Even after 25 (!) seasons and 550 (!!) episodes, "The Simpsons" shows that it can still surprise us.
Much of the ambitious animation recently has come courtesy of the opening couch gag, where everyone from Banksy to Guillermo Del Toro has graced our favorite yellow family with their unique styles and voices.
But "Brick Like Me," the 550th "Simpsons" episode, is the creative team's most ambitious outing in years. Every single part of Springfield gets LEGO-fied. The level of care put into the episode is stunning, and the unique animation brings to mind the "Treehouse of Horror VI" segment Homer3, which rendered Homer and Bart in a then-novel 3D CGI.
In addition to the wonderful animation, the episode, which could have been a cheap retread of "The LEGO Movie," is actually really good, with some of the most clever "Simpsons" writing in years, all grounded in a surprisingly touching backstory. It took almost two years to produce, and the work definitely paid off.
While most of the episode is overflowing in gags and Easter eggs, here are 13 fantastic moments you need to look out for to get the most out of "Brick Like Me."
13. Watch Every Sign
Every storefront in LEGO Springfield has undergone a LEGO transformation. Sure, there are some easy ones (Brick-E-Mart), but there are some really creative ways the writing team was able to transform Springfield's most famous attractions into the brick world.
12. Homer's Work Outfit
This is a nice little Easter egg for big "Simpsons" fans, as the classic Homer work outfit of white shirt and pink tie are given the LEGO treatment, as the punchline to one of Lisa's setups.
11. Philip K. Brick
I'm pretty sure the writers set a world record for most Philip K. Dick references in one TV episode. The LEGO version of Comic Book Guy's Android Dungeon has a large assortment of Philip K. Brick's books. That would be a cute gag in and of itself, but the writers up the ante by parodying no less than 9 Philip K. Dick titles throughout the episode. It's enough for any sci-fi nerd to have a brickgasm.
10. Classic "Simpsons" Gags Brought Back
For this special episode, the writers decided to bring back some of the most beloved classic "Simpsons" gags so that they could recreate them with LEGOs. My favorite was the famous Love Tester in Moe's tavern, where you can go from being an undesirable Grey 1x1 to the uber-attractive Red 8x2 With Slanty Part And Hinges.
9. The Brick Church Of Springfield
In addition to getting its own LEGO-fied sign, there are a ton of hilarious LEGO gags in the episode's Church scene, everything from an elongated brown brick hanging behind the reverend to stained-glass decals (which the orthodox don't believe in). The sequence is also surprisingly subversive, though it never goes too far before another ridiculous LEGO gag shows it's all in good fun.
8. "The Survival Games"
Buried within the main LEGO story is a B-story about Lisa wanting to see the new PG-13 movie series "The Survival Games," with heroine Keendrah Wildwill, who has to choose between handsome love interests Thayson and Joshuel, one of whom is "dangerous and good-looking," while the other is "strong but super-cute."
7. LEGO Jebediah Springfield's Motto
"A noble spirit embrickens the mini-est fig." Words we can all live by.
6. The Plastic Surgery Center
This is one of the show's more brilliant jokes, as the plastic surgery center has a before and after picture where the only difference is that the woman is happy in the second. It's actually a surprisingly powerful statement about outward appearance being less important than how you feel about yourself, and yet if you don't look hard enough, you won't catch it. That's the hallmark of a really good "Simpsons" episode: even the background stuff is great.
5. LEGO versions of all your favorite characters
Pretty much every character you've grown to love over the years is LEGO-fied at one point, even if just in a passing shot. Apparently, LEGO Superintendent Chalmers and LEGO Lunchlady Dora have been hiding something from the school.
In the show's climax, LEGO Bart creates a huge, Transformers-Meets-Voltron monstrosity to help his dad. In addition to "Lightsaber barfs," the "creative but undisciplined" project is made of a ton of smaller Easter eggs.
3. References To "The Lego Movie"
The entire plot of the episode veers pretty heavily into "Lego Movie" territory, something one of the characters actually notes, all while "Lego Movie" characters Emmet and Wyldstyle not-so-subtly pass by in the background.
2. Famous LEGO Playsets
It's not just that plenty of "Simpsons" locales and characters are LEGO-fied; a number of classic LEGO playsets make their way into the episode, especially in the creative climactic sequence. It's OK to feel a little nostalgic.
1. Sci-Fi Movie References
While Philip K. Dick owns the sci-fi book parodies in this episode, there are also a couple references to older sci-fi movies, from "The Matrix" to "Men In Black," which gets a surprising but very effective callback at the end of the episode.
"Brick Like Me", the 550th episode of "The Simpsons," airs this Sunday, May 4th, at 8:00 p.m. on Fox.