500. At Long Last Leave

Original airdate: February 19, 2012

The premise:
Sick of their decades of obnoxious and costly escapades, the town of Springfield collectively agrees to banish the Simpson family, who find themselves a new home in the lawless outskirts known as the Outlands.

The reaction: As we pass by more and more meaningless milestones, it only becomes more of a bummer that the percentage of actually decent episodes of the series as a whole shrinks more and more. These tentpole shows are doubly saddening in that they sort of reflect the scope of what the show thinks it is, and it’s always extremely divergent from the classic series we once knew. A clear example is the impetus for this story, wherein the citizens of Springfield hold a secret meeting to discuss throwing the Simpson family out of town. Their reasoning? Homer’s drunken escapades and Bart’s pranks have cost them all a fortune, and they just can’t take it anymore. So, multiple issues here. First, Springfield has always been a mob mentality town. They’re all mush-brained idiots who we’ve seen many, many times previous have their opinions swayed and cause mass destruction and chaos. There are alcoholic maniacs in town who are much more dangerous than Homer, and we’ve seen shenanigans the local bullies pull that are much worse than what Bart would do. But none of that matters. We’ve seen over the years that the Simpson family, particularly Homer, have gone from normal residents of this jerkwater berg, to being town-wide hated pariahs. What possible reason would Cookie Kwan have to viciously hate this family? Or Sideshow Mel? Or Rabbi freaking Krustofski? But whatever. The Simpsons stumble upon the Outlands by way of a dirty insane man pulling a gun on them, and they decide to move there… for some reason. We barely really see the Outlands to actually get a sense of what exactly the space is and why the family loves it there, because we get alternating jokes of them riding ATVs and motorbikes, and talking about coyotes stealing children and Maggie getting involved in knife fights. But the Outlands is so goddamn cool and popular, that eventually all of Springfield decides to move there… for some reason. Again, we don’t even know what the fuck this place is; by the end of the episode, Springfield is being rebuilt there. I dare say, this is a hundred times dumber than the ending of “Trash of the Titans”; as stupid as that was, at least it has a story and character motivation you could mostly follow. Like all episodes of this show now, this was a bunch of incomprehensible noise masquerading as a plot. And they end with a self-congratulatory card telling viewers to go outside for once before complaining on the Internet. Will do, guys, I already had my morning walk. Now that I’m back, I can say this episode was a piece of shit.

Three items of note:
– Flanders is the only person who arrives to come to the Simpsons’ defense. Quimby anticipated this would happen, so his rebuttal is to swing a gigantic wooden log down the aisle, hurtling the poor man out of the building and embedding him on a parked car outside. First off, if Quimby expected this, why not air the phony emergency warning at the Flanders house too? And where is Krabappel, Rod and Todd. And second, they’re throwing the Simpsons out for being violent and destructive, but it’s fine for the mayor to viciously attack an innocent man like that?
– WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shows up in the Outlands, because why develop the people and culture at this awesome place that everyone ends up moving to when we could just insert another celebrity guest? He’s easily one of the worst performances we’ve seen from a guest star, but I guess I can’t blame him for that.
– There’s no funny scene or explanation of how Homer gets Marge into Springfield near the end, they’re just there, and we end with them having sex in their old bed. But the bullies show up to squat in the abandoned house, who then just disappear when Chief Wiggum and the entire town inexplicably show up. When Homer shouts that the Outlands is filled with “non-jerks,” everyone gasps, and Quimby mournfully admits that they are jerks. Apropos of absolutely nothing. Marge claims their new home is full of people who accept them, which we never saw, and she and Homer leave. Then all of the townspeople want to move to the Outlands for some reason. Homer rents a plane with a banner advertising it as “a great place to take drugs and shoot things.” Then we see they’re rebuilding Springfield there. There’s no connective logical tissue to any of this. Lisa, who previously enjoyed the serene quiet of being close to nature, now is frothing at the mouth to plug in her laptop and read her liberal op-eds. We then end on Skinner being the only one left in old Springfield, and Bart picking him up. “Come on, man, we wouldn’t leave you behind!” he calls to his best buddy. Sure, he runs him into a few buildings from a dangling rope, but this is the boy who envisioned snapping his principal in half with gigantic robot ants.

One good line/moment: As pictured above, they re-do the opening title with “The Outlands,” which to me, just plays as a hollow mimicry of “Cape Feare,” but the button at the end of it got a smirk out of me (“Ehh, I’m sick of watching fox.”)

13 thoughts on “500. At Long Last Leave

  1. My main issue with this episode was that it was almost exactly the plot of the Simpsons movie just a few years earlier. That’s the best you can do? Rehash the movie?!

      1. I also found that Homer strangling Bart ruined a bit. They should stop with this strangulation thing, because there isn’t a really funny joke since Behind The Laughter.

    1. I think that the last time it was funny was in “A Tale of Two Springfields”. Something about Bart hitting Homer on the head with the phone still makes me laugh.

  2. This is the episode that made me give up the show for good, if that was their best shot for a milestone then i knew that there was absolutely no hope for the show anymore and 1 question, what do you have against Julian Assange?

    1. He is against privacy, he doesn’t seem to care that some of the things he’s indiscriminately leaked have put people’s lives in danger, he didn’t turn himself in when Chelsea Manning was released like he said he would, and he seems to have been surprisingly partisan in his recent leaks. Sure, he released some rather important and revealing things in the early days of Wikileaks, but it quickly devolved from releasing revealing documents that were in the public’s interest to know, into just doxxing people. Basically, what’s not to hate?

  3. A bit late to the party, but one thing I noticed about the episode is that Abe’s there with the family during the town meeting, yet when they’re kicked out, he’s gone. The hell happened there? Did they just keep him? Did he just wander off to parts unknown? Or were the writers just that lazy they couldn’t keep track of a sixth character?

  4. This milestone only serves as a reminder to me:
    Great Episodes: 200 (give or take a few; i personally consider “Trash of Titans” the Classic Simpsons series finale)

    Terrible Episodes: 300

  5. Felt like re-reading this blog and was really excited to see Mike was continuing with it but jeez Louise I’d forgotten just how bad this show got. And there’s still 5 years of new episodes after this. How is it even possible?

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