“Hey, can I drive?” – Barney Gumble
“Well, I can’t see the harm.” – Duff Blimp Pilot
There is one thing I completely enjoyed about “500 Keys”, the closing credits. Not just because it meant the episode was over, but for that violin rendition of the theme song. It was nicely done and will make a decent addition to the ever expanding catalog of different versions of the Simpsons theme.
There were a couple of other things I didn’t completely loathe, but as is typical of such things, the episode promptly ran most of them into the ground. Skinner telling his mother that it was his birthday not their anniversary comes to mind, but then it dragged on. A quick joke about a “key party” was funny and made sense before getting stretched past the breaking point with a flashback. The cake store at the beginning was one of the better scenes they’ve done all season. Unfortunately, whatever little smile it put on my face was wiped out by the completely unnecessary and unbelievably stupid drive home. That’s one of those things that’s so obviously filler it’s genuinely hard to imagine anyone who isn’t heavily sedated laughing at it.
Overall, the tiny sparks of life were crushed beneath the huge number of Family Guy style flashbacks and asides, pointless danger and suspense (why were the mannequins drowning them?), and a mystery that was as dull as it was long. The keys of the title served to give them a paper thin excuse to take a bunch of random sketches and throw them all together, and they ran with it, all the way up to the blimp. And we mustn’t forget the blimp, which Homer can learn to fly, forget to fly, and then learn to fly again all within the span of a single scene.
Anyway, the numbers are in and they are bad, but not as bad as I was hoping. An even 6.00 million viewers wondered what was up with Otto’s voice last night. That’s lower than all but a handful of episodes this season, but it’s a bit higher than last week. If next week’s season finale comes in at 5.57 million viewers or less, Season 22 will displace Season 20 as the lowest watched ever. Slightly higher than that will tie it with Season 20.