HOLY CRAP!A new King of the Hill! And it wasn't pre-empted by Fox for football for a fucking change! Well, that would have to do with the NFL season winding down, and there wasn't an NFL game directly preceding it, but, finally, the first new episode I've seen since the beginning of November.
In this one, Peggy got jealous of Hank because people passing by would always compliment him on his perfect lawn and the hinges on his doors, while Peggy hasn't contributed anything to the front yard, so she tries her hand at gardening. But, as you may recall from the seventh season episode, "I Never Promised You an Organic Garden", Peggy has kind of a brown thumb when it comes to gardening (or does she? In the aforementioned episode, the plants all sprang to life when she secretly began using pesticides to control an insect infestation... maybe she forgot the pesticide secret). So, at an estate garage sale, Peggy spots the perfect thing for the garden, something she doesn't have to worry about killing... a garden gnome, one which a garden gnome enthusiast spots and tells her is an authentic Winkelbottom, handcrafted in Germany in the 1930s. Peggy takes the garden gnome as a source of pride, though Hank's embarrassed by the sort of attention that the gnome is receiving. (The Fed Ex guy starts referring to the Hill House as "The house with the gnome"), and, when Bobby accidentally breaks off the ear while playing one of his weird games where he's acting like a Secret Service bodyguard to Winklebottom, Hank uses the minor mishap as an excuse to take the gnome to the forest and bury it in a shallow grave, running it over with his Ford F-150 pickup truck and telling Bobby to lie and say that they were out mini-golfing, however, Peggy gets a lot more distraught over the loss of the gnome than he expected, so he has to find a way to make everything right again.
I love that the gnome enthusiast is a fat woman in a pink sweatsuit who spends her life discussing nonsensical things on message boards on the Internet. (She also likes Babylon 5, natch.)
While King of the Hill often includes real-life details and brand names, everything from Big Tex at the Texas State Fair to the premium Texas burger chain Whataburger, in this particular case, "Winklebottom" seems to be a fictional creation, as is "Figgleforth", mentioned later in the episode.
Howcome, when the Winklebottom was in the yard, the gnome enthusiast pointed out that it was facing southwest when it should be facing north as gnomes like to look at the moss they use to make tea with, however, when they're aligning the "Figgleforth", they use a compass to ensure it's facing north, yet it's facing the exact same direction the Winklebottom was facing when it was facing southwest? What are we supposed to assume... that Hank rotated the house around just to align the gnome properly? I sure hope someone got fired for that one. :P (Plus, since moss grows on the north side of the trees, according to folklore, so, to look at it, shouldn't the gnome be facing south anyway?)
The B-plot for this episode was that Joseph Gribble got one of those dangerous mini-bikes that aren't street legal (though, surely the alleyway doesn't count as a street). Has Joseph regressed in age? While Brittany Murphy, who is mainly the voice of Luanne Platter, hasn't gone back to providing his voice the way she did before it broke and Breckin Meyer took over, the character seems to be acting a lot more like a kid than he's been acting in years. I know the characters haven't aged at the rate of a year a season, but they still have been aging a bit (the kids must be at least 14 by now, while they were 12 when the series started), so Joseph going wild on a bike seems a bit out of character. But I guess they didn't have those bikes in 1997, when the series started.
All in all, it was a reasonably good episode, not Season Three stellar, but the quality of the average season 9 episode of King of the Hill is still a lot higher than even the average episode from season 9 of The Simpsons (1997-98). I hope that this show makes it to season 10, but Fox's putting it in the timeslot where it almost always gets pre-empted by football in the Eastern Time Zone doesn't give me much confidence.