367. We’re on the Road to D’oh-where

(originally aired January 29, 2006)
Hey, it’s another tepid episode! Although to be fair, aside from the terrible non-ending and the B-“plot,” this one actually isn’t too bad as a ramshackle Homer-Bart show. There are scenes between them that actually feel authentic as a father and son at odds, but there are also others that don’t work at all. A recent catastrophic prank by Bart leaves Skinner urging Homer and Marge to send the boy to a rigorous reformation camp in Oregon. When Bart is unable to fly by himself, Homer is forced to drive him there, making him miss his trip to Vegas with his bar buddies. A highlight here is where Homer reflects on his miserable stasis in life (“I’m 38 years old, driving a crappy car with a son who doesn’t respect me, and I’m one Snickers Pie away from losing my foot to diabetes!”) It’s said out of rage, but it’s so unbelievably refreshing to see Homer disillusioned by his poor lot in life, rather than just giddily laughing at everything and being so upbeat all the time. Blissfully ignorant Homer is fun, just not for the entire running time of a show.

Homer and Bart bond over mocking a more loving father and son, also a great, classic-feeling scene. But Bart tries to make his escape, leaving Homer to track him down, ending up almost plummeting off a cliff. This leads to a hysterical scene where Bart raises and lowers the fender of the car to mess with his dad, giving Homer mood whiplash, going from fawning and loving, to increasingly disturbing death threats (“I’m gonna double kill you! Then I’ll bury you in a shallow grave, dig you up and kill you again! That’s the beauty of a shallow grave!”) Homer dumps Bart at the camp, feels guilty for it, then takes him back and drives off. Whatever. Back home Marge holds a yard sale to unload her husband and son’s junk, but finds her biggest seller are expired pills. I could almost buy this if they kept up Marge’s naivety, but Snake out-and-out says he’s buying illegal drugs, and Marge couldn’t be more chipper to sell them to him. Very out-of-character. The ending features Lisa returning home to find her parents are both incarcerated, and muses how she always figured the family would whittle down to just her. Not only is it an unsatisfying, unfunny ending, but continues to paint the Simpson family as rickety and dysfunctional, where they used to be loving and close-knit despite their squabbles. This show’s got some surprisingly good scenes in it, but the stupid shit weighs it down.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Milhouse is also becoming a character impossible to write for. He’s sort of like Marge, where they can’t write dialogue for a meek, out-of-touch character (“We can’t leave here without turning one little valve!” “Yeah! It’d be like going to Amsterdam and not taking a walking tour of famous doors!”) That would be slightly odd for Marge to say, but even more out-of-place for a ten-year-old boy.
– There’s barely any story here, so there’s so many sequences and jokes stretched to fill out the running time. The steam filling up the school feels so long, and other gags like Flanders singing the colors of the dreamcoat and the aforementioned bit of Homer screaming at Bart just go on foreeeeeeeever.
– It’s sort of dumb as the explanation for why Bart is “no-fly,” but I do love the flashback of Bart’s egregious transgression: removing his seat belt before the light went off upon landing (“Thanks a lot, 33C! Now we all have to go back to Minneapolis! And I’m very tired!”)
– The scene of Homer and Bart at the diner is honestly the best I’ve seen in years. It was so charming seeing those two enjoy each other’s company believably, by mocking others. Like when the family mocked Flanders’ note in “Dead Putters Society,” or the ending of “Saturdays of Thunder.”
– Why would Marge be selling the Mr. Plow jacket? She loves that thing. Just seems like more cramming in old references without really understanding what they mean.
– Smithers is buying estrogen! It’s funny because he’s a gay man, that means he wants to buy female drugs (“It’s for a friend… who’s trapped in the body of another friend.”) Wait, does that mean he wants a sex change operation? What the fuck have they done to this character?
– Homer’s Vegas nightmare with the sexy Bart waitress is incredibly disturbing (“Hey Homer, you wanna eat my shorts?”) My genitals were very confused. Burt Bacharach turning into Bart Bartabart is a pretty good gag too.

18 thoughts on “367. We’re on the Road to D’oh-where

  1. This one is decent enough that I tend to be nice and count it as one of the “good” Jean era episodes. The drawn out gags really bug me, though. That bit with Bart raising and lowering the car goes on well past the point where it stopped being funny. I wonder if they were actually trying to kill time, or if their sense of comedic timing is really that off. I’m going with the latter.

  2. Yeah, the ending is very anti-climatic, and instead of doing something with it for the next episode, everything is back to normal. There were some funny bits here, but most of it was just blah. Hell, my biggest annoyance is how much they dragged on the Bart holding the car from going over the cliff joke.

  3. This has gotta be the most depressing episode of The Simpsons ever made. It’s just wall-to-wall nastiness from beginning to end (“Remember when I tried to hang myself and the rope broke?”; “I don’t want Milhouse!” “Sounds like my parents’ custody hearing”; “Stupid horse! It’s a deer crossing!”; and of course, that whole “shallow grave” run), leading up to that downer ending that pretty much one-ups “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace”. Yes, I know it’s a parody of The Outsiders, but it’s still just so needlessly bleak. The Family Guy influence shows loud and clear in this episode – just a straight-up half-hour of bitter dark humor. Bleh.

    1. Even Family Guy’s not that dark well at that point when this episode aired and that was the infamous shipoopi episode.

      1. I love the Shipoopi episode (it’s called “Patriot Games” and it’s about Peter joining the New England Patriots while Stewie beats up Brian for bet money [which is what people remember most about this episode]).

    2. The “stupid horse. It’s a deer crossing” line was actually pretty funny. You should have put down Homer’s rant about how he’s one Snickers pie away from losing a foot to diabetes.

  4. You know, I could see Smithers buying estrogen pills working, if they played it off as a desperate attempt to win Burns’ heart. Maybe some kind of a bizarre fantasy where he turns into a Smithers-looking woman, and Burns immediately falls in love with him. That would at least be in character.

    Of course Zombie SImpsons would just fuck it up. They’d probably try to have it as something that genuinely happens, and center a whole episode around it rather than a one-off fantasy.

  5. “Yeah! It’d be like going to Amsterdam and not taking a walking tour of famous doors!”

    Aside from how clunky this is and something no ten year old would ever say I’m also just very confused.
    Is that something Amsterdam is known for? Famous doors?

  6. OMG Smithers is gay, isn’t that sooooo hilarious lololololzzz! And gay men have sex with other men lulz just like women do! Lolol that means Smithers is basically a woman!! That’s totally the same thing as gender identity issues, which are also soooooooo funny OMG give this writing team the $10,000 this contest is over!

    Seriously, fuck these people. The way they constantly make the same shitty gay jokes (or here, new a offsensive ones) really makes me think of Homer reacting to “Man Getting Hit with Football”

  7. Sorry guys, but Smith’s delivery on the final line of the show makes me laugh my ass off. I do agree that is where the series could have ended.

    Anyway, I’m not sure which part of this episode is worse. The fact that it rehashes the plot of “The Crepes of Wrath,” or that this plot lives up to its name and goes no where. Oh, and then there are the “jokes” that just drag on and on. Flander’s color song goes on for way too long, as does the bit when Bart is keeping the car from falling over the edge.

    There more I have against this episode, it just isn’t worth the effort to type it.

  8. I normally agree with your reviews, but I don’t understand your criticism with the ending here, or how that ending bit ruins the episode. Homer and Marge both got arrested in the classic era, does that make them any less loving? Just because they both got into trouble with the law shouldn’t change their relationship as people. Maybe it does, I don’t know. Even then, Yeardley Smith’s delivery of the last line of the show is great, it made me laugh out loud.

    I’d say this is a highlight of Season 17 in spite of some of the other flaws of this episode (the overly long gags, the horribly unfunny Smithers scene, the Marge “plot” being not that interesting). I enjoyed it as a whole, which is much more than I can say for the majority of this season.

  9. I’m surprised people like this one so much. To me, this is Jerkass Homer at his most abusive. Whenever people talk about how much Homer has fallen as a character, I think of this episode.

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