TV Recap / Review: “The Simpsons” Are Going to Scotland in Season 35, Episode 8 – “Ae Bonny Romance”

This evening saw the debut of the eighth episode of The Simpsons’ 35th season, entitled “Ae Bonny Romance,” and below are my brief recap and thoughts on this installment of the long-running animated sitcom.

“Ae Bonny Romance” begins with Bart Simpson (voiced, as always, by Nancy Cartwright) in his Springfield Elementary School gym class, when he and his friends are about to face the ultimate challenge– learning how to dance with girls. In a last-ditch effort to prevent the spread of cooties, Bart races to the Nurse’s office (with the nurse missing due to budget cuts) and grabs bandages to put on all the boys’ hands in an effort to prevent direct contact, but the bandages turn out to be nicotine patches, which sends all the male kids into a drug-induced rage around the school. This causes Principal Skinner (Harry Shearer) to sentence Bart to a fate worse than detention– hanging out with and doing chores for Groundskeeper Willie (Dan Castellaneta). But after a grueling period of cleaning Willie’s mop with a toothbrush, Bart and the janitor bond over their respective difficulties relating to women.

Willie tells Bart a story about his long-lost love back in his home of Edinburgh, Scotland, and soon the two new friends become inseparable, creating their own prank channel for TikTok. Meanwhile at the Simpson home, Homer (also Castellaneta) goes on an extended rant in numerous locations throughout his day about how much he hates destination weddings when he and Marge (Julie Kavner) are invited to attend one in the Poconos. But after Bart finds that Willie’s shack has been deserted and he gets a cryptic TikTok message from the groundskeeper, Homer convinces Marge to use their airfare miles to travel to Scotland instead. There, Bart swiftly discovers that Willie has not, in fact, been kidnapped as he assumed, but instead has reunited with his old girlfriend Maisie (Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan)– and the couple plans to marry imminently, which means Homer has been dragged to a destination wedding after all.

While in Scotland Lisa attends the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which she says is “clever without being good,” and the family then participate in Willie and Maisie’s rehearsal dinner, where Marge goes on a drunken rant about how Homer isn’t romantic anymore. This causes the Simpson patriarch to wander away into the Scottish highlands, while Bart stumbles upon the truth about the wedding– Maisie’s father (Doctor Who’s David Tennant) only wants to use Willie for his uncanny ability to sniff out quality peat. The tired Homer-and-Marge b-plot– which is really the only weak part of this episode– wraps up with the former sending the latter a meme featuring a monkey riding a dolphin, reminding Marge that they belong together even though they’re so very different. And Bart spills the beans about the wedding, though Maisie claims she had no idea about her family’s plan– and she and Willie get hitched anyway.

I actually thought “Ae Bonny Romance” was one of the better recent travelogue episodes of The Simpsons; I just wish the writers had chosen a fresher supporting narrative than putting Homer and Marge’s marriage on the rocks yet again. I don’t think any of us are second-guessing where that’s going to end up by now. But Bart and Willie’s unlikely friendship is charming, and the cutting jokes about Edinburgh Fringe really got me, even though I’ve never personally attended. Now I have to wonder if Karen Gillan will become a semi-regular on the show, since her wedding to Willie actually seemed to stick at the end, with them moving into his shack at the elementary school during the closing credits. Occasional change in the status quo has proven fruitful for The Simpsons in the past, even when it just means making a supporting character happier than he was before.

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.