Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 23: "King of the Hill"

Airdate: May 3rd, 1998

Synopsis: After a disastrous outing to a church picnic, Bart realizes that Homer is pathetically out of shape. Homer, disappointed in himself for failing his son, decides to take up an exercise regiment, complete with trips to the “gyme” and eating Powersauce bars. Impressively, with the help of Rainier Wolfcastle, he manages to build up sizable muscles within two months, albeit developing a bit of ego along the way. One particular trip to the “gyme” has Homer and Bart meet up with representatives from Powersauce, and Bart convinces Homer to take up on an offer to climb the super-tall Murderhorn. The executives sponsor the trip along the way, turning it into an ad campaign… even having sherpas help Homer.

Review (SPOILERS): Watching these past few episodes has been like a pendulum. We had “Trillions” show the assassination of satire, “Girly Edition” show the brilliant satire formed over the previous eight seasons, “Trash of the Titans” show Homer get a job and act like an asshat all the way, and this episode, actually extending pathos to Homer. Is this the last we’ll see of a sympathetic Homer? Who knows? (Hint: probably.)

This episode chooses to look at one of Homer’s defining physical features- his rotundness, and how it contrasts to society’s expectations of machismo. It’s a bit strange that, given the relative zaniness of these past few episodes (Cuba? Really?), this episode actually has a somewhat realistic portrayal of Homer’s health and what happens when he exercises- even though he gets muscles in two months, he’s still not presented as fit. The way this episode portrays his strives to get healthier actually makes you feel for Homer through the entire episode.

Unlike future episodes, which will show Homer become macho thanks to the power of a dietician, this episode shows the fraudulence of certain “schemes” to healthy living- that is, food in “health bar” form. This actually shows a realistic viewpoint of that scheme- eating the bars seems to motivate Homer. When the rug is pulled out from under Homer (mmm… Chinese newspapers), he rejects the Powersauce Executives fears that he won’t make it to the summit… only to embrace it after almost dying.

He only truly abandons his quest after he learns something about his father. Why? Eh, it’s a plot arc introduced in the third act. I would’ve placed something a bit earlier, but it fit with the pacing of the episode. Still, he realizes that there can be no greater shame than what his father did, and that whatever he does is still more dignified. I won’t spoil it, but it is a pretty dark moment.

While Homer does dip in a little bit of “Jerkass” territory here, it’s relatively minor and somewhat excusable- with the pathos built up, it’s understandable why his ego inflated a bit after gaining some muscle. Likewise, the resolution of the plot is a bit… strange. Still, somewhat alleviated by Homer’s pathos.

Getting back to the macho part, this episode does take some shots at society’s expectations of macho-ness via Wolfcastle. The muscles. the feats of strength. Yet, he won’t do the impossible in real life- climb the Murderhorn. Granted, his reasoning is justified, but still. The Gravity Falls episode “Dipper Vs. Manliness” did a similar episode 15 years later- one that criticized masculine stereotypes. Being that “Manliness” happens to be one of my least favorite Gravity Falls episodes, I find it strange how an episode from the waning years of The Simpsons can best a similar episode of a show which might be my all-time favorite.

Not much to say here, really. A good episode, albeit relatively unmemorable (except for “gyme”), probably the last before Scully’s brand of Simpsons fully takes over.

Tidbits

  • The mockery of advertising is brilliant. The Powersauce executives are annoyingly hysterical- they’re more callous about death and danger than Mr. and Mrs. Valentino! 
  • This just in: Powersauce is amazing!
  • Note to self: always use “gyme”.
  • Apologies for being out these past couple of weeks. Writers block, plus new blog, plus a new semester, does not motivation make.
  • One last note: this will likely be the last blog post under the current URL. At the latest, as of the posting of my review of the next Gravity Falls episode, “Northwest Mansion Noir”, the URL will change to starbug1729.blogspot.com. I would preemptively bookmark it, if I were you.
Favorite Scene: Every scene with Abe and McAllester is brilliantly done. Nothing says character development like those scenes.

Least Favorite Scene: Eh… can’t name a scene that stood out for it’s weaknesses. All of them were necessary to the plot.

Jerkass Homer Meter: 1.5. Homer gets a bit more aloof and callous when he gets fit, but it’s immediately balanced out by the pathos in the episode.

Zaniness Factor: 2… mainly for the last three minutes.

Score: 7.

Update- 2/2/15: Not related to The Simpsons, but I’ve just learned/realized that Geraldine McEwan, who played Cassandra in Red Dwarf, died recently. In tribute of her, I post this quote from “Cassandra”:

Cassandra: All of the Canaries will be dead within 1 hour, except for Rimmer…

Rimmer: YES!

Cassandra: …who will be dead in 20 minutes.

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