Episode four of The Simpsons season 8, Burns Baby Burns, originally aired on November 17th 1996. I viewed this episode by myself on Thursday night February eighteenth at my apartment on DVD and a 27 inch television. The couch gag we’re led in with sees the Simpson family represented as life sized and shaped clear bluish balloons that all drift toward their spots on the couch but when they get there, they all pop. This episode centers around Homer’s boss, nuclear power plant owner and local tyrant, C. Montgomery Burns and his unexpected reunion with the illegitimate son that he never knew he had.
While on his return from his alma mater Yale, Mr. Burns’ train is temporarily delayed by an abandoned couch left on the track. A local man sees the stopped train from his souvenir stand and rushes over to hawk his wares. He moves window to window until he sees Mr. Burns whom he recognizes from an old photograph he keeps in his wallet. The man runs after the train but cannot keep up. He yells to the attendant on the rear of the caboose to ask where the train is headed. The attendant replies “Springfield.” The man says “Yeah, but what state?” The attendant’s response is drowned out by the train’s whistle as part of a series-long running joke about the uncertainty over which state the Simpsons live in.
On the way home from a trip to the cider mill the Simpsons see the man from the souvenir stand on the side of the road hitchhiking with a sign reading “Springfield.” They debate whether or not to pick him up so long that they arrive at their house. Homer turns around without letting anyone out of the car and picks up the hitchhiker. When he shows the family the picture of Mr. Burns and asks if anyone knows who he is they each respond with an example of how Burns had wronged them in the past. Without a word they drop the man off at Mr. Burns’s mansion. When Mr. Burns comes to the door the man introduces himself as his son, Larry (played by Rodney Dangerfield).
Mr. Burns reveals that in 1939 at his 25th Yale reunion he spied his college sweetheart and promptly courted her twenty-one year old daughter and after a brief fling Larry was conceived, born and sent to an orphanage. Larry stays with his newly discovered father and goes to work at the power plant alongside Homer. After a disastrous cocktail party where Larry’s boorish manners cause trouble amongst Mr. Burns’ high-society friends, the old man tries to get his son into Yale. The recruiters for the school made it clear that admitting Larry would require the donation of an international airport.
When it becomes clear that Mr. Burns is fed up with Larry, Homer suggests that they fake Larry’s kidnapping. When they go through with it, though Mr. Burns wants nothing to do with Larry, he demands that they get Larry back as a matter of principle. No one steals from Montgomery Burns. Homer stashes Larry in the Simpsons’ basement until the ransom call, during which he tries to get Mr. Burns to say he loves Larry, goes awry. Marge discovers the fake kidnapping and forces Homer to take Larry back to Mr. Burns. The second they walk out of the house they are spotted by Kent Brockman, local news anchor, in the channel 6 news chopper.
Homer and Larry flee. After several unsuccessful attempts at hiding they hole-up in a movie theater. When their rudeness disturbs the only other person in the theater, local creature Hans Moleman, he reports their location to the police. The police corner Homer on the roof and are about to fire when Larry jumps between Homer and the cops. He explains that the kidnapping is a hoax. Larry asks if Mr. Burns can love him. The old man tries but just can’t do it. He apologizes for not being able to be the family that Larry needs. This reminds Larry that he has a wife and kids whom he told that he was going for coffee a week ago. Larry declares the entire scene a party and from nowhere come drinks and party favors. “Anyway You Want It” by Journey starts playing and the entire crowd responds by dancing to end the episode.
This scene is a takeoff on the ending to Caddyshack, where Rodney Dangerfield’s character, Al Czervik, does almost exactly the same thing (www.imdb.com). This episode is very similar in many ways to the previous one. However it differs in a principal way and that is that in this episode the character development is divided in half between Mr. Burns and the one time character Larry. Even though the character development is, in terms of screen time because of the split, less than with Moe in The Homer They Fall, Mr. Burns is a less malleable character and therefore the growth has a somewhat bigger impact. Among the show’s second tier characters Moe Syzslak and CM Burns are probably my favorites. While the dialogue is not quite as rapid-fire funny in this episode the star power of Rodney Dangerfield and his performance balances the scales.
The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #4: Burns Baby Burns
Rating: 3 out of 5