The Simpsons Season 31 Episode 7 Review: Livin’ la Pura Vida

The Simpsons join a multifamily vacation to Costa Rica in season 31 episode 7 Livin' la Pura Vida, but leave most of the jokes at home.

The Simpsons Season 31 Episode 7, Livin' la Pura Vida

This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.

The Simpsons Season 31 Episode 7

The Simpsons, season 31, episode 7 “Livin’ la Pura Vida,” is a diversion, but not diverse enough to make it very memorable. The Simpsons vacation in yet another exotic locale, but they leave most of the jokes at home. This is so far the lowest scoring gag per minute episode of the season.

Marge’s opening enthusiasm is irresistible. It is one of her best comedic non-verbal moments. She gets the invitation to the Van Houtens’ annual trip to Costa Rica, plays it cool for under a minute, and races off seemingly mid-sentence. The Simpsons have a few tricks which never fail for them. One of these is their car escapes. It is open to any character in any strata of the Simpsons universe. Gangsters excuse politely themselves to make hasty escapes. It puts an abrupt end to uncomfortable conversations. It’s a great out for boring dinner parties. Here Marge puts a positive spin on it, taking much of Springfield with her in the wake, and nails it.

Her speedy drive home for the family meeting leaves Officer Lou left dangling to the winds. At first this looks like a passing sight gag, one in a series of swerves into hasty happy chaos. But it also becomes a minor punch line to a later joke. As the speed trap Lou gets stuck in is the reason he can’t go on the Van Houtens’ excursion later. He is never mentioned again, but gets a sight gag and an assist.

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I’m all in favor of The Simpsons giving time to the lesser known characters who populate the show. Every now and then it even produces classics. But the Van Houtens are not the most engaging family in Springfield. Let’s face it, they peaked when Homer noticed how much Millhouse looked like “the Dud” in the Mystery Date board game, and that was long before his parents were introduced. The embattled Van Houten family started sprouting leaks during one of the Simpsons’ dinner parties and just won’t sink.

But Marge is so thrilled someone might get jealous, she doesn’t see how it can set the family adrift. In her mind, the trip has something for everyone. And Maggie can chew on the guide book. After what amounts to a heartwarming discussion of whether the family can afford it, Homer realizes he is tired of being the responsible one. It’s ironic, yes, but not enough to keep the ever-responsible Lisa from taking on the weight of an insecure future, sleeping in a car where the seats are always sticky, even though they’re made of cloth. The sequence provides the best comic concept, however. While figuring out finances Homer reasons that between the mortgage and the reverse mortgage, the house is owned by the car.

The multifamily vacation includes the Hibbards, who we know very little about, and superintendent Chalmers, who we knew less about until tonight and now maybe we know too much. Chalmers is there trying to bond with his teenaged daughter Shauna. Their scenes together are supposed be filling us in on their story and fill in Chalmers as a person. He’s best known for yelling “Skinner” at Springfield Elementary school’s Principal Skinner. Here he keeps his voice down and tries desperately to be the understanding father no one wants to go on vacation with. It becomes tedious and doesn’t produce much laughs.

There is a barely noticeable subplot in Shauna’s relationship with Jimbo. This is told primarily through cell phones, and goes through all the stages of grief. Shauna thinks Jimbo is cheating, they decide to get married, they don’t. The real subplot is about Patty and her new girlfriend, Evelyn, whose inclusion on the trip was deliberately hidden from Homer until it was too late to for the family to back out. Marge admits this immediately, which is vaguely funny.

Homer is charmed by Evelyn’s colorful southernisms, each one inspiring a visual representation in his head. They bond by lounging on a beach like a lost flip flop while everyone else on the trip exerts themselves. Ultimately Homer and Evelyn become amigos and live the pure life, along with some very amusing monkeys. The Simpsons are very inclusive, and since he was saved by John Waters in Season 8, Homer is accepting of all sexual preferences and identifications. The only identity crisis he poses is his own.

The tie-in to Patty seeing and accepting Evelyn as “her Homer” may be a major step forward in interfamily relations on the series. Marge tears into her sister for the very first time. She’s listened to Patty and Selma’s complaints for years and only gives groans and makes excuses. By making Patty see the Homer in Evelyn, Marge has to take the blinders off her own enabling tunnel vision. Luckily, this is The Simpsons and she’s wearing them like sunglasses while the family sips liquored-up fruit drinks on the beach.

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The Van Houtens experience double indemnity in this episode, but nobody gets off. First Lisa uncovers something which makes it look like they’re doing something wrong, and then she finds what they’re really doing wrong and lets the monkeys deal with it. Bart doesn’t have much to do in the episode, but the idea he may have been sidelined by Millhouse’s “vacation buddy” is too sad to think about.

“Livin’ la Pura Vida” a beach drink without an umbrella. While there is plenty of fodder for a variety of jokes, it is light on the comedy. The country goes unmolested and the only family to get ribbed is the Simpsons, who once again live up to their reputation of not living up to the community standard even when the standards are lowered. The family didn’t get into the country club in season 7’s “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield,” and now they aspire to the Van Houtens. There needs to be more struggle and less class.

 “Livin’ la Pura Vida” was written by  Brian Kelley.

The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer and Abe Simpson, Krusty the Clown and Groundskeeper Willie, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Comic Book Guy, Kirk Van Houten, Chief Wiggum, Professor John I.Q. Nerdelbaum Frink Jr., and Moe. Harry Shearer is Seymour Skinner, Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Pamela Hayden voices multiple parts. Guest voice: Fortune Feimster as Evelyn.

The Simpsons episode ” Livin’ la Pura Vida” aired Sunday, Nov. 17, on Fox.

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Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFKRead more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.

Rating:

3 out of 5