This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 27 Episode 17.
In The Simpsons’s “The Burns Cage,” C. Montgomery Burns finally opens up about his feelings for his sycophantic personal assistant. Waylon Smithers has, of course, come close to confessing his own feelings many times. Smithers even got the words out once, but pretended he meant something else, and Burns let him pretend.
Burns is no good at being noble so when Smithers sticks his neck out to save him, it isn’t surprising it doesn’t add up to a hill of beans to the old gent. Less, apparently, than the piece of popcorn that was stuck in his teeth, which Smithers dutifully removed and saved for his scrapbook. Smithers has always put his boss’s needs in front of his own, he greased the wheels of the industry the powerful energy scion of Springfield split from mere anti-matter and kept his eye-ducts lubricated.
Smithers’ unrequited love for Burns has been growing since early in The Simpsons, but their relationship goes so much farther than that. Burns raised Smithers from the day his own father perished of radiation poisoning saving the town of Springfield, which was revealed in the season 5 episode, “The Blunder Years.” While Burns didn’t open a whole beautiful world full of knowledge and thoughts and ideals to the young Smithers, everything he knew or ever became was because of him. And Smithers looked up to Burns and worshiped him with a feeling he supposed was love.
Smithers even gets to sing about it, though you’d think the man who led the rousing chorus of love for Burns at some other employees’ retirement party would put more torch into his song of missed fusion. Like most of the spats the pair have had, the fight has a short half-life. Burns consistently has uncharacteristic changes of heart, his least vulnerable spot, and quickly reverts. We also know that sooner or later Smithers won’t be able to fight it anymore. He ran away from Burns once and can’t do it again. Burns ultimately must think for both of them.
Most elements of tonight’s love story have been told in earlier episodes. I think Homer even tried to set Smithers up before. I know he once crossed him off a list of possible brothers-in-law because he was possibly gay. Smithers came out as gay a while ago, even riding the float at a parade and confessing to the Simpsons kids that the Republican Party wasn’t very understanding of his lifestyle. But I think this is the first time the nuclear plant workers have spoken about it openly. It takes out too much of the mystery, which may work on a social acceptance level, but not as much for comedy, which loves the double entendre. While there were a few subversive laugh lines, it felt like there were more missed opportunities.
The Springfield Elementary School’s production of Casablanca is a letdown, even for a grammar school. I was really hoping for a sequence as fulfilling as their theatrical musical productions of A Streetcar Named Desire or The Planet of the Apes. But they are respectful and go for a Bogie homage rather than bogie men. Why take on a classic if not to skewer it? It’s a waste of a good idea. And now that they’ve done Casablanca, and Treasure or Sierra Madre and African Queen, they can’t go back to it for a better pass.
Actually, this is really bugging me. Just seeing Lisa at the try-outs was enough to make me start anticipating the payoff. This season’s episodes had each been getting better as far as the anarchic comedy The Simpsons deliver but this was tame and lame. Just like both words under and study are horrible. The craziest reveal of the night was that Comic Book Guy is a closet Hello Kitty furry-kinkster, and, really, that wasn’t that surprising.
Even the animation seems smoother, more intimate. The Simpsons has been getting consistently less jagged for years but it seems more frames get pushed quicker to catch a deeper emotional impact tonight. There were some good one-liners, but most of the humor was subdued, if not subtle.
“The Burns Cage” was written by Rob LaZebnik and directed by Rob Oliver. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson and Nelson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and Chief Wiggum. Harry Shearer is Mr. Burns. Pamela Hayden plays Millhouse and Jimbo Jones. Guest star George Takei.
Chalkboard: If Villanova doesn’t win we lose everything.
But It All Went By So Fast: Easter Peeps: They never go bad because they were never that good. Mr. Burns as bare-chested Russian President Putin. School Play Auditions today. Casablanca. You must remember this: Bring two pencils and a snack. Our Golden Circle Angels: Dolph, Jimbo and Kearney. Party with no agenda. Urgent yank, ignore. Our Castro district is much different than yours. Tonight Casablanca the Play. Tomorrow night: A.M Kindergarten presents Equus. Valet bicycle parking.