The Simpsons, Season Nine, Episode Eight, “The Two Mrs Nahasapeemapetilans”

From one perspective, this is the most interesting episode we’ve had in ages, because it’s the usual tug-of-war between Apu’s offensive creative foundation colliding with the show’s warmth and intelligence combined with the new tug-of-war between that same warmth and intelligence and its newfound meanness and laziness. I absolutely love Apu’s story here because it really reminds me of the story of Lane Pryce on Mad Men – an immigrant to America who has genuinely and enthusiastically embraced the values of his new home, finding himself relatively successful. There’s even a connection in how the same basic value of their home culture is what leads to their American success – a willingness to do the monotonous, unsexy but necessary work that keeps everything functioning – and how it also comes from the fact that Americans aren’t generally willing to do that kind of work. I do like how the opening act builds on what we already know; we’ve seen before that Apu is a diligent, humble worker, and it makes sense that these qualities would make him, you know, attractive, especially to the women of Springfield and especially in comparison to the men of Springfield. There’s always the risk with these kind of things where it can seem like the writers are rewarding a nice character with sex, but it genuinely feels like the writers have done the legwork to make it come off as Apu being nice and these particular women find that attractive, and it feels like a small part of the bigger picture of Apu’s assimilation into American culture. I have absolutely zero grounding to understand if the show’s take on Indian culture is at all accurate, but I do have both a family with a very traditional culture and personal values built upon the culture I found myself drawn to in adulthood, and I can recognise the frustration that comes with juggling them like so many juggling balls (two, I suppose).

The flipside of this is the lazy plotting and humour scattered all throughout. This is the most unbearably annoying Homer has been to me in the entire show – he’s been lazy, mean, and impulsive before, but I almost couldn’t stand him all throughout this. A lot of it comes down to the plotting, where it feels like Homer’s actions neither come from somewhere understandable nor go somewhere surprising; in a logistics sense, the middle act is some garbage, basic-ass farce that would barely pass muster in the screwball era, let alone on a show this smart, and Homer just wanders into and out of the retirement home at whim. This is, really, the payoff to my essay on “Boy-Scoutz ‘N The Hood”. In discussions on the Jerkass Homer phenomenon, multiple people remarked that what made Golden Era Homer so endearing, even through his many, many, many personality flaws, was that his actions often came from either a childlike enthusiasm or an envy for people better off than him, and that made his actions understandable if not worth endorsing. Homer is a total jerk all throughout that episode because he’s resentful of someone being smarter than him, which is petty and awful and utterly human; it blows up in his face over and over again in many different ways (“Stupid poetic justice!”), and we can see Homer as a twisted reflection of our own impulses and a reason not to act upon them. In this, there’s no real reason for Homer to act the way he does except out of a sociopathic indifference to other human beings, and it only goes somewhere funny when his attempt at scaring Hindus with their God gets him stuck up a tree with rocks pelted at him.

Chalkboard Gag: N/A
Couch Gag: Bart spray-paints the family onto the couch.

This episode was written by Richard Appel and directed by Steven Dean Moore. Both halves of the story had been conceived years before, and were fused together to make a full plot. 

I was thinking about how sometimes people claim that part of the show’s decline came from imitating Family Guy. It’s not impossible, but I can’t help but notice that Homer is acting very much like how Peter Griffin would and the story is giving him an absurd FG amount of leeway, but that show didn’t descend into what it is until season four, and the pilot hadn’t even aired at the point this was made. No, the decline of The Simpsons was entirely its own fault.

Great gag of nobody apparently recognising Krusty’s name until Ken specifies “… The Clown!” Apparently, Krusty is no longer illiterate. Homer’s mostly unsympathetic, but I will admit to understanding his descent into remembering how good that chocolate bar tasted. There are two really good Indian jokes here: Mrs Nahasapeemapetilon’s deadpan response to Bart’s dumb question, and the “We treat you like cattle” gag, one of the rare gags this late in the run that gets funnier the longer I think about it. At the other end of the intelligence scale, Grampa acknowledging Homer as ‘Cornelius’ is a really dumb gag that got a big laugh out of me. 

The title is a reference to The Two Mrs Grenvilles. The song accompanying Barney onstage is “My Guy” by Mary Welles; the song over Apu’s love montage is “Hot Blooded” by Foreigner; the song at his wedding is an Indian version of “(They Long To Be) Close To You” by The Carpenters. Apu dances like the characters in Riverdance. A barber is named Hairy Shearers in reference to Harry Shearer. The scene of Moe walking onto and immediately offstage is a loose reference to an incident in which Redd Foxx walked onstage, saw how few people were in the audience, and immediately walked offstage; the band, confused, simply played his walkoff song.

Iconic Moments: “Yar, I’m… not attractive.” | “I can’t believe you don’t shut up!”
Biggest Laugh: “Why do we have to stand here? This is so humiliatin’!” is a great bit of absurdity, but ultimately I have to go with this, apparently based on something Moore actually saw once: