The Burns and the Bees
"The Burns and the Bees" is the eighth episode of the twentieth season of The Simpsons. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on December 7, 2008. In the episode, after winning the "Austin Celtics" in a game of poker, Mr. Burns builds a new stadium in Springfield in the place where Lisa has built a bee colony. Lisa's subplot refers to the current world-wide disappearance of bees.
The episode was written by Stephanie Gillis and directed by Mark Kirkland. It marks a second use of the Christmas-themed opening, first seen in "Kill Gil, Volumes I & II". Billionaires Mark Cuban and Jeff Bezos and sportscaster Marv Albert guest star as themselves. In its original airing, the episode garnered 6.19 million viewers. It received mixed reviews from television critics.
Mr. Burns attends the annual Billionaires' Retreat, where he wins the fictional Austin Celtics pro basketball team in a poker game against the Rich Texan. After witnessing the antics of Mark Cuban at a Dallas Mavericks game, Burns tries to win over Springfield basketball fans with his own antics. Burns fails miserably, and decides to build a luxurious sports arena. Meanwhile, Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney dare Bart to prank the second graders by hitting a beehive with his slingshot. Lisa discovers, however, the bees that should be in the hive are dead. Willy explains the bees are dying all over Springfield by loss of habitat, thus contracting a fatal disease. Lisa seeks help from Homer (who at first was unwilling to save the bees until Lisa informs him that the bees make honey and, if they died, there will be no more honey) and Professor Frink who has an uninfected queen bee sting Lisa releasing pheromones which attracts many uninfected bees, which form a bee beard. After trying to keep the bees in the Simpson home, Lisa and Marge find an abandoned greenhouse for the bees to live in. However, the site of the greenhouse is exactly where Mr. Burns plans to construct his new arena.
Lisa attempts to convince the town to save the bee population, but despite her logical protest that they always get into trouble when they ignore her advice, she fails when Burns informs everyone about the amazing features of his arena. Lisa becomes depressed that the bee population is slowly dying. Homer and Moe attempt to help save the bees by mating a queen bee from Lisa's hive with Moe's Africanized bees to create a hybrid bee species strong enough to survive anywhere. On the night of the grand opening of Burns' sports arena, Homer takes Lisa to the top of a hill and shows her the hive containing the hybrid bees. When Homer accidentally releases them, the bees attack Burns' arena which resembles a bee hive. In the end, the arena is declared a bee sanctuary, enabling the bees to survive. At the next billionaires' retreat, Mr. Burns reveals how much the bees cost him. After it is discovered that he is four million dollars short of a billion he is kicked out of the retreat and into the millionaires' camp. Much to his horror, these millionaires got rich thanks to their low-class businesses, such as a minor-league hockey team.
The episode was written by Stephanie Gillis and directed by Mark Kirkland. Billionaires Mark Cuban and Jeff Bezos and sportscaster Marv Albert guest star as themselves. The episode marks a second use of the Christmas-themed opening, first seen in "Kill Gil, Volumes I & II".
Lisa's subplot refers to the world-wide disappearance of bees known as Colony Collapse Disorder. In a scene where Homer imagines a future without honey, a small green robot resembling WALL-E from the 2008 film WALL-E, gives him a bottle of honey and then turns Homer into a cube. The Billionaires' Retreat is the parody of the Bohemian Club.
In the opening sequence, Mr. Burns appears to be Ebenezer Scrooge with Smithers as Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol. The statue of Mr. Burns outside his new basketball arena is based on the Nike, Inc. "Jumpman" logo featuring Michael Jordan. Just before Burns is thrown out of the Billionaires' retreat, he asks Mark Cuban if he can let him "off the hook, for old times' sake" and Cuban refuses, referring to the scene in the 1972 film The Godfather in which Salvatore Tessio is led away to be executed after being revealed as a traitor. The Billionaires play Quidditch, as it is depicted in the Harry Potter film series, and use the paintings Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Whistler's Mother by James Abbott McNeill Whistler and The Scream by Edvard Munch as target practice.
The songs featured in the episode include "Hip Hop Hooray" by Naughty by Nature during Mr. Burns' attempt to be more like Mark Cuban, and "Sea of Love" as performed by The Honeydrippers, which Homer and Moe play to their bees. Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" is also played in the episode.
In its original airing, the episode garnered 6.19 million viewers, a significant drop from the previous episode, possibly due to the fact the episode did not air in its usual 8:00 timeslot. The episode received mixed reviews from critics. Robert Canning of IGN gave the episode 7/10 and said that with an episode like this "I just don't laugh as much as I would have liked". Steve Heisler of The A.V. Club gave the episode a grade of B and said that episode was "okay", but "boring". Erich Asperschlager of TV Verdict wrote: "Part of me knows that the only way to enjoy the modern incarnation of The Simpsons is to stop expecting its stories to make sense. [The episode is] not straightforward at all. It’s like sometime after the tenth season, The Simpsons writers started using Mad Libs to generate story ideas. In fact, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion the only reason this episode exists is because someone came up with the title 'The Burns and the Bees' and just had to make it work." Harry Shearer received a nomination for a Primetime Emmy Award for Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for his role as Mr. Burns, Smithers, Lenny and Dr. Hibbert in this episode, but lost to fellow Simpsons cast member Dan Castellaneta. Stephanie Gillis has been nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award in the Animation category in 2010 for writing the episode. The Simpsons was the only show to be nominated in the category, with the other nominated episodes being "Take My Life, Please", "Eeny Teeny Maya Moe", "Gone Maggie Gone" and "Wedding for Disaster". The winner, "Wedding for Disaster," was announced on February 20, 2010.
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