I was thinking about the best Valentine's episodes of shows, ever. That would make some Top Ten list. Anyway, the Simpsons came to mind, since they usually do a pretty spectacular episode for V-Day. As luck would have it one of the V-Day episodes was on a Simpsons DVD I borrowed from the library, and I sat down to watch. I realized it was-and I mean this quite seriously-FAR AND AWAY, BAR NONE THE BEST VALENTINE'S EPISODE OF ANY SHOW…EVER!
And I knew I had to break it down for you:
Episode 17 "I Love Lisa!" (Also known as "Choo Choo Choose Me!")
Bart on the Blackboard: "I will not call the principal Spud Head" (I'm going to call every non-girl I can Spud Head from now on)
The show starts off with Classic Simpson's randomness. The radio station is playing its list of Love songs, which of course includes "Monster Mash."
One of the announcers asks the other how that qualifies for Valentine's Day, and he defensively replies, "It's kind of a love song…monsters dancing, enjoying each other's company…holding their evil in check…."
Isn't that a great definition for Monkey Barn? "Holding their evil in check…"
Later at breakfast Marge calls Homer her "Huggy Bug," one of the worst endearments I've ever heard. As Homer scrambles to figure out what's so special about the day, he and his brain run through the possibilities. One of the ideas they come up with is "Bacon Day." Just saying, HOW MUCH DO WE NEED A BACON DAY????
Homer tries to pass off Valentine's Day celebrations as passe, only to look out the window and see Ned Flanders dressed up in a heart serenading Maude with a violin to his rendition of Rod Stewart's "If you think I'm sexy."
Later at school, after a series of social faux pas that you wouldn't even see from short bus kids Ralph doesn't get a Valentine's in his "box," so Lisa takes one of hers, "I Choo Choo Choose you" with a picture of a train, and gives it to Ralph.
This is sort of off the subject, but do you remember making those Valentine's boxes, or hearts, or whatever you made? (It varied from year to year.) I never had a whole lot of artistic talent, so I can't say my construction paper heart was all that sea worthy, but it was still fun, thinking about what kinds of Valentines I was going to get later that day. There would usually be punch and maybe cupcakes while we got to read our Valentines and see who got what.
There was a rule in my school that if you were going to bring any Valentines, you had to bring for the entire class. This is so they wouldn't end up with a "Ralph" situation. I guest I can understand the logic, but it was always absolute hell to be forced to give Valentines to certain girls, mainly Katie Krudop. (And if for some reason she's a reader now, I apologize, but I'm just keepin' it real.)
My mom used to buy the packs of Valentines, Spider Man or Care Bears or something, and it was very painful to find the absolute blandest one so that Katie wouldn't accidentally think I liked her. Okay, back to the Simpsons.
After school Ralph is walking Lisa home, and he rehashes the cleverness of the Valentines Lisa left him. ("It says 'Choo Choo choose me,' and there's a picture of a train!"). Lisa laughs weakly, and Ralph realizes he has nothing else to say. Tentatively he tries, "So…do you like…stuff?"
You have to feel for Ralph, because, c'mon: we have all been there! He probably should have kept it at that, because next we cut to in front of Lisa's house, and by now Ralph has lost his shyness: "…and the doctor said I wouldn't have so many nosebleeds if I kept my finger out of there."
Brutal. Lisa runs inside, past Homer and Bart watching Itchy and Scratchy. I mention this only because in the episode Itchy cuts out Scratchy's heart and gives it to him as a Valentine's Day present. Scratchy is pleased until he happens to read the paper with the banner headline:
YOU NEED A HEART TO LIVE
I only mention that because it always cracks me up.
Lisa asks parental advice on how to get out of the situation, explaining, "I only gave him that because I felt sorry for him."
Homer responds with, "Ah, sweet pity. Where would my love life have been without it?"
Can I get a cup-a-la Amens?
When Lisa asks what you can say to a boy to let him know you're not interested, Homer has an immediate list of gems, one of the greatest sequences in Simpson's history:
I like you as a friend
I think we should see other people
I no speak
I'm married to the sea
I don't want to kill you, but I will
I know this is going to sound made up, but I swear to you on a stack of Simpson's DVDs that I have used some of these before.
Marge breaks in with practical advice: "I'd tell this boy you're very flattered, but you're just not ready for this kind of thing."
And Homer just has one thing to add: "And if that doesn't work, six simple words. 'I'm not gay, but I'll learn.'"
Do you understand now why this is the greatest Valentine's Day episode of any show…ever?
So Ralph continues to pursue Lisa, showing up one day. She runs to hide, telling her dad to make up some excuse. Homer's answer? "She's in the can."
What would you have done if your dad had done that to you growing up?
Later Ralph leaves a Malibu Stacy Convertible on the front step with a gift inside ("Look in the tunk"), which turns out to be tickets to Krusty's 29th Anniversary special.
Bart is disappointed, as he is ten times the Krusty fan Lisa is, even having the Krusty Home Pregnancy Test ("May cause birth Defects!")
Lisa isn't sure she should go, since she doesn't like Ralph. Bart agrees, saying it wouldn't be honest. His solution: he'll go, disguised as her.
Lisa: What if he wants to hold hands?
Bart: I'm prepared to make that sacrifice
Lisa: What if he wants to kiss?
Bart: I'm prepared to make that sacrifice
Lisa: What if he-
Bart: --You don't want to know how far I'll go
At the awards ceremony, Ralph passes a chocolate ice cream cone to his dad, getting it on Lisa's dress in the process, to which Chief Wiggum laments, "Ooh, nothing gets chocolate out!" He has the stains on his uniform to prove it.
Krusty is sitting on the steps of the auditorium reading off cue cards: "Now for my favorite part of the show…[looks at cue cards]…whuzzat say? Talk to the audience? Oh, God, this is always death"
Wouldn't you love to have a talk show host who just always spoke his mind and wasn't aware of the camera and his image? About the closest thing we have right not is Joan Rivers, and that probably has more to do with drugs than anything else.
Krusty interviews Ralph, who proclaims his love for Lisa, causing Lisa to tell the world that only did she never like Ralph, but she only gave him that stupid Valentine because no one else would.
Ralph is in obvious distress, and a clever match-cut takes us to the Simpson's TV, as Bart rewinds in slo-mo to show Lisa the actual moment that Ralph's heart breaks.
This harkens me back to another Valentine's Day of my youth. We are not responsible to leave Valentines in the adjacent fifth grade class, but I did for one girl. Her name was Mandy Mitchell. On that Valentine I poured out my heart, and asked her to go out with me.
I remember sitting in Mrs. Burgess's class (she was a real harridan) and nervously picking through my Valentines, waiting for Mandy Mitchell to get to mine. When she did the buzz was palpable, and I got hooded looks from all the girls and even the teachers. (I ever led with my heart, even back then. I look at that now and think, "What an idiot was I. Am I.")
Anyway, that was Friday, I think, and the whole weekend I was on pins and needles. A weekend can be an eternity, you know, when you're waiting to hear if someone likes you back. Anyway, come Monday I was told my Mandy's good friend Nicole to meet Mandy behind the school at recess. The way she told me this, I felt that good things were in store. Maybe even some smooching. (Again: at that time I had no idea how evil women were, and don't get mad, because it's still Tuesday, so I'll say any damn thing I feel like about you harpies!)
At recess I went back around behind the school, nervous as a cat in a rocking chair store. I rounded the corner to not see Mandy anywhere. Instead were all her friends, arms locked, and coming at me in a singsong mockery that still haunts my dreams. (And no, I will not repeat their foul refrain here.)
I never got the straight story whether Mandy had authorized this little ambush, or merely kept silent when the more popular Nicole set it up, but I swore then I was done with women forever. If only I'd listened…Okay, let's get back to the Simpsons before I get weepy.
Wiggum starts intimidating people to get Lisa to like Ralph. This includes putting a boot on the teacher Mrs. Hoover's car so that Ralph gets the part of George Washington (opposite Lisa as Martha), and also pulling over Homer.
At the traffic stop Wiggum busts out Homer's tail light, which is I believe an homage to PORKY'S, unless someone can show me an earlier movie when that was done. Homer gets indignant and responds: "You know, one day honest citizens are going to stand up to you crooked cops!"
Wiggum: They are? Oh, no! Have they set a date?
Later we're at the school for the "Hooray for President's Day" show (which you must actually see to get class credit, according to the billboard).
Principal Sinner and Groundskeeper Willie stand behind an orange drink table, with Skinner musing that the ubiquitous beverage is the only way to recoup their terrible losses from Fire-Drill Follies, which flopped for unknown reasons.
Willie points out that Skinner opened with a fire drill and no one returned, to which Skinner replies, "So mother was right. It was my fault."
Skinner tells Willie to further water down the Orange Drink (to make it stretch farther). In an even more exaggerated Scottish brogue than normal, Willie says, "My God man. I've watered her down as far as she'll go. I cannot water no more." Ah, Star Trek…
Skinner's introduction to the show: "Good evening everyone, and welcome to a wonderful evening of theatre and picking up after yourselves." (Be honest: how many of you are ever tempted to start a party off that way?)
They begin with musical number, a tribute to the lesser-known presidents (It's some famous tune, but I can't think of what it is right now)
"We are the mediocre presidents
You won't find our faces on dollars or on
There's Taylor and there's Tyler, There's Fillmore and there's Hayes,
There's William Henry Harrison-"I died in thirty days!"
We are the adequate, forgettable, occasionally regrettable
of the U…S…A!"
Backstage, Bart scares the girls with a Richard Nixon face (complete with long nose) plastered on his rear. "I am not a butt!"
Mrs. Hoover says, "Bart, do you want to play John Wilkes Booth or do you want to act like a maniac?"
Millhouse (playing Lincoln" is sitting at Ford's theatre), "I thought that Civil War would never end."
Barn comes out as Booth, in Ray-Ban sunglasses, of course, and a Ping-Pong ball gun. Complete in an Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator accent, Bart says, "Hasta la vista, Abey!"
They proceed to fight all over the stage, with Homer yelling from the audience, "Finish him, boy!" Bart/Booth scares everyone, shooting at kids off stage, and yelling, "You're next, Chester A. Arthur!"
When Mrs. Hoover finally picks up the Terminator/Booth, Bart says, "Unhand me, Yankee!"
Finally the big ending. Lisa and Ralph in their home as Martha and George Washington, Lisa in a rocking chair, Ralph by the fire, leaning over it with his back to us.
Lisa/Martha: Dear, dear George Washington. Can this liberty you dream of be worth all this blood shed?
Lisa/Marsha (nervously): Can it?
We pan over to see Ralph holding the "Choo Choo Choose Me" Valentine, and looking absolutely heartbroken. Ralph has always been one of my least favorite characters. I really despise him. But I have to admit my heart cracked just a bit when I saw his anguish. Ralph throws the card into the fire, and turns back in perfect (grade school) character:
Ralph/George: Dear madam, would you put a price on the air we breathe or the providence that sustains us?
Lisa/Martha: But couldn't we just give in to the British?
Ralph/George (throwing his arm up to the heavens and bellowing out): Neverrrrrr!"
This echoes through the auditorium, and I have to admit I get actual chills. Two great Ralph moments within thirty seconds? That's writing, baby!
Ralph is so good, even the three bullies (Jimbo, Kerney, and that one guy no one ever knows the name of) are moved.
Jimbo: He makes me want to learn more about our founding fathers
Kerney: to the library!
On George's deathbed, Lisa is sobbing, "Please don't leave me, George!"
Ralph replies, "Dear wife, if I could take but one treasure with me to the next life, it would be your tender kiss." Ralph chastely kisses her hand. Come one, tell me you're not going "Awwwwwww!"
Off stage, Willie says, "I did not cry when me own father was hung for stealing a pig, but I'll cry now!" and sobs into Skinner's shoulder.
Skinner pulls a lever and lowers a hydraulic of Mount Rushmore. The four heads sing (all with Skinner's voice) "…from sea to shining sea…" as a giant flag is unfurled.
Teddy Roosevelt keeps speaking (in Skinner's voice) and says, "Thanks for coming, and don't forget to purchase some orange drink for the long ride home!"
Ralph and Lisa end up friends, which pleases Chief Wiggum, watching it all from his squad car. Wiggum is so pleased that he turns of his police scanner and listens to the radio, which is now playing a President's Day selection of songs.
The song? Monster Mash.
Thus, the greatest Valentine's Episode of all time is over.