I Don’t Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The Simpsons: “I Don’t Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” Review

Steve Buscemi makes hostage situations fun.
by Robert Canning
October 15, 2007 – The first two episodes from this season of The Simpsons were absolute clunkers. But the last two episodes have been pretty darn entertaining. This week, “I Don’t Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” delivered a fantastic guest appearance, two fun bonus guest appearances, and a story that was well paced and, more importantly, loaded with great laughs.

As the episode began, we learned that Lisa would be receiving the Student of the Millennium Award at Springfield Elementary. Marge demanded that Homer not miss that event and that he had to arrive sober. This led to a great exchange between the two as they negotiated how sober Homer had to be: “American sober or Irish sober?” Homer’s final offer of “.10 with a stomach full of bread” was finally accepted. Homer arrived at the ceremony an hour and 45 minutes early, but Marge was a no-show. Instead, Marge found herself held hostage during a bank robbery.

This was where we first met Dwight the bank robber, voiced effortlessly by Steve Buscemi. This is Buscemi’s second guest spot on The Simpsons after appearing as himself in “Brake My Wife, Please.” Here, the character of Dwight is given a very Buscemi-like appearance, most notably the buggy eyes. Thankfully, the actor apparently wasn’t bothered to have this feature comically referenced several times in the episode, concluding with a fun house mirror ballooning their bugginess to a hilarious extreme. Though the season is still young, Buscemi’s was the first guest voice of the year used to its fullest potential.

After the bank robbery went awry, Marge convinced Dwight to surrender himself by promising to visit him in prison. But later, when it was time to deliver on her promise, Marge kept finding reasons to put off her visit. (“Ooh! Shlomo’s Judaica is having a blowout on dreidels!”) Hurt by Marge’s rejection, Dwight broke out of the prison to search for her. This led to the best line of the episode (and of the season so far) during a Kent Brockman news flash: “The escapee left a note saying he will turn himself in… after he takes care of one unfinished piece of business. The police have issued a statement saying, ‘That seems more than fair.'”

The pacing of the episode did falter a bit near the end. Dwight found Marge and took her to the amusement park where his mother had abandoned him. It was Dwight’s attempt to have Marge show him the happiness of a day at the park that his mother couldn’t give him. The whole situation slowed the closing moments down far too quickly and just couldn’t deliver as many laughs as everything that came before it.

Still, the ending didn’t hurt our overall enjoyment of the episode. The story was fun, and there were a number of great laughs. Besides everything mentioned above, there was Homer’s advice to Marge in the hostage situation (“Don’t do anything they say, remain panicky, and above all, try to be a hero”), Krusty’s list of unfunny clowns (“Scuzzo. Scummo, Oopsie, Carlos Mencia…”) Dwight’s caricature from the day his mother left him and the “A Kiss Before Frying” afternoon movie. We also absolutely loved the extra-long, very funny, steroids-themed, instant-classic installment of “The Itchy and Scratchy Show.”

And if that wasn’t enough, “I Don’t Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” gave us two more guest cameos. The first was Julia Louis-Dreyfus reprising her role as Snake’s girlfriend Gloria. The other was a recorded political plea from the Motor City Madman Ted Nugent asking voters to keep crossbows legal in our public schools. As he put it, “If we outlaw crossbows… who’s gonna protect our children from charging elk?” There were just too many memorable moments in this half-hour for it not to be a successful episode.