The Simpsons‘ “Havana Wild Weekend” is, as the title implies, a Cuban road, well, boat trip for the first family of Evergreen Terrace. Sadly, the Simpsons aren’t going to the Hawaii of Russia for its fried bananas and vibrant jazz scene, they are going for affordable health care. What costs $2,000 in the U.S. can be done for a twenty dollar bill and that includes gas and tip.
After 86 years on this planet, Grandpa Abe Simpson has sprung a leak and no affordable American doctor can seal it. His nursing home is only keeping him alive long enough for him to die and has no interest in prolonging that. Even if he did donate his cartilage to baseball great Hank Aaron. Abe has been in every branch of the service but VA coverage is one of the biggest shames of America, among a lot of picks. Canada is a little too pinko for Eisenhower-era Abe and good old Fidel has a beard you can trust.
The opening sequence casts the old buzzard himself, “Mr. Excellent” Monty Burns, along with the Lindsay Neagle, the Wolf of Wallpaper, the rootin’ tootin’ Rich Texan and the Malt Disney H.K. Duff in the reality competition show “Vultures Nest,” where billionaire carrion-vestors swoop down on ordinary people’s business proposals and “peck out the eyes.” It is a not-too-subtle jab at Shark Tank, which would be a better show if people had to pitch their ideas to actual sharks or were suspended over a cage of sharks and dropped in if they don’t get picked up. Here the panel just drop kicks the Van Houtens’ toothy dreams of bling to a fiery curb.
They have cigars in Cuba? The ongoing episode of I love Lucy is a new kind of gag, if you don’t count MacBain, for the series. It starts out as a reminiscence of the character of Ricky Ricardo, and his suspiciously friendly landlord Fred, and takes on a life of its own. The two men decide to punish Lucy and Ethyl by making them smoke so many cigars they’ll be broken, but really broken. The Simpsons brings in the conveyor belt candy gag from I Love Lucy and turns it very mean. You don’t have to see a pizza-see-achrist to hear that. A brilliant aside.
Maggie spares herself years of therapy by sending traumatic loving images of her grandfather to her mind’s recycle bin.
Commercial interruption. I hated the Verizon guy so much I didn’t get a cell phone until the 2010s.
The customs scene is Simpsons wordplay exchange at its best. It was done completely low key and just grew through Dan Castellaneta’s impeccable reading. There was a sight gag behind it, which is always nice, that included Sideshow Bob and a hunted lion.
The Cuban doctor who offers a festive shirt to a dying man is an immediate one-off classic. His whistling description of Abe’s demise is spotless, if a little wet, though this isn’t a peer-reviewed review.
This episode gives a wonderful example of “committing to the joke.” Decades old jokes, recurring gags and self-referencing happily run amok in Springfield. At home, Bart Simpson spray paints most every available surface with his graffiti tag “El Barto.” Exporting this to Cuba, Bart tags the city with “The Bart.”
The Bay of Pigs gag set up was clever, the Simpsons never miss a change, well, they probably miss dozens, to mock the Kennedys, but the payoff was historically tasty. The Ticketmaster gag knocked me out. Not since Pearl Jam has an artist given the monopolized monstrosity that invented paying for paying for things such a black eye.
“Havana Wild Weekend” is a fun episode in what is shaping up to be a far better than average season. The jokes come fast, there are a few great setups and the locations are great. The Simpsons have visited almost-countless countries in their time. (We recently went over a partial list a few weeks ago when they visited Boston, but still refuse to count). There, as here, well, not here but in Cuba, the Simpsons fall in love with the locations and are far more respectful than they have been in the past. Cuba is just like Florida, before the Cubans moved in.
Most cities get trashed, but Cuba is a virtual paradise to the family, especially Abe. The Skyhawk Air First Class Lounge club looks like a fun place and I’m sure Cuba is going to miss it. It’s a shame they have to take it all away from him. And for what, so a few rich foreigners can’t suck the life blood out of the working class in a communist country. Abe was happy.
I was sincerely afraid they were going to kill off the Abe character this episode as a surprise. So it was nice to see three generations of Simpson males divot it up on the golf course. Much nicer than seeing Jasper’s junk.
“Havana Wild Weekend” was written by Deb Lacusta, Dan Castellaneta and Peter Tilden and directed by Bob Anderson. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer and Abe Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Chief Wiggum and Moe. Harry Shearer is Kirk Van Houten, Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. The special guests are Stacy Keach as H.K. Duff and Deb Lacusta as Isabella.
Chalkboard: BEING RIGHT SUCKS
But It All Went By So Fast: Cletus’ Thanksgiving Turkey Eggs – Get to love it before you eat it. Killhouse. 50 Shades of A. Run, don’t crawl. Welcome to Skid Row. Est. 1981. Daily 2nd Gradian. School Stapler Found In Principal’s Home – SKINNER. Cuban Escapes by Elian Gonzalez. Birthplace of the Mojito. Old Man Attempts To Wed Pillow.