Are Smithers and Burns a Couple?

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One of the longest running gags in the iconic animated sitcom The Simpsons is the relationship between Waylon Smithers and his boss, Charles Montgomery Burns. For over 30 years, Smithers has been loyally serving the elderly and cantankerous owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Smithers’ undying devotion and willingness to please Mr. Burns has led many viewers to speculate that Smithers harbors an unrequited romantic love for his boss. But what does the show have to say about the true nature of Smithers and Burns’ bond? Are they actually a couple, or is their relationship purely professional?

Are Smithers and Burns a Couple?

Smithers’ Unrequited Love for Mr. Burns

Over the many seasons of The Simpsons, it has become increasingly clear that Smithers does indeed have strong feelings for Mr. Burns that go beyond professional loyalty. As far back as the show’s third season in the early 1990s, Smithers was shown gazing longingly at a naked Burns after giving him a sponge bath.

“Oh, what the hell!” Smithers declared before passionately kissing Burns on the lips while the nuclear power plant owner was asleep.

In the season 27 episode “The Burns Cage,” which aired in 2016, Smithers officially came out as gay to Mr. Burns.

“Sir, I’m…I’m waylon Smithers. I think you’re the kind of man I could love for the rest of my life,” Smithers declared, mustering up the courage to reveal his true feelings after so many years.

Unfortunately for Smithers, Burns remained completely oblivious, responding “Oh, Christ, Smithers. You’re hilarious.”

Over the years, Smithers has declared his love for Mr. Burns on several occasions, showered him with over-the-top birthday gifts, doted on his every whim, and proved willing to sacrifice his job, relationships, and even his life for his beloved boss.

Mr. Burns Does Not Reciprocate Smithers’ Affection

While Smithers clearly pines for Mr. Burns, the feeling is entirely one-sided. Mr. Burns views Smithers merely as a loyal and devoted assistant, albeit one he relies on heavily to run his business empire.

Burns is consistently ignorant and dismissive of Smithers’ hints about his true feelings. For example, in the season 14 episode “Three Gays of the Condo,” Burns completely misunderstands when Smithers tries to come out to him, thinking Smithers means he literally wears women’s clothes versus being romantically interested in men.

“Women’s clothes? Smithers, I don’t want to picture you in women’s clothes,” Burns remarks obliviously.

In the season 29 episode “Flanders’ Ladder,” Smithers dreams that Burns declares his love for him on his deathbed. But even in Smithers’ own fantasy, Burns remains clueless, thinking Smithers means he loves him in a non-romantic, admiring assistant way.

“Waylon, you’re hilarious. You just like me for my money,” dream Burns scoffs.

Burns’ consistent failure to recognize Smithers’ hints and declarations over decades on the show confirms that, despite Smithers’ wishes, the boss he loves views him as nothing more than an invaluable right-hand man.

Smithers’ Sexuality Described as “Burns-Sexual”

In the season 27 episode where Smithers comes out as gay, Moe Szyslak remarks that he thought Smithers was “Burns-sexual.” This term implies that Smithers’ sexuality and romantic orientation revolve exclusively around Mr. Burns, to the point that he has eyes for no other man.

Smithers confirms this view, declaring that for him, there is only “one man on earth.” While the show recognizes Smithers as gay, his whole identity has become intrinsically tied to his thwarted desire for the unattainable Mr. Burns over the show’s many seasons.

Showrunner Al Jean elaborated on Smithers’ sexuality in an interview, stating:

“We just wanted to go deeper into his character. And we thought his singing ‘Flaming Moe’s’ and what that represented for him was a good way into that story. We thought it would open up lots of storytelling possibilities and just deepen the character of Smithers in a way that felt real to us. And as part of that, we wanted to explore his relationship to Mr. Burns and his sexuality. This seemed like a natural next step.”

So while Smithers is gay, his decades-long hopeless infatuation with the oblivious Burns has defined his character in a way that goes beyond typical sexual orientation labels.

Smithers Enters a New Relationship in Recent Episodes

In the recent season 33 episode “Portrait of a Lackey on Fire,” Smithers finally makes some strides in getting over Mr. Burns and pursuing romance elsewhere. He starts dating a billionaire named Michael De Graaf, voiced by Mr. Burns’ voice actor Harry Shearer.

Smithers is hesitant about the relationship at first, wondering if he’s just using Michael as a Burns proxy. But Michael’s attentiveness and reciprocated feelings for Smithers make him determined to move on from his Burns obsession for good. By the end of the episode, Smithers seems ready for a fresh start with someone new.

Fans viewed this storyline as significant character development for Smithers. After hopelessly pining after Burns for decades, Smithers may finally find a fulfilling, two-sided romance that allows him to break free from his “Burns-sexual” fixation.

Early reviews praised the show for letting Smithers evolve while retaining his essential character traits. As one critic wrote:

“For as acerbic and satirical as The Simpsons remains after all these years, few long-running characters have enjoyed Smithers’s level of nuance, empathy, and dimensionality.”

While Smithers will likely always harbor some feelings for Burns on some level, giving him a chance at real love represents an important milestone.

Are Smithers and Burns a Couple?

Conclusion: Not an Actual Couple But Smithers Clearly Longs for Burns

After analyzing decades of Simpsons episodes, it is clear that Waylon Smithers and Charles Montgomery Burns are not an actual couple. Burns views Smithers solely as a loyal assistant and remains oblivious to his romantic yearnings.

However, Smithers has demonstrated his unrequited love for Mr. Burns in countless scenes over the years, to the point that his sexuality is best described as “Burns-sexual.” While Burns never reciprocates this affection, Smithers continues to dote on him, sacrifice for him, and pine for the cranky nuclear plant owner.

Recent episodes suggest Smithers may finally move on from his Burns obsession by dating billionaire Michael De Graaf. But the Burns-Smithers dynamic has delighted Simpsons fans for decades by striking a balance between humor and surprising emotional depth. Smithers’ unrewarded devotion satirizes workplace sycophants, while also giving him unexpected humanity.

So while they aren’t truly a couple, the intriguing, layered bond between Smithers and Burns will undoubtedly keep viewers guessing about Smithers’ true feelings for seasons to come. Their complex relationship demonstrates The Simpsons’ mastery of blending incisive cultural commentary with absurdist comedy over its record-breaking run.

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