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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 24.20 - The Fabulous Faker Boy


crazyforkate

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We come to the penultimate week of this season, with two episodes airing next week, and have stumbled across the much-hyped Justin Bieber show. Forgive me if I am not overly enthused. On the bright side, Jane Krakowski, Bill Hader and Patrick Stewart are all supposedly joining us this week, so we have a lot to look forward to! Let’s get to the recap.

Billboard: Seymour and Agnes, “If you haven’t got your mother flowers, it’s too damn late.â€

Chalkboard: “This school is not falling apart†just as the chalkboard crumbles.

Couch gag: Homer opens his eyes to a strange kind of claymation. They’ve been turned in Robot Chicken-esque action figures. Kudos to the guys from Adult Swim for creating this. Flanders greets Homer from the roof. Homer shakes his fist and it flies off, hitting Flanders in the head and knocking him off. He falls to the ground dead, then explodes. Homer concludes that “This reality ain’t all bad.†He walks down the street, where he turns into a donut and rolls around running people over, taking special attention to destroy Mr. Burns. At Moe’s, he repeatedly pulls the string on Barney’s back to make him burp, but when called to do so for Moe, causes him to say “I’m lonely.†The Simpsons drive in the car, where Marge tells him this isn’t the way to the mall. Homer says they’re going to “Badass Cityâ€, which turns out to be a long Hot Wheels-style racetrack. They wind up racing Otto, which is never a good idea at the best of times. They jump Springfield Gorge. Ralph Wiggum comments “I’m a fatality!†The bus crashes and explodes. The Simpsons make the jump and cheer despite having murdered all of Bart and Lisa’s friends. They arrive home, crash into the garage wall, and throw themselves on the couch, where black tape binds them and they are forced to watch the television. It’s Robot Chicken, but the chicken himself is standing in the room and switches to The Simpsons. Homer angrily tells him to change it back. Long couch gag = terrible episode? I hope not, because this couch gag was solid gold.

Marge has a meeting with Skinner (what else is new?), which is interrupted by a drawn-out Nelson prank. She guesses that she’s here to be some kind of volunteer for the school, which Skinner immediately shoots down. No, he wants to talk about Bart. Marge prepares for the worst, but Skinner assures her that they’re discussing the future. Marge is dumbfounded and wonders what he’s going to do in the future. He explains. While we watch Bart weave some kind of complicated net around two trees, Skinner states that he wants to change the boy’s character. He suggests music classes, in order to channel his impulses into creativity. This includes a demonstration of Skinner’s guitar skills, which quickly become so violent that Marge flees the building while he screams “Mother!â€

Homer is brushing his teeth when he notices that the sink is clogged. He digs the blockage from the drain only to find – his last two hairs. Sigh, it’s the end of an era. Homer freaks out about “being bald†and tries to cram them back in his head, only to have them disappear again. Way to go, buddy. The hair goes down the sink. Homer takes the pipes apart only to find an extremely pricy ring – and no hair. He is dismayed.

While watching “America’s Most Tattooed Babyâ€, Bart and Milhouse complain about the general state of TV. After a dorky comment from Milhouse, Bart decides to take what television has to offer. Marge turns off the TV and suggests that he do something a little more creative with his time. He angrily replies that her Mother’s Day gift is in the works. Cut to Maggie working on a pottery wheel. Marge says no, that’s not what she meant, and she wants him to take music lessons. She suggests learning from Lisa. He is not exactly enthused by her plans of “copious music theory studyâ€. Slide-whistle lessons from Sideshow Mel hold about as much appeal, though we do get to hear a slide-whistle virtuoso at work. Comic Book Guy offers to teach him the Dune zither, AKA the baliset. Frink demonstrates his “Frinkovinâ€, which is basically waving your hand over a machine to make it produce glavens. Clearly, the Simpsons need to go back to the drawing board.

Homer goes to the Kwik-E-Mart wearing a beret, which Apu immediately deduces is for baldness. We get a cameo from Flanders’ Dad, who has been appearing an awful lot lately after not being heard of since Season 8. Homer is ashamed of his head and suggests wearing a cowboy hat, only to have the Rich Texan tell him that it means you’re ashamed of your penis.

Marge and Bart head to an address where piano lessons are being advertised. A Russian man, Slava (Bill Hader) opens the door and invites them in. His daughter Zhenya (Jane Krakowski) is the teacher, and she is gorgeous! Bart is instantly won over. She accepts a licorice whip from him, and the deed is done. Marge asks about lesson prices, and he suggests that he give her “something I wantâ€. He then apologizes for his voice going “all evil†and attributes it to his Russian accent. Slava suggests that if Zhenya teaches Bart, Marge can teach him how to drive, complete with nagging. She accepts. They toast with vodka (he chugs, Marge sips) and then he joyfully suggests that they drive.

According to Moe, the cure for baldness blues is to get drunk on Moe’s most expensive beer. Sounds legit. Unfortunately, Homer is so depressed that alcohol can’t help. Moe suggests that he be “sexy bald†like Babar, King of the Elephants. He then tries to see how bald Homer is and recoils in horror. He rips out his own hair and generously applies it to Homer’s head.

The bullies are dangling nerds by their wedgies from the monkey bars in order to create a perpetual motion machine. Say what you will, those guys are creative in their own way. They intercept Bart on the way to his piano lesson, which is of course grounds for instant nerdiness. It looks like he’s facing the monkey bars too, but he gets out of it by saying he’s only going because the teacher’s pretty. They agree that he can go if he steals some bananas for them (?). Martin protests that his swim lesson has a gorgeous lifeguard, but balks at revealing the gender.

The driving lessons are not going well, as Slava is a teensy bit aggressive. This is best illustrated when Ralph Wiggum gets run over (and of course takes it in stride in best Wiggum fashion). However, Marge is a patient teacher, so they try again. Bart is still learning the basics with Zhenya, such as “Every Good Boris Deserves Farmâ€, which he changes to “Every Good Booger Deserves Flickingâ€. She is not impressed and comments that he has sausage fingers. (Homer, now wearing a Jughead hat, hears this off at work.) Bart fantasizes about her singing a “Makin’ Whoopee†in Russian while they dance on a piano bench and ride sleighs in Russia. Lenin’s corpse gives him a thumbs-up. A Jane Krakowski singing appearance is always welcome, and she carries it off spectacularly as usual. Back in the real world, Bart has to practice his scales. Whoops. Zhenya declares the lesson over. Meanwhile, Slava crashing the Simpsons’ car into his apartment is an indication that his lesson is also over. Marge looks furious. Fortunately, Bart steps in to drive his mother home.

The second driving lesson doesn’t go any better, and they wound up being pulled over by Chief Wiggum. Slava bribes him with easy-fit jeans. Marge protests that American police don’t work that way. Cut to Wiggum proudly hauling the jeans back to his car while Marge and Slava have driven off.

At the piano lesson, Zhenya complains that Bart is horribly untalented. All she wants is to save money to help her father buy a limo, his lifelong dream. Er, that might be a little far off, dear. Bart vows to make her proud. “Oh, Bort, if you could make such a miracle happen, I would love your hands forever!†she exclaims. Cue Bart practicing like never before. Suddenly, he is incredibly good. His stormy music plays over Slava failing terribly at his lessons and Marge despairing, including an accident with Rainier Wolfcastle in which Slava’s life is saved by the Russian Embassy. Mozart and Beethoven’s ghosts show up to take part in the musical fun.

We cut to Bart playing very successfully at his concert, to Lisa’s chagrin and the delight of his parents (Homer wearing a fez). He stands up and credits his talent to Zhenya. Immediately, Flanders wants to sign up his boys for lessons and Krusty wants to sign up Mr. Teeny.  Bart pays tribute to Zhenya, then secretly slips a CD out of a secret compartment in the piano. He’s been faking all along. Bart, Bart, no! I was hoping you’d be a prodigy! You did play Mozart in the Amadeus parody, there’s got to be something there.  Marge comes up to the stage and praises him, saying she’s never been so proud. Dangerous words, Margie. “Something smells fishy,†says Lisa. The Sea Captain says it’s probably him.

At work, Lenny and Carl wonder about Homer’s baseball cap. He decides to confess the truth. Lenny and Carl are taken aback at first, but then shrug it off because he already has a hot wife. That works, I guess. Homer is not cheered up and turns down their offer to go to Moe’s. Once they’re gone, he is approached by a previously unknown colleague (Patrick Stewart). Homer thinks it’s his guardian angel, but the man says no, he’s just a “regular hairless Joe like you†who has been bald for decades. He cheers up Home by saying that he’s pretty happy and has enjoyed the benefits. He suggests that incorporating the news of the baldness into a seduction might be the way to go, which he attributes to having slept with a lot of bald women. Okay, so he’s crazy, but Homer is cheered up and that’s the important thing.

Marge and the kids run into Helen Lovejoy at the supermarket, where she compliments Bart and asks Lisa what it’s like to have a musical genius in the family. Marge knows exactly what she’s doing and calls her out on it, but she is as usual unrepentant. Lisa takes it in stride, saying that Bart is a musical genius because frauds are always found out. Side-eye, side-eye, lots of side-eye. Helen is satisfied with the damage her gossip has caused and buys a case of wine.

Bart arrives with a box of chocolates. Zhenya shows him that she has many new students, including Nelson, who has to learn his mom’s stripper music by midnight. Bart protests, but she still kicks him out. She knows – she knows!

Marge mops herself into a corner. While waiting, Bart walks in (with muddy feet) and asks if she would still love him if he couldn’t play. Marge says of course, but she’d be angry with him for the wasted time. Bart gulps, which she mistakes for a sore throat. She gives him castor oil. A message flashes across the screen: 30 seconds to Justin Bieber. You may start, or stop, watching, depending on your beliefs. Thanks for the warning guys, but I’m in it for the long hall – even if I still haven’t forgiven Beebs for ruining Stratford, ON. Marge tells Bart that she has signed him up for a local kids’ talent show. This fills him with terror and he tries to get out of it, but she is insistent.

At the talent show, Justin Bieber is turned away from the show for a) being over 10 and B) being Justin Bieber. He’s mad at missing out on the $25 prize money. A message flashes across the screen: All clear – The Simpsons will be Bieber-free from this point on. That was his whole appearance? One lousy line? Seriously? Hype, I loathe thee. At least they devoted the appropriate time to Krakowski and Hader vs. Bieber, even if they only gave limited time to dear old Patrick Stewart.

Ralph Wiggum sings “Candyman†from Willy Wonka, dropping out halfway through. The curtains open to reveal Bart at his piano. He hesitates, looks at his mom, and feels for the CD button. Then he stops. He can’t do it. He confesses that he was faking it, with thrown objects and gasps. When he explains that it was for Zhenya, though, they totally get it. He says only his mom’s opinion matters. She’s angry that he would do this – on Mother’s Day! – and storms home.

She violently washes the dishes while Bart tries to apologize. At this point, Slava knocks on the door. He has “passed†his driver’s test, and Patty and Selma have suspicious-looking new jeans. He tells her that Bart is a cheater. In Russia, everyone succeeds in cheating. Bart cheated for love and for his Mom’s sake. She thinks about it and decides to forgive him. Up in his room, she apologizes for forcing piano on him and tells him she loves him no matter who he is. Bart thanks her and they reconcile, but he still has to be punished – which in this case means walking to Springfield Retirement Castle to bring Grampa cookies. He happily presents Grampa a new plate with crumbs on it.

Homer (wearing a yarmulke) tells Marge he has something to tell her. She says she’s always wondered what his bald head looks like. Okay, are they all blind or something? She says confidence is what’s most attractive, and as she embraces him, the two hairs grow back. She thanks God for this as they start to snuggle and the credits come up (playing Nelson’s mom’s stripper music).

So what did I think? Certainly one of the best episodes this season. With the exception of Bieber, the guest stars were used pretty well, and both storylines were interesting (though Homer’s was noticeably weaker). Bart and Marge stories almost always play well, and this one was no exception. Let’s see what the season finale has to offer us next week.

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