“The Last Temptation Of Homer” (season 5, episode 9; originally aired 12/09/1993)
“Last Temptation of Homer” accomplishes the seemingly impossible feat of making Homer Simpson seem not just vaguely fuckable but the object of intense sexual longing for possibly the single most desirable woman in the show’s history, a seductive vixen with the voice of Michelle Pfeiffer, the face of an angel and the body of a Barbie Doll.
It accomplishes this feat by making the woman lusting after Homer his comely female equivalent, a sexpot who, despite her fetching appearance and classy exterior, is secretly a drooling slob who loves donuts, room service, angering environmentalists and indiscriminate napping.
It also helps that throughout “The Last Temptation Of Homer”, Homer behaves in a decidedly un-Homer like fashion. Like many a fool in love, or at least lust, Homer cleans up nicely, transforming seemingly overnight from an uncouth man-beast to a neatly dressed professional and behaving with a level of maturity and thoughtfulness we’d seldom see again. His gorgeous new co-worker Mindy might tempt Homer to abandon the bonds of matrimony and risk the rock-solid foundation of his life and his values—his love and devotion to Marge—but first she brings out the best in him.
But first, of course, Homer has to be Homer, which entails nearly killing all of his coworkers in a gas leak that brings down the attention of agents of the federal government, who chastise Burns and his power plant for offenses both major (forcing a missing Brazilian soccer team to work in his reactor) to criminal and unforgivable (painting an image of an emergency exit in place of a real emergency exit), which creates something of a problem for his employees when a genuine emergency occurs.
Burns’ power plant also has a slight discrimination problem in that it does not have a single female employee. To rectify this problem, the plant hires a new employee voiced by Pfeiffer who sets Homer’s heart all atwitter. Though deep into middle age and a marriage far more successful and healthy than he deserves, Homer nevertheless finds himself nursing a painful schoolboy crush.
To Homer, Mindy is a vision, Venus in the flesh. He daydreams about her. He can’t stop thinking about her. This is a new side of Homer, a side that’s sexual and romantic and tempted to do the unthinkable and cheat on Marge. On the commentary, the writers note that “The Last Temptation Of Homer” got far fewer laughs at the table read than most of the scripts of the time. I suspect that’s because the sequences of Homer fighting his temptation to Mindy and their bottomless similarities are less laugh-out-loud funny than sweet and amusing and also because the prospect of Homer having sex is enough to make even the most open-minded and sex-positive Simpsons fans a little queasy.
“The Last Temptation Of Homer” features a number of reversals. Usually it’s Marge who has to wearily resign herself to a hard, painful domestic life when she has the potential for so much more. Here, however, it’s Homer, now in cleaned-up, presentable form, who comes home to be comforted by the warmth and love of his married life and is confronted by a sickly, awful-looking Marge wearing a tee-shirt of her face grotesquely distorted, fish-sticks burnt on the outside but frozen in the middle courtesy of Lisa, grandpa chasing a raccoon and Bart looking and acting for all the world like a genuine nerd.
As has been acknowledged on the show many times, most dramatically and memorably in “Homer’s Enemy”, Homer is the luckiest man in the world, a blessed creature with a beautiful, patient wife, a brilliant, moral daughter, a delightful baby and an endless series of charmed adventures. So cheating on Marge wouldn’t just be amoral: it would be stupid as well.
Homer’s temptation leads him in some pretty strange directions. In the episode’s most perversely inspired bit, Homer’s guardian angel appears to him first in the form of Sir Isaac Newton, as the angel wanted to assume the form of someone Homer was sure to know and trust. When that doesn’t work, the angel adopts the form of Colonel Klink from Hogan’s Heroes and counter-productively shows Homer that if he had married Mindy he would now be living in a mansion with her while Marge would be the President of the United States in a reverse-It’s A Wonderful Life scenario that illustrates that, alas, Homer marrying Mindy would actually have worked out much better for everyone involved.
Throughout the episode, Homer keeps getting pushed closer and closer to Mindy. It’s as if the very fates themselves—through their most powerful and effective instrument, the fortune cookie fortune—desperately want Homer and Mindy to fuck. Homer faces down temptation in its purest form when he and Mindy are sent on a romantic business trip together after Burns notices via his surveillance camera that they are the only of his employees now actively attempting to kill fellow employees.
“The Last Temptation Of Homer” is a show of reversals. It features Homer at his sexiest, Marge at her least competent and presentable and Bart at his nerdiest after glasses, orthopedic shoes and an ointment for his hair transform him from a twentieth century version of Dennis The Menace to a pint-sized version of Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor. The bully becomes the bullied and discovers a secret society of underground nerds that in any other show could easily be the foundation for an entire episode, if not an entire season, but here is only used as a throwaway gag.
The episode ends as it must: with Homer flagrantly disobeying a fortune cookie that had told him he would find new love and inviting Marge to his hotel room for some dirty, dirty hotel sex, the very best kind of sex there is. “The Last Temptation Of Homer” concludes with Marge and Homer’s marriage being lustily and satisfactorily reaffirmed, with the deep, true love Homer and Marge share overcoming his intense but passing physical attraction to Mindy.
It’s a sweet and tender episode that also has the benefit of being consistently hilarious around the edges. From the flying-impaired “flying monkeys” Burns is raising as hench-monkeys plummeting immediately to the ground after exiting a window to a visibly agitated Martin Prince leaping up and imploring his teacher, “Pick me, teacher! I’m ever so smart!” when a vision-impaired Bart stalls on answering a question in class, it’s chockablock with inspired bits of business. In its god-like prime The Simpsons did not need to sacrifice laughs for heart or vice versa.
- Michelle Pfeiffer’s delivery of “Desserts aren’t always right” is so tender and sweet and perfect
- I love the reading-off-hands bit. The payoff is delightful.
- Also a wonderful payoff: Homer asking for advice on behalf of his “friend,” Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo at Moe’s, then having a man actually named Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo run off dejectedly when Moe tells him that’s the stupidest name he’s ever heard.
- I grudgingly admit that I borrow the horny bellboy’s crude pantomime of sexual intercourse and accompanying crude noises at least once a month for I am a silly, silly man.
- Next up is “$pringfield (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Legalized Gambling)” If memory serves, that’s a good one.