“Hey, that little boy is playing three games at once.” – Chess Bystander
“Checkmate.” – Opponent #1
“Checkmate.” – Opponent #2
“Checkmate.” – Opponent #3
“Dang.” – Bart Simpson
I try to forget these episodes as quickly as possible. (Given how bland and repetitive they are, this isn’t usually very difficult.) But just one week after I accused Zombie Simpsons of having Exposition Tourette’s, they put on an expository masterpiece, even by their wretched standards. It starts with Bart getting a temporary tattoo that says “Bad to the Bone”. He informs us of it, then repeats the phrase several times as he applies it, shows it off, sees it wash away, and then misses it.
But the real pinnacles of exposition here come in pairs, first in the middle, and then again at the end. The first is during one of several flashbacks (the second week in a row they’ve done multiple flashbacks to some oddball trauma Homer suffered as a child) where Homer learns chess from an old guy, which is quickly followed by a real chess master (voicing himself) on Skype telling Homer exactly what he’s doing as he does it.
The second pair is back-to-back at the end to – ahem – resolve both of this episode’s main stories. If you like characters not only telling you directly what they’re feeling, but also explaining why it matters, you’re in luck. I have transcribed them below so that you can enjoy all of their feculent glory.
In terms of what actually happens, in one story, Bart throws away a hat Lisa really liked, and is then accompanied by a guilt monster voiced by Patton Oswalt. In the other, Homer is apparently a well practiced chess player who has to work out some grief against Grampa. If both of those seem devoid of thought, humor, or sense of any kind, congratulations, your brain works at least as well as a third-grader with recent cranial trauma.
– These are my notes, verbatim, from the opening: “Couch gag with dialogue again. Oh, this must be the Robot Chicken thing. Oof, that took a while.” I even think the exposition bug is catching, Homer exposited his way through the whole thing, describing what he was doing and seeing.
– We open on Bart and Lisa on the couch, expositing directly into the camera about the story we’re about to see. This is gonna go well.
– Grampa watches Bart play a World War II game, then surrenders to it.
– Now they’re at the beach and Bart has built a giant sand head over Homer. He then drops some seaweed down the head, which falls out of the nose onto Homer’s head. In the next scene, Homer reminds us of what we just saw.
– Lisa is hat shopping by having a dream montage.
– Homer’s now having a chess flashback. We’re five minutes in and we’ve got exposition, montages, and flashbacks. I have never taken a screenwriting class. I have no desire to take a screenwriting class. But I can say without hyperbole that this script would earn a failing grade in every screenwriting class ever taught.
– Bart’s plot appears to consist mostly of him saying he’s “Bad to the Bone” after he got and then lost a temporary tattoo of that. If any part of this changes, I will let you know, but I don’t expect it to. Also, he just threw away the hat that Lisa bought.
– Frantic Lisa searching-for-hat montage. Depending on how you want to count, that’s two or three of them. This is naked clock eating and we aren’t even eight minutes in.
– Patton Oswalt just showed up to be Bart’s guilt as a weirdly Hugo looking monster. Mostly he exposits:
“Your lack of remorse just makes me grow.”
He then grows.
I miss pigeon-rat.
– Homer has apparently rediscovered his love of chess. Fine. So have Barney, Lenny, and Carl, who are all playing him 3-on-1 at Moe’s. Uh, okay.
– Lenny just zipped himself into a suitcase, which was odd. Then Moe dragged him off to a closet where other people are apparently zipped into suitcases. I don’t want to overuse, “Uh, okay”, but, uh, okay.
Nothing says “Moe’s” like chess tournaments and random luggage stunts.
– Ooh, another chess flashback, this is #1 on our Masterpieces of Exposition tour:
Homer (Voiceover): So I found a professor who lived nearby. A master of the game. Kind. Patient. Devoted to me. I went everyday.
Professor: You are ready now.
Young Homer: Thanks for the lessons, professor.
Professor: You remind me of my son.
Young Homer, Oh, where is he now?
Professor: He’s right over there. He just doesn’t like chess.
It goes on from there, and I picked it up in the middle. That’s how interminable it was.
– Lisa tells Bart’s guilt to grow. In the background, that’s exactly what it does. Live exposition!
This enormous exposition monster will devour us all!
– How about another montage? Homer is mad an Grampa for quitting their chess games, so we get thirty seconds of Grampa getting beat up as bowling pins and an imaginary head.
– Now we’ve got a celebrity self voice via Skype for no reason whatsoever. Here is #2:
Chess guy: You cut out for a second. Did you gasp. Then you will nod. Then you will eat a piece of cheese while your wife doesn’t look. Then you will undo the top button of your pants. I’m always three moves ahead.
For once, I actually see what joke they’re going for here. The problem is that he says these things as Homer is doing them. He’s not ahead of anything. It’s like that time Skinner ruined the “Who’s on First?” bit with Chalmers, but unintentional.
– Bart is now tracking down Lisa’s hat, which he threw into a junk yard. He wants God’s help, so all of a sudden Rod and Todd are there. There was no joke about God sending them. They were just there.
– To wrap things up, Homer and Grampa are playing chess, with lots of action asides to make it take longer.
– And here’s your resolution to that, which is also Exposition Masterpiece #3:
Homer: Dad! Dad, it seems I love you. Can’t you say it seems you love me to?
Grampa: Aw, my son loves me. Now I can die in peace.
– We go right from that into the other resolution, #4:
Bart: Now what’s your problem?
Lisa: Oh, shut up! I forgive you!
Bart: You forgive me?
– And now there’s a giant mutant at the nuclear plant because weird asides are just how they fill those last few seconds now.
– One weird aside wasn’t enough, so here’s Homer’s version of Bart’s guilt monster, complete with other demons. Who then exposit themselves.
Your guess is as good as mine.
Anyway, the numbers are in and they’re just as bad this week as they were last week. A scant 2.46 million viewers had this episode read to them. Poor bastards.