174. The Old Man and the Lisa

(originally aired April 20, 1997)
It’s always interesting to see instances of Burns out of his element; behind his position of power he’s a vulnerable feeble old man who hasn’t had to deal with the outside world and its peons for decades. This episode cuts the miser down a peg, as he finds out that his fortune has all but depleted thanks to his team of spineless yes men not having the nerve to tell him about his poor and outdated stock choices. Without his mansion or his plant, Burns has nothing, a sad old man left to his own devices in his former subordinate’s pink apartment. Now, it’s a delicate balancing act one must perform; thrusting a penniless Burns into the outside world to marvel at ordinary items like public transportation and cereal boxes, but never lose sight that this is the same man who blocked out the sun and kidnapped Tom Jones. They succeed… mostly. Burns getting trapped in the freezer and seeking for a cereal with his face on it works, but absent-mindedly greeting fellow human beings doesn’t (“I’m shopping!”) Overseeing the delirious old man, two grocery clerks end up having him escorted to the retirement home. I get where they’re going with all this, but seeing Burns this far removed from his former persona is a bit unusual.

Alongside this we have Lisa’s crusade for recycling, as part of her Junior Achievers Club at school. Burns is a guest speaker at one of their meetings, and the two have a heated back-and-forth on the subject of conservation, setting up Lisa’s personal distaste for the man. They cross paths again at the retirement home later on, where Burns beseeches Lisa’s help to regain his fortune. After some persistence, and a parody montage, she reluctantly agrees (“You could only earn money by doing good, socially responsible things. Nothing evil.” “That’s exactly the kind of radical thinking I need!”) The kindly Burns/Lisa dynamic is kind of sweet, I’ll admit, as the two do their part in picking up cans and organizing and separating various recyclables. Which then, of course, leads to him somehow having enough money to open his own recycling plant. Perhaps he took out a loan of some kind, I dunno. But of course Lisa is shocked to see that Burns hasn’t changed much, as he has taken to recycling creatures of the sea into industrial slurry to sell for a profit. Soon after, Burns reveals he has sold the plant and offers Lisa her entitled 10%, but she tears up the check, knowing in good conscious she couldn’t accept it knowing where it came from.

I really do love the reveal of the Li’l Lisa animal slurry. We set up the six-pack rings twice before, once at the very beginning and later with Burns, as Lisa explicitly shows him how fish can get caught in them. But while she of course is demonstrating how to get fish out in a compassionate manner, Burns sees it the other way around, on how the trappings can be used for other means. His gigantic net is such a great idea, one he’s extremely proud of and believes Lisa will be impressed too. Even when Burns is not trying to be evil, he’s just hard wired to be that way unintentionally; he honestly doesn’t understand what Lisa is so upset about. While I don’t care for some of the poor delirious Burns stuff, I love this turn at the end. The story is pretty solid, if only a bit rushed; the recycling plant couldn’t have been operational for more than a few days before Burns up and sold it. The laughs are also kind of sporadic; there’s a lot of great stuff at the beginning with Skinner and the recycling center hippie, and a few other things here and there, but multiple scenes will go by with no real laughs. However, it’s still a pretty good show on the whole, with a different look at Mr. Burns, albeit one that would be exaggerated to a terrible degree in the future.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Real quick bit, but I love “Dracula Joins the Navy” on TV (“Uh, Colonel?” “Blehh!”)
– I like Bart’s attitude on recycling being useless (“Once the sun burns out, this planet is doomed. You’re just making sure we spend our last days using inferior products.”) Not even Marge can feign interest after Lisa chides her for mixing polyapolane with polyurethane (love Homer’s high-pitched indignant “Marge!”)
– Homer stupidly chuckling whilst dropping entire books in the trash feels like a very latter-day Homer thing to do, but it’s saved when after Lisa tells her father it’s a serious matter, he continues doing it with a stern face, stifling his giggles.
– Two great Burns speeches, first in addressing the Junior Achievers (“I’ll keep it short and sweet. Family, religion, friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business. When opportunity knocks, you don’t want to be driving to a maternity hospital or sitting in some phony-baloney church. Or synagogue.”) Second when Lisa urges the need to save the planet (“So Mother Nature needs a favor? Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys. Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she’s losing? Well I say, hard cheese.”) Also great callback with “Will There Ever Be a Rainbow?” Surely Homer tossed it aside when Burns gave it to him, leaving Lisa to pick it up and read it.
– Nice read on Burns when he checks the stock ticker tape and discovers the 1929 market crash. He chastises Smithers for not informing him, who rebuffs by saying it occurred twenty five years before his birth (“Oh, that’s your excuse for everything!”)
– Love seeing Skinner unhinged on finding a half ton of newspapers only yields them seventy-five cents. Lisa tries to reassure him, that all that paper combined could save an entire tree. A frustrated Skinner pulls out, smashes into a tree causing it to collapse, while children inside bawl uncontrollably. Brilliant.
– Got nothing to say about Bret Hart. But why would Burns ask his permission to take his portrait with him? It’s his possession, he’s only selling the house. And in the end he leaves it behind anyway.
– Loved seeing Lenny in charge, and the later allusions of his abuse of power, and him being a “real bear” on tardiness.
– Not only am I not sure why Krusty is shopping at the local supermarket, but why is he buying Krusty O’s? Doesn’t he remember writhing in horrible pain after eating one at a press conference? Because I sure do. Because it was hilarious (“This thing is shredding my insides!!”) I like Burns’ concession of picking Count Chocula, commenting that count sort of looks like him.
– “Ketchup… catsup… ketchup… catsup… I’m in way over my head.” “Are you here to solve my ketchup problem?” I laugh every time at this.
– Kind of sweet in a weird way that Homer drank himself to sickness so his daughter could recycle all the beer cans. The animation on him in that scene is really funny.
– Don’t care for the bits of Burns and Grampa conversing. What about their Hellfish past? They hate each others’ guts.
– Cute bit where Maggie gestures her hand like a gun toward Burns, to which Burns cavalierly reacts (“Ah, the baby who shot me…”)
– Like the recycling plant windows made out of old beer bottles… and of course Barney is there to lick them clean.
– The animal slurry is quite disgusting, but I love its many many uses (“It’s a high-protein feed for farm animals, insulation for low-income housing, a powerful explosive and a top-notch engine coolant. And best of all, it’s made from one hundred percent recycled animals!”)
– Nice Invasion of the Body Snatchers parody as Lisa combats a recycling zombified populous.
– The ending is fantastic, where Homer has four simultaneous heart attacks when Lisa rips up the check. At the hospital, he forgives his daughter for blowing twelve thousand dollars. Lisa innocently informs her dad what her cut actually was, then: “Code blue! Code blue!” Rearrange the order and this could be the final episode. Homer had one last heart attack and died. Series over.

17 thoughts on “174. The Old Man and the Lisa

  1. Bart’s delivery of ‘I’ll do it this afternooooooooonnn!” cracks me up every time, probably my favourite part of this episode. In our family we often quote it if we’re being hassled to do something 😛

  2. I always felt like the scene with Lisa running through the streets was a nod to “Soylent Green”, but the Body Snatchers reference works too.

    Love Burns in this entire episode. The Dracula bit was phenomenal, too.

  3. [QUOTE]The ending is fantastic, where Homer has four simultaneous heart attacks when Lisa rips up the check. At the hospital, he forgives his daughter for blowing twelve thousand dollars. Lisa innocently informs her dad what her cut actually was, then: “Code blue! Code blue!” Rearrange the order and this could be the final episode. Homer had one last heart attack and died. Series over.[/QUOTE]

    That’s exactly what the writers said about the ending on the DVD commentary. And looking at how this series just won’t end, despite the falling ratings and bad reviews, I think they should have gone out this way (or, at the very least, with everyone in Springfield leaving after Homer floods the town with trash).

  4. “Love seeing Skinner unhinged on finding a half ton of newspapers only yields them seventy-five cents. Lisa tries to reassure him, that all that paper combined could save an entire tree. A frustrated Skinner pulls out, smashes into a tree causing it to collapse, while children inside bawl uncontrollably. Brilliant.”

    For some reason, I always get the impression that Skinner *deliberately* backs into that tree.

    Meanwhile, one mustn’t forget Burns’ mental dictionary, containing ‘R’ words that are appropriate to his lifestyle. (Curiously, “rich” joins “recycling” in not being among these words.)

  5. One joke I always loved in this one is how the “That Girl” parody ends with the doorbell playing the last two notes of the song. Great transition.

  6. Season 8 and the slow drift toward Zombieism continues. We’re not there yet, but all of the elements are making foreboding appearances. The quality of the jokes are really the main thing keeping this one together.

    1. What you said applies to Season 8 as a whole. Fans at the time thought it was very touch-and-go with quality, but since they assumed it would be the second-to-last season or around that, people didn’t think too much about it.

      The cast and crew assumed the series was starting to wrap things up, so they decided to experiment. They knew the show would still be remembered as a huge classic even if the final 1-3 seasons were of lesser quality. But the show never ended, so now we have a supposedly classic show…where 2/3 of the episodes are trash.

  7. This episode is pretty funny, but I will say it was done better way back in Season 3 when Burns sold the plant to some Germans. :-p

    Still, it’s full of excellent jokes, seeing Burns try to be good was hilarious, and I loved his shopping scene.

    I also thought of INvasion of the Body Snatchers with the recycling scene.

    The ending is hysterical. What’s funny is when I watched the episode just a little while ago I was like, “Hey, this could be the series finale.” Of course, that would mean losing out on “In Marge We Trust,” “The Homega Man,” and <"The City of New York vs Homer Simpson."

  8. Eh, it’s OK. Some great jokes throughout. But in my opinion, everything after the recycled animals machine bit is kind of rushed as well as overly cartoonish.

  9. I really looked forward to this one in chronological rewatch. It’s almost as good as I remembered, though the last five minutes are a bit crammed. Burns shopping is a classic moment full-stop.

    Lisa’s decision in this one is divisive I’ve noticed, because people think she should’ve taken the money and do something opposite to Mr. Burns in some way instead of just complain about him.

    But, I give her a pass personally. I think she was just that traumatized by what Burns did, all she would’ve been thinking was a tunnel-vision of “anything at all from him I don’t want”. Plus, I think this ep surely must’ve contained some of Yeardley Smith’s finest voice acting.

  10. Mr. Burns’s character is pretty odd in this episode. I’d say that Burns is acting pathetic in order to fool Lisa, but he’s like that even when she’s not there. There’s some justification, and his pathetic ness isn’t terrible here, but I feel like in terms of weak Burns, “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk” and “Homer the Smithers” did it much better. It’s still a pretty decent episode, and Burns’s characterization mostly makes sense here.

    There’s quite a few good jokes, too, to elevate the episode, though I’ll admit there are times when there’s not many laugh out loud moments going on. I don’t think everything has to be laugh out loud, but there’s a few sections here where there aren’t many fantastic jokes happening. Still, we do get Burns’s rant about Mother Nature, “That’s your excuse for everything!”, Skinner smashing the tree, “Ketchup” “Catsup”, Homer flatlining at the end… Not a fantastic episode, but it’s good enough that I don’t mind it.

  11. I don’t even think Burns’s slurry is evil. Misguided or inventive to animals, sure, but assuming he wasn’t bullshitting Lisa, it seems to be an incredibly useful material.

    Blocking out the sun is evil. Not letting Smithers join him in the two-person escape pod because he likes to keep his feet up is evil. This episode, Burns is nowhere near these levels of evil.

    Also, Lisa 100% should have taken the check, though I understand why she didn’t. As in “Lisa’s Substitute,” we needed to make a sobering ethical realization at the expense of her personal enrichment.

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