“Write Off This Episode” is Vintage The Simpsons
Marge and Lisa take on greenwashing and give charitable foundations the blues in The Simpsons’ “Write Off This Episode.”
This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons Season 34 Episode 19
The Simpsons line up all their deductions in “Write Off This Episode.” The installment itself is about how Marge is seduced by the money, power, and glitz of big-time charitable fundraising, and begins with a longshot gimmick. The opening bit about Homer making big bets on unlikely odds may seem like a jab at what Kent Brockman calls “degenerate gamblers,” but it is also vaguely tied to the point spread on corporate gain and tax dodges. It all begins and ends with an unexpected and necessary cleanup.
Nobody wants to go down to the basement, The Ramones wrote a classic song about it. There’s always something down there, and Homer’s got to go into the crawl space under the house. After blindly passing over the rotting remains of an old handyman, Homer’s take on ghosts and the afterlife is both unique and hopeful. Horror movies may never be quite so scary again. There are far more frightening things in nature, and one of them is watching a naked Homer get his butt-cheeks flossed by a garden hose after a skunk attack. The sequence says a lot about Marge, as a dutiful, capable, and indulgent wife, and far too much about Homer.
It takes little more than the promise of a husbandless bathroom for one of the crusaders for the un-homed to shave points on ethics. Marge’s seduction into the money chase comes very fast, but the seeds are there at the beginning. She is always in denial; she likes the unethically made consumer brand products because of the smiley hand on the box. Then she’s fast-tracked through the non-profit process by a very catchy song by Bernice Hibbert, Dr. Hibbert’s wife. We really can’t blame Marge, but we do cheer when she gets all “judgey” at the end.
The “bluewashing” of the episode is the least subtle subversive coloring, it takes the yellow out of the corporate greenwashing, and plants its ribbon everywhere, and yanks the ones on Pabst beer. Even the Kardashians spread to group think of the blue ribbons. The segment when Springfield hits “peak awareness,” and there is not a patch of bareness, is devastating commentary on the conglomeration of helpful hands, but does it with finesse, getting blue ribbons on shampoos, conditioner, and renders Boo-Berry Cereal unironic.
While Marge is busted for the “mom puns” Bart has to endure at the first hints of success, the best pun of the evening goes to the Tibetan baking soda makers Lisa finds on her quest to procure fair-trade, carbon-negative, conflict-free ingredients. They have a product called “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buddha,” and they don’t hard-sell their Sea of Tranquility Sea Salt. They are at the top of a mountain, not a kiosk in a mall.
Marge’s feud with the Salvation Army is wonderfully nostalgic. It is usually Homer who gets into feuds, although each member of the Simpson household has their nemesis. Maggie has that baby with one eyebrow. Bart has Sideshow Bob, who has his own bad blood with rakes. Marge can’t believe a religious nonprofit could be so holier-than-thou, which is a good line, and also an opening for Mr. Burns’ later dismissal of all “do-goodery,” specifically targeting religious charities.
It appears Harry Shearer is allowing Mr. Burns’ age to catch up with him. Mr. Burns was always old. He was born old, he has wrinkles in baby pictures. But the voice in the episode was frail, if the message was not. Mr. Burns makes a lot of sense in his spotlighted scene at the great Lisa M. Simpson Foundation gala. Maybe not the micromanaging of privatized charitable groups over government inaction, but about the table. He paid $10,000 for it, and taking it with him is the most Mr. Burns thing he can do in the circumstance. After all, he did spend a whole day with Lenny and Carl leaf-blowing three-eyed fish carcasses.
The episode is loaded with sight gags. The quote on the bucket of Krusty Fried Chicken says “forget all the other stuff I did.” Check for Homers pouring hors d’oeuvres into his mouth. When Homer later takes Bart on as his “chicken wing man” it becomes a ballet. Homer’s “five stages of unemployment” is extremely clever, in ways only he would have the knowledge and expertise to give. They include but are not limited to righteous anger, pretending you still have a job, misdirected anger, glowering without showering, and stage five: reluctant acceptance. There is an add on about buying podcasting equipment but never unboxing, and they all ring true.
While “Write Off This Episode” takes on a serious subject, it achieves an excellent blend of humor and commentary. The story is almost entirely told through gags, reminiscent of earlier seasons of the series. The Rich Texan’s take on taxes in Texas is a minor miracle of mouth control, and stands with any classic exchange. As does the Cat Lady’s guided tour, she really cleans up. Even Marge and Lisa’s major personal battle is told as a gag. Yes, they almost get free ice cream, but Lisa’s future therapist is going to get rich from the emotional fallout. The Simpsons mix it up for the installment, but it all comes out clean in the end, as that extra footage of Homer’s de-skunking will take a while to unsee.