Thursday, April 24, 2014

#TBT -- Classic Simpsons: "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer" (Season 8, Episode 9)

Episode 3F24
Original Airdate: 1/5/1997
Writer: Ken Keeler
Director: Jim Reardon
Commentary by: Matt Groening, George Meyer, Jim Reardon, Josh Weinstein (with his kids Simon and Molly)

Synopsis

Fearful that Homer will drunkenly embarrass her yet again at the annual chili cook-off, Marge tries to keep him from finding out about it. When he does, she makes him promise he won't drink any alcohol.

credit: SimpsonsGIFs
However, when Homer comes face-to-face with "the merciless peppers of Quetzlzacatenango" ("Grown deep in the jungle primeval by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum."), he begins a psychedelic journey he won't soon forget. Or maybe he will immediately. Who's to say, really?



Analysis

This is definitely one of my all time favorites. They talk briefly in the commentary about how they always wanted to do a couple episodes each season that really pushed the envelope and those are always my favorite episodes. There are probably three 100% foolproof things that made classic Simpsons episodes automatically better: surrealistic dream sequences, heartwrenching dramatic turmoil (particularly between Homer and Marge), and musical numbers. This one has two of those three things which makes it absolute magic!

For starters, the writing is as good as it ever was here. Jokes come at you a mile a minute in logical progressions and the story accomplishes more in 21 minutes than most full length feature films. Homer (and Dan Castellaneta) is in rare form, Marge's comedic timing is really starting to come into its own, there are oodles of hidden gags for the Pause Button Jockey in all of us, and the weaving of comedic and dramatic pathos is seamless and beautiful.

Of course, we can't talk about this episode without talking about the visual and audio effects. And it's not just in the hallucinogenic sequences, either. Things like the design of the chili (which, supposedly, was designed to look vaguely like a tiger) and Homer spitting a stream of wax and having it harden immediately were done beautifully and with great care. But, obviously, the feats of animation they were able to accomplish during Homer's spiritual journey are spellbinding. The absolutely ghastly distortions of Ned, Jasper, Mrs. Krabappel, and Barney. The transmorphology of Homer's body. "Sunrise, Sunset." It's a visual and aural feast but everything has a purpose and a logical progression to it. Simply masterful.

Fun Facts


-"Coyote," the talking coyote who guides Homer through his spiritual journey, is voiced by legendary country musician Johnny Cash, who recorded the voice track on Super Bowl Sunday. He even did the sounds of the coyote gnawing on Homer's leg. In the commentary for this episode, show creator Matt Groening refers to getting Johnny Cash for this episode as "one of the greatest coups this show has ever had."

-According to the creators, this was one of only a small handful of episodes where the story idea was already very well-formed when it was pitched in the story conference room by George Meyer. Meyer said he wanted to do an episode based on the books of Carlos Castaneda, who wrote about mystical experiences he had with a Shaman in Mexico. The idea, as originally pitched, already included the idea of going to a chili cook-off and the drinking of the wax to protect Homer's mouth from the chili. Meyer said he wanted to do a hallucinogenic experience without using any kind of drugs and thought that "really hot chilis would be a good stand-in." The story was pitched about 3-4 years before the episode was actually revived and written and produced.

-The creators had to design a special "wax mouth chart" of dialogue that Homer (Dan Castellaneta) could say with his mouth open and have it be understood by the audience.

credit: SimpsonsGIFs
-The weird sound of Homer's stomach gurgling after eating several insanity peppers was done by Dan Castellaneta.

-The sounds Flanders makes when Homer is just starting his psychedelic freakout were built by Bill Oakley on his Macintosh and he brought them to the sound guys and asked them to do something like that. They thought they were so good that they couldn't do it any better and used the original ones he built.

-The sound effect of Homer kicking the turtle in his hallucination is actually the sound of a muted gunshot.

-The fact that Homer wakes up on the golf course is based on a true story of a friend of one of the show creators who woke up on a golf course after a long night of...whatever...in a different state than he was originally.

Favorites

-Marge deflects suspicion that she cut something out of the newspaper by claiming she's only holding a pair of scissors because she's using them to "gussy up these curtains." In the next scene she's sewing them back together.

-Homer: "WHEEERE? TO THE BIG ANNUAL WHAAAT?"

"Please lick spoons clean after each use."
"Maaarge, we're missin' the chiliiiii..." (source: SimpsonsGIFs)
I'm totally starting a country music band just so I can call it Ferl Dixon and the Second Helping Boys

-Check out some of the awesome chili booths at the cook-off (complete with facial reactions to the appearance of Homer the Chili Connoisseur):

"It Takes Weeks To Make Muntz" (!!!)
What's cool about this is that I had no idea until I looked it up that Saltpeter cooking is a real thing. It's just highly toxic and carcinogenic so you can't have more than 200 parts per million in any recipe. Burnsy here is using a bit more than that.
Frink is not at all impressed by Homer. He's not even sure what he's doing here.
Plus these:
Homer: "Five Alarm Chili, eh? [He tastes it] One...two...HEEEY, WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?!"
Ned Flanders: "Oh, I admit it! It's only two-alarm, two-and-a-half, tops! I just wanted to be a big man in front of the kids."
Todd: "Daddy...are you going to jail?"
Ned Flanders: "Well see, son. We'll see."
Moe's Chili Bar
Wait, what the f*ck is that above Chief Wiggum?
Oh. A creepy gargoyle with a wooden spoon. OK.
And while we're at it:

Proof of age or exact change required
And what the hay:

LOL ALL-NIGHT FURNITURE STORE
-And now we finally get to...THE FIREWORKS FACTORY (ALL credit for ALL of these gifs goes to the good folks at SimpsonsGIFs who are AMAZING!):

"What can I diddly-doodly-DIDDLY-DOODLY-DIDKALKDL:KDSLKJGH GABBA GABBA GABBA HEYYYYY!@#$"

BUUU-UUUUU-UUUUU-UUUUURP
"I hope I didn't brain my damage..."
"Sunrise, sunset..."
They actually had to sync up the background with the animation to make this shot work.
This is based on the train at the beginning of Soul Train
Time to wake up!
NEXT WEEK: Season 2, Episode 6 -- "Dead Putting Society" -- Original Airdate: 11/15/1990


ALL of the images above belong SOLELY to Twentieth Century Fox