Monday, May 16, 2011

Episode 21: 500 Keys

Why does John Frink continue to get work on this show? Almost every episode he's ever written has sucked and this week's is no exception. I fully expected this episode to be a 4-segment episode where each family member goes on their own little storyline. After watching this though I yearned for it to be a four segment episode instead, it probably would have been much better that way. Instead we get a supposed "A-Plot" with three subplots that are all forced to tie in at different points. The result; a terrible, confusing episode with no comedy and viewers getting dumber just watching it. With that out of the way, let's take a look at today's abomination.

The opening (I don't normally talk about this, but I feel the need to address this) begins with Hank Scorpio flying a fighter jet (Nothing but fanservice, now the fans will be gushing over a meaningless 5 second cameo) followed by a chalkboard gag of "It's Kristen Schaal, not Kristen Schall" (I guess the backlash of their stupidity caused them to try to apologize for their mistake. Also Lisa's playing a violin, just thought I'd mention that as well since I mentioned the other two). Our episode then begins with the family (Sans Marge) shopping for a wedding cake because... because... because the writers are out of ideas, that's why. While trying to get the cake home, they run into a traffic jam as Homer decides to take a shortcut that's conveniently pointed out to us as "Suicidal Moron Pass" (What did I say about explaining your jokes?) After some more physics defying driving by Homer (With suspenseful music to boot, but honestly the soundtrack should go more like this) Homer is able to get home with the cake intact (Phew, for a moment I thought all that fake tension might possibly be real tension). However, Maggie is left in the car as she locks the doors (With the keys inside) and Marge finds out that she's locked in, causing her to panic to find the spare key.
THE DEATH OF MAGGIE (To be continued in the next episode)
However, in the next scene we see that Maggie let herself out of the car, thus resolving that conflict (Oh Mr. Frink, is there any story you can write where the resolution isn't a disappointment?) So we're 3 minutes in, and all we know is that the family bought a cake for no reason, the family seems to have a million keys and Maggie got locked in the car, only to free herself 30 seconds later. I've seen more interesting storylines from grass growing during a drought. After Homer eats the frosting off Maggie's head (Don't ask, it's better that we not question the genius mind of John Frink) Lisa questions all the keys as Homer decides to take a moment to give some dull backstory for a few (It seems like it's a 3 way race to see which is more boring; Paint drying, grass growing, or this episode. You be the judge). After Homer holds up some keys from much better episodes (Thanks for acknowledging that this show used to be good, now do us a favor and QUIT!) Bart and Homer decide to take some of the keys and find out their uses (I sense zany antics afoot. No wait, I meant "Painfully predictable stupidity") Bart decides to first open up a mailbox to cause mischief as people start to convene on the mailbox to remove mail they had second thoughts on. Bart's upset that his first act with a key caused people to be happy as Reverend Lovejoy walks by to say "Ha-Ha" (Why not use Nelson for that? I mean he is in this episode, oh right I need to stop questioning the writing)
Hey there, blimpy boy, flying through the sky so fancy free
We then cut to Homer as he's walking with Barney and it's revealed that Homer has keys to the Duff Brewery (NO! The only time those two should ever go there is Duffless, I award you NO points for this substory, and may God have mercy on your soul). After a padded out flashback about how Homer got the keys, they get in and look around at the various parts of the brewery (Sorry, but the inspection line with Hitler's head in the jar cannot be topped, just quit now). Homer then finds the Duff Blimp and reads the text on it (That Barney typed into the computer) and decides to fly off with the blimp (And so unfunny subplot #2 begins, let's just set up a small storyboard to the left to see how badly they screw up trying to link these together). We then cut back home as Lisa finds a key that belongs to the school and decides to return it (And so our supposed "Main plot" begins). Marge finds another stray key as Maggie conveniently appears with they toy the key belongs to (I guess she has that "Plot-convenient teleportation" I've heard so much about). It turns out they wind-up key is used to start up a "Toot-train" which each person farts when they push down on their side of the handcar (Hey Family Guy called, they want their terrible joke back). After Marge gets a call from Homer (And read the script as she apparently knows what blimp engines sound like from the inside of a blimp) Maggie turns the toy back on and thus begins Marge and Maggie's journey to get the never-ending toy (Oh goodie, this bad joke is a subplot. I can just guess all the "hilarious" antics that will ensue).
How unfunny and crude, let's make this into a subplot
After a pointless bit with the Flanders involving the toy (My mind is melting with each passing second) we cut to Lisa as Nelson decides to play devil's advocate and suggests to Lisa that she figure out what the key opens (Honestly it starts off as a decent scene, but is then ruined by Nelson repeating the same line about 10 times). Lisa decides to go to the basement and finds out it opens a door labeled "Banned Band Books" (It's the bad punchline from the previous two doors). After some "spooky" cliches, Lisa stumbles upon a secret room (And decides to explain what exactly it is in the bigger picture, look just because you've dumbed down the majority of your audience doesn't mean I can't figure it out myself). After Lisa gushes over the different settings, she finds out that nothing in the room is real study material (Don't get too invested in how this all pays out, you should know by now that the writers don't understand the concept of "Satisfying ending"). Lisa then confronts Skinner about the room as he at first dismisses her but then decides to look at it anyways (Okay there was some humor in that scene I'll admit, but really it's not worth watching this). We then cut to Homer (~Padding, padding, padding~) as Homer thinks about having a Duff while piloting the blimp. He wonders if it counts as drinking and driving as he decides to text Lenny all while "Comedically" avoiding obstacles (Oh writers, your forced "Homer's irresponsibility" followed by the overwhelmingly predictable antics always manage to find new ways to piss me off).
Alfred Hitchcock is rolling in his grave
We then cut back to Marge as the toy happens to head into the Community Center as the sign indicates there's a meeting of irritable bowel syndrome support group going on inside (Classy, writers, this is truly comedy that this show is best known for). After a predictable unfunny bit (Quick question, how does the handcar continue to run and change directions like it has? Oh right, if it couldn't how would we have had that "hilarious" scene of it passing through an IBS support group. My bad) we cut to Lisa in the basement as she decides to reveal to Skinner (And various students as well... um why? Oh right, so that they can set up a plot point later on). Lisa then opens the door and it turns out a bookshelf of books is now behind the door (Ten bucks says anyone with half a brain knows this cliche) After Skinner patronizes Lisa (And Lisa just stands there saddened, come on Lisa, you should know how this works) we then see Bart (Oh right he has a subplot going on as well, almost forgot) as he decides to turn on a window washing lift so he can moon random people as he goes up (Okay, credit where it's due, that is pretty funny and in-character for him). However, Ol' Gil tries jumping off the exact building and lands on the lift as he thanks Bart and it causes Bart to get a Key to the City (Why are the writers ruining the only storyline that has potential for humor? Why not show Bart SUCCEEDING in his pranks. I know I said last week success is boring, but not in this case, in this case it would be funny).
We're totally not engaged! We're not! *Whispers* Don't tell Mother that we are
We then cut to school as Skinner tells Chalmers that she might be onto something (To which Chalmer replies "I oversee 14 schools Seymour, and for some reason I always find myself talking to you about one of the Simpsons kids". Wow, I guess the writers finally acknowledge just how lazy they are for inserting him in just for the sake of it. Now will they do anything with that? Probably not, so just file this under "We know what we're doing, we just don't care"). Skinner notices Lisa and decides to take the key away from her. As Lisa walks home (With a shoehorned reference to Homer's subplot. Frink, just stick to failing at one plot, okay?) she notices Ralph selling school newspapers and decides that she can use the photo of the key to make a duplicate to get back in the room (Okay a few things, one; why is Ralph selling papers? Oh right, the fans love him and the writers need to put him in any scene regardless of if it makes sense or not. Second; I'm pretty sure that's not how key duplication works. It might work, but I really doubt it, partly seeing as the locksmith doesn't have a scale and keys are not perfectly symmetric, just saying). After an unfunny chase between Homer and the police via blimp (I don't even... *Facepalm*) Lisa decides to get the duplicate and goes back to school where she finds the bookcase yet again. After Lisa breaks the bookshelf (And has an unfunny bit with tombstones of kid detectives, I'll admit the first time got a chuckle, the second time wore out its welcome though) Lisa goes in and finds the message "The children are on bus 23" (Great, now they're trying to add a mystery within the mystery which will not pay off in the end).
Now to prove women are just as good at exploring as men- Eek! A spider! *Runs away*
After a pointless cut to Bart (As we get one of the worst jokes in the history of the show. I hate you writers, I truly do) we cut to Marge as she's still looking for the toy (STORYBOARDS ARE YOUR FRIENDS! It helps make the episode flow naturally and not seem like this jumbled mess) She spots it as it passes by Wiggum (Who apparently is now okay from the exploding blimp. Continuity, what's that?!) as he can't pick it up because the writers feel the need to repeat the joke of "Wiggum can't grab anything off the ground" 6 times (Because sodomizing the "Rule of Three" isn't enough for these writers). We then cut back to school as Lisa tells Bart about what she knows and Bart decides that they need to talk to "Someone's whose been here a long, long time" (Willie?) Cut to Nelson in the woodshop as he is reluctant at first to tell them about bus 23, but after some bad jokes between Lisa and Nelson (And now gum stuck to my chair seems funny in comparison) Nelson decides to tell them (Along with an ominous music cue. Don't try to pretend that this has tension, broken string has more tension than this story). Apparently, Skinner and Chalmers sent the bus over an ice bridge that Skinner objected to at first, but sent off anyways and it never came back (Wow, I'm about as interested in this as I am with the ingredients of bread). Bart and Lisa decide they need to find the ice bridge, cue Homer right next to the school (See how all these broken pieces are fitting so nicely together? You can't? Neither can anyone with a functioning brain).
Down there! Our angry fans. Drop the bombs.
Homer then takes them to where the ice bridge was (Which is no longer there, is that supposed to be a joke or something? Bart implied he thought it was literally made of ice, is this the payoff?) and Lisa falls out of the blimp at a high altitude and notices the bus as she falls towards the river (I'm pretty sure a fall from that distance in a river that shallow would probably kill her, but hey that's what the laws of physics say, what do the laws of lazy writing say?) After she falls into the river (Not a bit of pain at all, oh come on she bellyflopped in, that hurts) she looks inside the bus and sees a bunch of kids. After a drawn-out scene of Homer going to save Lisa (Just a few more minutes, just a few more minutes) Homer's weight causes the bus to tip over and all the kids float to the surface. On the surface it's revealed all the kids are mannequins (...Wait what?). Somehow Lisa and Homer sink beneath them and then the surface is covered with mannequins, preventing them from getting to the surface (Are they dense or just plain retarded? THEY'RE PLASTIC! Just move them a little to the left and you can get up. I especially love how this scene is played for more drama, I wonder just how quickly the false tension will end). After Bart laments he can't help, cue the stupid toy (With triumphant music, WEAK!) as it bumps into a tree SOMEHOW causing it to fall over and allow Homer and Lisa to get to the surface (LAZIEST! RESOLUTION! EVER! Oh but it's alright, now all the shitty subplots have converged and we can end the "Main plot") After Lisa questions why the bus was loaded with fake kids, Otto appears to explain that he accidentally ran the bus off the bridge (Now we get to have further exposition from Skinner and Chalmers. Why do I get the feeling it'll end with the line "And I would have gotten away with it if it we're for you meddling kids!"?)
3 facepalms in three weeks? Thank you for all this material, I truly appreciate it
We cut back to school as Bart shows Skinner and Chalmers he has Skinner's keys (Yes! We get it! The main theme of this episode was keys! Although I appreciate the facepalm from Chalmers). Skinner then decides to exposite to everyone the reason for the room and mannequins (Where's Santa's Little Helper? We need him to make this scene more appropriate) Skinner cashed a grant for the school that got ruined in the wash. To try to protect their asses, they built the phony school room and photographed the mannequins getting a phony education. They had to return the mannequins by a certain time, so they sent Otto with the bus full of them to return them (So that's the resolution, was it worth wasting 20 minutes of our time? How about no?! That was just weak and pathetic). After Lisa tells them the things they didn't count on (You cannot seriously think you're being clever for "Attempting" to bookend this piece of shit, go to hell writers) we cut to an epilogue (Wait, what?! They couldn't possibly be this stupid... could they?) We end it with Otto driving a school bus over a bridge full of kids as the bus slips and falls over (But not without Otto making a bad Inception reference,  just saying Inception does not constitute a joke).

Final Verdict: This episode was stupid, granted it wasn't as bad as the previous two, but it was still rather mediocre. The storylines are jarring and stupid, the attempt to merge them fell flat and was weak, the jokes were terrible and considering one of the subplots was basically a repeated fart joke, that's pretty low. I think what annoyed me most of all was all the paper-thin tension written into this, if you want to have a suspenseful moment, I'm okay with it, but if you want to do that, be sure that the resolution isn't LAZY. If you want to see a good example of multiple storylines that converge and is funny, watch 22 Short Films About Springfield (Heck Trilogy of Error was better than this), if you want to watch something that makes you dumber as you watch it, watch this.

Final Grade: 3.6/10 Yet again, John Frink writes another mediocre, forgettable episode


  1. IMO the plot didnt actually start till the 7 minute mark, which reaches an all time low.
    The wedding cake was pointless to the plot and the first two minutes of homer driving couldve been cut from the plot with no effect, they couldve easily replaced all that with maggie locked in the basement while playing or something. and the explenation for the room actually made me throw the remote at my TV, i dont do that usually except when Im watching the news.
    Great review though.

  2. When I first watched this, I missed the cake/Maggie locked in entirely but could still relatively follow the storylines. After watching it whole, no difference. That's a pretty bad sign of storytelling when your opening can be deemed that pointless.

    As for the room, outside the ending to "Gone Maggie Gone" I don't think I've ever been more dissatisfied with an ending on this show.

  3. The sad thing though is that this might be one of the better ones from season 22, thats a bad sign for whats to come.
    And chalmers was too involved in this episode, does he live at the school or something? They accknowledged that he actually does something other than hang around the school, but did nothing about it.
    Another problem was why would skinner put the money in his pants? I mean, wouldnt he put it in a safe or give it to chalmers?

  4. This episode does have its good points it wasn't all bad. I haven't been keeping up with every season of the Simpsons for the last few years but when I do watch an episode here and there I do find it entertaining. I caught this episode the other night through Dish Online. I work full time at Dish Network and I also go to school full time so it is pretty hard for me to catch the new episodes during Animation Domination.

  5. The first time I watched this episode I didn't find it really bad (I mean season 22 bad) but when I watched it again today I was overwhelmed by how stupid and unfunny it was.
    A thing that you didn't point out that really makes me mad:
    the school... It's clearly shown that it's a schoolday, but bart and lisa aren't at school at the beginning. Why? One could say it's afternoon but then lisa is at school with nelson and skinner says at the microphone that they still have to lunch. So when did they go to take the cake? Oh by the way, in the meantime bart is in the city center (while lisa is at school) and after he is in the schoolyard.
    So bart and lisa can go to school in whichever moment they want? Apparently yes! And when they are at school, they don't seem to have class, instead it seems the school is just a place to hang around...

    Oh and when the toy of marge goes under that bridge, wiggum (that as you said is perfectly ok after the crash) is just there standing... What is he doing? NOTHING! He's just there... standing... The authors just put the characters in places as if they are objects!

    And finally the scene with them under the mannequins! REALLY?
    Apart from the fact that they could have just pushed them away, it can be seen clearly that they could just have moved something like half a meter aside to get out.
    My sister is 8 years old and pointed out the stupidity of this scene!

  6. "Down there! Our angry fans. Drop the bombs."

    Good one.