SSR #17: “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”

Introduction:
I have no intention of starting a discussion on politics here, but I do hope all of you, American citizens, went out to vote this week. After all, you don’t want a person like Mr. Burns in charge, do you? So, last week we had a very appropriate episode to celebrate the Halloween holiday. This week, we have another episode that’s very appropriate, time-wise, to what the US is currently going through with the mid-term elections going on. It’s interesting how starting Season 2 so late ended up being thematically appropriate to the current schedule of events huh? It’s almost like I planned it that way (I really didn’t, don’t give me that much credit).

“Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish” debuted on November 1st, 1990 and was the fourth episode broadcast in the show’s second season. Despite being the fourth aired, this episode was actually the first episode written for the season, but due to the fact that the show runners wanted to start the season with a Bart episode and also wanted to appropriately release the Halloween episode closer to Halloween, and this episode closer to election week, it was postponed a bit to coincide with the mid-term election of that year. The chalkboard gag for this episode is “I Will Not Xerox My Butt,” (listen to the man) and the couch gag features the Simpson family running in to sit on the couch, just for the couch to extend into a couch bed as the entire family reclines to watch television.

Marge: “You’re late for work, Homer.”
Homer: “So? Someone will punch in for me.”
Lisa: “Try not to spill anything, Dad.”
Bart: “Keep those mutants comin’, Homer!”
Homer: “I’ll mutant you…”

Plot:
Our story starts with Bart and Lisa doing some fishing at a creek near the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Bart manages to hook a fish when a newspaper reporter stops by and they all are in shock to find out that the fish in question has three eyes; a likely effect from sharing its waters with the nuclear plant next door. This discovery makes headlines and causes the state governor, Mary Bailey, to send a nuclear inspection team to the plant. Mr. Burns is incredibly nervous about the inspection and his nerves prove to be valid as the inspectors manage to find over three-hundred violations and infractions during their short visit. After trying to bribe the inspection team and finding out that he will need over fifty-six million dollars to bring the plant up to code, Mr. Burns becomes depressed and starts drinking his troubles away in sadness. On his way out the door, Homer finds Mr. Burns sulking in his car and starts talking to him for a bit. After talking about a discussion he had with Marge that morning, in regards to what Homer would do if he were governor, Mr. Burns gets an idea to run for governor himself in an effort to cancel all governor-regulated nuclear inspections.

After he announces his intentions to run for governor, the initial response is not very good. The polls show that people do not trust Mr. Burns and fear that he might be trying to contaminate the planet. Even at home, Homer and Marge start fighting over the election as Marge wants to remain loyal to Mary Bailey and Homer wants to vote for Mr. Burns because he might get fired if he doesn’t. Mr. Burns hires a consultant and assembles a political team to help him win the election, which consists of individuals helping him improving his image and others who hope to dig up dirt on his opponent. Before they get to work though, they realize that they first need to take care of the three-eyed monstrosity that recently made headlines.

In a televised message to the voters of the state, Mr. Burns explains to people that the three-eyed fish (named Blinky) is not a nuclear mutation and is, in fact, just a product of natural selection and the evolution of species; even bringing in an actor portraying Charles Darwin to explain this circumstance. After the broadcast, Burns’ popularity starts to grow and he finds himself on equal footing with Mary Bailey. In order to push him over the top though, his committee encourages Mr. Burns into having dinner with one of his employees the night before the election to show that he hasn’t lost touch with the common man. And of course, because they had to be included somehow, the Simpson family is chosen to be that household.

When Homer breaks the news that they will be hosting dinner that night, Marge is furious at Homer for agreeing to the dinner, as she is a booster for Mary Bailey and she feels like Homer isn’t allowing her to express herself at home. She even refuses to “snuggle” with Homer in bed that night, so safe to say, she isn’t very happy with him. Despite that though, and seeing that Homer is only doing it just because he doesn’t want to be fired, she still agrees to do the dinner, under the sole stipulation that she gets to express herself through the household she keeps and the food she serves.

During the dinner, Burns continues to garner more and more support throughout the night, even despite a few mishaps happening during the event. However, when the main course is served, Marge removes the dome to reveal the same three-eyed fish that Burns claimed was not a mutation. Mr. Burns takes a bite of the fish and promptly spits it out, showing the entire world that he couldn’t even “swallow his own story.” Voter support drops tremendously for Charles Montgomery Burns and after being abandoned by his political team and after destroying several possessions of the Simpson family, Burns storms out of the house and remarks to Homer that he will spend the rest of his days making sure Homer’s dreams go unfulfilled. In bed that night, worried about what that meant, Homer confides in Marge, who reminds Homer that one man cannot take away his dreams of sleeping until noon on weekends, seconds on dessert, and occasional snuggling. This cheers Homer up and they both kiss and make up before going to bed.

Mr. Burns: “So you’re saying this fish might actually have an advantage over other fish? It might actually be a kind of “Super Fish?”
Charles Darwin (actor): “I wouldn’t mind having a third eye, would you?”

Personal History:
I’m actually a little excited because I have more to write for this section for a change! It has finally happened, we have an episode that used to be on my old Simpsons VHS tape! I’ve alluded to this tape a couple of times, but basically, it was a tape that had twelve Season 2 episodes on it and this episode just so happened to be the very first one on the tape. Because of this, I have seen this episode a lot, and I have a lot of fond memories watching this when I was a little kid, back when I was five-years old, or heck, maybe even younger. So it’s going to be a treat talking about these episodes, especially considering how I may have viewed them as a kid.

For example, as a kid, I always viewed this episode as the “three-eyed fish” episode, literally a creature that’s on screen for not even 2 minutes of the episode’s entire run time. I also have to imagine that as a kid, this episode’s plot HAD to have went completely over my head just because I knew nothing of politics or any of the subject matter that went on in this episode. This really is an adult episode because of that; maybe not along the same lines as “Life in the Fast Lane” from last season, but more in tune of “Simpson and Delilah,” from this season. I always just remember the fish being a big part of the episode, and although it is important to the plot, most of it is in a very indirect way. I feel like the younger me must have somehow managed to still stay invested despite the fact that you really only see the fish at three points in the episode, because there’s no way I even knew what a governor was back then, among many other words and terms that were used in this episode.

As I grew up and actually started understanding politics and what was actually going on here, I did grow to understand and appreciate the episode a lot more, because I actually had context for what was going on and a lot of the verbal jokes made more sense. It wasn’t just an episode about Burns running for governor; it was an episode about Burns attempting to cover up his corrupt behaviors BY running for governor, and then winning an entire plethora of people to his side, just for him to lose them at the end when everyone still saw him as a corrupt man trying to contaminate the planet. It’s really quite clever when you really break down, but does that mean it’s a good episode? We’ll have to find out later.

Mr. Burns: “Have you found any dirt on Mary Bailey?”
Advisors: “Well, we’ve gone through her garbage. We’ve talked to her maid. And so far, the only negative thing we’ve found is from some guy who dated her when she was sixteen.”
Mr. Burns: “Ah. And?”
Advisor: “He felt her up.”
Mr. Burns: “Bah! Not good enough!”

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
Going to the beginning of the episode, I think my favorite collection of scenes would have to be when the power plant inspectors come to look at the plant. The entire bit of them constantly finding violation after violation and Burns trying to play off the infractions as something he was unaware of, was pure genius, and I especially love how it takes until literally everyone in the room is up to their knees in green, nuclear waste before Burns realizes that he can’t make any more excuses and that he will meet with them in his office. Then, after the inspectors leave and he realizes that there is not much he can do, it’s actually kind of interesting to watch Burns get drunk and start talking and singing to himself. If anything it proves that the man, somewhere deep in his heart and soul, there is an incredibly small part of him who is still human.

For the rest of the episode, the big focus is on Burns and his political escapades as well as a few, small scenes focusing on the battle between Marge and Homer at home with them trying to support their own candidates at the expense of the other. While I wouldn’t say there’s a lot in this episode that’s incredibly entertaining or engaging, there are still some mildly amusing parts that are worth highlighting. For one, I love how blatantly fake the Blinky video is, especially considering they make no effort in hiding the Charles Darwin impersonator. From the very beginning of the video, they admit that it’s not the real Charles Darwin, yet people are still won over by it. Given, they couldn’t exactly say it was the real Charles Darwin, as he was most certainly dead at the time of this episode’s debut, but still, just the fact that they announced it was an actor, but still essentially treated him as the real-deal was quite humorous. I also like how throughout the campaign they continuously give updates on the voting stats of the election, and how well it depicts Monty’s slow ascent from literally the bottom of the polls to being in contention with his opponent; particularly at the beginning when his consultant informs him that he has gained six points for a grand total of “six.” The delivery on that is just really, really good and I always thought that it was just a clever exchange in general.

I think one thing I really picked up on this time during this watch though was how great Julie Kavner was as Marge in this episode. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but Marge really came across to me as the hero this time around. I really loved how she stood her ground, not just with Homer, but also when it came to her plan to sabotage the Burns campaign. At the same time though, she still manages to forgive Homer’s actions, as wrong as they were, because she knows Homer was only coming from a place of fear and not insincerity. Homer only wants Burns to win the election because he doesn’t want to get fired by hi,. It’s not that he was trying to make Marge feel like she couldn’t express herself, it’s just that if he didn’t do what Mr. Burns required of him, then the family wouldn’t have a source of income anymore and would likely be much worse off if he didn’t vote for him. I think despite the frustrations caused by Homer, Marge understood and got that, which is probably why the reconciliation at the end of the episode went down the way it did. In any other scenario, I feel like Homer would be begging for Marge’s forgiveness and it would be quite the uphill battle for him. Since that’s not the case, I think what we got definitely works, and although I wish the actual episode would have gone into more detail with that aspect, from an analytical perspective, I think it’s actually quite good and was perhaps the most engaging part of the episode for me personally.

“This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election, and yet if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail. That’s democracy for you.”
~Mr. Burns

My Review:
Last season we had the episode, “Krusty Gets Busted,” an episode that focused pretty heavily on a side character and not just the main members of the Simpson family. This episode is a lot like that as well, but I’d say it actually ends up spending more time on the side character, or in the case of this episode, Mr. Burns himself. The entire first and second acts are pretty much Mr. Burns scenes exclusively, with a few Simpson family scenes thrown in there to complement what’s going on. And like “Krusty Gets Busted,” I think the writers and producers succeeded in putting the focus on that side character. Sure, Mr. Burns probably isn’t as loved or as entertaining as Krusty the Clown is, but the fact that he does have evil and villain-like tendencies while also just being an incredibly weak and fragile old man, does lead to some interesting development for the character in question. I don’t like Mr. Burns, but I feel like that’s the point of his character as he’s meant to be seen as antagonistic and corrupt, and I think the writers nailed that perfectly in his depiction here.

There will be other Mr. Burns-centric episodes as we go throughout the series, and for the most part, I think this portrayal of Mr. Burns stays pretty consistent as we move along. Although I will say that I do think the writers have a bit more fun with him in future instances and I kind of enjoy that side to him. I think Harry Shearer does a great job being the voice behind Mr. Burns and it’s quite incredible to see him do his thing, especially when you consider the fact that he does the voice for Waylon Smithers as well, whose majority of scenes are with Mr. Burns to begin with. It’s actually really fun to see Harry interact with himself so flawlessly in two dramatically different voices and I give him props for being such an amazing voice actor to manage that as well as he does. There wasn’t a lot of that in this episode, since Smithers is pretty silent, but it is something we’ll see a lot of later on, and is maybe something this episode could have used a bit more of.

I think when you break this episode down, you will find that it’s a fine episode. Again, it’s nothing groundbreaking, and on the flip side, it’s engaging enough not to be boring, but much like “Life on the Fast Lane,” “Homer’s Odyssey,” or even “Simpson and Delilah,” I feel like it’s tailored to more of an adult audience. Unless that particular child takes a very early interest in the world of politics, I don’t think they are really going to grasp what exactly is going on in this episode, so I can see why it could be viewed as hit or miss with people. Also, even knowing and understanding what I do now, there are things that I noticed on this watch that I wish were more obvious, and things I wish the episode spent more time on. I honestly would have liked to see more back-and-forth with Homer and Marge, especially when you consider what happens in the final act. Marge pretty much sabotages Mr. Burns campaign at Homer’s expense and from what was shown to us…he’s ok with that? As I mentioned in the previous section, I think there is a lot you have to imply and assume to make sense of those questions, which does help in making you feel more content and satisfied with the overall conclusion, but then you run into the question of, “if it’s something you have to assume to appreciate, is that a flaw of the episode, or something that gives the episode another layer altogether, making it more brilliant?” It’s a difficult question to answer and I feel that’s where it’s more in the eye of the beholder as opposed to a straight-up fact, so it makes this episode a little harder to review in a general sense.

With all that being said though, I was still engaged and entertained as I watched this episode, and I think that’s all that really matters at the end of the day. It was an interesting story, it had a lot of funny jokes and gags and delivered on some great performances from the Simpsons’ voice cast. There’s definitely a high bit of nostalgia from me, because this is an episode I’ve seen from a very young age and an episode I’ve gone back to from time to time over the last twenty-five years of my life. From looking at this episode from a very analytical point of view, I have to admit that I really liked what I saw. It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done and I look forward to watching many other episodes that I have grown up with, for much of the same reason.

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And that’s going to do it for “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish,” and let’s just hope I never have to type out that incredibly long title ever again (although I know that there are others titles that are just as long, if not longer, even in this particular season). Next week we are heading to Capital City for the episode titled “Dancin’ Homer.” I hope you guys like baseball and mascots, because that is what I’m going to have for you next week. It’s going to be some great fun; I’ll see you guys then!

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