The Simpsons eschewed the traditional opening and jumped right into the meat of the episode. There’s nothing really special or remarkable about that other than I missed the traditional couch gag that has graced nearly all (if not positively all) Simpsons episodes. Judging from the plot-heavy episode, it’s clear that cutting the extras was something the writers deemed necessary.
Chief Wiggum received a large package for “Clancy Wiggins,” and once he learned the package contained a jet pack, he readily signed up for it. Calling himself Sky Police, Wiggum flies around town tracking various criminals and becoming a massive nuisance to all. When the real Brigadier General Clancy Wiggins shows up to reclaim his jet pack, Chief Wiggum tries to escape to the sky, only to be shot down by the Army. Damaged, the jet pack erratically flies directly into the church, nearly destroying the entire thing. Without insurance (see below), the church cannot rebuild, and Marge and others launch into a card-counting scheme – with Apu’s help – to win enough funds to rebuild the church.
This is another weak episode in a recent string of inferior episodes. What’s good about it is it gives the second string of Simpsons characters (Marge, Reverend Lovejoy, Skinner’s mother, etc) the chance to shine in their own variation on an Ocean’s Eleven-type heist – complete with costumes! Also, it brings up interesting questions about using religion to justify one’s questionable activities. Here, it’s card counting to support the church, but the implications the episode raises could be leveraged to any kind of religion-justified yet illegal activity. Naturally, The Simpsons keeps it surface deep, but it’s admirable than an animated show continues to dig into deeper subjects.
What’s not so good about the episode is that it’s too heavy on exposition and plot to draw many laughs. After all, The Simpsons is still a comedy, right? By packing the episode so full of plot, they fail to leave much room for the visual gags and verbal jokes we’ve come to expect of The Simpsons. This episode wasn’t as much a comedy as it was comic action adventure, with the “action” suffocating the “comedy” out of the half-hour.
There were a few amusing highlights, and here they are:
- Adjacent to the Springfield’s constantly burning tire fire is a previously unseen “jet pack disposal” yard.
- After the church is struck by the errant jetpack, the church’s insurance covered everything but “acts of God.” When Reverend Lovejoy comments that he believes everything is an act of God, the insurance company rejects his claim.
- Apu attended MIT, the Mumbai Institute of Tantric Sex. He later attended the real MIT and was kicked out, driving him to Springfield.
- Reverend Lovejoy and crew imagine a scenario where the damaged church is bulldozed in favor of an Atheist strip club. The headliner advertised on the marquee is “Crystal Hitchens.”
- Reverend and Mrs. Lovejoy glance through “Liturgical Digest” for renovation ideas. Later, they are seen in their disguises as “Asphodel and Belladonna,” engaging in role playing. When Marge knocks on the door, “Belladonna” invites her in to play. Marge vomits in the bushes.