The Simpsons, Seasons 21-31. Season 21, Episode 4: “Treehouse of Horror XX”

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Over the past 15 or so years when I largely ignored the continued existence of The Simpsons I would still pop in once a year to watch the annual “Treehouse of Horror” episode. Fortuitously, this week’s recap is of season 21’s Halloween episode and I’m tackling it in October. Synergy is nice. If you missed last week’s recap you can check it out here.

Treehouse of Horror XX (first aired October 18, 2009)

People who have seen Simpsons Halloween episodes, which is most likely every person reading this review, know that the episode structure always involves an intro followed by three distinct stories. This year’s intro involves the classic horror movie monsters Frankenstein’s monster (Frankenstein was the doctor! shouted every hack stand up comedian in unison), the Mummy, Dracula, and Wolfman going out to wreak havoc on the one night that their outfits won’t arouse suspicion. Before any havoc can be wreaked, Jimbo, Kearney, and Dolph (poor Dolph. Nobody ever remembers the name of Dolph) make fun of their old “Universal Monster Movie” costumes. The poor monsters get upset and pop into a Halloween store, emerging as Spongebob, Iron Man, Jack Sparrow, and Harry Potter. They then crash a party at the Simpsons, get drunk, start hooking up with some horny ladies, and their wives show up. The monster wives are pissed, so Homer steps in to ease the tension with “lighten up ladies. It’s not cheating when you’re wearing a costume.” This goes over so well that they rip off his head and toss it in the punchbowl. Homer’s X-ed out eyes spell XX and the 20th “Treehouse of Horror” episode is off to a rousing(?) start. Also I haven’t seen this one.

Segment 1: “Dial “M” for Murder or Press ‘#’ to Return to Main Menu”

The segment begins in Lisa’s class, where invented for this episode classmate Hubert Wong gets picked for reading roundup over Lisa. Ralph responds with what I think was casual racism (“Hooray for different face”) but it’s Ralph and most of what he says can be interpreted in a number of ways (my friend Chadd started that particular debate). Lisa does not take her snub well, and after an outburst gets sent to detention. Lisa runs into Bart in his natural habitat, and he hatches a plan where he’ll get revenge on Hoover for Lisa while Lisa gets revenge on Krabappel for Bart (“Criss Cross”). Lisa holds up her end of the bargain by performing ding dong ditch on Krabappel while Bart pulls down his pants at center court during a tennis match, the world’s most common alibi. Lisa reports her revenge back to Bart, who reveals he kept up his part of the bargain and presents Hoover’s head in a bowling bag. Bart then explains that “ding dong ditch” is supposed to involve killing Krabappel and throwing her body in a ditch, “Criss Cross” is supposed to involve murder, and honestly Lisa this is all common knowledge. C’mon. Bart insists that Lisa must kill Krabappel but even though Lisa’s presented with the perfect opportunity to do so she can’t do it. Bart killed Skinner for Willy, and if Lisa doesn’t come through he’s going to have Willy kill her. Lisa instead decides to kill Bart. She begins chasing him through a succession of scenes from Hitchcock movies, like Mt. Rushmore in North by Northwest and a bunch of other ones I don’t recognize because I’ve only watched a handful of Hitchcock movies. Hitch gets his cameo in and is promptly knocked off of Mt. Rushmore. I learned in an HBO biopic that I didn’t finish that he encouraged some people to call him Hitch, so I’ve assumed that familiarity. Lisa and Bart finally face-off on the playground, where she decides she won’t kill Bart after all, then immediately accidentally kills him. Krabappel approves. “Ay Carumba you little snot.” Thus ends the first segment, which wasn’t very good yet is much better than the two to come.

Segment 2: “Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind”

‘a la Terminator’

The segment begins with Kent Brockman announcing the launch of the Burger Squared at Krusty Burger. This innovation involves killing cows, feeding them to other cows, then killing and serving those cows. If you haven’t immediately guessed that this is going to be a zombie movie parody it’s immediately revealed as Kent Brockman becomes the first person to eat a Burger Squared, followed by becoming the first person to eat part of Krusty’s arm. Immediate Zombie infestation. The next scene opens with “28 days later” so now you know which particular flavor of zombie movie you’re getting. “The munchers” have overrun Springfield but thus far the Simpsons, apart from Grandpa who Homer refuses to let in the house, are unscathed. The Simpson family gets a lot of leverage out of being the main characters in this cartoon. If you were to ask me what I think would happen to Homer, Marge, Maggie, and to a lesser degree Lisa and Bart in a zombie apocalypse my response would not be, “emerge unscathed.” I’d say they’d be very much scathed.

In any event they are holed up in the house until Bart spots one remaining hamburger at Krusty Burger and eats it, revealing that he appears to be immune to the zombie virus. Now that it’s been revealed that Bart is most likely the chosen one, they’ve got to get out of the house and to the safe zone. Rainier Wolfcastle shows up doing an Arnold in Terminator combined with Arnold in Predator impression. He dies immediately because of course he does. Homer remarks, “Another politician who can’t keep his promises.” Fun line that doesn’t actually make any sense unless the characters in the show are aware of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s existence and that Rainier is essentially supposed to be Arnold, since Wolfcastle has never been a politician. Speaking of things that make no sense, in a previous scene Lisa refers to a book as “the last book in the world” and the visual gag is that it is an Arsenio Hall autobiography. Why would it be the last book in the world? It’s not like the first thing everybody who turned into zombies did was destroy all the books. It’s a joke in search of context. Anyway that’s been my Comic Book guy impression.

After Rainier dies Apu saves the Simpsons in his armored off road vehicle and they make a break for the safe zone outside of the city. The vehicle gets stuck on top of the giant trash pile, and Apu gets out to free the vehicle. A grateful Marge drives off, leaving Apu for dead when he was expecting them to wait for him at the bottom of the pile. The vehicle runs out of gas, Homer gets bitten by Mr. Burns after he rips Burns’s nose off, they reach the safe zone, and the soldiers there declare that in order to become immune everybody has to eat Bart. Marge responds with “What kind of civilized people eat the body and blood of their savior?” which is an obvious but pretty solid dig at Christianity. Bart offers an alternative, and the episode ends with him bathing in everybody’s food, which leads to things getting back to normal.

The most interesting things about this segment were the two logical issues I pointed out, but that’s a lot more than we’re going to find in the final segment.

Segment 3: “There’s No Business Like Moe Business”

This blows. It’s a Sweeney Todd parody I guess? Sort of? Also Barney shows up as The Phantom of the Opera because MUSICALS. I’ll keep this short. Moe wants love. Homer falls through a trapdoor and impales himself on Moe’s brewing filtration system. His blood mixes with the beer, which causes Marge have positive feelings when she drinks it but also to like Moe for some reason. Moe claims Homer is gay now and ran away to have sex with all the men, because Haha Homer is gay good joke.Moe is working on convincing Marge to be with him now because per the letter “Bart, Linda, and the other one there need a dad.”

Marge cries, her tear goes through the floor and lands on Homer, bringing him back to life, just as I assume happened in Sweeney Todd, a musical I haven’t actually seen so maybe this actually is a note for note Sweeney Todd parody and I had no idea what I was talking about at the beginning of the previous paragraph. Homer dispatches Moe and he and Marge live happily ever after. Episode over!

Pretty mediocre as Halloween episodes go!

Best Joke: “Cows eating cows? That’s an abomination.” “Now Lisa. You’re a vegetarian but these cows have made a different choice.”

Worst Joke: It really sucks that 21 years in The Simpsons still have to jump so quickly to gay jokes in their bits. Even if you consider that it’s More coming up with this narrative and he isn’t very imaginative, they should do better.

Rating (out of 5 D’ohs): 2. I have a soft spot for Simpsons Halloween episodes so I give it more leeway but the parodies in this particular one were pretty halfassed.

Stray Bits:

  • “Your victory is tainted. Asterisk! Asterisk”
  • Hubert Wong went on to become a recurring character. His name is a reference to Hubert Farnsworth and Amy Wong from Futurama.
  • “Can you still love a man who’s half beer?” “I always have.”

Thanks for reading. Next week: “The Devil Wears Nada.” Stupid sexy devil.

I don’t have much to promote but if you’ve got 3 bucks in your pocket and feel like reading an 80s pop culture nostalgia horror short story I wrote, you can get it here. You have to take the three dollars out of your pocket first. Or don’t and just use a linked credit or debit. card.

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