Welcome to Welcome to Springfield, a OneOfUs column that re-examines The Simpsons series episode by episode to establish what made it a cultural icon, and to determine what went wrong. It’s a lofty goal, but Andrew is just the man to do it.
Airdate: February 18, 1990
Summary: After Ned Flanders shows up in a new RV, Homer takes the family shopping for their own in an effort to outdo Ned. Unfortunately, the only one they can afford is the cheapest one available. After swinging by the house and showing off to Ned, it’s camping season for the Simpsons. Things soon take a turn for the worse when Homer nearly drives the family off a cliff. As they escape the RV, it falls and explodes, leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere without any supplies.
After setting up shelter Homer and Bart go off in search of help. Unbeknownst to them they are followed by Maggie. While looking for help, Homer and Bart are spooked by Maggie, winding up more lost than before. While wandering through the woods, Maggie meets a bear. At first it growls at her, but after she offers it a pacifier, it takes a liking to her and takes her back to its cave. Surviving the fall, Bart and Homer have lost their clothes. After slapping together some makeshift cover, they go hunting and fail miserably.
Back at Marge and Lisa’s camp, they’ve managed to build better shelter and got a fire started. Maggie has been given toys by the bears and cuddles with them for warmth, while Homer and Bart fall asleep freezing. The next morning, Homer’s desperation for food leads him to stick his head in a beehive and get stung in the mouth. Desperate for water, Homer runs into the middle of a lake where a tourist captures on film, believing Homer is Big Foot.
A media frenzy ensues and Marge and Lisa are rescued, only for tabloids to sensationalize Marge’s marriage to “Big Foot.” Still on the hunt for food, Bart and Homer smell fish and find the grizzly bears. Maggie calms them down and leaves with Bart and Homer. The trio finds their way to the media circus, where hunters tranquilize and capture Homer. Following a study and observation, Homer is released and researchers find their results inconclusive, believing him to be either the missing link or just a human with below average intelligence. At home, Marge comforts Homer as he watches the press conference.
Review: At this point in the series, Flanders was more of a Jones to keep up with than the holy roller we know him as now. Anything Flanders did or owned was better than what the Simpsons had or did. In Roasting on an Open Fire it was lights and presents, here it’s lawnmowers and RV’s. I miss this old Ned. In a way, he was like an antagonist for Homer without knowing it.
This episode is the first time that we see how Homer’s stupidity controls the family’s lives. Despite the modest intentions and desires of the rest of the family, Homer opts to continue on his foolish path. The perfect example of everyone being affected by Homer’s idiocy is the very start of the trip. When they finally get out there, Homer almost drives off a cliff killing them all, just because he wanted to make Flanders jealous.
Something I have to applaud this episode for is its refusal of stereotypes, Homer is supposed to be the one who knows how to survive in the woods but its Lisa, Marge, and Maggie who all manage to survive comfortably in the woods, while Homer and Bart struggle to do things like find shelter, navigate the woods, or find food.
Furthermore, Maggie’s plot is a great piece of writing. I like that they chose to give the one member of the family who can’t talk her own plot line and had her communicate through signs and actions with other characters who can’t talk. She isn’t just a prop to give Marge something to do. She’s her own character and she had some of the most creative adventures for a non-talker.
When the tabloid hears about Big foot, the scene becomes an examination of how quickly people will exploit something. Within a matter of days, there are photo ops, burgers, and any other type of merchandise they can think of. When Marge tries to explain that the creature is her husband, the media sensationalizes it rather than listen to the truth. Even her pork chop recipes are front page worthy. They don’t care that Homer’s actually a man or that they’re putting him in danger, they just want to sell papers.
This isn’t a good or bad episode, it’s just an ok episode. There’s never a point where you’re bored, but it never goes past a rating of average. There’s an interesting B plot with Maggie but otherwise this episode is forgettable.
Final score: 3.0/5.0