The Simpsons, Season Nine, Episode Twenty-Five, “Natural Born Kissers”

It’s a good thing I’m planning on doing one big goodbye essay to The Simpsons next week, because otherwise we’d have the weirdness of ending on an incredibly horny episode about Homer and Marge’s sex life. Some people have argued for “Summer Of 4 ft 2” as a finale, and my take on it gives a good argument why, because it closes the book on Lisa’s central conflict. Others have argued for “Behind The Laughter”, season eleven’s finale; it comes long after the show has gone to shit overall, but it acts as a good summary of the characters as individuals, the family as a whole, and the legacy of The Simpsons. It’s not that this episode is a bad idea conceptually, it’s just that it’s kind of an obscure theme of the show to be ending on (to be fair, they knew they were going to make more episodes and didn’t know I was going to stop here). You may recall the controversy of the Mass Effect 3 ending – it was ill-regarded for a lot of reasons, but what always bothered me about it was that it ended the games on the theme of SPOILER the relationship between organic life and artificial life END SPOILER which was a) a minor theme of the trilogy, especially compared to the conflict between Paragon and Renegade morality, and b) had already been adequately resolved by the end of the geth/quarian war. This episode isn’t nearly that bad (for example: it doesn’t suck even taken on its own terms), but it is a strange note to be ending on. Why now, of all times?

But flowing with the concept, I think it’s a pretty good time. The rich sex life Homer and Marge have has always been an undercurrent to the show that fans have picked up on, so ironically the idea that their sex life has gotten stale is something that actually works for me – I suppose it’s much the same way the comedy on a show I love has gotten stale and routine. In fact, the more I think about that metaphor, the more it works, because this does feel like an otherwise mediocre episode of season nine that’s spiced up by kinky sex – there are some funny laughs, but the plot is fairly uninspired and emotionally inert, but propped up by the absurdity of Homer and Marge fleeing an angry mob nude in a balloon. We really get the sense of how kids can interfere with romantic entanglements on top of a genuine decrease in interest. Unfortunately, the emotional arc fizzles out as soon as they’re out of the minigolf course. It makes me realise one of the flaws of season nine is that it loses the show’s strong plotting; that’s always been the thing that pulled together all of the disparate threads, delivering absurd comedy, heartfelt emotion, and meaningful themes without falling into incoherence, even as it seemed to directly contradict itself. It’s always transformed itself and had a fluid identity, but this season – if you’ll pardon the cliche – feels like a different show.

Chalkboard Gag: I was not the inspiration for “Kramer”.
Couch Gag: The family are frogs who jump in on a lilypad. Homer turns the TV on with his tongue.

This episode was written by Matt Selman and directed by Klay Hall. This is the former’s first episode and the only one directed by the latter, making this an even weirder one for me to end on. It was inspired by Selman’s parents. This was the only time the networks called to suggest not doing the episode, and it shocked even Matt Groening with its sexual content. It ultimately ended up his eighth-favourite episode and the gag of the cow watching Homer and Marge is his favourite act-break joke. I absolutely love the voice acting of Dan Castellanetta and Julie Kavnar in the awkward anniversary sex scene – its the intimacy they’ve always shared, but taken to a new place.

There’s a reference to Frank Grimes’s funeral that strikes me as needlessly tasteless and not very funny. The Hot Wheels fight and Lisa keeping dirt in a colander are both the kind of details this show has always been good at throwing at us without explanation. “I never thought I’d live this long” is a bleakly, bleakly relatable joke. “You’re in fer some serious ass-forkin’!” is a great old-fashioned Simpsons phrasing. The Bart and Lisa plot is kind of a big nothing, but Bart’s unstoppable enthusiasm for metal detection even in the face of failure is very funny and true to life.

“Up, Up, And Buffet!” is a reference to a submarine-shaped restaurant near the studio named Dive! Bart and Lisa find an alternate ending to the film Casablanca and they’re given a copy of the ‘killing spree’ ending of It’s A Wonderful Life. “Spanish Flea” plays during a radio commercial for divorce lawyers. Homer and Bart both drop references to “Rock The Casbah” by The Clash, and the song plays over the credits.

Iconic Moments: 1. “Oh, it’s a donkey!”
Biggest Laugh:

Next week, I’m going to put up an essay that says goodbye to The Simpsons and hello to Futurama, trying to interpolate everything I’ve learned from and about the former into its key points and then seguing into an analysis of the latter’s pilot episode, “Space Pilot 3000”.