Next up is The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #11 entitled The Twisted World of Marge Simpson. This episode first aired January 19th 1997. I viewed this episode at home on DVD, Thursday February 25th 2010 by myself. This is only the second episode so far with a full-length opening. On Bart’s detention room chalk board he is writing “I am not licensed to do anything.” This episode’s couch gag shows the Simpson living room with three large holes in the couch and two on the floor. A different character pops out of each hole ala “whack-a-mole.” A mallet tries to hit them but misses until it finally strikes Homer.
The show begins with a meeting of the “Investor-ettes” club. They overwhelmingly decide to invest in a business with Marge being the only one to have concerns. The group isn’t happy with Marge’s hesitance and expels her from the group. At dinner that night Lisa encourages Marge to reconsider her doubts and invest in a franchise on her own. She goes to a franchise convention and after sitting through a few lame presentations she decides that owning a business is not for her. However, after a run in with the members of her former club she recommits to the idea of investing.
When she discovers that the Investor-ettes are about to invest in the franchise she had her eye on Marge is about to give up when a man selling pretzel franchises (Jack Lemmon) convinces her to buy in. After watching her instructional video and learning to make pretzels Marge goes to Homer’s workplace, the nuclear power plant, to sell her wares. Just when she seems destined for success the Investor-ettes arrive in their Fleet-A-Pita van, taking away Marge’s business.
Marge decides to quit when a free pretzel giveaway at a minor league baseball game results in the injury of hall of fame Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford and no one even tries the pretzels. Homer seeks out Mr. Ormand, the man who sold Marge the franchise but discovers that he was killed in a car accident. In his hour of need Homer answers an ad in the church bulletin posted by the local mafia. Suddenly, Marge’s business takes off. This leads us into a montage of mafia boss Fat Tony and his goons Louie and Legs intimidating snack food proprietors and destroying their property. When the montage finishes we catch up with the local police who will not allow the Fleet-A-Pita ingredients to be unloaded from a cargo ship. While the Police Chief tries to explain this to the Investor-ettes several shadowy figures plant a bomb and destroy their Fleet-A-Pita van.
While drinking at Moe’s Homer is approached by Fat Tony who wants his cut of Marge’s profits. Homer is shocked that the mob would only do him a favor to get one in return. He shames Fat Tony who leaves and then instantly realizes that as a mobster he has no shame. Instead of confronting Homer again he lures Marge into the desert where they have a discussion in which Fat Tony informs her that his crime syndicate is responsible for her success and that he wants all of the profits by six a.m. the next morning. Marge returns home and angrily asks her husband, “Homer, did you tell the mafia they could eliminate my competitors through savage beatings and attempted murder?” To which Homer replies, “In those words? … Yes.”
Marge forgives Homer but insists that not only will they not pay off the mob but that they will continue to make pretzels. Fat Tony and his goons arrive at the appointed hour. The Simpsons refuse to pay and it appears as if all is lost when suddenly the Investor-ettes arrive with their own muscle, members of the Yakuza (Japanese equivalent of the mafia). The two sides engage in all out battle as Marge and Homer return to the kitchen. Homer is afraid that Marge hates him for failing but she tells him that she loves him for trying. Meanwhile the gang warfare continues in the background. The episode ends with a Yakuza member crashing through the kitchen window, begging forgiveness and returning to the outside and the fray.
While this episode does not have a particularly complex or brilliant plot, no subplot to speak of, and minimal character development I unequivocally give it a rating of five. There is a very simple reason for this. It fulfills the basic mission of The Simpsons or for that matter any television show. It is funny. It is entertaining. We see that Homer is willing to do anything to make Marge happy. We see that Marge loves Homer for trying in spite of his failure. These are things that we already know. There is nothing new there. It does not rely heavily on guest stars as Jack Lemmon’s appearance is brief and Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony is a semi-regular as opposed to a true guest star. There is no great link to pop-culture and no underlying thematic satire that makes it a genius piece of storytelling. It is simply twenty-one minutes of laugh after laugh after laugh. It is that funny and sometimes that is enough.
The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #11: The Twisted World of Marge Simpson
Rating: 5 out of 5