686. I, Carumbus

Original airdate: October 4, 2020

The premise: Homer and Marge’s squabbling at a museum prompts a curator to regale them with the tale of the Roman Obeseus, an ambitious slave who rose to greater and greater stations in life at the urgings of his power hungry wife.

The reaction: The non-Treehouse of Horror trilogy episodes are always pretty dull to me, even the earliest examples like “Bibles Stories” and “Tall Tales.” I just don’t really care that much about seeing these characters in fantasy scenarios, and it especially grows tiresome when it’s the length of the entire episodes. I felt the same way here as I did with the season premiere a few years back “The Serfsons,” where despite the extra amount of work by the animation team to create a new reality for one episode, I’m just left wondering what I’m supposed to get out of it. Who cares about Homer and Marge’s Roman analogues? The episode certainly didn’t make me care. The fantasy is prompted by Marge complaining about Homer not going to a training seminar at work, rightfully upset that he’s been stuck in the same job for a decade and wishing he had greater ambition to better financially care for his family. An eavesdropping museum curator relates their argument to the famous Roman Obeseus (Homer), a slave-turned-gladiator who ends up impregnating, later marrying his owner’s daughter Marjora (Marge). Through the episode, Marge acts as the worm in Homer’s ear, getting him to expand his business, become senator by killing an existing one to earn himself a seat, and later taking it upon herself to murder the emperor, only to place their son Bartigula (Bart) into power after Homer balks at her power-hungry ways. Marge is basically playing the Lady MacBeth role, a woman using her husband to commit awful deeds to advance herself, a dynamic we’ve already seen over a decade ago in season 20’s “Four Great Women and a Manicure” where Marge urged Homer to kill all the other actors so he could take the lead in a “MacBeth” play. The twist in that segment was sort of fresh, but here it’s just played straight in a new setting, and it’s just boring, as we see Homer and Marge rise to a new status, Marge gets greedy, and then they rise again, repeat. Also, this is supposed to be a story reflecting modern day Homer and Marge’s disagreement, so Marge wishing Homer take her job more seriously for the sake of her family’s financial security is mirrored with Marjora manipulating and murdering people to seek the highest position of power in the country. In the end, the Simpson family squabble about the moral of the story, leaving the curator to lament with the final line, “When will humanity ever learn to stop letting stupid people into museums?” But honestly, what’s the point of these episodes? Do people really like them? They feel like such pointless exercises, especially in this case given this is redoing a story they already did over ten years ago, and in a third of the time.

Three items of note:
– One of Obeseus’ slaves, Carl has a couple lines in the third act, but he’s performed by Hank Azaria. This episode is actually right before “Undercover Burns” in production order, so maybe that’s when they made the official change, and I guess they didn’t feel like paying Alex Désert to loop a few lines. Couldn’t they have had him do them in the same recording session? Ah well.
– When Obeseus’ family moves to the richer side of Rome, we are treated to a musical montage set to the theme from The Jeffersons sung in Latin, complete with on-screen lyrics. It took me a couple lines to even get what they were going for. The Jeffersons has been off the air for 35 years now, and we’re doing a reference to it now? But I feel like I always make the same point when talking about the show’s style of pop culture parodies. I complain if the reference is too dated and irrelevant, but in the case of something like The Avengers or Succession, it’s still coming too late after the Internet or other media content with quicker production cycles have gotten in all of their jokes on the subject. But regardless of all of that, these jokes would work if they were funny, and the majority of the time, they’re not. Of course, this is all subjective, but what’s the big joke here? That they rewrote the lyrics to the song in Latin? Are the other jokes in there that I’d have to translate the words to find out? Who cares?
– Bartigula’s ruthless reign as emperor contains obvious allegories to Donald Trump’s presidency, with him stoking xenophobia, putting up a wall, refusing to cede power and some pretty obvious on-the-nose dialogue (“He’s just an entitled little psycho! Society must come to its sense and overthrow this madman!”) I mean, it’s not like Trump is the first leader in history to do these sorts of things, to be fair, but it’s all very clear what they’re doing. It reminded me of those short digital Trump shorts they’ve been putting out over the last three years or so. I’ve only seen two of them, and they are maybe the worst content this show’s ever produced. In addition to being poorly animated, as I assume most if not all of their production is done stateside, it’s on the level of Saturday Night Live-grade putrid neoliberal “satire” where it’s all just the most simplistic, softball jabs at Trump that every other late night show or other venues have been beating to death. I’m sure there’ll be some kind of election-related cold open before whatever episode airs November 1st, and I can’t wait to cringe myself out of existence watching it.

15 thoughts on “686. I, Carumbus

  1. I thought the wall was a reference to Hadrian. And the real Caligula apparently did declare war on Neptune, although he claimed victory.

    Also, Jesus, that Macbeth episode was a decade ago?

    1. Wow, fourteen consecutive episodes without ANY good moments? Not a single episode in 2020 with any redeeming qualities. As if the year wasn’t bad enough.

      Apparently best week’s episode is also museum-themed. How lazy is it that you have two episodes back-to-back centered around museums.

      I bet Mike wishes he was watching the girl in my profile picture instead.

      1. Season 2 is coming in 2021, Mike. I don’t know why it’s been delayed so many times, but at least we don’t have to wait much longer.

        “Hilda”, in my opinion, is the first cartoon in years that’s actually good. Not just good, it’s phenomenal.

      2. @orangemo No. It was supposed to come out in 2020 but because of COVID-19, it’s coming out in 2021.

      3. Wait a minute… Do you literally just take Mikes opinion as your own? Do you just read it and except it as fact? Very sad. Gone are the days of formulating your own opinions.

  2. You know what the craziest part about this episode is? Next episode ALSO takes place in a museum, and is an anthology episode that has our favorite family take place in historical scenarios! Anyway, this episode is useless and I hate it.

  3. Oh, tell me about it, the fact that I could see Fox pumping out that Bart section to use as a Trump argument ala whatever the fuck Marge was on about months ago is even worse.

    Just…for the love of God…hasn’t Matt Groening made enough money? Or Disney?

  4. Most of their Trump “satire” fails because it’s excessively lazy. “Looks like those clowns in Congress did it again!”

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