The Simpsons have been on a roll as of late so I suppose it would only make sense that they get brought back down to Earth at some point. After all, we’re not in the golden era anymore so we shouldn’t expect any different.

The episode features Sideshow Bob, who I’ve said is easily one of the best side characters on the show. To be honest, if it weren’t for him this episode would probably be a lot worse than it is. It’s not a bad episode, there’s some good stuff here, its just clunky and not well put together.

The last time we saw Bob in a full episode was exactly two years ago in season 29’s Gone Boy. There, he reconciled his feelings towards Bart somewhat, enough that he decided not to kill him. In the tag, the show fast forwards many years later, where Bob is somehow free from serving multiple life sentences. He’s retired (and old) and lives alone on a lighthouse where he’s still patronizing but also still clearly obsessed with Bart.

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In Bobby, it’s the present time and Sideshow Bob is somehow free from his consecutive life sentences and living in the aforementioned lighthouse. He refuses the advances of his neighbor Cassandra and is immediately met by some suits looking to cast a mall Santa. Bob takes the gig because it’s the ‘lead’ role and he is, among other things, a method actor.

In the meantime, the B plot has someone stealing gifts from people as they’re being delivered. We get to see this through Lenny who only looks away from his phone when he gets the delivery notification. News spreads quickly that others are having the same issue so Lenny devises a plan to leave a gift on his porch but with gunpowder and ink that would blow up on activation. It backfires (literally) on Lenny and the mysterious culprits take his gift but not before Lenny inscribes the initials SB on his porch.

Back in the A plot The Simpsons head to the Ogdenville Christmas Village. The lineup for Santa is 8 hours long so Bart cuts through and meets his nemesis. Bob does try to kill Bart but doesn’t go through with it as it would be out of character for Santa. Bart escapes but returns the next day convinced that the SB culprit is actually Sideshow Bob. Bart finds nothing except Bob’s list of life goals and for some reason invites him to his house where Bob advises that he’ll fit into a box and find out who the culprits really are.

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It turns out to be Smithers and Burns. After Lisa’s probing we find that Burns wants others to feel the same sadness he feels every Christmas. We then get a flashback of his childhood where his parents gave him no love on Christmas and instead sent him off to boarding school. Bob dresses up as Santa and consoles Burns, reminding him that they made him strong. Smithers and Burns end up giving the gifts back albeit out of order.

The episode ends and we get not one but THREE tags. One is a forgettable cameo from Steve Ballmer where Burns asks him how to be more positive. The other, much better, is back at the lighthouse where Cassandra, not willing to take no for an answer and fully aware of Bob’s past, throws herself at him. The two then do a rendition of Baby, It’s Cold Outside where they give consent to a ‘snuggle contract’. The final tag is during the credits where we see a bunch of Simpsons holiday cards.

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A lot happens in this episode and I even left out quite a bit for the purposes of this article. There was too much going on and not enough build up. This was a recurring problem for episodes up to about season 29. In Bobby, the emotional conflict comes at the end of the episode and it gets resolved so quickly that the viewer is left not feeling anything.

Sideshow Bob’s presence made the episode better but it feels like a waste of talent to have him on an episode that’s overly packed with a lot of other fluff. Bob’s episodes are much better when he’s allowed to let loose and do whatever diabolical thing is on his mind. This episode even flashes back to some of his more memorable moments so why they opted not to make the episode solely about him is a little bizarre.

The Simpsons returns January 5, 2020! In the meantime keep it locked on TGON for all your news, reviews and analysis.