SSR #26: “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment”

Introduction:
We are halfway through the second season now, and one relationship we haven’t really touched on much is the relationship between father and daugher, in the form of Homer and Lisa. We’ve seen a couple of good moments from them in “Moaning Lisa,” and “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish,” and we’ll be getting a great big dose later in the season when we get to “Lisa’s Substitute,” but I think this is an episode that shows why the two don’t really mesh together that well. There is definitely a love there, and I don’t think anyone can deny that, but this episode really shows the core difference between the two characters’ specific values. Lisa is about doing the right thing and being a strong, moral compass, while Homer is a little bit more about bending the rules a little for his own entertainment and enjoyment. They may clash at times, but I think a mature level of respect for each other still exists, and we’ll be taking a look at that interaction with today’s episode.

“Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” is the thirteenth episode of Season 2 (written and broadcast) and was released on February 7th, 1991. The chalkboard gag for this episode is “I will not make flatulent noises in class,” and the couch gag showcases the family doing an Egyptian dance in front of the television screen, as first shown in “Simpson and Delilah.”

Marge: “So, what did you children learn about today?”
Bart: “Hell!”
Homer: “BART!”
Bart: “But that’s what we learned about! I sure as hell, can’t say we learned about Hell, unless I say ‘Hell,’ can I?”
Homer: “I guess he’s got us there…”
Bart: “Hell yes!”
Marge: “Bart! You’re no longer in Sunday school, don’t swear!”

Plot:
The episode starts with a dream sequence; a flashback to Mt. Sinai in 1220 B.C. featuring Homer as an everyday thief. While interacting and talking with his friends, Moses returns and delivers the 10 Commandments as given by God, one of which includes “Thou shalt not steal,” which prompts Homer the Thief to react with a classic “D’oh,” response. Returning to the present day, Homer is napping in the hammock outside when he hears his neighbor, Ned Flanders, screaming at a cable TV salesman to get off of his property. He finds out the salesman was trying to install an illegal cable hook-up for only fifty bucks, and before Ned can finish explaining, Homer runs after the salesman to get cable installed in the Simpson household.

Cable television is an instant hit and success with the entire Simpson family, especially Homer, who ends up watching twenty-four straight hours of programming as the next day comes and the rest of the family is getting ready for church. The entire family goes to the service, and during Sunday school, the children learn about Hell and how miserable it is; teaching the kids that the only way to avoid Hell as an afterlife destination is by following the ten commandments. Lisa immediately notices the commandment about stealing and shakes in fear knowing that their family is illegally stealing cable.

Lisa seeks the help of Reverend Lovejoy on the issue and is assured that the family (or at least Homer anyway) is most definitely sinning by using the cable hook-up. He also reminds Lisa that honoring her parents is also a commandment as well. As a final suggestion to Lisa, he recommends that she protests her disapproval in order to set an example for the rest of the family. Meanwhile, Bart is caught watching a very inappropriate movie and starts inviting the other neighborhood children over to view the mature content as well, charging fifty cents for admission. Because of Lisa’s concerns and Bart’s actions, Marge suggests to Homer that he removes the cable, but Homer doesn’t want to, so he puts his foot down on the issue and decides to keep it.

In the meantime, a big boxing fight is set to be broadcast on cable television and Homer invites his friends from work and the bar over to watch the fight on the night of the event. Word of his cable hook-up starts to spread and even his boss, Mr. Burns, decides to invite himself over to watch the fight. When the illegal cable salesman comes back to try and get Homer to agree to even more shady deals, even hinting at sneaking into his neighbor’s house when he isn’t home, Homer starts to crack, and starts installing more locks on the house (in addition to prison bars on the windows) in order to protect the possessions he has. On the night of the fight, Lisa tells everybody that she is not going to watch the fight and will instead being exhibiting her own form of non-violent protest instead, which angers Homer as he forces Lisa to protest outside.

As the night progresses, Homer realizes that he has to hide all of the possessions he stole from work and Moe’s Tavern from both Mr. Burns and Moe respectively, while Lisa continues to eye and stare at her father’s antics from a distance. When the police come by, Homer fears that he will be arrested for his illegal cable but is given a reprieve when they just want to watch the fight as well. Feeling uneasy about the whole night, Homer finally realizes that what he is doing is wrong and freaks out when he realizes he could go to prison for his actions. He marches outside to confront the other members of the family and tells them that he has decided to unhook the cable once the fight is over and he will not watch the fight himself, finally giving in to the guilt. Marge and Lisa are proud of Homer for making the right decision, even though they can tell Homer is devastated by having to give up cable. Once the fight is over and all of the guests leave, Homer cuts the cable, ending the episode.

Homer: “Well, let me put it this way, when you ate breakfast this morning, did you pay for it?”
Lisa: “No.”
Homer: “And did you pay for the dress you’re wearing?”
Lisa: “No, I didn’t.”
Homer: “Well run for the hills, Ma Barker, before I call the feds!”
Lisa: “Dad, I think that’s pretty spurious.”
Homer: “Well, thank you, honey!”

Personal History:
This was another episode on my VHS tape and another episode I want to say caught my attention when I was younger, although I think it was less due to the cable-stealing plot, and more due to the single scene of Bart saying and repeating the word “Hell” a number of times during the car ride home from church. It definitely has no bearing on the actual plot or storyline of the episode, but was something I always took notice of as a kid. Later on in life when I actually understood what was going on, I have to admit that I always found the premise of the episode very interesting, just because it does deal with some very interesting discussion points, as I’ll get into in the next paragraph. But yeah, I’ve always seen this as a pretty decent episode and one that has a small connection with me as well because of that scene I remember watching a lot as a youngster.

“How could one little, insulated wire bring so much happiness?”
~Homer Simpson

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
The first thing I want to highlight in this section is the fact that this episode first introduced the character of Troy McClure, another one of Phil Hartman’s characters. Although this character didn’t really have much of a stake in the episode as Lionel Hutz did in “Bart Gets Hit by a Car,” it’s still the introduction of a very popular side character and running gag that will continue through the next 7 seasons. Basically, if there is a filmstrip, informational video, niche movie, or a talk show (like in the case of this episode), you’ll more than likely see Troy McClure in some way with his very happy-go-lucky personality and attitude, along with his quirky resume to back it all up. Although his role here is very minor and bland, because they didn’t know quite what to do with him yet, it’s still very nice to see him here in his first appearance.

As for the episode itself, like I said before, I do think the subject matter is quite interesting, especially in terms of how they handle it. At the very beginning of the episode, Homer is very enthusiastic and proud for what he has done, and if anything, is very quick to justify his wrongdoing to his family. Then, as things start to unravel with how his kids are behaving and how concerned Marge is, he gets angry because he feels like it’s the universe trying to take away his happiness, and when he puts his foot down on the matter, that’s when the guilt starts to eat away at him. Every person who arrives at his house, every word he hears on television; it starts getting to him that he might actually get caught, until he knows what he has to do and decides to take that step despite not wanting to. Some could see this episode as being preachy, but I think it’s preachy in a good way. Homer is clearly doing something illegal here, and although in the big picture his cable hook-up isn’t hurting anybody, his actions representative of the acquisition do hold water and is something he would have to atone for, if he was discovered for the thief that he is, so it’s fun to see that at play here. It shows that despite his actions, Homer does have a soul and he does know what the right thing is, but is definitely drawn by these own little thrill rides.

As I mentioned before, this is also just a very nice Homer & Lisa storyline as well. It doesn’t beat the likes of an episode we’ll see later on in the season, in terms of lasting impact, or a couple of other episodes that we’ll see later on in future seasons, but it shows a good foundation for their father-daughter relationship. Although they are very different people and personalities, Lisa cares about her father’s soul and well-being, which is why she protests in the way she does. Meanwhile, Homer, although he does seem rather annoyed with Lisa at times, he still cares about being a good role-model for his daughter and knows she is ultimately pushing him to do the right thing. In that way, I think they work well off of each other and I think that shows here, although it definitely shows in greater ways in other episodes. It’s a good starting point, I guess you could say.

As far a personal, most favorite moment, I can’t really pick any in this episode. It’s not a case where there are too many favorite moments or anything like that, there just aren’t a lot of moments that really stand out for me. Not to say the episode is void of humor or good moments, it’s just an episode that doesn’t really excel in any one department, so it’s hard to pick one thing that really makes it stand out. I guess one moment that I remember from watching this episode, aside from Bart’s “hell” tirade, and the introduction of Troy McClure; at the beginning of the episode when Homer has that Mt. Sinai dream. During the dream, Moses appears to the people which prompts Homer (in the dream) to shout “Quick! Everyone look busy!” followed by him continuing to steal things, while the two sinners he was talking to (the adulterer and carver of graven images) also continued doing their thing, with the adulterer flirting with a nearby woman. I just like the line Homer delivers there along with just the very appropriate visual gag that accompanies it. It’s classic Simpsons humor and I love it.

“Excuse me. I hate to interrupt your ‘judging me,’ but I want you to know I’ve made a couple of important decisions. Number one, I’m unhooking the cable once the fight is over. And number two, I’m not fond of any of you.”
~Homer Simpson

My Review:
Overall, I think this is a good episode. I don’t think it does anything groundbreaking on an emotional or comedic level, but it’s an episode I enjoy watching whenever it comes on, and that’s really all I can say about it. It’s not the funniest Season 2 episode, and other episodes of this season will deliver a bit more on the relationships that were surface scratched here, but it’s an episode I can watch, enjoy and have fun with, and I’d rather have that as opposed to an episode that rubbed me the wrong way in some aspect, or god forbid, an episode I just didn’t like for some reason. It brought up an interesting story, did some character development, introduced a very fun side character and is overall a good episode about the Simpson family in general. That’s really all I have for this one, so apologies for the short, generic paragraph here, but I don’t have much to go beyond with on this one.

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So it has been awhile since I’ve posted these and once again, I do apologize for the wait. Truth be told, I could have probably gotten this done back in March before I went on my Spring vacation, but just could not get enough time to finish this up properly. This has obviously not been the first time I’ve taken longer than my usual one week deadline I’ve given myself, and I feel it’s the second or third time it’s taken me longer than two or three weeks, so safe to say, I’m going to stop giving myself deadlines and just say, “the next one will be up when I can get enough time to do it.” I know it’s a bit of a cop-out and there is nothing really holding me to actually complete these in a timely fashion, but I don’t think it’s right to promise these every week or two and not deliver on that promise either. There’s just too much going on and I can’t commit to this as much as I want to.

My ultimate goal though is to at least get far enough to the point where I can complete Season 2 by Fall so when Halloween comes around I can review Season 3’s Halloween special when I start Season 3 this year, but we’ll see how that goes. Honestly, I feel the closer I get to the end of Season 2, the faster I’ll want to go because the light is at the end of the tunnel, so I’m hoping that will be the case for this project as well. Anyway, the next episode I’m looking at is “Principal Charming,” an episode that…I’m not incredibly fond of if I’m being blunt. So it should be a fun revisit as I always tend to view these episodes a bit differently on these rewatches.

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