Last year I was worried that South Park might be losing it's edge, but last night's episode proved me wrong. Cartman Sucks is one of the freshest and funniest episodes to date. The episode doesn't deal entirely in the realm of original social commentary, but instead focuses on putting a twist on the classic story of Cartman pranks Butters.
Cartman has been having Butters spend the night at his house and while little Butters sleeps, Cartman does terrible things to him (like making him a mustache from cat crap, or sticking a tampon on his mouth). When Butters once again spends the night, Cartman does one of the stupidest things ever: he puts Butters' penis in his mouth and takes a picture.
The boys inform him that this makes him gay and the only way to cancel this out is to stick his penis in Butters' mouth. While he is doing this, though, Butters' dad walks in with horrible assumptions. Cartman quickly flees, but Butters' father makes the horrible assumption that Butters is bi-curious.
Meanwhile, Cartman can't find his photo and assumes Kyle took it and will show it to the whole class for show and tell. He spends the whole night trying to stop Kyle, but when he comes to no avail, he decides he'd rather expose himself.
Butters is sent to Camp New Grace, where you "Pray away the Gay At the camp, each child is assigned an accountabillibuddy. Butters, of course, has no idea what's going on and takes everything with the cheerful optimism that makes him such a beloved character. The campers continually commit suicide as they decide they'd rather go to hell now then be persecuted.
Cartman's storyline ends with one of the greatest laughs I've had in awhile, and the episode becomes one of the new greats. It really doesn't make any original statements on the issue of gays, though it has tackled this subject several times in the past. The basic message is that everyone should have the freedom of choice and religion is the great hypocrisy to freedom of speech: religion bans free speech.
But what I loved most about the episode was how Cartman's prank turned on him, and he went to such desperate measures to protect himself until he decides to expose himself. The picture itself is eventually seen, but Cartman is placed strategically in front of the screen to block any graphic elements. You get the idea though.
This is also the first episode to strongly suggest Cartman's sexual orientation. In past episodes we've had several indicators as to what his preference is: In the Condoms episode he watches Butters put on a condom; in the Simpsons episode, he claims to have gotten semen by meeting some guy in an alley, closing his eyes, and sucking it out of a tube; having tea parties with his stuffed animals; dressing up like Britney Spears and making out with a cardboard cut-out of Justin Timberlake; and so on and so on. Making Cartman actually come out of the closet would probably be a stupid decision on the creators' part, instead of just providing strong hints of what Cartman prefers.
Cartman Sucks may not contain a strong social commentary, but it basically is what I wanted: an episode more focused on an entertaining plot, rather then entirely on an issue. I half expected Ted Haggard to make an appearance, but the guys are leaving him buried for now.