I should have known this episode of The Simpsons was going to be different as soon as I saw the Couch Gag, which panned from the Simpson family all the way out to the edges of the known universe and then back into Homer's head (resulting in a statement of 'Weird' from Homer). From that point on the show took on a surreal feel as Homer tried to find out why his family was gone and his dog was angry at him. Along the way he encountered friends and family who guided him along his journey of memory recovery. Eventually, it led to a journey into Homer's deepest recollections.
By far, this was the most interesting episode of The Simpsons this season, incorporating humor, romance, and a little bit of science fiction into a tidy little plot. Not only were there elements of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind sprinkled throughout, but there was also a smattering of It's a Wonderful Life and Total Recall added as well. True, it was another Homer-centric episode -- one of too many this season, but the writers gave the show enough of a twist to keep it intriguing for me.
I think the most enjoyable part of the episode was Homer's journey into his memories via Professor Frink's memory machine (a Deja Viewmaster, as Homer mentioned). Using stills from the 400 previous episodes to show the memories he kept was a great idea. Some of those images were from all the way back in the first season. It was actually a nice tribute to the long history that the show has had. And, at least during the journeys without Memory Bart and Memory Lisa, it was taken pretty seriously.
The other part I enjoyed was Homer reliving his 39 (still?) years on the planet as he was falling to his supposed death. I thought it was great how they incorporated all of the stages in his life into such a short span of time. My favorite was all of the costumes Homer was shown wearing during the last part of the scene.
Some other items that tickled my fancy:
The prehistoric squirrel from Ice Age makes a cell-animated appearance in the first few moments of The Simpsons.
Moe's video on how to make the drink that blots out a person's memory. He pauses on a particularly bad shot of him, and his frame-by-frame movements don't make him look any better.
Krusty pulling a Mel Gibson at the Latin Grammy Awards.
Courtesy of Bart, Homer replacing the memory of his very first kiss with Marge with his very first kiss with Apu.
Speaking of Bart, he can whoop the ass of a 10-year-old and 20-year-old Homer.
While Homer is reliving his life he is shown drinking probably hundreds of cans of beer to make some wonderful designs.
Patty and Selma pushing Homer off of the Suicide Bridge than feigning agreement that it was all in the plans for his surprise party.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I don't know why this episode of The Simpsons was kept until now to air. Granted, it wasn't the Best. Episode. Ever. Yet, it was one of those installments that should be given a better slot to gain interest. Frankly, I would have rather seen this during November sweeps than an episode where a guest voice is underutilized.