700. Manger Things

Original airdate: March 21, 2021

The premise: Six years ago before Christmas, Marge throws Homer out of the house after accidentally getting drunk at the power plant holiday party. Staying with the Flanderses and desperate to be home before Christmas, Homer must figure out what grand selfless gesture will get him back into Marge’s good graces.

The reaction: Another milestone has come and gone; thankfully, the self-congratulation didn’t extend any further than a chyron “700th Episode” below the main title. And wow, two flashback episodes in a row, what a treat! I seem to recall another episode where Marge threw Homer out on Christmas for not coming home, but it turned out he was staying with Moe who was borderline suicidal. This time, Homer promises not to drink at the Christmas party, but Lenny spikes his soda and Homer makes an ass out of himself. “I don’t want you coming home until I know you’ve changed!” Marge weeps as she leaves Homer behind. As the episode continues, 4-year-old Bart and 2-year-old Lisa repeatedly will ask their mother that they miss their dad and why won’t he be home for Christmas… this is really uplifting stuff! Homer’s been thrown out many a time over thirty years (to the point that it’s deflated any sort of drama or realism), but the best shows to use that card waiting until the final act, because of how sad the situation is (utilized to heartbreaking effect in “Homer’s Night Out,” when Lisa asks her brother, “I wonder when Dad’s coming home,” at an incredibly awkward family dinner.) Here, Homer’s gone for almost the entire episode, made even more devastating since Bart and Lisa are just little tots. It’s an incredibly sad scenario, leaving little room for any actual fun to do jokes. On top of this, what Homer must do to prove he’s “changed” is not only totally nebulous, but even more pointless than normal given this is a flashback episode, and we know all of the fucked up crazy shit Homer will do over hundreds of ensuing “present day” episodes. Considering this exact plot has already been done in the aforementioned “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas,” there’s no real reason this needed to be a flashback episode… except for our grand, continuity-building finale. Homer stays with the Flanderses, with an irritable and pregnant Maude. And of course, on Christmas Eve, Maude goes into labor with Ned out of the house helping the homeless…  so it’s Homer to the rescue! No mention of them calling Ned, who presumably would not have gone far, but it’s dawn when he finally returns, so who knows where the fuck he was. Marge I guess breaks into the Flanders house because he just shows up at the doorway of the rumpus room as Homer comforts Maude before the birth, and all is forgiven. So all Homer had to do was deliver a child to prove he was a good guy! Why didn’t she say so? To express his gratitude, Ned names his newborn son Todd Homer Flanders, so there’s another worthless piece of canon to throw on the pile. We also learn about “a never-before-seen room in the Simpson home,” as teased by the promotional blurb for this episode, the small storage space above the garage that Homer camps out in as he ponders his next big move to win Marge back. How cool? With these “revelations” and the upcoming episode shining a spotlight on Sarah Wiggum, this almost feels like a new tactic for the series, solving unanswered questions about different characters and locations in Springfield, because I guess hardcore fans might care about that stuff. Too bad this fan cares about engaging stories with characters we care about, and that ship sailed about 500 episodes ago. Happy 700th, one and all!

Three items of note:
– The couch gag is yet another Bill Plympton animation. This is, what, his sixth? As usual with this show, anything that’s special once must be repeated as much as possible until it becomes bland and unremarkable. One of his earliest couch gags was like Homer fucking the couch and it got pregnant? Is that right, or did I imagine that? Now it’s just this simple, cute little animation that does nothing but eat up time so the writers can get away with writing a few less pages.
– Maude Flanders has made sporadic appearances in dreams or flashbacks over the last fifteen years or so since Maggie Roswell returned, but this is her meatiest role yet. She’s definitely much gruffer and ornery here, which at least makes sense given that she’s nine month pregnant and about to burst. But outside of demeanor, her voice definitely sounds different, and it’s not a matter of Roswell losing her step or anything, it’s just that we’re twenty years out from episodes where Maude was alive, and she definitely sounds two decades older. Likewise, Mr. Burns sounded considerably tired in his brief appearance, the 77-year-old Harry Shearer still trying his best. And, of course, there’s Marge. Part of me feels like a big piece of shit mentioning this over and over… this is, what, my third or fourth time this season? But honest and truly, during her opening monologue setting up the flashback, I genuinely was having trouble understanding her gravelly, weakened voice. This became even more pronounced in the flashback, given Marge is supposed to be 30-ish, but sounds like an elderly woman. All of this is a problem with no answer, but it’s a pretty glaring sign that maybe your show shouldn’t last over thirty years on the air.
– It’s never been established (I think?) exactly how old Rod and Todd Flanders are, but I always assumed they were always in-between Bart and Lisa since they’re not in either of their classes, making them 11 and 9 respectively. Rod is taller than both Bart and Lisa, so I figure he’s older. But now, I guess Todd is 6 in this new timeline? I don’t really give a shit about them breaking continuity, but this seems like a big oversight. I know no one really remembers or cares much for the Flanders kids (to the point that even the Simpsons wiki lists Todd as the older brother in the first sentence, and says he’s the youngest member of the Flanders family in the second) but come on.

35 thoughts on “700. Manger Things

  1. So this 700 episode finally resolved the biggest mysteries of history… What was Todd’s middle name! Yay! *Kermit’s wailing hands*

      1. Honestly, if they need to retcon something, then I really wish they would retcon *that*. Anything to mitigate Homer’s hand in Maude’s demise; it’s a dark cloud the show has been stuck with ever since.

      2. Yes, I never got why they felt the need to make her die in such a stupid way. This show used to to know that serious scenes don’t need jokes in them and that’s something it unfortunately forgot somewhere down the road.

        Maude herself was never a terribly important character, but she was still strongly connected to one of the show’s most important supporting characters. You’d think they would have treated her death with a little more dignity instead of having her get killed by a T-shirt.

  2. The minute the flashback started I knew it was gonna be a marriage crisis episode. God, so annoying. Also, the story about Homer helping a woman give birth has already done, and may I say much better in Labor Pains. As for the episode itself it had not point in existing, and only seems the writers are just trying to crank them out. I can’t lie I was excited for Maude to come back. I mean this season has had two of Maggie Roswell’s juiciest episodes since she has returned to the show. While I’m glad they didn’t just use Maude to make fun of her death like they did in Thanksgiving of Horror and Waiting For Duffman her characterization was awful. These later seasons treat Maude a lot like Helen Lovejoy in the sense that she usually is antoganstic as seen in Fland Canyon, and Flander’s Ladder. I feel really bad for Maggie Roswell as her characters are treated terribly by the writers with Miss Hoover as an example earlier this season. Also, while we can all laugh at the fact that there giving Sarah Wiggum her own episode I’m excited to see what it brings to the table as it’s written by a new writer and will be showrun by Matt Selman.

  3. How can the studio weasels at FOX be dumb enough to keep this show going for 700 episodes?

    I bet my little cousin’s college funds that the show will surpass 1,000 episodes.

    1. In the time your cousin eventually pays off their student loans, this show will probably already have reached that goal unfortunately.

      It really does suck to say with total confidence that the overall run of The Simpsons (all 30-something seasons together) is a bad show, cause it really did use to be something special in the first quarter. But that’s probably something I’ll say again during episode 1,000 lol

      1. I just like to pretend the show ended after season 8, I suggest you do the same.

        I actually have two little cousins (5 and 7), I’m talking about 7 who is ahead of her class in virtually every subject. She’s like a mini Lisa (5 isn’t doing so hot in kindergarten).

  4. Firstly, why air an episode centred so squarely around Christmas in March? I don’t think there was anything in this episode that truly demanded it had to be the 700th aired episode, outside of that dumb revelation of the secret Simpsons room.

    Harry Shearer’s voice of Lenny is also really tired out as well. It’s more telling than Mr Burns because Burns is already an elderly person, but Lenny is supposed to still be this vibrant thirty-something, and he sounds hoarse and exhausted.

  5. Maggie Roswell is only slightly younger than Julie Kavner, so unfortunately (without meaning to sound ageist or sexist) it’s no great surprise that her age is starting to show in Maude’s voice just as Julie’s age shows in Marge’s voice.

    Nancy Cartwright is only slightly younger still, and it was suggested three episodes ago that Bart’s voice was starting to skew closer to Nancy’s actual voice.

    Of course, none of this is to say that Maggie, Julie and Nancy aren’t continuing to give it their absolute all.

    1. Speaking of voice actors did anyone notice how Rod Flander’s voice changed during the dinner scene when he had the two line. The one line when he let his hair loose, and then the other line when he calls Ned a jack*ss feels like two different voice actors voicing him. Also, about Maggie Roswell I also wasn’t expceting it to be so gruff and hard like Miss Hoover, but I’m glad she’s still giving it her all.

  6. Congratulations Zombie Simpsons! Happy 500 episodes! Woo! Yeah! Congrats on being renewed for two more seasons! Love live Zombie Simpsons! Confetti and noisemakers for all! Three cheers for Zombie Simpsons! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!

    I’m so depressed

    1. *700

      Unless you mean that Zombie Simpsons started ~500 episodes ago, in which case you’re absolutely right.

  7. The fact this episode involved the birth of Todd is enough of an anachronism, considering Todd was already at least 2 when they moved in in Lisa’s First Word, but… was anybody expecting this as a meaningless milestone episode? To a certain point it almost seems odd, for a milestone you’d figure they’d pick happy episodes, not ones where they have the supposedly happy main parents argue and split up YET AGAIN, or have their “record breaking” episode be a ridiculously dour episode about the grandfather on his deathbed. I know they’re meaningless, but God, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be more upbeat.

  8. I’m not sure what’s more depressing: the constant rain in Sydney right now, this episode’s plot synopsis, or that fact that we’re going to be a friggin’ episode about Sarah Wiggum soon. Maybe we’ll get an episode next about one of Bart’s school chum’s that had one line 25 years ago. How exciting would that be?

    1. This would be somewhat worth it if that ep was ultimately revealed as an early April Fool’s joke, just to troll all the people who complained about 90s Homer recently. Sorta like how Family Guy was hyping up a Worlds Of Warcraft ep, even showing fake art from the “episode”… and the actual episode had, like, one scene, that was more a parody than anything, even remotely related to video games.

    1. Use that sweeeet loophole of bringing back a classic character and having the neck beard superfans slap their fins for fanservice, but not full-time, so they don’t have to deal with that pesky salary.

  9. I always thought the Flanders boys are homeschooled, thus why they never appear at Springfield Elementary. That’s never been mentioned in the show, but it makes perfect sense so I just go with that.

    1. The Flanders kids show up at Springfield Elementary in a handful of episodes in the classic years. Todd played the violin at the school concert and, as noted above, Todd makes an appearance in “Bart the Lover,” as well. I feel like there are other examples, too, that I can’t think of right now.

      The homeschooled idea started in the Zombie years when Ned shifted from “overly nice guy who is keen on Jesus” to “judgmental religious zealot.”

  10. The decision to make Todd younger retroactively makes Ned even more of a joke in the episode where Todd loses his faith. You would expect a 6 yr old to be sad and confused by death and to have a very real fear of forgetting their deceased parents face. My dad died when I was 11 and I needed counseling to process that, for poor Todd it’s not even an option and the only one who seems even slightly interested in his troubles is lisa who just wants to change his religion. Ned’s so awful, even here it’s pretty crappy to leave his very pregnant wife alone while he does some charity work and doesn’t even bother to tell her where he’s gone, she’s gotta learn that from rod.

  11. I actually did not know this episode had already aired. I thought it was this weekend.

    Outside of the Halloween episode, I have done pretty well not really thinking about this season one bit. As such, I haven’t watched any other episodes, but that also means sadly, I have not bothered to read your reviews of them either. I recently read the 700th episode was coming up, so I was considering watching it just because it’s 700, but since I missed it, I think I’ll pass unless for some reason I suddenly get a bug that tells me I must watch this entire season.

    It doesn’t sound like it was a great episode at all, though I can’t say that isn’t surprising.

    So we have another retcon? I really want the show to make some sort of comment along the lines of, “Yo dawg, I heard you like retcons, so we’re retconning the retcon we retconned.”

    Well, whatever. It just got renewed for another two seasons, so they’ll probably try to hit episode 800.

    1. Crap, forgot to ask, why the hell is this episode centered around Christmas? Did they pull that crap last year where an episode aired in like April despite being at Xmas time?

      1. In an interview, Al Jean said they decided to make two Christmas episodes because they thought people could use it this year with all the COVID stuff.

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