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"The Scorpion's Tale"

Abe Simpson becomes nice and sees things differently

 

A Springfield Elementary fieldtrip leads to some interesting discoveries: a stash of antique French porn and flowers which exhibit a calming effect on ordinarily aggressive and belligerent creatures. It saves Lisa from a couple of scorpions, but can it save the Simpsons from Grandpa? The results are good, but there's a twist in "The Scorpion's Tale", and Bart's business skills will make your eyes pop.

 Lisa is confident that her discovery - the Springfield Silvertongue flower acts as a psycholeptic - will get her an 'A', but Homer has other ideas. First, it removes stains from his shirt; second, it makes Grandpa, evicted from the old folks' home for his crankiness ("You're a fish tank!"), much easier to get along with. Lisa doesn't like the idea of Abe being drugged, but Walter Hotenhoffer (Werner Herzog) wants to market the properties of the Silvertongue as a drug (MusBeNys). Bart decided to cut out the middleman and sells the drug to all the frustrated put-upons in Springfield. Now Seymour Skinner and his mother swing gaily on the swings and Monty Burns plays with children. All is well in Springfield - that is, until the side effects of the drug kick in.

 

Abe Simpson has always been one of my favorite characters from the show, so to see him be congenial (and popular) was a nice change of tone. That said, we still get to see him at his irascible best ("In my day, all we put on potato was pine needles and hair! I hate this century!" and "You call that making love? In my day, women didn't make a sound!"), so the tour de force was very welcome.

 

As good as the setup is - all the old people of Springfield become nice - the angle is derailed quickly and bizarrely. Actually, given the nature of the side effects, it's probably a good thing that the end was quick. Naturally, you can't have Abe being lovely long term, but I do wish there was a better way to end the idea than having his eyeballs pop out of his head, and Homer conning all the geriatrics of Springfield into becoming nasty again. The off-hand joke about the subprime crisis feels more like euthanizing the episode than offering stinging satire, even if it is true:

 

"And I wouldn't have to pay [the loan on my house] for three more years! What are the odds of that much time happening?"

"Pretty close to zero, I'd say."

 

There are good moments in "The Scorpion's Tale": like Lisa and Bart tearing through breakfast to escape Abe, Walter Hotenhoffer reminding Homer that they're not quite in the same boat ("My boat has me and hundreds of lawyers. Your boat is you and a lot of people with their eyes popped out"), and probably my favorite, Homer's grotesque and horrific grin when he drinks some essence of Springfield Silvertongue - or, as he puts it, "Grandpa's coffee". It's just a shame that someone flipped a switch on the episode after Act One.

 

3.5/5.0: "The Scorpion's Tale" is quite decent and entertaining, but returns to some fairly middle ground once the main jokes are done.