It’s perhaps the worst kept secret in TV that Homer is a terrible father, but in the latest episode of The Simpsons, Homer finally learns what it means to be a good father, at least for this week.
In this week’s episode, Homer spins a tissue of lies that allows him to play cards with the guys at Karl’s house while telling Marge that he has to work late. On his way home, Homer encounters Karl’s neighbour, Gretchen (special guest voice Elisabeth Moss), and is forced to deliver her baby when the power goes out, stranding them in the elevator. Homer develops an attachment to the baby, who Gretchen names Homer Junior (finally, Homer has someone to call HoJu!), and despite Marge’s shock and anger that Homer has a new family on the side, she can’t dispute the effect that HoJu has on the big guy.
Meanwhile, Lisa accompanies Milhouse to Springfield Atoms football game and gets chosen at random to be the team’s junior cheerleader, in spite of her pessimism about the team’s chances. When Lisa finds out that the cheerleaders are paid a pittance by team owner Rich Texan, she returns to her labour activism roots and leads the girls to unionize and strike. Eventually, Rich Texan concedes and does what his fellow Texans secretly did at the Alamo, surrender.
Not to sound like a broken record, but this isn’t the first time that Homer’s found the allure of fatherhood through someone else’s kids, and this isn’t the first time Lisa’s been embroiled in labour action. But all that went quickly to the back of my mind as the episode came back from its first commercial break and something unusual happened, I was able to just sit back and enjoy the episode for what it was. Like last week’s “YOLO,” a low-frills, less gimmicky* Simpsons works best, and there’s definitely been an uptick in quality from “Four Regrets and a Funeral” through to “Labor Pains.”
Speaking of gimmicky, this week’s couch gag featured a timely retelling of the Pilgrims journey across the Atlantic on the Mayflower, the journey being realized through the Simpsons as the Pilgrims heading across the sea to “Plymouth Couch.” The Indian at the first Thanksgiving was naturally played by Apu.