TV Recap / Review: Bart and Lisa Attempt to Correct a Birthday Gift Mistake in “The Simpsons” – “Iron Marge”

Tonight saw the debut of the sixth episode of the 35th season of The Simpsons, entitled “Iron Marge” (most like a play on Iron Man, though the episode doesn’t have anything to do with superheroes) and below are my brief recap and thoughts on this installment of the long-running animated sitcom.

“Iron Marge” begins with Bart Simpson (voiced, as always, by Nancy Cartwright) illicitly watching John Wick 4– specifically a scene set in an assassins-only gelato parlor– in the living room after the rest of the family has gone to sleep. Suddenly there’s a car crash outside and Bart has to pretend to have just woken up as Homer (Dan Castellaneta), Marge (Julie Kavner), and Lisa (Yeardley Smith) go outside to investigate. It seems everyone in the neighborhood had the same idea, and there are even characters like the Spucklers who I didn’t think lived anywhere near the Simpsons checking out the wreck. During the impromptu gathering on Evergreen Terrace, Marge’s tattered old robe (which she cinches together with Bart’s smart-phone charging cord) becomes the subject of a judgmental discussion among the other housewives. Then this week’s B-story kicks off with Homer reporting a downed electrical wire on an app called Alarmist, via the recommendation of Comic Book Guy (Hank Azaria), earning points and beginning to climb a social-media ladder for alerting other Springfieldians to the danger.

Feeling guilty about never having bought their mother a new robe, Bart and Lisa talk Ned Flanders (Harry Shearer) into giving them $44 dollars for picking up a couple leaves, then go to the local big-box store Bullseye (their logo looks like a target) to shop for Marge’s birthday. But as they’re walking to the register with a nice new robe, a kids’ toy spy kit catches their eyes. Bart decides to buy that instead, and they opt to give Marge the complimentary Bullseye ironing board cover that comes with the application for a credit card. This scene had what I thought was the absolute funniest moment of the episode, with Lisa stuffing the now-abandoned robe into a refrigerator full of soda bottles. That moment was expressed entirely through animation, but was so well-executed it sticks out in my memory as having elicited the biggest laugh.

Later at Marge’s birthday dinner, Homer simply contributes to Marge’s growing charm bracelet, while the kids actually give her a whopping two ironing board covers– and it turns out she already had one to begin with. Then they go off on their merry way to make use of the spy kit, which they love, but its powers of listening in on conversations reveals that Marge isn’t happy at all with her gifts. Homer, in the meantime, goes about town reporting all sorts of minor threats to the Alarmist app (like an ever-so-slightly risque billboard) steadily growing in status on the leaderboard. He soon discovers that his chief rival for the top position is Agnes Skinner (Tress MacNeille), and the two begin a feud that sees them competing over who can report more hazards in Springfield Park. Lisa and Bart use their spy kit’s lockpick to break into Marge’s private memory chest to discover more about their mother in the hopes of getting her a more personal gift, and through old photos they stumble upon the fact that she had a parrot named Petey when she was a young girl, and that her parents gave Petey away. Lisa theorizes that Petey may still be alive, so the two siblings take a several-hour bus trip to track the parrot down. Once they do, through a series of events that forces two members of the same family to miss a wedding, they’re able to lure Petey into the spy kit’s box using a recording of Marge’s voice.

At Springfield Park, Homer and Agnes end up falling into a sinkhole caused by a faulty sprinkler system, but they both had scared too many people away from the park to get any help. Trapped down in the hole together, they must find a way to at least temporarily get along to make their escape. And back at the Simpsons’ home, the kids reveal their surprise to Marge, who immediately panics at the sight of the parrot. It seems Petey was always too over-attached to Marge, to the point where he would tear out her hair and destroy her home, frightening away any friends. Regardless, Marge is touched by Bart and Lisa’s thoughtfulness, and together they go together to abandon Petey once again. In a mid-credits sequence, Marge and the kids fake another car crash on Evergreen Terrace so she can show off her fancy new robe. I liked this episode, especially the more grounded elements of both the A-story and the B-story, and it had some good laughs and a lot of nice-looking animation. I do think things got a little too silly in the third act with Petey and the sinkhole, but overall I’d call this a middling Simpsons episode. Not great, but not bad either. And it’s always touching when the family members at least try to improve their relationships with each other.

New episodes of The Simpsons air Sunday evenings on FOX.

Mike Celestino
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 all his life and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.