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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 25.6 - The Kid is All Right






After last week's suckfest, this week should be an improvement, right? Right? All I know is if they don't parody House of Cards at least once I'll probably kick something.

Well, they've changed the opening credits, which is usually a good move, or at least interesting. I think it will go from "good" to AWESOME, because they are parodying Disney's "Silly Symphonies" cartoons from the '30s and '40s, for which I have a serious nostalgia-boner. So we are given a "Silly Simpsony" - in color! - and my God, they are imitating the credits perfectly. Color palette, everything. I am a puddle.

The animation is a tad too modern - I think their blend with Seussian style in the Halloween episode was far more effective - but they do capture something of the whimsy. Of course, no one can touch early Disney. No one. Springfield is now "Musicville", and every character is a musical instrument. There's no dialogue, but everyone "speaks" through music - Barney's tuba burp is particularly apt. Lisa (a saxophone, of course) heads for the Jazz Festival. Unfortunately, Burns the bassoon and Smithers (I can't decide if he's a clarinet or an oboe) want to crash the festival and make it Classical Only. They release the hounds (xylophones), who capture her and drag her to prison, along with the rest of the Simpson family, who did nothing. Burns captures and enslaves the town, and everyone is forced to be all classical, all the time. It's very Disney-esque at this point, with fantastic shadows and lighting. Beautiful.

At the crucial moment, Lisa can take it no longer and breaks free, along with Trumpet Bart. They start a jazzy tune. The rest of the family joins in, and soon the whole town is jammin'. The nuclear plant explodes from the awesome, catapulting Burns all the way to Metalville just over the river. Here he is met by Dolph, Jimbo, Kearney and Nelson, who play the Simpsons theme on their electric guitars - er, themselves, that is. Lisa hangs up a sign that says "All Music Welcome". Unfortunately, this means they also have to accommodate Disco Stu, but I guess you can't have everything. We get a smattering of the music styles various Springfielders like, and are played out on a music-note iris. Yes, it was filler, and it didn't quite hit the style that would make it a truly great homage - like they did with both Del Toro's credits and the Seuss segment at Halloween. But it was fun enough.

We begin the episode. The students are all thrilled to be out of school, except for Lisa, who leaves singing "One is the Loneliest Number". Poor kid. When half your episodes are about your complete isolation, your life's gotta suck. Fortunately, she'll bloom in college. She abruptly stops singing and tells the camera that she's made her point. Which made me laugh, I must admit. Sometimes meta works.

Springfield has been drenched by a horrendous rainstorm, which leaves athletic equipment and toolsheds scattered all over the school premises. Skinner grimly reflects that bad weather is usually followed by bad behavior. Bart lives up to this perfectly, pelting his little sister with spitballs. She repels him with a book, which works like garlic on vampires.

After he runs off hissing, Lisa looks through the library's meagre collection. She does the classic see-someone-through-the-space-in-a-shelf move. That someone is a new girl, Isabel, voiced by Eva Longoria and destined to be Lisa's friend-of-the-week the second she refers to the Bronte sisters.

Back at home, Maggie smashes a mashed potato sculpture of Gerald, The Baby With One Eyebrow. The phone rings. It's Lisa's new friend. Homer wonders why Bart can't replace Milhouse while they're at it. The girls chat late into the night while Marge helplessly calls her down for dinner. And OH MY GOD CAMEO FROM MR BERGSTROM, Lisa's legendary substitute (though he's not voiced, so we don't get Dustin Hoffman). Blinked? You missed him. And so did Lisa, who was so caught up with Isabel that she missed her beloved teacher. Sorry - have to rant a little. That episode has a special place in the hearts of many, many Simpsons fans and I am thrilled to see it referenced at any time or place.

Isabel suggests that the two of them get together and collaborate on their upcoming FDR projects. Lisa immediately agrees. Cut to the girls presenting in the Springfield Elementary auditorium. Lisa extols his brilliant creation of the New Deal - and is surprised when Isabel criticizes its move away from the traditions of limited government and its unconstitutionality (huh?). Also, Isabel thinks that the Democrats destroyed America at the Yalta conference. Yes, she's a Republican. Why they never discovered this discrepancy while they were planning the assignment is beyond me. "A Lincoln Republican?" Lisa asks hopefully, but she gets a negative to this. She continues with Reagan and First President Bush, and can go no further, simply sighing, "Oh, dear God."

Lisa puts her foot in it by wondering why a Hispanic girl (non-observant Jew from Argentina, according to Isabel) would be Republican. Wasn't this already covered on Girls? Minorities can subscribe to different viewpoints, jeez, Lisa. Read Tumblr sometime. Isabel just gets angrier and angrier. "Ay Caramba!" Bart cries when he overhears Lisa's argument. He repeats it when he finally learns that "Ay Caramba" is the equivalent of "Hot Damn!"

Anyway, Lisa has regained precisely no ground with Isabel, so she retreats into her books as usual. Marge wonders what's wrong. When Lisa blurts out the truth, Marge simply chuckles. She gets out the old photo album and points to all the pictures of her planning Reagan-Bush events. That's right, ol' Margie was a fan of the Gipper. She explains that "It was a crazy time". To demonstrate how crazy it was, she puts on some terrible 80's music (on cassette, no less), prompting Homer to come in and start an 80's party. "Where's the beef? Tear down that wall! Because I think the beef is behind that wall!" Mother-daughter moment ruined, but at least Lisa gets that political views are neither permanent nor defining, but good people can be Republican. I think.

Lisa tries to apologize to Isabel, but is interrupted. Isabel explains that her mom said she was just going through a liberal phase. (According to her, conservatism's not a phase.) They agree that since they're only eight, they should just concentrate on being friends and forget the politics. Like that's going to last. (Side note: my best friend is a Republican, albeit mellower than Isabel, so I feel Lisa's pain. There's so much you love and can't talk about.)

Up on a dark and scary hill, the Springfield Republicans gather at their Headquarters to spy on the girls. The Rich Texan thinks Isabel would be a great representative for their party, and Count Dracula (yes, Google tells me the actual Count Dracula is a member of the SRP) concurs. They need the Hispanic vote. Rainier Wolfcastle makes a Chris Christie fat joke, and the matter is settled. Isabel is going to be recruited.

Springfield Elementary is launching its Class Rep elections. Okay, do class reps even have parties? Because my school always went with the popular kid, so we never needed any. Lisa goes to sign up, only seeing that Isabel has signed up - and Ralph, who wishes to be addressed as Nader. Is this some kind of Refuge in Lack of Subtlety? Because it's so unsubtle it's kind of funny. Lisa suggests to Isabel that they keep the campaign about the issues, like same-sex field trips and giving the class pets citizenship paths. I can't help but think this would have been more timely a year ago. However, Nelson interrupts by begging that they not bring up past relationships, and Lisa is forced to drag him out.

While Isabel's walking away from this, Mr Burns comes up to her with a suggestion. He takes her to an ice cream parlour, where they are joined by Krusty, Count Dracula, Rainier Wolfcastle, and Chalmers. (Wait, Chalmers is in the party now? And where's Hibbert?) They want to help rig the election so she can spread their message in schools. Yes, it's just like Matthew Broderick in Election. To her credit, Isabel refuses, saying she wants to win on her own merits. As a signal of her independence, she pays them for her ice cream and heads out. Count Dracula moans that they've lost her to the Libertarians. Wolfcastle suggests that they help her covertly. With Burns' money, they can't fail. After all, he did win People's Sexiest Man Alive. (And to be honest, even he's a better choice than Adam Levine. Zing!)

Lisa gets a rude awakening when she finds the school bus, the front steps and pretty much every available surface plastered with pro-Isabel propaganda. Isabel is just as confused as she is, but admits that since the SRP is grooming her, they might have something to do with it. (There's a blink-and-you-miss it reference to Pigpen from Charlie Brown. Love it.) Isabel says she'll considered the ethical issues involved, but Smithers has arrived with a little red wagon to take her on her listening tour. Lisa's stuck.

At home, Lisa consumes copious amounts of imaginary beer while Maggie the "bartender" frowns disapprovingly. After hitting on some teddy bears, she staggers out and wakes Bart up with some spitballs. She begs for his help in winning the election. He reluctantly agrees once she gets out the slingshot, and becomes her new campaign manager - complete with a new set of very strict rules.

They start by serving brownies, Tracy Flick-style. During "Bombardment!" in gym class, they replace the dodgeballs with new ones covered with Isabel's face, associating her forever with terrible pain. Milhouse and Bart put Lisa through debate boot camp. This is turning into Game Change. Even if Lisa is no Palin, I'm charmed. Finally, Bart unveils the piece de resistance - a leaked video that proves Isabel's inability to ride a bike, even with training wheels. This is, of course, social suicide for second-graders. Lisa gets a Burnsian "ehhhxcellent" out of it, which horrifies her. Concerned with her ethical backslide, she fires Bart, driving him to a late night at Maggie's bar.

The debates begin, chaired by an extremely bored Chalmers. However, even in his introduction he manages to cast a subtle suspicion on Lisa. Clever, clever. Isabel charms the audience pretty fast with an inspirational, if somewhat cliched speech about how the great armed forces inspired her to represent the second grade. Lisa starts her speech, starting off well by claiming that liberal's a dirty word (you know kids flock to the mere mention of dirty) and stating simply that it means she thinks those with a lot should share a little. We don't get a shot of the kids' reaction, so I guess it won't matter.

That night, Lisa has a dream in which she strolls through "the Democratic Pantheon". This is apparently the Capitol (the American capitol, not Panem, thank you very much) covered in banners advertising the New Deal, the 14 points, and other famous policy and ideas. And then the spirits appear to her - but they're all Democratic losers. Kerry, Mondale, and Dukakis to be exact. Lisa's devastated. She wonders where all the Presidents are, so Clinton gets thrown in just for fun. He tells her she reminds him of himself, and points out that all of these so-called "losers" are actually doing pretty well. In addition, he promotes the Clinton Global Initiative and wonders why they're all ghosts, since none of them are dead. Sadly, it's not his voice (we heard the same imitation throughout the 90's, remember), but it's still a damn good appearance. Well done, Mr Fake Former Prez.

Lisa wakes up knowing she has work ahead of her. She calls Isabel. Meanwhile, Homer is asleep in the other room, having a nightmare - Clinton is continuing his CGI speech. He moans that Clinton used to be fun. "Kevin Costner used to be a movie star. Get over it," the Prez says.

Chalmers welcomes the girls to their final debate. However, instead of tearing each other apart, the girls cross the stage and join hands. Isabel tells the student body that she doesn't care about politics - if Lisa wins, so be it and she'll support her. Lisa is about to affirm this, but Chalmers abruptly cuts her off, taking his Brodericking to a new level.

Willie takes down the school election banner and hangs it with the banner collection in his shack. I highly recommend freeze-framing here, as there is a wonderful gag with past banners dating to the beginning of the series and even including the movie. Skinner announces the results as Lisa and Isabel happily await together. (Oh, and incidentally, some tainted salads have caused all the Presidential nightmares.) Isabel wins! Lisa is disappointed but graciously congratulates her. Even so, some tears esape, and Isabel is concerned for her new friend. At his mansion, Burns crows to Smithers that they won - but when the celebratory balloons are unleashed, they all land on Burns, critically wounding the fragile old man.

Lisa sits on the swings, morose. Bart and Milhouse come up. She apologizes to Bart for firing him. Milhouse points out a silver lining - the kids overwhelmingly agreed with her, and they would vote for a liberal. Just not Lisa. Though she is disappointed by her loss, in the end Lisa is all about the ideology, and so she takes it as a victory.

Flashfoward to the 2056 elections. Anderson Cooper (and yes, that's his voice) covers the campaign via hologram. The women are once again debating, Isabel as a Republican, and Lisa from the Democrat-Robot-Zombie coalition. Also, America's still in Afghanistan. Homer, on the couch with Tuba Homer from the opening, wipes away tears of pride. End credits, accompanied by jazz music.

This episode was pretty quotable, as I think you can gather from the review. No great classics, but I laughed. Eva Longoria gave a solid performance, Anderson Cooper was delightful as always, and the show actually got a little politically complex. For raging liberal writers, that is. (I mean that as lovingly as possible, guys.) The Silly Symphonies opening was - eh. But the episode itself had plenty of smart and interesting moments, and delved into Lisa's considerable flaws while indulging in a good ol' political mock. That's more than enough for me. We get a break next week, but on December 8th, we return with...an episode about a submarine ride. Goddammit. 

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