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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 25.1 - Homerland


crazyforkate

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blog-simpsons1.jpg 

simpsons1

I am under no illusions that any of you watched non-Breaking Bad television this weekend, but humor me for a minute, okay?

We have reached the twenty-fifth season of The Simpsons. That's right, 25. I don't know how it happened. By all accounts this should have died over a decade ago, but it lives on - with no signs of stopping. If it ever does get cancelled, I wonder if time and space will unravel. No reason to expect that this episode will be brilliant, but Kristen Wiig's in it (she guest starred previously as Skinner's art teacher girlfriend, the mother of Alyson Hannigan as Bart's nerdy girlfriend) and next week is Treehouse of Horror. That should be at least distracting, right?

Billboard - Kearney and his kid have a moving company (ha ha Kearney's way older than he looks), chalkboard - "25 years and they can't come up with a new punishment" (ooh, meta - it's been done, as George Harrison would say), Lisa plays the harp?, couch gag - a bouncer lets everyone but Homer in for the 25th season. Oh you stale, creaky thing.

We get what I assume is a parody of the Homeland opening (I've never seen the show), which has...no connection to anything. Jeez, you couldn't have put that in the couch gag? Padding! Padding! We join Marge and Lisa arguing over "Belfast Charms" (tragically delicious, the cereal box claims), where the animation seems off, somehow. Darker and more cleanly cut. Trying to evoke Homeland? Unsure. Anyway, Marge explains that she uses the cereal to hide Bart's "vitamins", AKA more behavioral medication than your average pharmacy. Bart takes them and goes loopy (and Nancy Cartwright's voice has further deteriorated since last season, I don't care what anyone says, that is not Bart). Homer announces he's off to the nuclear convention - the only problem being that he never unpacked from their last trip to Hawaii.

As Lenny and Carl pick him up, he gives the family a sob story about how much he'll miss them. Naturally, the minute they turn the corner, the champagne bottle is uncorked and the boys' weekend is on. So what if it's for work? It's "the perfect combination of work and binge drinking"! Besides, as Homer notes, they're only there for the free samples. So we join the Intrepid Three in Boise, Idaho, picking up free keychains and Hazmat suits and ready for a good time. We meet Carl's "Same Time Next Year" sex partner (first Carla Bruni, now this? Is Carl supposed to be a stud, or is this just a weird late-season character spin?), and the plant rivals from Wichita. A party breaks out.

Carl and Lenny show up at Springfield Airport three days later, hungover, missing Homer. Uh-oh. Is this going to be yet another Hangover parody? Kill me, kill me now. Bart changes his "Welcome Home-r" sign to read "Need New Dad, No Fatties", and it looks like times will be tough from now on. Or for two minutes.

Patty and Selma "help" with the search, though they're not interested in checking beyond the morgue. Marge calls them out on their insensitivity, finally. Seriously, I'm surprised she didn't cut them out ten seasons back. They are joined by the always-hapless Chief Wiggum. However, the investigation is cut short when Homer suddenly shows up. Well, it looks like Homer. He overslept, lost his cell phone, missed his flight - and is talking like an emotionless zombie. Huh? There appears to be no humanity left in this thing! What could possibly have happened?

Marge is just happy things are back to normal. However, we get an insane flashback - I guess Homeland style - about Homer getting abducted, torture, the plant blowing up, and Bart and Nelson's graves side by side (?) complete with Nelson's stripper mom in a black bikini.

However, the Simpsons can't see this, so next thing we know they're settling down to a perfectly normal family dinner. Everyone comments on how great it is to have Homer back. Homer, for his part, is off. He says the right things, but is utterly blank, and doesn't strangle Bart, claiming that small-scale violence solves nothing. (Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant performance from Dan Castellaneta, who makes it Homer but Not Homer all at once.) The family doesn't notice, at least not until he turns down Cheeto pork chops in favour of green beans and almonds. WHAT WHAT WHAT?!

The kids finally know something's up, though Bart points out that Lisa's fears may be because she's incapable of experiencing joy. The guys at Moe's, too, have figured out that Homer's not Homer, as somehow the torture has given him a severe beer aversion. He even turns down "snuggle time" with Marge, but then suddenly gives in with more vigor than ever before. Has the whole world gone mad?

As Marge happily hums her way through the day, Lisa pursues her instincts (and is it me, or Yeardley Smith less convincing these days too?). She knows this isn't her dad. We go to the Kwik-E-Mart, where Chief Wiggum is racially profiling Apu over some kind of terrorist threat. Lisa hears part of it, and upon questioning the Chief, learns that someone in town has been "turned" to the terrorist side. Unsure of anything now, Lisa goes home to find Homer kneeling on a prayer rug. Um, okay, she of all people should know that a religion of over two billion people does not consist exclusively of terrorists - but then again, as she points out, Homer does not believe in kneeling, so any religious conviction on his part is definitely weird. There's also a blueprint of the power plant on the wall. Lisa knocks over a basketball and is suddenly fearful, but Homer mistakes it for the cat - especially since the "cat" professes to hate Mondays just like Garfield. Saved - for now.

She interrupts Marge's coupon ironing with the news, but Marge is happy over the changes, saying that he's changed for the better, which is supposedly impossible in men. (Yep, a little misandry just for fun.) Marge describes him as a "husband in a widow's memory". Lisa, unconvinced, sneaks into the kitchen later that night and calls FBI agent Carrie Mathison Annie Crawford (played by the aforementioned comic genius Kristen Wiig, though I have to wonder if this wasn't Claire Danes' sloppy seconds). However, Annie Crawford is crazy just like her Homeland counterpart, so this could get messy. Lisa's got more immediate problems, though, as Homer interrupts the call. "You're so scary when you're calm and focused," she says. He tells her he'll miss her when "it's" all over. Okay, someone give Dan Castellaneta an Emmy, stat.

CarrieAnniewhatever wakes up Bart, in the midst of a sleepover with Milhouse, who promptly tells her that he doesn't talk to field agents. She moves on to the parents and winds up in bed with Homer and Marge (no, not that way), where she concludes that Homer is stupid. Annie, meanwhile, keeps hallucinating that a Mandy Patinkin knock-off is in bed with them, so take her conclusions with a grain of salt. Besides, as Homer notes, he can't be that stupid if he's got two beautiful women in bed with him.

Homer sings about how it's the episode's climax in a vaguely Islamic-prayer-sounding way - no, I am not making this up - as he pushes a suspicious-looking cart down the power plant halls. The security alarm goes off, but Springfield's famously inept security is at work again as the guard ignores it. The FBI (Fresh Burritos Instantly) is more competent, having parked outside with all their monitors going, but keep getting interrupted by people asking for Mexican food.

Using a dead fish to impersonate Mr. Burns, Homer gets past facial recognition security into the control room. He's about to do something sinister when someone approaches in a Hazmat suit. It's Lisa, having gotten in on a box of Girl Scout Cookies and their inherent deliciousness. She pleads with him to stop. He's surprised to hear her suspicions, and tells her that he's just stopping the plant from damaging the planet even more. It turns out Homer was abducted - by the Earth Liberation front and OMG that animation is totally a parody of Fritz the Cat, that makes me so happy. Anyway, they converted him to vegetarianism, made him listen to the Grateful Dead for three days and detoxed him from alcohol. His prayer rug is an "affirmation rug" to get him to stop drinking, and he explains that the only city he would ever pray to is Hershey, Pennsylvania. Wow, this is actually vaguely serious. Neat! Lisa protests that he's heard all of this before (and wow does Yeardley Smith make it sound like Lisa's going through puberty or something), but he dismisses her, saying she's told him way too many things for a human to process. Okay, fair point, it's not like Lisa's done anything besides pontificating in about fifteen years.

Yes, Homer is a changed man, and he's ready to take the final step. He's taken spoiled chicken ("humanely run over") and rotten milk, and is about to release it into the air vents. The plant will be too smelly for habitation. "No one can use it, but no one gets hurt!" Lisa triumphantly cries, forgetting about, I don't know, BACTERIA. He connects the device. Just then, the police and FBI burst in with their fattest handcuffs ready. Lisa decides to complete her dad's mission "just like George W. Bush". Chief Wiggum can't shoot a little girl, so he throws the gun at her, accidentally shooting himself in the leg. AnnieCarrieClaireDanesKristenWiigMorphThing is alternately beating and making out with Homer. Chief Wiggum tries to jump Lisa, but she presses the button!

Fortunately, nothing happens, because the A/C has never worked. The FBI tells Mr. Burns that's against the law. He thinks that's impossible, but Smithers reminds him that they haven't moved to China yet - that's two years down the line. SNPP is closed for safety violations, Mr Burns is off to jail until next episode, and Lisa tells Homer that he doesn't have to go back to his old ways. Too bad he's already into his next beer. ClaireKristenThing moans about how catching criminals won't fix her life, then walks off into the sunset high off her meds.

In the future, we get a glimpse of the plant's new airport-like security measures, and find out that Mr. Burns is run by a hamster on a wheel. Over the credits, we see that Homer is still not let into the new season (remember the couch gag?), unlike the cast of all the other animated shows on the air, except the Cleveland Show, who are then let in anyway. Homer winds up getting Tazed.

So, tonight's episode? Fun enough is the best way to put it. It got a little dangerous with some issues - mostly related to terrorism - and that definitely rubbed me the wrong way. I suspect Homeland fans would get a lot more out of it. And I have to say, what a waste of Kristen Wiig. She's so funny and did so well in her last appearance, the sparse and uninspired lines she was given weren't nearly enough. BOO to that, but overall there were enough plot twists and good gags to keep the episode going. Next week, of course, we get Halloween, which sometimes feels like the only episode of the season to get excited about. I'll be there - and I hope you will be too!

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