Hello and welcome to Laughing Place’s weekly recap of new episodes of the long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons on FOX. In this week’s episode, entitled “Warrin’ Priests (Part One),” a new pastor comes to town and gives Reverend Lovejoy a run for his collection-plate money.

Chalkboard gag: “HOW DID THE BOY GET ME TO DO THIS?” being written by Homer, under Bart’s supervision.

Couch gag: The Simpson family’s empty clothes run and take their seats on the couch without the family in them. Backstage, the family is shivering in their undies.

The episode begins with the Simpsons sitting alone in an empty church with Marge (voiced by Julie Kavner) complaining about no one showing up. We cut to the choir stuck in traffic for a quick police-pursuit gag, while back in the pews Our Favorite Family is stuck sitting next to the town’s geezers. “New Testament? Oy-oy-oy when did this happen?” exclaims the Crazy Old Man (Hank Azaria).

Reverend Timothy Lovejoy (Harry Shearer) gets his usual boring sermon underway and Lisa (Yeardley Smith) prays for something more exciting to come along. Just then in the middle of town, a “cool” priest named Bode Wright (guest star comedian Pete Holmes, who also wrote this rare two-parter) charms Chief Wiggum (Azaria again) and asks him how to get to Springfield’s church. Lovejoy’s sermon wraps up and the scant few attendees bolt for the exit, but Bode enters and meets the resident pastor. It turns out Timothy’s wife Helen Lovejoy (Maggie Roswell) had placed an ad for help on something called ChristList. Bode says he’s from Michigan, where he could only use bottled holy water, and the act breaks on Krusty the Clown (Dan Castellaneta) showing up for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with Disco Stu (Azaria) and a long list of the town’s celebrities.

During a marriage counseling session with Lovejoy, Homer (Castellaneta) offers Marge advice to deal with her frustrations: “Just do what I do– come home and have a hot dinner waiting for you.” Apparently Homer has sold the Simpson home without consulting his wife, but Lovejoy is called away before he can help settle the matter. He finds Bode sleeping on his beloved train-set layout and is naturally upset. “We’re both grown men here; now leave my choo-choo alone,” he complains. He begrudgingly takes Bode to the church’s regular bingo game, where he begins to lose his voice after telling the young priest, “Bingo is not for newbies.”

Lovejoy continues losing his voice at his next sermon and Michael the choir leader (Kevin Michael Richardson) says they could cancel church– cue everyone getting up and dancing– but “God clearly foresaw this and sent us a backup reverend to finish the service.” Bode plays the guitar and sings “Amazing Grace” rather soulfully, conjuring an image of Jesus as a rock star in Homer’s head, though the still-overly-pious Ned Flanders (Shearer) sees him as the devil. “This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened in a white church!” proclaims Michael. At the elementary school, Milhouse Van Houten (Pamela Hayden) is being run up the flagpole by the bullies and declares, “Something exciting is happening at the church!” which spurs more townspeople to check out the goings-on.

Bode surprises his parishioners by admitting he had a recent crisis of faith, and Mr. Burns (Shearer)– via surveillance monitor– doesn’t like his disparaging remarks about misers, but everyone else is won over by Bode’s honesty and his unique interpretation of theology. When Flanders tries to shift the praise back toward Reverend Lovejoy, Homer starts a “Stupid Flanders!” chant and then announces he loves church when it catches on. “This was the best church ever. It was like some kind of religious experience,” Homer continues outside after the service has ended. Some congregants join Bode for brunch at a baseball-themed restaurant, where Lisa discovers he is a vegan, not to mention cool with gay marriage and jazz. “This brunch has turned into a jazz brunch!” declares Sideshow Mel (Castellaneta).

Bode relates an Asian proverb about heaven and hell to the group and says they can use the lesson to bring heaven to Earth just by being kind to one another. His ideas are further embraced by the Springfieldians and consequently, Lovejoy is quickly perceived as being out of touch. The church council fires him from his position as reverend and makes him turn in his religious equipment, leading to a great joke about him hiding a secondary cross in an ankle holster. “Any water you turned into holy water is once again regular water,” asserts Agnes Skinner (Tress MacNeille). Back at home, Timothy searches for dirt on Bode, but when he can’t find anything via the internet, he decides to take Helen to Michigan to do some more snooping.

Bode tells Marge that one’s partner is the best marriage counselor there is, and suggests that she and Homer swap shoes– literally. This of course helps them see life from each other’s perspectives, plus Bode says their house will never pass inspection so the sale will not go through, and the Simpson relationship is saved for another week. Later, Lisa visits Bode in his almost-too-laid-back office and they meditate together. Lisa’s outlines disappear and she melts into a transcendental mind-trip, complete with many alternate versions of herself– though this is eventually interrupted by a title card that reads “ANIMATION BUDGET EXCEEDED.” She thanks Bode for inspiring Springfield’s religious revival, which is evidenced by Moe Szyslak (Azaria) hosting his own bible study group.

In Michigan, the Lovejoys check the local library’s microfiche and discover a dark moment from Bode’s past, but it immediately catches on fire. “I guess we should have backed that up digitally,” says the defeated librarian. Still, Lovejoy is not deterred: “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the me,” he announces, as “TO BE CONTINUED” appears across the screen. We cut to Milhouse, still at the top of the flagpole. “I hope part two is about my rescue,” he wishes. “IT ISN’T,” the title cards counter. The coda gives us a preview of next week’s episode, in which it appears Bode and Ned Flanders have something of a scripture showdown.

Next week: “Warrin’ Priests (Part Two)”