541. Specs and the City

Original airdate: January 26, 2014

The premise:
Everyone at the plant is giving augmented reality glasses as gifts, as a secret means for Burns to spy on his employees. Marge gets fed up with Homer using them all the time and takes them for herself, but this leads to Homer discovering through Burns’ camera feeds that Marge is secretly going to therapy every week.

The reaction: Boy, this characters-explain-everything-that’s-happening problem is just getting more and more aggressive, it’s just all over this one. Burns spends $26 million buying his employees Oogle Goggles (this show certainly feels like a time capsule now) to spy on them… but isn’t that already what he does anyway? He has a wall full of screens showing the goggle feeds directly behind his normal wall of surveillance monitors. How is this any different? Nearly the first half of the show is devoted to Homer wearing the goggles everywhere giggling about how cool they are. It’s like the iPad episode; it all feels like the writers anxiously crossing their fingers that a box of free stuff will show up at their bungalow. Marge confiscates the goggles for herself, and ends up wearing them everywhere like her husband did for some reason. Meanwhile, Homer wanders into Burns’ empty office and discovers the secret monitors. “Burns gave us those glasses so he could spy on us!” he exposits. We then get close-ups on all of the monitors, and Homer says aloud what’s on the screen. Y’know, in case we were watching with our eyes closed. Then comes the drama: seeing through Marge’s eyes, Homer sees that she goes to therapy once a week, and has to decide what he should do about it. What we see of the session is pretty serious and joke-free, with Marge tiredly musing about her husband’s violent temper and rampant drinking problem. At this point, this episode starts to feel like a season 14-18 marital troubles show, where Homer’s flaws are shown as actually serious, and negatively affecting his wife, but nothing is ever done about it. The ending involves Homer showing up at the therapy waiting room to confront Marge as she leaves, but thinks better of it when she tells the receptionist how good she feels after each session. We then get two extended montages of how Marge is a cake-making sex machine every Wednesday, but by the following Tuesday she’s run down and miserable. Then, in case you still aren’t following along, Homer explains it out loud for the viewers (“Oh my God, Marge needs this! It lights her way through the dark path of marriage to me.”) First off, it’s just great that Homer thinks of his wife’s happiness through the lens of what he gets out of it (cake, sex). Second, this is seriously our ending? This is a whole new breed of Homer-Marge episode; it’s almost like after so many shows of them arguing about Homer’s problems that he’ll never address, we now have an episode that brings them up, but they’re just constants. Not once does Homer think he should change his ways, this is just who he is. We know he’s not going to change, so why bother addressing it at all? The “happy” ending is that Marge gets a tune-up once a week navigating through the hellscape that is being married to a drunken angry brute. Hooray?

Three items of note:
– There’s a ridiculous B-story here too. Apparently Nelson forces all the kids in school to give him Valentines, but Bart puts his foot down about it, which Nelson rebuffs, forcing him to write a heartfelt card or else. Like, I don’t even know what to say about this one. Why would Nelson give a shit? And why would Bart put up with it? This feels so weird and out-of-character for all involved, I can’t even comment why it makes no sense. And on top of all of that, it was baffling that the two plots were so disconnected, that there was a Homer-Marge A-story, and the fact that it was Valentine’s Day never played into it at all.
– Homer wears his goggles all day and all night, even while pleasing his wife in bed. Marge gets mad and tells him to take them off, but why didn’t she see the brightly glowing goggles in the first place? They could have written so many joke reasons on why Marge didn’t notice, how he slipped them on, or was using it during their foreplay but Marge got too weird about it… anything. Instead, it just looks like minimal thought was put in, per usual. Then the show ends with the two of them fooling around, now with Marge wearing the goggles. Full circle!
– Lately, the show has been doing little end tags, like the story ostensibly ends, we fade to black, and then we go to one last little scene before the credits. Writing twenty-minute stories is hard, I guess. Here, we get a scene between Lisa and Ralph for Valentine’s, which I’m assuming is meant to be fan service. But season 4 Ralph was not a brain damaged non sequitur machine, so the writers have to make due with what they have, with Lisa asking why her Valentine from Ralph contained a tooth (“Plant it, and you’ll grow a new Ralph!” “I don’t need a new Ralph. I like the old one. Happy Valentine’s Day.”) Then we end on Ralph drawing on his face with marker. Brilliant!

One good line/moment: Moe gives Homer the advice to not tell Marge he knows about her therapy. Later in the kitchen, he appear in a thought bubble to reinforce this advice, but when Homer leaves, he’s left all alone, so he floats over to the dog to give him advice instead. It was kinda funny. Reminded me of a similar bit from The Critic where Jay appears in a bubble to give his son advice, though not as funny.

7 thoughts on “541. Specs and the City

  1. These ending tags are a fair solution to the problem of the additional commercial break, which is network-mandated. This allows the main story to play out over the proper 3-act structure again instead of the awkward 4-act structure that was there since season 20.

  2. The couch gag was originally a bumper for UK network Channel 4 (if you pause at one point in the part with the city power grid, you can see it’s logo.) Because they can’t do the gags themselves, so they decided to outsource them. Also, it’s set while Homer watches Super Bowl 48 (which sure doesn’t date this AT ALL) and tries to rip off the announcing at the end of “Lisa the Greek” (and that doesn’t work, cause even non-football fans remember the curb stomping in that game. At least “Greek” dubbed over the teams playing every year, so it could be ambiguous. Hell, even “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday” did that. But every time I’ve seen this, it’s always specifically SB48.

  3. Man, i miss Homer the lovable schlub who was dumb as shit and a bit selfish but would go to extraordinary lengths or great sacrifice to make his family happy. Abusive alcoholic Abe constantly self-centered Homer, despised by his family but idolized by the rest of Springfield plus all of the celebrities he regularly encounters…not a fan…

  4. Good grief, its hearing about episodes like this that actually make me glad I’m not watching new simpsons episodes anymore, this blog is definitely more fun, albeit the classic years will still always be close to my heart.

  5. The only thing I like about this episode is the thumbnail, because it reminds me of a much, MUCH better scene from Team Homer.

    “No I will not pay you five hundred dollars for sex!”

  6. Looking past the Google Goggles time capsule thing, this episode had a nice idea that could have worked if Homer wasn’t only worried about Marge being happy or sad based on what he got out of it. Still, I thought it was funny when Mr. Burns was freaked out by seeing Homer and Marge have sex through the goggles, and it was funnier to see people get hurt because they were being stupid and mishaps occurred from their goggles covering where they should see.

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