SSR #15: “Simpson and Delilah”

Introduction:
We’ve all been quite accustomed to Homer Simpson’s hairstyle…an extremely bald head with two single hairs on top and a continuous “M” strand around the back (mainly to signify creator Matt Groening’s signature with Homer’s G-shaped ears). However, Season 2 decided to experiment very early on with an episode that gave Homer a full head of hair; an experiment that led to some very interesting results for the animated father-figure we all know and love. Today we will be taking a look at “Simpson and Delilah!”

This episode debuted on October 18th, 1990 and was the 2nd episode written and broadcasted for Season 2. We all know that the previous episode, “Bart Gets an ‘F,’” was written later and broadcasted early, but the first written episode of the season was actually prolonged for a few weeks until the first week of November. I don’t know all of the specifics, but if I had to assume, it was due to wanting to air the Halloween episode before Halloween and because the fourth episode had an “election” theme to it, the producers wanted to have that episode a bit closer to the mid-term election of that year (not presidential election, as that would be 1992). The chalkboard gag of this episode is, “Tar is not a plaything,” and the couch gag features the Simpson family coming into the house, dancing in front of the television and sitting down with their hands extended in a showmanship fashion.

TV: “The capital of North Dakota is named after what German ruler?”
Homer: “Hitler!”
Marge: “Hitler, North Dakota?”
TV: “Bismarck!”
Bart: “Hitler?”
Homer: “I’m still beating you, boy!”

Plot:
While watching television with the rest of the family, an advertisement for Dimoxinil, a formula for hair growth, catches Homer’s eye immediately. After trying numerous cures in the past with no success, Homer is curious to try this new product as it is declared to be a miracle breakthrough. However, when he goes to the pharmacy to learn about it, he finds out it costs $1000 and that it is completely out of his price range. When talking with his co-workers, Lenny and Carl, at work, they encourage Homer to charge Dimoxinil to the plant’s health insurance; claiming that Mr. Burns is rich and that he won’t notice or care (it’s one less ivory back-scratcher, after all).  Homer returns to the pharmacy with his health insurance forms and after an incredibly shady deal in the parking lot, Homer finally has his Dimoxinil.

After applying the drug and waiting overnight, Homer wakes up to a full head of hair and he dances through Springfield in celebration. Homer’s life improves dramatically with his new hair and his general happiness at home improves as well. In fact, even Patty and Selma take a new liking to Homer now that he has hair. Meanwhile, back at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Mr. Burns and Mr. Smithers look for someone new to promote, as union contract rules state that there must be one in-house promotion every year. After seeing Homer and his new head of hair, Mr. Burns lands on him and promotes him to a Junior Executive, giving him a new job that will lead him to a better life. Homer’s new job opens up a secretary position. During the interview process, all of the female applicants flirt with Homer and make kissy-faces at him. One male applicant however, Karl, comes into the interview and immediately discovers that Homer is a fraud, just based on his posture, manner of speaking and his wardrobe. Karl promises that if Homer hires him, he will help Homer become and look more like an executive. Homer takes Karl up on the offer and they immediately go shopping for some new work clothes.

Mr. Burns holds a meeting for all of his executives the next morning to discuss how to improve work efficiency. He asks Homer for his opinion and Homer mentions an issue he has had; lack of tartar sauce whenever the cafeteria serves fish sticks. After not taking him seriously at first, Mr. Burns slowly comes around, believing the idea that a happy worker will always be a busy worker, so he declares that more tartar sauce will be given during fish stick days in the cafeteria. This surprisingly leads to better worker productivity at the plant and Mr. Burns is further impressed by Homer. Mr. Smithers, however, is not impressed and tries to note that it has less to do with Homer’s suggestion and more because Homer is no longer the safety inspector that caused a number of the issues in the first place. Mr. Burns gives Homer the key to the executive washroom and after he asks Homer to personally dry his hands, Smithers is furious and decides to find out what Homer’s deal is once and for all. In looking through Homer’s files, Smithers discovers the insurance fraud Homer caused with his Dimoxinil purchase and is finally convinced he has him beat.

Mr. Smithers confronts Mr. Burns and tells him about the Dimoxinil scam. Furious, Mr. Burns tells Smithers to fire the worker responsible. When he arrives at Homer’s office to deliver the news, Karl steps in and tells Mr. Smithers that it was him who messed with the health insurance forms, which leads to Smithers firing Karl instead. Homer is speechless on what to say to Karl, but Karl says he did it not to do anything special, but because it’s something any good soldier would have done for their boss, and as Karl is leaving, he and Homer share a very sweet goodbye. In a state of panic, after being practically broke, not having his assistant anymore, and a big speech to deliver the following day, Homer tries to take solace in the fact that he still has his hair. When he gets home however, he walks in on Bart splashing Dimoxinil on his face to try and grow a beard. When he yells at Bart, Bart drops the container of Dimoxinil, spilling out all of its contents on the floor, taking away the only positive Homer still had going for him.

Homer’s hair vanishes immediately (pretty much overnight) and at work the next day, he sits in his office sulking. However, before the time of the speech arrives, Karl makes one last appearance to present Homer with a speech prepared on index cards as one last gift. Homer is appreciative, but lacks confidence because his hair is gone. Karl gives Homer one last push, telling him it was never the hair that made him succeed, but it was his actions alone. While Homer is still unconvinced, Karl exclaims that Homer can do this because he is not a fool and because Karl’s mother taught him to never kiss a fool, in which he follows up by kissing Homer on lips. This catches Homer off guard but it gives him enough confidence to move forward with the speech.

Homer appears on stage with no hair and although it seems like he is doing a good job with the speech, the entire audience is not impressed by Homer, not taking him seriously anymore because his hair is gone. Mr. Burns calls Homer into his office, ready to fire him, but holds back because he, himself, has dealt with the psychological issues caused by male-pattern baldness. In a rare act of sympathy, he doesn’t fire Homer and gives him his old job back, which Homer is very grateful for. In bed that night, Homer continues sulking because he is back at the dead-end job he was at before, and he’s scared Marge will no longer love him because he is ugly and bald. Marge comforts Homer letting him know that no matter what happens, they will always make things work and that she will always love Homer and think he is beautiful, ending the episode on a very sweet duet of “You Are So Beautiful,” between Marge and Homer.

“Let the fools have their tartar sauce!” ~ Mr. Burns

Personal History:
This was another episode that I remember seeing fairly early on in life, but it was not on the Simpsons VHS tape I had, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this episode when I got the Season 2 DVD just to watch it again and see what I thought. The thing that really came to mind, aside from the obvious plot of Homer having hair, was always just being very curious on the deal of Homer’s secretary. I’ll be talking a bit more about Karl in the next section, for sure, but as a kid not knowing a whole lot about the world, Karl was always a bit of an enigma to me; a mystery wrapped in a riddle. So it was definitely great being able to have full access to this episode so I could watch it again and analyze things further, especially for this retrospective.

Homer: “What does my little girl want?”
Lisa: “An absence of mood swings and stability in my life.”
Homer: “How about a pony?”
Lisa: “Ok!”

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
Much like Albert Brooks in “Life on the Fast Lane,” and Kelsey Grammer in “Krusty Gets Busted,” the guest voice steals the show for me. Harvey Fierstein as Karl was an amazing performance and one I really took notice of on this rewatch. I just think the idea of having this very eccentric guy with a deep and raspy voice being Homer’s assistant, and more than that, just having him really care and being really invested in Homer’s success; I thought it was brilliantly done. The fact he took Homer shopping for appropriate work clothes, prepared an entire speech for him, and even set-up a singing telegram for Marge on Homer and Marge’s anniversary because Homer was prone to forgetting…these are things a secretary just doesn’t do, but Karl did them because he wanted Homer to succeed and he wanted to be, in general, a good assistant, which is something I really enjoyed watching about this episode. I think one of my favorite lines from Karl is when Homer is hiring him and after very quickly hammering out the details of Karl’s vacation and moving expenses, Karl just blurts out “Let’s Go Shopping!” in a very excited tone of voice.

Another thing I really loved about Karl’s character was how he was written for this episode. And by that, I mean how a big part of his character is still a mystery by the end and is almost left up for interpretation or imagination. I feel like a number of people would watch this episode, and by the end of it, they would say, “Oh, Karl is gay, that explains it.” But the funny part about that for me is, when I saw the ending this time, I thought, “Hmm, is Karl gay, or is he just really, really determined to be a good assistant, or is it even better and he’s a combination of both?” That speculation was just really fun to think about and I’m glad the writers didn’t just label him as one way or the other. It made him a very fun character to analyze. You also have to think that this episode was made during a time where homosexuality wasn’t as accepted as it is today. It was starting to become more widely acknowledged, for sure, but it was still something a lot of people kept on the down-low and didn’t really talk about that much in fear of being an outcast and alienated. That’s probably another reason why the writers didn’t outright attribute a label to Karl, but in this case, I think it was a really smart decision because we got to see Karl for who he is, and not for a generic label. He was just a very fun character to watch and I think the writers did a great job writing him.

As far as other moments I want to highlight, I always enjoyed the opening joke for the episode where the family is watching a game show and Homer answers “Hitler” for “The capital of North Dakota is named after what German ruler?” I just really loved Marge’s questioning reaction of “Hitler, North Dakota?” because it seemed like even she was trying to point out how ridiculous of an answer it was. I also really liked the ivory back scratcher gag where Lenny and Carl bring up that $1000 is merely just another ivory back scratcher for Mr. Burns, but then later when Smithers reveals the insurance fraud that Homer caused, Mr. Burns exclaims, “And I was going to buy that ivory back scratcher.” It’s just the fact that Lenny was more or less just putting out a completely random scenario that actually ended up being true that I find being really clever. And finally, although it’s hard to explain because it’s more of a visual gag, but I also love when it shows the executive washroom and how over the top and fancy it is. I especially love when Smithers throws the towel down on the floor in anger and as it shows him walking away, you can see a guy come on screen to quickly grab the towel and scurry away.

It’s really hard to name an all-time favorite moment or joke in this episode, and since I’ve already talked about how Karl steals the show with his performance, I guess you could say the inclusion of him is my absolute favorite part of this episode. With that being said, I will call attention to a particular thing Mr. Burns says in this episode; the line “Let the fools have their tartar sauce!” I don’t know why, but as a teenager, after having seen this episode a couple of times, that line really stuck with me and is a line I find myself saying quite a bit as just a general reference. I was also happy to find out that if you start typing that line into Google, it will almost immediately come up as an auto-search option.

Karl: “The tartar sauce, the bathroom key, drying your boss’s hands…it was never the hair! You did it all because you believed you could.”
Homer: “No, I’m just a big fool.”
Karl: “No, you’re not!”
Homer: “How do you know?”
Karl: “Because my mother taught me never to kiss a fool! (kisses Homer)”
Homer: “(shocked) Karl…”
Karl: “Now go get them tiger!”

My Review:
Simpson and Delilah is an ok episode. It’s an episode that gets me interested because the premise is silly and something you would expect from a show of this caliber, but still manages to avoid the pitfalls of being completely redundant and expected. I mean, it’s expected to some extent because as soon as Homer loses his hair the show returns to the status quo like nothing ever happened, but the inclusion of Karl at least made it interesting and kept my attention as the events started to unfold. In other words, it’s not a bad or boring episode, but I wouldn’t really call it a great episode either. It’s passable.

However, I will admit it does some pretty neat things though. Just the idea of Homer having hair and seeing how that hair affects his life and the people around him is a really interesting touch. I like to think of Homer’s success having less to do with the hair, but more to do with his newfound confidence and happiness that he has now that he does have it. I also like how throughout the episode Homer changes his look with a variety of different hairstyles, just to show off the range of his new hair. I’ve already said my piece on Karl, but once again, I think he is a great character and I really wish he would have returned to the Simpsons universe at some point. I’ve heard that he was approached for a comeback in a much later episode, “Three Gays and a Condo,” but Harvey Fierstein turned it down and said he wasn’t going to be coming back. It’s a shame, but these people have their own lives, and I can understand and respect their decisions. But again, I can’t stress this enough, that he made this episode a very enjoyable watch for me.

Aside from Karl though, there’s not really a lot I would praise this episode for. Again, not because I think it’s a bad episode or anything, but aside from a few jokes here and there, there’s not really a lot in this episode that makes it stand out. It’s an episode about Homer experiencing some temporary success at work because he grew some hair…that’s really about it. Unlike the previous episode which had a very sweet and clever way of wrapping up the story, I feel like the ending of this one was just kind of rushed and while the final scene with Karl was great, it didn’t really amount to much either, as Homer’s speech still flops and Karl is never seen or heard from again. The final scene with Marge and Homer is cute and was a nice reminder that Marge still loves Homer regardless of his job, his physical appearance, or whether or not he has hair, but I wouldn’t really say that there was any real danger there to begin with. I guess the point was more to boost Homer’s confidence and to comfort him as he was feeling pretty defeated after gaining and losing a lot over the past twenty-four hours, so I guess it works out when you look at it from that angle.

I think that’s about it though. Overall, I would definitely recommend giving this episode a watch if you’ve never seen it before. It has a very interesting premise and a very strong guest voice role, and for the most part is an entertaining and interesting watch. I wouldn’t call it a strong Season 2 episode, but it does have its moments and I would probably rank this higher than a good number of Season 1 episodes.

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Ok, well, that’s going to do it for Simpson and Delilah. I’m happy I was able to summarize my thoughts in a much more concise manner this time around, but I also think in general this was a much easier episode where I could do that. Next week though, just in time for Halloween, we are going to be taking a look at the very first Treehouse of Horror Halloween special. This is the reason why I started Season 2 when I did, just so I could review this monumental episode at a holiday-appropriate time, so I hope you guys are ready for some spooky stories and some classic Simpson parodies.

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