This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 29 Episode 19
The Simpsons season 29, episode 19, “Left Behind” is a righteous episode about a left-handed Samaritan whose head Homer has wanted to bash in with a pipe for years.
Ned Flanders is one of the godidliest Christians in all of Springfield. Maybe even in the whole state the town is in, no matter what his denomination, and he’s all of them, except Catholic. He even keeps kosher, just in case. He’s done everything the Bible says, even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff. He hasn’t even seen Meet the Parents. So when his life is at its depths he turns to his neighborinos for comfort, solace and advice, in spite of the “Stay Away Flanders” sign Homer and Marge hung out for date night.
Date night isn’t really a thing, until Marge makes it a thing. It’s a real Crotch 22. But it looks like Ned Flanders’ occupation isn’t a thing anymore either. The Leftorium, Ned’s left-handed item mall store that was downgraded to a kiosk, to which Ned was relegated to a co-renter, gets exorcized from the Springfield Mall. Flanders can’t be sure, but as a Christian he has to assume the worst and decides he has run out of luck. After a quick pick-me-up of lukewarm water, and a pep talk from Marge, Ned goes home with enough hope to keep him from drugging himself with half a Batman aspirin.
Ned’s hiring is expertly laid out. His timing is perfect, appearing at the Springfield Nuclear Plant Human Resources office just as the head of HR has had enough of the verbal, physical and ethical abuse he’s endured in C. Montgomery Burns’ employ. Ned’s got so many cheeks to turn there’s an entire segment of mustachioed Simpsons to frighten us into workspace safety. Ned’s got a “be positive” attitude and blood to match, which is good, because Burns’ happens to needs a dedicated infuser.
The first drive in to work in the carpool Ned and Homer now share is a classic Simpsons moment. It is precicely why these two characters are so oddly matched. Homer declares the car an oodly-doodly-iddly-diddly-punarino-free zone. But he doesn’t say okely dokely, which stupid Flanders pulls from the fine print along with his Christian rock CDs. Before you can stick another dime in the prayer box baby, Flanders gets fired. Oh, he’s good at his job, maybe a little too good. He’s so good he wants the company to increase its charitable donations after years of siphoning good will and bad money from charities themselves.
The episode begins with some Waldorf hysteria as Homer is tasked with bringing some romance into his marriage by Marge, who only seems to get any during an eclipse. This leads to a very quick sight gag. Lenny’s eye patch, something he needs after watching the eclipse while standing on a box, much too close to the sun, advertises that he is looking for an eye donor, preferably hazel. We also get Ned Flanders praying to god for the answer to whether or not he should become a teacher. He sees, illuminated in the sky, “we need your help,” which he takes as a sign of affirmation. But this is no burning bush. That’s Duffman up there in a blimp that’s about to go Hindenburg. Oh, the humanity. Dang the divinity. Ned also does a great look-into-the-camera take after he gets a more pungent sign from slightly below. This may be a first in The Simpsons, though, if I’m wrong I’ll find out in the comments. Hopefully as biting as Moe’s rejoinders tonight, which were above par.
This episode contains blatant references to the death of Edna Krabappel, voiced via flashback audio by the late Marcia Wallace, the series has indulged in. Her absence was first explained as a retirement until it was acknowledged “Four Regrettings and a Funeral” and then when Edna and Maude, Ned’s first wife and Rod and Todd’s mom, appeared as ghosts. Tonight is an ode to the lackadaisical educator, remembered far more fondly as a schoolyard inspiration than the series ever portrayed her while alive and teaching. Springfield Elementary teachers are the worst, the teacher on AP Bio is a rank amateur in comparison. Krabappel was the anti-Crabapple, the teacher on The Little Rascals who inspired poetry and drove away skunks.
Ned puts the fear of god into the kids as a substitute teacher. Not at first, he’s just a spitball retainer on his debut. The Simpsons give god a lot of leeway. Leave it to atheist Homer to actually show god some consideration. Believers petition with prayer, regardless of The Door’s Jim Morrison’s warnings. But atheists believe in real things, like lunch, and when you’re praying at lunch you’re interrupting god’s lunch, and his comes with a free sundae.
While we have to wonder who home schools Rod and Todd when Ned’s out, The Simpsons’ “Left Behind” is a solid episode. It is heavy on the passing jokes, and light on the sanctimony. While the ultimate prankster, Bart, rolls the stone away from the chalkboard a little too easily to keep his bad boy standing, it doesn’t go against the last testament of Lisa, under-represented in the entry.
“Left Behind” was written by Joel H. Cohen and John Frink from a story by Al Jean, and directed by Lance Kramer.
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 Kirk Van Houten, Chief Wiggum and Moe. Harry Shearer is Seymour Skinner, Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers.