200. Trash of the Titans

(originally aired April 26, 1998)
Wow-wee, episode number two-hundred… This show’s come an awfully long way, and while the way it’s going down now remains suspect, self-proclaimed meaningless milestone episodes like these are like times of reflection of how much the series has changed. But I won’t get into that deep a topic right now, let’s talk about the episode at hand. A rash altercation with some garbagemen leaves the Simpsons without trash pick-up, which turns the family home a veritable dump. The situation is mollified when a fed-up Marge writes an apology note in Homer’s name, which incenses him enough to run for sanitation commissioner. Before we get to the craziness, I’ll say the opening of the show is fabulous, with the creation of a new holiday for the sole purpose of selling cards, candy and useless junk: Love Day. I also love the members of the Simpson family’s continued avoidance of taking out the overflowing trash before Homer ends up stuck with the thankless duty of taking it out. His ire toward the garbagemen driving the way is instinctive, but it’s when his antagonism gets pushed even further this episode where things turn a bit sour.

So Homer runs for public office for reasons that honestly escape me. He bursts into current sanitation commissioner Ray Patterson’s office spewing a bunch of nonsense regarding standing up for the little guy and shaking things up, but hasn’t an idea in his head for what any of it even means. It all seems somewhat pointless until he gets on track with a campaign the people can get behind. His “Can’t Someone Else Do It?” is pretty inspired, pandering to a lazy public’s desire to pass the buck on even the simplest of tasks. But overall Homer’s race against Patterson strikes such a wrong chord with me; he’s such a belligerent and aggravating entity toward this well-meaning average guy. It almost reminds me of “Homer’s Enemy” in that Patterson, like Grimes, feels like a real-life person reacting to an out-of-control cartoon, but while Homer in “Enemy” was bumbling but ultimately kind-hearted, Homer is needlessly vindictive and abusive toward Patterson, going so far as cutting the brakes on his car. Voiced splendidly by the great Steve Martin, Patterson is actually a pretty great character, a sensible hard-working guy who has the utmost pleasure in abandoning the town and the idiots within it to clean up the mess they created for themselves.

The episode’s greatest highlight is of course the music number “The Garbageman Can,” an illustration of Homer’s insane pie-in-the-sky ideals for what trash pick-up should really be like. But reality quickly slaps him in the face when he finds he’s spent the annual budget in a month, leading him to resort to more questionable methods in getting more funds. He is able to collect money to pay his employees by charging other cities to bury their garbage under the town, but it isn’t long before Homer’s dirty laundry, amongst other bits of trash, come to the surface in large amounts. The final solution? Move the entire town five miles down the road as the site formally known as Springfield becomes an absolute filth-ridden dump. So… yeah, this ending… I like it in concept, following the lazy attitude of the town that they’d rather pick up and move than actually buckle down and solve the problem at hand. But in practice, it’s just too goddamn absurd. So they picked up the power plant too? What about Springfield Gorge? Various bodies of water, forests and parks? It’s just too big a pill to swallow for the sake of a dumb joke in a dumb ending. So while the episode suffers a lot from Homer being a rampant asshole and some issues with the plot and pacing, there’s enough good stuff throughout that make this a fair episode.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Great stuff at the beginning at Costington’s department store, starting with a man presenting a chart of the year’s profits. He comments on the natural summertime slump, and covers that they’re already making enough money, right? He is immediately escorted from the premises for his blasphemous comment. A new holiday must be created to fill the void. The executives’ various ideas are pretty great (“How about something religious? We had great penetration last spring with ‘Christmas II.'” “I know, Spendover, like Passover but less talk, more presents!”)
– Love Homer’s dissatisfied reaction to receiving the Sir Loves-A-Lot teddy bear rather than his sought after Lord Huggington. Also great is the Kisses-Make-Me-Boogie-O-Lantern, blatantly reissued unsold Halloween merchandise.
– Crafty move from Bart where his banana peel keeps slipping off the top of the trash pile, he just staples it to the trash bag. Later, Homer is unable to place his breakfast log wrapper on top, so he places it on the fridge with a letter grade on it like it’s a test paper. Then he walks right into the can and knocks it over anyway.
– I’ll say the whole bit where the Simpson house becomes a big trash heap is pretty dumb. Mounds upon mounds of garbage pile up, like how long is this lasting, months? And no way Marge would have put up for this for that long. And couldn’t they have just thrown their garbage out with the Flanders? But there’s some good lines thrown in to make it bearable (“Homer, that crazy lady who lives in our trash pile attacked me again.” “That’s not the way she tells it.”) Also great is Homer’s insistence against apologizing (“Dad, you’re always telling me and Bart to apologize.” “Yeah, but I’m always secretly disappointed when you do.”)
– On the registered sex offender line: Freddy Quimby, Patty and Selma, Jimmy the Scumbag, and Moe, each one of them I’m sure has an incredibly fascinating story to tell.
– The U2 concert scene is a bit of a mixed bag; it’s got some great bits in it, like Homer’s guise as the potato man and Bono’s exasperation at the crowd cheering after his mentioning of Springfield, but the conceit of it all feels a bit wrong. Like Homer has no qualms interrupting a big concert; at one point he was a little humble, but now he feels he can just walk right on stage with big time celebrities. That and again, he’s loud and obnoxious with no idea of what his campaign is, resulting in him doing some pathetic dancing on stage to massive booing. You just feel real bad for him. Though I love the end with Bono’s patronizing (“Wow, look at him go. You’re the real Lord of the Dance, Homer”) and the band continuing with “In the Name of Love” while we see Homer getting pummeled by security guards on the jumbo-tron.
– Homer gets in some good lines once his campaign has a purpose (“Animals are crapping in our houses and we’re picking it up! Did we lose a war? That’s not America! That’s not even Mexico!”)
– Lots of great stuff in the musical number: Krusty’s marked box of used-up porno, which he labeled for reasons that escape me, U2’s reappearance (but not featured on the “Go Simpsonic” CD seemingly to avoid royalty fees), and a cameo by Oscar the Grouch. And we go right from the fantastical to reality as Quimby informs Homer he’s broke (“I think I’ve got the perfect solution!” “You’d better! ‘Cause those garbage men won’t work for free!” “D’oh!”)
– Love the ominous shot of the garbage being stuffed underground, where we see Sir Loves-A-Lot stuck with a bunch of needles.
– Nice Redd Foxx reference with Ray Patterson, with the band playing him on and out with the “Sanford and Son” music. Also pretty fitting since Sanford was a junk dealer.
– I do like the dramatic reveal of the name of the town’s all-purpose contingency plan… Plan B.

20 thoughts on “200. Trash of the Titans

  1. This is the breaking point for me, Homer is just such an insufferable bastard in this episode. There are still some good episodes to come before it all totally goes to shit, but this is the point of no return.

    1. Same here, but at least it had a good musical number and the ending was hilarious. I think this should have been the final episode of the entire series. I mean, normal family sitcoms end with the kids going to college or the family moving away or some insipid BS like that. A show like The Simpsons would have gone down in television history as the first to have the entire town move because one of their residents flooded it with trash.

  2. Other good bits not previously mentioned:

    * Homer thinking Goliath defeated David (naturally), and Lisa responding by playing “Für Elise” in her head

    * Homer and Mayor Quimby’s golf game being interrupted by the buried garbage starting to come to the surface (“What’s this? Melon rinds, pantyhose, a term paper from Texas Tech?”)

    * Said garbage also causing the Flanders’ dead bunny to burst out of his grave

    * The Native American Indians (“Do yourself a favour: don’t turn around.” “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” “I told you not to turn around.”)

    Hard to disagree, though, that this is a Jerkass Homer episode. Not as bad as, say, “Homer Simpson in: Kidney Trouble” or “Kill the Alligator and Run”, but a Jerkass Homer episode nonetheless.

  3. This is one I’m weirdly fond of. I had it on a VHS with like 3 or 4 other episodes and I used to watch that tape all the time.
    Sure it’s dumb and Homer is pretty wildly out of character for most of it but it has a lot of good moments.

    The manager of Costingtons talking about the new holiday needing a good name “No, it’s gotta be warm and fuzzy. Something like uh “Love Day”, but not so lame.” and then we immediately cut to Marge shouting “Happy Love Day everyone!”

    Homer’s line as he takes out the trash “Hate world, revenge soon, take out on everyone.” is just great.

    Pretty much everything Patterson says.

    Homer getting beat up by the security guards as U2 continue playing “In The Name of Love”.

    1. “The rest of you writers start thinking up a name for this funky dog; I dunno, something along the line of, say….Poochie, only more proactive.”

      “So, Poochie okay with everybody?”

      1. Well, why didn’t you tell the rest of us? WHY DID YOU KEEP IT A SECRET??!?!

        And yes, I *know* that one is from *six* seasons prior, and certainly wasn’t repeated in this episode…

  4. As burns would say “I know what I hate, and I don’t hate this”

    It’s odd, Homer is a moron and a pretty insufferable git to poor Ray Patterson, particularly since he doesn’t recognize it, but this one just has an energy about it.
    Also for me, Homer doesn’t quite get into Jerkass mode here since while he’s overthetop and stupid, it’s more thoughtless than malicious, his Give me a cuddle” to ray after ray has just threatened to stab him is wonderfully naive.

    I can even vaguely accept the bit about moving the town if we assume that the rubbish was only under the urban bits, after all it’s apparently only five miles down the road so stuff like springfield gorge would still be there, though how they get the buildings onto trucks or even have the money to do this I don’t know.

    I’ll also give Bono credit for being a good sport in this one, particularly showing up in various places, I love his surley “Where’s our paychecks you bumb!” just before homer appears with a stack of cash.

  5. This episode, to me, is the series finale. After this point, yeah, there might be a few decent episodes here and there, but the series is done in my mind, and everything that follows is definitively “not Simpsons” (or Zombie Simpsons). It makes sense to end things here:

    -200 is a good, round number, making it a nice arbitrary stopping point; few shows reach 200 episodes

    -we have a conclusion of sorts. The move makes no sense, but that’s fine if you don’t actually address what happens next. Like most series finales, we have both an end to what came before and a new beginning…of sorts. In true Simpsons fashion, this one is subversive because the characters totally fucked up, but have learned absolutely nothing. What comes next? We don’t know, but we do know that Springfield will be just as lazy, fickle, and prone to mobs as before.

    -there really is nothing left you can do with these characters at this point; move on

    A few other thoughts on this episode:

    -love the “Christmas 2” comment
    -Homer’s interrupting the U2 concert didn’t bother me the way his modern antics do because the crowd is rightfully pissed and booing him
    -I use the line “You trash-eating stinkbags!” all the time. Jerkass Homer, I know, but still makes me laugh
    -Don’t worry, Mayor, I have the perfect plan. “You better. These garbage men won’t work for free.” “D’oh!

    1. Well, the very next episode is certainly decent.

      But the one after that… “You said to crush him, right?” Oh dear.

  6. This episode is not that great, and most certainly did not deserve to be the one nominated for an emmy. On the other hand, it should have been the series finale because where can you go after having to move an entire town?

    Good god is Homer an asshole in this episode. We see absolutely no reason for him to treat Roy the way he did, nor the garbage men. Also, him getting all offended because Marge used his signature and then brings up worse things is down right disgusting. Even what he does at the U2 concert is pretty dickish.

    There are areas I do laugh, like how everyone is trying to avoid taking the trash out such as Bart stapling the banana peel and stuff, but then it goes down from there. It’s no where near the worst episode of the season, but it isn’t that good of an episode either.

    1. I still appreciate the fact that most of the last 7 episodes in the 5F production cycle managed to do something good with our characters after moving the town, and now that all of these episodes after they moved to an entire town exist, I know I wouldn’t skip watching the first 7 for the world, even if you personally would.

      1. “Most of the last 7 episodes in the 5F production cycle managed to do something good with our characters after moving the town.”

        You *did* watch “Lost Our Lisa” (5F17) and “When You Dish Upon a Star”(5F19), right? These two episodes managed to do some pretty *bad* things with Homer…

        Also, as Mike says, moving Springfield is way too absurd, even for the sake of a dumb joke in a dumb ending (though the bit with the Native Americans is good, and wouldn’t have looked too out of place in the classic era).

  7. This is probably the closest plot to The Movie before the movie, and it makes me appreciate the movie a bit more TBH. I’d already set on the movie being not as good as a classic 1-8 episode, but as good as a pretty good Scully episode. Rewatching this just confirms it.

  8. To clarify the above, I find the movie much better than this episode. Even though I like Family Guy too, to a slightly lesser extent, Homer reminded me of Peter Griffin in this episode and it weirded me out.

  9. This is another okay episode. The story is very odd, admittedly. The concept of them moving an entire town is just strange and doesn’t work. And like you said, why they’d wait until trash is piled up everywhere is ridiculous. That said, there are enough funny jokes to keep it from being bad. I like Homer’s insistence against apologizing (“I never apologize. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way I am.”), the registered sex offender list, the unveiling of Plan B… despite the story problems, there’s enough good jokes to keep it from being bad. And for a 200th episode, it works decently enough.

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