It’s hard to know what to expect on a weekly basis from The Simpsons. Last season was a delight and a welcome surprise in that a majority of the episodes were either average or above average with few hiccups. This season got off to an okay start but episodes three to five have not been great, in particular episode five. Last week was an improvement thankfully and now with Pura Vida we got, in my opinion, the best episode of the season so far.

In this episode The Simpsons get invited to the Van Houten annual vacation to Costa Rica. Marge, excited about the get away, convinces the family to go despite the financial toll. On the trip Homer befriends Patty’s girlfriend, Evelyn, on account that she is basically the female version of him. This causes a rift between the couples culminating in Homer losing Marge’s Insta pic because of Evelyn’s distracting waterfall dive.

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Lisa and Bart try to show how much the trip costs and end up finding that the Van Houten’s are smuggling artifacts out of the country. It turns out those were just salt shakers and the family is shamed into leaving early. When they see that Kirk charged them for the salt shakers they go back to try and get the money only to find out the real deception. The villa belongs to Kirk’s ancestor Kirkademius Van Houten and Kirk and Luann have been charging everyone yearly for something they get for free.

Vacation episodes are consistently some of the better episodes. There’s something about being away from home that brings out a kid like nefariousness to the Simpsons. There’s almost always some type of hilarious disaster that results in them never wanting to go back or being banned.

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In Pura Vida, though, we get no disaster. Instead we get a considered story involving the Van Houten mystery and the financial toll that these types of trips have on a lower-middle class family. Lisa’s worrying about the cost throughout the episode echoes a real issue for those children who find out that their parents aren’t actually made of money. Homer getting the final bill towards the end got a lot of laughs (he struggled mightily to sign the check) but it also shows a side we don’t often see.

The Simpsons have been around the world basically and rarely a moment is ever spent asking how they pay for it all. Here, we see the actual costs a trip like this can have. That Homer is downhearted at having failed Marge provides us a rare moment of clarity concerning just how crappy a life he’s provided for his wife.

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All of this and the episode was also quite funny. The Homer and Evelyn friendship was perfect. Their mutual like for bean bag tossing on an ESPN type show was well done. I also liked how Homer was amused at her southern analogies, trying to imagine them each time. (This was later played as a callback when Homer tries to imagine one of Marge’s analogies.)

Homer and Evelyn decide to stay at the villa while the rest go shopping but when everyone returns the two are drunk and the house is a filled with monkeys. This leads to a running gag where the monkeys act surprised every time Shauna, Superintendent Chalmers daughter, makes an announcement about her relationship with Jimbo.

Kirk too was hilarious this episode mostly because he came off as overly entitled and condescending. Those are two traits that are not inconsistent with his character but in this setting it was taken up a notch and made for some funny scenes. His use of Spanish every now and then was amusing as well.

All in all this was a strong episode. It had laughs, character development, interesting plot and was smartly written. Let’s see if the show can keep this momentum going!

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