359. Milhouse of Sand and Fog

(originally aired September 25, 2005)
Modern Simpsons has never been shy about lifting characters and elements from its illustrious past, and here’s a perfect example. It’s “A Milhouse Divided” in reverse, where the Van Houtens get back together, which leads to a martial squabble between Homer and Marge, because we haven’t seen that in almost two episodes. Was this story necessary? Nope. But I was surprised that most everything before the clunky finale worked for me; some parts felt rushed, but the main story beats felt logical and the characterization was steady too. Kirk and Luanne cross paths at a party at the Simpsons, and ultimately end up back in the sack again, figuratively. And probably literally too. I can see this happening: Luanne enjoyed her freedom as a bachelorette, but now things have dried up for her, and Kirk is just a sad sack who’s been hoping and praying for this day to come. So has Milhouse, who’s ecstatic about this new revelation, overjoyed his family is back together. And so have I, if only this means we can finally retire the suicidal single man jokes with Kirk, with this show sneaking one last one under the wire with him being cut down from a noose in Milhouse’s dream.

The new union isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. At first Milhouse seems to be disappointed that his parents would rather get “reacquainted” then spend time with him, then later he muses about how he raked in the gifts and the love from the two when they were divorced, both trying their hardest to be the “better” parents. Bart is just as disappointed, having also reaped these benefits (“Drive-in movies, two Christmases, soda for dinner… we lived like kings!” “Remember when you told my Dad to go to bed, and then he did?” “That was some New Year’s.”) This conceit is very selfish, but also very believably child-like, as the two set to break the Van Houtens up again. Their last plan is to leave one of Marge’s bras on Kirk’s bed, but Bart is unaware it has a label, leading Luanne to confront Homer. This imaginary infidelity is ultimately what ends up splitting he and Marge up, but even this doesn’t bother me. I like how Bart’s plan ends up biting him in his own ass, but more importantly, for once Homer actually has a valid reason to be upset with Marge given the damning evidence. So many Homer-Marge shows of late have been so fucking offensive given that Homer overreacts and should have no reason to be angry at his saintly wife, so here, it’s actually a breath of fresh air that he has evidence to be upset about. Also, any reasoning looks better compared to the abomination that was “Manatees.” Anything. The ending where Bart concocts another plan to reconcile his parents is the only grossly dumb thing here, but even that’s peppered with a few choice jokes (“Dad, I’d give a kajillion dollars for you to get back together!” “Make it two kajillion!”) All in all, a surprisingly entertaining episode. Who wrote this one? Patric Verrone, who did a lot of great Futurama shows like “A Fishful of Dollars” and “The Problem with Popplers.” This show should poach Futurama writers more often.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I can’t decide whether the black church is racist or not, but I did enjoy picking out every black character in the crowd shot, of which there are not many. Even Sideshow Raheem is there. And you know what, ultimately I laughed during the scene (“Coat Maggie with the Calamine lotion and the scabbing will heal. The scabbing will heal!“) I remember this scene being used as the basis for the promos for this episode, since if the show isn’t about Homer and Bart, apparently it’s impossible to promote.
– Right from the start, I was stunned at how many good lines there were in this. Usually I’m lucky if I laugh once in the whole show, here I’m laughing a bunch in the first act alone (“Bart’s in there right now, licking frosting off my egg beaters!” “Don’t worry, Dad, I’m saving one for you. I’ll just leave it here in the dog’s mouth.” “Noooo, Bart! That’s a really bad storage area!”)
– I like that Homer has taken a radiation suit from work to wear during the pox party.
– Homer scratching his chicken pox with Bart and Lisa’s spiky heads is a great gag, very visually amusing.
– “Son, I wanna make one thing clear. Unlike the break-up, this is not your fault.” What a horrible thing to say, first off. Second, have the writers even watched “A Milhouse Divided”?
– Past the last suicide gag (hopefully), I like Milhouse’s dream ending with him marrying Lisa and playing in a honeymoon bounce house. I realize now how much I love Pamela Hayden’s dorky Milhouse laugh when it’s used in an actually funny scene (“I haven’t daydreamed in color in so long!”)
– Not fond of Homer getting fired over the phone and cooing over a new potential job: truck driver in Iraq. But for some reason, I love his mindless, deadpan line as he circles the ad, “Trucks are like big cars.”
– Not sure why Lisa is watching The O.C. Also, with that, she introduces the show as “that cool FOX show about teenagers living in Orange County.” Then we see the show, and we get the chiron “You are watching The O.C.!” In case we didn’t get what the parody was. But even that I laughed at, since Lisa so laboriously set it up, then they tell us what it is anyway. After that, it wasn’t so funny, at least until the bizarre bit at the end where Snoopy robs the teens at the ATM at gunpoint and flees in slow motion. Also, I like how the show has women playing 18-year-old guys, who all still sound like kids.
– There’s a lot of neat small stuff in this show. Lisa is suspect that Bart had something to do with the break-up (“Dad, where are you staying? You know the Four Seasons? Well I’m experiencing them first-hand since I’m living in the park.”) Lisa confronts Bart about it, who tries to get out of answering by chucking a rock at her, but Lisa instinctively blocks it with a trash can lid she inexplicably had with her. I love how blaze she handled it, like this is something that happens regularly.
– Even the big dumb ending has some nice stuff in it, like Bart using Homer’s big dumb body like a log to try and maneuver down stream.

15 thoughts on “359. Milhouse of Sand and Fog

  1. This was actually the last new episode I watched before I gave up on the show. I remember thinking “Jesus Christ, not another Homer/Marge marital dispute!” and being really ticked that Al Jean pounded the reset button on the Van Houtens’ divorce, after he’d also done the same for Skinner and Krabappel’s romance. Admittedly, I hated lonely single Kirk too, but having the Van Houtens be divorced added an interesting level of reality to the show. Which they sadly botched every time they brought it up. You know, now that I’m thinking about it, maybe this reset wasn’t such a bad thing after all…

    In any case, the Homer/Marge stuff still irritated me, like all they can think to do with Marge now is have her get pissed at Homer. And of course, the stupid action ending. But I do remember getting at least one laugh out of this episode: “I can read you like a book.” “Ha ha, you read books!”

  2. “Seven beer snitch”, “On a Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister” and “Something about marrying” were all written by poached Futurama writers too. None of them are quite as credible as Pat Verrone, though.

  3. I found this episode to be an insult because it makes the break up pointless. Given the characters are still living in the same year, that means they were divorced and got back together in months, if that. They might as well just clone Maude and have her kill the Octuplets at this stage.

    1. I feel it would’ve been insulting if they had bothered doing anything with the Van Houtens rather than have Kirk be their outlet for single dad and suicide jokes. Also, I’m sure if you tally up the amount of time that’s gone by within the show, we must be over a few decades. The characters don’t age, but time still goes on. If you’re going to complain about that, what about the multiple Christmases they’ve celebrated at this point?

      1. Pre-Zombie era had only two Christmas episodes, one of which was the very first of the series. It’s conceivable that those all occurred within the span of a year, maybe kinda if you squint.

  4. One of the best this season? Really? This was the one episode that made me truly give up on the series, although the Da Vinci Code parody almost turned me off Zombie Simpsons.

    Everything was so wrong. Despite the fake evidence, Homer had no reason to believe Marge would cheat and that just became another way to show the usual marriage in crisis storyline that was popping up way too often, Marge saving them by her hair was ridiculous and too cartoony.
    Oh and what can I say. While I do buy that Luanne would settle down with Kirk after having some needed time alone and with other guys, there is no way that Milhouse would get annoyed that he gets less attention now. Trust me, even at ten, no kid would behave like that and Milhouse should have remained super happy his parents were a family again.

    Just awful in every way. The RV one was worse but this was the one episode that made me decide to avoid any Sky 1 episodes from that point, unless I knew they were showing eps from the first eight years.

  5. I’ll have to watch this again. Outside of Maggie have a chicken pox party (and I don’t even remember what happened during it, just that she had one) and the Van Houtens getting back together I don’t remember this episode at all.

  6. Sorry but I really didn’t care for this one. Millhouse trying to separate his parents is just mean spirited, especially when the episode gives so many nods to a millhouse devided, and the chicken pox party stuff was far more disgusting than funny, admitedly not half as disgusting as the southpark episode I saw on the subject, but still something that more made me say yuck than laugh.

    The black church and bart’s comment “black god rules!” did amuse me for different christian denominations and attitudes, but again didn’t really need to be there, and what is it with writing Millhouse like a 40 year old single lady with those Rogers and Heart jokes?

    probably not the worst episode, but not one I’d care to watch again either, which is sad considering I must have seen it a fair few times on sky 1 as I hoped they’d show something better.

  7. I can’t agree on this one being good at all. Yeah, it has a couple of moments, but ultimately, it is so generic and forgettable. I do like Bart’s comment to Lisa towards the end about reading books though. I’m not really sure what to say about it other than meh.

  8. Surprised nobody mentions the gag where Maggie uses a blade to soothe her itchiness and Marge is non-plussed about it. T’was Craptacular.

    The episode was paced well but I tell you what’s missing in these marriage crisis episodes – actual emotion. Compare to A Milhouse Divided, which has a similar break up theme throughout… Homer genuinely feels concerned/worried/anxious/REAL EMOTIONS at the fear of losing his wife. Now the characters don’t feel anything, they just blurt out one liners to get across what frame of mind they’re in.

    I would love to get the staff of the show, sit them down – make them watch a few classic shows where storytelling, character and emotional pay off was done well, and then afterwards ask them “What the hell are you doing?”

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