Next in line is The Simpsons season eight, episode eight, entitled Hurricane Neddy. It originally aired on December 29th 1996 making it the final episode of ’96. I watched this episode by myself on Monday afternoon February twenty-second at my apartment on DVD and a 27 inch television. This episode features a couch gag where the family runs into the room but on the wall where the couch was is a sign reading “Vend-a-couch” with a coin slot below it. Homer inserts a coin. When nothing happens he bangs on the machine and a couch falls from above, landing on top of him.
Our story begins with a hurricane approaching Springfield. Of course the Simpsons are woefully unprepared. However, their next door neighbor, ultra right wing, super Christian, milquetoast doormat Ned Flanders has his entire house secured and ready for the storm. Despite almost being killed by Homer’s stupidity the Simpsons and their house survive the storm without a scratch. The Flanders family, in spite of their preparation and faith, has their house leveled. To make matters worse theirs is the only house in the neighborhood damaged and they have no insurance because Ned considers it a form of gambling.
The Flanders’s are forced to move into the Church shelter. It seems as though everything has gone wrong for the family. Their one remaining hope, the store Ned owns in the Springfield Mall, is destroyed by rioters. While he tries to keep his family in good spirits he is falling apart. The Reverend Lovejoy offers no solace and even the Bible offers no comfort, only a nasty paper cut. The next morning Marge arrives and tells them to come home because something incredible has happened to which Ned replies, “Oh what happened, did the rubble burn down?” However, they arrive home to find that the townspeople had rebuilt their destroyed home.
While initially overjoyed Ned becomes more and more disenfranchised as he tours the house and discovers the shoddy job that his neighbors have done rebuilding the home. In fact upon exiting the house after the tour Homer shuts the front door causing the entire structure to collapse. Ned tries to calm himself but begins talking in a stream of gibberish. While Ned frequently adds –iddily or –diddily or –doodely to his words at this point he has descended into near total incoherence. After a moment of rambling he snaps back to reality and begins berating everyone around him for their stupidity. The town is taken aback by the hateful display by the most mild-mannered person in Springfield.
He jumps in his car alone and drives himself through the front gate of Calmwood Mental Hospital. At the front desk he describes what he’s done and tells the woman that he’d like to commit himself. She says “Very well. Would you like me to show you to your room or would you prefer to be dragged off kicking and screaming?” Ned replies, “Ooo, kicking and screaming, please.” He is seized by orderlies who drag him away as he yells. When a nurse delivering medication discovers that Flanders is in the hospital she immediately calls a Dr. Foster. He declares that he’ll be right there and “May God have mercy on us all.” When he arrives Ned recognizes the Doctor from his childhood.
Dr. Foster asks Ned if he remembers what he was like as a child to which Ned says that he was a good little boy. Dr. Foster shows him an old film of Ned as a child behaving hyperactively and abusing all the other children around him. Ned is shocked. In a flashback we see in a meeting with Dr. Foster that Ned’s parents are beatniks who are incapable of controlling him or his anger issues. As Ned’s mother put it, “We’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.” Dr. Foster implements the University of Minnesota Spankological protocol where he gently spanks Ned continuously for eight months. When finished Ned feels fine but has begun to repress his anger and express it only as a “string of non-sensical jabbering” (His doodalies and diddilies).
As the person who makes Ned the angriest, Homer is enlisted to help him. The family comes along to the mental hospital and sets off for a tour of the grounds while Homer helps. On their way down the hall they pass a room with an open door. Inside the room is Ms. Botz, the “Babysitter Bandit” who robbed the Simpsons in Season One Episode Thirteen, Some Enchanted Evening (1990). In a room further down the hall is “The Critic” Jay Sherman who is berating a doctor by repeatedly saying “It stinks. It stinks. It stinks.” Jay is the main character of a cartoon called “The Critic” about a film critic who rates most of his movies by saying “It stinks.” Jay has also appeared on the Simpsons before (A Star is Burns Season Six Episode Eighteen) and is voiced by Jon Lovitz who has been on The Simpsons numerous times as several different characters. [Episode information available at www.imdb.com]
Meanwhile Homer is tasked to provoke anger in Ned by insulting him. However the pre-scripted note cards from which Homer is reading are not doing the trick. Homer goes off script and tries to get Ned to admit that he’s human and that he hates certain things. Finally Ned admits that he hates the service at the Post office … and his parents. This unexpected statement surprises even Ned and makes him feel good. Dr. Foster says that because Ned has stated that he hates his parents it means that he’s cured. When Ned walks out the front door of the hospital he is greeted by the town. He promises that he won’t bottle up his anger anymore and that “if you irritate me you’re gonna hear about it” which garners a cheer from the crowd. After a moment he says happily “And if you really tick me off, I’ll run you down with my car” causing murmurs to spread through the crowd.
This is one of my all time favorite episodes. Ned Flanders is a character that, because of his close physical proximity as the Simpsons next door neighbor, straddles the line between second tier character and main character. This story finally gives us some explanation as to why Ned is the way he is. He is moral, kind, self-sacrificing, loving, and would give anyone the shirt off his back. However he is also self-righteous, judgmental, presumptuous, and holier than thou. His qualities, both good and bad, represent an ideal Christianity and a power-structure/business model Christianity that seem to be in direct conflict yet somehow are embodied in this one man. We finally get a look into his past and we are shown how he became this strange contradiction.
While the focus of the entire plot is Ned this is carried off in a way that does not minimize the more popular and funnier characters of the Simpson family itself. It also does an excellent job of giving very brief moments in the spotlight to various other characters from around Springfield in the reconstruction scene. This is a hilarious, touching, interesting, surprising and well crafted episode that tells a great story and achieves its humor without the use of a subplot whose only purpose is as a vehicle for jokes that won’t fit in the main story. This episode is without question a five.
The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #8: Hurricane Neddy
Rating: 5 out of 5