Original airdate: April 26, 2020
The premise: A new hip youth pastor, Bode, rolls into Springfield, quickly supplanting Reverend Lovejoy as the new town favorite man of God. Discouraged, Lovejoy travels to Bode’s hometown in Michigan to see what he can dig up about this mysterious stranger.
The reaction: Two-part episodes are certainly a rarity for this series. First we have the classic “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” saga, the brilliant mystery cliffhanger spoof. Over twenty years later, we got “The Great Phatsby,” a ridiculous affair involving Burns getting swindled by a famous rapper and his posse, or something stupid like that. Although, that episode aired in one night within an hour time slot, whereas our latest two-parter “Warrin’ Priests” is running as two separate shows. It’s difficult to discuss this episode and its story’s worth having only seen one part, so let’s table that discussion for now. This episode is also notable as it’s credited to comedian Pete Holmes, who I like fair enough. I’ve heard him as a guest star on a few podcasts I like (I have not listened to his own You Made It Weird show), and I enjoyed the first season of his HBO series Crashing, the semi-autographical series where he essentially plays a young version of himself, a good Christian boy who decides to become a stand-up comic. In this show, Holmes is also effectively playing himself as “Bode,” espousing what I assume are some form of his views and beliefs on God and religion. There are long stretches of the second half that are basically him sermonizing (in one case, a literal sermon), quickly winning the town over with his outlook on the world. However, for all his talking, his viewpoints appear to be incredibly simplistic: acceptance of everyone in all walks of life, and forgiveness for all, or something like that. All the dialogue feels incredibly rambling and off-the-cuff, so that was my best summation. How this connects to the people of Springfield? No way specifically. Bode’s first big win comes from playing guitar and singing a new arrangement of Amazing Grace, nothing really that exciting, but apparently enough for the black choir leader to bizarrely praise, “This is the most exciting thing that ever happened in a white church!!” Later, the people in the pews comment how they’re moved throughout the sermon and give Bode a three cheers at the end. But there’s no real specific connection between Bode and the people of Springfield, outside of him and Lisa bonding over meditation, which doesn’t really go anywhere. In terms of how Bode contrasts with Tim Lovejoy, we see within the opening where the few patrons of church can’t bolt out of Lovejoy’s Sunday mass fast enough. The dark dismal church Lovejoy presides over is later bathed in holy light when Bode takes charge. It’s all very simplistic, without delving much into these two characters and how they differ ideologically. Lovejoy is immediately irked by Bode and is antagonistic toward him, but for no real reason. It’s not like they butt heads on approach or outlook, so I guess it’s just Lovejoy being protective of his home turf. In the first half, we see him choking and struggling to talk at points, later proving to be his undoing at the start of mass, where he is unable to speak at all, leading Bode to take over and everything goes downhill from there. But Lovejoy speaks just fine after mass, and it’s never brought up again. I thought maybe it would lead to some kind of crisis for Lovejoy that would motivate him to rekindle his love of his job and win back his flock, but perhaps this plot thread will be picked up in part 2? The cliffhanger involves Lovejoy traveling to Bode’s hometown in Michigan and finding a damning article about him. Oh no, what scandalous information has been uncovered about this character we literally just met, know barely anything about, and who has no real connection or hold over any character we care about? STAY TUNED, EVERYONE!
Three items of note:
– I recall an episode a while back where a new reverend supplanted Lovejoy in popularity (“Pulprit Friction,”) but I don’t remember much about it. The more easily apparent analogue to this show is “In Marge We Trust,” where Marge as the Listen Lady quickly becomes the new church favorite. In that episode, we see how Marge actually listens to each person, lending a kind ear and giving honest advice, contrasted with Lovejoy, who has clearly checked out and can’t be bothered. We see them directly talk about these differences when we learn about Lovejoy’s past (“But you can’t let a few bad experiences sour you on helping people!” “Oh, sure I can!”) There are even scenes that feel like direct parallels; both episodes feature a scene outside of church where a crowd gathers around the new church favorite, ignoring Lovejoy. But “Trust” really shows how Lovejoy being ostracized has affected him, pleading his case with the saints on the stained glass windows and sequestering himself to the basement with his train set (“If the passengers will look to their right, you will see a sad man.”) The episode gives us just enough backstory and additional characterization to this tertiary character to truly make us care about him. In “Warrin’ Priests,” Lovejoy is just bitter and petty through most of the episode, just rude and condescending toward Bode the whole show, and it doesn’t look like that will change much in part 2.
– Lisa’s meditation session with Bode leads to a trippy out-of-body experience in a sorta neat animated sequence. Slowly the black outlines for all the characters and sets melts away, leaving Lisa a colored head floating in the vast emptiness of space. Her visage drifts and changes into different art styles, from a rough chalk drawing to a Picasso-esque design to a macaroni picture and so on. The scene is visually cool, but suffers from it not really amounting to anything character-wise, feeling more like time-filler than anything else. The scene is also kind of ruined with a fourth-wall-breaking joke partway through, where the different Lisas are interrupted with a “ANIMATION BUDGET EXCEEDED” title, which was odd considering the scene at that point was just the different still frame images floating in space, there was no real elaborate animation occurring.
– Before the teaser for part 2 and the credits, this episode barely clocks in at twenty minutes. Again, it’s hard to make a determination having not seen the second part, but I’m already wondering why this story needed to be told over two separate episodes. Considering the premise of “Lovejoy is replaced by a more engaging spiritual figure” has been done on at least two other occasions, stories that were told in single episodes that also had B-plots, I don’t really see how the story in “Part One” couldn’t have been told in under ten minutes. I guess you’d have to trim down Holmes’ rambling speeches, but what a tragedy that would be, huh?