This episode has a lot of references to the movie The Third Man, including frequent uses of the movie’s musical score, puns on the names of the cast, showing the old folks at the Retirement Castle watching the movie on TV, and an Orson Welles bit in the middle of the episode just because.
I am not sure how much the reference works. Sure, the movie is about not knowing a loved one as well as you think you do, but that’s about it.
Of course, this episode also features a guest turn by Stephen Fry as…many, many characters. Basically, if there’s a British character in this one that had never appeared on the show before and probably won’t again, it was most likely Fry.
So, what’s he up to?
His main role is as a British spy named Terrance. Terrance took up a task to find the “Grey Fox,” a spy working for the Russians, on behalf of M.I. 5 or 6 or one of them. Regardless, he started in 1970 with a dossier that pointed out that Grey Fox was an American and a member of the Flying Hellfish in World War II, the only unit to fight in the Atlantic, Pacific, and one movie theater. Whoever it is also had access to a nuclear power plant. Terrance will stop at nothing to find Gray Fox!
50 years later, and he’s almost there. It looks like it might be Grampa Simpson.
Not Mr. Burns? Was it not evil enough?
Terrance decides the thing to do is move into the Retirement Castle and then observe Abe a bit. From there, he goes down to Moe’s and chats up Homer and the other drunks. He already knows better than Homer how many kids Homer has, and he’s charming enough not to annoy Marge too much. Sure, he is very strict on how to sing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” but he’s otherwise very charming. See, Terrance really needs to catch Grey Fox to make up for what a screw-up his own father (also Fry) was. Next, he goes to show Homer some proof Grampa is a spy.
I mean, there’s lots of evidence that Grampa is disgruntled. Plus, it doesn’t make much sense that Homer got a job at a nuclear plant without any real skills or experience, and no one really knew what Grampa did for a living. But that doesn’t make him a spy.
Homer believes utterly in Grampa’s innocence…until Homer sees Grampa switch canes with another old man sitting next to him on a park bench and then later take a handoff from two Russian-looking dudes.
Well, this is sure mysterious. Is there some explanation for it all? None that Homer knows, so he agrees to help Terrance get Grampa. Homer wants to make sure Grampa is treated well, better than the old man already is, but that doesn’t pan out when Terrance has both Homer and Grampa tossed in the trunk of his car, apparently planning on killing both of them.
At least Grampa has an explanation for what happened: the cane thing was an accident, and the Russian-looking dudes were actually Canadians delivering Grampa some cheaper medication. And Grampa isn’t mad since Homer still tried to take care of the old man.
OK, so, now what? Can anyone save the day or are Homer and Grampa doomed?
Well, Marge can meet Terrance’s daughter Hazel (Fry again) at the Retirement Castle, and then they can head off Terrance before things go too bad. And Grampa will even admit to being the Grey Fox, a small lie to keep Terrance from thinking his entire life was a waste, and that sure was nice.
So, that’s that. I think we all learned an important lesson, but it’s mostly about how quickly you need to sing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”.
That is the best lesson I can do right now.