Mm, paper jam. Pulpy, pulpy paper jam. Much more digestible than petroleum jelly. The Simpsons season 26, episode 15, “The Princess Guide,” is tastier than anything the show threw at us in the first half of the season, which saw retreads of old set-ups, fitted with chains. The past three episodes have been original and funny, all we really ask from The Simpsons. Tonight’s episode had heart and pickled eggs. Love was in the air, but it was fleeting on account of atomic pollution.
Waylon Smithers almost finds love, which turns to hope and then to the grim fate of stunted regularity. Moe almost finds revenge, which turns to love and then respect. Sad, sad respect, sexless and unsatisfying. For a lonely troll barkeep who can wiggle his ears like a dopey dwarf, Moe gets around. He doesn’t get far, but his dating life is almost as varied as that of Selma Bouvier, Marge’s multi-married sister. Just last week Moe took Laney Fontaine home. She left before he could show her his Love Tester, but he did get her home.
Yaya DaCosta really does speak five different perfect phrases in five languages, English, Portuguese, French, Spanish, and conversational Japanese, the showoff. That’s more than any phrase Moe has mastered in basic, remedial American. Princess Kemi can even work a computer, a prodigious talent in Nigerian royalty who always seem to be scurrying funds out of the country. Moe sometimes runs out of things to mumble incoherently to himself in self-abusive anger.
This episode really features Hank Azaria. Like Peter O’Toole counseled Timothy Dalton in The Lion in Winter, Azaria is using all his voices in this one. Azaria is a wonder. He gives consistently nuanced performances that gruffly tug at the emotions while never losing the caustic humor that he keeps as clean as his bar rag. All the voice actors on The Simpsons are magnificently varied, they all have full careers outside The Simpsons. It’s good to see Azaria carry an episode once, or twice, as he did it last week too, in a while.
Azaria steals this episode as Moe Szyslak, and puts in triple overtime as Chief Wiggum, Carl Carlson and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Each character brings a laugh that comes from another side of Springfield. Azaria’s comic vocal repertoire (and he’s got a pretty good singing voice and an excellent falsetto too) is impressive. In The Simpsons he never once touches voices he created for other shows. You don’t hear his dogwalking Nat Ostertag from Mad About You. He never has to drag out his Guatemalan housekeeper Agador Spartacus from The Birdcage. Every voice is a universe. Moe’s voice is based on Al Pacino, Chief Wiggum is based on Edward G. Robinson.
Harry Shearer was more than a little auto-erotic tonight, playing both Mr. C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers in a game of one-sided seduction. Smithers burns for Burns. He’s been heating up for quite a while, at least since his Mr. Burns screensaver traumatized little Lisa Simpson while looking for Malibu Stacy’s creator. Possibly causing that delusional notion that she can pursue a rewarding career in Jazz. That’s damaging.
In case you missed it running in from the other room after the opening theme, the episode’s premise proposes that if Burns doesn’t make a career-saving uranium deal with a Nigerian King, he’s threatening to sell what he can and disappear to the South Pacific with Smithers. Smithers would be happy just listening to “South Pacific” with Burns, so the idea of being rich castaways drives Smithers to dream. Not a dry, soul-crushing dream like Lisa’s aforementioned belief in a promising jazz career, but a wet sandy Pina Colada or rum dream with umbrellas and possibly an occasional conga line.
Smithers truly believes that when Homer fails, as he will, and Burns overreaches, as he must, that the worst case scenario will play out quite well for him. That Burns will finally realize that Smithers has always been the irresistible sycophant of his dreams and admit that it’s better to be an old queen than never to have been queen at all, even for a day. This is probably the most blunt The Simpsons have been about Smithers’ longings, or at least the most protracted a scenario that they’ve played out. Until now, the gay subtext has been relegated to gags, quickies. It is now a long-running gag, but The Simpsons give it a much larger context tonight than they have before.
The Simpsons is gay for Elon Musk. They’re really committing to this gag. Musk appeared three episodes ago and the Springfield Nuclear Plant still hasn’t recovered from his altruistic corporate bedraggery. Homer can cause a meltdown, go back in time and mutate his family’s tongues to snake-tongues or cause an international incident and it will all be forgotten by the next episode, unless an incident is needed for a self-referential punch line. When Burns lost it all and started over by collecting cans, he rebuilt his empire by the end of the episode. Musk really took a bite out of him.
The Simpsons gave us vague stuff. Vague stuff! The sight gags were great. Once again Mr. Burns proves he is the king of the pratfall, getting crushed by a cuddly poodle, letting the weight of a bow throw him to the floor. These were very reminiscent of his almost drowning in the bath under the weight of a sponge or having his bald head slip through his hands after he greased his skull for a date with Marge. For a bonus, we also get to see him suck monkey brains through a straw.
The jokes delivered. The Szyslak take on Goodnight Moon was a weeper. Burns and Homer reveal that have more in common than cabin fever snowmen. Stupid Branson. It’s getting harder and harder for Burns to maintain his sunny disposition with a Virgin neighborino like that. The end gag, saying it was three years since Smithers left, can they be more obvious in a joke setup? Yes, it’s been three years since Moe washed his forehead. But it was twelve years before that.
“The Princess Guide” was a very good, solid episode, not an internet scam, unless you can help me transfer money out of the country.
“The Princess Guide” was written by Brian Kelley and directed by Timothy Bailey. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Pattie and Selma Bouvier, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum, Carl Carlson and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Harry Shearer is Mr. C. Montgomery Burns, clones 43 and 87, and Waylon Smithers. Guest stars: Richard Branson as his Virgin self; Yaya DaCosta as Princess Kemi; Kevin Michael Richardson. Jon Lovitz as I’m not quite sure, I just saw him listed.
In loving memory of Leonard Nimoy.
But It All Went By So Fast: Hurricane Consuela Stopped At U.S. Border. Bring Your Daughter To Work Day: Children will be expected to work for free. Clone 43. Vote by mail ballot Homer Simpson. Vote by mail. PO Box 555232, Springfield USA. Health Department Grade F. This Establishment received a failing grade at time of inspection.
From Pallace of the Prince. Dear Sir or Madam, Confidential business proposal. I have the privilege to request your assistance in the transfer of the sum of 40 million dollars U.S. for your service 50 por cent fee. Send me 5 thousand dollars, copy of your passport, bank router number, home address, weeks you vacation, your letterhead paper stamped and signed. Do not be suspiciouss.
Are you sure? Yes. Really? Yes. Even though you are agreeing to be fleeced in a classic internet scam? Yes.
Toys B Cheap. Defamer: Royal Flesh: Shameless Princess P.D.A. Perez Hilton: Ugh. Jezebel: Woman kisses man. Yuck. Local bar owner and repulsive troll, Moe Szyslak, was caught being kissed by this beauty. We’re sorry for showing you this photo but it’s what we do. Springfield TMZ: Princess kisses troll. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe. The Famished Road, Ben Okri. Home and Exile, Chinua Achebe. The Thing Around Your Neck, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.