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Monday, February 2, 2015

Retro Review: Lisa's Rival

Original Airdate
September 11th, 1994

Or the One Where
Lisa's academic supremacy is threatened while Homer attempts to become a sugar baron. 

The Setup
New girl Allison comes to town and immediately challenges Lisa, while Homer discovers an overturned sugar truck and claims the cargo. 

Notable Notes
Winona Ryder, near the height of her popularity as a movie star, guest stars as Allison Taylor, Lisa's titular rival. Apparently, she was a fan of the show and the creators fans of hers. Though I don't believe she speaks again, Alison does appear in later episodes, usually amongst crowd shots of the students.

This is the first episode written by future showrunner Mike Scully. Conan O'Brien, during his time with the show, originally pitched the idea of Lisa having to deal with a rival. Like "Bart of Darkness", this episode was affected by the 1994 earthquake that led to it airing in the sixth season.

Lisa's hallucinates being in a band comprised of second fiddles, including Art Garfunkle, John Oates, and Jim Messina ("why would they come to our concert just to boo us?").

This episode introduced two Ralph Wiggum quotes your stoner college buddy repeated ad naseum: "My cat's breath smells like cat food" and "I bent my Wookie" (to be clear, those are both pretty great lines).

It also taught the world that Alec Guiness means "genuine class", while Jeremy Irons is "Jeremy's Iron".

Finally, this episode introduced a pair of phrases I use quote often in my personal Lexicon: "look, it's ___! And he's doing stuff!" and "oh, now we're into the dregs...".


Quotable Quotes
Lisa: But she's better than me at everything that makes me special!
Marge: Oh, believe me honey, she's more scared of you than you are of her.
Lisa: You're thinking of bears, Mom.

Homer: In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women...

Marge: Homer, when are you going to give up this crazy sugar scheme?
Homer: Never, Marge! Never. I can't live the button-down life like you. I want it all: the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles. Sure, I might offend a few of the bluenoses with my cocky stride and musky odors -- oh, I'll never be the darling of the so-called "City Fathers" who cluck their tongues, stroke their beards, and talk about "What's to be done with this Homer Simpson?"
Marge: Look, just get rid of the sugar, OK?
Homer: No!

Bart: Tomorrow morning, when Allison comes out of her house, we spray her with the hose, soaking her from head to toe, leaving us relatively dry.
Lisa: Relatively?
Bart: Well, there's bound to be some splash back.
Lisa: Bart, her being wet won't help me to win the competition.
Bart: We could just sabotage her diorama, humiliating her in front of the students and faculty.
Lisa: Perfect!
Bart: Leaving her primed for the most traumatic hose-soaking of her life!
Lisa: Enough with the hose!

Beekeeper 1: Well, sure is quiet in here today.
Beekeeper 2: Yes, a little too quiet, if you know what I mean.
Beekeeper 1: Hmm...I'm afraid I don't.
Beekeeper 2: You see, bees usually make a lot of noise.  No noise -- suggests no bees!
Beekeeper 1: Oh, I understand now. Oh look, there goes one now.
Beekeeper 2: To the Beemobile!
Beekeeper 1: You mean your Chevy?
Beekeeper 2: Yes.


Teebore's Take
This is another contender for one of my favorite episodes of all time. It features arguably the second best Lisa A-story in the history of the show, one which resonates personally for me as she tries to come to terms with the realization that she's smart, but not the smartest, good, but not great. Combine that with perhaps the series' single greatest and most quotable B-story, Homer's Scarface-inspired descent into madness as he attempts to become a rich sugar baron, a particularly Puck-ish and effective supporting role for Bart (which in turns gives us a pretty terrific runner involving Milhouse being pursued by Federal agents) and, of course, Diorama-rama, and you've got an all time classic in which nearly every minute is packed with something great.

Classic 


When "I bent my Wookiee" is, like, the fifth-funniest line in an episode, you know it's a good one. Seriously, I could have just pasted a copy of the script into Quotable Quotes.

3 comments:

  1. one which resonates personally for me as she tries to come to terms with the realization that she's smart, but not the smartest, good, but not great.

    When I started in my universitah, in the orientation they gave us a heads-on of the upcoming experience of "facing your own mediocrity", so that's a concept. "You have this far been the smart kid in your class, but so has everyone else here."

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  2. "Though I don't believe she speaks again, Alison does appear in later episodes, usually amongst crowd shots"

    A fate which has befallen more than a few of Springfield's new residents.

    Homer's time as a sugar baron is fun, but nothing beats his turn as a beer baron.

    Easily one of the best episodes ever, and certainly one of the best Lisa centric episodes ever. I've said this before, but her episodes are very underrated, and provide a much better mix of laughs and social commentary than you sometimes get with Homer or Bart centric episodes. I mean, we might laugh now at something like Diorama-rama, but for some kids, it can be brutal competition ;)

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  3. @Teemu: When I started in my universitah, in the orientation they gave us a heads-on of the upcoming experience of "facing your own mediocrity", so that's a concept.

    Yeah, I remember hearing a similar speech at some point when I started college as well.

    @wwk5d: Homer's time as a sugar baron is fun, but nothing beats his turn as a beer baron.

    Man, that's a tough call. It helps that his time as a beer baron is the A-plot of that episode, so there's more to it, but I love the sheer insanity of Homer even thinking he could get rich off a pile of sugar.

    Like, distributing illegal hooch in a town under prohibition, sure that's a thing someone could actually get rich doing. But no one is getting rich off having a pile of sugar in their backyard, and the sheer randomness of Homer thinking otherwise adds so much to that plot.

    I mean, we might laugh now at something like Diorama-rama, but for some kids, it can be brutal competition ;)

    "I don't deserve to win.../Well, this doesn't deserve to win". :)

    Of course, one of the things that makes Diorama-rama so great is just how into it Skinner is.

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