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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 25.5 - Labor Pains





Sunday programming is so much easier now that Downton's off the air for the time being. Too bad I'm bringing in Girls once it premieres midseason, just to complicate things. (If there is a God, it will be finished before the seventh season of Mad Men comes along.) The things your blogger does for you. Speaking of Mad Men, tonight we have a very special appearance from Ms. Elisabeth Moss! She is the third cast member to appear on The Simpsons, following Jon Hamm and Jon Slattery. Let's see what she and Springfield have to offer.

Chalkboard: "Rocktober is not followed by Blowvember". Couch gag: Simpson pilgrims get on a weirdly-animated Mayflower for America. After an arduous journey, they reach Plymouth Couch. They are invited to a $19.95 Thanksgiving Dinner by Apu. That last sentence...has so many things wrong with it I don't know where to begin. Damn, they are going to get slammed in the press for this. Blatant racism aside, everyone settles down for a nice dinner.

Maggie is in the process of choosing a new pacifier, which apparently takes more time than buying a house. Marge finally gives up and gives her back her old one, even though the dog chewed on it. Lisa is inexplicably interested in "American football" this week, and as usual reads too much into it. Homer, gulping a banana-and-syrup breakfast on the go, tells Marge he's working late because of the economy. (Read: "I'm going to poker at Carl's apartment because I hate life.")

Moe loses the poker game and a good chunk of his blood in the process - hence why bodily fluids make poor betting material. Homer wins, not entirely ethically, and heads out with some food and a ton of poker chips. He gets into the elevator, where he is joined by Elisabeth Moss, who does not sound like Elisabeth Moss, mainly because in my mind Elisabeth Moss pretty much sounds like Peggy Olson.



Like her live-action counterpart, Moss's character (Gretchen) is single, her baby's father is nowhere to be found, and the little cherub is coming unexpectedly. The elevator predictably breaks. Homer is instantly converted to Mr. Midwife. He tries to be comforting, even referencing Alien. You know. That part with the cat at the end. For some extra help, he flashes back to his Lamaze class, where he played the part of "the pregnant woman carrying big". Fortunately, at this point he doesn't really need to remember much, because it's pretty undramatic. A boy is born a couple of seconds later. Gretchen is thankful to him both for being there and for caring - as opposed to the dude in the corner who didn't even look up from his newspaper (and happened to be a doctor). So Homer goes home in awe of motherhood, which naturally delights Marge.

At the football game, the local cheerleading squad needs the help of a "junior" from the audience. And who should they pick but Lisa? (Milhouse is disappointed it's not him.) Of course, Lisa is a bit iffy on the whole concept of cheerleading, but they bring her onto the field anyway, and before she knows it, she is sucked into the routine. Surprisingly, she enjoys it. Though she has to correct Milhouse when he proclaims he's dating a cheerleader.

On the way out, she notices how little the cheerleaders are paid and remarks that it seems unfair. They agree with her, and complain more about their working conditions. Lisa certainly has some food for thought.

Homer leaves Carl's apartment again, only to run into Gretchen in the hallway. I have to say, it's pretty cool that they animated her as looking kind of pregnant-ish, like many women look after they have a baby. She's named the baby Homer and would like to introduce him. The Homers wind up very taken with each other, and after a while Grown-Up Homer is showing up at Gretchen's with boxes of baby stuff. She is going stir crazy and ropes him into babysitting for an hour. He happily skips out on the increasingly violent poker with Moe. Instead, he plays Peek-A-Boo and "The Simpsons: Tapped Out" with Homer Junior ("HoJu").

And yes, they really did just use a joke from Season 4, for real, in this show. (Episode: "Marge vs the Monorail".)

Soon enough, Homer becomes like an extra parent. He combs Hoju's hair like his own, thinks of HoJu while he plays with Maggie - it's okay, she's imagining being Flanders' daughter - and even introduces the kid to Itchy and Scratchy. This one, called "Cat's in the Cradle" (okay, you've definitely used that joke about seven times before), concerns Itchy adopting an infant Scratchy and then brutally murdering him. And yes, they did do this episode backwards before, with infant Itchy being adopted by Scratchy and then brutally murdering him. A series that runs twenty-five years will inevitably repeat its jokes - but come on, this is giving a new meaning to repetitive.

At the Springfield Trader Joe's knock-off, Marge spies Homer buying baby things and assumes they're for Maggie. He blithely tells her the whole story, and she is outraged. Oh, wait, that's what he imagines if he does tell the truth. In reality, he agrees that he's shopping for Maggie, but does it so badly that Marge gets suspicious.

Lisa shows up at cheerleading practice, where she informs the women that they're being exploited, with no access to any of the profits, killer hours at a dangerous job, and webcam broadcasts of all their practices without their consent. That's right, Lisa's going to start a cheerleader's union. Oh, well, at least their protests will be more entertaining than others. The Rich Texan (who owns the team) doesn't take this too well. Lisa and the cheerleaders persist, and he agrees to "say no in the nicest way possible".

Fortunately, Lisa knows how to live to fight another day, and brings the cheerleaders to paint strike signs in the treehouse - which brings every man in Springfield to the Simpsons' yard. Marge is not impressed. She mentions that it's weird that Homer isn't there. Bart says he claims to be working. Since Marge was not born yesterday, she sees right through this, and decides he must be playing poker. She storms off to find him. The cheerleaders give her an appropriately spectacular sendoff.

She's surprised to find Carl alone. As she walks down the hall wondering where Homer could be, she suddenly hears his voice - "Oh, baby, shake it, Homer like." Assuming the obvious, she flings open the door - to find Hoju shaking a rattle at Homer. With Hoju's name and makeover to look like Homer, Marge easily deduces that this is her husband's secret love child and Gretchen his mistress. She swoons over being a "Schwarzenegger wife", but Homer insists he can explain.

After a commercial break, the story has been cleared up and Marge is surprisingly cool with it, despite overwhelming evidence that Homer is a cheating manwhore. However, she insists that Homer and Hoju never meet again. Homer tearfully bids the child goodbye, telling him that he's now man of the house. Seeing the sorrow in both Homers, Marge reluctantly gives in. They can spend a few hours together every once in a while. Hey, if they've formed a bond, why not? Every kid could use an extra adult figure to guide them, and Homer seems sincere enough. Change his hairstyle, though, it looks super suspicious.

The local cheerleaders, weather girls and au pairs go on strike, depriving the town of hot women. Scab cheerleaders are brought in - Nelson's mom, Patty and Selma, and the Crazy Cat Lady - but it's no use. The men of Springfield just can't get loud without some sexy ladies. Woody Guthrie plays to underscore the cheerleader's cause, which is actually pretty funny. The message here is incredibly mixed. On the one hand, the show fetishizes hot bodies, implying that men will go insane and cover their eyes if un-tight abs dare to assault their vision. On the other hand? Hot women are often overlooked as deserving freedom from scrutiny, so thank you for pointing that out. Overall, not a fan of this subplot.

Homer sings Hoju to sleep with the "Simpsons" theme, then complains to Marge at home about how tired he is. Marge, disappointed that he isn't drunk for the first time ever, rightly wants to know why he isn't doing this kind of stuff with his own kids. Homer says it's cool - he's taking all four of his kids to the zoo tomorrow. I'm surprised Marge doesn't explode. And possibly demand a DNA test. Seriously, that kid looks more like him than any of the Simpson kids.

The cheerleaders are tired of not cheering, and fed up with the strike. The Rich Texan arrives at just the right moment to strike a deal. They accept a raise very quickly. Well, that's done, I guess.

The four kids spend an uneasy afternoon at the zoo with Homer. Maggie especially resents the intruder. Pretty soon they come to blows. Homer and Bart start to fight, too, as Lisa pleads with them to stop and watch the capybaras. Homer tries to distract them by taunting the monkeys - "I have a soul and you guys don't!" - but they just take him captive, a plot which, oh I don't know, this show has done TWICE ALREADY. See: Ned Flanders with the baboons and Bart with the mother ape. Maggie pushes Hoju out of the cart, and Hoju stands up and pushes the cart away, sending Maggie to her doom. Wait, Hoju can walk? How long has this episode lasted? Shouldn't the kids have aged another year by now? Dammit, stop making me ask these troublesome existential questions!

While Maggie is rolling toward the prairie dog labyrinth, Homer tries to free himself from the monkeys. Fortunately, the little genius manages to stop the cart with an impromptu dino-wand brake. However, we should point out that Maggie did this - and thus Homer has failed as a father. Marge steps in and tells him that he's gone too far. It's time to ditch "that elevator baby". Homer agrees, sobbing, while his three kids ask for therapy. So that's where all their money goes. I thought it was paying for Maggie at the grocery store each week!

Homer walks Hoju back to Gretchen's apartment, and decides to give all the fatherly advice he knows along the way. Since it's Homer, the advice is terrible but truthful. "Girls are great and terrible at the same time. And most importantly - whoops, we're here, you'll have to figure it out on your own."

Fortunately, a totally predictable surprise awaits - HoJu's dad has come back! From the army. Yeah, he's a soldier. Gretchen conveniently forgot to mention that part. Also, he had no idea he was a father until now. Oh, well, everything gets swept under the rug and they become a happy family. Homer says goodbye to Hoju. Hoju's dad assures him that one day, he'll have kids of his own. When Homer admits he actually does have kids, the whole thing suddenly seems a lot creepier. Homer walks out ashamed. The guys are still playing poker, but he just walks on by.

He arrives home expecting anger, but all he finds is a happy Maggie, who offers him her doll as a substitute baby. He takes Maggie and "baby" into his arms, as her thought bubble changes from "Flanders with baby bottle" to "Homer with beer bottle". That's right, kid, appreciate what you've got for now. Therapy comes later.

We get a filler scene (no, really - you can tell they just needed to pad until the credits rolled, and possibly give Elisabeth Moss some extra lines) where Hoju demonstrates that he can already open a beer bottle with a key and pour the perfect glass. Guess Homer isn't a useless dad after all. Over the credits, we get cheerleading product ads. Homer bemoans missing all the cheerleaders in his house. In the meantime, want a copy of the "Cheera Sutra"?

This episode was awful. It never went anywhere, never did anything, and constantly recycled old jokes, going from "meta" to "amnesiac". The Lisa plot was filler that pretended to make a point. Elisabeth Moss was totally wasted (come on, was there anything in her part that one of the regular actors couldn't do?). Nothing was funny, nothing had a message. Maybe an odd line or two brought out a smile, but that was it. Thumbs down for this week. In honor of our guest star this week, let's find an appropriate Mad Men GIF to play me out. Ah, yes, this is the one...




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      Edited by dawn9476
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