Season 31, Episode 18
The Simpsons return from a month-long hiatus (can someone explain why they do this every now and then) and deliver an amusing and sweet if not crowded episode.
The focus is on two characters who haven’t really had much to do other than provide quick gags: Cletus and Maggie. The latter you can understand since Maggie is a baby who can’t talk so making her the focus of an episode would be difficult. Which is probably why they split this episode in two. Having said that though, Maggie has had moments of intellect beyond her years so it might be doable given the right script. Cletus, on the other hand, is basically the prototypical one-line character. But the show has also proven that they can take heretofore unused characters and give them depth (see Todd).
Before we even get to that though we are treated with probably the best couch gag I’ve seen in a while. The family is depicted in almost ‘human’ form taking part in extreme sports and then we realize they’re all on the couch using VR technology. It was a really neat idea and one that should rank in the top ten couch gags in my opinion.
As for the episode, Marge takes Maggie to a new upscale park where she meets baby Hudson who quickly becomes enamored with each other. Unfortunately, their parents don’t. His mother, Courtney, is a helicopter parent to the nth degree but also generally annoying; she asks Marge if her name is ironic or retro. While the kids are sucking each other’s toes Courtney grills Marge about her vaccination and sex history. She makes a fuss about Maggie’s pacifier and spiky hair which is more than enough for Marge to pull the plug on the playdate. The conflict comes when Maggie finds out that Marge hid a birthday invitation from Hudson. Marge tries to explain her beef with Courtney but realizes she’s being selfish. She eventually caves and lets the two hang out while tolerating Courtney.
In the main story, Homer befriends Cletus who tends his ‘balls what float’ stand (selling helium balloons). He’s apparently sitting atop a helium repository which Burns tries to swindle out of him but fails. He forces Homer to do the job since ‘it takes an idiot to catch an idiot’. Homer gets close to the Spuckler family and eventually can’t go through with the plan and outs himself. Burns and Cletus come to a sharing agreement instead and everyone goes on their way.
This part of the episode was much better than the Maggie sections. Mostly because we got a lot more out of Cletus. His savvy business acumen was a highlight especially when first confronted by Burns. He says he never goes into business without first sharing a drink with his would-be partner. He then gives Burns some moonshine which sends Burns into an old-timey, sepia-colored hallucination. Later he strong arms Burns into an agreement by unleashing all 31 of his gun-toting kids on him. It’s not much but it paints Cletus in a slightly new light. He lives a simple life and while not smart he’s certainly savvy and experienced.
The other part that worked well was Burns’ two goons: one who would do the beating up and the other who would laugh at your pain. They popped a few times and each time it was hilarious. What didn’t work was Homer’s motivation for following Burns’ orders. He wasn’t threatened with anything other than being beaten up by the goons and we know he can take a beating so that part felt a little off for me. What also didn’t work was the final tag where Homer and Cletus sing a parody of “You’re my best friend”. It was fine on its own but the episode could’ve used that time to enrich the episode proper.
Other than, a pretty decent episode and a solid return from hiatus.
Make sure to keep it locked on TGON for all your nerd news, reviews, and analysis.