Episode six of The Simpsons season 8, A Milhouse Divided, originally aired on December 1st 1996. I viewed this episode by myself on Friday afternoon February nineteenth at the Brooklyn College campus on my lap-top. This time the couch gag sees the family sit at the couch with Bart glowing green. Homer gets up and adjusts the TV set which causes Bart to glow red. Homer sits back down and smacks Bart on the head which returns him to normal.
When Marge becomes upset by the family’s usual disconnected, anti-social dinner routine she decides to throw a dinner party. Among the guests are Kirk and Luanne Van Houten, parents of Bart’s best friend Milhouse. They argue all night. The couple’s bickering progressively becomes more and more petty and vicious. When a game of Pictionary turns into an all-out verbal brawl Luanne silences the room with a demand for a divorce. After a long, awkward pause Kirk agrees and whole-heartedly endorses the idea.
While Luanne relishes her new found freedom Kirk has moved into an apartment complex for sad, lonely bachelors. Though he tries to put a good face on things he can’t keep up the charade once he is fired as manager of the local cracker factory. Meanwhile their son Milhouse begins acting out, his behavior going unchecked by either parent. Both of the adults are so wrapped up in their own lives they ignore their son’s behavior. Luanne even begins dating an “American Gladiator” named Pyro.
Even with the example set by the Van Houten’s divorce Homer learns nothing and continues to ignore Marge and behave in an inconsiderate manner. Kirk tries to continue to be upbeat while pursuing a singing career but he admits that he wishes he was still married to Luanne. He says to Homer, “One day your wife’s preparing your favorite meal, the next you’re thawing a hot dog in the sink of a gas station bathroom.” Homer tells Kirk that such a thing can’t happen to him because he and Marge have a marriage built on a strong foundation of routine. After returning home Homer finds that Marge has left him hot dogs thawing in the sink.
A depressed Homer turns to Lisa for help to save his marriage. He reminisces about their wedding at a crappy casino chapel called “Shotgun Pete’s.” Lisa replies, “You’re very lucky to have Mom.” The next morning Homer surprises Marge with theater tickets. She is grateful but wants to go back to sleep. He begins to over-compensate for his selfishness by doing things that he thinks are considerate but in reality are annoying like trying to give Marge a haircut. When he realizes that his attempts are not working Homer files for divorce without telling Marge. When she and the kids return from the dentist office Homer calls her into the living room in a serious and melancholy voice.
When she walks in and flips on the lights she sees the room full of her friends and family who all yell surprise. Homer asks her to marry him. She is overjoyed but says that it’s not necessary. Homer replies, “Oh yes it is, I got us a divorce this afternoon.” He explains that he wanted to make up for their lack-luster wedding and he wanted a chance for their marriage to be perfect from the very beginning. During the reception after the ceremony Kirk is inspired by Homer’s gesture to Marge and he gets on the microphone being used by the band that Homer hired. He begins performing his song, “Can I borrow a feeling.” Not only is he a terrible singer, the lyrics are awful. After finishing the first verse he asks Luanne to remarry him. Taken-aback she says, “Oh God, no.” At which point her new boyfriend kicks Kirk out of the party.
The situation with my laptop is pretty much the same as before, though I did manage to find a quiet, out of the way spot in the West End Building to watch which helped with the lack of volume. This episode is another of the standard requirements that appear at least once a season on this show which I call the “Homer and Marge work on their marriage” episode. This doesn’t necessarily hurt the episode on its own as there are many, many funny episodes revolving around the couple trying to fix/improve/save their marriage, this particular one is not quite as funny and compared to the other episodes of season 8 it would have to be considered to be at the bottom of the pile.
While it reinforces the basic reason that the Simpsons are so beloved – the love between Marge and Homer – it is lacking in some ways. For example it lacks a sub-plot of any kind. The viewer assumes that one is being introduced when they see Milhouse behaving badly. Considering that Milhouse’s name is in the title of the episode this is not unreasonable. However all we get is one scene and nothing more. Another key flaw is the episodes reliance on gags not integral to the storyline. While most of them are funny they do nothing to further the story or even echo the depth of the characters involved. While enjoyable I have to rate this episode a two. A two for the Simpsons is as a good as a four for most shows but a two never the less.
The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #6: A Milhouse Divided
Rating: 2 out of 5