As the title suggests, “Gone Abie Gone” concerns Homer’s dad, whose most recent moment in the pop culture spotlight came when OLD MAN YELLS AT CLOUD, a newspaper headline from the 13th-season episode “The Old Man And The Key,” was altered to mock Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the Republican National Convention. But that Abraham Simpson barely appears in this episode, which instead has flashbacks to Abe’s affair with a jazz singer in the… maybe 1960s?
Much of the episode is a spoof of jazz singer biopics, as Abe falls in love with a low-rent Lena Horne type, named Rita LaFleur (voiced by Anika Noni Rose). Curiously, this is another nostalgia trip in a season that’s already had parodies of Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Sweet Smell Of Success, plus last week’s tour of a kitschy highway with 1930s-era roadside attractions. As in the previous episode, the ending theme is replaced with old-timey music, this time a song written by Abe himself called “Two Step Heart (Ticker Beats Quicker)” that begins “I got a jonesin’ in my bones/When you strut across the room (yeah!)/My heart starts to quiver/My intestines go boom.”
It’s all kind of cute but not terribly funny. Abe’s back-story comes out when he disappears from his nursing home. A coaster found among his belongings leads Homer and Marge to the onetime supper club (now a biker bar) where Abe and Rita met. The place is called Spiro’s, and it’s still owned by Greek guy with a ridiculously long surname (said three times), indicating that The Simpsons is still determined to catalog every tired joke that exists.
As we discover in the flashbacks, Abe and Rita got married not long after Homer’s mother left the family. Unfortunately, the Bart-aged Homer is tangled up in the “Just Married” cans and strings on the back of Abe’s car and is dragged down the street long enough to lose his memory of the incident. (And we all thought his stupidity was caused by a crayon pushed up his nose and lodged in his brain.) Rita gets offered a European tour, but Abe stays behind to take care of his idiot son, and the two separate forever. An elderly Rita, now living in the Fallen Diva Apartments, tells Homer and Marge, “Life isn’t all major chords. Sometimes you got to hit the minor keys.” Sensible Marge asks, “What does that mean?” Rita’s predictable response: “I got super-addicted to heroin. Zzzzzzzz…”
In the end, Homer has a new appreciation for the sacrifices his father made for him, but he still pushes the reset button, and Abe ends up back in the nursing home. In all, another thin story with little satiric spark, and we don’t even get much of Grampa Simpson in cranky-old-man insanity.
As in the last episode, Lisa gets the subplot. Homer raises $5,000 for her college fund by suing a fast-food place after a worker throws hot onion rings at him. He parks it all at a poker website, which actually makes some kind of sense as a tax shelter. Naturally, Lisa can’t resist and starts gambling the money. She wins a million dollars, then seems to lose it all to Sideshow Bob (who does not appear in the episode other than as an avatar on a computer screen), making wagers from the state penitentiary. In the end, she ends up back at $5,000, and Homer and Marge never hear about any of it, making the story especially inconsequential. The only funny bit is when Lisa loses her last bet and breaks down in tears, at which the dealer avatar says, “We can all hear you. Please log off.”
- This week, there are brief cameos by Marvin Hamlisch (who died in August) as a musician working at Spiro’s (“I pay you to write songs, not clean tables,” barks the owner) and Jennifer Tilly as the host of a “how to gamble” DVD, joined, in Family Guy fashion, by her co-star Chucky of the Child’s Play movies.
- The couch gag is a Wacky Races parody with various Springfieldians racing couches down Main Street. It ends with a pile of twisted wreckage, just like the opening of “Moonshine River.”
- Homer tells his lawyer he deserved pain-and-suffering damages for the onion ring incident: “It’s affected our intimacy because all I do all night is talk about how much money I’m going to win from the lawsuit.”
- Bart to Lisa: “No gambling story has a happy ending. Except Seabiscuit, but you never hear about the ruined lives of the people who bet against him.”
- This week’s pun that proves the episode was made in 2012: Homer reading a book called The Wander Years: A Guide To Finding The Walking Dad.