Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 2: Principal and the Pauper.

Airdate: September 28th, 1997

Synopsis: Springfield Elementary School is about to celebrate the anniversary of Skinner’s tenure at the school. Skinner is surprised at the glowing tribute given to him. However, a strange man (Martin Sheen) pulls up and enters the school, and announces that he is also named Seymour Skinner. Skinner concedes that he was an imposter (really named Armin Tamzarian) and that he took the real Skinner’s identity…. and, really, describing beyond that point would just be a waste of space.

Review: Oh, boy. This episode. To many people, this episode marked the very first signs of the show’s descent into hacktackularity. The plot alone is considered to be the worst one ever made up by the show.

Now, what do I think of this? Four words: bad plot, decent execution.

The idea itself just screams “moronic” right from the get-go. Really, taking a character that had been developed over the past 8 seasons, and then revealing all of that to be a fraud? WHAT THE?  To add insult to injury, this creates tons of plot holes in the show’s canon. (Who was serving with Abe in “Curse of the Flying Hellfish”? What else happened with Skinner in Vietnam?)

Also, with this, we get to see the show truly use a gimmicky plot that it would often mock. Granted, unlike other examples, I can see the idea of this (even though it was a stupid idea from moment 1), as a desire to experiment with the canon of the show. However, it still is stupid, and was a sign of things to come, with a lack of care for characters or interesting plots. So, yeah, this episode deserves a goodly amount of its hate.

Where is it redeemed? Well, it’s actually quite funny. I would not consider this the funniest episode ever, but there are plenty of scenes that will still elicit quite a few laughs. A few include:

  • The Road Trip to Capital City, with Agnes, Edna, the Simpson Family, Abe (also part of said Simpson Family), and Jasper.
  • “Is this the line for those who want to badmouth Sargent Skinner?” “And have 12 Items or Less!” “12, 11, 10, the man’s a weenie!”
  • “The judge offered me a choice. Jail, the army, or apologizing to the old man and the lady. Of course, if I knew there was a war going on, I probably would have apologized.”
  • Apu not caring what Skinner/Armin calls himself.
  • “Keep looking shocked, and move slowly towards the cake!”

Still, I can see why that this episode is quite controversial. The plot is stupid. Maybe, if they did not play it so seriously, it would work. That, however, is a failure that would also dominate later episodes, with cliches and/or stupid plot elements played dead straight. Even then, with the ending scene, they did tend to take the MST3K Mantra with this episode. However, with the fanbase of The Simpsons being as passionate as it is (seriously, log onto nohomers.net or deadhomersociety.com), I can see why they did not take kindly to this episode.

Favorite Scene (Spoiler): The very end of the episode, with the necessary deus ex machina (in which the town legally denies the real Skinner’s existence).

Least Favorite Scene: The reveal of Armin Tamzarian. Except for the “move towards the cake” line above.

Score: 6.5.

Behind The Laughter (According to Wikipedia): If you thought only the fans hated the episode… not so. Harry Shearer, who plays Skinner (Our Skinner), hated this episode. Matt Groening also was not a fan of this episode. Ken Keeler, however, declared that this episode was his personal favorite to work on. I personally prefer his other works, like “A Star is Burns”, “Two Bad Neighbors”, “Brother From Another Series”, damn near every episode he did on Futurama (such as all four series finales he did. Yes. He did all four episodes which, at the time of production, were supposed to be the end).

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