Thursday, March 15, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Seven - “Stealing, stealing, stealing a car for Moe…”

Season 9, Episode 16
“Dumbbell Indemnity”
First Broadcast: March 1, 1998

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

Moe is a lonely, lonely man – and with good reason!  After yet another failed date, he is lucky enough to bump into a flower vendor called Renee, who somehow seems past his many, many, many, many, many (...And it goes on like this!  Let's cut to the chase) faults, and the two begin a wonderful romance.

However, Moe is too insecure to believe that the attraction is based on his less tangible charms, and blows through his money at a ridiculous rate.  He decides that insurance fraud is the only way forward, and turns to Homer as his accomplice in the destruction of his car.  Unfortunately, if somewhat predictably, Homer fails utterly, becoming trapped in the car at the bottom of the lake.  Moe, as an alibi, is at a police event on a yacht, which leads to Homer's arrest; Moe won't stand up for him and Homer is left to rot in jail - or worse, do exercise.

When Moe's idea to spring Homer from jail without admitting his guilt involves arson and body-snatching, Renee decides to leave him - and to double his misery, a murderous Homer has escaped, at the expense of Hans Moleman.  The bar is already aflame as they start to fight, but they pass out from smoke inhalation and are rescued by Barney, as a second trip having already rescued some booze.  Homer forgives Moe, allowing him to re-open his bar in his garage, much to Marge's chagrin.


This episode contains my absolute favourite moment of The Simpsons, ever – hopefully provided in .gif form below:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Imgur.
In some ways I am actually still laughing at that from the first time I saw it, nigh on twenty years ago.

Homer's choice of cinematic entertainment at the drive-in: "Hail To The Chimp".

"Stop saying Hawaii in there!"


Fair bit in this one actually; I've chosen to go with The Monkees' classic "I'm A Believer" as this week's video...

...But I could well have gone with "Brick House" by the Commodores, or "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" by George Thorogood And The Destroyers, who I thought had pretty much only done "Bad To The Bone", like, ever.  So I've learned something today.

(Of course the best song in the episode is the classic "Stealing, stealing, stealing a car for Moe...  Do do do do, do do do do, insurance fraud today!"...  But that doesn't make much of a video.)


Ah, bollocks...  Shouldn't have done Moe so early.  Who else have we got in this one...  Ah!  Finally it's time to be gay for Moleman.

Hans Moleman - or Ralph Melish as he was originally named, possibly as a Monty Python reference - is either over 70 or 31, depending on what episode it is and what misfortune he is suffering that particular week.  He presents a radio show about the agonising pain in which he lives every day, but his pain is our raucous entertainment!

Yes, whether he's being trepanned by Mr Burns, run down by a car, enclosed in an Anti-Escape Orb, or - in surely everyone's favourite - taking a football to the groin in a highly-rated independent movie, he's a comedy machine, albeit one that needs to be placed in great distress to be funny.  Perhaps that's why he carries the concealed sword...


Aside from giving us the single funniest moment in the history of The Simpsons (remember - my opinion only), this episode also gave us a further look into the twisted psyche of one Moe Szyslak, and begins the long march to humanising him, in a less extreme way than later episodes.

Yes, before Moe's annual Christmas suicide attempt became a tradition we'd rather gloss over, or he was outright noted as a suspected paedophile, Moe gets his day in the sun with a touching, if temporary, romance with a lady that's clearly crazy about him, until his shaky self-belief implodes, he misinterprets things and hits the self-destruct button.  I'd imagine all of us can relate in some way, shape or form.

Throw in Homer failing hilarious with a combination of stupidity, foolishness and sheer bad luck, Helen Hunt entering a great understated performance as Renee and the stakes escalating to an action-packed set piece at the end, and you have a simple next-level episode here; no gimmicks necessary, few bells and whistles, simply purely strong scripting, acting and animation.

Join us next time, when we'll see if you've played knifey-spoony before...

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