“Well done, sir.”
“Now your turn, Smithers.”
“I’d never thought you’d ask.”
Alright can we talk a bit about this scene here because we were getting pretty thirsty for something new this season in ribald rapport between these two.
First things, since this is a gif set, you cannot capture the tone or timbre that Harry uses, but there is one word I can use to describe both of them - seductive.
We obviously know about Harry’s thoughts on the Burnsmithers pairing ( he treats them as an item,) so going into this episode we had the same high hopes as everyone else he’d preserve this grand tradition and give it a kick in the rear to boost (pun not intended.) So with him reading his own script he is consciously communicating the nature of how he written the scene out above, and well, it seems we are back to the post-Burns Cage rapport we have all came to love (elated Burns, constant exchange of eye contact, expulsion of emotions.)
In fact it reminds me of how they behaved in Simprovised last season where they fed off of one another’s emotions and took close note to each other’s actions moreso than pre-Burns Cage where Monty would shrug off Smithers’ demands about 80% of the time despite the eye contact.
(So you like that joke, eh Smithers? Notice how he is always looking towards him for his approval now. It seems routine. Smithers comes off as bashful here too.)
So getting onto the meat of the scene above, we notice that yes, he gives Smithers a kick in the rear, but it is how the situation is handled that has a different atmosphere. This isn’t Burns using Smithers as a tool at all, much like what we are accustomed towards in the earliest seasons (see A Star is Burns and Burns’ Heir for examples of Monty using Waylon as a tension patsy) however there is an inclination that we are playing off of our knowledge that Burns knows what Smithers likes from our observation during The Burns Cage.
It seems like it always goes back to this episode, I swear.
In The Burns Cage, we get our first outward glimpse towards the ending where Burns instinctively and desperately uses everything in a stocked portfolio of apologies and material bribes that he picked up over the years for things Smithers seems to enjoy. While other episodes beforehand such as Who Shot Mr. Burns pt. 1 emphasizes that the dastardly boss does have room in his ego to care about what his ward likes (remember the oil drilling scene? Remember what Burns sexually suggested to sway a bitter and distraught Waylon out of his funk,) he’s never diverted from his own way to do something that’ll sate anyone else but himself.
Think about that for a second when you re-watch the above scenes.
When he turns to his ward, it is a command, but nothing like the harsh or eerie demand he usually makes with anyone when he punishes them. Instead Harry rightfully slipped Burns into his deep, seductive lull, much like the description for Wainwright’s lines in the The Color Yellow when he tried to dig a bargain out of Hiram. It is a dip in contrast towards the short quipping towards Homer a moment before.
(Yes, sir may I have another?)
And when he even commands Smithers, he motions towards the pad in a welcoming gesture. He knows that Smithers doesn’t have to do it, he won’t force him, but he knows that this is something Waylon has enjoyed in the past before from him. It’s consensual. Nothing Burns does is active in the remainder of this scene - his behavior is passive compared to Homer’s mistreatment.
And we know this isn’t penance as how both keep smiling and steadying their eye contact on each other throughout the “punishment.”
Instead of doing something that both know one would parasitically enjoy,
instead Burns decides to take the route to do something they’ll both get pleasure from.
Smithers even goes with it willingly, as seen by the bowing of his head his palming, almost like a genie giving his master a wish. Even the deep, sultry dulcimer tone that creeps out in the answer “I’d thought you’d never ask” is exactly the same one we hear when Smithers gets…well…turned on in the series (Best example? Probably that groan in Rosebud when they collide on the zipline and the scene where he tells Burns to “tug on his fur.”) With Smithers being Smithers and, well from this season we have seen less of the sycophant (he slightly told Burns off at the end of Fleeing Circus,) there is still some of that obedience in his blood, and both men however know that Waylon willingly could back out with this new backbone of his, but no this is a rife opportunity for him, that masochist. Burnsmithers fans have joked about it for years that their affinity plays out like one long burlesque act, but now our whole relationship reeks of low-key BDSM, I swear.
You know Smithers is absolutely happy, no wait, thrilled over the idea he gets to wear that bootprint around the office like a trophy; in fact it is akin to Burns making his mark on him in a declaration of possession. Burns probably knows this, and Smithers knows this and they just keep smiling at each other until the end of the scene and god, I can kiss Harry just for this acknowledgement of their relationship.
If anything we are striding more in a new direction with these two known as the path of consent, not control. Burns is not a domineering leader anymore towards his beloved Waylon, but instead is staying in stride with Smithers (and sadistically in our captured moment giving a taste of what the man desires. This may be a fragment of what Smithers insinuated towards in the end of The Burns Cage. Remember, he left Monty because he was ignoring his needs.)
That’s a big step.
EDIT: Because I nearly skipped this detail until I reblogged it for other viewers
One thing I forgot to add is how Burns uses the stamp pad between Homer and Smithers. It also appears he kicks Homer with far more momentum and force than with his ward - Homer even though he is fat, that kick makes him step forward four spots and off kilter:
Smithers remains stable and jumps ahead a spot.
Homer, he lightly taps his foot to get just enough ink to make a print.
From this we can assume he is being miserly in how much ink he wastes
on his employees - they are nary a thought except for his punishment.
With Smithers, he aggressively smears and drags his foot around in the ink to make sure it is good and covered. He wants to make sure EVERYONE sees that shoe on his ass. He might actually be doing this more for Smithers’ own bragging vanity and his own sadistic…dare we suggest…arousal.