Review -- The Simpsons: "How the Test Was Won"
Ariel Ponywether has been a fan of The Simpsons since the first time Bart was ten.View all articles by Ariel Ponywether
Dumbing It Down: The Simpson kids head back to school after summer vacation and are soon subjected to standardized testing (The Vice President’s Assessment Test). Superintendent Chalmers’ frantic race for funds from the government results in desperate machinations on his part; he falsifies Bart’s result on a practice test, sending him off with the bullies and Ralph Wiggum on a trip to nowhere- with Principal Skinner as their guide.
A pit stop at a gas station restroom in Capitol City (The birthplace of Capitol Punishment!) results in their bus being stripped of its hardware, and when the group tries to walk back to Springfield Elementary, but Ralph ends up on a garbage scow headed out of town. Skinner’s attempt at saving him initially results in Ralph being put in further danger, but his ultimate application of the law of conservation of angular momentum saves him.
The bullies and Bart have a fresh respect for Skinner, and the group hitches a ride back to Springfield Elementary, where Skinner, who’s learned something about the value of learning life in the field from his students, calls a prompt end to the testing and breaks the school’s ban on dancing.
Lisa, meanwhile, freezes up when she hears of Bart’s excellent placement (and that she scored an eighty-nine percent, having made a few mistakes). Lisa’s anxiety interferes with her performance, and she’s prepared to take on the mantle of “normalcy” when Skinner bursts in with his announcement, allowing her to again take up the mantle of
In the subplot, Homer forgets to mail in an insurance premium; due to his lapse in payment he’ll be uninsured until three in the afternoon. He frantically rushes about trying to keep himself safe from harm, and protect Marge’s book club from getting hurt on his property. Just after the deadline passes, through a series of Rube Goldbergian events, Homer stabs Mister Burns at 3:01 PM.
Red Dress Press: It’s another episode with an air of “been there, done that.” Remember the last time Bart was hidden away from the powers-that-be by Skinner during a pivotal moment in the school’s history? (for that matter, remember when Mr. Burns did the same to Homer in “Homer Goes to College”? “A bee bit my bottom! Now my bottom’s big!”)? The A plot plays as a cross between the former episode and “Lost Our Lisa”. The only thing that saves it from utter mediocrity is the expansion of and terrific use of Principal Skinner’s character.
The episode as a whole walks an uneasy line between in character behavior and simple regurgitation of old themes. Skinner is perfectly himself; calm, stodgy and in-charge. Chalmers provides a surprisingly high number of laughs as he becomes more and more desperate for the students to provide their best for the test. The material used in the Lisa subplot is amusing, and her mini-meltdown understandable.
However, Homer’s subplot was cringe worthy. It was another “let’s laugh at Homer while he gets hurt” plotline, twisted slightly (Let’s watch Homer desperately avoid getting hurt!), with a dash of the too-typical plot device “Homer’s too stupid to breathe”. Also, simply put, the sight of Mr. Burns’ blood rocketing out of Homer’s ears as he attempted mouth-to-mouth on his boss was nauseating.
The Skinner storyline buoys the incredibly lame Homer side of the plot, but not quite well enough for a recommendation.
Did It Fail At Masonry?: In a word, yes. If you plan on re-watching, skipping the whole of the Homer plot is advisable.
What the Screwballs Think: After a full half-hour’s delay due to a NASCAR overrun, the show pulled in an evened out 6.5, the night’s highest number but down slightly from the preceding NASCAR coverage.
Springfield Shopper: The next all-new episode of The Simpsons, “No Loan Again, Naturally”, is set to air on March eighth. Be sure to check back here on the ninth for a full recap!
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