After the heaviness of “Bart Gets An F” and the general slow pace of season one, here we have something simple and silly: Homer sees a miracle cure for baldness on TV, commits insurance fraud to get it, and climbs the corporate ladder. It’s a constantly moving plot with a lot of great jokes, and it finally feels like proper classic Simpsons.
The episode is kicked off by Homer seeing an ad on television for Demoxinil – we’ve seen Homer be susceptible to obvious sales pitch techniques in “The Call Of The Simpsons”, and here that flowers into an enthusiastic embrace of TV advertising, even when his own wife tries telling him some women find bald men attractive. Unfortunately, as we all know, the Simpsons are always flat broke, so he gives up until Lenny (white) and Carl (black) talk him into committing insurance fraud. Hilariously and quite typically, the doctor Homer speaks to openly refuses to commit fraud and happily does it under the table.
When Homer wakes up with long luxurious hippy hair, he’s overjoyed, literally running through the street. There’s a scene where Marge describes the much happier Homer to her sisters, and when he gets home their reaction is much funnier considering Selma is later revealed as a lesbian. The act ends with Burns contemplating which of the worker drones he wants to give a token promotion to, settling on a young go-getter he doesn’t recognise – the first time Burns doesn’t recognise Homer, and it actually has a reason!
Homer is frightened by every female secretary he tries to hire, because they all hit on him – a small note of Homer’s fidelity to Marge. He hires a man named Karl, who intensely encourages him like a personal motivation speaker. Karl hypes up Homer to himself, buys him a nice new suit that flatters his body, and even sends Marge an anniversary gift in Homer’s name. At the meeting, Homer impresses Burns with new, go-getting, incredibly cheap ideas; Smithers bringing up the fact that the plant’s injuries and meltdowns have gone down and productivity has gone up since Homer was promoted does nothing to ruin his view of Homer. Irritated and jealous of Homer’s attention from Burns, Smithers investigates him and discovers the insurance fraud.
Harry Shearer’s performance as Burns is fascinating at this stage. His voice is lower and hasn’t developed the sing-song rhythm he’ll have, so he sounds more abusive and angry, shifting from one emotion to another from line to line; it’s less singsong and more a growl. Nevertheless, there’s the beginnings of Shearer’s unique take on Burnsie in his pronunciation of “tartar”, emphasising the hard r’s. With time, Shearer would take much joy in giving Burns oddball and archaic pronunciation of words, and the writers would lean into it.
Homer is on top of the world in his new life, emphasised by the fact that he changes haircuts every scene from now on. He doesn’t bother saving any money, convinced this is how the world will be forever. Burns tells him to give a speech, moments before Smithers brings the proof of fraud to Burns. When Smithers goes to fire Homer, Karl jumps on that grenade, and leaves Homer forever.
Right when Homer most desperately needs his Demoximil, Bart is caught up in a whimsical childish image – using it to grow a beard, impressing his school chums. Unfortunately, not only does he waste some of it, he drops the whole bottle when Homer gets home, and Homer’s demolishment of Bart is one of the funniest cases of a parent ruining a child’s innocence ever done on television.
Homer wakes up bald again the next morning, and when he goes into work, he sees a letter from Karl containing the speech he needs to give to win his coworker’s respect. We get a double parody of TV conventions here – firstly, that’s not a voice in Homer’s head, that’s Karl standing next to him reading it aloud. Secondly, Karl gives Homer the magic feather speech – the power didn’t come from Homer’s hair, it came from him and his heart! He can do this! He can give that speech!
Except no, he can’t. It was definitely the hair that did it. Without his head of hair, nobody believes anything he says. Once again, the magic of television fails us. We do get a status-quo restoring save though – Burns won’t fire Homer, but he will let him have his old job back, knowing the pain of baldness. In this case, it feels less like a cheap restoration of the status quo and more like a genuine moment of sympathy from Burns. The episode ends with Homer sadly opening up to Marge about his insecurity, and Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner have built up a genuine chemistry at this point, sounding for all the world like a couple who’ve been in love since high school.
Chalkboard Gag: “Tar is not a play thing”
Couch Gag: The family does an Egyptian dance.
This episode was written by Jon Vitti and directed by Rich Moore. The direction is subtler and simpler this episode, conveying emotion without distracting from the story. Harvey Fierstein guest stars as Karl, and his voice is posher than anything I’ve seen him in. Feirstein contributed to the design of Karl, changing him from “basically Fierstein” to a tall, blonde, thin man.
The title is a reference to the biblical story of Samson and Delilah. Homer running through the streets is a reference to It’s A Wonderful Life. The “key to the washroom” sequence is a reference to Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?.
I have no idea how the sort-of homosexuality of Karl came across in 1990 – apparently, him kissing Homer came a decade before the first live-action homosexual male kiss on American television (via Dawson’s Creek).
(I’m a simple man)