153. Summer of 4 Ft. 2

(originally aired May 19, 1996)
So immediately following our star-studded rocktacular finale is a slightly more low-key companion, and as most meditative episodes are, it’s about Lisa. We start with the ending of another school year, where Lisa makes the shocking discovery that being hall monitor and head of the yearbook committee hasn’t done much to make her popular, finding she hasn’t a friend in the world. A brief sidebar, I always wonder about the character of Janey in these situations; she’s occassionally shown as Lisa’s friend, but other times appears disinterested in her. My opinion, she’s a fickle bitch in sheep’s clothing. Same with all the other girls at her slumber party in “Flaming Moe’s,” or any other time we see girls with Lisa. None of them really “get” Lisa, thus her loneliness. This malaise sets in right as the Simpson family are heading off to Flanders’ beach house for the summer. Deciding a different approach is needed to solve her dilemma, Lisa concludes she must create a new identity for herself, leaving town with an empty suitcase.

The family (plus Milhouse) arrives at sunny Little Pwagmattasquarmesettport, another Simpsons name that’s absolutely brilliant for reasons I can’t accurately explain. Lisa’s first step is to get a new outfit: a tie dye number with backwards cap and tinted sunglasses. I love how it’s basically a getup from the eyes of someone approximating what a cool kid would wear; it almost works. She runs across some kids under the pier, laid back beach town folks who aren’t the sharpest, but are overall nice people. A lot of the episode’s charm comes from Lisa’s nervousness in not just keeping up the charade of her alternate persona (“Like, y’know, whatever…”), but also in just being in social situations. Particularly great is her first encounter, where she’s garnered up the will to walk over to the kids, then is greatly spooked by a wayward seagull. She is eventually welcomed into the group, and builds a particular bond with the sole girl, Erin, performed with a genuine relaxed nature by Christina Ricci.

There’s a few other things going on around the Lisa story to generate more laughs. Homer embarks on a mission to procure some illegal fireworks, which of course results in an amusing catastrophe. Even more fantastic is Milhouse, who seems to only be there be obligation that Marge told Bart that he should bring someone. He ends up becoming the ultimate third wheel; his presence is not really desired by anyone, he’s just tolerated for being there. Meanwhile Bart is discouraged that Lisa’s friends aren’t as easily swayed by his antics as those back in Springfield. As petty vengeance, she uses the school yearbook to expose Lisa’s nerdy self, devastating her. The Milhouse stuff works particularly well in the third act when Bart and Lisa are heavily antagonistic toward each other, and Milhouse is none-the-wiser in the middle taking the brunt of their childish attacks. All is well in the end, of course, as the kids accept Lisa for the person she is, in the form of desecrating Homer’s car with sea shells. A bit of a heel face turn, but it still works, and is a satisfying enough end for a swell show.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Great acting, vocally and animation-wise, on Milhouse imitating the different types of sprinklers.
– Nice sign outside the Yearbook Office (“Immortalizing Your Awkward Phase,”) and wonderful bit when Lisa uses a box cutter to retrieve the new books, unknowingly holding up one with a humungous tear right on the cover. Noticing it, she tosses it aside and holds up a fresh one. The name “Retrospecticus” is also brilliant; I’m sure Lisa spent a while coming up with an intellectual name that ultimately no one will pay mind to.
– Great comeback to Nelson’s classic “Who died and made you boss?” to which Lisa responds, “Mr. Estes, the publications adviser.” No mind is really paid to this, as Nelson takes charge and just passes out all the books to the crowd. Now those books looked pretty expensive; not only am I surprised the school could afford them, but I’m sure they wouldn’t want them to be handled by eight-year-olds and end up given away.
– Nice freeze frame moment of Lisa’s superlatives, including record holder for most hand raises in a semester (763), and tidiest locker (unopposed).
– Wonderful scene of Flanders talking to Homer over the fence about his “rhubarb of a pickle of a jam.” It’s a double whammy of jokes, as the uninterested pose of Homer with his one arm on the fence is hilarious, as is Flanders recounting he’s been called for jury duty and the basics of the case, all of which flows so realistically like he’s actually recalling the information. Homer gives him the hand motion to get to the point and Ned asks if he wants to use his beach house. Homer agrees, only if he also look at his septic tank.
– Great, great bit when Lisa muses about her loneliness, gesturing to her books (“These are my only friends. Grownup nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he’s kissed more boys than I ever will.”) Marge, none the wiser, responds, “Girls, Lisa. Boys kiss girls.”
– Love the silliness that Lisa packed a microscope to bring to the beach. And great callback at the end when in the yearbook, one of the kids wrote to bring her microscope next time.
– Love all the post-it notes around the Flanders house. Even Marge is annoyed by the overkill; she finds an empty ice tray in the freezer, each slot with a note, “Fill Me.” She incredulously asks, “With what, Ned?” She flips the note over to reveal another continuing, “With Water.” Also great is Homer taking the “Put Food In Me” off the fridge and onto his gut.
– Great timing of Homer and his “improvised swimsuit,” wearing a welcome mat over his groin. He walks outside, says hello to a person, then we see the reflection of red and blue sirens. I suppose he said hello to a cop right outside the door.
– Hilarious bit of Homer gleefully driving the car in low tide.
– Love the family playing Mystery Date, seems appropriate the Flanders would have a lame board game lying around for fun. Especially great is Homer’s slow giddy realization that the dud looks strikingly similar to Milhouse (“Hey! He looks just like you, Poindexter!”)
– Homer’s casual read to the Apu substitute at the kwik stop is such a great performance (“Let me have some of those porno magazines… large box of condoms… a couple of those panty shields, andsomeillegalfireworks, and one of those disposable enemas. Ehhh… make it two.”) Not suspicious at all. Also great is Marge’s bewilderment unpacking the items (“I don’t know what you have planned tonight, but count me out.”) The convenience clerk also has a gem of a line, presenting Homer with the M-320 (“Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.”)
– Nice bit when Lisa and the kids are hanging out at the house; Erin mentions that her mother would be intrusive in offering Rice Krispie squares and Tang. Marge, coming in with a tray of just that, hears this and does a quick 180 back in the kitchen.
– Homer’s firework fiasco is a pretty spectacular sequence, culminating in the dishwasher erupting with a bunch of charred gunk. And great followup as we see Marge in the background mopping it all up in the next scene. There’s a lot of pitiful Marge stuff in this episode, from her talking about how she always dreamed her daughter would be her best friend, and the start of the third act as a smiling, but internally devastated Marge looks at the sunrise through the window whilst blindly scrubbing at all the destroyed dishes in the sink.
– I like how Lisa is utilizing all of Bart’s old catchphrases, like she figured they would work for her audience. Bart is indignant of protecting his expressions, but Marge is less receptive (“Oh, you haven’t said that in four years. Let Lisa have it.”)
– Great callback to “Bart on the Road;” apparently there actually is a grammar rodeo.
– Wonderful acting moment as Lisa snaps at Bart at the breakfast table, then snaps back when Marge re-enters the room. And great reveal with the cereal box to see that Milhouse was at the table the whole time. That leads great to the carnival scene where he is caught in the middle of their fight. I especially like the end when Lisa’s bumper car goes out of the ring and taps a tree… and a bird’s nest falls on her head.
Great read by Homer, undercutting the sentimental climax: “Sweet merciful crap! My car!!” Leading right to the fallout, seeing the sea-adorned car is being harangued by seagulls. Bart is redeemed by having the kids sign Lisa’s yearbook, and Milhouse giddily points out his own signature, “See you in the car!” My friend signed that in my yearbook one year, right in the corner and all.

Season 7 Final Thoughts
In terms of favorite season so far, it’s a tie between 3 and 5, with 3 championing in more emotional and grounded stories that examine our characters, and 5 succeeding in cramming as many ridiculous and crazy gags and laughs into each show as possible. Season 7 is the happy marriage between these two elements, each episode managing to find new successful ways of having its cake and eating it too. The show excels in its ability to blend the truly emotional with the hilarious, and this season does it in spades. Like season 3, a lot of the shows feel very grounded and realistic in spending time with our characters combatting with life and each other. When the kids are taken into protective services, or Homer’s mother must leave him again, moments are played very straight, but peppered with jokes that don’t distract, but sweeten the moment. And even at its silliness, like “Two Bad Neighbors,” the show still feels real to me, and that’s the highest compliment you can really give any fiction. We still have one more classic season left, but I’m pretty confident season 7 has a lock for favorite season. It’s stupendous.

The Best
“Bart Sells His Soul,” “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming,” “A Fish Called Selma,” “Twenty-Two Short Films About Springfield,” “The Curse of the Flying Hellfish”

The Worst
No worst. Best season is a perfect season.

14 thoughts on “153. Summer of 4 Ft. 2

  1. ” and the start of the third act as a smiling, but internally devastated Marge looks at the sunrise through the window whilst blindly scrubbing at all the destroyed dishes in the sink.”

    I’ve seen this and personally read this as Marge actually taking pat in the salacious activities homer’s purchase suggested, which make the ‘internally devastated’ incredibly funny.

  2. I’m right there with you – Season 7 is hands down my favorite season of The Simpsons, ever. I’ve held the opinion for years that there’s not a single bad episode in the entire season (hell, even the clip show is phenomenal). And the one-two punch of a finale that is “Homerpalooza” and “Summer of 4 Ft. 2” is as perfect an ending as I could have hoped for. These two episodes make me extremely nostalgic – not for the show itself, really (I didn’t start watching The Simpsons until three years after these aired), but for that blissfully apathetic period of time known as the mid-1990s. It’s like a time capsule, filtered through the Simpsons viewfinder and turned into classic animated television.

  3. I’ve always loved this episode, definitely one my family remember fondly as well. It’s the very definition of an episode that they simply don’t seem to be able to make anymore.

  4. “Sweet merciful crap!” is one of the top two times I’ve laughed the hardest while watching this show. I’m not sure why it’s so funny – but it was so unexpected and so perfect the first time I viewed it.

    The other “most laughed at” moment is when Homer is the Beer Baron, and he’s mimicking the explosions in bed with Marge:

    “Oh, pardon me Marge – it must’ve been that bean I ate for dinner.”

  5. Best and Worst of season seven (though like season four, this was one of those impeccable, “do no wrong” seasons):

    Best: 22 Short Films About Springfield, Summer of 4’2”, Marge Be Not Proud, Team Homer, The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular, Homer the Smithers, Bart on the Road

    Worst: Scenes from a Class Struggle in Springfield, Bart the Fink, Radioactive Man, Much Apu About Nothing, Homerpalooza (though I did like the Rover Hendrix sight gag and Cypress Hill remixing “Insane in the Membrane” with a philharmonic orchestra), Lisa the Vegetarian (though I did like the Troy McClure class film and the pig flying after Mr. Burns says he’ll give to charity when pigs fly).

  6. My favorite line in this episode: “Hey, Bart! Lisa’s with some cool kids– and she looks like Blossom!” Speaking of that, I’m thinking of doing an episodic review of Blossom on my blog.

  7. On the topic of this episode, it seems to me that both this episode and the one before this one have some sort of Gen-X-y feel to either one. I’m just pointing that out.

  8. Unlike Homerpalooza, this one is nothing short of excellence. I love the fact that Bart has a table set up for autographs and that everyone wants one, even Skinner.

    Although, this episode is also the reason why I can never go on that spinning type ride ever again. I am just paranoid about getting between two people who decide to start spitting at each other while on the ride. :-p

    Homer’s trip to the store is pretty funny, but I love Marge’s reaction best when she is unpacking everything. Also hilarious is that Homer asks Bart for matches.

    I love the last act of the show, especially Bart’s face when Lisa runs out of the bumpercar as you can tell he really feels bad for her. Of course, this all leads to a fantastic shriek from Homer when he sees what Lisa’s friends did.

    All in all, a great finale to a great season.

    Speaking of which, while not as perfect as its predecessor, Season 7 was another top notch adventure. It had a couple of shaky episodes, but nothing that was remotely bad. This is probably the last near perfect season of the show though.

    My favorite episodes include: 22 Short Films About Springfield, Homer the Smithers, A Fish Called Selma, Radioactive Man, and of course Who Shot Mr Burns Part 2.

    My least favorite ones are: King-Size Homer, Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily, and Homerpalooza.

  9. “Gee, I don’t know what you’ve got planned for tonight Homer, but count me out!”

    This is such an incredible episode. It’s the perfect summertime episode and the beach house setting was fantastic. Lisa’s story here was one of my favorites of hers from the whole series. I always sympathize with her and watching her gain momentum with her new friends only to have it crushed by Bart was so sad. It all worked out though and that ending was fantastic.

    Also, everything with Homer from obtaining and blowing up the fireworks to his interactions with Flanders and his family were spot on and hilarious. Love how Milhouse was just randomly plopped down into this family vacation as well while almost no one noticed him, a nice contrast to Lisa.

    Season 7 is my second favorite season of the show and the first half especially is probably my favorite run of episodes in the whole series.

  10. I really enjoy this episode. I think I overrate it, actually. Much like many episodes this season, it has a great balance between drama and comedy. We have Lisa’s fine story of making new friends, mixed with the wackiness of Homer buying a firework. There’s plenty of good jokes here, like Milhouse leaving after the starting bell, all the notes around the cabin, “you got the dud”, Homer’s firework antics (especially love him blowing up the dishwasher and just walking away like nothing happened, but I also love the store owner saying it’s illegal then immediately showing him the firework after a customer leaves), “Sweet merciful crap! My car!”, “see you in the car” (I wish I could’ve signed yearbooks with this, but I had long graduated high school by the time this episode aired), others. It’s a really strong finish to the season and one of my favorite episodes.

    I know I said season 5 was my favorite season before, but season 7 definitely overtook it. There were a lot of episodes I don’t remember being as awesome as I think they are. It’s got the perfect balance between emotional and comedic elements, as present in many of its episodes. Season 7 is an astounding season.

    My top 5 favorite episodes this season are “Bart Sells His Soul”, “Mother Simpson”, “A Fish Called Selma”, “Twenty-Two Short Films about Springfield”, and “Summer of 4ft2”.

    If I had to choose a least favorite episode… I genuinely couldn’t. Every episode I really enjoyed. That’s a sign of a fantastic season when you really like every episode.

  11. I think over time I’ve settled on Seasons 6 and 7 as the two-season peak. Season 6 is slightly more consistent to me, but in that one I have the Santa’s Helper episode as the slight fly in the ointment, Homerpalooza in this.

    Season 7 doesn’t quite have the character-development aspect of the early years, which has its charms, but feels (along with 6 of course) like a well-established show doing its thing effortlessly, with no sign of idea-fatigue. Basically, it was on a roll.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s