While the Wookster is busy getting ready for Winter Term (while being the most amazing Disney African Cruise Tour guide ever), I am stepping in to take a spin at an episode recap. I have to admit, I actually asked to do a review, because I liked this one so much, but was then reminded that these are mostly “Re-Caps” and not so much “Reviews.” I’ll do my best not to let my bias creep into this.
Pffffftttttttttttt…. Sorry. Can’t do it! I loved this episode for so many reasons that I can hardly contain myself.
Yes. There are people who are actually paid to write extensive, often picayune, whine-fests about the Simpsons. There were some who derided this episode because it wasn’t “hip hop” enough…or was “too easy on the hip-hop culture” or simply hipped and hopped too much from topic to topic. To this I say, “Take a hop, bub!” The Simpsons have never taken on huge cultural issues, mostly because of the constraints of delving into something deeply in just 22 minutes of time…even less after the couch gag.
So…this, being the FIRST ONE HOUR EPISODE EVER…perhaps people thought it was going to be more like the book on which this episode was based, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Last Tycoon,” and go into a lengthy, protracted, and wordy treatise on the corruption of wealth. Not so much…at least for the in-depth part.
I should start my saying, I am not a fan of Fitzgerald. I find his work overly rambly…kind of soap-opera-ish, and for the most part, silly. In fact, I’d prefer to see all of his books “serialized” into Simpsons episodes, as I am still twitchy over having being forced to read “Tender is the Night” for our book club (Damn you Dick Diver!). But as always…I digress…
The Simpsons episode (yes…I remember that this is what I was suppose to be writing about), was really more of a mash-up of The Last Tycoon, The Great Gatsby (stealing from the hideous Leo DeCaprio movie of the same name) and a general thrashing of what the idol rich do with their money and spare time.
So…to at least try to get back to something that resembles a “Recap,”…let’s begin capping!
This epic one-hour episode starts out by breaking rules right away. There is no couch gag…no town scene…no scanning of Maggie or Lisa honking on her sax-a-ma-phone. This starts right out, with Homer narrating the story…and you realize it is going to be something very different.
Homer begins with,”When I was a young boy, my father gave me some advice. He said the laziest way to tell a story is through voice-over narration.” Clever.
Of course the Laziest way to do an update based on an hour-long episode, is to introduce one quick Freemium item as a tease…and then days later, when everyone is expecting something huge, and cool, and amazing, to offer a “GIL DEAL” that is really expensive, and has a limited time to get it. In the days of TSTOFriends…we called this EALPish behavior…(EA Lazyass Programmers). But, I digress…again.
Back to the story…which Homer explains as “the tragic collision between the last tycoon of the jazz age, and the king of a Hip-Hop Empire.”
Rather than go frame-by-frame (because this was an epic hour long episode) I am going to summarize in huge, relevant chunks. Otherwise…it would take at least an hour to read…and you might as well have just watched the episode yourself. Right?
It begins with Burns feeling that his best years had passed him by, while reminiscing about the huge parties he used to throw during his youth in the Jazz Age (1920s). Smithers convinces Burns to throw a huge party for the townspeople, to make himself feel better, and let them know he still “has it.”
Burns invites the entire town (who dress up in Gatsby-ish costumes) to his huge “Middle Hampton” estate, but they are less than thrilled with Burn’s overly frugal ways…(a two member band, plastic solo cups, ritz crackers, “nothing in a blanket,” and a cash bar).
And as part of the “cheap out” has Smithers go to Canada to get a free quarter-ton of lake ice. This is a running gag throughout the entire episode, as Smithers fights the elements to fulfill Burn’s wishes.
One of the best bits that flies by, is a map of all of the various “Hamptons.” Hilarious stuff… Middlehampton, “Where mansions are called cottages, and getting drunk on a boat is called sailing.”
As Homer and Burns are lamenting the lameness of the party, they look across the sound and see another mansion lit up, and bumping with sound and lights. Rowing across together, they meet “Jay G” (a loose but obvious homage to Jay Z) who immediately welcomes Burns as his long-time mentor, after Jay G admits to having read read Burn’s book, “The Rungs of Ruthlessness.”
In the Marge/Lisa/Bart subplot, we find the trio pursuing the streets of Middle Hampton, with its trendy shoppes, and quaint, but manufactured high-brow decor. It’s here that Lisa first meets Blake, the “alpha dog” of the Middle Hampton children.
Bart is also introduced to “Jazzy James,” who the voice-over commentator tells us, “will come back into the story later.”
Blake is smitten with Lisa, primarily because Lisa tells him how pretentious and non-PC he is after Blake takes “cuts” in the line at the ice cream shop, and tries to make up for it by buying all the kids in line free ice cream.
At this point, we have a long segment of Jay G and Burns on a private jet (one of many) with JG giving Burns his own “Obsidian Charge Card” which has no spending limits, and will buy anything anywhere. Seduced into the world of “Spending Large,” Burns goes on a spending spree, with Homer (who as it turns out has a bit of a “bro-mance” with Jay G’s Goose, “Goosious”).
Upon getting the card, Burns exclaims,”A charge plate? But I’ve never had one of those newfangled swipe-a-ma-jigs!” Hilarious.
The story cuts back and forth between Burns spending lavishly, including hiring his own “posse” from the townspeople where Lenny is seen driving a Maserati and saying, “I’m paid to not look Burns in the eye!”
We see several cuts of Smithers and the misadventures of bringing the huge barge of “hand-cut, hand tonged” lake ice back from Canada…including losing his dogs, his horse, and his cell phone. In a hilarious homage to the scene in “The Revenant,” where Smithers crawls out of the carcass of a horse to answer his cell phone, which cracks in the frigid temps when he tries to use the touch screen.
The story takes a huge twist when Burns has his card denied and Burns suddenly finds himself penniless after days of elaborate spending. The “Repo Men” come to his mansion and repossess everything he has bought, and more.
It is here, that we learn that it is Jay G’s own company, that issued the Obsidian card, the repo company and more, and that his friendship was all an elaborate plot to ruin Burns and destroy his empire. This is revealed in a “Revenge Video” scene with Jay G revealing his plot.
In one of the show’s funniest dialogue bits, we hear “Voice-Over Homer” describing Burns and his level of devastation, frame, by, frame…“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is watching their whole world fall apart. And all they can do is stare blankly. Oh no—wait, he’s crying now. That’s worse… Oh, he tripped over a dog!”
The story cuts back to Marge, who has now opened her own “darling boutique,” which apparently is what ALL of the kept women in the Hamptons do (we see loads of ever-changing signs with cute names). Marge’s store is just like every other silly store in a tourist town, it’s called Peppermint and Pussy Willows.” And sells the kind of expensive items that are not only silly and useless, but obtuse in their unique nature. In my favorite bit, Lisa shows off the “purses made of juke box speaker grill fabric.” Classic Hamptons hipster.
Homer returns to work at the Power Plant (to be able to support Marge’s new store) to find that Jay G has taken over the plant, remodeled it, and has decided that the final blow to Burns is to convert all of Burns’ most loyal employees (Homer?) and turn them on Burns. Burns wins over Homer by offering him a huge assortment of never-ending cobblers. “I didn’t even know you could cobbler pineapple…and yet, here it is!” Homer enthuses.
Feeling the bitterness of his betrayal, Homer wanders on a long walk near the Springfield cemetery, where he finds Burns in the Burns Mausoleum (aren’t you glad we have one in the game??). There he finds Burns cooking a meal over a hot plate, and the two of them begin plotting how to get revenge on Jay G.
Milhouse, with his encyclopedic knowledge of boy bands, figures out that Jay G was once in a band with Jazzy James, and that Jay G had swindled him out of royalties for songs he had written. Jazzy is recruited to write a “Revenge Rap” to expose and shame Jay G publicly.
We cut to a scene at “Gold Records on the Wall Recording,” with songs being cut by Jazzy, along with some “shade” verses from other rap luminaries such as RZA, Snoop Dogg, and Common (doing actual cameos), along with Praline, Jay G’s ex-wife. It is a short, but really funny sequence, especially the scene with Snoop in a dope-spoke-filled recording booth.
The final plan is to stage a huge concert where the song and music video are to be played to publicly shame Jay G. But, just as they are to start the music, Jay G (and the rest of those on the song) appear as holograms, to tell Burns that his plan has been thwarted, and that Jay G has bought the loyalty of the other rappers and his ex.
We cut to Burns and the family back at Marge’s shoppe, which she is having to close and rename, because there were no profits from letting “non-customers use the rest rooms.” There, a new revenge plan is hatched…
Burns and Homer steal Goosious, and lure Jay G over to the mansion, where Burns reveals a cooked goose, with the “G” golden necklace on it. Jay G is devastated, until it is revealed that Homer couldn’t kill the goose (replacing it with gas station cooked goose) and the goose is seen running around the mansion.
The final scenes culminate with Burns and Jay G fighting over the goose, chasing it, and finally leaping together onto a huge chandelier, where as they both face imminent death, Burns asks Jay G why he so ruthlessly betrayed him. It is revealed that it is actually in the final chapter of the same book on ruthlessness that Burns wrote, stating that to be truly ruthless, you must destroy the very one who mentored you to success.
The final ending is abrupt…in that Burns is now back at the plant, and has learned to show a softer side, by having a brief daily musical interlude, where we see the workers breaking out in dance, and Burns saying to Smithers, “let’s not do this again.”
So yes…it had the same problem that the update in the game had with the same material. The ending was abrupt, disjointed, and a bit unfulfilling, leaving a lot of loose ends. But, it was funny. Really funny.
I love the episode. I’m still on the fence about the “Gil Deal.” But, as one of the news blogs pointed out, we may have Harry Shearer to thank for this, as part of his demand for coming back, was that the writers step up the quality of the scripts. I think this was indeed a “quality script.”
I’m glad that they left the rapping to the rappers…and didn’t devolve into some heinous “Simpson’s Rap” song. I’m glad we didn’t see Bart do the “Bart Man”…or have him loaded in gangsta style gold jewelry. The slam on the Hamptons’ “how the 1% lives” was perfect, along with the overall results of a life of greed and avarice.
I give this episode an A (holding off the + because of the ending).
I would LOVE to see more hour-long episodes. They carried the time well…with no lags.
I still think the programmers are being very EALPish about the update. But the episode was great.
What do YOU think of the episode. Did you buy the Gil Deal? Did it make it seem more worth the price when you watched the story behind it? You know we LOVE to hear from you! (Did that seem sincere? Do I need to by you an ice cream cone?)