"Lost Verizon" is the second episode of The Simpsons' twentieth season, and first aired October 5, 2008. Bart becomes jealous of his friends and their cell phones. Working at a golf course, Bart takes the cell phone of Denis Leary (which looks like a "Verizon Wireless LG Chocolate Phone") after the star comedian throws it away in anger. Marge, per Leary's advice, activates the GPS system on the phone to track down Bart's every move; catching on, Bart attaches the GPS chip to a bird that migrates to Machu Picchu, Peru. Denis Leary and Brian Grazer (who also appeared in "When You Dish Upon a Star" as himself) both guest star as themselves. It was directed by Raymond S. Persi and written by John Frink.
When Principal Skinner makes a fool of himself on a freeway, Milhouse manages to catch the whole hilarious scene on his phone. He calls most of his friends to see Skinner getting beaten up by a drunken-(as-always) Barney, but cannot call Bart. When Nelson asks why, Milhouse explains it is simply because Bart does not have a cell phone. Later on, Bart is taunted for missing out on laughing at Skinner. Bart asks Marge for a phone; Marge explains she, because Mr. Burns has cut Homer's pay, cannot afford to get a phone for Bart — but then, she is also too short on money to fund a dream trip for Lisa to Machu Picchu. A depressed Bart takes a walk past the Springfield Glen Country Club, and is promptly hit by a golf ball. Angrily, he enters the golf course to hit the golf ball against the person who threw it at him; upon entering, it turns out Julius Hibbert had accidentally hit him. Hibbert immediately pays Bart a dollar for retrieving the ball. Surprised, Bart takes the money and gets an inspiration: retrieving golf balls for money, in order to buy a cell phone.
A gleeful Bart is only $20 short, but his glee is cut short when Groundskeeper Willie (or more appropriately, Greenskeeper Willie) discovers Bart is cutting in on his job. Willie confiscates all the golf balls and presumably returns them himself, prompting Bart to return to his miserable mood. However, nearby, a celebrity golf tournament is underway. Celebrity Denis Leary (guest starring as himself) prepares to swing, but misses brutally when his cell phone rings at the same time. Angrily, Leary throws away his phone, which lands beside Bart. Freshly pleased, Bart quits his job and takes Leary's phone. While going to inform Milhouse of his new cell, Bart receives a call from producer Brian Grazer (also guest starring as himself), who asks Leary to star in the film adaption of Everyone Poops. Bart, realizing the phone belongs to Leary, pretends to be him.
A mischievous Bart makes prank calls to bartenders all over the world (using names having to do with sex and the body, i.e. Maya Normusbutt — a replication of what in the earlier seasons of the program, he tormented Moe with), has all of Boston native Leary's money spent on New York Yankees hats and uniforms, among other pranks towards Skinner. Marge overhears Bart and Milhouse's mischievousness, and when Milhouse confesses that it belongs to Leary, confiscates Bart's phone. Leary calls his cell, and Marge answers, apologizing for her son's behavior. Leary, still angry with Bart's tricks, suggests Marge activate the Global Positioning System on the phone and return it to Bart, meaning she could track down Bart's every move. He says that this is how he tracked rival actors who "stole" film roles he wanted.
Somewhat guiltily, Marge activates the GPS and returns the phone to Bart. Marge, with the help of the GPS system, is able to prevent Bart from watching an R-rated movie, gambling at a horse race, and skating down steps and hurting himself. Bart now knows that as long as Marge and Homer have him under constant surveillance, he cannot have any fun. Lisa is shocked by Marge's injustice and confronts her for it. However, when she refuses to stop or acknowledge that she was abusing Bart's privacy, Lisa decides to tell Bart what is going on. Predictably, Bart grows angry and decides to get revenge. He ties the GPS chip to the leg of a scarlet tanager, which flies away. Marge, thinking the bird is Bart, though unsure why he would circle the Shelbyville bird sanctuary, assumes that Bart is running away from home. While Homer, Lisa, Marge, and Maggie are going through a nation-wide search for Bart, Lisa realizes that the bird is the one they had been chasing the whole time. After checking research on her laptop, she discovers the bird is migrating to Machu Picchu, her dream trip they could not afford. Knowing this, Lisa deliberately lets the bird go free so the family can chase it to Machu Picchu.
Bart relishes his newfound freedom during the daytime, but quickly becomes frightened of being alone at night. When the Simpsons arrive in Machu Picchu, they continue the search for Bart. Marge, despite being exhausted, will not give up, and swears to be more over-parented with Bart, but Lisa convinces her to rest on an ancient sculpture, below the statue of the ancient Peruvian God of the Sky. Marge quickly falls asleep, and is instantaneously pulled into a dream world where the God of the Sky shows her Ancient Peru. He teaches her how throughout history, parents who over-parented their children could never set them free, which was how they were conquered by the Conquistadors and Inca renegades (although historically Machu Pichu was never actually discovered or conquered by the Conquistadors). Upon waking, Marge learns that she cannot over-mother Bart, and must let him take steps for himself. Homer discovers that the family has been following a bird the whole time, assuring Marge she knows exactly where Bart is. Upon returning to Springfield, Marge asks Bart if he missed her. Bart says he did not notice they were gone (for two weeks), so Marge, depressed, goes upstairs. However, upon reaching the stairs, she is stopped by Bart, who quickly begs her to never leave again. The episode ends with Lisa asking Homer, "Where's Maggie?" As it turns out, the family had left her in Machu Picchu, where she is being worshipped.
During the table read of the script, a role meant for Matt Damon was included, but he did not appear in the final version of the episode. The episode is dedicated to Paul Newman, who guest starred in "The Blunder Years" and died nine days before the episode aired.
The Swedish and Australian bars which Bart prank calls feature numerous references. The Swedish bar is named Inga-Bar Beerman in reference to filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. The image of the barman in profile and another person in the background looking directly into the camera is a visual reference to Bergman's 1966 film Persona. The Australian barman resembles Michael "Crocodile" Dundee, and his bar is called Crocodile Drunkee's, both referencing the 1986 film "Crocodile" Dundee. In his bar window, a partial sticker for the band INXS is seen, as well as the album Business as Usual by Men at Work. The zoom-in places the Australian bar at Fox Studios Australia, owned by the parent corporation of The Simpsons, News Corporation.
Additionally, Skinner plays a human version of the arcade game Frogger when trying to cross the interstate for gas. Marge receives a collection notice from Allied Peas whose corporate mascot bears a striking resemblance to the Jolly Green Giant while paying for frozen peas on installment, while Bart, Milhouse, and Nelson grill Twizzlers licorice. Bart suggests to Leary's manager that he order New York Yankees hats and Derek Jeter jerseys. Leary is a real life Boston Red Sox fan, a large rival of the Yankees. Leary was born in Massachusetts and went to college at Emerson College in Boston.
The episode features two musical montages. During the montage of Homer and Marge tracking Bart the Elvis Costello song "Watch Your Step" is playing, while Bart's golf ball recovery montage is set to Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues".
In its original airing, the episode garnered 7.43 million viewers, a 3.6 rating and a 10% share. Robert Canning of IGN said, "This wasn't a terrible episode, but it just wasn't funny enough for such a serpentine storyline. Throw in a wasted Denis Leary, and you really start to think that 'Lost Verizon' could have been so much more". He gave the episode a final rating of 6.7/10. Erich Asperschlager of TV Verdict said, "it is a mostly solid episode, it feels like a missed opportunity for a show that garners more grumbles than acclaim these days".
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