03 April 2013

The Long Halloween Vol. IV - Simpsons Edition: Spring Break

Hello once again and welcome to The Long Halloween - Norwegian Morning Wood's year-long glance at the greatest television specials you may pair with each monthly Holiday. Now, we've already covered April, but considering that many of our young schoolchildren are on break this week, here's a little bonus for you: "Bart on the Road" (S7;E20) - the greatest Simpsons Spring Break episode of all time!

"I didn't think he'd do 'Moon River,' but then BAM - second encore!"
That may be overly specific. As far as Spring Break episodes go, Arrested Development offered
a nice one in "Spring Breakout" (S2;E17) that surely demonstrates a lot of the older Spring Break traditions - namely going to a sunny beach area, getting a nice day drink on, and screaming and cheering for everything that's even slightly awesome.

"Bart on the Road" doesn't deal with any of that, though - it's essentially a vacation road-trip episode that primarily features Bart driving Milhouse, Martin, and Nelson across the Upper South. Yeah, that is kind of strange. There are some fantastic moments along the way, though.

From the get go, the set-up is spectacular. Principal Skinner sends all the students to work with their parents because his travel agency ("Hell, Principal") misbook his flight to Hong Kong a day early. While Lisa visits Homer at the Nuclear Power Plant, Bart ends up with Patty and Selma at the DMV (because of course, homemaker isn't a real job...). His aunts deal with the typical yokels ("Hot damn! "No more sittin in the dirt at the drive-in!") and while there he makes a fake ID and voila - hijinks ensue. It's also nice to note that apparently, ID lamination takes 2-3 weeks.

What to do with a fake ID (which by the way, Bart still has in his possession by episode's end)? Bart and his friends (also by the way, it seems as if Nelson has become one of Bart's core buds at this point, though he's still a bit of a bully) go to a bar, but are a bit unenthused by Barney and the rest of the alcoholics. They also go to see a film that has neither nudity nor eating, but emblematic of the certain mysticism an R-rating gives to movies in the eyes of kids, even when they're not all that scandalous.

"Well, I don't think I was rehabilitated, but I guess they needed the extra bed"
They finally decide to rent a car and hit the road through the heartland of this great nation. Their route is actually kind of bizarre, but the kind of thing a kid would plan. Sure, they never do make it to Macon, GA, despite Nelson's strangely invested interest in the town. It's also the first of two references to Branson, MO for whatever reason, the second coming in "The Old Man and the Key" (S13;E13), which also features the popular Bronson, MO. After a stirring show by Andy Williams (Nelson is so weird here), they finally decide on journeying to Knoxville, TN to see the World's Fair and its fabulous Sunsphere.

Some of the best moments on the way involve Nelson hitting people like Milhouse ("He sure did.") and an irate father driving in the lane next to them ("ALRIGHT! BACK TO WINNIPEG!"). To be honest, one of the most impressive things about this episode is how good of a driver Bart is. Despite not understanding cruise control, he handles himself pretty fine without any major collisions or even any police interference. And that hitchhiker bit may be one of the better underrated anti-jokes in Simpsons history.

Of course, Milhouse got the idea to visit Knoxville after reading a guidebook from 1982, but that's besides the point. When they get there they find a kind of Gummo-Knoxville and a Sunsphere full of thousands of boxes of unsold wigs. Their car is crushed by the Sunsphere and Bart eventually becomes a courier (shepherding around things like eyes to Hong Kong and 500 Big Macs to Marlon Brando's island - jeez that latter joke may be the best of the episode). So, now back to Lisa:

Lisa spent her Spring Break hanging out with Homer at work after they had such a good time together on Skinner's fake "Take Your Child to Work Day." They pretended to use spacesuits ("This is much funner with a second person") and Lisa even revealed her crush on Langdon Alger, who sounds like just about the perfect Lisa boy. Lisa is suspicious of Bart's flimsy excuse for leaving (The National Grammar Rodeo in Canada), but doesn't put up too much of a stink. When Bart desperately calls Lisa, though, she has no choice but to tell Homer and get him to order a replacement command console for the Power Plant from Oakridge. She, however, swears him to secrecy because Bart made her promise not to tell anyone.

What a Spring Break for Marge...
What follows is one of the better Simpsons ending
s, where Homer and Lisa are cheesed off while Marge is just blissfully ignorant. She's so proud of her little Grammar Rodeo star. Later at night, every loose end in the episode is wrapped up to Marge's utter confusion and Homer's snickering ("No, Bart has never been to Hong Kong" "No, my son's car was not crushed in Knoxville" "No, Bart is not available tomorrow to deliver a human kidney to Amsterdam"). It's fantastic.

So, happy Spring Break, folks. Take a road trip to the border states, or maybe just hang out at home and learn about Owls.

Give a hoot - what are you doing for Spring Break?

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