Hello and welcome to Laughing Place’s regular recap of new episodes of The Simpsons on the FOX Network. This week’s installment, entitled “The Road to Cincinnati,” is the 8th episode of the long-running animated sitcom’s 32nd season.
Chalkboard gag: None.
Couch gag: None.
We open with a meeting of principals and Superintendent Chalmers (voiced by Hank Azaria). Principal Seymour Skinner (Harry Shearer) tries to one-up his fellow principals’ jokes, to no avail. Chalmers reveals he is giving the keynote address at a convention in Cincinnati and the budget allows for a plus-one, so he invites the principal with the highest test score. “That’s not fair– Finch runs the School for Gifted Test-Takers,” says Skinner. Back at Springfield Elementary School, Principal Skinner practices his poor high-five skills while administering Bart Simpson’s (Nancy Cartwright) detention. Bart tries giving Seymour some advice on how to be more likeable. Superintendent Chalmers gets a call from Finch, who tells him he can’t make it due to food poisoning. Skinner pulls up in a taxi, having learned about Finch’s ailment on social media, and Chalmers reluctantly agrees to travel to Cincinnati with his least-favorite subordinate.
On the airplane, Chalmers admits to being a nervous flyer, and Skinner suggests taking comfort in the surrounding passengers’ various emotional support animals. Chalmers further flips out when he realizes everyone is taking their shoes off and he and Skinner get booted from the plane and the entire Air Cincinnati airline. Skinner vows to get Chalmers to the keynote speech on time, though his car is being winterized. He returns home to borrow his mother Agnes’s car, and she says he did a nice job re-beading her eyeglass chain, so “a boy should have friends.” On the open road, the unlikely pair of colleagues clash over the song stuck on the car radio with no volume knob. They pass through Missouri, while Skinner reads The Lonely Person Guide to Cincinnati. Chalmers pulls over to pick up three hitchhikers, who it turns out are improvisational Shakespearean actors, much to his chagrin. “You are the only ones having fun! Just you!” Chalmers yells just before he crashes into a soybean silo.
Arrested by local police, Chalmers and Skinner must face a “backwoods judge” who demands to know who dragged her into court on a Saturday. Skinner sees that the judge is an ornery old lady just like his mother, so he believes he can be of help in dealing with her. He gives her a manicure and she lets them off with a warning. Skinner and Chalmers drive past a restaurant called “Steamed Hams” and wind up at a biker bar, where Chalmers says he owes Skinner a beer for getting them out of trouble. The spot turns out to be a cyclist bar that only serves energy gels and oxygen. “You two oil-burners might want to skidaddle before my resting heart rate exceeds 60 BPM,” warns a threatening biker.” Our protagonists accidentally knock over a row of bike computers. “All our stats were on there! And they hadn’t synced yet!” A chase ensues between the bikers and the educators. Suddenly, Skinner calls in his veteran friends in wheelchairs (the “Wheel Team 6 Para-Marathoners”) who all scare away their enemies.
Chalmers and Skinner stay at a bed-and-breakfast with points Seymour had saved up on trips with his mother. Skinner calls Finch, who reminds Chalmers that he promised to fire Skinner and promote Finch to “the big-time,” as principal of Springfield Elementary. Listening in on the other line, Skinner reacts in a reversal of the frustrated exclamation usually reserved for him… “Chalmerrrrrs!” Skinner picks a fight in the bed-and-breakfast dining room with his boss. He accidentally reveals he poisoned Finch so he could go on the trip. Chalmers lets loose and finally declares “I don’t like you!” The two go at it and make a mess of the hotel until Skinner gives up and leaves. Chalmers hitchhikes in a spaghetti truck the rest of the way to Cincinnati, and Skinner drives back home until he’s pulled over and realizes he switched jackets with Chalmers and has his speech in the pocket. At the convention, Chalmers attempts to wing it with what Skinner had in his pocket, like conversation starters. He realizes he respects Skinner, who shows up at that point with Chalmers’s cards. “Gary” begins to bore the crowd with his speech and then we cut back to Springfield, where the school kids mock the principal and the superintendent, as the two have now become friends.
In the coda, the Simpson family discuss what they’ve been up to, including a field trip to the fire station. Marge (Julie Kavner) reveals she bought tickets to Improv Shakespeare. “Can you imagine Shakespeare using a Tide Pod?” “No.”
The Simpsons airs Sunday nights on FOX.
Next week: Sorry Not Sorry”
Mike serves as Laughing Place’s lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly “Who’s the Bossk?” Star Wars podcast. He’s been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general since a very young age and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.