Episode seven of The Simpsons season 8, Lisa’s Date with Density, originally aired on December 15th 1996. I viewed this episode by myself on Friday afternoon February nineteenth at the Brooklyn College campus on my lap-top. The couch gag for this show has the Simpsons living room furniture on the ceiling. They run in, on the ceiling, and sit on the couch. A moment later they all fall to the floor. This episode begins with the hood ornament being stolen from school Superintendent Chalmers new Honda and Homer retrieving a discarded auto-dialer from a dumpster following a police raid. Principle Skinner quickly discovers that school bully Nelson Muntz was responsible for steeling the hood ornament and sentences him to do janitorial work as punishment.
When Marge discovers Homer’s plan to use the auto-dialer she is concerned that Homer will be arrested or will swindle all their friends and neighbors. She turns out to be right as Homer programs the device to call everyone in town and insists that “happy dude” can provide them with eternal happiness if they mail one dollar to the Simpsons’ address. Meanwhile at school Lisa, bored of band class, watches out the window as Nelson sprays Groundskeeper Willie with a garden hose. For disrupting class she is sent to detention where she continues to watch Nelson from the window. She soon discovers that she can’t stop thinking about him and realizes she’s developed a crush on the bully.
Lisa confesses to Nelson that she has a crush on him and invites him over to her house. Nelson reluctantly agrees. Despite his apparent boredom with Lisa he invites her to his house. She goes and discovers the ramshackle existence that Nelson lives. He behaves inconsiderately toward her and on the way home she feels foolish to think she could be with or change Nelson. Marge tells Lisa that she can change a man, citing Homer as an example. When she points out the Homer is the same as he ever was Marge insists that you can change a man. Lisa decides to try to change Nelson.
While on a date at the Springfield bluff overlooking the town she probes Nelson to find if there’s anything beneath the surface. Bored with her questions Nelson kisses her and they discover they like it. Nelson’s bully friends Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearney show up and make fun of him for hanging out with a girl. Lisa insists that Nelson has changed and wants nothing to do with them. Nelson takes them aside and tells them he hasn’t changed at all. They tell him to prove it by coming to play a prank with them. Nelson decides to stay with Lisa.
While the bullies are in the midst of egging Principle Skinner’s house Nelson arrives without Lisa and joins in. When the police arrive Nelson runs to the Simpson home and asks Lisa to hide him, insisting that he was set up. She agrees. The police arrive and break down the Simpsons’ front door. “I thought I’d find you here,” says Chief Wiggum. He fires his gun several times alarming the other officers. A cut reveals that Wiggum didn’t shoot Nelson but instead destroyed Homer’s auto-dialer. Homer comes downstairs and Wiggum says, “See you in court Simpson. And don’t forget to bring that auto-dialer with you or we have no case.” The inept police leave. Nelson accidently slips up and reveals to Lisa that he lied to her about being a part of the prank. She realizes that she was foolish to try to change him. Lisa decides that she can’t be with him and though they part ways it is rather amicable.
In this episode the focus of character development is on Lisa and secondary character Nelson. This is the main plot of the episode and while it isn’t very funny in and of itself (with the exception of Milhouse degrading himself in order to win Lisa’s affections), it is touching and deals with an important part of childhood: the crush. The decision to explore this subject by pairing two opposites in good girl Lisa and bully Nelson was a good one as their confusion as to why they’re together is shared by the audience. We are able to explore this confusion at the same time as the characters.
While the main plot isn’t terribly funny the subplot makes up for it. Homer’s auto-dialer scam is woven through the episode as a series of brief interludes that show Homer’s lack of consideration on a macro scale by annoying the whole town. When an argument about the auto-dialer’s incessant calls between neighbor Ned Flanders and his wife Maude keeps waking Homer up he yells for them to shut up. This hilariously illustrates that not only is Homer a jerk he’s completely unaware of it. Finally the main plotline and the subplot are wrapped up almost simultaneously with a wonderful misdirecting of the viewer to believe that the police are after Nelson, rather than there to foil Homer’s scheme. Between good character development and a hilarious subplot, this is a solid episode.
The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #7: Lisa’s Date with Density
Rating: 3 out of 5