On The Simpsons, whenever we’re shown one of the elementary-school student’s parents, aside from Bart, Lisa, Maggie, and Ralph Wiggum, they’re largely just approximations of the kids—only taller. That shortcut of a formula has never been used by Tim and Eric, who instead hint at a character’s upbringing with a handful of troubling details. When Awesome Show revealed Casey and his brother’s mom in all her stern birthday-cake-ruining splendor, it only raised more questions. Not that having all the answers wrapped up in a pretty little bow would make things any funnier—this is Adult Swim, after all—but seeing Dr. Steve Brule’s mom, a guy who sorta looks like his dad, and his uncle is like panning back and realizing we don’t even have a fraction of the puzzle here. We just want to hug Brule all the more for somehow having made it this far in life against hilariously impossible odds.
At heart, Brule is just a sweet man-child who’s endured what we now know was a scarring childhood, even though he bears no ill will against anyone responsible for his obvious behavioral and mental setbacks. Brule’s mom, a harmless-looking tiny lady named Dorris Pringle-Brule, casually recounts how she used to poison his son’s sandwiches when he wasn’t good “to slow you guys down a little bit,” and remembers how she wanted to mount her husband and son’s heads on the living room wall—so she could just check in on them whenever she wanted. When Dr. Steve points out that that’d mean killing them, she just shoots back, “but you’d be here.” Brule indifferently points out during the end-of-show recap that “some sisters are buried under your house.” Also, there’s an alarming amount of human hair being kept in the backyard for reasons that are never made clear, but she’s presumably using them to make wigs for everyone in the family. Thankfully, no further elaboration is given on this disturbing bit of information.
Instead, it’s off to meet his wig-wearing Uncle Gary, who Brule says is famous in his family for entertaining everyone after Thanksgiving dinner every year with “amazing tricks and magic.” Although Steve seems pretty excited when introducing Gary, he proceeds to nap for the next minute as Gary patiently tells about his childhood and how Al Jolson apparently inspired him to wear a tuxedo as an adult. Brule makes a big show out of seeming to pay attention, shaking off his nap just to repeat the last thing the oblivious Gary said.
As haunting as Dorris was, it’s from here that “Family” really takes off. Brule sings a song to introduce a new segment, “Hard To Heart To Heart,” which is basically just Steve on a romantic picnic out with an oafish guy who turns out not to be his dad, but just someone who’s “the same size.” That doesn’t keep Steve from thinking he’s the coolest guy on earth, even though he does nothing more than eat a cluster of grapes and pour his would-be son a glass of “sweet sunset wine.” We then go from meeting someone who isn’t Steve’s dad to Stan Brule, an imaginary brother that somehow wrote the poem Steve read at the beginning of the episode. Stan is Steve’s sandal- and earring-wearing Tyler Durden: Who Dr. Steve Brule would be if he were uninhibited, successful, and just said whatever he wanted to. Among Stan’s many boasts: Having friends from all around the world, owning a pizza oven, and flying in a jet to the Great Wall of China for egg rolls. Stan is just Dr. Steve Brule with a red shirt and sunglasses, and it’s made all the more head-shakingly ridiculous as no attempt is even made to hide the split-screen effect down the center of the stage. There’s too much time between questions and answers, except for when there’s too little. When Stan just suddenly disappears after a silly handshake that doesn’t connect, Dr. Steve Brule just confesses, “I just wanted to see what it was like to have a brother.” Looks like nobody in the Brule household wanted sisters.
After last week’s respite into familiar territory, tonight’s episode easily has been the best outing so far. The clothesline of brain-hurting information about Brule’s backstory fortunately only added to the mystery around the strange character, and as I mentioned above, just makes you love him all the more—even though we’re laughing at how clueless he is to his own misfortunate in the end. “Family” ends with Brule hoping that someday he can have his own family, if only so he can get his “dungus” wet. God help the sort of person that Brule and his lucky lady would put into this world.
“The doctor’s rotten to the core.”
“There’s a whole bunch of hair out back.”
“He was a famous of vaudeville.”
“Hold me like a daddy.”
“I need a partner. A lady partner, please.”
“My uncle wears a wig my mommy made.”