This week, Professor Frink gets testy, and delightfully musical!
It’s also the only episode this season where I actually wanted more and didn’t want it to stop. In fact, it’s the first episode in a long time that this has actually happened. This fact is due both to the genuine hilarity of the episode and its poorly, abrupt ending; something The Simpsons has a tendency of doing.
We begin however with the Simpsons watching the fictitious The Learning Network, a cable channel that promotes itself as educational, classical and historic. Yet it runs a list of highly questionable shows for its APOCALYPSE WEEK: ‘Ebola Meteor,’ ‘Nukes of Hazard,’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstorm.’
We then get the stellar Maurice LaMarche as Orson Welles telling us how Nostradamus predicts that the world will end any day now. Though the funniest bit here is how Welles back up his claims: “Nostradamus had accurately predicted large wars in Europe, similar to the large wars he’d seen in Europe.” We then cut to Mr. Burns nervously watching at home: “release the comforting hounds…(moments later)…now turn them into rugs.” At least he hasn’t lost his savagery.
The next scene is easily the best in the entire episode. Burns, fearful for his life after watching Welles, gathers MENSA to assemble people to join him on his ‘doomsday arc’. While they more or less agree on using an IQ test to round up the populace Professor Frink steps in with a better way: the PVC (personal value quotient). Frink’s a funny character when he’s in his element, and putting him in charge of a rigorous (or rigorous-seeming, as it turns out) eugenics program for the future of the human race is most definitely right in his wheelhouse. He then proceeds to detail the plan with a musical number “and a 1 and a 2 and 3.14159”. The genii eventually buy into it and before they know it are decked out in dancing regalia.
The problem it seems is how to get everyone to take the test. Quick cut to the next day and Springfield has made it mandatory. Sadly, we don’t get much more from Frink and the episode moves on to how this all affects the Simpsons. This of course is not necessarily a bad thing, but it would have been nice to see more of the man who’s name is on the episode title.
The results come in and Lisa scores a 475/500 which is really good but unfortunately she’s one point behind Ralph Wiggum! Lisa becomes obsessed, “all my self esteem comes from tests,” so she follows Ralph around to see how this could happen. We then get one of the best lines in the episode. Lisa checks Ralph’s phone and finds an automated menu from the Chief instructing callers to press one “if Ralph is stuck in something,” two “if something is stuck in Ralph,” and Three instructing Ralph not to take apart the phone, as “Daddy is not in the phone.”
Bart on the other hand has the lowest score available but this ends up being a mistake and we learn that Homer actually got the worst score (he wrote an H as a B). Sidenote: in the process of reviewing the files we see that Smithers’ file indicates a sex change to a woman named Wanda. Back to the episode, after Homer tweets his results “you have to get ahead of the story”, the rest of the town treats him with condescending concern. This is followed by some pretty funny gags: attempting to see a mature film Homer is instead ushered to ‘The Nut Job 3: The Squirreling ‘, trying to get help from the genius bar he’s directed to the Dum Dum bar, refusing to see Shakespeare in the Park he goes to Sesame Street on Ice: with explicit language. Lastly, he’s hustled by the sarcastic clerk guy (Raphael) at the Aquarium to pay the ‘Stupid People’ price and get splash insurance (which doesn’t cover entry way splashes, obviously).
Marge then tries to cheer Homer up by helping him with his writing. This leads to a lovely little montage, scored to some cute, inspirational music, of Homer working to improve, ending in him leaving a trail of lovely but still Homer-like calligraphy notes for Marge to follow (She’s as lovely as a bowling ball right out of the ball-polisher.)
The final scenes, however, are where the episode suddenly remembers it has other storylines and decides to rush them. Lisa realizes that the test was flawed and arbitrary and everyone turns on Mr. Burns leaving him to be strangled by his own robot. When the credits rolled I was legitimately surprised that the episode finished so quickly. I wanted to see more.
Alas, a perfect episode has once again eluded us. This season has been fairly average with only a handful of good episodes. This one though had it all: loads of laughs, ridiculous premise, and a tinge of emotion/self growth. That it rushed everything is not surprising and we’re unfortunately left with a missed opportunity. With fewer ‘great’ episodes these days its these ones that sting because they come so close.
For those with attention to detail:
When Homer is practicing his cursive he writes Jebus H Christ Esq. A callback to season eleven’s ‘Missionary: Impossible’ when Homer yells ‘Save me Jebus’.
The Simpsons are taking yet another extended break and are due to be back in March. Keep it locked on TGON as we’ll still have cool Simpsons content on the weekly!