Dog gone it!
Ol’ Gil Gunderson is one of my favorite Simpsons side characters, but I am not exactly clamoring for him to get more screen time. Showing up a minute at a time for a quick defeat and lament is the perfect duration to wring pathetic laughs out of him. But perhaps a Gil-focused story is a good idea every 5 years or so. And how appropriate that the latest sidelines him even as it brings him to the fore.
The action kicks off with Homer attempting to follow the voice commands of his improperly calibrated, or perhaps intentionally malicious, GPS. Finding himself in a side alley with faulty brakes (he’s either been ignoring the service light signal, or that’s out to get him, too), there are two creatures eating from the trash, and there is not enough room to swerve around both of them. Recognizing Santa’s Little Helper as an important member of the family, he plows right into Gil instead. Gil survives, which means he can now sue for as much as possible. Maybe things are finally looking up for ol’ Gil!
Homer’s reasoning for sparing Santa’s Little Helper proves to be key to his defense. He is found not guilty (or not liable, as this is presumably civil court) because all the jurors are swayed by how much they love dogs, which is unsurprisingly a lot more than they love, or even sympathize with, Gil. His humiliation is par for the course, but the post-trial trampling may be a little too cruel.
Homer is branded a savior of all dogkind, attracting admirers from near and far. Their cries of “You’re the greatest man I know one thing about!” are an astute takedown of Instagram-generation tourism. Noticing the way things are trending, the powers that be in Springfield decide to institute dog-friendly practices. Then this becomes one of those episodes in which the townsfolk get completely carried away. They change their entire lifestyles such that dogs now have free rein to do whatever they want, with only Dr. Budgie (Michael York from last season’s “Lisa the Veterinarian,” a rare recurring later-season guest character) warning of what is to come.
With the dogs ascending to alpha status as they revert to their wolfish instincts, Gil is vindicated but not exactly reaping the rewards of vindication. His treatment in this episode is at times too unnecessarily cruel, but it is ultimately recalibrated back to the right level of hilariously pathetic. When he is non-fatally shot by Chalmers, who had been aiming for the dogs, we are back to hitting that sweet spot of dramatic irony. Gil is the only one willing to stand up to the dogs, but of course, Gil being Gil, he has to stop to get an egg salad sandwich, thus allowing Marge the opportunity to save the day instead. And a dog steals the sandwich anyway – that’s our Gil!
Memorable Lines and Random Jazz:
-A couch gag that precedes the chalkboard gag? I’m still disoriented!
-“In 50 feet ago, U-turn without signaling.”
-“If Gil sues, he’ll end up with everything you’ve got.” “But that’s everything we’ve got!”
-“You deliberately ran your car into my paycheck – I mean, client! No, paycheck is better.”
-Why does the newscast blur out Santa’s Little Helper’s privates?
-“Repeal the dog – (whispered) and child labor – laws.”