Monday, August 4, 2014
Retro Review: Homer and Apu
February 10, 1994
Or the One Where
Apu comes to live with the Simpsons after Homer causes him to lose his job.
After Apu's questionable practices (and his own questionably choices) give him food poisoning, Homer goes undercover to expose the said practices, causing Apu to lose his job at the Kwik-E-Mart.
This is the first of a what will eventually become a subset of Apu-centric episodes, which will find the Simpsons playing host to Apu's wedding to Manjula and being involved in the birth of their octuplets, amongst other things. In the process, both Homer and Marge develop a friendship with Apu and Manjula that far exceeds the customer/shopkeeper relationship in place at the start of this episode, to the point where the Nahasapeemapetilons are arguably Homer and Marge's closest married couple friends, a rare bit of ongoing continuity for the show.
It is also the first episode written by Greg Daniels (he had previously written the "The Devil and Homer Simpson" segment of "Treehouse of Horror IV"), who will go on to write some of the series' best episodes (including "Homer Badman", "Lisa's Wedding" and "Bart Sells His Soul") before leaving the show to co-create King of the Hill and Parks and Recreation and to develop the American The Office.
James Woods guest stars in this episode as himself, taking over Apu's position at the Kwik-E-Mart in order to research a role, presaging his later recurring role as a villainous version of himself on Family Guy.
This episode features another classic original song, "Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart?", which, amongst other things, is a celebration of clever song lyrics, managing, for example, to rhyme "salmonella" (with "Homer's a delightful fella").
This is also the episode which taught us that "you cannot hurt a Twinkie".
Apu: I have come to make amends, sir. At first, I blamed you for squealing, but then I realized, it was I who wronged you. So I have come to work off my debt. I am at your service.
Homer: You're...selling what, now?
Apu: I am selling only the concept of karmic realignment.
Homer: You can't sell that! Karma can only be portioned out by the cosmos. [slams the door]
Apu: He's got me there.
Homer: Is he still out there?
Marge: Yes. He's raking leaves.
Homer: What? That's your job. If he starts doing Lisa's wood chopping...
Apu: Who needs the Kwik-E-Mart? I dooooooo.
Homer: Hey, he's not happy at all. He lied to us through song. I hate when people do that!
Homer: Apu, if it'll make you feel any better, I've learned that life is one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead.
James Woods: Apu, you saved my life. And as a small token of my appreciation, I got you your job back at the Kwik-E-Mart.
Apu: Oh...oh, Mr. Woods, your --
Woods: But as for me, I'm off to battle aliens on a faraway planet.
Marge: That sounds like a good movie.
Woods: Yes...yes, a...a movie, yes.
Though this certainly isn't the first time a supporting cast member has become deeply ingrained in the lives of the Simpson family (Principal Skinner almost married Aunt Patty, Sideshow Bob did marry Aunt Selma, Otto lived with the Simpsons for an episode, and Bart has saved Krusty from jail, reunited him with his estranged father, saved his career, and gotten him a Danish), this is the episode I always think of as the shining example of the "The Simpsons help out a supporting character" subset of episodes.
However, five seasons in, this is the first time we've spent a significant amount of time with Apu, a character who has always been just on the good side of being a one-note stereotype. This episode does a lot to flesh out his character, establishing the idea that Apu is hopelessly devoted to his job, on a level that rivals religious zealotry, a notion that sticks with the character even as he grows, somewhat surprisingly, into one of the show's more deeply realized supporting characters. Because this isn't just the first Apu entry in the "Simpsons help out a supporting character" category of episodes, it's also the first of several "Apu-centric" episodes of the series, which will see the character's personal life and relationship with the Simpsons continue to grow and expand.
Our first significant Apu episode, it's also hilarious and features another all time great musical number in "Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart?", setting a high bar for all subsequent Apu episodes.