187. Realty Bites

(originally aired December 7, 1997)
Marge takes a shot at yet another profession… boy, you know how exciting these episodes can get. I think she’s an incredibly interesting character, but one of the hardest to center a show around. Wanting some excitement out of her life, she takes a job at Red Blazer Realty, but finds that her frank honesty is getting in the way of the little white lies needed to make a sale. I’ll circle back to this main story later, because I have to address two major points first. Let’s get the dumb subplot out of the way first: Homer, sitting comfortably in jerkass mode, buys Snake’s fancy hot rod at a police auction, drives around like a maniac and abandons his wife on the sidewalk. Always keep your lead likable, right? Snake busts out of prison and attempts to reclaim his beloved vehicle, ultimately resulting in an all-out fist fight between the two while the car remains in motion. Their fight lasts sooooo long, with no real jokes at all, and it’s just so tedious. I do like Snake’s great affection for his baby, but all the Homer stuff is just aggravating. It’s just amazing how low he’s sunk in just a few short episodes.

Marge works under Lionel Hutz, here in pretty much his final appearance. Surprisingly, he’s in a weird authoritative mode, not the pathetic shyster we normally see him as. At first it was a little strange, but I kind of think it’s fitting as his swan song; he actually has a job he’s somewhat competent at (“The law business is a little slow, and since most of my clients wind up losing their houses, this was a natural move for me.”) His smarmy persona fits perfectly with his new practice (best scene is his terminology for questionable homes: “dilapidated” is “rustic,” and a house in flames is just a motivated seller.) Hartman is fantastic as always, every line of his is hilarious. We only have one or two McClure bits left, but this is it for Hutz. He will be missed. Oddly enough Hutz’s last show is his pseudo-replacement Gil’s first. Based off of Jack Lemmon’s character from Glengarry Glenn Ross, Gil basically stepped in as the Simpsons’ pathetic incompetent lawyer. He’s definitely a horse of a different color, and has sort of worn out his welcome a bit over the years, but I think he’s a strong character, and can think of plenty of great Gil moments over the next few seasons (“I brought this wall from home!”)

Okay, so back to the main story. The conflict ends up being Marge selling the Flanders’ a beautiful spacious mansion, while omitting the minor detail that an infamous multiple homicide occurred in it. The drama is so heavy-handed here; tense music and voices in Marge’s head before she forgoes mentioning it to Ned before he signs the check, then all of the dumb fake-outs… Like why would Marge think they would be in danger? And I’m all for idiotic fake-outs, but the one here takes the cake: Marge finds the four Flanders’ lying on the floor covered in blood, but turns out they were painting Todd’s room red and they just happened to pass out in the middle of the foyer. Totally makes sense. Marge tells the truth, but that only makes Ned more pleased. Then Homer and Snake, followed by Wiggum, smash their cars into the mansion and it collapses. Absolutely realistic, hm? Of course I’m not going to be a stickler for realism in all cases, but it’s just such a lame and dumb ending. This show has a few good points, and the always amazing Hartman, but after a couple of shaky episodes, this is the first I can truly place in the ‘dud’ pile.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Homer eats popcorn just like I do, with a lizard tongue. I don’t choke quite as often as he does though.
– There’s a few funny bits at the police auction (“These prestigious wrought-iron security gates are bullet-proof, bomb-proof, and battering-ram resistant.” “Then what happened to Johnny D?” “He forgot to lock ’em.”)
– We get a pretty classic and quotable Homer line out of this one at least: “Trying is the first step towards failure.”
– Cookie Kwan makes her first appearance in this show too. She oddly became a somewhat regular character, not that she has much of a personality, but I think the writers were just glad they came up with a new female character, considering the show has about… six.
– Love the Lumber King billboard and its hypnotic moving buttocks (“Lumber… we need lumber…”)
– Dang, Sideshow Mel’s got some hot wife, with hair to match his. His scene is so damn ridiculous; the writers needed scenes of Marge talking people down sales, so logically, a house with a bowling alley and someone who doesn’t care for bowling. Lots of homes have bowling alleys, right? But any word out of Mel’s mouth I love, so I don’t mind.
– Homer egging Skinner on to drag race after he admits his high school sweetheart was killed in a similar fashion? Stay classy.
– Love Snake breaking the honor system (“NO ESCAPING PLEASE” on the unlocked prison gate) and his loud call out to a driving off Homer (“She needs premium, dude! Premium! Duuuuude!!“)
– Classic bit with Hutz’s two versions of “the truth,” and his cavalier attitude toward Marge (“You’d better sell something, because cubicles are for closers, Marge. Anybody that doesn’t sell a house their first week gets fired. I probably should have mentioned that earlier.”)
– Kirk getting his arm sliced off feels like a pivotal moment, when the writers figured they could do ridiculous (and violent) cartoony jokes like that and get away with it. Bending the reality of the world you’ve established is really dangerous: if it works, it’s amazing, but if it doesn’t… well, not so good. I don’t care for the joke, or similar ones down the pipeline.
– Like Homer’s cold attitude toward Ned leaving, and his comment moments after they leave (“That old Flanders place gives me the creeps!”)
– Great small bit with Wiggum calling in a 318: waking a police officer.
– The end at the unemployment office with George Bush, and the old cop show freeze frame and music… all so weird. A truly bizarre ending, and not in a good way.

17 thoughts on “187. Realty Bites

  1. I think the Kirk Van Houten scene was cut from syndication. What happens to his arm?

    I just re-watched this episode, and something felt strange to me, and I think I’ve figured it out. Every scene feels like a pretty classic Simpsons episode, so long as Homer isn’t around. Every time he’s the focus of a scene, it’s like a whole different dimension. He acts differently, the story around him functions differently… Weird.

    1. Snake sets up a trap for Homer, wrapping a taught line of piano wire around two trees across a road, hoping to decapitate him when he drives by with his car. Of course, Homer absent-mindedly averts it. Afterwards Kirk VanHouten drives by, shaking his sub sandwich in the air complaining that it wasn’t sliced. Then the wire slices his arm clean off. Hilarious.

  2. First I will start by saying I love this blog and have read all of it and will continue to do so. Having said that, it seems you are starting to enjoy the episodes less and less as this season has kicked in. What I say next is a recommendation not from a selfish perspective, but only so that you may be able to enjoy the episodes a bit more instead of finding so much fault in how “unrealistic” certain things are and how jerkass Homer has become lol.

    I think you may benefit from taking a step back and not analyzing the show from the context of what the show “ought” to be according to you. It’s ok to disagree with the direction some of the episodes take and think some of the jokes are not funny, but many of the recent reviews have been in comparison to earlier episodes and criticizing what the show turns into.

    Like anything else, the show changes with the times and evolves. Try to look at it that way. Of course the show is not going to stay the same the entire time, would you really want it that way?

    Please don’t view this comment in a negative light, it is not a judgement. I LOVE what you’re doing here and if you were to ever stop I think I would end up emailing you everyday asking you what you thought of so and so episode lol.

    1. The series went through tremendous changes over its classic eight years, ever evolving, branching out and trying new things. I don’t have an issue with any of that, and I try to be as open as I can be watching each episode, clearing my head of any pre-conceived notions or opinions. I also try hard to not drudge up comparisons to older episodes unless a comparison seems obvious, like just now pitting “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace” with “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” since they utilized a very similar joke. In the end, though, I start each episode just wanting to see a good, funny, solid edition of my favorite show, regardless of what season it is.

  3. I liked this episode more than you did. While it shared similarities with “The Twisted World of Marge Simpson” (that is, Marge trying to hold down a job outside the house to prove she’s more than a housewife), I thought it was a lot more down-to-earth than the former and her temptations to bend the truth just to stay hired were relatable. And I like how the Marge and Homer plots -literally- smashed together. Gil was also very funny here (“That’s enough, Gil. Don’t drag her down -with- you.”), before he sort of wore out his welcome by appearing too much.

    All of the Homer/Marge banter in the first act was gold, especially:
    Marge: “I’m tired of being cooped up in this house all the time!”
    Homer: “Open a window.”

  4. God, Cookie Kwan really appeared this early? These weird, off-kilter season 9 episodes really are the sound of someone playing Prelude to Shit.

  5. One of my favourite episodes. Lionel Hutz is my favourite character and he is just hilarious here and Gill is also great, a real shame this is their only episode together.

    Kirk getting his hand cut off when you think it’s just going to be his sandwich is one of the funniest things the show has ever done.

    A superb episode with some of my favourite quotes “Hi, if you lived here you’d be home by now” and “There’s the truth *shakes head, and the truth!! *nods head*”

  6. Can’t believe how this was the last episode Lionel Hutz appears in, I always felt he was Hartman’s best character on the show, most pick Troy, but Hutz just for me had more funny lines in the nine seasons he was in (that and Hartman’s impeccable ability to nail them spot on every time helped as well), along with being more part of plot than Troy was, since Troy was resigned to his videos for all but one episode of his run (not counting the special episodes).

    Gil worked here I think since he had Hutz and Marge to work off, Dan nailed his voice for Gil perfectly, but overall Gil is one of these characters I feel after this season they shouldn’t have reused. As he became pathetic in a way that unlike Moe, Barney and Hutz were in earlier seasons. The kind that was just painful to watch and not something that was amusing or tragic to watch.

    The kind that is simply just depressing, unsettling and just feels too sadistic, which happened to many Simpson characters in later seasons.

  7. I agree with gunnarmcgriff here. This is almost a classic episode, even the silly bits with the red room and Sideshow mell, there are some great lines
    “that must be very rewarding. yes the money is good”
    I also buy MArge getting a new job much more than Homer, since back in the classic years Homer’s interests were food, lying around, tv beer, sex, football and his family, (order may vary), so the idea of him having the motivation to actually get a job is sort of nuts. Marge on the other hand was an independent, artistically creative woman who even flirted with bucking authority back before pregnancy forced her into becoming a full time housewife and mother (her “A house wife is not married to a house” comment back when we see her feminist activist days is a little sad in retrospect). So I can definitely see Marge wanting to branch out and achieve something more with her life.
    That’s why this story works for me, especially Huts and the idea that Marge proves too much of a loose canon for him to handle, she’s fired but is independent enough to be vindicated in being fired.

    It’s only the jerkassy homer bits that bring this down for the most part, though again I don’t mind the snake sequence as much just because Snake’s repeated and exactly the same “ow ow ow” make me laugh for how like an old era computer game with limited samples they were.
    The Ned murder house thing was silly enough to work, though I can’t really see Ned tearing a check, he’d go through propper channels.

    I also agree completely with olisimpson88, gill really was just funny here and became rather depressing later.

    this one actually always feels like a breath of air to me when it’s on, stupid arm joke not withstanding.

  8. Hutz was my favorite character on the show. Goddamn, i get depressed when i think of Phil Hartman’s death. Good night sweet Prince!

    I hate Gil and Cookie Kwan. One note jokes used over and over, but were barely funny the first time.

  9. Lionel Hutz, Snake, and “Trying is the first step towards failure” are the main things that make this episode watchable. It’s vastly superior to that shitfest we had previously with Lisa being a bitch.

    I also found the scene where Kirk gets his arm off hilarious. It works because it has a funny joke that goes with it.

    On the other hand, Gil and Cookie Kwan were good for one time characters, but the fact that they became reoccuring ones beyond this episode was terrible. I hate Gil because he was a one trick pony.

    Lastly, good god Homer is a completely and utter jackass.

  10. What the hell is going on with that Jealous Jockey Murder house anyway? The whole thing comes off as a bizarre amalgamation of Psycho, Dial M For Murder, The Shining and The Amityville Horror. I get that they’re being deliberately oblique on the details so that they can restrict this extremely gruesome-sounding story to a few absurdist cliches, but from what we learn it’s never clear just what risk Marge supposes exists for the Flanders if they were to stay there in the present. Is the killer still at large, or does she suspect the whole house of harbouring an Overlook-esque curse? She does mention at one point that everybody who lived there was brutally hacked to death, so…have other people lived there since and met similar ends? The episode never expands on that point. I guess we’re supposed to automatically assume that because of its unfortunate history the house has this inherently dangerous aura about it (although the Flanders’ ultimate reaction would appear to deliberately rebuff such superstitious thinking).

  11. For me this is, chronologically, the very first episode of Zombie Simpsons.

    Didn’t Marge have a story like this with the pretzel wagon the previous season? Her motivation for doing that (wanting to show up the Springfield ‘mean girls’) was a lot better, and the Springfieldians being her foil in that one was a lot funnier. You kind of want her to succeed in that one – here it’s really hard to care. This even shares an especially wacky ending in common with that one. It’s basically a straight copy, and not a good one. When the Hibbert’s were looking at that small house, Marge using a different word like ‘cozy’ to describe it was not really a lie, adding to the pointless randomness of the whole thing.

    The B-plot is lazy actually even for Zombie Simpsons standards. Homer drives a car until Snake fights him for it. That’s the plot.

    I feel like most Simpsons fans if they think about it probably has a moment in the show where things flipped noticeably. This is mine.

  12. A rather dumb episode, and not in a good way. There’s tons of moments that feel ridiculous and stupid, such as Kirk getting his arm sliced off, and the whole climax is such a big cop out. Plus, the episode plays the situation out as if we’re genuinely supposed to believe the Flanders family is dead. Like, really? This episode has a few good parts (“She needs premium, dude!” and Hutz’s the Truth bits). That’s it. I also hate the characters introduced here: Gil and Cookie. They’re one-joke characters that are used way more than they need to be, and their jokes only work once or twice. A pretty bad episode, in the end.

  13. If anything, this episode gave us the scene of Lenny huddled in his apartment, saying, “Please don’t tell anyone how I live.”

  14. “Kirk getting his arm sliced off feels like a pivotal moment, when the writers figured they could do ridiculous (and violent) cartoony jokes like that and get away with it. Bending the reality of the world you’ve established is really dangerous”

    The problem which this logic is The Simpsons started doing these kind of reality-bending gags since Season 3/4. Homer encountering the giant spider in the Power Plant in ‘Duffless’, or Homer fighting down the Springfield gorge and miraculously rolling back up the gorge in ‘Brother From The Same Planet’. So to state that this is the time when the writers decided you could do these cartoony jokes and get away with it, is about 5/6 years too late.

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