This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons Season 32 Episode 17
The Simpsons Season 32, episode 17, ” Uncut Femmes,” is a caper comedy, and criminals Sarah Wiggum (Megan Mullally) and Fat Tony (Joe Mantegna) steal every scene they are in. Over the course of the jewel heist parody at the center of the installment, we learn Chief Wiggum’s wife has a shady past, and the neighborhood mob boss has a paternal presence. They don’t have any scenes together, but they make crime pay off, and prove two or so wrongs can make a right.
“Oh, my hallway-walking God,” the episode opens, as a workplace atrocity leads to a nondisclosure agreement which results in two front-row seats at a Bob Seger concert. The rock star plays himself, but goes against the wind. Yes, this is the Silver edition of his Bullet Band, but when he learns both Homer and Chief Wiggum dumped an overnight field trip with the kids on their wives to make the show, he feels obliged to remind them: a wife, like rock and roll, never forgets. Who knew a Detroit belter like Seger could throw such guilt?
The trip is to a World War II battleship, retrofitted to look like it did back in May 1943. That was the last time it was scrubbed, and the kids and wives get keelhauled into breaking up everything but the barnacles. They swab the decks and are told they’re killing Oxees, which sounds enough like Nazis for Springfield Elementary. Nick Offerman voices Captain Bowditch, who Sarah Wiggum calls Captain Dingdong before robbing his liquor cabinet and sharing a bottle with Marge.
The police chief’s wife also shares some unexpectedly relatable problems, like the pressures of being married to “a man with a dangerous job he’s just not good at” But her best comic line is about her husband’s health, and how every slice of cheese could be his last. The bonding scene is very effective, warm and witty. Both women give up so much because they are mothers.
Sarah Wiggum gave up a glitzy and glamorous life of crime, like the Ocean’s 8 masterminds. She was the getaway driver on the famed “Hourglass Diamond” heist. Her story is broken down in a flashback sequence with subtitles like “The Grab,” “The Camaraderie,” and “The Double Cross.” To give historical perspective, one of the items which the young thieves steal, while listening to Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl,” are MP3 players which held over 300 songs.
In the segment entitled “The Honey Pot,” Sarah explains her own role in the robbery. “The Chump” denotes when she met Clancy Wiggum, then a mere security guard, working his way through one of his many attempts at passing the police academy. “I love a man in a rented uniform,” she says.
Marge had to miss the one event she gets to share with her sisters’ friends, which includes the crumbs of the crème de la crème of Springfield’s LGBTQ community: Watching the annual Gen Gala on TV and making scathing remarks. Marge is jonesing for snark. She’s got an itch to throw good shade. This would be a blast to hear from Marge, who is “still working up the courage to call a man the B word.” This year’s Gala is themed, “The Audacity.” The prior year was called “The Nerve. Marge breaks her usual reserve to tell Rihanna she listens “to the clean versions of all your songs.”
Marge is so consistently Marge-like, so clearly defined within the vantage point the series has set up for her. Marge’s first words, when trying to start a conversation with Sarah, are “the top 10 ways of starting a conversation.” When she is kidnapped, she observes whoever had the bag over their face before her was a smoker. Julie Kavner also pulls off amazing physical comedy in this episode, even though it’s vocal acrobatics. When Marge is bound by Sarah’s old gang, she hops away – chair, pole and all – to allow them to scheme. She points to their scheme-board with her high mound of hair, which she later uses to blur surveillance cameras. Kavner’s inquisitive or insistent moans fuel every blue follicle.
To distract the mark, Lindsey Naegle, Marge makes small talk about common household chores the VIP would never do herself, like paying attention to whether you switch delicates to extra warm when you’re doing laundry. “You’re not famous, so you don’t exist,” Lindsey, who pocketed the diamond for herself to buy a celebrity lifestyle, snorts at Marge. Her husband, Springfield’s beloved Rainier Luftwaffe Wolfcastle, takes this gag to an absurd conclusion. Wolfcastle has no idea what the two were talking about when he enters the scene, but he is more blinded by his celebrity. He asks his wife why she’s talking to an empty chair. It’s all a punchline which lands on “somebody stop those nobodies,” a masterful twist of social restraint.
Ultimately, one of the snarkiest lines turns out to be a comment on Marge, when she makes a very surprising appearance at the Gala. But only because “she looks like dirt” walking a red carpet designed for 20 plus-size gladiators to carry Beyoncé. The snide aside comes across as exactly what Marge would’ve wanted.
The episode has plenty of successful throwaway sight gags. Homer closes shop at his post at the nuclear plant with the same kind of cage storefronts lock up with after hours. We’re not sure if this means the workers on the other side are locked in the workspace without emergency supervision for the whole weekend, though.
The kidnapping is first reported by Chief Wiggum’s son, Ralph, who was watch commander on deck. Fat Tony will come to be simpatico with Ralph in hysterically edgy ways later in the episode. They both “know nothing about nothing.” Until he met Ralph, Fat Tony thought putting crumbled Oreos on ice cream would be redundant, but now finds it transcendent. It is like a grooming process; the police chief’s son even begins wearing a matching fur coat. And when a kid behind an ice cream counter tells Ralph not to grab at the Gummy Bears, Fat Tony says “if the boy wants this the boy wants to smooch, the boy will spook smooch.” He could be telling The Bronx Tale. Ralph’s rejoinder, “I love you, scary daddy,” is so in keeping with his character of cluelessly deranged innocence.
When Homer and Wiggum first learn their wives are missing, the police chief immediately blames Fat Tony. The reputed, reported, alleged and convicted crime boss is plainly being honest when he says he would never even consider such a crime. First of all, how would he finish the sentence “it would be a shame if something were to happen to?”
Wiggum is very important to crime in the town. This episode points out how it flourishes under his lazy watchful eye. Fat Tony loves “Chief Bungles” because he’s a horrible cop. Even Sarah admits her husband is “better at planting evidence than finding it.” But, more importantly to Fat Tony, the chief loves the top cop because he is a selfish man. He’s on the take from Burns, Fat Tony, and we know from past episodes he’s in on schemes with Mayor Quimby. But some things, even a cartoon mob boss cannot forget.
Fat Tony is surprisingly woke in his off hours. It’s the espresso. His men only yell respectful innuendoes at attractive women. The boss not only tutors Homer and Clancy on ways to respect their wives, but takes care of Ralphie while he lets the men fix their marriages. The male gaze is all over this episode, and it gets poked in the eye repeatedly. From WWII books to gender-trading action movie remakes. The real Silver bullet is the truth. Seger’s concert T-shirt is actually a list of things he has to get done to keep his marriage happy, including getting a C-PAP for his snoring.
For Homer, this change is as sweet as a donut, the ordeal makes him notice what Marge looks like when she’s happy. Clancy realizes, for the first time in his long career, that there is a museum in town. At their heart, Homer and the Chief are really only paying attention to their wives for themselves. Oh, and for Bob Seger, they did promise him that. The lesson they learn when confronted with their selfish ways is: “it’s all about us.”
The final part of the scheme earns its subtitle as the exact kind of surprise double revenge twist we have come to expect from this genre. The only difference is what kind of spin the parody will take. Things have a special way of falling on The Simpsons. In a classic early episode, Homer took a memorable tumble down the rocky edges of a cliff in a failed daredevil stunt. So, he knows to get out of the way when Lindsey comes tumbling down the stairs at the Gala. She tumbles long enough for Wolfcastle to find a newer, younger, more trophy of a wife. In real life the fall would have killed her, and Marge would feel terrible. Thank god for animation. Kids, don’t try this at home.
“This isn’t about the cash, it’s about righting a wrong and looking damn good doing it,” Sarah convincingly explains when she lays out the premise of the heist. By the end, Marge declares it “best field trip of my freaking life,” which is what the episode seems to be going for. It’s fun, more fun than most school trips, and it teaches a lesson.
“Uncut Femmes” is a fun and playful movie satire. It captures the suspense, romance, glamour and pace of a heist film, but puts The Simpsons touch on it. Marge shines in the unexpected, manages to clean house at the same time, and brings Homer into an understanding. The crooks get away with it, and nothing will change. Like so many crimes in Springfield, it’s got Chief Wiggum on the case, and that’s like having no one at all.