these!†he says, pointing to his head as he takes a swig of beer. Moe comes in with a confession, but no one pays attention. When he sees that Lenny and Carl care more about arm wrestling than they do about him, he sighs, turns away – and goes to hang himself. Moe’s frequent suicide attempts have been a long-running gag in the series (every Christmas episode plus whenever they need a joke about death and/or pathetic people), but this time it looks like he means business. There’s a chilling shot of him staring up at the road which is likely a parody of a movie I’m supposed to have seen. Anyway, Moe is determined to do it for real this time, though it doesn’t stop him from shouting for help a couple more times. Honestly, as silly as this show is, I find the sequence really affecting. Moe has no one in this world, and well, we all know a Moe. Many of us have been Moe. It sucks. And no one should have to feel that way.

The rope around his neck, he notices a poster for the suicide hotline (Buzz Cola sponsored, naturally) and decides to make one last call, for old times’ sake. However, he quickly gets lost within the voice-prompted menu options and is soon both in tears and on hold, to the tune of “Suicide is Painlessâ€. The camera pulls away, and the viewers feel like shit. Guys, this is really awful. It’s poignant and painful all at once, even with the jokes they throw in. I like this tragic undercurrent they’ve given Moe. Anyway, Moe hangs up and decides to just do it. However, another call interrupts. It’s Bart looking for a “Moe Ronâ€. (Weak, guys, weak. You’re the same show who came up with Oliver Klozoff, which I still use on forms that don’t matter; I guess you had to do the Moe thing, though.) Moe obviously gets outraged, and screams that he’s “going to a tie a rope around your neck and-†WOW. A little too on the nose there, guys. In his anger, Moe slips off his chair and is left dangling. Within seconds, he is unconscious, and the rope breaks.

Hearing a crash, Homer, Lenny and Carl rush into the back room, where they find the horrifying sight. Homer begins CPR, commenting that he learned it to the tune of a Bee Gees song – “How Deep is Your Loveâ€. (When asked why not “Stayin’ Aliveâ€, he says it was too obvious. See, in Season 6 they wouldn’t have pointed this out, just let the joke hang.) Anyway, after some absurdly slow CPR, Moe is brought back to life. They all finish the song together, and Moe tells them how happy he is that they care. Homer suddenly decides to check if he’s okay, and asks who the president is. “Some jerk,†Moe replies. Homer triumphantly cries that he’s back.

While he pours the guys a celebratory drink, Moe tells them that the near-death experience has given him a new lease on life. As he looks around the bar, though, he sees that it’s grown shabby and filthy. Crap, this is another Moe-redoes-the-bar episode, isn’t it? He sighs and concludes that he came back to the same old terrible world. Just then, Marge bursts in, mad at Homer because she sent him out for groceries hours ago. Homer stammers that Moe “had an accidentâ€. When Marge asks what happened, he says, “Uh, I may have tried to end it all†and then leaves. Moe, you’re breaking my heart. Marge feels sorry for him and wants to do something to change his life. After some initial confusion, the four of them start thinking. Marge suddenly suggests a road trip. Moe, back in the bar, says that that’s a great idea, but can he bring Noosey? Yes, Noosey is exactly what you think it is. Seeing Moe treat his suicide rope like a stuffed animal makes Marge’s blood run cold, and she tells him that the trip is to turn his life around. “Four guys, a chick and a noose – just like those movies I like to watch,†says Moe happily.

Leaving Grampa in charge of the kids (and Bart in charge of Grampa), the merry foursome head off to Capital City. A Frank Sinatra knock-off sings a “New York, New York†style song as we go through the streets of Springfield’s closest metropolis. Lenny and Carl encourage Moe to stick his head out the sunroof and enjoy the sights, but it does little to cheer him up. “All I see is two million people happier than me,†he says. Oh, Moe, I have been there. Marge reminds him that they all love him and they’re in a great city. He takes these words to heart, twists on a smile, and their adventure begins. After some fun acts of vandalism and protestor-injuring, Homer takes his buddy to the Fashion District, where they encounter what Moe mistakes for a “Gentleman’s Whorehouse.†After correcting him with the word “Wearhouseâ€, Lenny says they’re chipping in to buy him a new suit.

At first they have little success. Homer wonders if anything in the store might fit him, and is directed to Tent City, which does not sound so unappealing on second thought. Eventually, Moe finds a really nice gray outfit which gives him a lot of confidence – though the silhouette he “projects†is actually from a mannequin who looks suspiciously like Grady from “Three Gays of the Condoâ€, who hasn’t been seen in about eight seasons. OH MY GOD, THEY KILLED GRADY. But whatever, Moe’s happy and that’s what matters.

Bart has invited the neighbourhood boys over to set up what appears to be an elaborate backyard waterslide. To distract Lisa, he has sent her to The Jazz Hole. She knows exactly what he’s doing but doesn’t care. It’s a chance to hear all her favourites, including – Bleeding Gums Murphy? Hasn’t he been dead for eighteen seasons? Well, it’s just a hologram, singing Lisa’s blues song from “Moaning Lisa†waaaaay back in Season 1. The hologram spouts advertising logos from the saxophone, which enrages Lisa to no end. Co-opting her mentor’s memory – well, she just won’t stand for it. Back at Evergreen Terrace, Bart is about to go down the Epic Slide when he is caught by Grampa, who wants to know a) what he’s doing and B) why Grampa is on the roof. As he chases after his grandson, he slips. Bart grabs him by his bolo tie, which holds for a moment. “I don’t want to die – I still want to be a burden!†he wails, but it’s too late. The tie snaps and he goes down the slide intended for Bart. From there he is thrown onto a trampoline, slung over by a net, and hits Maggie’s crib, which is dangling over a bathtub for unknown reasons. Lying on the ground, he wails in pain. Bart begins the “How Deep is Your Love†chest compressions, but Grampa doesn’t need them. He awakens and asks Bart to kiss his forehead. The boy steels himself, eyeing the mess of moles and liver spots, and manages to do it – but not without getting his lips trapped in the wrinkles. Rejuvenated, Grampa declares that he will not die today. Hmmm...we didn’t hear that ten minutes ago or anything, did we? Touched, the other boys all run and get their grandfathers to send them down the waterslide.

Bart hides Grampa in the basement. Since he was in charge, it was his fault that Grampa got hurt, and there’s no way in hell Homer and Marge will ever find out. He will care for him in the meantime. Grampa protests this, but with an injured back he can’t go anywhere, so he’s stuck. Bart starts to reconsider his decision when he ends up giving Grampa a footrub...

Moe strolls along the streets of Springfield, thrilled with his new suit. His confidence shows. Suddenly, people are treating him with more respect, which is both shocking and wonderful. He cannot believe all the suit has done for him – and is disheartened when he sees the dilapidated state of his bar. I don’t blame you there, buddy. Happy again, he starts cleaning. Amazing what a new suit can do. Within a few seconds’ montage, Moe’s is shiny and clean, complete with a sign reading “The New Moe’s: No Longer Ashamed to Put a Light in the Bathroom.†Immediately his clientele improves. Two well-dressed gentlemen appear at the door. After they consume some of his dubious home-brewed bourbon (which they love), they reveal themselves to be venture capitalists. They’re interested in funding his bourbon business, partially because of the drink but mostly because of the suit. The bourbon tests well with a diverse focus group (hello, Spoiled Gavin’s Mom from Season 7! And – Grady? They didn’t turn you into a mannequin! Oh, I’m so happy). Suddenly Moe has hit the high life, and all in the space of a day – and according to my watch, it should be about seven more minutes before it all goes to shit.

Marge keeps trying to call Grampa without success, and is getting worried. So far Bart has managed to make up some excuses (“He said he was going to nap this whole weekâ€), but time is running out. He sneaks down to the basement. After setting up Grampa’s pills on a mini-racetrack, he gets down to being a good nurse. In truth, Grampa is kind of enjoying himself, playing with the water heater whenever Homer’s in the shower. You may remember this as one of Bart’s favourite pranks. It occurs to Bart that maybe Grampa’s enjoying himself a little too much. Even though he likes spending time with his grandfather, he has his suspicions that the old man may be feeling a little better than he claims. Bart wants to stop this annoying charade and send Grampa back to the rest home, and if the old man is faking, well...Grampa vehemently denies any faking.

Lisa has spent the episode writing angry letters to the hologram company, protesting the exploitation of Bleeding Gums’ image. Suddenly Sonny Rollins (himself, folks) shows up to tell her to cease and desist. Lisa is nonplussed. You’d think by this point she would be used to celebrities showing up in her home. He explains that new audiences can appreciate deceased icons through the magic of holograms. Unfortunately, halfway through his speech he hits static and has to reset. Yup, he’s a hologram, too. This serves only to fuel Lisa’s rage. She confronts the hologram people, who are lurking outside, and is treated to a rap shared by Tupac, Einstein, Gandhi and Princess Diana. Nice.

The venture capitalists (Ken and Glen) throw a rooftop party to celebrate the new, classy “Maker’s Moe†bourbon (hey, the Flaming Moe shows up on a menu). When he asks why there’s no beer, they distract him with a Busby-Berkeley style number featuring interns swimming into the shape of Moe’s face. The guys tell him that he has all the makings of success, remind him that his shares are going public tomorrow, and tell him to “Enjoy your last night as a Democratâ€.  Moe is on top of the world. No way this can go wrong, right?

As Moe leaves the party, his jacket is caught in the elevator door. It slowly unravels over ninety-eight floors, leaving Moe in horror and agony. Sorry, buddy, status quo rules. If you weren’t a miserable bartender, where would we be?

Marge is awakened by loud knocking on the door. It’s Moe, wearing the tattered remains of his suit and desperate for help. The look on her face says it’s beyond repair, and he collapses on the couch, moaning that he’s nothing without the suit. Marge tells him that the suit isn’t what made him a success, recalling the story of Dumbo. Lisa wonders if that makes them the racist crows. Moe takes Marge’s words to heart, saying that he doesn’t need the suit to do well. Marge urges him not to stand up.

Bart comes downstairs with Grampa’s favourite snack to find the old man up and waltzing. Oops. Abe fakes injury, but the damage is done. The boy angrily confronts his grandfather, who admits that all he wanted was attention, and he loved those two weeks of faked convalescence. Bart is just happy that something he took care of didn’t die for once. (Is it just me, or has Nancy Cartwright’s voice been getting girlier as the series goes on?)

Moe shows up to the Capital City Stock Exchange wearing his bartending outfit. His partners are horrified, and once he rings the bell, the rest of the exchange is horrified, too. Moe crumbles. As he speaks about his passion for his new bourbon, the value of his company plunges. He is booed out of the building.

Back at the dilapidated Moe’s, Barney welcomes him with a drunken ramble. Looking around the place, he sighs and turns back to Noosey. Don’t do it, Moe, don’t!

...but he walks out with a broom and dustpan and begins to sweep instead. The crisis has passed, and he will continue to keep his bar going, even if it is a shabby mess. It’s honestly really touching. “Not today,†he says to his noose, “but the holidays are just around the corner.†Ouch, right in the heart. We close on some excellent jazz music.

Three, count ‘em, three plotlines. Unfortunately, none of them were fully realized. The hologram story and the Grampa story were just kind of – stupid. I would have liked to throw at least one of them aside and concentrate on the Moe storyline. It had pathos and humour and even flirted with some rather uncomfortable territory. Despite its repetition of previous episodes, it was worth exploring the troubled bartender’s drive for success once again. Moe’s emotions felt true – I wouldn’t be surprised if the writer had at some point experienced depression. It was very well-executed. Simpsons may have already done it, but I’ll be damned if they can’t do it again.



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