The Simpsons: Opposites A-Frack Review

Springfield must decide whether to Frink or frack in this week's episode of The Simpsons.

Charles Montgomery Burns may be older and more evil than all the Koch brothers combined, but he has one thing they’ll never have: The love of Jane Fonda. On tonight’s episode of The Simpsons, “Opposites Affrack,” Mr. Burns and Hanoi Jane have chemistry, but not quite enough to bust shale deposits.

Though we’ve seen this strange liberal-conservative bedfellowship in relationships like James Carville and Mary Matalin, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and ballistics expert Kurt McVeigh (Gary Cole) on Good Wife and Ariana Huffington now and pre-outed husband era, this is an overused cliché on The Simpsons. From the “in for a penny in for a pound” seduction by Superintendent Chalmers to the “smell you later” “I can change him” romance between Lisa and Nelson Muntz, The Simpsons explore the women are weak in romance without irony very often.

Jane Fonda’s Maxine Lombard is one of many ultimate liberals The Simpsons have trotted out over the years. Fonda brings a history of activism, controversy and bold choices, as well as a marriage to media mogul Ted Turner and a best-selling workout video, to the proceedings. Fonda knows what it’s like to stand firm and to sell out. She played the timid-woman-turned-professional lioness in the comedy 9 to 5 and the drama The China Syndrome.

And Burns? What can I say? He described the fiscal cliff by saying “Think of the economy as a car and the rich man is the driver. If you don’t give the driver all the money, he’ll drive you over a cliff- it’s just common sense.” He’s never seen The China Syndrome, and if he did, he was rooting for the guy who drove the witness off the road on his way to a hearing on nuclear safety.

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The episode would have been better if this weren’t such a forced relationship, The Simpsons often transcend the time constraints of a half-hour sitcom through the magic of animation. They proved they can cut corners and take short cuts around logic and timing and still hit the laughs time and time again. Lately we’ve been seeing the creaks in the forced logic more often.

But the world is a better place if only for the Committee Hearing exchange “Mr. Burns, have you no regard for the health and well-being of your fellow human beings?” “I don’t recall.”

The Simpsons finally found a fresh new fight for Lisa Simpson and Monty Burns, who is truly the most evil man on the earth, recently supplanting Silas Barnaby from March of the Wooden Soldiers. And once again, the winner is Marge Simpson. No, it is not Lisa and Congresswoman Maxine Lombard’s overabundance of liberal claptrap and big government that shuts down the job- and independence-from-foreign-oil-saving practice of fracking. It is the common sense message of a decided centrist.

Springfield remains a conservative town run by a corrupt Democratic mayor in the pocket of the highest bidder. The town votes with their wallets. All the logic of Professor Frink, Springfield’s own “the Science Guy,” about the dangers of next week cannot overcome the promise of cash in the pocket today. Homer is named Chief Innovation Marketing Officer after exemplifying the common man’s greed by making one donut, under the sign that says “take one,” out of a box of donuts. As CIMO, yet another job the perennial slacker Homer Simpson is good at, Homer has to don the flannel and usurp the mineral rights from his even greedier neighbors. The way Homer breaks down each household to fracking’s selling points is priceless, especially when he reduces what Reverend Lovejoy offers as “magical nonsense.”

Flaming water can only be stoppered up by an individual of conscience who needs to wash the dishes without scalding her hands.

Though Lisa may have the book smarts, Homer only knows the word fracking as “one of those scary Lisa words,” Marge is the perennial Burns stopper. She painted him naked, served him three-headed fish and thwarted his romantic overtures. Lisa keeps trying to save Burns and keeps getting burned. Little Lisa’s slushies, they were good for what ails you. It isn’t even Lisa who edumacates Homer. It is Marge’s simple logic, our water was on fire. Convincing Homer that, while fracking is still a beautiful thing, is really only looks good in other peoples’ neighbordhoods.

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I think they could have dawdled a little longer on Pattie and Selma crashing at the Simpsons’ place. Homer barely got a chance to be majorly annoyed. Maybe they would have overstayed their welcome like Mr. Texan, the dancing fool oil guy. “He made us watch him dance for three hours and he really only has one move,” says Bart.

The Simpsons isn’t The Newsroom and doesn’t have to be politically relevant. They continue to push their limitations in topic. They are not a message show, but they explore burning questions that plague us. That’s pretty good considering they also have to draw each frame. “Opposites Affrack” is a good episode for the season, but that’s only because this hasn’t been that great a season. This is not a classic episode, though it will both spark and extinguish debate. Much like a flaming slip-and-slide.

“Opposites A-Frack” was written by Valentina L. Garza. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Moe Szyslak and Professor Frink. Guest star: Jane Fonda as Maxine Lombard.

But It All Went By So Fast: Lisa’s documentaries on Webflix: Earth Dying Dying Dead; Oh Glacier Where Art Thou?; Oceans of Death; Forests of Death; Cemetaries of Death; Greenhouse Inc.; Corporations Inc.; Pollution Esquire; The Desolation of Smog; Malibu Stacy’s Teen Puppy Party Movie; Gas World. The Simpsons kids are given “junior fracker” baloons. Homer is reading Food Hider magazine. Generic Pride Ravioli. Left-handed stools. Signs at protest: Otto holds “Frack You Burns,” Mr. Van Houten holds “Not Below My Backyard,” “Burns in Hell,” Groundskeeper Willie holds “Bring Back Peat,” “That’s Negative, Man.” Temporarily Halt Fracking, Recommence Temporarily Halted Fracking. Recycling plant-Native American History Museum-Condor Sanctuary Project funded by the Emotional Recovery and Revenge Act.

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4 out of 5