Homer and Marge deal legal weed in a Simpsons that could have gone much worse
“Your no-frills, fumbling sales pitch has won me over.”
I was momentarily taken aback by the big, bold “TV-14″ content warning before the start of tonight’s Simpsons. But, after calming myself with the thought that no, there wasn’t a rogue Family Guy episode coming, I remembered that tonight’s 2020 episode of The Simpsons was venturing out into the stormy, controversial waters of . . . the pot. More specifically, the growing national movement toward marijuana legalization and the proliferation of cannabis-related legal businesses (no longer called head shops, thank you very much), a civic transformation that has brought untold decades of generational warfare and unfruitful hyperbolic debate tactics right into the mainstream. After all, when, one year, parents are telling their kids about the dangers of smoking dope (while shifting their eyes in grudging recognition of their own youthful recreational use), and the next they’re driving past three chipper-looking dispensaries with names like “Calming Harvest” on the way to Arby’s, it’s fair game for a show like The Simpsons to see just how Marge and Homer will approach the issue.
Still: Big, scary content warning. Review rated AV-14. Proceed at your own risk.
“Highway To Well”
“Highway To Well”
In the past, The Simpsons’ weed jokes have largely centered on Otto, Springfield’s most stoned school bus driver, so it’s natural he’d show up as catalyst for a second-act plot twist here. Once Marge innocently lucks her way into a sales job at Drederick Tatum’s post-boxing cannabinoid empire, thanks to her wholesome probity providing a reassuring face to the shiny, Apple store-esque Well+Good store, Springfield becomes so weed-friendly that Otto’s buzz is seriously harshed. Mumbling his way through an attempted Well+Good purchase with beaming store manager Desmond (a crisply funny Billy Porter), Otto’s usual allusive asides and winks are greeted with more tinctures, lotions, edibles, and other shiny cannabis products than he could have ever dreamed of, although he finds himself turned off when his talk of the cops sees Springfield PD officer Eddie making his own recommendations.
As with most of its audience, the whole marijuana issue’s been viewed as a wry joke on The Simpsons since the start, with reactionary, draconian enforcement contrasted against mostly harmless stoners and law enforcement types who are only too ready to partake when nobody’s looking. Now that the legal pot business is here to stay (at least for the mostly white, upwardly mobile types who can look to cash in), that the Simpsons (family and series) would incorporate it into the sweep of shenanigans, adventures, and whatnot feels, well, organic. And the script for “Highway To Well,” credited to the always-welcome Carolyn Omine, does an admirable job of making the marijuana element (underrated dispensary name) feel right at home as just another excuse for Homer and Marge’s differences to bubble to the surface, rather than reeking with “very special episode” staleness or sensationalism. As things turn out, legalized pot is just another new development in American society that reveals the characters, in a more or less satisfying manner.
For Marge, the aching, hidden need to feel valued and special is a defining trait. As much as her Homey loves her, he’s terrible at showing his wife those things, except in the sort of grand, often deeply irresponsible gesture that defuses an episode’s marital conflict. At Well+Good, Drederick, Desmond, and pink-haired saleswoman Lauren (Chelsea Peretti) are all using Marge for her guileless suburban sheen on their burgeoning business, but they also seem to like and respect her, and she gradually comes to see how her distribution of mood-altering gummies and $30 bottles of CBD soda make her customers’ lives a little better. (Even Mrs. Skinner returns happily praising son Seymour for being a big deal principal, which is the episode’s most convincing case for legalization and widespread use.) The problem for Marge is that, at first, she doesn’t know what she’s been selling, which is problematic on any number of levels. (Not a good look for the Well+Good staff, in that Marge is unwittingly handing out a sense-altering drug to people who also don’t know what they’re taking.)
Still, after a talk around the Simpsons’ dinner table, Marge decides to go back to the job, a decision presented as considered, adult, and even laudable, which is probably why the episode got that network warning more than any old stoner gags. The central parental dilemma is neatly summed up in Homer’s turn-on-a-dime encouragement/admonition, when he tells the departing Marge, “Now go sell that safe, legal drug our kids should never ever use!” As far as a TV institution like The Simpsons taking a stand on marijuana, pointing out that Marge’s new job (“legal in this state” is said several times for emphasis) is compared reasonably to her working in a liquor store is a similarly rational paradigm shift. Later, Moe—bummed about the rise of pot over his favored legal and lucrative intoxicant—bemoans the old days before these “tie-dyed bong-monkeys,” when people just drank themselves into dangerously needless fistfights, which doubles down on the joke.
But Marge isn’t going to be working at a cannabis business come episode’s end, so the test is in what conflict will eventually bring her out of the weed biz. And there, there’s one hit and one miss, although the miss is the funnier of the two, as Homer’s Otto-pleasing turn to the old school backroom weed-dealing business (although prefaced by a disclaimer that everything about to happen is now legal) sees him transforming Moe’s storeroom into a humorously observed simulacrum of every dingy, wet-bathing-suit-smelling den any self-respecting pot enthusiast recognizes only too well. Otto’s thrilled, what with Homer dressed like a “cool toddler,” unused hand weights, an exotic pet, and Lenny as “the weird friend who never acknowledges you,” sullenly playing “a (legal parody of) Goldeneye on a (legal parody of) a N64,” according to Simpsons EP Matt Selman’s Twitter.
Narratively, the couple’s final clash is handled with complicated but understandable motivations. Homer’s seedy side-hustle costs Marge her ability to project the squeaky-clean image Tatum needs to front his expanded, celebrity cannabis spa expansion, so she accepts an offer to rat Homer out—to the health department, for serving food while running a legal business. It’s a sly way to at least nod toward thew backdoor ways legislators and law enforcement have chosen to come after legal things they don’t like (cough—abortion—cough), although, like the completely unmentioned issue of the many, many, mostly non-white pot offenders still in prison, the episode doesn’t really delve into the politics.
Instead, there’s a cheese-balls sting as the culmination of the “drug war” Bart and Lisa term their parents’ dueling pot business squabble, with Homer left on the hook for a $25 fine. Of course, betrayal is a bigger penalty, with Marge’s late attempt to warm Homer about the sting still seeing Homer (having made his way past security by claiming to be other guest voice Kevin Smith’s dad) turning up drunk at Marge’s big opening. (Thus shocking the gathered, vaping celebs in attendance. See Selman again for hints—apart from Rainer Wolfcastle and McConaughey, I’m lost.) Homer’s right to feel hurt—not to come down on Homer’s side too hard, but him doing something independent of Marge that he couldn’t have imagined would hurt her new career is pretty low on the list of horrible Homer-isms. Still, it’s narratively fitting but pretty harsh for the drunk Homer to lash out with the one piece of information that will completely tank his wife’s career—Marge has never tried marijuana. (Here, having scoured my thirty years of Simpsons memories, I bow to the commentariat on whether that’s canon.)
With Marge’s apt switcheroo of a protest, “I can start anytime I want!,” one drop of what Homer calls her “oils and goos” sends the neophyte Marge, to steal a phrase, tripping balls. (Sadly, both the chicken pot pie and napkin she attempts to clear her palate with are both heavily weed-infused.) Here, Omine’s script walks a mostly successful line—Marge has to be genuinely disconcerted by her experience, while, at the same time, Desmond, Lauren, and everyone else’s good time is shown to be equally likely and valid outcomes. Again, for anyone worrying about the Disney-fication of The Simpsons should take comfort in that “Highway To Hell” takes a middle road on the whole pot subject, the middle road being more daring than one might expect under the circumstances. And if the Homer-ex-machina of the CBD oil conflagration that toasts the spa derails a substantive resolution of Homer and Marge’s main conflict, it does demonstrate a quiet elegance in how quickly Homer casts aside his sort-of earned anger as soon as he spots just how freaked out Marge is by her first-ever drug experience. Acknowledging that he is happy she found a place that made her “feel special” (even as he accidentally burns it to the ground), Homer talks down the jittery Marge with the knowing advice, “You’ll be fine in two hours—that’ll seem like 12.” All in all, a Simpsons take on legalized marijuana could have been disastrously squarer.
“Your no-frills, fumbling sales pitch has won me over.”
Weekend at Burnsie’s
- Talk (1)
Weekend at Burnsie’s
Special Guest Voices
“Daddy’s special medicine, which you must never use because it will ruin your life, lets Daddy see and hear magical things you’ll never experience. Ever!” ―Homer Simpson
“Weekend at Burnsie’s” is the sixteenth episode of Season 13.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Full Story
- 3 Behind the Laughter
- 3.1 Censorship
- 4 Citations
Homer is prescribed medicinal marijuana after getting pecked in the eyes by a murder of crows. While his family and friends worry about the drug altering his personality, Homer becomes Mr. Burns’ vice president after cracking up at Burns’ antiquated jokes.
After a bad experience with genetically modified food (Namely, a potato gained enough sentience to eat a carrot in front of Lisa), Marge chooses to plant her own garden. She faces a few problems. Crows arrive on the new garden and eat the seeds, so Marge plans to make a scarecrow. However, the Flanders mistake the large stake for the true Cross and pray in front of it. Marge has to shoo them too. She finishes making the scarecrow with the pumpkin from the Treehouse of Horror series, Bart’s horse-riding trousers from “Saddlesore Galactica”, Lisa’s hockey jersey from “Lisa on Ice”, and Grampa’s hat, which is said to be from a fictional episode “Who Shot Grampa’s Hat?” Marge puts the scarecrow up in her garden, and the crows instantly flee into the Flanders’ yard.
After coming home late at night, Homer mistakes the scarecrow for a scary person and destroys it. This leads to the crows to see Homer as their leader, following him everywhere and doing everything he tells them to. Homer enjoys being their leader, but the rest of the family and his friends avoid him as they are scared of all the crows (especially after it was implied that they mauled Barney). And Marge starts sleeping on the couch when Homer tells her that a group of crows is called a murder. One day when Homer tells the murder to bring Maggie down from the second floor, they take her and bring her high up in the air. Maggie falls out of her onsie but uses her diaper as a parachute and lands safely in Homer’s arms. Homer is furious at the crows for putting Maggie in danger, and tries to lay down some rules, but they protest, which was the last straw in Homer’s eyes and shouts at them to go away while swinging a broom and they attack him.
Another promo card for this episode, showing only Trey Anastasio, Homer and Mike Gordon.
Homer is rushed to the hospital, where Dr. Hibbert puts stitches in his eyes. Homer then experiences horrible pain and Dr. Hibbert prescribes him medicinal marijuana and a prescription bong (Homer has a choice between a wizard bong or a skull bong). However, Homer is reluctant to take marijuana due to an incident in 1978 where Lenny and Carl asked if he would take a bong, but Officer Wiggum was going to bust them, and had to place his newly received bong in his pants crotch due to Lenny and Carl telling him to “crotch it”, and unfortunately for him, Scraps, the sniffer dog accompanying Wiggum, detected it and then bit him on the crotch and swung him around violently to even Wiggum’s shock, alongside the fact that using marijuana was technically illegal.
When he gets home, Homer immediately goes upstairs to his room. He follows the instructions on the bottle and starts toking. Marge and the kids catch him toking while singing “Smoke on the Water”. Marge is outraged at first, but because it is for Homer’s eyes, she goes along with it. Homer becomes a stoner stereotype, such as hallucinating things in an acid trip, spamming Marge with calls. He enjoys listening to Lisa play her saxophone (and thinking that it would make a great pipe), watching TV with Otto in the attic while talking about Fonzie, and even asking Flanders to read him the whole Holy Bible, much to Ned’s joy. When Flanders offers a petition to have a vote on the ban of medical marijuana in Springfield, Homer unwittingly adds his signature. Homer’s stoned state also sees him promoted to Executive Vice-President at the power plant, and so he goes to a rally for the legalization of medical marijuana (but the rally is actually held a day after the ban was approved by voters). Homer is cured of his medical condition and promises he won’t smoke pot again.
Burns as a marionette
Mr. Burns asks Homer to help him with a speech for a crisis shareholders meeting. Homer gives Smithers his last joint, and while Smithers is smoking and dressing like Judy Garland, Smithers asks if Homer he could pose as Mickey Rooney, to which Homer asks if he is the same guy who keeps shouting stuff on 60 Minutes, Smithers, upon hearing this, notices that Burns was gone for over an hour, and rushes to his bathroom: Turns out to their horror that Burns apparently drowned in his bathtub. So, for the meeting, Smithers and Homer make Burns into a marionette a-la Weekend at Bernie’s and the movement of the marionette inadvertently gets Burns’ heart beating again. The meeting is a success, and another financial crisis at the power plant is avoided. However, Burns does use their idea to have him as a marionette as their punishment after Homer inadvertently admitted that he failed to take Burns to the hospital.
Behind the Laughter
Due to the prevalent drug themes/use throughout the episode, the following rating assignments were made:
Weekend at Burnsies “Daddy's special medicine, which you must never use because it will ruin your life, lets Daddy see and hear magical things you'll never experience. Ever!” Homer Simpson "Weekend at Burnsie's" is the sixteenth episode of Season 13. 1 Synopsis 2 Full Story 3 Behind the Laughter…