Retro Recaps: The Simpsons (Season 9, Episode 22) – Trash of the Titans
One of the more memorable things The Simpsons television show did during its early years, was poke fun at the wonderful world of politics. From Springfield’s Diamond Joe Quimby who kept getting re-elected (despite obvious showings of incompetency), to Bart’s rise and fall to become 4th grade class president (solely on him acting standoffish and belligerent-hmm…why does that tactic sound familiar?), the show’s writing staff always found some way to turn political absurdity, into smart-comedy.
I recall for the show’s 100th episode, the Fox Network made a big deal out of Bart Simpson making something totally crazy happen. Well, for the 200th episode 4 seasons later, all eyes were on Homer Simpson, and one of the craziest things he ever did.
The episode starts off in a boardroom, for the department store chain known as Costington’s. While their analyst tells them that additional Holidays (like “Christmas 2”) have kept their bottom-line going, a profits slowdown in late Summer, gives their company head a moment to pause.
Shortly afterwards, a new Holiday is created to fill this profit hole, called Love Day. The Simpson family goes all-in, buying plenty of useless products (most of them just re-purposed from other store-created holidays) to celebrate it. However, the wrapping paper and product containers fill up the trash can, and noone wants to take it out.
Over the next few days, the trash keeps piling up in the can, until Homer accidentally knocks it over, making him the unwilling recipient to take it out to the curb.
Ticked off that he has to take out the overfilled garbage can (and never thinking that this could have been resolved days earlier), things get even more testy when the garbage truck drives by, and Homer attempts to chase after it, soon spilling the garbage all over the street.
Homer’s response is to name-call at the truck, but is surprised when it backs up, and the garbagemen confront him. This then leads to the Simpsons being ignored for future trash pick-up.
“Dad, is this another one of those situations that could be solved by a simple apology?” asks Lisa.
“I never apologize, Lisa,” claims Homer. “I’m sorry, but that’s just the way I am.”
With no trash pick-up, the family’s garbage piles up on their front lawn, becoming a smelly eyesore to the neighborhood, and a rat-infested hellhole.
Marge pleads with Homer to just apologize to the garbagemen, but he still refuses, claiming that he’s sure that his stand-off tactics against them are working.
Some time afterwards, Homer wakes up, and is surprised to find all the garbage on the front lawn has disappeared! He quickly brags to his family that he beat City Hall (“It’s just like David and Goliath! Only this time, David won!”), before Marge finally confesses that she sent a letter of apology to the sanitation commissioner, with Homer’s name on it.
Naturally, Homer is distraught about this, and goes down to the commissioner’s office to rescind the letter.
Though the sanitation commissioner Ray Patterson cheerfully greets him and returns the forged apology, Homer indignantly assumes that Patterson is mocking him, and claims that he intends to “fight City Hall,” and “rattle a few cages.”
When Patterson claims that “nobody wants to hear the nonsensical ravings of a loudmouthed malcontent,” Homer rushes off to be put on the ballot for sanitation commissioner.
Homer soon after starts up his campaign, though when questioned by his peers at the Nuclear Plant about what he’ll do different from Ray Patterson, he provides little information (“What am I, ‘the answer man?’ Just vote for me!” he tells his co-worker, Lenny).
Feeling that maybe he needs to reach the younger demographic, Homer sneaks into a U2 concert, and hijacks the show. However, his attempts to ‘rock the vote’ by spouting ‘hip lingo’ to the crowd, simply leads to him being escorted off-stage, and beaten.
Going to Moe’s, Homer wonders what he can do to get the people to listen to him.
Moe claims Homer just needs to come up with a campaign slogan that will appeal to “all the lazy slobs.” Even here, Homer laments doing work. “Can’t someone else do it?” he whines.
That line actually impresses Moe, and Homer quickly begins to use it as his campaign slogan! Going before the townspeople, he promises that his campaign will handle all the negative aspects of the garbage that the average person hates, and most of the townspeople quickly warm to his promises.
Soon, a debate is held between Ray Patterson, and Homer. Ray attempts to make the citizenry see reason (“This man has promised round-the-clock trash pickup. That’s impossible!”), but Homer takes every chance he can to mock the man’s logic. Naturally, the townspeople just eat up Homer’s grandstanding attitude, further exasperating the sanitation commissioner.
“All right, fine,” says Ray, eventually tiring of the game. “If you want an experienced public servant, vote for me. But if you want to believe a bunch of crazy promises about garbagemen cleaning your gutters and waxing your car, then by all means, vote for this sleazy lunatic.”
Of course, this is Springfield, so the ‘sleazy lunatic’ wins.
After the election, Homer goes to his new office, and finds Ray packing up his things. Homer acts totally oblivious to how he treated his opponent (“You told people I lured children into my gingerbread house,” growls Ray), and laughs off the slander, as if it was all a big joke.
As he leaves, Ray gives Homer one last speech.
“Simpson, the American people have never tolerated incompetence in their public officials. You are going to crash and burn, my fatheaded friend.”
Soon after, Homer takes charge of things, and starts paying off on his ‘crazy promises.’ Sparkling white uniforms for his garbagemen, brand-new trucks, and even a musical number!
Sung to the tune of “The Candy Man,” Homer’s song about how “The Garbage Man can,” shows its numerous workers disposing of questionable garbage materials, and taking care of the garbage issues that noone wants to do!
Things seem to be coming up roses for Homer…until Mayor Quimby angrily points out that the department’s yearly budget has been used up in one month!
Homer is beside himself on what to do, confessing to his family that Ray was right, and he’s “crashing and burning.”
“You know, Dad,” says Lisa. “There’s a lesson in all this. Many cities have problems with garbage disposal, and it’s time we realized you ca-“
“Wait, shut up!” interrupts Homer. “I just thought of something!”
He rushes out of the house, and a few days later, returns to his office with enough cash to keep the garbagemen happy, and his crazy promises going!
When the family asks to know what he did (they all assume it had something to do with drugs), Homer shows them.
Going to an abandoned mine on the outskirts of town, Homer explains that other cities are paying him to dump their garbage in Springfield, and bury it deep within the mine shafts under the town!
“But Dad, you can’t cram trash under Springfield forever,” cautions Lisa.
“Sure I can, honey-kitten,” replies Homer, confidently.
Some time later, Homer is on a golf course with Mayor Quimby, who is happy that Homer resolved the sanitation department’s budget woes (though never questioning Homer on how he did it). Suddenly, a lump forms on the course! Homer quickly tries to push it down, but another lump forms, before garbage suddenly spews up from the hole on the course!
Lisa’s warning appears to be coming true, and like a reverse sinkhole, the garbage buried beneath the city, begins popping up everywhere!
An emergency meeting is called, wherein the town votes to have Homer horsewhipped for causing the crisis, and Ray Patterson is reinstated as sanitation commissioner.
With a roar of approval from the townspeople, Ray takes to the stage, a big smile on his face.
Oh, gosh,” says Ray. “You know I’m not much on speeches, but it’s so gratifying to leave you wallowing in the mess you’ve made. You’re screwed.Thank you. Bye.”
And with those final words, Ray walks off the stage (and out of the show entirely).
Quimby attempts to keep order, but when a deluge of garbage suddenly spews up from his podium(?), he declares that the town must consider its contingency plan: Plan B.
The plan calls for the entire town to be moved five miles down the road, and soon, all of Springfield’s buildings are loaded onto flatbed trucks, and headed to their new home.
“So, we transplant the town,” says Lisa. “We’re just gonna trash the new Springfield too.”
“Yeah, but what are you gonna do?” says Homer, speaking as though he hasn’t learned a thing.
As he jump across to a flatbed with Moe’s on it, he tosses a potato chip bag, that lands at the feet of a Native American standing nearby. Saddened at the thoughtless littering, the man sheds a tear.
“Do yourself a favor,” says a friend of his, coming up behind him. “Don’t turn around.”
The camera then pans behind the two, and we see a vast wasteland of trash, with a “City of Springfield” billboard in the foreground. A scream follows shortly afterward.
“I told you not to turn around,” comes the voice of the second native.
And that was Trash of the Titans. Overall, not one of the strongest of the Simpsons episodes, but it plays quite well with Homer making a mountain out of a molehill, that could have been avoided had he just taken the trash out in the first place…instead of leading to the ciry-wide crisis that befell Springfield.
The episode was directed by Jim Reardon, who is responsible for directing a number of popular episodes on the series. He has also written for films like Wall-E and Zootopia, showing that he has a very famous pedigree in the world of animation.
The episode’s original concept, was to have Homer run for some form of public office. Writer Ian Maxtone-Graham recalled a friend from Chicago, who had made their way into the city’s sanitation commission, and decided that might be an interesting position for Homer to take on.
Guest star-wise, the episode contained vocal appearances by Steve Martin as Ray Patterson, and the group U2 as themselves.
Martin gives a fun turn as Ray, bringing forth that super-serious tone we know and love, while tweaking it in that way that just makes you laugh. His acceptance speech that turns into a refusal at the end, is definitely a highlight.
U2 seems to have a little fun with their roles, notable with some of the band members giving Bono guff for being overly-charitable. There’s even a small bit over the end credits, where one of the band members is seen to be collecting spoons from each location they visit.
With the episode’s ending with Springfield buried amid a mountain of trash, some thought that the episode was sending an environmental message, but interview and audio commentary from the show staff, later denied this.
Strangely enough, fiction almost became reality. In the early 2000’s, the city of Toronto’s city council proposed turning an abandoned mine into a dump site for the city’s trash! Two councillors who opposed this move, surprised their colleagues one day, and played the Trash of the Titans episode, and supposedly, the viewing helped cancel the proposed project.