Episode 15 - Homer Alone
6 January 2011
Synopsis: Marge gets increasingly stressed by family life and breaks down while driving across Springfield Memorial Bridge. Homer comes to take her home and she realises she needs a vacation from her family. She heads off to Rancho Relaxo while Bart and Lisa stay with Patty and Selma and Homer looks after Maggie.
The Good: This is an interesting episode because there isn't much conflict to the story. Marge needs a vacation, so she takes one. That's about it. It's about as realistic and believable as any story the show has done. Yet far from being dull the episode explores the lives of the family in ways we have never seen before.
The build up to Marge's breakdown required no dramatic licence. We know she is the glue holding the family together and their obliviousness of her pain is entirely accurate. Her time at Rancho Relaxo gives us the only glimpse we've ever had of her enjoying herself alone. Troy McClure provided a nice linking patter to explain what the Ranch was like and slip in a few easy jokes.
Homer's incompetence with Maggie (see Best Joke) on the other hand was a very familiar and predictable tale. It also supplied most of the episodes laughs as he used staples on her diapers and was attacked by the dog when trying to perform a puppet show. Barney comes to hang out too and plays the drunk "uncle" roll perfectly. I love the fact that he mistakes Maggie for Bart. It's exactly what you would expect from someone who has been drinking for so long, he got excited at his friends' first child but now he can't be expected to remember everything.
We get exposed to life at Patty and Selma's place with all its spinster horror. We see some political corruption with Chief Wiggum and Mayor Quimby butting heads over Marge's arrest. We also see Wiggum's complete lack of initiative or spine as a big softie of a policeman. We even see some newsroom politics as Kent Brockman puts down Arnie the traffic reporter. It all paints a rich and entertaining picture of life in Springfield and keeps the episode sprinkled with smiles during a fairly straight story.
The Bad: The show recycles the inappropriate-song-as-music-when-someone-is-on-hold gag (301) when Homer calls the police over Maggie's disappearance. Her ability to escape her house and wander the streets of Springfield in search of Marge was ok. I wouldn't be a fan of a baby being able to do a lot more than that.
Best Joke: There were no standout lines but I enjoyed Homer getting up and looking at his watch (11:45am) and giggling to himself as he announces "Oh Maggie! Time for your 9am feeding. He he he." It seemed like such a perfect joke. He doesn't take his responsibility seriously and is delighted to think that the baby won't know what time it is either.
The Bottom Line: The show has reached a point where it can practically tell no story and carve out a thoroughly entertaining episode. Nothing felt forced, the world of Springfield has just opened up to become an amusing place that it's a pleasure to spend twenty two minutes with.
Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.