TV Recap / Review – “The Simpsons” Go On a Nerd Cruise with Guest Star Taika Waititi in “Murder, She Boat”

This evening saw the debut of the ninth episode of The Simpsons’ 35th season, entitled “Murder, She Boat” (a riff on the title of the 1980s-90s CBS crime drama Murder, She Wrote) and below are my brief recap and thoughts on this installment of the long-running animated sitcom.

“Murder, She Boat” begins with Marge Simpson (voiced, as always, by Julie Kavner) finding two uncashed stimulus checks from the pandemic stuck to the ceiling of the Simpsons’ mailbox. So Lisa (Yeardley Smith) pitches an idea of how to spend the money– and it’s one that’s going to take some getting used to with Homer (Dan Castellaneta). That’s right: the Simpsons are going on a “nerd cruise” themed to all the science-fiction and fantasy properties that Homer despises. And along for the ride is guest star Taika Waititi (What We Do In the Shadows, Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok), who pokes fun at his own uncanny ability to multitask in his creative endeavors. But the real king and queen of the cruise are Comic Book Guy (Hank Azaria) and his wife Kumiko (Jenny Yokobori), who have brought along an ultra-rare Radioactive Man action figure that was accidentally produced with Wolverine’s claws.

Now, while Homer does indeed hate all the other cruise guests dressed as characters from Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and so on (we even get a full-on parody of the Love Boat theme with nerdy lyrics), one thing he definitely doesn’t mind is the bottomless supply of seafood. And one evening while at the buffet, an incident occurs that will radically change the shape of the rest of the family’s trip. As folks are lining up to see Comic Book Guy’s action figure, the lights suddenly go out, and when they come back on– Agatha Christie-style– the toy’s head has been broken off by an unseen assailant. We quickly learn that Bart Simpson (Nancy Cartwright) has a vendetta against CBG– it seems the comic-book store proprietor mocked and then shredded Bart’s attempt at creating his own comic. But there are other suspects with motives as well, including Sideshow Mel (also Castellaneta) and Milhouse (Pamela Hayden). Good thing detectives Lisa and Taika Waititi are on the case!

The two would-be sleuths interrogate alternate suspects while Bart waits patiently in the ship’s brig, insisting that he’s innocent of the crime, and Lisa believes him until she discovers Radioactive Man’s head under his bunk in their state room. But it seems another celebrity guest on the ship witnessed the incident in question thanks to his night-vision goggles: it’s washed-up movie star Rainier Wolfcastle (Harry Shearer), who takes way too long to tell Lisa what exactly it was he saw before being knocked unconscious by Captain America’s shield. Nevertheless, after CBG goes missing, Taika Waititi gathers everyone on the top deck to announce that he’s solved the case– and subsequently blames CBG himself on the disfigurement of Radioactive Man, ostensibly for the insurance money he’d collect. But Lisa sees through Taika’s subterfuge and fingers the multihyphenate for the crime– apparently Waititi owned the only other mis-manufactured copy of this superhero toy and swapped out his broken one for Comic Book Guy’s while the lights were off.

So with the true culprit finally caught, Bart is released from the brig and CBG is located hiding in shame in the ship’s gym after a surveillance camera he’d hid inside an R2-D2 droid statue captured all the suspects badmouthing him. In a mid-credits sequence, CBG dumps the Radioactive Man figure in the drink (a la Rose and the Heart of the Ocean necklace from Titanic) so he can focus on his love for Kumiko. All told, I thought this was a really fun and playful episode that experimented with genre in ways we haven’t seen a lot of on The Simpsons recently. The murder-mystery plot was reminiscent of Who Shot Mr. Burns? (in that they both drew from the same Christie-inspired sources) but it was different enough– not to mention plenty long enough afterward– that it didn’t really matter. What does matter is how funny this episode is, and I’m pleased to say that I laughed quite a bit, especially at the gags about Taika Waititi’s friends and colleagues in the New Zealand novelty band Flight of the Conchords and the joke about media being canceled unaired for tax purposes. Plus, how can I complain about voice actor Maurice LaMarche reprising his role as Futurama’s Hedonism-Bot in the most unlikely of places? (Well, maybe not most unlikely.) This was a pleasant, light-hearted family caper with lots of memorably funny moments peppered throughout.

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.