When The Simpsons do Christmas its usually chaos!
And that’s not a bad thing either as many of their best episodes are a result of the characters going on bizzare quests. It’s also the formula for most of their Christmas episodes. Indeed, this wasn’t the case early on as the first two episodes of this type in seasons 1 and 7 were more story oriented and very heartfelt.
But this season 12 stand out eschews emotion and goes for chaos and zaniness. Yet, you wouldn’t know this was a Christmas episode from the opening scene. The episode opens with Homer watching football commentary where the TV personalities actually don’t comment on the game and instead make fun of their ridiculous wardrobes. The family then goes to watch the ‘Cirque du Puree’. The best bits here come from Marge where she comments “They always pick the guy with the wires” and when the contortionist gives her ideas she tells Homer but daydreams on how to become more efficient with housework. Then a storm approaches cancelling the show and we get one final treat where the contortionist’s form a kite and fly away only to crash into a tree.
The storm develops into a snow storm and everyone has the day off the next day except for the kids at Springfield Elementary. Love the radio announcer jerking around the kids of Springfield regarding school closings, “The following schools are closed today: Shelbyville, Ogdenville, Ogdenville Tech, and Springfield ‘Elementary… My Dear Watson’ Detective School. And lastly, Springfield Elementary School… is open. And it’s open season on savings at Springfield Menswear… which is closed.”
Then the fun begins. The kids who made it to school all have to be taught by Skinner because the teachers union called an emergency caucus (quickly cut to a scene of the teachers in a chalet dancing in a conga line yelling ‘caucus, caucus, caucus’). The kids are then subjected to the film: The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t But Then Was. It starts off about elves making gifts but as Lisa points out that by the end it couldn’t have less to do with Christmas. Indeed a hobgoblin sings a love song to little bo beep for 2 hours and there’s a even a stagehand sheepishly trying to get out of frame.
Once they realize they’ve been snowed in it dawns on them that they’re going to miss Christmas and to make matters worse Skinner has fixed the DVD. Kent Brockman, always a delight, comments on the news that the storm has been upgraded to a class 3 kill storm. “And where are the city’s snowplows? Sold off to billionaire Montgomery Burns in a veritable orgasm of poor planning.” (quickly cut to a scene of Burns and Smithers playing indoor soccer with the plows).
As the kids get unruly from cabin fever Skinner brainstorms on how to control all of them. We then get one of the funnier flashbacks in the shows history from Skinner’s time in Vietnam. Skinner tells his platoon to stay put in a hut because its too dangerous but one of them can’t take it and runs out. He’s subsequently eaten by an elephant who we’d learn would go on to eat the entire platoon. Skinner then rules with an iron fist and after a failed attempt to escape by Nelson, Bart tries and nearly succeeds. When Skinner orders Willie to destroy the tunnel, he objects saying its actually quite good. Skinner then calls out his lack of courage and we get a very clever dirty joke: “Okay, Skinner, that’s the last time you’ll slap your Willie around. I quit!” Skinner does he job himself but it caves in on him and Bart and the kids take over.
Up until this point we’ve seen the episode move from one improbable joke to another with hilarious effect and it only keeps getting better. While all the shenanigans at school are happening Homer and Flanders go to save the kids. Along the way they get stuck in ice and the car remains on and the fumes get in. What follows is a hilarious dream sequence where Homer is surrounded by a plethora of belly dancers. “Enough, I grow weary of your sexually suggestive dancing; bring me my ranch dressing hose.”
Back at the school Skinner is tied up in a dodge ball sack and the kids go nuts, eating all the relish, racing down the hallways in mop buckets and drawing moustaches on all the president’s portraits. Skinner is then made to do punishing tasks like a write a grammatically incorrect ‘I ain’t not a dork’ on the chalkboard and climb a rope all while still inside the dodge ball bag. All this is done under the watchful eye of Bart who repeatedly yells ‘Di Di Mau’ and when Skinner objects Bart says “don’t you know what Di Di Mau means?” (a not so obvious reference to the 70’s war film The Deer Hunter).
The kids then get access to their permanent records and after Lisa complains about the remark in hers about ‘knowitallism’ Millhouse tears the pages apart. Unfortunately, these are permanent records and the page reattaches itself, puts itself back in the book and the shelves slam shut by themselves. Skinner in the meantime plans to escape with the help of Nibbles the school hamster who he sets free.
Homer and Flanders wake up from their dreams when nibbles crashes through their window to set them free from the ice somehow, (I did mention this was bizzarre). As the two drive towards the school they lose control of the car and it heads towards two silos, one of salt and the other of cracker meal. Homer asks if Ned has airbags and Ned responds that the Church opposes them for some reason. They crash into the salt one and it somehow tips over and goes barrelling down towards the school (again, bizzarre). The salt melts the ice and inside we get a funny gag where Martin proclaims their freedom due to the help of sodium chloride to which Nelson immediately starts beating him up.
The final moments don’t let up on the funny either. When Skinner sees Nibbles came to the rescue he says “now chew through my ballsack” to which Nibbles runs away. Superintendent Chalmers comes in a snowmobile (property of Springfield Public Schools, money well spent) and protests “is that burning literature I smell?” He quickly leaves after Bart tells him there’s a good explanation for all of this with no elaboration. Then as Homer takes the kids home we get one final funny hallucination. Lisa warns about the fumes but is instantly turned into a camel shouting ‘Hooonk’. Bart interjects as a belly dancer and Homer smitten says “there’s no point resisting my beloved chalumala.” Lisa then wishes everyone a Merry Christmas, Hooonk.
There was a lot crammed into this episode but the good thing is that nothing ever felt rushed and all the jokes and gags fit well together. Credit has to be given to the duo’s of Bart/Skinner and Homer/Flanders as whenever they are on screen together it usually ends up being a good time. Credit should also be given to the relative bizarre and unrealistic nature of the episode. Sprinkled throughout are scenes that could only happen in cartoon and its refreshing to see the show runners take advantage of it to hilarious effect. The episode itself doesn’t explicitly deal with Christmas the way other episodes, like the ones mentioned at the beginning, do but it is a Christmas episode nevertheless. Its unique and its overall craziness may be off putting to some but to me its the perfect respite to an otherwise always busy holiday season.