Airdate: February 15, 1998
Synopsis: While on the way to a trip to the Model UN conference in Capital City, the kids from Springfield Elementary wind up in a jam after a grapefruit-related brake failure drives the bus off of a bridge. With Otto floating away (“ZEPPELIN RULES!”), the kids wind up trapped on a deserted island. A combination of the island’s lack of resources and their lack of survival skills scuttles their attempts at civilization, and the kids have to live off of the snacks from the bus. All the while, the kids become suspicious of one another.
Meanwhile, Homer, inspired by Flanders’s internet enterprise, decides to start his own internet business… despite knowing nothing about the internet. Thus, we take a look at the rise and fall of Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net.
Review: I had to read Lord of the Flies during High School. (Thank you, New York State.) For those that haven’t read the book in a long time, the book focused on a bunch of British students getting trapped on an island after their plane goes down. Their connections to civilization falter, and the kids become more and more savage.
I have to say, watching this episode after thinking about the book, I was a tad bit underwhelmed.
“Das Bus” seems like it was trying to be more of a send-up to Flies, which is alright, except, as others have pointed out, it tends to play to the beats of the novel a bit too closely. The Simpsons is best when it adds twists to the source material. Outside of the ending (which I’ll discuss below), the episode tended to match word-for-word the novel. Kids try to form own civilization after getting trapped on island, yet wind up becoming more and more savage and brutal.
This episode does take quite the stab at the United Nations, as, at the meeting, we see the kids bicker over the relationship between each other, setting the tone for what they would do without supervision from adults. Once they get stranded on the island, they begin looking for their self-interests. Fighting Milhouse for the “food” is a collaborative effort, but in the end, the kids want their own instant gratification. Meanwhile, Millhouse, one of the remaining “civilized” students, winds up acting like a jerkass to Lisa and Bart, asking them to carry him to safety, and repaying them by abandoning the two after crossing the cliff. Is it symbolic of international relations within the UN, and providing a message about the flaws of the organization? Or am I looking too much into this episode? Given Scully’s legacy amongst the general public, I lean somewhat to the latter.
Either way, I think if the episode focused more on UN satire and less on ripping off Lord of the Flies, this might have been more enjoyable… a little bit.
The ending of the plot is actually pretty decent. While the reveal of “the monster” is a bit too in step, it actually does lead to a very interesting twist – one that plays off of the kid’s instant gratification and one that is a direct stab at Lisa’s vegetarianism. I also think the ending ending was a bit of a stab at the ending of Lord of the Flies. Normally, I hold Simpsons episodes that have haphazard-esque endings in a low light. Yet, here, I kind of liked it, given the source material.
Character in the A-plot seemed a bit uneven, yet I can somewhat pass it off, given the stressful situation they’re in. Some of Lisa’s dialogue might seem off given her normally intelligent nature, but it also helps reinforce that she’s still a second grader. Bart’s dialogue also seemed to show that there are flashes of brilliance in him, yet it is also balanced by his naiveté.
Plot “B” mocks the dot-com bubble just around the time it was, well, bubbling. Homer sets up a business with no knowledge of the industry, acts like an idiot, is somehow able to buy advertising (albeit on, apparently, Voyager fansites), and, when it comes time to sell, he gets trashed… rather literally, in fact. (“I didn’t get rich by writing a lot of cheques!”). Sure, it’s a prototype of the “Homer gets a new job and acts like a jackass” plot that would become the center of season 10. However, I must admit, it was pretty damn funny. By far my favorite piece of dialogue would have to be between Comic Book Guy and Homer, as CBG wants faster internet.
Comic Book Guy: “I’m interested in upgrading my 28.8 kilobaud internet connection to a 1.5 megabit fiber optic T1 line. Will you be able to provide an IP router that’s compatible with my Token Ring Ethernet LAN connection?”
Homer: [Stares for a few seconds] “Can I have some money now?”
Overall, while a bit of a disappointment compared to what I was expecting, it was still a pretty decent episode. Maybe my expectations were too high. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
- Some fans on the internet have complained that Bill Gates, who briefly appeared at Homer’s business, voiced himself, claiming that celebrity guest voices helped kill the show. Hank Azaria actually voiced Gates.
- This episode was written by David S Cohen. It would be his third-to-last script under the title: after the Writers Guild unionized, he was forced to drop the S from his title, and instead put an X for his future scripts, including the pilot to Futurama, which I think is surprisingly underrated in the science-fiction world.
- The resolution to Otto’s C-plot is pretty damn funny… it involves Chinese fishermen and slave labor. “I think I’m gonna like it on this boat!”
- Worth noting that the Model UN was also given a brief shoutout in “Lisa the Drama Queen”, where the meeting goes awry due to the lack of certain representatives… in that case, Lisa. Strangely enough, that episode was also a parody of another piece of media- there, it was the 1994 film Heavenly Creatures. Much like this episode, it’s less of a parody and more of a beat-by-beat retelling. It was a pretty weak episode, especially by the standards of the classics.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 2 Between stealing Marge’s ideas without giving her credit, ignoring her, and telling her to get out when Gates arrives to make himself look good – it’s a bit annoying.
Zaniness Factor: 2.5. An episode of this caliber was always going to be “out there”. It does pull back on the slapstick, however.
Favorite Scene: LOVED CBG’s attempts to boost his internet speed… via Homer. Pretty much sums up Telecom companies.
Least Favorite Scene: Milhouse abandoning Bart and Lisa after swinging over the ditch rubbed me the wrong way. Milhouse is many things, but a jerkass he is not.