If given the opportunity to make the most evil man in town good, would you try?
Lisa does, and it goes as well as expected in this John Swartzwelder-written episode.
The Junior Achievement club is meeting at Springfield Elementary, and they’re collecting recyclables for a trip to Albany, possibly to get some steamed hams. Principal Skinner has invited Mr. Burns to speak at the gathering, and not only does he have no idea what recycling is, but when told he decides it’s stupid. Lisa does not agree, and Burns finds out he isn’t as rich as he thought he was.
Things don’t go well for Burns or the Junior Achievers. The recyclables don’t get them nearly enough to go to Albany, and Burns finally learns about the Stock Market Crash of ’29. He tosses out some investments and then…loses all his money because no one would tell him “no” ever. He loses his home and business. The bank puts Lenny in charge of the plant and pro wrestler Bret “The Hitman” Hart buys the mansion off Monty “The Flat Broke Man” Burns. Burns is forced to move in with Smithers. And when Smithers goes to work, Burns decides to help out by doing the shopping.
It also goes about as well as expected.
So, the grocers have Burns committed to the Springfield Retirement Castle, where his old commander in the Flying Hellish, Abe Simpson, tells him about all the things he can’t do. Then Burns hears the shrill voice of the only person he knows who would ever tell him “no”. That’d be Lisa.
After several That Girl related refusals on Lisa’s part, Burns goes to the Simpson home to ask Homer if Burns can see Homer’s daughter.
Homer assumes Maggie. Burns recognizes her as the baby who shot him. Maggie even makes the gun motions. No, Burns wants Lisa, and thanks to some pleading, he gets Lisa to agree to help on the condition that nothing Burns does can be evil. The novelty appeals to the old man and the two are off. Lisa teaches him about recycling, and Burns gets really good at it. Sure, Marge of all people is cracking jokes at his expense, but Lisa insists Burns has changed for the better.
So, when Burns builds a recycling center in Lisa’s honor, made of 100% recycled material, complete with liquor bottle windows Barney can’t stop licking, it seems everything has worked out for the best. Then Lisa learns what exactly Burns is recycling in her name: ocean life.
Yes, if a single plastic set of soda rings can catch one fish, a million can catch a million fish, and the Burns’ omni-net is soon dragging in, oh, everything to make a slurry product. Now a horrified Lisa sees Burns never changed, and if anything he got worse, and she’s running around the streets telling people not to recycle like it’s The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Now rich again, Burns buys back his plant by selling his recycling center to a fish stick company. With $120 million dollars, he offers Lisa a 10% commission. She declines and Homer promptly has four simultaneous heart attacks. He says he understands, but the family could have really used the $12 thousand. Which would be when Lisa tells Homer what 10% of $120 million really is and poor Homer has another heart attack.
Man, math is not Homer’s friend.