128th-Final, Round 3: Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment vs. The Trouble with Trillions

128th-final, round 3: 7F13 vs. 5F14
Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment vs. The Trouble with Trillions

7F13: “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” (Season 2 / February 7, 1991)
Written by Steve Pepoon. Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

The Simpsons 7F13 Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment

vs.

5F14: “The Trouble with Trillions” (Season 9 / April 5, 1998)
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham. Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner: Mike Scully

5F14

So, two big questions: First: which of these episodes do I like more? Second: will it take me another two months to write another 50 word blog post?

I really do like both of these, and it’s kinda hard to even compare them because they are so different in style and Simpsons-ness. But in the end I just gotta go with 7F13, even though 5F14 has some of my favorite jokes ever.

  • Fantastic touch of having Ned look directly at the viewer when talking about “the folks who just don’t feel like working, God bless ‘em.”
  • -Moe: “So, Lenny, let’s say you pull a thorn out of the pope’s butt and he grants you one wish. What’ll it be?” -Lenny: “Hm. Only one, huh? Well, I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to wear something that’s been ironed.”

The winner: 7F13, “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment.”

And as for that second question… we’ll see.

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.

Round 78: D’oh-in’ in the Wind vs. And Maggie Makes Three

Round 78: AABF02 vs. 2F10.

AABF02: “D’oh-in’ in the Wind” (Season 10 / November 15, 1998)
Written by Donick Cary
Directed by Mark Kirkland & Matthew Nastuk
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Grandpa Abe Simpson at Woodstock

Original here.

An okay episode. Homer’s not very likable here, which bothers me a bit, but it’s got some good stuff, too. Look, the less I write here the sooner I get to watch “And Maggie Makes Three.”


2F10: “And Maggie Makes Three” (Season 6 / January 22, 1995)
Written by Jennifer Crittenden
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer and Marge Simpson taking a walk on the moonlit beach

Crittenden and Mirkin just go perfect with each other. She brings heart, he brings… whatever organ of his it is that comes up with the funny stuff.

  • “I’m gonna march right up to Al and say: Steve. I mean, Al, I think I deserve a raise.”

The winner: 2F10, “And Maggie Makes Three.”

Round 76: The PTA Disbands vs. Principal Charming

Round 76: 2F19 vs. 7F15.

2F19: “The PTA Disbands” (Season 6 / April 16, 1995)
Written by Jennifer Crittenden
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Girl left alone hanging from the rings in gymnastics class

“Mrs. Pommelhorst?”

Very good story with a lot of Mirken-esque touches. I am again reminded how important Marcia Wallace and Maggie Roswell are to the show. These school-centered episodes gain so much from their performances.

  • -“Sorry, Bart. I’m deeply immersed in the Teapot Dome scandal.”
    -“Huh?”
    -“However, it might be feasible in a fortnight.”
    -“Wha?”
    -“I can play in two weeks.”
    -“Juh?”

7F15: “Principal Charming” (Season 2 / February 14, 1991)
Written by David Stern
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Principal Skinner shaking his fist all Gone With the Wind like

“After all, tomorrow is another school day!”

What I love about the early seasons is that there is so much effort put into making the movie references, in this case to Vertigo, The Terminator and Gone With the Wind, not only funny but also beautiful to look at.

Looking back you notice the characters behaving in ways slightly off from what they would become, but I don’t mind that. I like the way Homer and Bart are integral to Skinner and Patty and Selma’s stories but don’t feel shoehorned in.

The winner: 2F19, “The PTA Disbands.”

And a sad addendum: After I wrote this round I heard the news that Marcia Wallace passed away. I have praised her performance as Ms. Krabappel on many occasions and I’m sure there will be more of that as the tournament goes on. Along with other frequent guest actors like Maggie Roswell, Phil Hartman, Albert Brooks and Kelsey Grammer, Wallace was integral to giving life to the secondary citizens of Springfield, and whenever Krabappel was made center of an episode she made her as real and deep as any life-action performer would have. Springfield Elementary won’t be the same without her.

Round 67: I Love Lisa vs. Maximum Homerdrive

Round 67: 9F13 vs. AABF13.

9F13: “I Love Lisa” (Season 4 / February 11, 1993)
Written by Frank Mula
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

You Need a Heart to Live

As a self-proclaimed Late Night scholar I always get a kick out of Krusty doubling for Carson on The Simpsons, as he does in this episode, with lots of flashbacks alluding to The Tonight Show and adjacent formats you wouldn’t normally associate with a clown hosting a show for children.

A great many quotable lines in this one (“Six words: I’m not gay, but I’ll learn.”), plus a very good song (“We are the Mediocre Presidents”) and Bart as John Wilkes Booth. This one’s gonna be hard to beat.

  • Haven’t checked, but this is one of the episodes where I swear I can hear Matt Groening complain about pupil sizes on the commentary track even when watching it with the regular audio.

AABF13: “Maximum Homerdrive” (Season 10 / March 28, 1999)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Swinton Scott
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Truck in a drive-in theater

I remember liking this episode when I first saw it, but after a few repeat viewings, there’s not much funny or interesting left.

The winner: 9F13, “I Love Lisa.”

Round 52: Realty Bites vs. The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer

Round 52: 5F06 vs. HABF15.

5F06: “Realty Bites” (Season 9 / December 7, 1997)
Written by Dan Greaney
Directed by Swinton Scott
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Marge Simpson and Lionel Hutz

vs.

HABF15: “The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer
(Season 18 / September 10, 2006)
Written by Bill Odenkirk
Directed by Michael Marcantel
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer Simpson with his head stuck in the ground.

Me, asked to decide which of the two episodes is “better.”

Tough. I don’t really like either episode. They’re not awful, but they’re far from good. Both have extended performances from recurring guest stars – both good, but Phil Hartman wins over Joe Mantegna any day. 5F06 introduces us to Gil, who is fun to watch if just for Dan doing Jack Lemmon. But Homer is too much of a jerk, the story isn’t all that interesting and I hate all the violence.

HABF15 starts off with an awfully unfunny Otto thing (and one of Harry Sharer’s lesser moments in the series’ history), slightly improves from there but never reaches any levels worth celebrating. A few chuckles for this Godfather and Sopranos fan, but it’s not like those references hadn’t been done.

Usually when I have two great episodes competing I ask myself, if I could only ever watch one of them again, which one would I chose. This time around I’m asking, if I had to watch one of them again (and I do, for this tournament), which would it be.

The “winner”: 5F06, “Realty Bites,” I guess. For Phil.

Round 50: Mayored to the Mob vs. Moe Baby Blues

Round 50: AABF05 vs. EABF17.

AABF05: “Mayored to the Mob” (Season 10 / December 20, 1998)
Written by Ron Hauge
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner:  Mike Scully

Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Fourth Doctor Who, Godzilla and Neil Armstrong signing autographs at Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con.

Click to embiggen.

I’m getting pretty good at stitching together these panning shots. Useless talent #66.

A rather mixed episode. More of it good than bad, but there’s definitely some bad stuff. I didn’t like Homer’s actions and attitudes as Quimby’s bodyguard, but I gotta say I loved seeing him in that black tux. Joe Mantegna’s always a welcome voice, and animation-pro Mark Hamill did a good job playing himself and the bodyguard instructor.

  • “Roger Corman’s Titanic.” Brilliant. Perfect match of animation and sound effects.
  • Never thought Frank Nelson was very funny, never thought Yes Guy was very funny.
  • Good musical number near the end.

EABF17: “Moe Baby Blues” (Season 14 / May 18, 2003)
Written by J. Stewart Burns
Directed by Lauren MacMullan
Showrunner: Al Jean

Moe, Marge and Homer Simpson looking at a diorama of Moe's Tavern.

“I peed my pants.”

After a real stinker of a first act I was ready to kick this one out of the tournament without regret. But then a funny thing happened. And then another. Funny things kept happening.

The ugly stuff first. I talked about the concept of the rubber-band reality before, and how that band had pretty much snapped sometime in the early double digit seasons. We get some of that here, most strikingly with the Venus flytrap luring in Homer with a hot dog.

Then there’s some gross-out humor I don’t really care for. Krusty jumping into a pile of manure, Moe dislocating his shoulder.

But the more the episode went on, the better it got. Whereas the episode above produced a few chuckles here and there, this one had me actually laughing, at things like Homer being in Burns’ carpool, or Moe acting out The Godfather with Maggie’s toys.

I was very impressed with the staging and animation of the fourth act. Some very cool color choices and angles. And I liked the little photo montage at the end, too.

The winner: EABF17, “Moe Baby Blues,” marking the first true win for an Al Jean episode.