It’s not often that I find myself literally laughing out loud at Simpsons episodes these days but 101 Mitigation’s had me doing just that at certain points. It’s also not often that you get some fresh ideas underneath the surface. Despite this 101 just missed the bulls-eye.

It centered around Homer taking advantage of a mistake by the valet and taking someone else’s car for a joyride. The car happens to belong to Comic Book Guy (CBG). Homer returns it scratched and even worse The Radioactive Man comic that was in the car is also damaged. CBG decides to press charges which sets Homer on a path to trial.

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There have only been a handful of episodes where CBG has been the co-lead. Part of the reason, I believe, is that CBG has carved out a niche for himself as the grumpy nerd with an endless amount of quips/one-liners. He’s also not the most endearing of characters. When have we ever seen CBG be a nice guy? He bought and sold Bart’s soul, revoked Millhouse’s bathroom privileges mid-stream, and passed on Krusty the Clown to play the lead in the movie adaptation of his comic book series “Everyman.” 101 itself acknowledges this when Lisa warns Marge about appealing to CBG’s better nature: “His favorite thing is Star Wars, and he hates Star Wars.”

Nevertheless, CBG has had moments of humanity and here his frustration isn’t swept away as a joke or as another casualty of Homer’s whimsy. The car was very special to him, the epitome of a collectors’ car for a true collector, also happened to be a gift from his late father. So he should be angry. It’s no surprise then that Judge Snyder responds so sympathetically not to Homer’s Lisa-penned heart-tugging plea for mercy, but to CBG’s more heartfelt appeal on behalf of not just his car or his prized comic, but his dignity.

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And then we get some real comedic gems once the family starts to brainstorm ways Homer can avoid jail time. Lisa discovers that people have posted their mitigating factor videos online and she shows Homer and Marge the one about Mr. Burns, directed and narrated by Guillermo del Toro. The director recounts how he grew up loving monsters, from King Kong to Godzilla and all the other Godzillas. Monster’s may be horrifying but they’re capable of love, which brings him to Mr. Burns. At birth, Monty’s own mom didn’t want to suckle him and he was raised by a pet gorilla, who also attended his most important functions. Burns’ best delivery is his “who are you?” greeting to Del Toro, as if he didn’t pay for the whole thing. This is followed up by the end shot where he says  “I’ll see you wherever free people congregate like the Yale Club.” The video is very persuasive, and moves Homer to the epiphany: “Wow maybe I’ve been wrong all along about evil.”

They decide to make their own film by interviewing people they know but no one really has anything nice to say. When Moe is approached he asks “What is it you’re looking for, words? Like, human words?” The first version of their video ends up being a hilarious cut and paste job completely distorting everything that was said in order to make Homer look good. The final version is equally funny showing Homer being a good father but actually always on his phone.

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While judge Snyder takes time to deliberate Homer finds another good copy of the comic he destroyed. He takes it to CBG but is rejected. As Homer leaves, CBG notices a ‘welcome back Cotter’ key chain on Homer. He asks him how much it means to him and we get a flashback to his youth when Abe gave it to him. Homer reveals that while he hasn’t thought about it it does actually mean a lot to him. CBG then proceeds to smash it with a replica Mjolnir.

Here, we get the seed of a good idea. Homer is confronted by a visceral recreation of his own wrongdoing in order so he can finally understand the pain his wacky  nonsense causes to other people. This could have been a significant moment dramatically but the episode botches it. CBG quickly forgives Homer and the two go to comic-con together. A missed opportunity for sure which leaves a sour taste in an otherwise quality episode.

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