BEST EPISODE THINGY THERE EVER WAS ROUND 1 Homer’s Triple Bypass VS. So it’s come to this: A Simpsons Clip Show

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In today’s match, we have two episodes from Seasons 4 that see Homer land in the hospital. In “Homer’s Triple Bypass”, Homer is diagnosed with clogged arteries and requires a $40,00 operation that he can’t afford. Meanwhile, in “So It’s Come To This: A Simpson’s Clip Show”, an April Fools’ prank gone horribly wrong puts Homer in a coma.

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  • Homer's_Triple_Bypass_7Episode: Homer’s Triple Bypass
  • Aired: December 17, 1992
  • Writers: Gary Apple & Michael Carrington

The episode opens with Homer in bed eating a late night snack that includes a plate of spaghetti, a bowl of fondue, an entire cake, an entire pizza, an entire turkey, and my personal favorite, an entire bottle of diet cola. Because apparently Homer’s watching his weight.

Marge (notices Homer clutching his chest): Homer, what is it?
Homer: Just working the turkey through. (punches his chest) There it goes.

But what’s a late night snack without something to watch on TV. In this case, Homer’s watching Springfield’s version of COPS. Starring Chief Wiggum and his incompetent police force.

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Cops…in Springfield.
Bad cops, bad cops
Bad cops, bad cops
Springfield cops are on the take
But what do you expect for the money we make?
Whether on a car or on a horse?
We don’t mind using excessive force
Bad cops, bad cops

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Chief Wiggum: This is Papa Bear. Put out an APB for a male suspect, driving a ….car of some sort. Suspect is hatless. Repeat, hatless!
Homer (yelling at the tv): I can’t wait until they throw his hatless butt in jail.

The next day, despite his late night binge eating spree, Homer is still thinking about food.

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” The best meat’s in the rump” ~ Pig, in Homer’s imagination

Later that morning on his way to work, Homer gets stuck driving behind a slow-moving 18 wheeler carrying the birthplace of Edgar Allen Poe. Homer runs out of patience and runs the truck off the road.

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“Now you’ve done it.” ~ Hans Moleman

After Homer hears some irregular thumping noises coming from his car, he decides to stop at a nearby gas station .

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Homer: I keep hearing this irregular thumping noise.
Mechanic (listening): I think it’s your heart, and I think it’s on it’s last thump.
Homer (relieved): Whew. I was afraid it was my transmission. (drives off.)

After being called into Mr.Burns office for slacking off on the job, Homer and his bipolar heart endure a roller coaster of emotions courtesy of a sometimes confusing verbal onslaught from Mr.Burns.

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Mr. Burns: Your indolence is inefficacious!
Homer: [stares blankly; heart beats normally]
Mr. Burns: That means, you’re terrible!
Homer: Aarrggghh! [suffers a heart attack and collapses]

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Homer’s soul leaves his body for a few moments, but comes back for ham.

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Mr.Smithers: I think he’s dead.
Mr.Burns: Oh dear. Send a ham to his widow.
Homer’s spirit: Mmm, ham. (his spirit returns to his body)
Mr.Smithers: No, wait. He’s alive!
Mr.Burns: Oh good. Cancel the ham.
Homer: D’oh!

Homer is rushed to the emergency room where Dr.Hibbert uses the defibrillator on his heart, much to Homer’s enjoyment. After a few shocks, Homer asks for more. Homer’s near death experience also resulted in his life flashing before his eyes, including the time his voice changed at a most inopportune time.

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Homer: Oh, Doctor, I was in a wonderful place filled with fire and brimstone and there were all these guys in red pajamas sticking pitchforks in my butt!

Dr.Hibbert performs several medical tests on Homer to determine the state of Homer’s health.  First he injects some radioactive dye into Homer’s bloodstream, then performs a test to see how long it takes for Homer’s blubber to stop jiggling.

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Dr. Hibbert: Now Mrs. Simpson, what you see here is the radioactive dye we injected into your husband’s bloodstream.
Nurse: But doctor! I haven’t injected the dye yet!
Dr. Hibbert: Good Lord!
Homer: (waving) Hi.

Homer: Woo hoo! Look at that blubber fly!
Dr.Hibbert: (concerned) Yes. Nurse, cancel my 1:00.

Now comes the hard part. Dr.Hibbert takes Homer and Marge into his office for a frank discussion regarding the results of Homer’s examination. Unfortunately, the grim nature of the news Dr.Hibbert delivers is lost on Homer. Homer hasn’t been this oblivious since his meeting with Dr.Hibbert’s long lost brother at the Shellbyville Orphanage in “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou”.

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Dr. HibbertHomer, I’m afraid you’ll have to undergo a coronary bypass operation.
Homer: Say it in English, Doc.
Dr. Hibbert: You’re going to need open heart surgery.
Homer: Spare me your medical mumbo jumbo.
Dr. Hibbert: We’re going to cut you open, and tinker with your ticker.
Homer: Could you dumb it down a shade?
Dr. Hibbert: I must warn you though, this procedure will cost you upwards of $30,000.
Homer: Aaarrrggh! (collapses)
Dr. Hibbert: I’m afraid it’s now $40,000.

That night, Homer and Marge discuss how they’re going to go about paying for Homer’s operation. After Homer informs her that they gave up their health plan at the union for a pinball machine, he tries to console his sobbing wife by reassuring her about the quality of America’s healthcare system.

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Homer: America’s healthcare system is 2nd only to Japan, Canada, Sweden, Great Britian, well, all of Europe. But you can thank your lucky stars we don’t live in Paraguay.

Just as Homer is about to sign a new insurance policy, he suffers another heart attack and his application is rejected.

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Clerk: Now, under “heart attacks”, you crossed out three and wrote zero.
Homer: Oh, I thought that said “brain hemmorrhages”.
Clerk: All right. Here’s your policy.
Homer: Now let me tell you something Mr.sucker. I just-
Clerk: Wait, you still haven’t signed it yet.
Homer: (takes pen) Oh, yeah, I- (suffers chest pains)…must….sign…policy!
Clerk: (pulling policy away) I’m sorry, sir, we can’t insure you!
Homer: I made an H!
Clerk: That doesn’t count!
Homer: Looks like an X!
Clerk: We better get you to a hospital.
Homer: Can I have a free calendar?
Clerk: Okay.

In a last ditch effort, Homer seeks out several of Springfield’s religious leaders in hopes that they will lend him the money for his operation.

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Homer [to Reverend Lovejoy]: Now I know I haven’t been the best Christian. In fact, when you’re up there yak-yak-yaking, I’m usually either sleeping or mentally undressing the female parishioners. Anyway, can I have $40,000? 
Homer [to Rabbi Krustofsky): Now I know I haven’t been the best Jew, but I have rented Fiddler on the Roof, and I will watch it. Anyhoo, can I have $40,000?
Homer: (to unknown character) Now I know I haven’t been the best….oh forget it.  

As Homer once famously said back in season 1,  the answers to life’s problems aren’t at the bottom of a bottle, they’re on TV. And in this case, the answer to Homer’s problems come in the form of a TV commercial featuring Dr.Nick Riviera. All Homer has to do is have a long enough attention span to sit through an entire commercial without changing the channel, and his problems could be solved.

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Dr.Nick Riviera: I”ll perform any operation for $129.95! Come in for brain surgery and receive a free Chinese finger trap! You’ve tried the best, now try the rest! Call 1-600-DOCTORB. The B is for Bargain!
Homer: Boring! (almost changes the channel)
Marge: Wait, Homer! This could be the answer we’ve been looking for.

Homer and Marge realize that, whether they like it or not, the controversial Dr. Nick is their only option. As hilarious as this episode is, this is a very real dilemma for a lot of American families who, even though they live in the wealthiest country in the world, they for some reason still have to choose between paying medical bills and everyday bills. Something we in Canada and all of Europe, as Homer earlier pointed out, do not have to worry about. Anyhoo, now comes the really hard part: breaking the news to the kids.

Bart: Nothing you say can upset us we’re the MTV generation.
Lisa: We feel neither highs nor lows.
Homer: Really? What’s it like?
Lisa: Eh. (Shrugs)

Which brings us to the best scene in the episode, where Homer does his best to break the news as gently as possible to his kids that their daddy will have to undergo major open heart surgery. Homer uses puppets based on characters from  Matt Groening’s “Life In Hell” comics, to describe the gory details of his coronary bypass operation.

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Homer: And so the tiny aorta fairies will take Mr. Leg Vein on a long trip to marry to Ms. Left Ventricle. 
Lisa: Dad, are you trying to tell us you’re getting a coronary bypass graft? 
Homer: Uh…yeah.
Bart: Oh no. What if they botch it? I won’t have a Dad… for a while.
Homer: Kids, kids. I’m not gonna die. That only happens to bad people.
Bart: What about Abraham Lincoln?
Homer: He sold poison milk to school children.
Marge: Homer!
Homer: What? I’m just trying to make it easier for them.

With the operation a go, Homer checks himself in to the hospital for an overnight stay before the operation the next morning. Just when you think Homer’s luck can’t get any worse, it turns out Ned Flanders is his hospital roommate.

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Flanders: Homer Simpson!? Well if that don’t put the dink in coinkidink.
Homer [to Flanders]: What are you in here for?
Flanders: I’m having a kidney and a lung removed.
Homer: Who are you donating them to?
Flanders: First come, first served. You?
Homer: I got a bad heart.
Flanders: If I could give you my heart, I would Homer.
Homer: Shut up Flanders.

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Flanders: Dear God, thank you for Ziggy comics, little baby ducks and “Sweating to the Oldies” volumes 1, 2, and 4.

While Flanders flaunts his prayers for every one to see and hear, Homer pulls over the curtain that divides their two beds so that he can pray in private. For all his Bible thumping, Ned seems to have forgotten that prayer is supposed be done only in private between you and God. Homer seems to have remembered that, unlike the devout Ned Flanders. Although, it’s possible Homer pulled the curtain over simply to get away from Flanders for a while.

I really liked the animation of the room in this scene as Homer bows his head and prays. Unlike Ned’s prayer in which he thanks God for rather trivial things, Homer’s prayer is far more heart felt and meaningful. That makes me believe that Homer doesn’t pull the curtain over simply to get away from Flanders, but rather that he wanted to be alone at that moment regardless of who was on the other side of the room.

In these early seasons, it’s not uncommon for Homer to not want others to see the serious side of him. In a not too distant future episode it is revealed that Homer, unbeknownst to everyone else, has pictures of Maggie plastered all over his work station. At times, mostly in much later seasons which aren’t included in this tournament, Homer is portrayed as nothing more than a jerk, whereas in a lot of these early era episodes, such as this one, he is given a sensitive side that he opts to keep hidden from others. Except of course for us viewers. He could score a lot of easy points with his family if he allowed them see this side of him, but he chooses not to. Much like his prayer to God, some things are meant to be kept private. I think that’s an admirable quality in a person. Sort of like an anonymous donation to charity, or donating a lung or kidney to someone you may never even meet, which, oddly enough, is exactly what Ned Flanders is in the hospital to do. Well if that don’t put the dink in coinkidink.

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Sunday School Teacher: In Heaven, you get to do whatever you like best, all the time.
(In Lisa’s imagination, of Homer in heaven)
Homer: (Using a cloud as a bed) Cloud goes up, cloud goes down, cloud goes up…
(cut to the real Homer in the hospital)
Homer: (Using the bed lifter) Bed goes up, bed goes down. Bed goes up, bed goes down. Bed goes up, bed goes down…

Homer’s friends pay him a visit to wish him well before the operation. Well, sort of. Krusty’s visit only makes Homer more nervous, while Grampa tells him that he sees an upside to outliving his son. Lenny and Carl stop by to tell Homer they had a hell of a time finding a replacement for him at work. Quality bricks are indeed hard to come by. And finally, Moe drops in to bring Homer a beer for old times sake, while Barney, under the mistaken impression that Homer is having a sex-change operation, brings Homer a bikini.

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Moe: You know Homer, that beer ain’t free.

After his “friends” have left, Homer’s family check in to see him for what they hope will not be the last time.

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Homer: Now Marge, if the unthinkable should happen, you’re going to be lonley
Marge: Oh, Homer. I could never remarry.
Homer: Damn right. And to make sure, I want to be stuffed and put on the couch as a constant reminder of our marital vows.

A teary eyed Marge invites the kids in. Homer delivers what could be his final goodbyes to his children. Unfortunately, he’s not very good at this sort of thing (at least not in front of others anyway), so the kids help him out.

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Homer: Kids, I wanna give you some words to remember me by, if something happens. Let’s see..er….oh, I’m not good at this.
Lisa: (whispers into Homer’s ear)
Homer: Bart, the saddest thing about this is I’m not going to see you grow up….
Lisa: (whispers into Homer’s ear)
Homer:…because I know you’re gonna turn out great, with or without your old man.
Bart: Thanks, Dad.
Homer (choked up): And Lisa…(Homer waves Bart over)
Bart: (whispers into Homer’s ear)
Homer: I guess this is the time to tell you….
Bart: (whispers into Homer’s ear)
Homer:…that you’re adopted and I don’t like you. (realizes) BART!!
Bart: (whispers into Homer’s ear)
Homer: But don’t worry, because you’ve got a big brother who loves you and will always look out for you.
Lisa: Oh, Dad.

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This is exactly the kind of scene that separated The Simpsons from the rest of the pack, and it’s exactly the kind of stuff I’m looking for in a winning episode. Just the right amount of heart and humor. Although technically Bart and Lisa do all the talking for Homer, it’s only because he lacks the ability to articulate such a message in front of others, not because he doesn’t feel it. So while the scene is played mostly for laughs, it is still genuinely touching as well. In it’s own Simpsons sort of way.

A less than touching moment is happening across town at Moe’s Tavern…

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Moe: Let’s have a minute of silent prayer for our good friend, Homer Simpson.
Barney: [after a short while] How long has it been?
Moe: Six seconds.
Barney: Do we have to start over?
Moe: Hell, no.

Oh well. It’s the thought that counts. Six seconds of humanity is probably a new record for Moe.

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The operation is now underway. I like the use of a birds-eye view camera angle used in both the operating room and the waiting room. While a scared Homer lays on the operating table under the lights, Bart paces around the room anxiously under the clock on the wall. Time seems to stand still in moments like this. Notice how the clock in the waiting room and the light above the operating table look remarkably similar, as does the circular shaped operating room and the throw rug Bart is pacing back and forth on.

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“What the hell is that?” The last thing Homer hears Dr.Riviera say before succumbing to the anesthesia.

The operation does not get off to a good start as Dr.Nick has absolutely no idea what he’s doing. To start, he doesn’t know where to make the incision. Fortunately Lisa is watching from above to guide him through it. “Thanks little girl!”

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Dr. Nick: (singing) The kneebone’s connected to the… something. The something’s connected to the… red thing. The red thing’s connected to my wrist watch. (realizes) Uh-oh.

In the end, despite getting off to a rocky start,  ‘the operation is a complete success!’

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Lisa: All right, Dad!
Bart: You rule intensive care!

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Homer’s heart beats to the tempo of the Simpsons theme, then for a brief moment stops beating altogether. And just as he did at the start of the episode when he was “working the turkey through”, Homer beats his chest to get his heart beating again and it finishes the theme.

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  • 02082004182241Episode: So It’s Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show
  • Aired: April 1st, 1993 (April Fools Day)
  • Written by: Jon Vitti

(This review contains 53% new footage)

Lisa plays the saxophone hook from the song “Baker Street” for her comatose father as their silhouettes illuminate the hospital window from the street, in “So It’s Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show.

It all began one fateful April Fools Day morning after Bart was the victim of several of Homer’s April Fools pranks. First, Bart wakes up believing he is blind due to Homer putting duct tape over his eyes in his sleep. I love the animation of Homer peeling the tape of Bart’s face.

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If that wasn’t enough, Homer leaves spoiled milk stored behind the furnace for several weeks then puts it back in the fridge for Bart to drink. After suffering yet another indignity at the hands of his father, Bart vows revenge.

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Bart: You’re going down, Homer. I’m gonna fool you!
Homer: You talk better than you fool.
Bart: I’ll fool you up real nice.
Homer: You couldn’t fool your mother on the foolingest day of your life if you had an electrified fooling machine!

Now that’s sarcasm!

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Lisa: Like Halloween and Christmas, April Fools Day traces its origins to pagan ritual.
Homer: God bless those pagans.

Bart is hell bent on getting revenge on Homer by coming up with the ultimate April Fools Day prank. An April Fools Day prank to end all April Fools Day pranks. If only he could find Homer’s one weakness.

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Homer: Ah, beer. My one weakness. My Achille’s heel, if you will.

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Homer: (opening a beer which had fallen on the floor) It’s a good thing that beer wasn’t shaken up anymore or I would have looked like quite the fool. An April fool that is.

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After using a hardware store high-speed paint mixer to shake up a can of beer that belongs to Homer, Bart returns home and places the ticking time bomb beer can back in the fridge. Bart then cranks up the temperature in the house to ungodly temperatures to make Homer thirsty enough to go to the fridge for the shaken up beer. Unfortunately, at this moment it appears Homer’s laziness is stronger than his desire for  beer. Homer’s ass remains glued to the couch. Only a public service announcement on TV does the trick.

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TV announcer: The following is a public service announcement. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause liver damage and cancer of the rectum.
Homer: Mmm, beer

That has to be my favorite “mmm” ever. Nothing like cancer of the rectum to help work up the thirst. When Homer finally emerges from his ass groove, the sofa is soaked in a Homer shaped puddle of sweat. Homer’s shirt is also soaked with sweat under his pits, and the few hairs he has atop his head are stringy and wet.

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Bart: APRIL FOO….(An explosion occurs before he can finish his sentence)

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When Homer pops the shaken up beer can, a violent explosion rocks the house and sends beer foam soaring into the sky. Chief Wiggum proceeds on foot.

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Lou: (into radio) We need pretzels; repeat; pretzels!

After Bart’s practical joke results in Homer being hospitalized, Marge and the kids once again find themselves back in the all too familiar confines of the emergency waiting room, awaiting news on Homer’s condition.

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Dr.Hibbert: Mrs. Simpson, I’m afraid your husband is dead. (laughs) April Fools! He’s very much alive, although I’m afraid he may never walk again.

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In a parody of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, a deranged Barney attempts to end Homer’s suffering by suffocating him. Barney then smashes a water fountain through the hospital window and runs into the distance.

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After Barney’s encounter with a water fountain, Homer has his own run-in with a heavy appliance. Homer tries to get some chocolate from a vending machine, but it crashes on top of him. Ten chocolate bars fall directly into Homer’s mouth as he lay pinned and injured under the heavy machine. Homer has not had much luck with vending machines throughout his life. This latest encounter puts him into a coma.

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In a scene that was cut from the original episode but re-made for the DVD, Professor Frink devises a plan to travel inside the comatose Homer through his rectum via a shrunken submarine. If excessive alcohol consumption doesn’t give Homer cancer of the rectum, this certainly will.

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Lisa: Is a coma painful?
Grampa: Oh, heck no. You relive long lost summers, kiss girls from high school. It’s like one of those TV shows where they show a bunch of clips from old episodes.

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In my favorite scene in the episode, Lisa sits at her father’s hospital bedside and plays the saxophone hook from the song “Baker Street” as their silhouettes illuminate the window from the street below.

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Bart also visits his father’s bedside where he tears up and confesses to his comatose father that he was the one who shook up that beer can. As Bart tears up during his confession, Homer regains consciousness and springs to life.

Homer: WHY YOU LITTLE! (sits up in bed and strangles Bart)
Marge: He’s alive!

Marge and Lisa rejoice as a now fully conscious Homer strangles Bart.

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Upon Homer’s waking up from his coma, he is unaware that months have passed since he first went in the hospital.

Lisa: You were in that coma for 7 weeks.
Marge: You lost 5 percent of your brain.
(Everyone laughs, including Homer)
Homer: Me lose brain? uh-oh!
(Everyone including Homer laughs)
Homer: Why I laugh?

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VERDICT

I went into this match thinking it would be a no-brainer. After all, one of the episodes is a clip show. I wasn’t even sure if I should include a clip show as a true episode. Seemed a little unfair to pit “Homer’s Triple Bypass” up against a simple clip show while I’ve had other classics pitted against each other. On the surface, “Homer’s Triple Bypass” would appear to have a huge advantage. But I was wrong. “So It’s Come To This” may be a clip show, but it’s the best damn clip show any show has probably ever done. Only The Simpsons could take the tired clip show concept and turn out an episode that was entertaining, original, hilarious, and even heart warming at times. Both episodes perfectly combine exactly what I love most about the classic Simpsons years: a whole lot of humor with a little bit of heart. But even though The Simpsons clip show exceeded my expectations from what I remembered of it from years ago, “Homer’s Triple Bypass” is still the superior episode. “So It’s Come To This” put up a good fight, but Homer’s Triple Bypass has even more humor and more heart.

Out of these two Homer in the hospital themed episodes, it’s “Homer’s Triple Bypass” that truly rules intensive care!

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For up to date tournament results, click here: The Best Episode Thingy There Ever Was

THE BEST EPISODE THINGY THERE EVER WAS ROUND 1: When Flanders Failed VS. Homer The Heretic

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This match can best be summed up in one word: karma. Do something good for someone else and it will come back to you. What goes around comes around doesn’t just apply to bad deeds. Pay it forward, folks.

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  • Episode: When Flanders Failed
  • Aired: October 3rd, 1991
  • Written by: John Vitti

In “When Flanders Failed”, Ned Flanders announces that he’s opening a general store catering to all the left-handed residents of Springfield. An envious Homer, however, wishes for his goody-two-shoes neighbor to fail.

The episode opens, fittingly enough, with a shot of Homer using a lawnmower labeled property of Ned Flanders; a clear foreshadowing of events to come.

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Out of jealousy and spite towards Flanders, a petty Homer declines Ned’s invitation to attend his backyard barbecue. While the rest of the family attends the Flanders family festivities, Homer stays home glued to his the couch, angry at his family for leaving him alone while they’re next door eating delicious barbecue.

Homer: What if I died while they were gone? Then they’d be all boo-hoo, why did we leave Homer all alone with no food? And I’d be laughing. Laughing from my grave. Hahaha.

04102002190336 Just then, the scent of barbecue flies through Homer’s open window. Homer and the dog start salivating. This scene honestly made me hungry. I don’t blame Homer for giving in to temptation. I was ready to jump through the screen myself.

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Homer decides to attend the barbecue after all. There he learns Flanders plans on opening a general store. Homer, first jealous of Flanders barbecue, is now jealous of Ned’s new business venture. After the two neighbors split a chicken bone and Homer gets the bigger piece, a spiteful Homer secretly wishes for Ned’s store to fail. Homer, with a mouthful of meat, laughs maniacally at Flanders only to start choking and be saved by Flanders performing the heimlich maneuver. I love the animation of a red-faced Homer choking on his lies (and ground beef).

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Meanwhile, Marge feels Bart could stand to use some exercise after seeing how chubby he’s getting thanks in part to eating too much barbecue.Bart takes a karate class, although he spends more time playing a karate video game at the arcade. Remember arcades? Those were the days.

Akira: We practice karate,  so that we never need use it.
Bart: Um, excuse me, sir. I already know how not to hit a guy. Can I practice with nunchucks?

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Flanders leftorium gets off to a shaky start. Homer has plenty of opportunities to tell his friends, and even his enemies, about the new left-handed store that’s just opened in the mall, but he instead says nothing. Mr.Burns’ cat makes an appearance in this episode. According to the lyrics in the song “See My Vest” from the episode “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds”, Burns turns his cat into a hat. Although the cat hat in that episode looks nothing like the cat in his lap in this episode.

0410200219113504102002191232 2f18-189 Burns’ cat hat.

Anyhoo, back to this episode. While driving home, Homer sees Flanders and the entire Flanders family living room out on his front lawn. Flanders is selling practically everything he owns, including his beloved barbecue which Homer gleefully feasts his eyes on. Not only is Homer’s wish for Flanders store to fail coming to fruition, but Homer may also get his hands on the very barbecue he was so jealous off that started this whole mess in the first place.

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The episode began with Homer using Ned’s lawnmower, and now Homer has Ned’s entire living room on his lawn. Homer and Bart laugh it up at old painty can Ned’s expense.

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But soon Homer realizes Flanders financial difficulties are no laughing matter. When returning Flanders barbecue he sees that the Flanders family are temporarily living out of their car until they get to Maude’s sisters place.

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Homer: Ned, I’m sorry your store didn’t work out.
Ned: Homer, you were right. You tried to warm me against engaging in risky ventures! I should have known better than to gamble my family’s future on some pig in a poke! You were an honest friend to me, and I appreciate that.

Ned’s words hit Homer hard, who up until now had always been envious and jealous of Flanders seemingly perfect life. But seeing a defeated, broken down Flanders gives a guilt ridden Homer no satisfaction. Homer, realizing how wrong it was to have been taking pleasure in seeing his neighbor fail, wipes a tear from his guilt ridden eye using a handkerchief that has Ned’s initials on it.

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But Homer’s tears quickly turn to resolve. He orders Ned to open the store tomorrow, then marches inside and phones everyone he knows, be they friend or foe.  I love Homer’s determination to help his friend in need.

Homer (resolved tone): Ned, you open up that store at 9 tomorrow morning. I’ll do the rest!  

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A despondent Flanders arrives at the mall the next morning. Much to Ned’s surprise, he sees Homer over the horizon of the escalator shoveling a lineup of customers into the Leftorium. I have always loved the Homer/Flanders relationship. For me, the Homer/Ned dynamic is second only to the Homer/Lisa dynamic. The contrast between Homer and Ned, or Homer and Lisa, never fails to bring out the best in Homer’s character, both in terms of heart and humor.

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We end with a reference to “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

Flanders: Homer, affordable tract housing made us neighbors, but you made us friends.
Homer: To Ned Flanders, the richest left-handed man in town.

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  • Episode: Homer The Heretic
  • Aired: October 8th, 1992
  • Written by: George Meyer

In “Homer The Heretic”, Homer skips church one blustery Sunday morning, and after having the best day of his life and owing it all to skipping church, Homer proclaims that he is never going to church again.

The episode begins with a hilarious dream sequence that sees Homer spending another beautiful day in the womb. I love how baby Homer has the same hairstyle as adult Homer. Unfortunately, Homer’s tranquil existence in his mothers womb is soon interrupted by his being born. Homer may be the only person who, when he says he wishes he was never born, really means it. He looked pretty content in that womb.

“No! Im all naked and wet!” ~Homer, screaming in his dreams.

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Much like how he was peacefully sleeping in his mothers womb, only to be rudely dragged out from his slumber by the doctor, Homer awakens from his dream to find Marge pulling him out of bed. She orders him to get up and get ready for church. After struggling to fit into his Sunday church clothes, a petulant Homer marches back up the stairs to the bedroom.

Homer: Forget it. I’m not going.

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While Marge and the kids drive to church in the middle of a blizzard, Homer sleeps snuggly at home in his warm bed.

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“Im just a big toasty cinnamon bun. I never want to leave this bed. Uh-oh. Gotta take a whiz. Think, think, think. Oh I better get up.” ~Homer.

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“I’m whizzing with the door open and I love it!”~ Homer

“Why oh why, delilah!” ~A soaped up bubbly Homer, singing in the shower

You bet your sweet….ASS!” ~Homer, delighting in being able to curse with no worries about being reprimanded by Marge. No swear jar for Homer today.

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“Who wears short shorts? I wear short shorts!”~ Homer, dancing in his underwear and bear slippers.

After dancing around in his underwear, Homer heads to the kitchen for something to eat. What’s he cooking? Comedy gold.

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Homer’s patented, space-age, out of this world, moon waffles! Ingredients: caramels, waffle batter, liquid smoke. Love Homer cleaning the side of the waffle iron and licking it off his finger.

Homer: Mmm, waffle run-off.

Homer opens the waffle iron, peels off his creation, wraps it around a stick of butter and eats it.

Homer: Mmm, fattening.

After some of Homer’s waffle concoction drips on his stomach, he calls Santa’s Little Helper into the room. As the family dog licks the substance off his chest, a ticklish Homer breaks into a fit of giggles. I love the visual of a carefree Homer, home alone on the couch in his robe watching The Three Stooges with Snowball II sitting next to him. I just love how easy to please Homer is. This is his idea of heaven. Although he’d obviously miss Marge and the kids, I get the feeling Homer would have been a very happy bachelor. He hasn’t been this happy and content since he was back in the womb.

Homer: (watching the Three Stooges) Moe is their leader.

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While flipping through a Playdude magazine, Homer picks his ear with his finger, then rubs it on his underwear. Homer’s perfect lazy day just keeps getting better when he calls into a local radio station and somewhat correctly answers their trivia contest question involving the name of an album Homer happens to own.

“THIS THINGS I BELIEF!” ~ Homer, proudly and confidently, although inaccurately, reading the title of the album to the radio host on the phone.

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Just when you think Homer’s day couldn’t get any better, after dropping some potato chip crumbs on the carpet, Homer looks down and sees a shiny penny staring up at him. First, he was on Homer’s album cover, now he’s on the penny, this Honest Abe fellow just might be Homer’s lucky charm. I love the animation of Homer’s slow smile as he triumphantly raises the penny up in the air.

Homer: Could it be? It is! I found….a PENNY!

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Homer: Could this be the best day of my life?  (Homer recalls his wedding day, then a time in which he gleefully ran around a spraying crashed beer truck in swim trunks.) Looks like we have a new champion!

While Homer’s day is going rather swimmingly, things aren’t looking so hot for the rest of his family. The church doors are frozen solid, leaving Marge, the kids, and the rest of the church goers trapped inside.

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Lisa: [In church] Our Father, Who art in Heaven…
Bart: Lisa, this is neither the time nor the place!

After a long, cold, miserable day, Marge and the kids, shivering and sniffling, finally return home where they are greeted at the door by a smiling Homer, who, after having the best day of his life, has an announcement he’d like to make.

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Homer: Marge. I’m never going to church again.
Marge: Homer, are you really giving up your faith?
Homer: No. (puts his hand on her shoulder) No, no, no, no, no. (pause) Well, yes.

Later that night, Marge tries her best to ignore Homer’s advances while she prays for his soul.

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Homer: Come to bed, Marge. Marge…come to bed, Marge. It’s good for what ails ya. I can wait all night.

9f01-054   How can Marge possibly resist this?

But Homer can hardly wait all night. In fact he falls into a deep sleep just seconds later, which leads us in to the second wonderful dream sequence of this episode in which God himself comes down from the heavens to have a talk with Homer.

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Homer: (to God) I’m not a bad guy! I work hard, and I love my kids. So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I’m going to hell?
God: Hmm. You got a point there.

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I love the shot of Marge looking across the bed at a drooling Homer as he waves goodbye to God in his dream.

The next day, Homer, feeling reaffirmed by his dream, is at peace with his decision to give up his faith.

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Homer: Peace be with you my animal friends….
Homer: (in the shower) Guys, please, could you give me 5 minutes!

Marge invites Reverend Lovejoy over for diner with hopes that he can convince Homer to come back to the flock. However, Homer informs the Reverend about his dream, and that he has taken it as a sign from God himself that he is doing the right thing.

I knew it was special because I usually dream about naked…..Marge.”~ Homer, on his dream encounter with God.

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Marge: Homer, this is all crazy! Tell him he’s crazy!
Reverend Lovejoy: Homer, I’d like you to remember Matthew 7:26. “The foolish man who built his house upon the sand.”
Homer: [pointing a finger] And you remember [thinks] Matthew….21:17.
Reverend Lovejoy [confused] “And he left them and went out of the city, into Bethany, and he lodged there?”
Homer: Yeah. Think about it.

But Marge and Reverend Lovejoy aren’t the only ones in town troubled by Homer’s turn to heretic views. The Flanders flock next door try to win Homer back through song.

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Flanders family: God said to Noah, there’s gonna be a floody, floody! The rain came down, it started to get muddy muddy!(Homer slams the door on them. But the Flanders family won’t give up that easily)

Flanders family (later that day, in their car):  Get those animals out on the arky arky!
Homer: Leave me alone.
Rod Flanders: Dad, the heathen’s getting away!
Ned: I see him, son!

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Homer guns it on the accelerator to avoid the Flanderses, resulting in a hilariously ridiculous car chase through the streets of Springfield. Music similar to that of the Mission: Impossible theme plays as Ned puts his foot down and chases Homer’s car. Homer drives through a railroad crossing just as a train is coming, but Flanders launches his vehicle through an open boxcar. 

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A furious Homer swerves right and drives off pier and lands his car onto a garbage barge that just departed, forcing Ned to rapidly slam the brakes and give up pursuit.  I absolutely love the preposterous image of Homer’s car flying through the air. 

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Homer gloats as the Flanders family watches him float away.

Homer: Tough break, Ned! Heh Heh Heh! Where are we going?
Barge Crewman: Garbage Island.

Soon, Sunday has arrived once again. And Marge tries one last time to convince Homer to attend church with the rest of his family. Unfortunately her argument isn’t compelling enough to pull Homer away from  a “Make your own ladder” infomercial he’s watching on TV.

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Marge: Homer, please don’t make me choose between my man and my God, because you just can’t win.
Homer: There you go again, always taking someone else’s side. Flanders, the water department, God.

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Marge: I have a responsibility to raise these children right. Unless you change, I’ll have to tell them their father is… well, wicked.
Homer: [to Lisa and Bart] Kids, let me tell you about another so-called “wicked” guy. He had long hair, and some wild ideas, and he didn’t always do what other people thought was right. And that man’s name was…
[thinks]
Homer: I forget. But the point is…
[thinks]
Homer: I forget that, too.
[to Marge]
Homer: Marge, you know who I’m talking about! He used to drive that blue car.

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While the family attend church without him, Homer goes to the Kwik-E-Mart where he learns about Apu’s religious beliefs.

Homer: No offense Apu, but when they were handing out religions, you must have been out taking a whiz.

If you’re keeping count at home, that’s the third time Homer has said “whiz” in this episode.

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Homer: Boy, everyone is stupid, except me. (A few moments later he falls asleep and the house catches fire)

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I love the contrast of the Church covered in ice and snow, while Homer’s house is burning in flames.

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Apu and the rest of the volunteer fire department race to the scene of the fire. Unfortunately, some baby ducks get in the way.

Apu: You baby ducks are really trying my patience. But you’re so cute.

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Homer (singing): When the fire starts to burn, There’s a lesson you must learn. Something something, then you’ll see: You’ll avoid catastrophe! 
Homer (realizing he’s forgot the lyrics): D’oh!

Homer collapses from the smoke as the house goes up in flames. Luckily for him, Ned Flanders arrives just in time. And that brings us to the funniest scene of the entire episode, and arguably of the entire series.

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Unable to escape through the front door, Flanders drags Homer’s unconscious body to the upstairs bedroom. There, Ned tosses a mattress out the window to the ground below to provide a soft landing for Homer. After praying to God to gently guide Homer’s body safely down to the mattress, Flanders pushes Homer out the window only to watch his body spring off the mattress and through the living room window, back into the burning house. Comedy gold. Everything in this scene, including the off model animation, works perfectly.

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Homer: Flanders, you saved me! Why?
Ned: Heck! You would have done the same for me.
(Homer imagines the Flanders residence aflame. Ned screams out the window while Homer relaxes in his hammock)
Ned: Help! Help!
Homer: He he he he he.
(Homer returns to reality)
Homer: That’s right, old friend.

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Homer: You know, I have a feeling there’s a lesson here.
Marge: Yes, the lesson is-
Homer: No don’t tell me! I’ll get it. The Lord is vengeful. Oh, spiteful one! Show me who to smite, and they shall be smoten!

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Homer thanks Apu (Hindu), Krusty (Jewish), and Flanders (Christian) for saving his life. Out of gratitude, he informs Reverend Lovejoy that he’ll be at Church next Sunday front row center. Fast forward to the following Sunday and Homer is indeed sitting front row center, snoring loudly. Homer drifts off to dream land once more, thus bringing the episode full circle.

Not only is this episode hilarious from beginning to end, but it’s also a perfectly structured story. It begins and ends with Homer in dreamland. In the beginning, Homer’s first dream takes place with him enjoying his final moments in the womb just before he is to be born, while in his final dream, Homer is in heaven finding out when his life will end and asking God what is the meaning of life.

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Homer: God, what’s the meaning of life?
God: Homer, I can’t tell you that. You’ll find out when you die.
Homer: Oh, I can’t wait that long.
God: You can’t wait six months?
Homer: (pouting) No! Tell me now!
God: Oh, all right. The meaning of life is….

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VERDICT

I could go on and on and on forever and ever about how hilarious Homer The Heretic was. It is EASILY the funniest episode up to this point in the series. And it will be hard to beat moving forward. It’s also perhaps the most quotable episode of all time. So many great lines and scenes.

Both episodes involved Flanders & Homer saving the other. Homer saves Ned from financial ruin in “When Flanders Failed”, while Ned returns the favor in “Homer The Heretic” when he saves Homer’s life by pulling him out of the fire. Although, seeing as how Homer was partially responsible for Ned’s financial problems, while Ned had nothing to do with Homer’s house catching fire, the two deeds are not exactly equally virtuous. Homer did a good deed for Ned out of guilt from not telling his friends and co-workers about Ned’s store when he needed customers the most, while Flanders pulled Homer out of the fire simply because it was the right thing to do. So by no means is Homer out of the fire entirely. He still owes Flanders big time. Maybe he can start by returning that lawnmower.

“Homer The Heretic” gets the win. “When Flanders Failed” is a perfectly cromulent episode, but “Homer The Heretic” is a comedic masterpiece.

Could “Homer The Heretic” be the best episode of all time? Looks like we have a new champion!

(or at least a strong front runner going forward)

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For up to date tournament results, click here: The Best Episode Thingy There Ever Was

THE BEST EPISODE THINGY THERE EVER WAS ROUND 1: Stark Raving Dad VS. Separate Vocations

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With the first two seasons behind us for this round, it’s on to seasons 3 and 4. First up, “Stark Raving Dad” & “Separate Vocations”. Two episodes in which the sibling rivalry between Bart and Lisa takes center stage, and we learn that maybe, just maybe, Bart’s not such a bratty brother after all.

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  • Episode: Stark Raving Dad
  • Writers: Al Jean & Mike Reiss
  • Aired: September 19, 1991

Leon: Hi. I’m Michael Jackson, from the Jacksons.
Homer: I’m Homer Simpson, from the Simpsons.

In “Stark Raving Dad”, Homer is committed to a mental institution, where he meets up with an overweight white man named Leon who thinks he is Michael Jackson.

Homer’s journey to the nut house begins when Bart leaves his lucky red cap in a load of washed white shirts, turning all of Homer’s whites pink. Why you little….

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Homer has no choice but to wear a pink shirt to work. In a crowd of white collar shirts, Homer sticks out like a sore thumb. For wearing a pink shirt, Mr.Burns comes to the conclusion that Homer must be insane.

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After he is shown a rorschach test that looks like Bart, Homer bursts into a fit of rage! The doctors declare Homer insane and have him and his pink shirt shipped off to the loony bin.

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Meanwhile, back home it’s little Lisa’s birthday and she has a case of the birthday blues.

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I had a cat named snowball,
she died, she died
mom said she was sleeping-
she lied, she lied!
Why, oh why is my cat dead?
Couldn’t that chrysler have hit me instead.
-Lisa Simpson

 Stark_Raving_Dad_44 Marge gets the call that her Homie has been institutionalized. While on hold, she’s forced to listen to a muzak version of “Crazy” by Patsy Cline.

Amid all the commotion involving Homer being sent to an insane asylum, everyone has forgotten about Lisa’s birthday. With only Maggie around for company, a depressed Lisa sits at the kitchen table in her party hat singing Happy Birthday to herself and quietly sobbing.

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While Lisa sings Happy Birthday to herself back home, across town Leon sings Homer to sleep at the Mental Institution.

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Marge: Doctor, if you just talk to him for five minutes without mentioning our son Bart, you’d see how sane he is.
Doctor: You mean there really is a  Bart?! Good Lord!

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After Marge’s talk with the doc, Homer is released and certified NOT INSANE.

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Homer phones the house and informs Bart that he’s coming back home and that he’s bringing Michael Jackson with him. At first, Bart doesn’t believe him but after talking to “Michael” he becomes convinced that he really is Michael Jackson.

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It doesn’t take long for Bart to blab to everyone in town that Michael Jackson is coming to his house.  Word gets around and soon everyone in town is flocking to 42 Evergreen Terrace to catch a glimpse of the King Of Pop. Even Apu closes the Kwik-E-Mart for the first time ever. Unfortunately for Apu and all the screaming teens, the man they all came to see is clearly not Michael Jackson.

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Everyone in town is angry at Bart for not delivering the real Michael Jackson, but one member of the angry mob is mad at him for a different reason. Lisa doesn’t care about the phony King of Pop, all she cares about is that her only sibling didn’t even bother to remember her birthday.

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The disappointed crowd disperses, leaving Bart all alone on the front lawn, feeling like a fool. Perhaps now he knows how his sister felt sitting all alone at the table on her birthday. Notice the similarities in the top down camera angles used in both scenes.

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That night, Lisa writes a letter to Bart saying that she has disowned him as her brother. Leon, or “Michael”, or whoever he is, overhears her and approaches Bart and tries to convince him to write a song for his sister to make up for forgetting her Birthday. At first, Bart dismisses Leon as a fraud and wants nothing to do with the man who made him look foolish in front of everyone. But once they get past that, they get down to some song writing. First, Leon tells Bart to observe his sister and write what he feels, his true feelings for his sister. Lisa is fully aware she is being watched, but it is too depressed to do anything about it.

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Bart’s first draft isn’t exactly what Leon, or “Michael”, had in mind.

Lisa, her teeth are big and green!
Lisa, she smells like gasoline!
Lisa, ta-ra-ra Lisa!
She is my sista’, her birthday I mista’.
-Bart Simpson

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 The next morning Bart grabs hold of Lisa’s nose, and she wakes up snorting and disoriented to find Bart and Leon in her room. Bart plays an upended wastebasket like the bongos while Leon plays the piano. Not sure how they got the piano up the stairs and into Lisa’s room without her hearing. I guess she’s a really really deep sleeper. Anyhoo, they perform a song Bart wrote just for her.

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Homer, trying to sleep, covers his ears with his pillow. I think we all felt like doing that the first time we heard this sappy repetitive song. While I may not have loved the tune, I do love Lisa’s “End Apartheid Now” poster on her wall.

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Leon: I wish you love and good will, I wish you peace and joy
Bart: I wish you better than your heart desires
Leon: And your first kiss from a boy.
Leon/Bart: Lisa, it’s your birthday. Happy birthday, Lisa. Lisa, it’s your birthday. Happy birthday, Lisa
Bart: Yeah!

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Needless to say, Lisa loved the song. Me, not so much. But hey, it’s her birthday not mine. Personally I preferred Bart’s earlier version. But I suppose that wouldn’t have been a very thoughtful gift.

Not only did I not care for the song Leon wrote, I really didn’t care for the way Leon’s character was designed. He’s basically just a bald Barney Gumble. Very little thought seems to have gone into the look of his character. I will however, give props to Michael Jackson for playing an actual character instead of just an exaggerated version of himself. This may be the only television show Michael Jackson has ever appeared on, and so for everyone involved to resist the temptation of just having an animated version of Michael Jackson visit Springfield and sing his latest hit, which is the route they usually take with every musical guest star, they deserve some props for that.

In the earlier seasons, everyone involved with the show clearly had enough faith in the quality of the product they were producing, that they didn’t need to shove it in our face that Michael Jackson was going to be on the show. Nowadays it reeks of desperation every time Lady Gaga or Katey Perry pop in for a meaningless, shameless plug of whatever it is they’re doing at that time. Much like Dustin Hoffman in “Lisa’s Substitute”, Jackson doesn’t even use his real name in the credits. The character Jackson plays is not nearly as interesting or effective as Dustin Hoffman’s Mr.Bergstrom, but I give them points for creativity. So while I didn’t much care for Leon’s look, I did like the concept they were going for and appreciated them not taking the obvious route. Just wish the same kind of thought had been put into Leon’s overall look.

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“Hey, we’re just like the Waltons. We’re praying for an end to the depression too.” -Bart, to George Bush’s speech that America needs to be more like the Waltons than the Simpsons

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  • Separate_Vocations_85Episode: Separate Vocations
  • Writer: George Meyer
  • Aired: February 27, 1992

Skinner: I have never seen a good student take such a tumble. Lisa, what are you rebelling against?

Lisa: Whaddya got?

Lisa, channeling her inner Marlon Brando in “Separate Vocations.”

Mrs.Krabappel informs her class that she has a big surprise for them. Bart, dreaming of what it could be, imagines Edna peeling off her skin to reveal that she is in fact a space alien underneath. Unfortunately for Bart, Edna is not about to reveal to the world her extra terrestrial origins, but rather that the class will be taking a surprise test. A Career Aptitude Normalization Test, or CANT, to be precise.

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“Some of you may discover a wonderful vocation you’d never even imagined. Others may find out life isn’t fair, in spite of your Masters from Bryn Mawr, you might end up a glorified babysitter to a bunch of dead-eyed fourth graders while your husband runs naked on a beach with your marriage counselor.”~Edna Krabappel.

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Bart and Lisa are both disappointed with the results of their career aptitude tests. Lisa is in full crisis mode after the test has predicted that her future career will be “homemaker”, while Bart is puzzled to find out he will become a Police Officer. A defiant Lisa feels she is destined to be much more than just a happy homemaker, while Bart always envisioned himself being on the wrong side of the law as a no good drifter. “Coooool.”

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“Well I AM going to be a famous Jazz musician. I’ve got it all figured out. I’ll be unappreciated in my own country, but my gloomy blues stylings will electrify the french. I’ll avoid drug abuse, but I do plan to have several torrid love affairs. And I may or may not die young.” ~Lisa

Unfortunately for Lisa, her dreams of playing the saxophone may go unfulfilled seeing as how she has her fathers stubby fingers.

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Things are going a little better for Bart. Ed and Lou take Bart for a ride-along to show him what a day in the life of a Springfield Police Officer is like.

“Well, it’s about time”~The old lady next door, watching Bart be put in the back of the police car.

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Bart is expecting police chases and gun fire, but Ed and Lou inform him that it’s not like it is in the movies.

“They only come out at night.” ~Lou, after seeing Sideshow Mel rollerskating down the sidewalk with his dog.

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Right on cue, fresh from another robbery of the Kwik-E-Mart in which he appears to have stolen the entire cash register and a box of lottery tickets, Snake speeds past the Bart and the cops in his trusty Little Bandit. Soon Ed, Lou, and Bart are in hot pursuit.

Eddie: We’re in pursuit of a speeding individual, driving a red….car. License number Eggplant, Xerxes, Crybaby, Overbite, Narwhal.

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It’s safe to say, that after this experience, Bart is going to like being a cop after all. Lisa, however, is not taking to the idea of being a homemaker nearly as well.

“Dear log: This will be my last entry, for you were a journal of my hopes and dreams. And now, I have none.” ~Lisa, writing in her journal for the last time.

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The next morning, a dejected Lisa comes down for breakfast, grumbling to herself. Marge attempts to convince her that being a homemaker can be a very creative career by pointing proudly to the smiley faces she has created on Bart and Homer’s plates using bacon, eggs and toast.

Lisa: What’s the point? They’ll never notice.
Marge: You’d be surprised.

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Naturally, Homer and Bart storm to the table and obliviously scarf down their food without so much as a word to Marge. So deep in denial is Marge, that she only allows herself the smallest murmur of disappointment. Even though Lisa accurately predicted Bart and Homer’s reaction, she is the one who is truly aghast at the thanklessness of housework.

But it’s not all bacon and eggs smiley faces for Marge, she also bakes a cake. Unfortunately she finds her freshly baked cake half eaten on the counter. She initially blames the dog, that is until Detective Bart enters the crime scene and shows her the evidence exposing the real culprit.

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Marge: You know your father wanted to be a policeman for a little while, but they said he was too heavy.
Homer: No, the Army said I was too heavy. The police said I was too dumb.

While Bart is encouraged by his parents to follow through on his potential as a policeman, Lisa is becoming more and more discouraged with life both at home and at school. Soon Lisa’s depression turns to rebellion. It all begins with a visit to the “bad girls” restroom at school.

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I like how the bad girls at school wear skull earrings that look exactly like the skull chain Snake has hanging in his car. Perhaps representing a glimpse into the girls’ future, as well as Lisa’s, if they take the wrong path.

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Without any motivation to do her best, Lisa quits playing her saxophone and doing her schoolwork.

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Miss. Hoover: Now sprinkle your sparkles on your paste. Lisa, you’re not sprinkling your sparkles.
Lisa: Shove it.

Love it!

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Skinner: I have never seen a good student take such a tumble. Lisa, what are you rebelling against?
Lisa: Whaddya got?

That shot of Lisa is one of my all time favorite images in the history of the show. I had to post it twice.

While Lisa is called into Skinner’s office for her recent bad behavior, Bart is called into Skinner’s office for his recent good behavior. Skinner assigns him the job of Hall Monitor.

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Bart and Skinner form something of a dynamic duo, ushering in an era of law and order never before seen in Springfield Elementary. To show his appreciation to Bart, Skinner offers Bart any item of his choosing from the room where all the confiscated material ever collected in Springfield Elementary’s history is held. I myself would have chosen the plastic derriere but Bart opts for a crossbow.

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As Bart’s love for authority grows, Lisa sinks further and further into her sulky, rebellious attitude. While in detention for another sarcastic remark at Miss Hoover’s expense, it dawns on Lisa that her teacher wouldn’t be so smart if she didn’t have the answer key in her precious “Teacher’s Edition”, so Lisa steals every copy of the “Teachers Edition” in Springfield Elementary and hides them in her locker. I’m not sure if it’s a Springfield thing, or an American thing, but growing up in Canada we never had lockers in Elementary school.

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With the entire teaching staff in full panic mode, Skinner enlists the help of his trusty Hall Monitor to help find the culprit. One by one, Bart and Skinner search every locker in school to the tune of “Axel F” from Beverly Hills Cop. Ultimately, Bart finds the textbooks in Lisa’s locker.

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Realizing his sister is the culprit, and that she could be expelled for what she did, Bart takes the blame.

Lisa: Bart, why did you take the blame?
Bart: Because I didn’t want you to wreck your life. You got the brains and the talent to go as far as you want. And when you do, I’ll be right there to borrow money.
Lisa: (touched) Oh, Bart.

Bart mocks “Principal Sucker” for not being able to figure out that the theft of the textbooks was an inside job the whole time. Bart is whisked away by the new Hall Monitor, Milhouse. “Let’s go, Simpson.”

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As Bart serves his time in detention, Lisa keeps him company by playing her saxophone outside his classroom.

“Sounding good, Lis!” Bart, encouraging his sister.

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VERDICT

Both episodes have very similar endings. In one, Bart surprises his sister with a birthday ballad he wrote just for her on her special day, while in the other it is Bart’s surprisingly selfless act that saves his sister from potential expulsion. I prefer the latter ending for several reasons. One, Lisa’s saxophone playing at the end of “Separate Vocations” is a far better musical number to go out on than the somewhat sappy song Bart and Leon sung to her at the end of “Stark Raving Dad”. But more importantly, the latter ending is far more effective. A birthday song is all well and good, but Bart potentially sacrificing his own future for Lisa’s is a far greater gesture.

And to think both of these episodes aired at a time when then President George Bush criticized the show for not setting a good example of family values, and that Bart Simpson was a poor role model for children. As far as I’m concerned Bart’s about as good a role model as you could ask for in both of these episodes. But only one can move on and that’s “Separate Vocations.”

And if there was ever any doubt as to which episode should come out victorious, the parody of “The Wild One” with Lisa in Marlon Brando’s role pretty much sealed the deal for Separate Vocations.

In closing, Lisa has a message to any episode that wants to challenge “Separate Vocations” in the next round…

Separate_Vocations_85…”Whaddya got?”

For up to date tournament results, click here: The Best Episode Thingy There Ever Was

THE BEST EPISODE THINGY THERE EVER WAS Round 1 Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire VS Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

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“But he’s a loser. He’s pathetic. He’s… a Simpson”~ Homer, on Santa’s Little Helper

“His life was an unbridled success… until he found out he was a Simpson.” ~ Lisa, on Herb

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  • 7G08_001Episode: Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire
  • Aired: December 17, 1989
  • Written by: Mimi Pond

You only get one chance to make a first impression, so you better make it count. This was the first full-length episode of The Simpsons ever broadcast on television. Although “Some Enchanted Evening”, the first episode ever produced, was originally intended to air before this Christmas Special, I think it’s a blessing in disguise that it didn’t. “Some Enchanted Evening” was a rather lackluster episode, whereas “Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire” has become something of a Christmas Tradition that has left a lasting impression on viewers.

Springfield Elementary is hosting its “Annual Christmas Pagent” (I think Bart must have been in charge of putting the letters on the sign), and all the parents are in attendance including Homer and Marge along with Maggie in her memorable star shaped snow suit. Ah, Christmas Concerts. So many memories.  They misspelled Pageant on the sign. I have a feeling if Superintendent Chalmers were to see that, Skinner would tell him it was the children’s idea. It’s always the children’s fault isn’t it Seymour. Yes. Yes it is.

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Speaking of first impressions, boy does Lisa make quite the first impression on us. Apparently her dress is made out of Ralph Wiggum’s hair. This is definitely a bit out of character for Lisa, but it’s the first episode so let’s cut them some slack.  I’m assuming she’s wearing a yellow bodysuit, or it’s an animation mistake. Either that or she’s channeling her inner Sharon Stone.

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Speaking of Ralph, here he is. I forgot all about Ralph appearing in this episode. I was under the impression that he didn’t come along until Season 2 but here he is dressed as Hotei Oshō, one of the many Santa’s from around the world.

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Bart and his classmates eventually take the stage to sing Jingle Bells. Bart sings his own rendition of  the song, which involves Batman, Robin, The Joker, and a busted Batmobile with one bad wheel. That Bart, what a rebel. As Ralph might say, that is so 1991. Or in this case, 1989.

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I can remember being Bart’s age and the weeks of preparation that went into these Christmas concerts where you would learn and practice all the songs in music class all throughout December leading up to the big day. Then on the day of the concert, you’d have to wear your nicest clothes. And while waiting backstage behind the curtains or doors you’d peak out to see where your parents were sitting. Little did we know just how miserable they probably were.

I also recall that on one Christmas, either 1989 or 90, I received “The Simpsons XMas Book” as a gift from my sister. The book told the story of this very episode. And thus began my lifelong obsession with the Simpsons.

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After the concert mercifully comes to an end, the family head back home. Bart & Lisa are writing their lists for Santa, while Marge writes letters to relatives and Homer tries to untangle the christmas lights. All of these little details ring very true.

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Marge:(writing) Dear Friends of the Simpson Family, We had some sadness and some gladness this year. First the sadness: our little cat Snowball was unexpectedly run over and went to Kitty Heaven. But we bought a new little cat, Snowball II, so I guess life goes on. Speaking of life going on, Grampa is still with us, feisty as ever. Maggie is walking by herself, Lisa got straight A’s and Bart… well, we love Bart.

7g08_030 “GET THAT CAT OUTTA THE WAY!”

There’s a great exchange here between Homer and the gruesome twosome…

Homer: [answering the phone] Hello?
Patty: Is Marge there?
Homer: Who is this?
Patty: Marge, please?
Homer: This is her sister, isn’t it?
Patty: May I please speak to Marge?
Homer: Whom shall I ask is calling?
Patty: Marge, please.
Homer: (angrily hands the phone to Marge): It’s your sister.

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After untangling all the lights, Homer heads out with the kids to hook up the rooftop Christmas display.  Needless to say Homer does a pretty craptacular job, especially in comparison to the winter wonderland next door that is Ned Flanders house. I was shocked to see that Flanders didn’t have “Merry Christmas” displayed on his roof, but rather “Merry XMAS”. It’s very unlike Flanders to take the Christ out of Christmas, but since this is his first appearance on the show it’s possible the religious elements of his character had not yet been developed. Or maybe living next to Homer Simpson all these years caused Ned to go mad and become a religious fundamentalist. Either way, take it in folks, it’s the only time you’ll ever see it: a secular Ned Flanders.

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This won’t be the last time in this episode that Homer feel’s insecure about his family’s status in comparison to Ned’s. Later, after Homer’s Xmas bonus is cancelled and the family is left on a shoestring budget, Homer and Ned bump into each other in the mall parking lot leading to a mix up involving who’s gifts belong to whom. The problem is easily rectified once they realize all the gifts are Ned’s except for one brown paper bag that belongs to Homer.

7g08_024 (1) “Here’s your pork chop, Mr.Simpson.” ~Rod Flanders, handing Homer back his squeak toy intended for dogs that he’s purchased as a gift for Maggie. If only the Simpson family had a real dog. Oh well.

Things get so bad, Homer can’t afford a Christmas tree so he has to sneak onto private property and cut one down himself. I love the animation of a shadowy Homer prowling in the moonlight stealing a tree. All this scene was missing was one of Homer’s patented nonsensical songs he sometimes sings to himself. Something along the lines of…

Stealing, stealing, stealing a tree for free. Something, something, something, insurance fraud today.

Patty:Is that a birdhouse?
Homer: That’s an ornament.

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To make a little extra cash around the holidays, Homer gets a job as a mall Santa.

Santa Homer: What’s your name, Bart-ner… er… little partner?
Bart: I’m Bart Simpson. Who the hell are you?
Santa Homer:(angry and annoyed) I’m Jolly ol’ Saint Nick.

This marks the first utterance of Bart’s now famous line, “I’m Bart Simpson. Who the hell are you?”

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After Homer pulls Bart aside into his Santa workshop, he informs his son about the family’s financial difficulties. And so a desperate Homer takes his son to the dog track with a blonde Barney Gumble, in hopes of a Christmas miracle. They put all of Homer’s minuscule mall Santa check on a dog named “Santa’s Little Helper”, believing that just maybe it’s a sign of good luck.

“This could be the miracle that saves the Simpsons’ Christmas. If TV has taught me anything, it’s that miracles always happen to poor kids at Christmas. It happened to Tiny Tim, it happened to Charlie Brown, it happened to the Smurfs, and it’s going to happen to us!” ~ Bart

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Unfortunately, Santa’s Little Helper does not win the race. In fact, he barely finishes the race. Later that night, as Homer and Bart are spending Christmas Eve walking through the parking lot looking for any potential winning tickets left on the ground, Santa’s Little Helper comes running towards them and leaps into Homer’s arms.

Bart: Dad, can we keep him?
Homer: But he’s a loser. He’s pathetic. He’s… (Santa’s Little Helper licks his face)…a Simpson.

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As they head back home, a dejected Homer is dreading having to tell Marge that his Christmas bonus was cancelled and how the holidays are ruined. But the family is too overjoyed over the arrival of Santa’s Little Helper to care about any money problems.

Marge: This is the best gift of all, Homer.
Homer: (surprised) It is?
Marge: Yes, something to share our love – and frighten prowlers.
Bart: And if he runs away, he’ll be easy to catch.

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  • 7f16_017Episode: Oh Brother, Wher Art Thou?
  • Aired: February 21, 1991
  • Written by: Jeff Martin

As the car window comes down, Homer comes face to face with his long lost half-brother Herb. On my list of the best non-recurring characters voiced by a guest celebrity, Danny DeVito’s guest role as Herbert Powell is second only to Dustin Hoffman’s role as Mr.Bergstrom in “Lisa’s Substitute”. It’s not so much Herb that I’m crazy for, but more just the job DeVito does. Much like with Dustin Hoffman, it’s nice to see a celebrity actually playing a character as opposed to an exaggerated version of themselves where they shamelessly promote whatever project they’re working on.

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After seeing the latest McBain movie, Grampa suffers mild chest pains while complaining to the manager.Believing he’s just had a brush with death, Grampa confesses a long held secret to Homer: he has a half-brother. As the story goes, a few years before meeting Homer’s mother, Grampa hooked up with a prostitute at a carnival and there was an unplanned pregnancy. They had a son, but gave him up to the Shelbyville Orphanage. I love how in the flashback, baby Homer has the same hairstyle as adult Homer. Ah, the circle of the life.

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So Homer heads to the Shelbyville Orphanage to see if he can locate where his half-brother is. There he meets the Director of the Shelbyville Orphanage who looks suspiciously like Homer’s family physician Dr.Hibbert. He tells Homer that his half-brother was adopted by a Mr. and Mrs. Powell and they named him Herb. Unfortunately Homer is unable to provide any useful information in return that would assist the Director, who is also searching for his long lost half-brother. Homer wants to know where he can find Herb, but the Director tells him that the release of such information is not allowed. That leads to this excellent exchange…

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Director: Well, I– I do sympathize with your situation, Mr. Simpson. After all your brother could be anywhere. Even DETROIT.
Homer: I know he could be anywhere, that’s why I want you to narrow it down for me! Please!
Director: You know, Mr.Simpson, if you ask me, the city of brotherly love is not Philadelphia. It is….DETROIT.
Homer: Well, if you ask me, changing the subject makes you the most worthless, heartless excuse for a human being I ever–
Director: Read between the lines, you fool!
Homer: Oh! Oh, I get it! Okay. Here’s twenty bucks. Now will you please tell me where my brother lives?
Director: Mr. Simpson, I don’t want your–
Homer: Just take it and tell me!
Director: Detroit. He lives in Detroit.
Homer: Fine. Thank you. Sheesh.

Back home, Homer flips through a Michigan state phone book, phoning every Powell listed in Detroit. On his last try, Homer hits the jackpot. Even more than he realizes. He invites Herb to visit him in Springfield, but Herb suggests that Homer come to Detroit.

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Holy moly the bastard’s rich!~ Homer

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Turns out, Uncie Herb, as the kids call him, is a bit of a big shot in the motor city where he is the CEO of Powell Motors. Herb offers Homer any car on the lot for him and his family to take home on the house. Unfortunately they don’t have any cars taht are to Homer’s liking. Herb realizes the reason business is down is because they’ve been telling customers what they want instead of giving them what they actually want. It’s time to start listening to all the Homer Simpson’s of the world.

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So Herb does what any sensible CEO of a major car company would do, he allows a man with minimal intellect and very little knowledge about cars to design a car for all the Homer Simpsons of the world. What could possibly go wrong?

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Homer gives the designers a list of demands for what must be included in his car, which includes bubble domes, fins and several horns that play “La Cucaracha”. When “The Homer” is unveiled, it is a hideous green eyesore that leaves everyone’s jaws on the floor except of course for Homer, who’s grinning from ear to ear behind the wheel of his automobile atrocity. This episode always hit close to home for me when I was a kid. In the 80’s and early 90’s, my father was still driving a long green Oldsmobile from the 1970’s. And much like Homer, my Dad didn’t care what other people thought about his car. He loved that green machine.

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“I’M RUINED!” ~Herb.

Luckily for me, the worst that ever came out of my Dad’s big green machine was the occasional embarrassing drop off at School. Herb, on the other hand, loses his career, his job, his reputation, and his sanity, all thanks to his half-brother Homer’s hideous car.

“His life was an unbridled success… until he found out he was a Simpson.” -Lisa

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“I have no Brother!” ~Herb, to Homer, just before boarding a bus out of town.

Just as Herb leaves town, Grampa, fresh from being released from the Hospital, arrives to see his long lost son. A dejected Homer tells Grampa to get in the car, and that he’ll explain on the way home. Rather than hear about how his son blew it, Grampa takes a taxi home, making him the second relative to abandon Homer in under a minute. Later that night, as the Simpson family make the long drive back home to Springfield, at least one family member is standing by Homer and his misfit car…

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Bart: Hey, Dad. I thought your car was pretty cool.
Homer: Thanks boy. I was waiting for someone to say that.

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VERDICT 

Two strong episodes. Classics really. “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” is probably the funnier of the two, but “Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire” is the more integral of the two in terms of Simpsons history. Maybe it’s the Eggnog talking, or just because it’s that time of year, but if I could only ever watch one again for the rest of my life I’d go with “Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire.” Besides, we’ll see Herb Powell again in a later episode entitled “Brother Can You Spare Two Dimes”, which I feel is the superior of the two Herb episodes.

While there may be two Herb episodes, there can only be one first episode ever, and that’s what makes “Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire” both unique, and the winner of this match. I consider “Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire” to be more than worthy of being included alongside Tiny Tim and Charlie Brown as a classic Christmas special.

I’ve now watched all of Seasons 1 & 2, and am looking forward to the next division featuring Seasons 3 & 4, which, if memory serves me correctly, is where things start to get really, really, really…good.  Until then….

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MERRIE X-MAS!

For up to date tournament results, click here: Best Episode Thingy There Ever Was

THE BEST EPISODE THINGY THERE EVER WAS ROUND 1 The War Of The Simpsons VS. The Call Of The Simpsons

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In “The War of The Simpsons”, Marge and Homer attend a marriage retreat at Catfish Lake. While in “The Call Of The Simpsons”, the whole family takes a camping trip in their new RV.

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  • 7f20_004Episode: The War Of The Simpsons
  • Aired: May 2nd, 1991
  • Written by: John Swartzwelder

Homer: Never thrown a party? What about that big bash we had with all the champagne and musicians and holy men and everything?
Marge: That was our wedding!
Homer: Oh.

Despite Homer’s objections, Marge is hellbent on hosting a dinner party to improve the Simpson family’s standing in the neighborhood. Thankfully, unlike in “There’s No Disgrace Like Home”, which I just recently watched in an earlier match, where it was Marge who got hammered and humiliated Homer, here it is more accurately Homer who is the one that gets drunk and embarrasses Marge with his boorish behavior.

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Homer (Drunk): You stink! You and your whole lousy operation stinks! I quit!
Guy at party: Uh…gee, don’t….don’t quit.
Homer (drunk): All right, then.

When he’s not telling off complete strangers, Homer spends most of the evening leering at Maude Flanders cleavage and running around with a lampshade on his head. The next morning, or possibly afternoon, a hungover Homer wakes up on the floor to the sound of Marge vacuuming around his body.

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After he gets up, Marge asks him if he remembers his behavior from last night. Homer’s recollection of events is just slightly off. In Homer’s version of events, he was dapper, charming and sophisticated. The entire scene is a reference to the Algonquin Round Table. Homer and his guests look like they just lept off the cover of an issue of The New Yorker. But visions of Maude Flanders cleavage eventually jog Homer’s memory and paint a more realistic depiction of what transpired at the party.

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I’m not sure which animation job I love more. The design of sophisticated Homer or drunken Homer? I love his hair in both versions. With sophisticated Homer, they somehow managed to convey a pompadour hairstyle out of Homer’s two tiny strands, while with drunken Homer his hair appears sweaty and stringy, sticking out from under the lampshade on his head. Anyhoo, back to the episode.

Marge takes Homer out to the car and turns up the volume on the radio so that the kids don’t have to hear them fighting. That really hit close to home for me the first time I watched it. I was around Bart and Lisa’s age and I can remember my parents doing the same thing. Who do parents think they’re fooling anyway?

Bart: They’re fighting in the car again.
Lisa: That music always sends a chill down my spine.

As the music plays on the car radio, Marge orders Homer to have a chat with his son to explain his Daddy’s behavior at the party.

Marge: You scarred your son for life!
Homer: No I didn’t! Oh. You mean emotionally.

Once Homer’s hangover subsides, he sits down for a father-son heart-to-heart with Bart.

Homer: Now. You’re probably confused at why Daddy was behaving that way last night.
Bart: No. You were wasted.

Not to worry, Homer, your relationship with your son is still firmly in tact…

Bart: Dad. I have as much respect for you now as I ever will.
Homer: Awww.

The following day, at church, when Maude sees Homer coming she makes sure her blouse is fully buttoned. Meanwhile Marge ignores Homer’s attempts to make nice with her, then enrolls the two of them in a weekend retreat of marriage counseling hosted by the Lovejoy’s.

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While they’re away for the weekend, Grampa is in charge of watching the kids. What? Was the babysitter bandit not available? Good to see Marge thinking straight again. Even if Grampa’s not the best babysitter, he’s at the very least a  slight upgrade over a complete stranger like Ms.Botz.  Bart takes advantage of Grampa’s senile old ways by getting Grampa to buy him all the stuff Marge won’t allow him to have. Bart even smokes a cigar while directing traffic in the grocery store.

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Meanwhile, back at the retreat Homer and Marge aren’t the only couple having marital problems. There’s a hilarious exchange between a couple named John and Gloria, who I believe are based on George and Martha from Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolfe.

John: Here’s your crown your majesty!

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Luckily for John and Gloria, one look into the other’s eyes seems to wash away all the resentment they have for each other. Surprisingly, Ned and Maude Flanders are also in attendance. Could it be that the Flanders’ marriage isn’t quite as perfect as it appears to be?

Flanders: Sometimes Maude underlines passages in my Bible instead of hers.
Homer (muttering under his breath): Good thing they don’t keep guns in the house.

While Ned could only find one minor fault in Maude, Marge’s list of Homer’s faults is a bit longer.

Marge: He’s self centered. He forgets birthday’s, anniversaries, holidays- both religious and secular. He chews with his mouth open. He gambles. He hangs out at a seedy bar with bums and low-lifes. He blows his nose on the towels and puts them back. He drinks out of the carton. And when he goes to sleep he makes chewing noises. Oh, oh, and he scratches himself with his keys. I guess that’s it. Oh no, wait, he kicks me in his sleep and his toenails are too long and yellow.

By the time Marge is done listing all of the things that irritate her about Homer, everyone, including Marge herself, is exhausted. So they call it a night and will pick things up the next morning.

Best line of the episode goes to Reverend Lovejoy…

“Marge, as a trained marriage counselor, this is the first instance where I’ve ever told one partner that they were 100% right. It’s all his fault. I’m willing to put that on a certificate you can frame.” ~Reverend Lovejoy

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Meanwhile, back home, Bart throws a party of his own. Every kid, young and old, shows up. After the crowd of kids are gone, the house is completely trashed. Bart and Lisa watch with a guilty conscience as Grampa sobs to himself on the couch over what a failure of a babysitter he was.

At the retreat, Marge catches Homer waking up early the next morning to go fishing in an attempt to capture the legendary local giant fish known as ‘General Sherman’ .

Marge: You’re thinking about fishing even as I’m yelling at you, aren’t you?
Homer: Yes! Help me, Marge! Help me be a better guy!

Marge tells him to get back in bed, but Homer can’t sleep so he asks if it’s okay if he goes for a walk. As he walks along the docks, he notices a boy has left his fishing rod behind. When Homer picks up the rod, General Sherman tugs on the other end of the line and pulls Homer into a boat and out to sea.

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After a long battle with General Sherman that’s reminiscent of Moby Dick’s The Old Man And The Sea, Homer finally catches the big fish. As he rows his boat back to shore, he butchers the lyrics to Queen’s “We Are The Champions” while triumphantly singing “I Am The Champions”, failing to singularize the lyrics.

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After Marge catches him celebrating his big catch, she tells him that all that fish represents is Homer’s selfishness and that he cares more about that fish than her. But Homer, in a surprisingly selfless act, proves her wrong by throwing General Sherman back into the water. He throws away fame and fortune all for his wife’s love and trust.

“And you’re telling me our marriage is in trouble? Come here you…”~Homer

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Much like Homer, Bart and Lisa are also ashamed of their behavior and want to make it up to Grampa. Feeling sorry for what they put him through, the kids frantically clean the house from top to bottom, only to discover that Grampa was only pretending to cry, thus giving Grampa the last laugh.

7f20_0287f20_027 7f20_030 “I’ll never trust another old person again.”~Bart

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  • 7g09_017Episode: The Call Of The Simpsons
  • Aired: February 18, 1990
  • Written by: John Swartzwelder

I love The Simpsons. I love Bigfoot. In theory this episode should have been a big hit with someone like me. IN THEORY. In theory.

Frankly, my favorite part of this episode was the chalkboard gag. “I Will Not Draw Naked Ladies In Class.”

This episode marks the first apperances of Rod Flanders, Mayor Quimby, and recurring guest star Albert Brooks who plays The RV salesman Cowboy Bob.

After Homer finds out Ned Flanders just bought a fancy new RV, Homer has to have one of his own. So The Simpsons are off to the RV Dealership. Homer wants to buy “The Ultimate Behemoth RV: two-stories high with a fireplace, a full kitchen, four deep fryers–one for each part of the chicken,  a big-screen television set, and its own satellite dish.

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Of course, Homer can’t afford the Ultimate Behemoth, so he instead buys the cheapest thing in the lot, only to ultimately drive it off a cliff, leaving the family stranded in the woods. D’oh!

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So that explains what happened to Homer’s RV. But whatever became of Ned’s RV? As far as I know, we never saw it again.

Anyhoo, Bart and Homer are swept downstream causing them to lose their clothes for some reason. This marks the first time we see Homer naked. And thus, a Simpsons tradition is born.

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I can recall as a kid this episode marked the first time I had a genuine laugh-out-loud moment while watching the Simpsons. It’s the scene where Homer sets a trap in hopes of catching an animal for him and Bart to eat. Not sure how they could be so hungry that they would resort to eating like cavemen after only spending a few hours in the woods, but then again this is Homer we’re talking about. A few hours without food for Homer is like a few weeks to most people. Surprisingly, Homer’s trap actually manages to snare a rabbit. Success! Unfortunately, a hungry Homer has to watch as his own trap launches the rabbit into the air and over the horizon. D’oh! Homer’s head looks so sad from behind as he watches his dinner fly off into the sky.

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It’s just a little airborne! It’s still good, it’s still good!

Later, after falling in some mud, Homer is spotted in the woods and mistaken for bigfoot. Bigfoot mania sweeps through Springfield. A Bigfoot report even interrupts a Presidential address.

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Best line of the episode goes to Homer…

“Avenge me, son! Avenge my death!”~Homer, after being shot with tranquilizer darts by Bigfoot hunters.

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VERDICT

I paired these two episodes together because their titles were so similar. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end. I laughed out loud as a kid watching “The Call Of The Simpsons”, but now, not so much. It’s a fun episode, it’s just not particularly funny. The concept of Homer being mistaken for Bigfoot wears thin pretty quickly and that’s why I really didn’t have much to say about the episode. “The War Of The Simpsons” is a much stronger, richer episode, in which each member of the family, even Grampa, get’s some quality screen time. Not to mention it’s filled with a ton of memorable quotes and images.

“The War Of The Simpsons” wins this war hands down. Which means I’ll be leering at this episode for at least one more round.

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The Best Episode Thingy There Ever Was

THE BEST EPISODE THINGY THERE EVER WAS ROUND 1 The Crepes Of Wrath VS. Some Enchanted Evening

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Bart outwits some bandits in “The Crepes of Wrath” & “Some Enchanted Evening”

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  • 600px-The_Crepes_of_Wrath_(310)Episode: The Crepes Of Wrath
  • Aired: April, 15. 1990
  • Writers: George Meyer, Sam Simon, John Swartzwelder, & Jon Vitti

Woo-Hoo’s!

Great scene to open the show. Bart leaves his toys all over the floor causing Homer to slip on his skateboard and fall down the stairs. Homer’s fallen and he can’t get up. His back is out and now he’s stuck on the floor until someone comes home to help him up. Maggie, Snowball, and Santa’s Little Helper aren’t much help as they curl up beside, and on top of, Homer’s fallen body.

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But it’s not just at home that Bart is reeking havoc. At school, he cherry bombs the girls toilets. Unbeknownst to him, Principal Skinner’s mother Agnes, making her first appearance in the show, is using one of the stalls when the bomb goes off. 600px-The_Crepes_of_Wrath_(054) 600px-The_Crepes_of_Wrath_(055) 600px-The_Crepes_of_Wrath_(060) 600px-The_Crepes_of_Wrath_(062)

Needless to say, Skinner, or “Spanky” as his mother calls him (although I think his best nickname will always be “Skinny Boy”), is none too happy with Bart’s antics. He pays the Simpsons house a visit where he suggests Bart would be well served to take part in the school’s student exchange program. It would be an enriching learning experience for Bart, plus it would take him off both he and Homer’s hands for a while. The thought of being rid of Bart for a while causes Homer’s back to miraculously recover as he enthusiastically high fives Skinner

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Favorite line of the episode

Lisa: What do you know about France?
Bart: I know I’m going and you’re not.

So Bart is off to France, while Adil from Albania is coming to Springfield to live with The Simpsons. I like how the goodbye scenes with both families perfectly mirror one another. This mirroring continues throughout the episode. The entire episode is well structured.

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Upon arrival in France, Bart rides sidecar through the French countryside to Chateau Maison. On the way there, Bart and Hugolin cycle past several famous paintings. The only two I can name are “Wheatfield With Crows” by Vincent van Gogh, and The Water Lillies by Monet. I’d have to google the other two and that would be cheating.

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Unfortunately, Chateau Maison isn’t exactly as advertised in the brochure or on the wine bottle.

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Hugolin and Cesar, two ugly scary French stereotypes, treat Bart more like a slave than an exchange student. They steal his stuff, give his lucky red hat to a donkey, and force him to work long hours in the fields.

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Aside from the stereotypical French villains, this is where the episode really starts to shine. While everything is going wrong for Bart in France, everything is going splendidly for Adil in Springfield. As Adil and the Simpsons family sit down to a nice dinner, Hugolin and Cesar let Bart go hungry. I especially like the animation when Homer is tucking Adil into bed, while Bart is crying himself to sleep on the cold floor back in France.

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Perhaps the best example of the contrast between the two boys experience, is that while Homer and Adil enjoy some grape jelly donuts back in America, Bart is up to his knees in grapes of his own in France. I like how Bart’s lower extremities become semi-permanently stained from squishing grapes for most of the remainder of his time in France, which tells us that not only is Bart not being fed, he’s not allowed to wash either.

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While Chateau Maison was not at all what it was billed to be, neither is Adil. He’s actually a spy sent by his country to obtain blueprints of Springfield’s nuclear plant’s reactor. Homer acts as the perfect patsy as he unwittingly gives Adil all the access and information he needs.

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So in the end, Adil, Hugolin and Cesar all turn out to be crooks. The lesson is: never trust a foreigner. While Adil successfully obtains the nuclear information his country was seeking, Bart spies Hugolin and Cesar putting anti-freeze in the wine they sell. A reference to a real life wine scandal in 1985.

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While running an errand for Hugolin and Cesar, Bart’s fortunes take a turn for the better when he sees a police officer. Apparently, Hugolin and Cesar’s French must have rubbed off on Bart as he is miraculously able to speak fluent French to the policeman.

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Okay. Timeout. How exactly did Bart learn to speak French that well? C’mon man! A better way to go would have been to have Bart only be able to speak a FEW words in French, like say perhaps “Wine” and “Anti-Freeze”. Those are words he could have recognized and learned from reading the labels on the bottles. That, along with a crying barefoot boy in the rain, should have been more than enough to tip the Policeman off that something was very wrong. On the plus side, I do love the animation of the rain in this episode. I’ve said this before, but I love when it rains in the Simpsons because it happens so rarely.

I feel this episode would have been better served as a Lisa story instead of Bart. Lisa seems like the better fit to take part in a student exchange program and Lisa speaking fluent french to the policeman would have been far more believable than Bart. But at this early stage in the series, pretty much every episode revolved around Bart to some degree. Although, I don’t believe Marge would ever let either of her kids go to Europe unsupervised. Anyhoo, back to the episode.

The police swarm both Chateau Maison and the Simpson house. The crooked winemakers are arrested, while back in Springfield, Adil is caught by the FBI.

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Bart is a national hero in France for helping bring in Hugolin and Cesar. And while Homer also aided the FBI in apprehending Adil, he does so by sheer dumb luck. Homer is still blissfully unaware Adil has done anything wrong at all.

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Back home, Bart brings gifts from France for the entire family. A miniature guillotine for Lisa, a bottle of wine for Homer, a snappy new dress for Marge, and a red balloon for Maggie. A reference to the French children’s film Le Ballon Rouge.

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After Homer is unable to uncork the wine bottle, Bart mocks him in French. Once again, just as with Adil,  the blissfully ignorant Homer has no idea what Bart’s really saying. He’s just happy his boy can speak French. Woo hoo!

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  • See_4Episode: Some Enchanted Evening
  • Aired: May 13th, 1990
  • Writer: Matt Groening & Sam Simon

This may not have been the first episode to air, but it was the first episode ever produced. Surprisingly, for a first episode, it doesn’t feel nearly as dated as some of the other season 1 episodes. If I hadn’t known, I would have guessed something like “There’s No Disgrace Like Home” was the first episode ever produced based on how out of character everyone behaved in that episode.

After the kids leave for school, and Homer leaves for work, Marge and Maggie are left to an empty house. Marge calls in to Marvin Monroe’s on-the-air therapy talk radio show and tells him she’s tired of Homer.

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Back at the Nuclear plant, Homer’s co-workers here his wife on the radio and have a laugh at his expense. Ah, there’s the old gang we’ve come to know and love over the years. Mustache guy and…what’s his face.

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Homer’s co-workers aren’t the only ones having a laugh at someone else’s expense. Bart and Lisa make several prank calls to Moe’s, including one for an”Al Koholic” and another for “Oliver Klozoff”.

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As the hours tick by, Marge gets angrier and angrier waiting for Homer to come home so she can confront him.

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Homer finally arrives, late and drunk, holding dead flowers and cheap chocolates.

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Homer and Marge decide the best way to rekindle the spark in their marriage is to spend a romantic evening together. After calling a babysitter service (because apparently at this early stage of the series, Grampa, Patty, Selma, and Flanders don’t exist yet), Marge and Homer get ready to go out on the town. I like how Homer’s clean shaven look lasts only about five seconds before his stubble immediately grows back.

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I also like the fisheye lens style animation used when Bart and Lisa answer the door for the babysitter, Ms.Botz.

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Ms.Botz is legitimately creepy. You would think alarm bells would be going off in Marge’s head when this woman entered her home. Why on earth would Marge ever leave her kids with this person? Even if Patty, Selma, and Grampa don’t exist yet in the series, isn’t there a neighbor or a friend Marge or Homer could call? Hell, even Barney would be a better choice. And how the hell did this woman ever get hired by a babysitting service anyhow? Perhaps Marge’s judgement was a bit impaired due to the fact that she and Homer are about to have their first romantic evening alone together for the first time in years.

But what’s Lisa’s excuse for being so fascinated with “The Happy Little Elves”?  Lisa’s character is definitely the least developed at this early stage. Here, she’s basically just a big Maggie. I highly doubt the Lisa we will come to know in future seasons would be interested in a video for infants rated GGG. However, I did like how Ms.Botz immediately leaves the room when the FBI warning on the video pops up.

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While the kids are glued to the TV back home, Homer and Marge enjoy an enchanted evening together filled with dinner & dancing. Afterwards, they check into a room together for the night. Break out the Barry White records, Homer’s gonna score tonight.

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Once again, I love it when it rains in The Simpsons. It just gives Springfield a different look than we’re accustomed to seeing. And it fits here, because things are about to take a turn for the worse.

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Back home, after Bart shuts off the kiddy movie in favor of watching America’s Most Wanted, he and Lisa see Ms.Botz face pop up on screen. Turns out the woman in their house is the notorious Babysitter Bandit. Bang up job “Rubber Baby Buggy Bumper Babysitting Service”.

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Bart tries to trap Ms.Botz in the basement and bonk her on the head with a bowling ball, while Lisa calls 9-1-1.

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Even if Marge agreeing to hire a total stranger to watch her children is a major plot hole in this story, that doesn’t change the fact that Penny Marshall’s Ms.Botz is one terrifyingly animated character.

While Bart and Lisa are a little tied up at the moment, Homer and Marge are having the time of their lives.

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Ooh la-la. Very suggestive final frame there. Let’s just say they weren’t building a little fort.

Back home, the kids outwit the babysitter bandit and escape through the window, leaving Ms.Botz bound and gagged in front of the TV where it’s her turn to be forced to watch the Happy Little Elves.

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Unfortunately, upon arriving home and finding the babysitter bound and gagged, Homer unties Ms.Botz and helps her to car where he triples her pay for all her troubles. When the police arrive to arrest Ms.Botz, she’s already long gone thanks to Homer. D’oh!

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VERDICT

After watching both episodes, I didn’t really have a favorite between the two. I didn’t particularly love either episode but I didn’t hate them either. I’m torn. I was surprised to read that in a 2006 poll, fans voted “Some Enchanted Evening” as their favorite Season 1 episode. And I was even more surprised to read that The Crepes of Wrath was considered by some critics to be the greatest Simpsons episode of all time.

For me, both episodes suffer from the same plot hole: why would Marge leave her children alone with complete strangers like Ms.Botz, or Hugolin and Cesar? Why would she let her special little guy go to France all by himself? And why hire a babysitter when surely the family must know someone in the neighborhood who could watch the kids. Or why not just let the kids stay overnight at a friends house? With so many options, why choose Ms.Botz? And if Ms.Botz is wanted by the FBI, how was she employed by the Rubber Baby Buggy Bumper babysitting service? As for Hugolin and Cesar, for the most part, they’re just bad french stereotypes. Neither of the villains in either episode are particularly well developed, but they sure are scary as hell.

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However, on the positive side, The Crepes of Wrath is a VERY well structured episode. Almost perfect. Scene for scene, Bart and Adil mirror one another and the two plots come together nicely in the end. So for that,  I give the win to “The Crepes Of Wrath”. Au revoir  Some Enchanted Evening.

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The Best Episode Thingy There Ever Was

THE BEST EPISODE THINGY THERE EVER WAS ROUND 1 The Telltale Head VS. Dancin’ Homer

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In “The Telltale Head”, Bart pleads for understanding from an angry torch wielding mob as he recounts the events of the previous day which led him to cut the head off a statue of Jebediah Springfield. Meanwhile, in “Dancin’ Homer”, Homer recounts to the gang at Moes, the humiliating events of the past few weeks which saw him become the short lived team mascot for Capitol City.

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  • 640px-Simpsons-season-1-8-the-telltale-headEpisode: The Telltale Head
  • Aired: February 25, 1990
  • Writers: Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Sam Simon & Matt Groening

Woo-Hoo!

  Jebediah’s disembodied head talks to Bart in a manner similar to the beating heart in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Telltale Heart. This won’t be the last time the Telltale Heart is referenced in the show. It plays a pivotal role in a future episode entitled Lisa’s Rival. But that’s a tale for another time.

  • Bart’s badgering the Sunday school teacher…

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Bart: Uh, ma’am. What if you’re a really, really good person and you’ve been in a really, really bad fight and your leg gets gangrene and it has to be amputated? Will it be waiting for you in Heaven?
Ms.Albright: For the last time, Bart, yes!!!

  • Bart and Homer have walkmans! That is so 1991.

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This episode marks the first appearances for several characters. Including the three bullies: Dolph, Jimbo & Kearney. As well as Sideshow Bob, who’s sporting a big red afro.  Krusty looks very sickly for some reason.

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I feel they did a really good job of capturing the feeling of adolescent peer pressure in this episode. Bart wants nothing more than to be accepted by Dolph, Jimbo and Kearney. I can certainly relate to that first time as a kid when you hung out with kids slightly older than you who you were a bit apprehensive of. You want them to like you, and thus behave in ways completely foreign to you, yet you’re afraid they’ll kick your ass if you slip up.

After helping them steal junk food and sneak into the movies to see “Space Mutants 4: The Trilogy Continues”, Bart begins to relax and feel like he’s part of the group. My favorite scene is the four of them on the grass staring up at the sky, spotting images in the clouds.

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The best part of the cloud talk scene is just how quickly the three thugs turn on Bart. As they joke about cutting off the Jebediah statue’s head, Bart makes one fatal mistake: he expresses an independent thought. He is instantly mocked and abandoned by the rest of the group. Very true to life. Too often in later seasons, the bullies, including Nelson, are reduced to essentially being a teenage version of the three stooges, or worse,  hanging out with Bart & Milhouse and treating them like equals. Here, they are what they should be.  Untrustworthy little jerks who will turn on Bart in a heartbeat the second he shows he has a conscience. They use him to get what they want, then toss him aside.

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Like any young boy, the worse thing your peers can call you is a wimp or soft. So, Bart decides to show the bullies up at their own game and actually cut the head off the Jebediah statue. Love stealth ninja Bart as he sneaks out the house late that night.

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The next morning, Bart wakes up with the head of Jebediah in his bed à la the horse head in The Godfather. 

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Bart believes he will be greeted as a hero by the bullies who had earlier rejected him for not being tough enough. But, as is always the case with kids like them, you just can’t win. You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. To Bart’s surprise, the bullies actually want to find the guy who did it and beat him to a pulp. Bart did it all for nothing.

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With a guilty conscience literally weighing on his shoulders (he has the statue head in his backpack), he confesses everything to Homer. Homer’s initial reaction is to strangle Bart, that is until he finds out it was his telling Bart that “being popular is the most important thing in the world” that made Bart do what he did in order to impress the bullies, Homer realizes he’s just as responsible as Bart. So, together, they try to explain everything that happened to an angry Springfield mob. Bart returns the head to it’s rightful place atop the Jebediah statue and order is restored.

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Bart’s speech and noble spirit embiggens the entire town. Jebediah would be proud. Actually, since Jebediah is later revealed to be a murderous pirate, he probably would have approved of Bart’s initial act of vandalism and chastised him for wussing out in the end. But that’s a tale, and an episode, for another day.

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  • 7f05_013Episode: Dancin’ Homer
  • Aired: November 8th, 1990
  • Writers: Ken Levine & David Isaacs

D’OH!

I didn’t care much for this episode. Very few laughs, and not a very interesting storyline. Right off the “bat” (pun intended), we start off on the wrong foot at the ball park where Mr.Burns acts very out of character. He sits in the stands with the “commoners” to make himself look good, which is fine, but things go astray when he and Homer actually start “hitting” it off (once again, pun firmly intended). If they were going to have Burns and Homer chumming it up, they could have at least got Burns drunk first. At least that would have explained his out of character behavior. But Burns orders a drink AFTER he and Homer start palling around.

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There are some good scenes at the stadium though. They certainly did a good job of capturing the ambiance of a small town ball park. The hot dogs and merchandise stands, the less than enthusiastic play-by-play guy, the low attendance. Homer gets caught on the jumbo vision with his fly open. And finally, Bleeding Gums sings a seemingly never ending rendition of the national anthem, which only Lisa seems to appreciate.

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The game isn’t going well for the local Isotopes and the crowd is dead silent. So Homer tries to inject some life into them by dancing up some support for the home team. His antics are a “hit” with the fans (who says puns are lazy writing?), and he is soon hired as the teams official mascot: Dancin’ Homer!

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On the one hand, this is a bit out of character for Homer, as he’s not known to be one for exercise or doing extra work for little pay. But on the other hand, put some booze in him and he does enjoy making an ass of himself in public. So I guess it works. He becomes so popular he attracts the attention of the big league team in Capitol City. Soon he and the family are packing their bags and shipping off to Capitol City. This is probably my favorite portion of the episode as I feel, just as they did with the scenes in the ball park, they did a good job of capturing a genuine sense of a small town family driving to the big city. Reminds me of when I was a kid and my family would travel into the city on occasion. Seeing all the sights you would never normally see in a small town. Too often in the series, Springfield takes the place for Los Angeles, or some other big American city. Whereas here it’s just your typical small town. As it should be.

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While Homer’s antics went over well with the small town crowd in Springfield, he bombs in a big way in the big city. He’s met with the same dead silence the Isotopes receive back home, which effectively brings the episode full circle.

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Homer is called in to the owners office where he is promptly fired.

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“And for God’s sake put some clothes on!”- Funniest line of the episode

Upon returning to Springfield, Homer chronicles his rise and fall from the world of big mascot to the gang at Moe’s over a beer. While he may have been greeted with snide comments and hecklers in Capitol City, back in Springfield, where every one knows his name, his friends are hanging on his every word.

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Homer: I wonder why stories of degradation and humiliation make you more popular.
Moe: I dunno, Homer. They just do.

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VERDICT

While neither episode is a classic, and both would be long shots at best to win this whole thing, I’m willing to give The Telltale Head another try over Dancin’ Homer. The Telltale Head gave us a pretty good portrayal of adolescent peer pressure and introduced us to several key new characters moving forward. While Dancin’ Homer, on the other hand, “struck out” with me. One more pun for the road.

The Telltale Head comes out on top. Jebediah stands tall over Dancin’ Homer.

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For up to date tournament results, click here:

The Best Episode Thingy There Ever Was