Oh dear, oh dear. It appears Grandpa Simpson has gone missing from the retirement castle. Marge and Homer attempt to track him down, and discover secrets from his past along the way. Meanwhile, Lisa gambles with her college fund, which Homer has stored on a poker website.
You know, “Gone Abie Gone” is one of those latter-day Simpsons attempts to do an “emotional” episode and tug at your heartstrings they way something like “Round Springfield” once did. Unfortunately, it falls flat on its face. It’s a poor episode that attempts to make all the right moves, but it ends up feeling devoid of warmth.
The revelation that Grandpa had remarried since Mama Simpson took off should have been a big one. However, Mrs. Simpson #2, a soul diva from a Greek restaurant Abe once worked at failed to impress. She wasn’t terribly funny, and she wasn’t terribly sweet. She was a character created to serve no other purpose than to have something to pin the plot on. Homer’s shock about all of this doesn’t even hit home. He goes on and on about just how surprising it is Grandpa kept all this from him. No, Homer, no it shouldn’t. Remember your brother Herb? Yeah, the one Grandpa hid from you your whole life? No? Okay.
It’s a nice idea to have an episode that shows despite Abe’s attitude towards Homer while he was growing up, he made a lot of sacrifices so his son could be safe and happy. It’s unfortunate, then, that “Gone Abie Gone” is so ho-hum.
Abe is eventually found working at a cologne store, the only place in town which still carries his old-man musk. There’s no particular reason that this place is the last link in the chain other than the fact that twenty minutes had been filled. It’s almost like the main stops of the find-Grandpa quest were laid out ass-backwards. First, we stop at Spiro’s, the restaurant he worked at. The place, according to the memento found in his footlocker, that changed his life. Second, we catch up with Mrs. Simpson #2. Then we find him at the cologne place.
Doesn’t that seem backward to you? In an episode striving to be touching, wouldn’t it be more emotionally resonant for Grandpa to end up at the place that supposedly had such a huge impact on him? Why not do away with the cologne thing altogether? Why not have Marge and Homer trying to figure out where Spiro’s was, if the building is still standing, if another business is still there, if it’s even in Springfield, and so forth instead of having them find it right off the bat? If Abe was so upset Homer forgot to visit him, and leaves to revisit his old haunts, why wouldn’t he be there instead of the sodding perfume store?
As with last week, Bart and Lisa have this little inconsequential side plot to themselves while the adults are off doing their thing. I’m okay with that, as long as it’s interesting, but the poker thing really isn’t. We don’t go anywhere beyond various people sitting in front of their computers, and in the end, we end up right where we started. As Lisa says, “being back to square one is a victory in this family.”
Simply put, “Gone Abie Gone” doesn’t make narrative or emotional sense with the information we’re given. There’s some funny lines, but it doesn’t repair the damage done to the episode by the weak plot and tacking more useless baggage onto Abe’s backstory for no real reason. There’s some good ideas in there, chiefly demonstrating that Abe gave up a lot for his kid, but it could have been better served by a different story. It feels slipshod and rushed, with little to no effort put in, and in the end, it just leaves you feeling cold.