543. The Man Who Grew Too Much

Original airdate: March 9, 2014

The premise:
Lisa’s advocacy for genetically modified food gets her a visit to a local chemical engineering facility, and is shocked to find a supposedly reformed Sideshow Bob as their chief scientist.

The reaction: Guess there’s more drops of blood to squeeze from the Sideshow Bob stone. His last appearance was four seasons prior in that face swapping episode (referenced here in his first scene when his face falls off and Maggie attempts to eat it like a Fruit Roll-Up. Thanks for that!) But really, what’s the point anymore? It’s always the same, Bob appears to have turned over a new leaf, then he turns evil, each and every time, to increasingly stupid and crazy results, which is especially the case here. We start out with the show’s take on GMOs, which honestly, between the anti-GMO video and the visit to Monsarno, seemed to have a bit of potential. But then Bob appears, who for some reason is on work release as chief scientist. Why would this huge company hire a still-convicted felon who, as far as we know, has no STEM background whatsoever, to such a position? No matter. The emotional thread is that Bob appeals to Lisa’s intellectualism, pulling her into helping him with his research. The show had never explored pairing these two eggheads together, so I was actually curious to see where this was going to go. But when we get to the final third, my hopes started to fall real fast. When he effortlessly saves Lisa from a falling art installation, his scheme is revealed: he had been altering his DNA during his time at Monsarno, and seeks to raid the museum of samples of the strongest, most brilliant people throughout history to be a genetic superman. Uhhhhhh huuuh. He also has animal DNA in him too, with a grasshopper hop and an unhinged jaw, which he uses to attempt to bite off Kearney’s head with in the finale. So, what in the fuck is going on here? Bob’s last bunch of episodes have all centered on him trying to get revenge on the Simpsons, that’s his thing now. But here, his plan is just to be “the wisest and strongest maniac ever to bring the blessings of dictatorship to the world.” So now he’s literally a generic cartoon supervillain. I guess his character degradation is complete, we can check him off the list. And his whole kinship with Lisa was basically pointless too, all it did was hinder his plan in the end. For some reason, he seemed unusually pleading to the Simpsons to hang out with him, but it didn’t play into his scheme at all. I’m pretty sure this is the last Bob episode to date, and I sure hope it stays that way. Bob was once such a marvelous character; a snobby sociopath who committed heinous schemes he believed for the greater cultural good. Now, we end on him lying at the bottom of the ocean. With fucking gills. And he steps on a rake, because fan service. Aggravated shudder indeed.

Three items of note:
– There’s an inane subplot here too starring Marge; she arrives too late for first dibs at the church volunteer board and ends up getting stuck teaching abstinence to teenagers. The group are our usual suspects, the bullies, and everyone’s favorite character Shauna; forget why it makes no sense for them to be at the church in the first place, just go with it. Marge tries to appeal to them with finger puppets for some reason, and the plot kind of just ends when Marge gets an unintentional win because the teens are skived out by she and Homer showing light intimacy. Or something. I dunno, whatever.
– The show is pretty much heavily lampshading itself as they have to write their sixth or seventh scene of the Simpsons shockingly yelling “Sideshow Bob!” and Bob explaining how he got out. Bart says, annoyed, “This is getting boring. Either murder us or tell us how you got here!” Remember “Cape Feare” when Bob was a legitimate threat? But that’s an unfair comparison. At this point, nothing is treated seriously anymore, be it positively or negatively emotional. And the moments they do try to play something serious are laughably empty and trite. His character progression was slower than the rest of the cast’s given he only shows up every couple seasons, but this truly felt like Bob’s last stop to being a one-dimensional cartoon character.
– The ending is so fucking bad. So Bob just reveals his whole plan to Lisa and Bart just happens to appear at the museum, slingshot in ready to stop him. Then Bob chases them down the street, and uses his stupid grasshopper leaps to catch up to them. He leaps up, then cut to the next shot where he lands in front of them… and they’ve somehow been transported to the middle of the Springfield fucking dam. Oh, is that located directly next to the downtown area? Certainly doesn’t look like it from the wide shot. So he’s going to throw Bart and Lisa off the dam now. This whole thing came completely out of nowhere that I can’t even tell if they’re intentionally referencing “Brother From Another Series” or not. Then Homer and Marge pull up, because they somehow knew what was happening, with Marge commanding her obedient army of teens to beat up Bob, which they do. Then we get Bob sucking Kearney’s entire head, as mentioned above. Ugh. This leads to Bob labeling himself a genetic freak and going to commit suicide, which comes completely out of nowhere. What use did Bob think he would have for all this animal DNA? What was his plan to become dictator of… Springfield? America? The world? What is the pooooooiinnntt?
– Oh, we also get Marcia Wallace’s final appearance, in an end tag featuring Ned and Edna tangoing, then we see Ned sitting sadly with a black arm band on, next to a side table with framed pictures of Edna and Maude. It certainly was a nice send-off, which felt very weird coming directly at the end of such a batshit crazy show. I guess better this than that boring-as-sin last episode.

One good line/moment: I genuinely did enjoy some of the moments between Bob and Lisa, again, I really wish they had actually done something with that that made sense within the story. Before things go sour, they seem to be having a swell time at the museum, and we get a glimpse of Bob’s snobbery at Lisa’s tastes in art (“I like the Impressionists!” “The boy bands of the art world. But for you, Lisa, I shall face the Renoir with sangfroid.”)

17 thoughts on “543. The Man Who Grew Too Much

  1. There’s a THOH segment where Bob finally kills Bart in season 27………so, no, this isn’t the last you’ve seen of him.

    I noticed they stopped taking Sideshow Bob seriously as early as the Scully era. Compare how Bart acts towards him in “Brother From Another Series” to “Day of the Jackanapes” and the tone is completely different. That alone tells you how much the show declined after Oakley and Weinstein stepped down as showrunners.

    1. “Day of the Jackanapes” was definitely a sign that Bob episodes were no longer a special or even a particularly interesting event.

      They really should have killed him off ages ago

  2. Bob also appears in the completely random opening sequence of THOH XXVII, along with Frank Grimes, Kang or Kodos and the Leprechaun. It’s the wonderful fan service!

      1. It’s like they took a 12 year old’s fanscript and made it into a show.
        Sideshow Bob, Kang, a leprachaun and the ghost of Frank Grimes decide to kill the simpsons!! But first they do an irish dance. Then maggie chops their heads off!

      2. Sadly, that is the least of that episode’s problems. At least the opening bit was entertaining.

  3. That goddamn ending. So, so stupid, where to begin? I haven’t seen another Sideshow Bob after this one.

  4. I preferred this one to Bob Next Door and Funeral For A Fiend, if only because it was nice to take the emphasis off the enmity between Bob and Bart and pair Bob up with Lisa for a change, although I agree that the plot went absolutely haywire in the third act. This one was kind of similar to Old Man and the Lisa in a way, in that Lisa befriends one of the show’s antagonists only for things to inevitably turn sour because the villainous leopard can’t change their spots – here, though, I think the writers struggled to come up with a logical or convincing reason for Bob’s reversion to villainy, rather the story just moved in that direction because of course it would. At least Bob’s scheme, confusing as it was, had nothing to do with Bart – one of my major beefs with a lot of the Bob episodes from Jackanapes onwards is that they act as if murdering Bart was always Bob’s raison d’etre, when in actuality Cape Feare was the only time out of the “original six” in which killing Bart was the goal itself (and Last Gleaming was the only other episode in which Bob actually attempted to kill Bart at all).

    Seeing Springfield’s two misfit intellectuals connect over their mutual interests is definitely meaningful, and I’m amazed that it took them this long to realise the potential of such a scenario. I just wish they’d been able to construct a better story around it.

  5. I also remember wondering, “Wait, how did they just get to the dam when they were in the middle of the city?”

    I’m going to guess it was meant to be a parody on super hero shows with how they will suddenly be in a different area at the drop of a hat, but it doesn’t mean it worked. Not to mention the whole thing with turning Bob into a mutant was dumb.

  6. Was this the episode where Sideshow Bob is surprised to hear that Homer is familiar with Mozart, and he responds “I call all music Mozart”? Yeah, clearly these writers have never watched Homerpalooza or any other episode where Homer shows off his affinity for rock music.

  7. one of the most blatant lines that irks me is when Bart brings up the fact that Bob tried to kill them Lisa smugly says “you, he tried to kill you”, he tried to kill them all in the Italian Bob, Funeral for a Fiend, and even try to blow up Springfield in Last Gleaming but all of a sudden because he likes Walt Whitman and can stroke her ego now Bob’s just “bart’s enemy”

    Even for a late plot this was such a bs move, Leaves of Grass my ass

  8. I read on Dead Homers Society that Al Jean himself said they take time on each Bob episode, because they didn’t want to his character to jump the shark. Yeah, because giving him fucking GILLS didn’t do that.

  9. I consider Sideshow Bob its own miniseries within the show, and I think this is the last decent episode with him. By decent I mean it’s nowhere near as good as the classic Bob episodes but at least watchable. After this comes the THOH segment which was also decent and should have been his last overall appearence… But the next 2 episodes after that are painful to watch because they are so boring. Btw I read you don’t like “Cape Feare” as much as you used to, and I understand that but I think that’s because every Zombie episode tried to recreate it.

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