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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Retro Review: Missionary Impossible

AKA: Homer becomes a missionary

The Setup: In order to get his favorite show on public television back on the air, Homer makes a $10,000 donation to PBS. When they come to collect, Homer flees the country with Reverend Lovejoy's help, who sends him off to do missionary work in the South Pacific.

Favorite Lines:

Betty White: If you watch even one second of PBS and don't contribute, you're a thief. A common thief!

Marge: Homer, are you all right?
Homer: I guess so, but that first month was pretty rough.
Marge: You've only been gone two days.
Homer: Really? Without TV, it's hard to know when one day begins and the other ends.

Homer: Hmm, I can see the house is falling apart without me, so here's the new order: Bart, you're the man of the house. Lisa, I'm promoting you to boy. Maggie's now the brainy girl. The toaster can fill in for Maggie. And Marge,you're a consultant.

Marge: Guess who I just saw at the supermarket today.
Bart: Can it wait? I just got off work.
Marge: Sorry, honey, I just thought ...
Bart: Don't you do enough yapping at the beauty parlor?
Marge: That's it, Bart. You're taking this "man of the house" thing too far.
Bart: You're right, I'm sorry. Tell you what, Saturday night we'll go out for steaks, just you and me.
Marge: Hmm. A night out is a night out.

Teebore's Take: This episode manages to accomplish all three things that make for a bad episode of "The Simpsons" around this time: another "Homer gets a job" plot, with Homer working as a missionary, completely over-the-top scenarios, such as the casino built by the island natives at Homer's instruction, and the lack of a "real" ending, as Homer's imminent death by lava flow is interrupted by Betty White schilling for a Fox telethon.

Still, the episode is not without its charms: the PBS hunt at the beginning, featuring laser-shooting Teletubbies, Yo Yo Ma wielding his cello like a bow-and-arrow and Oscar the Grouch and Elmo crashing through the church window, is hilarious if completely ridiculous. And it does feature Betty White, scourge of Vets and all-around woman-you-don't-want-to-mess-with, so it has that going for it.


There are no Jockey-elves, but from the PBS attack to Bart working at the power plant to Homer's missionary work to the out-of-nowhere ending, it doesn't get much zanier than this.

Jerk-Ass Homer:

Initial fake pledge to PBS aside, we're dealing more with "loveable oath" Homer than "Jerk-ass Homer."


  1. You forgot to mention that this episode also popularized the use of the word "Jebus".
    What's amazing is that word became completely overused and downright annoying in about a day of that episode airing. I've never seen a slang word get popular and then become overused so quickly in my life. But years afterwards people were still yelling "Jebus save me!" It wasn't that funny to begin with!

    I'm also curious about when this episode aired and whether or not the success of Family Guy had any influence on it. Because this episode felt like a less funny episode of Family Guy rather than an Simpsons episode.

  2. Damn! I completely forgot to mention "Jebus." I even made a mental note to go back and add something in about it, basically because I agree 100% with both your points, that the bit spread unbelievably fast through the pop culture zeitgeist, and that I never found it that funny in the first place. Worth a mild chuckle, perhaps, but certainly not funny enough to warrant its popularity.

    It's to the point where I don't even find it funny when I watch the episode anymore, because all I think about is how overused it became.

    As for the timing between this and Family Guy, a quick look at the airdates would answer the question for sure, but I'm going to be lazy and guess that this episode aired shortly after the end of Family Guy's first run (when they were canceled, before DVD sales and reruns resurrected the show).

    I say that because one of the bits at the end. Betty White is talking about how Fox needs money, otherwise more high-quality shows will disappear. She then walks in front of a TV showing the Family Guy logo and turns it off. So I'm betting this episode aired either after FG was canceled, or when it was known it would be.

    You're right, there definitely is a Family Guy vibe to this episode. It could perhaps be considered the first of many such episodes, as Family Guy's growing popularity really seemed to affect the level of zaniness on "The Simpsons."

  3. Just for those who are curious, this episode occured on February 20, 2000 which right in the middle of Family Guy's first run.

    The odd part is that I thought this episode aired while I was still in high school. But apparently not...

  4. ...right in the middle of Family Guy's first run

    Ma-a-a-n, I was WAY off...

  5. I always thought the Jebus lines were funny. But to be fair i guess i never noticed it being used that much around me, so i never got tired of it.
    I liked this episode purely for it's zaniness. And "Elmo knows where you live" is a line i still enjoy.

  6. Yeah, that Elmo line is great-I would have put it as one of my favorite lines, but it doesn't work as well out of context.


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