SSR #27: “Principal Charming”

Introduction:
I think it’s time we take the spotlight off the main family and focus on some secondary characters that we’ve had some experience with. This episode doesn’t just focus on one secondary character, but three characters that we’ve grown very familiar with since their debuts early in the 1st season (technically two if you count Patty & Selma as one collective character) . And what’s the best way to focus on them? Why, creating a one-episode long romance of course! It’s time for “Principal Charming!”

“Principal Charming” is the fourteenth episode of Season 2, first broadcast on February 14th, 1991 (Valentine’s Day…of course), although it was fifteenth episode written for the season (but this episode and the following episode were pushed ahead in the broadcast order. The chalkboard gag for this episode is, “I will not belch the national anthem” (good) and the couch gag is the same folding bed couch gag that was shown in “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish.”

Patty: “If you were operating a car like this, you’d be dead by now.”
Ralph (later Hans Moleman): “But driving is my livelihood.”
Patty: “Oh, take it like a man!”

Plot:
The episode starts with Barney calling Homer to tell him about a new all-you-can-eat barbecue restaurant that just opened up in Springfield, and now Homer wants to go out with Marge one night and leave the kids with Patty and Selma. Marge calls the sisters, who at first reveal they are going to a wedding that day for some co-workers of theirs, but say they should be available after the fact. At the wedding, Selma sadly remembers how Stanley (the man getting married) could have ended up in a relationship with her, until Patty shooed him away, pushing him to a nearby table where he met his now girlfriend. This depresses Selma as she starts to fear that she may be getting too old and less attractive, and that she may never end up with a man. When Marge and Homer return from dinner, Selma confides in Marge and asks her if she can help her find someone to marry.

Marge, remembering that Homer owes her a favor, goes to her husband and asks for his help in finding someone that would marry her sister. Homer is reluctant to help, as he and the sisters have never gotten along, but does ultimately agree to help and starts looking for eligible bachelors the next day. Meanwhile, at Springfield Elementary, Bart obtains a bag of sodium tetra-sulfate from his science class experiment and pours in on the school grounds, killing the grass and spelling out his name in huge letters. When Principal Skinner sees the damage Bart has caused, he calls Bart into his office and phones Homer. After a long day of searching for a husband for Selma, and coming up empty, Homer goes to school to hear about what Bart has done. When he meets with Principal Skinner, he starts to see that Skinner might be a good match for his sister-in-law and invites him to dinner.

At dinner, Homer tries to introduce Skinner to Selma, but mixes up the two sisters and introduces him to Patty instead, who Skinner immediately develops an infatuation for. During dinner, he asks Patty to go out on a date, but before she can refuse, Selma accepts for her, not wanting her own sister to end up alone, even if it means sacrificing her own happiness as a result. Patty goes on a couple of dates with the principal, and although she’s not really into the romantic aspect of their dates, she does start to warm-up to him and little-by-little they start to become more romantically involved. At school, Bart starts taking advantage of Skinner because the principal wants to impress Patty, which allows Bart to get away with more pranks and bouts of mischief. Patty’s relationship puts Selma in a further depression and makes her even more desperate to find someone. After being pushed further by Marge, Homer decides to fix-up Selma with his best friend Barney, which Marge does not approve of. However, because she is desperate to find someone, she goes along with the date anyway. When Patty sees that Selma is not happy with the arrangement, she feels bad and starts feeling her twin sister’s pain.

That night, Principal Skinner proposes to Patty in the school bell tower, and Patty is caught completely off-guard. However, at this point, Patty knows that she can’t abandon her sister, so she refuses the proposal and ends the relationship between the two, knowing that she can’t leave her sister for any man. Seymour understands and lets her go, but Patty remarks that she did end up caring for him very deeply during the time they were together. Patty goes to Moe’s Tavern to find Selma and stops her from making a huge mistake as the two return home together, ditching Barney in the process (who heals quickly after realizing that he now has an entire pitcher of beer to himself). Back at Springfield Elementary, Bart returns to punishment duty for his earlier actions and for also taking advantage of Skinner during the time he was with Patty.

Skinner: “Bart, I am flabbergasted. Surely you knew that you were writing your name in forty-foot letters on a field, and that you would be caught.”
Bart: “Maybe it was one of the other ‘Barts.'”
Skinner: “THERE ARE NO OTHER ‘BARTS!'”
Bart: “Uh-oh!”

Personal History:
This episode was on my Simpsons VHS tape, and as you might expect, this was an episode that was really hard for me to get into as a kid, just from subject matter alone. It is a “romance” story after all and it was between two characters that I was never really that fond of as a kid. And honestly, later on in life, that opinion never really changed much. I do appreciate this episode, on a level I will get into in the next section, but it’s not really an episode I’m crazy about watching either. It’s kind of one of those, “not bad, but not great” scenarios. Also, as a kid, the kissing scene between Patty and Principal Skinner, as viewed from the peephole in Patty & Selma’s apartment, always really disturbed and freaked me out as a kid, so I have haunting memories from that. Just LOOK to see what I mean…

“Don’t be Stupid!”
~Patty’s “advice” to Seymour when it comes to physical contact

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
So as you can see from the previous section, I’m not much of a fan of this episode, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t noteworthy things to point out here. Although Homer is kind of a jerk in the later parts of the episode, I do like the scenes where he is analyzing all the men in town, and trying to find a man for Selma. I especially like how he manages to analyze the pros and cons for a woman, a complete stranger, and a guy pictured on a billboard, and the cons for the woman and billboard read “not a man” and “not a real person” respectively. Then when he is analyzing Skinner, the one con on Homer’s list is “possible Homer Sexual,” in reference to the prank call Bart made to Moe’s Tavern a minute prior.

As far as the characters that this episode focuses on, I say for the most part the writers and show-runners did a good job setting them up, as this is the first episode we take a deeper look into their personal and romantic lives. I really like the dynamic of Patty & Selma in this episode in particular, because until this episode, there was not really a lot different between the two. Here you learn that despite the two having a bit of a nasty streak and a very loyal dedication to each other, they are both very, very different when it comes to members of the opposite sex. Selma desperately wants to find a man and get married before its too late while Patty has made peace with the notion of living alone and without a man, and if anything, prefers it that way as she doesn’t exactly like the idea of getting intimately close with anyone. It shows that despite the two characters being very similar, there is a pretty substantial difference between them which makes them a lot more interesting and a lot less boring and predictable. It’s especially interesting considering the fact that Selma almost resents Patty for her decisions, because in a way, Patty is almost dragging Selma down with her, hence why she missed her chance to have something with Stanley (the guy who got married at the beginning of the episode), and the one time a man was picked out specifically for Selma, the man ended up choosing Patty instead. Because of this, I think Selma blames a lot of that misfortune on her sister, even though she does ultimately care about her more than anything and anyone else. After all, that’s why she ended up encouraging Patty to go on the date in the first place, even if it meant she didn’t get a date and even if Patty was clearly not interested. Even though future episodes featuring the two will go into this with a bit more depth (although moreso Selma, than Patty), I do think this episode was a great start for giving the twins some development and characterizing them a bit more than the raspy, Homer-hating aunts they were before this episode.

For Seymour Skinner, I almost feel like the same thing could be said, but to a lesser extent. Until this episode, Skinner has always been seen as a bit of a hard-ass; a foil to Bart’s schemes on the schoolyard. Here, you get to see him out of that role, and in a couple of ways. Not only is he being friendly to Bart, because he wants Bart’s help to impress Patty, but he’s also being more personable and likable to the members of the Simpson family, almost letting his guard down to an extent. He doesn’t seem as stuck-up or robotic as he appears in earlier episodes, and I think that’s a very good thing. Now, when it comes to love-struck Skinner…I think they may have overdone it a bit. He acts like he is a first or second-grade student discovering a pretty girl for the the first time and talks in very slow and doof-like fashion. And like…I know even in future episodes, we do learn that Skinner is a bit of a dork when he steps back a bit from his authoritative position, but it just kind of rubbed me the wrong way in this episode. I think it’s just because the show is still early in development at this point and they hadn’t considered all of his quirks yet. Heck, even though we have been introduced to his mother, at this time we have no idea that he actually lives with his mom and that he waits on her hand and foot for most of his daily life. In other words, it wasn’t a bad introduction to Skinner, I just think it needed a bit more time to grow, or at least a different subject matter to bring it out. I will say though, I do like the ending of Skinner’s story in this episode, when he realizes that Bart was taking advantage of him the whole time he was with Patty. It’s just really cool to see him snap out of “doofus” mode and get right back into “hard-ass” mode when he knows that he’s been played. Hell, he even made Bart fix the field that he ruined himself for the proposal message, and that’s pretty hardcore.

As far as favorite lines and quotes in this episode, one of my favorite lines is when Skinner busts Bart for writing his name in huge letters in the grass. Bart’s response is “Maybe it was one of the other Barts,” to which Skinner responds “There are no other Barts!” Just the delivery of both lines is great, and Bart exclaiming “Uh oh,” makes it even better, just because that was literally his only escape from the situation and it just didn’t pay off. Aside from that though, again, I wouldn’t say there were a lot of lines that caught my attention, as it seems the main draw of this episode was focused more on the narrative as opposed to the humor.

“Oh Springfield Elementary…I will have you back again! After all, tomorrow, is another school day!”
~Principal Skinner (plus a reference to “Gone with the Wind!”)

My Review:
Once again I don’t really have much to say here that wasn’t already discussed in the previous section. It’s a decent episode that focused on some secondary characters as a change of pace instead of the main Simpson family. I can see why people might like this episode because of that, but I can also see people not really being fond of this episode either. Honestly, if I had to pick a camp to be in; although I don’t hate the episode, it’s not an episode I see myself rushing back to either, even if I did get some interesting vibes from it this time around after watching it from a more analytical perspective. It builds a stronger foundation for some very important secondary characters, it features some good laughs along the way, and is overall, not a bad watch. It’s just unfortunately, in my eyes, one of the weaker episodes of Season 2, which is already a pretty strong, above-average season.
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I’m actually happy with myself as I was able to get this episode ready a bit earlier this time (compared to the last couple of episodes anyway). I think it helped that I was really curious about how I would react and feel about this episode on this watch-through, so I was more eager to watch it and get the review done this time; plus with my Momocon trip coming up, I didn’t want to keep you guys waiting an additional week just because of that. I’m not sure if I can get the next one done as quickly though, but we’ll see as the next episode is a personal favorite of mine. Danny Devito will join us next time (in the episode itself, not my review unfortunately, lol), when we take a look at “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”

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