December 7, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Simpsons Did It!: “Portrait Of A Lackey On Fire”

In which Smithers finds love.

The Simpsons may have taken their time outing Smithers as gay, something that was played up heavily for quite some time, but that still doesn’t mean we’ve seen the man in a serious romantic relationship.

That changed with this episode.

Oh, and Mr. Burns and Disco Stu are alive again.  It’s almost like the last two episodes don’t count.

Yes, Mr. Burns is alive, and one his hounds just had a litter of puppies.  Since the attack dummies have been torn to shreds, that means someone else will need to teach the pups to be vicious.  Enter Homer, who the pups rip into whenever he is on the clock.  Burns, meanwhile, is looking over the bribes various wealthy types sent in the hopes of getting one of his pups, and he spends most of the episode working on a 50 piece jigsaw puzzle, a gift he did not understand right away.  I mean, at one point he was sorting the pieces by weight.

However, there was one pup who was friendly, licking Homer instead of biting him.  That one will have to go…well, somewhere.  Homer may be helping more there, but then he finds poor Smithers depressed.  Smithers is lonely as he has dated every gay man in Springfield plus a few straight ones like Disco Stu who are giving it a little try.  Homer feels bad for Smithers, and then, inspiration happens.  Homer meets wealthy fashion designer Michael de Graaf (guest star Victor Garber).  Michael is interested in the friendly puppy, and a little casual conversation tells Homer that Michael prefers the company of men.  Homer then opts to introduce Michael to Smithers, and the two really hit it off.

Homer spends a good deal of time in this episode amazed at his power to set up gay people.  He will not do the same for Lenny and Carl.

Marge, meanwhile, wants more information because Michael is a judge on her favorite fashion reality competition show, also apparently co-hosted by guest star and Project Runway winner Christian Siriano.  Michael there is known for his withering put-downs, and Marge wants a lot more information than Homer even has.  She ends up going directly to Smithers since Homer is just ninjaing away from her to go to work.

Yes, it becomes more or less official when Michael sends guest star Christine Baranski over to sing “Dancing Queen” for Smithers, and it gets even better when Michael and Smithers go to a barbecue in the Simpsons’ backyard.  There, Michael wows everybody, giving out more withering put-downs on request from the women, complimenting Marge’s food so much her hair relaxes, and even impressing Lisa with some quick alterations to her standard attire while she’s talking about how much she doesn’t really see the point to haute couture.

In fact, Michael is so attached to Smithers, he opts to open a new factory in town and give a lot of the unemployed residents work there.  This is surely too good to be true unless Garber is going to be a permanent guest star.

He isn’t.  Homer and the kids get a tour of the factor from Barney and learn not only does it give off a lot of colorful pollutants and harm to the employees, but Michael is well aware that it does and doesn’t care.


By the by, nice touch where Springfield itself is largely colored in as more drab near the factory as said factory belches out all kinds of colorful clouds and oozes, like turning the lake plaid.  It’s like the factory is leeching color from Springfield itself.

Now, Homer doesn’t want to hurt Smithers–it hurts Homer’s success rate as a matchmaker if he does if nothing else–but Smithers does find out, and Michael doesn’t deny it, even saying Smithers has a type.  Smithers is torn.  Does he stay with Michael, who makes him happy, or leave him because Michael’s presence is making the whole town miserable?  Smithers will have to consult an expert.

Good thing Mr. Burns is still working on that jigsaw puzzle.

Burns is actually impressed with Smithers’s landing Michael, even if Burns can’t remember Smithers’s own sexual preference.  But even Burns notes that Michael’s factory, unlike the nuclear plant, doesn’t produce anything people really need, and it somehow managed to kill Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish, and the power plant never got that bad.  Granted, Burns approves of that much evil, but the point stands that Michael is worse than Mr. Burns.

Smithers isn’t quite ready to call off his first actual shot at happiness though…until Michael kicks the puppy.  That’s the last straw.  Smithers breaks up with Michael and keeps the dog because at least the dog gives steady companionship and affection without causing harm.

So, no more fast fashion factory in Springfield.  Did Smithers learn anything?  Well, when Mr. Burns finally finishes that jigsaw puzzle, surprised that there’s a picture on it that matches the one on the box, Burns is ready to do more evil, and Smithers is ready himself…with a more challenging jigsaw puzzle.

That one had 100 pieces.

Burns may not be causing too much trouble for a while.