TV Recap: “The Simpsons” – Brandine Turns Out to Be “SMRT” in “Pretty Whittle Liar” (Season 33, Episode 16)

Cletus discovers that his wife Brandine has been hiding a secret love of learning in “Pretty Whittle Liar,” the 16th episode of the 33rd season of The Simpsons. In this episode recap, I’ll repeat some of the funniest moments, including lyrics to the original song featured. And there may be a few Easter Eggs and text jokes spelled out in case you missed them. Enjoy!

Chalkboard gag: None

Couch gag: Barney completes a sliding puzzle of the family on the couch. Once completed, Homer burps and the tiles reshuffle.

(20th Television)

(20th Television)

Homer is watching “Million Dollar Li$ting: Springfield,” which begins with a search for a home in the town that’s actually worth $1 million. In the montage, we see Gil Gunderson putting up a for sale sign outside of a bouncy castle, Dr. Nik’s home disappearing due to termites, Lisa playing with her Malibu Stacy Dreamhouse, Captain Horatio McCallister on his boat, and Snake Jailbird outside of a mansion with a sign that declares it for sale for $1 million, but a gust of wind reveals it to just be a flat facade. The one home worth $1 million is Mr. Burns’ mansion and amongst the amenities, we see a floral Burns (inspired by the Mickey Floral at the entrance of Disneyland). As the show ends, Homer says “Good old-fashioned reality TV. Snappy editing, no content.” Suddenly The Simpsons switches to that style temporarily as Marge enters, asking Homer if he can go to Moe’s while she hosts her book club. He’s excited for the rare scenario where Marge wants him to go to Moe’s.

Having read “A Farewell to Arms,” most of the attendees have lowbrow thoughts of it, including Agnes Skinner and Patty and Selma. Brandine surprises everyone with a profound breakdown of the plot and the book’s themes, excusing herself when she realizes what she’s done. Her excuse is that she left her kids with a nanny. We see that it was a billygoat, who she hands $5. The goat eats it. “You free Saturday?”, Brandine asks.

A sign outside of the First Church of Springfield reads “We Give Up – Now Showing Sunday NFL Games.” Inside, Helen Lovejoy gossips about Brandine’s wisdom, with Reverend Lovejoy telling her not to gossip in church. He then goes into the confessional and rather than asking who is on the other side, he spreads the same story to Snake, who has Chief Wiggum at gunpoint on the other side of the divider.

When Cletus goes to the tackle shop, Agnes Skinner is there and she tells him that Brandine isn’t who he thinks she is. Cletus needs clarification and she adds “She’s smart; Jeopardy smart.” “Celebrity Jeopardy?”, Cletus asks. “Regular Jeopardy.” As proof, she pulls out a library card that Brandine dropped at the book club meeting.

A Springfield Elementary, Lisa finishes a presentation on “The Matilda Effect,” which not only bores the students, but also Mrs. Hoover. Mrs. Hoover also tells Lisa that she misused the word “Nonplussed,” but when Lisa asks her to look it up, it’s revealed that Lisa used it correctly. Outside, we see two mystery students who overheard the event, passing along a note that says “She’s one of us.”

Cletus arrives home to one of Brandine’s porcupine pies, but he’s too upset, asking if she’s secretly smart. She reveals that several years ago, a tornado blew a few books into the yard and she discovered a love of reading. This led to her looking for books elsewhere (in the montage, she sits in a doctor’s office reading Gray’s Anatomy, a disclaimer on the cover says “Not based on the TV show”). Cletus reminds Brandine of her wedding vows. “You promised to love, honor, and never grow in any way.” Brandine apologizes and decides to leave home.

Brandine arrives at The Simpsons’ house, asking Marge if she can sleep there. “I’ve been rejected by a man who thinks it’s funny to light his farts,” she exclaims. Homer overhears, peeking around the corner to ask, “You can light them?” Marge asks him not to, but seconds later, we hear a fart, a flame poofs in the dining room, and Homer exclaims “Wasn’t me!” Brandine is set up in Maggie’s bedroom and Lisa brings her a few books to read (“To the Lighthouse,” “Fathers and Sons,” “The Smartypants Omnibus”). Brandine tells Lisa that life is hard for smart girls.

The next day, Marge brings Brandine grocery shopping at Swapper Jacks, traversing a cereal aisle with products like “Raisin Bland,” “Count Cavity,” “Asbest-Os,” “Choxycontin,” “Honey Bunches of Splenda,” “Fruit-Free Frooties,” and “Pepsi Flakes.” Marge asks Brandine what she sees in Cletus and likewise, Brandine tells Marge that she could do better than Homer. She is shocked by this, saying “People think I could’ve done better than Homer?” Panning back, the entire store in unison responds “YES!” With her eyes open, Marge looks around, noting that a chalkboard sign in the carrots section says “Half off carrots and you’re too good for him.” An announcer calls “Reality check in Aisle 5.” Disco Stu skates down the aisle, telling marge to “Get a clue.” Changing topics, Marge asks Brandine how she and Cletus met and she recalls back to her sister’s shotgun wedding and how Cletus was placed on her hay bail. The next thing she knew, she was riding his tractor and falling in love. “That night, I knew the next shotgun wedding I went to was gonna be mine.”

At school, Lisa is swarmed by bullies when the students who have been trailing her create an elaborate escape plan, leading her to a shed outside marked “Discontinued Sports Shed.” Diving in to flee her bullies, Lisa hears a voice say “Someone is nonplussed.” When the lights turn on, she sees a room full of smart kids working on computers or science experiments. Decor includes posters of Srinivasa Ramanujan, Marie Curie, Sir Isaac Newton. Among the students is a nod to Schroeder from The Peanuts playing the piano. Lisa has been inducted into the League of Extraordinary Geniuses, which she’s surprised to find because she keeps tabs on the honor roll. She learns that these kids hide their genius, having worked to become good at sports to throw off bullies. Outside, the bullies get suspicious of the shed and they turn on the “Idiot Shield,” playing the introduction to Wheel of Fortune, which makes the bullies want to run home to watch it.

At dinner that night, Brandine is homesick and misses her kids, particularly the babies: “Moderna, AstraZeneca, and the twins – Johnson & Johnson.” In bed that night, Marge asks Homer to talk to Cletus. “For you? Anything,” he says as he goes to turn off the light and realizes he didn’t fix it like he told Marge he would do. As Home falls asleep, Marge asks him if he thinks people question why she’s with him. His eyes go wide and zooming in, we see a lifetime of Homer’s memories of overhearing people asking that very question, including multiple times at their wedding and even Bart’s real first words, which Marge wasn’t present to hear. Out of his flashback, Homer asks Marge if she’s listening to these people and she says she’s not. Marge asks Homer to tack a blanket up over the window so she can sleep. He brags that he doesn’t have to because he fixed the blinds, but when he goes to lower them, they fall off along with the curtains and some drywall. Looking out the window, he sees a ball of fire flying away from the house into space. “Ooh, a shooting star!” Marge corrects homer with frustration, saying  “That’s the water heater!”

Homer finds Cletus whittling at home, begging Cletus to take Brandine back out of fear that broken marriages are contagious. Cletus tells Homer that he feels like he doesn’t know who Brandine is, taking Homer to a place where he can understand him better, a museum called “Hillbilly Pica-Ture Palace – Everything from A-Yup to ZZ Top.” Inside they pass a diorama of “historical figures” that includes Ernest P. Worrell, The Beverly Hillbillies, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Colonel Sanders, Hank Hill, and Bill Clinton. Cletus takes Homer to a wall of vinyl records, saying “No matter how you feel, there’s a country song that expresses how you feel perfectly.” The first record he pulls is called “I’m Worried About Your Marriage But My Marriage is Fine.” “No, that’s not quite it,” Cletus says, pulling down another that reads “I’m Worried About Your Marriage, I’m Worried About My Marriage.” He puts it on and they listen on rocking chairs. Homer mentions that the song feels like it’s singing directly to him. These are the lyrics:

“Marge could’ve done better

(yes she could, yes she could)

She regrets the day you met her

(yes she does, yes she does)

She just realized you’re no good

(yes she did, what took so long?)”

“Why is this so catchy?”, Homer asks as he sings along. The song has made Homer misty-eyed. Cletus reaches down and grabs a hound dog, putting it on Homer’s lap. Homer uses the dog’s floppy ears to dry his tears.

Brandine is ready to go home, packing her suitcase, looking at the decorating she did in Maggie’s room, a wall of photos of her kids with a sign that reads “My Kids So Far.” Lisa tells Brandine about the club she’s in and how she’s hiding her intelligence just like she does. Brandine tells Lisa that she’s too young to hide who she is. “Show ‘em how smart you are,” she encourages Lisa. Through another montage, we see Brandine saying goodbye to her intellectual side as she returns to her old life.

At lunch the next day, Lisa sits alone as Principal Skinner makes an announcement and says the word “Bemused” in place of “Amused.” Lisa corrects him and the rest of the club is fearful as the bullies stand and flex their fists. Lisa gets on the table to make a speech, saying “Never again will I hide my intelligence. I am smarticus!” She inspires the rest of the club, who also stand and say profess to being Smarticus. Millhouse tries and fails to get in on the act, saying “I am Smarticus… well, sort of Smarticus… well, perfect Attendicus.” In embarrassment, Principal Skinner declares it a half-day, but Nelson says “Still too much” and he shortens it to just school being over. The students cheer as Dolph offers stolen lunch money back for the day. Milhouse declines on account of it being fish stick day.

Brandine’s kids are happy to see her when she returns home. She asks where Cletus is and one of the kids tells her he went to a government building to get something to start a new life. “No, I’ve gotta stop him,” Brandine says, but as she turns around, Cletus has arrived home. He got a library card and shows it to her (his signature is just an “X”). Brandine is touched and they hug. “And I got my first book,” Cletus says, holding up a copy of Green Eggs & Ham. “Man, this looks like a toughie,” he says, but Brandine offers to help him get through it.

Back at 742 Evergreen Terrace, Marge goes to the bedroom to find Homer finishing up repairing the broken drywall, the blinds and curtains back up on the window. He also fixed the light switch and cleaned the lint trap in the dryer, holding up a ball of lint, which meows (Snowball V emerges from it). He tells Marge that he knows she could do better than him, but he could never do better than her. “I may occasionally fall short, but because you are so great, I will never stop trying.” Homer professes his love for Marge and announces that he got Elton John back to play for her, pointing to a silhouette of the rock legend at a piano outside of their window. Marge tells him she doesn’t need that. Outside, we see that it is Lenny dressed as Elton John at a piano. He overheard Marge. “You mean I learned 226 songs for nothing? I don’t think they’ll be needing  you guys, either.” The camera pans over and next to him is Carl, Moe, Seymour Skinner, and Barney dressed as The Beatles. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Barney responds.

During the coda, we see “Cletus on Books,” with the slackjawed yokel talking about The Grapes of Wrath, which he describes as depicting a lifestyle beyond his reckoning. “It’s about a middle American family what drives to California for a better life. For a much better treatment of this subject, I recommend National Lampoon’s Vacation, now available on Hillbilly+. Y’all come back now, ya hear?”

The Simpsons returns on Sunday, April 10th at 8/7c on FOX with "The Sound of Bleeding Gums," which finds Lisa meeting the son of the late musician Bleeding Gums Murphy. John Autry II will be a guest voice.