Round 128: Bart on the Road vs. Bart’s Friend Falls in Love

Round 128: 3F17 vs. 8F22.

3F17: “Bart on the Road” (Season 7 / March 31, 1996)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by Swinton Scott
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer and Lisa Simpsons roasting marshmallows over a bucket fire in the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.

Been a while since the last round, sorry. I actually watched these episodes last month but then I got super busy, and later when I wasn’t busy I kinda forgot about it, and then maybe subconsciously I didn’t want to write this entry because it means that after 128 rounds the first phase of the tournament is over, which in turn means that I am old, and so are you. We’re all old, people. No way around it.

“Bart on the Road” is pretty much perfect. We’ve got an immensely fun main-plot (“Grammar Rodeo? We’re going to a Grammar Rodeo?”), and a sweet Homer-and-Lisa subplot to boot. I’m not a huge fan of the Bart-as-a-courier-shipping-eyeballs-to-Hong-Kong ending, but that’s a minor gripe.

  • Lisa: “I knew it! Because why would they have our National Rodeo in another nation?”

8F22: “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love” (Season 3 / May 7, 1992)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Sad Milhouse

Fantastic. My favorite bits:

  • That whole Raiders of the Lost Ark opening sequence. Great work from the animation and sound departments.
  • Skinner’s Vietnam stories. Again, it’s the dramatic animation that makes this so powerful. (Well, that and Harry’s performance.)
  • “Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You-Know-What”
  • -Lisa: “According to Eternity magazine you can lose weight through subliminal learning. That’s where an idea is subtly implanted in your head without you even knowing it.”
    -Homer: “Oh, Lisa, that’s a load of rich creamery butter.”
  • Great Itchy & Scratchy. Short and to the point.
  • -Milhouse: “How could this happen? We started out like Romeo and Juliet but it ended up in tragedy.”

The winner: 8F22, “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love.” Tough decision, though. “Bart on the Road” is one of my favorite episodes, as well.

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Round 126: Lisa the Greek vs. Treehouse of Horror XI

Round 126: 8F12 vs. BABF21.

8F12: “Lisa the Greek” (Season 3 / January 23, 1992)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 8F12 Lisa the Greek

Sweet little episode. Homer and Lisa stories are always special to me, and this one explores their relationship very nicely.

  • -Homer: “You see, Lisa, your mother has this crazy idea that gambling is wrong, even though they say it’s okay in the Bible.”
    -Lisa: “Really? Where?”
    -Homer: “Uh… somewhere in the back.”

BABF21: “Treehouse of Horror XI” (Season 12 / November 1, 2000)
Written by Rob LaZebnik, Mike Scully, John Frink, Don Payne, Carolyn Omine
Directed by Matthew Nastuk
Showrunner: Mike Scully

The Simpsons BABF21 Treehouse of Horror XI

Only made it half-way through. It’s crazy, I know, but I’m one of the few people who actually can get enough of splattering blood and horrible violence in my cartoon shows.

The winner: 8F12, “Lisa the Greek.”

Round 124: Whacking Day vs. Treehouse of Horror III

Round 124: 9F18 vs. 9F04.

9F18: “Whacking Day” (Season 4 / April 29, 1993)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jeff Lynch
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpson 9F18 Whacking Day

The way they’re cropping the old episodes for widescreen TVs these days is really getting out of hand.

This episode is so incredibly weird that it’s close to a miracle that it is also so enjoyably good.

It’s not a miracle, though. It’s talent, and hard work. From the writing to the acting, the directing and animation. Every frame, every beat, every joke tells a story about how the people behind the show poured everything they had into making it as great as they possibly could.


9F04: “Treehouse of Horror III” (Season 4 / October 29, 1992)
Written by Al Jean & Mike Reiss (Part 1), Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky (Part 2), Sam Simon & Jon Vitti (Part 3)
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 9F04 Treehouse of Horror III

The great thing about the Treehouses of Horror is that odds are, whenever you revisit one of them you’ll have seen an old horror movie, or an episode of The Twilight Zone, or read something by Asimov that will let you appreciate the references, homages, and sometimes even shot-for-shot recreations in a whole new light.

For me, this time, it’s “King Kong.” I hadn’t seen the 1933 movie until a few years ago, when I finally deemed my home theater setup good enough for it. It’s a fantastic movie. And this is a fantastic Halloween episode.

  • Al Jean, on the commentary track, about the 1976 King Kong remake: “It is amazing how a version made forty years after the original is so much worse and less believable.”

The winner: 9F18, “Whacking Day.”

Round 121: Treehouse of Horror XIX vs. Bart the Daredevil

Round 121: KABF16 vs. 7F06.

KABF16: “Treehouse of Horror XIX” (Season 20 / November 2, 2008)
Written by Matt Warburton
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunner: Al Jean

KABF16

Season 20? I don’t have that! That’s not online! Is it good? Did I think it was good? Did I even see it? I think I did, when it first aired? There’s a one minute clip of it online. I watched it. Made me wish I watched “Peanuts” instead.


7F06: “Bart the Daredevil” (Season 2 / December 6, 1990)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

The Simpsons 7F06 Bart the Daredevil

Fun episode. My favorite part is definitely Lisa’s school recital. There are a few minor things that will probably mean it won’t stay in the tournament until the final rounds, but here it’s the clear winner.

The winner: 7F06, “Bart the Daredevil.”

Round 104: Last Exit to Springfield vs. The Cartridge Family

Round 104: 9F15 vs. 5F01.

9F15: “Last Exit to Springfield” (Season 4 / March 11, 1993)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer Simpson in Mr. Burns' office, polar bear and dramatic shadows and all

Two things tangentially related to this episode (which is perfect, by the way):

  • Not only would I demand “Now do Classical Gas.” from anyone who had just finished a song on the guitar in my vicinity for many years (although not as much recently), I also credit the mention of Mason Williams‘ song in this episode for leading me, via Google – or whatever it was we used to google things back then (AltaVista?) – to another Mason Williams, and, more specifically, his groundbreaking, exceptional, 1,000-days web comic project 1/0, which remains one of my all-time favorite pieces of literature and which you should go and read, like, right now.
  • I saw Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” the other day, and as the credits rolled I noticed the name Wally Wolodarsky, who, with Jay Kogen, wrote this and many other classic Simpsons episodes. He appeared in a couple of Anderson’s films, mostly in small roles but also more prominently in “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” which is something I always forget about so it’s a surprise each time a new one comes around.

5F01: “The Cartridge Family” (Season 9 / November 2, 1997)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Pete Michels
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Homer Simpson gunning down a plate

Well. This is a rather problematic episode. I kinda remembered at least respecting it for its anti-gun stance, and Homer buying the gun (Five days? But I’m mad now!) does make for a good clip.

But the episode’s actual message, if it has any, is pretty murky. Homer’s jerk-mode is dialed up to 11, making even the NRA look sane and rational in comparison, and the last scene not only conveys that guns can be useful if in the hands of the right people (which is quite troublesome in itself) but then tags along the even more disturbing message that, hey, guns are pretty cool.

Anyway, none of it really matters. 9F15 clearly is the superior episode. So:

The winner: 9F15, “Last Exit to Springfield.”

Round 101: Homer’s Odyssey vs. Some Enchanted Evening

Round 101: 7G03 vs. 7G01.

7G03: “Homer’s Odyssey” (Season 1 / January 21, 1990)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Homer sneaking into Bart's room at night

The first season can be a very strange beast. To take your main character (or at least his father) to the brink of actual suicide is a daring thing to do in any sitcom, but even more so in an animated one. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work here. Both the way there and especially the ‘resolution,’ if you can call it that, are weak, at best, at times even downright messy.

  • I remember having this episode (or a version thereof) on an audio cassette tape (triple redundancy for any readers under 30) that I would listen to before going to bed. Because, you know, children love hearing about fathers wanting to throw themselves off a bridge last thing before they go to sleep. That would never, in no way, mess with their heads, right?
  • Right?

7G01: “Some Enchanted Evening” (Season 1 / May 13, 1990)
Written by Matt Groening & Sam Simon
Directed by David Silverman, Kent Butterworth
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Homer Simpson, one red rose in hand, standing in the rain in front of his house

This one’s a lot more coherent than “Homer’s Odyssey,” plot-wise, but the main reason it’s an easy decision for me to have “Some Enchanted Evening” advance to the 128th-final is evidenced by the torrent of screenshots I took while watching it. It’s a beautiful show, as all of Silverman’s episodes are, and I’ll be glad to visit it again in the next phase of this tournament.

The winner: 7G01, “Some Enchanted Evening.”

Round 91: Krusty Gets Kancelled vs. Treehouse of Horror

Round 91: 9F19 vs. 7F04.

9F19: “Krusty Gets Kancelled” (Season 4 / May 13, 1993)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Worker and Parasite

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Johnny Carson fan, so naturally I got a huge kick out of his appearance here. (It may, in fact, have been this very episode that spawned my fascination with Carson.)

The many other celebrity voices worked very well, too. The episode is filled with funny moments and observations and just a great joy to watch.


7F04: “Treehouse of Horror” (Season 2 /October 25, 1990)
Written by John Swartzwelder / Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky / Sam Simon, Edgar Allan Poe
Directed by Rich Moore / Wes Archer / David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Homer Simpson firing up the grill in a Halloween special.

The first Simpsons Halloween Special is still one of my favorites. All three segments are fun, but of course “The Raven” takes the cake, with James Earl Jones and Dan Castellaneta’s readings and the beautiful staging and animation by David Silverman.

The winner: 9F19, “Krusty Gets Kancelled.”