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The Simpsons: Season 1 Episode Ranking

The Simpsons: Season 1 Episode Ranking

Hello Simpson fans, SlimKirby here and about ready to start Season 2 of the Simpsons Retrospective I started last year. I know it’s been awhile since I’ve done anything with this series, but I’ve been very busy with making videos, streaming, and being part of the Link to the Past Randomizer tournaments, but I’ve been on a bit of a Simpsons kick lately (especially after the Hit & Run revisit on my Youtube channel) and felt like it was a good time to pick this back up and watch some more Simpsons episodes.

However, before moving on straight to Season 2, while I was in the process of finishing Season 1, I mentioned making another post where I would rank all the Season 1 episodes in order of favorite to least favorite. So to officially close out Season 1, and do one final recap of the season as a whole, I present to you my final ranking of all the Season 1 episodes for the Simpsons television show.

So my process for doing this was quite simple

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SSR #13: “Some Enchanted Evening”

Intro

Introduction:
I sense a great disturbance in the force. That’s right, we are finally going to take a look at “Some Enchanted Evening,” an episode I’ve been rather vocal about in terms of my lack of enjoyment of. There are great number of reasons for why this episode in particular gets such low marks from me, but I’m obviously not going to talk about those reasons right now. Heck, if anything, my opinion could change after this most recent watch…we’ll just have to wait and see! “Some Enchanted Evening” first aired on on May 13th, 1990 and has the ‘honor’ of being the first episode written for the show’s first season, but the last one of the season to actually air. The reason for such the huge delay in airing was due to the fact that, as we will see in our viewing of this episode, the animation looked absolutely atrocious, and many of the show’s producers were not happy with the final product. They basically held it back from airing first for that sole reason and decided to spend a little more time polishing up the animation for other episodes that would end up debuting before this one, a decision that was definitely a good call on their parts. I find it weird that this episode still managed to make it on TV though because of that presentation, but I guess the writers and producers were still confident in the episode’s plot at least, and figured that the presentation would only be a small hurdle to jump over. The chalkboard gag of the episode is “I Will Not Yell ‘Fire’ in a Crowded Classroom,” and the couch gag…there is no couch gag! The Simpsons come inside and sit on the couch and nothing happens. I guess this is further proof that this was supposed to be the first episode, because we saw actual gags before we even saw the original “no gag” animation.

Marge PhoneDr. Monroe (phone): “If he doesn’t start loving, you will be leaving!”
Marge: “Leave Homer?”
Dr. Monroe: “Don’t use his real name!”
Marge: “Leave Pedro?”

Plot:
The story starts with breakfast on another morning in the Simpson household. In perhaps one of the crudest animations in the entire series, we see the entire family, sans Marge, shoveling food into their mouths while Marge is standing around witnessing the act and looking rather troubled about something. From this we can gather that Marge isn’t incredibly happy at home. Her kids don’t seem incredibly appreciative and her husband is, quite frankly, a pig who doesn’t show her the love she should be receiving. After the kids ignore the lunches she made for them, Homer doesn’t give her a kiss good-bye, and Maggie falls asleep on her, we start to get the feeling that Marge is quite depressed at the moment.

After hearing about a radio talk show with Dr. Marvin Monroe, Marge calls in and starts talking about the problems she is having at home. This same radio show just so happens to be playing at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, where Homer works, and he manages to hear everything. During the call, Dr. Monroe tells Marge that she needs to tell Homer off and that she is not going to be treated this way anymore. Marge responds enthusiastically (with anger) and Homer is now incredibly worried about coming home that night. He decides to stop in at Moe’s Tavern on his way home, and while talking to Moe about his problem, he decides to give Homer some advice. He tells Homer to go home with flowers and then show Marge an evening she will never forget that’s all about her and how much he really loves her. Homer accepts the advice and finally decides to go home. Although Homer isn’t able to get many flowers with his budget, and even though Marge has been at home stewing in anger the entire day, Marge immediately is touched by Homer’s gesture and forgives him.

Homer makes plans for the two to go out to dinner and dancing for the night. However, this creates a problem with the children who will now be left at home unsupervised unless they get a babysitter. Although they have some trouble at first (since they have been blacklisted from the babysitting service, and need to call under a different alias), they eventually get a babysitter under the name Ms. Botz. Marge and Homer then proceed to go out for an amazing night of fun and romance.
Back at home, Bart turns on “America’s Most Armed and Dangerous,” and while watching, Bart and Lisa start hearing about a criminal known as “The Babysitter Bandit.” They proceed to get scared, thinking that their own babysitter might be the criminal, and right when they show a picture of the lady, known as Ms. Lucille Botzcowski, Ms. Botz comes out of the other room with ropes and restraints, ready to tie-up the children. Their babysitter is in fact, the Babysitter Bandit. Both kids are captured, even Lisa, who almost manages to call the hotline about the criminal, but is cut-off at the worst possible time. The only child who isn’t captured is Maggie, who is still in her room, but manages to sneak out and look for her brother and sister.

Maggie finds the two tied-up on the couch and helps them get free. From here, the children decide to set a trap for the bandit, where Maggie crawls into the other room to get her attention, and has her follow the child into a closet where Bart proceeds to knock her out with a baseball bat. They tie up the lady and leave her hog-tied on the middle of the living room floor, forcing her to watch “The Happy Little Elves,” while they leave the house to call at a pay phone down the street because the bandit disconnected the telephone lines. During this time, after their romantic evening has ended, Marge decides to call home to check on the children, but gets no answer. Fearing that something bad has happened, they drive home.

When they arrive home, they find the babysitter tied up and they freak out not knowing the reason for it. They send the lady home with an increased payment and her bags, which they are unaware has all of the stuff she stole from them, and right as the babysitter bandit leaves, the children return home with the police and “America’s Most Armed and Dangerous.” Homer gets angry at Bart for what he has done, but while he is disciplining the boy, the police reveal that Homer had just paid off and set free a criminal. In a moment of awkwardness, Homer tries to spin the story that she had escaped and that he had struggled with keeping her captive, but the damage is already done and Homer looks like the biggest fool in town. However, during the last moments of the episode, Marge comforts him and lets him know that if he was capable of raising children that could capture a criminal, he must be doing something right, and reminding him that the entire night wasn’t a total waste.

LobsterWaiter: “Why don’t you pick one that’s a little more frisky, sir?
Homer: “Why?”
Waiter: “Well, when you choose one that’s floating upside-down, that kind of defeats the purpose of selecting a live lobster.”
Homer: “Oh, okay. Then I’ll take that one there with the beady eyes.”

My Personal History:
Of all the episodes in Season 1, this is probably the episode I’ve seen the least amount of times. Not because it’s the last episode or anything (usually, when I watch a DVD, I watch the entire disc before putting it down), but because in the Season 1 DVD boxset, this was the only episode on Disc 3, so it never really that important to put an entire disc in to just watch one episode, especially if it was an episode I was never really that crazy about. But yeah, as you probably expected, I didn’t get to see this one until I got Season 1 on DVD, so I don’t have much to say here beyond that. I can’t wait until we get to Season 2 so I actually have a little more to say in these sections.

BartSmartBart: “We know who you are, Ms. Botz, or should I say, Ms. Botzcowski! You’re the babysitter bandit!”
Ms. Botz: “You’re a smart, young man Bart. I hope you’re smart enough to keep your mouth shut.”
Lisa: “He isn’t!”

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
Despite this episode being a little hard to watch at times, I will say that there are actually quite a few nice moments in this episode. For one, I like the dynamic of the Simpson children just being a whole lot smarter and better at everything than their parents (especially Homer) are capable of being. The way they captured the Babysitter Bandit was absolutely incredible and the fact that they could improvise in such a quick manner just makes me wish we could have seen more of that in this episode. Home Alone is probably one of my all-time favorite movies, and I think it would have been fun to see an entire section of that in this episode; just watching the three kids completely outsmart and outmaneuver the criminal. And then, just having your entire plan get ruined by Homer’s actions…it makes for a very disappointed ending, but also a very funny ending as well. This is how the Simpson family is supposed to work; they have moments of brilliance and excellence, but then something comes along and screws everything up, resetting the status quo, and in some cases like this, giving the family less of what they started with.

I think Marge and Homer have some nice moments as well, but definitely not along the same lines as the Simpson children. I like how Homer can be romantic and thoughtful when he really puts his heart into it, and it’s just nice seeing the husband and wife going out and having a good and fun time together. This is the 3rd episode in the last five episodes where Marge and Homer have some kind of spat or marital problem, and even though they managed to pull themselves out of the mud in every instance, it’s not really a thing I want to see too many times in the series. They’ve already been through some pretty rough situations and tough times in just the first season, and if they overdo it, it will probably make viewers wonder why they are even together if they keep having these problems. So it’s nice to see them in a more relaxed and fun environment where they can be themselves and just have a good time together, which in terms shows how compatible they actually are.

As far as best individual moment, the one moment I always remember from this episode is when Bart and Lisa are calling the hotline to inform the police that they captured the Babysitter Bandit. Bart asks Lisa to ask them what their reward will be for catching her, and after she asks, she responds with, “If she’s convicted, we’ll get t-shirts!” and Bart exclaims, in a very positive manner “All right!” I love it just because they are kids who are getting excited over t-shirts of all things, which I think is pefect. It’s perfect because it makes a good joke, and it really just shows the simple-minded nature of children. They don’t need a huge cash reward; sometimes just the experience and a reminder of that experience is all they will ever need.

Also, this is going to be a very short paragraph, but there is one more thing I want to point out before we move on. Isn’t this the THIRD episode in a row where Bart has outsmarted a criminal? Unfortunately the one in this episode escaped, but he captured the French winemakers in Episode #11, Sideshow Bob in Episode #12, and now the Babysitter Bandit in Episode #13. Seriously, at this rate, maybe Bart Simpson should be a police officer, because he is on a roll at the moment.

TV“Have you ever seen a kung-fu movie? It was just like that! But now I know her moves. So, if you are listening to me, lady, you’d better think long and hard about trying this on Homer Simpson again!”
– Homer Simpson

My Review:
This is an episode I haven’t really been looking forward to for a while now. Going into this project, I was confident that this was going to be my first “negative” review. Even though I have been negative on some aspects of different episodes from the first season, most of my reviews have been relatively positive. However, I knew this episode in particular would be the hardest shell to crack in terms of changing my opinion around, just because it’s always been a chore for me to go back and watch this one, for a multitude of reasons. However, on this particular re-watch, there was really only one thing that bothered me.

As I’ve said before, the visual presentation for this episode is just not very good. I think the first scene in the episode pretty much speaks volumes for the entire presentation as a whole. You get an extremely awkward animatic for the Simpson family eating breakfast with Homer eating with his mouth open and the entire family just eating like pigs in general. Then you just start feeling incredibly bad for Marge because of what her family is doing to her. Then you get the extremely cliché wife calling to complain about her husband routine, with the husband finding out and then figuring out a way to win her back…the entire first act in general is just really, really hard to get through and is probably the weakest part of the episode, in my opinion. It definitely improves from that point forward, but I still think you should have a good story throughout the entire twenty-one minutes, and not just fourteen of them.

From the second act, onward (pretty much when the babysitter comes into the picture), the episode is actually pretty strong. You really start to see the Simpson children in their element when it comes to dealing with a bad guy (or bad girl, in this case) and the entire game of cat-and-mouse between the children and the Babysitter Bandit is just exciting and entertaining to watch. It’s like I said earlier in the review, this really should have been the basis for the entire episode, and not just the second-half. They could have started from Marge and Homer getting ready to go out for the night and skipped all the awkward “Marge not happy at home” business, and then we could have gotten another act of the kids and the bandit at war, which is what I wanted to see more of. The Homer and Marge stuff was nice and sweet when we got to the second and third acts, but it just wasn’t as strong as the other storyline going on, and as I said, I just really didn’t like the first seven minutes of this episode.

I think it’s actually kind of interesting when you consider the fact that this was initially planned as the first episode of the series. And you know, honestly, I kind of wish it would have been. “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” was a nice premiere, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like first episodes in general always kind of have that “first episode” stigma attached to them. It’s the stigma where, while you are watching, you know and feel like it’s a first episode. Whether it has to do with, in this case, the art direction and presentation, or how a character portrays their lines and attitudes. It’s stuff where you can watch the episode and think “Wow, that character has changed a lot since then,” but not be turned off or lose interest completely. That’s the vibe I get from this episode, but it’s funny considering the season already has a couple of episodes where the characters and art direction has improved beyond this point, yet this episode still falls at the end of the season anyway. It was just a very, very odd choice to keep it in as the episode finale, at least in my opinion. It makes me wonder why they didn’t just scrap it entirely or at the very least, try to remake it with better animation later when they had access to it, instead of just releasing it as it already was. I imagine it had to do with financial reasons, in the sense of, if they just threw away what they had already gotten animated, it could have been a huge loss of money, so it made sense to work with what they already I had, I guess.

So yeah, after re-watching this episode again, I have to say that I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I would be. I still think this is far from the best episode of the season, but I came out of the watch feeling more positive about this one than I have ever been before, which I think is quite the accomplishment. It’s an awkward episode, sure, but once you get to main course, it offers plenty of thrills for everyone to enjoy. And hey, I’m not going to lie, it’s a good feeling to finally have Season 1 wrapped up with this amount of positivity.

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Guys…we’ve made it! Season 1 has officially been finished, and we can start looking forward to the future of this series. I have to say, this was a lot of fun to do and it was great to re-watch the first season and look at the episodes in a way I’ve never done before. It really opened my eyes to things I liked from episodes I was never really crazy about, and further confirmed why I love some episodes better than others. With that being said though, this is still only the first season and there are many, many seasons to go. Heck, even if I only focus on the golden age of The Simpsons, that’s still only one year of episodes versus at least 9 or 10 others, so I’m not going to be so quick to congratulate myself on a job well done. Although, I will say it feels good to finish 13 episodes in half of a year with really only 3 delays in between (where two of which I had no control over).

So how about the future of this series? Well, I will say for certain that I am looking forward to Season 2, but before I start, I’m going to take a bit of a break from this. Right now, I’m working on a bunch of different projects as it is on my Youtube channel and there are a lot of others things I need to figure out as well before I get myself too deep into something I may or may not be able to handle. Because once I start Season 2, I want to hit it hard and strong with no delays whatsoever, so the least I could do is wait until I know I can make that happen. If I had to give a date, it would probably be near the end of July or start of August, so stay tuned until then. For now though, this has been SlimKirby, and I’ll talk you guys later!

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SSR #12: “Krusty Gets Busted”

Intro

Introduction:
The entire town of Springfield is about to be shook when a television celebrity and role model for the young is caught on tape committing a crime a the local convenience store. All eyes are looking to put the clown behind bars, with the exception of one little boy who is determined to prove the entertainer’s innocence. “Krusty gets Busted” debuted on April 22nd, 1990 and was the 12th episode aired and written for the Simpson’s first season. The chalkboard gag for this episode is “They are laughing at me, not with me,” and the couch gag features the entire family sitting on the couch, squishing and launching Maggie into the air with Marge catching her on descent (repeat).

Chips“You can emerge now from my chips. The opportunity to prove yourself a hero is long gone.”
~Apu

Plot:
Patty and Selma are coming over for dinner and plan to show the rest of the family pictures from their latest vacation, so Marge calls Homer at work to tell him to pick-up some ice cream on the way home. While at the cash register, a burglar, who looks remarkably like Krusty the Clown, holds up Apu, the owner of the Kwik-E-Mart, and scares Homer into jumping into a nearby display of potato chips. The burglar escapes, but when the police comes by to follow a police report, Homer testifies that Krusty was the individual who robbed the Kwik-E-Mart. Krusty is promptly arrested and when Bart finds out that his hero was involved in a robbery, he is completely devastated and disappointed.

The day of Krusty’s court case comes and before he enters the building, Bart tries to ask Krusty if he actually did rob the convenience store. In a very sad and defeated tone of voice, Krusty says to Bart that he didn’t commit the crime while everyone else laughs it off. He pleads “not guilty” during the trial, but due to an overwhelming amount of evidence and Homer’s testimony, Krusty is found to be guilty. During the trial, we also learn a few key details about Krusty the Clown. For one, he has a pacemaker. Two, he is completely illiterate. Finally, he has really small feet despite wearing humongous clown shoes during his television shows. Although these facts may seem irrelevant and inconsequential, they will be important later on. The entire town is happy to have the criminal locked up and celebrates by burning all of Krusty’s merchandise.

During this time, Krusty’s sidekick, Sideshow Bob (played by the remarkable Kelsey Grammer), is put in charge of Krusty’s show and manages to get a lot of kids on board with the new format (including Lisa and Maggie). His show focuses less on the patronizing humor of Krusty the Clown and more on enriching the mind and lives of children. Bart is not on board with this change and feels like Krusty might be innocent, but is not sure how and where to start in proving it. He asks Lisa for some help and they go down to the Kwik-E-Mart, the scene of the crime.

While at the Kwik-E-Mart, Lisa discovers the microwave and its warning sign, which reads “People with pacemakers should not use the microwave.” However, the footage that captured the robbery showed Krusty using the microwave to heat up a burrito. Next, she remembers that the robber was also reading a magazine, which again, Krusty would not have been able to do considering he was illiterate. At this point, it starts to look like Krusty was actually framed by someone else, and Bart knows a good place to start in asking if Krusty had any enemies; his partner, Sideshow Bob. At this point, we the viewers discover that Sideshow Bob may in fact have had something to do with the crime, as he starts to laugh maniacally behind closed doors.

Bart and Lisa go to the television studio to talk to Sideshow Bob about what they found, but they come right before a show is scheduled to start and are pushed into the audience. Bob notices Bart looking troubled and brings him on stage for a segment. During the segment, Bart brings up Krusty’s crime at the Kwik-E-Mart and cites the evidence he and Lisa found in proving that Krusty was not responsible, but Bob dismisses the evidence, telling Bart that Krusty was prone to ignoring doctors’ orders and that Krusty was admiring the pictures in the magazine he was looking at, not reading it. He then speaks to Bart and the other children saying that he knows that this ugly incident has affected a lot of people, including himself, but now that it has happened, that they should all try to move on and remember the good times. At this point, he mentions that he has “big shoes to fill,” which clicks the final piece of evidence Bart needed to prove Krusty’s innocence.

Bart remembers that Homer accidentally stepped on Krusty’s feet during the security tape, which he wouldn’t have been able to do with Krusty since his feet are much smaller. Then, looking at Sideshow Bob’s huge feet, he figures out that the Krusty who robbed the Kwik-E-Mart was actually Sideshow Bob in disguise, and when Bart slams a mallet on Bob’s feet, Bob utters very similar words (in the same tone of voice) to what he yelled at Homer during the crime. The police just so happen to be watching the show at that point and they immediately go to arrest the true criminal. Bob framed Krusty because he was tired of being Krusty’s whipping boy and the target of all of his comedic abuse and wanted to be given the spotlight for once. Bob is taken away to prison and Krusty is pardoned and released, and the police and Homer apologize to him for the misunderstanding. Krusty then gives his heartfelt thanks to Bart as he shakes his hand. Bart is given an autographed photograph of the exchange and the episode closes on him going to sleep in a room filled with Krusty merchandise.

Clown Line-up“Well, if the crime is making me laugh, they’re ALL guilty!”
– Homer Simpson

My Personal History:
This was an episode I was very familiar with, but never actually got to see until I owned the first season on DVD. I was aware of it because I had seen and witnessed all of the other Sideshow Bob episodes (at the time) and thought they were some of the most hilarious and best episodes of the entire show. Because they allude to this episode in almost every Sideshow Bob episode, it was fairly easy to know and remember the plot. I just had no idea how it actually went down until I got to see it several years later.

Krusty TrialKrusty: “I plead guilty, your Honor!”
*everyone gasps in surprise*
Krusty: “Oh, I mean not guilty. *laughs* Opening night jitters, your Honor!”

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
I’d be an absolute fool if I overlooked the performance of Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob, so before I get into anything else, let’s go over that first. My god…Sideshow Bob (or at least early/golden year’s Sideshow Bob) may be one of the best characters in the entire show. I love how over the top he is, but also how cultured and sophisticated he is. And to top it all off, he also has a very good sense of humor too. A great combination like that makes for very great television, so kudos to Kelsey Grammer for the performance, but also to the writers for the casting decision and for just writing him the way he is as well. As I said, these episodes are and will always be some of my favorites, and even though this was the first and perhaps the least developed of all the Bob episodes, it’s still a treat to watch, even to this day.

I think another reason this episode is a stand-out is just because the writers got the perfect balance of humor and innovative story-telling. This episode was written as a mystery for viewers to try and solve throughout the episode’s duration. They set the mystery up, they highlighted important clues throughout the different scenes, and at the very end, or at least before Bart revealed the solution; you, the viewers, would have enough information to know, “yeah, there is something not quite right here.” And sure enough, during subsequent watches and re-watches, you’d be able to see all the clues in play and where exactly the writers intended for you to put stuff together. I will say right now, compared to other mystery episodes the Simpsons would tackle in future seasons, this is not the best use of this formula. In fact, there are times where I feel like the writers almost try to push certain clues a bit too much, but that also might be just because I’ve seen this episode so many times and pretty much had the intel before I even saw the episode from future Sideshow Bob episodes, so it’s hard to analyze this from a fresh perspective. However, after learning the main motivation of this episode and looking at how everything is woven together, you have to give credit to the writers for coming up with something unique, especially this early on in the series.

And as I mentioned, the jokes and the humor is very on point too. From the very beginning to the very end, there is just joke, after joke, after joke and it’s done in such a great way where the rest of the story doesn’t suffer from joke overload. You’re given time to breathe and think about what’s going on in the story and the jokes are there just to complement what’s going on. From Homer’s cowardly dive into the potato chips, to Krusty’s antics during court, to even Apu’s reactions when Bart and Lisa come to investigate the crime scene and he is still very much affected and traumatized by the robbery…the entire episode is just really, really funny. I think my favorite part/line from the episode is at the end when Sideshow Bob is screaming at the crowd while being taken away, “Treat children as equals! They are smarter than you think,” just making his exit as theatrical as possible and it’s just a great end to the character at this chapter of his story.

Bob Arrested“Treat kids as equals! They’re people too! They’re smarter than you think! They were smart enough to catch ME!”
~Sideshow Bob

My Review:
So I think it’s safe to say from the previous section that I really like this episode, and that is definitely true. Alongside Bart the General, Krusty Gets Busted is definitely at the top of Season 1, as far as individual episodes are concerned. It took a gamble in terms of its episode structure and put the focus on some secondary and guest characters, but integrated the main cast very well too. It was ambitious in theory, but it hit on all the right notes and did exactly what it needed to do. It had great writing, great casting, great jokes…it had everything you’d ever want from an episode of The Simpsons. In fact, the only negative I could even give this one is that it’s not as enjoyable as other Sideshow Bob episodes, but when you consider its competition…it’s really not even a fair fight to begin with.

I do wish I could have watched this episode without having prior knowledge of what Sideshow Bob will ultimately become though, because I do think having that knowledge could cheapen the overall experience of this particular episode. Granted, I still love it despite not being able to get that experience, but I’m also trying to look at these episodes from an unbiased perspective and there are individuals who don’t like having entire storylines spoiled for them. So if you are in the process of sharing The Simpsons with a friend or acquaintance of yours, make sure you at least show the Sideshow Bob saga in order if you want to go down that route. It’ll be worth every laugh as you experience some of the greatest episodes of the series (well…at least to a certain point anyway).

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Ok guys, we are almost done with Season 1. We just have one more episode to go and this particular episode is….kind of a special case. As I’ve mentioned before, the last episode of the season was actually created very early on in Season 1. It was initially planned as the beginning of The Simpsons television series but was held back for…reasons. I’ll get more into those specifics next time when we take a look at the Season 1 finale; “Some Enchanted Evening.” Until then, have a good day everybody!

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SSR #11: “The Crepes of Wrath”

Intro

Introduction:
When Bart Simpson is starting to become too much of terror at home, the adults decide that maybe it’s time for the little hell raiser to take a little vacation to the other side of the globe. Although he is very excited about the journey, life in Paris, France for Bart Simpson is getting ready to open his eyes to a world that perhaps he never should have experienced. “The Crepes of Wrath” is the eleventh episode of The Simpsons first season. It aired on April 15th, 1990 and even though it wasn’t the last episode of the season, it was the last episode written for Season 1. The chalkboard gag for this episode is “Garlic Gum is Not Funny,” which I agree, garlic is never a good flavor for gum, and the couch gag features the entire family squeezing onto the couch and forcing Homer to get pushed off onto the ground (aka: another repeat).

 

SkinnerVisitSkinner: “I think it behooves us all to consider deportation.”
Marge: “Deportation? You mean kick Bart out of the country?”
Homer: “Eh…hear him out, Marge!”

Plot:
The episode starts at the Simpson house with the immediate revelation that Bart is having a bit of an issue with keeping things tidy. His toys and possessions are strewn all over the house and after Homer trips on Bart’s skateboard, falling down the stairs and hurting his back, Marge punishes Bart by making him clean his room. While cleaning, Bart finds a cherry bomb and decides to use it to play a prank at school. He flushes it down the toilet, causing every toilet in the school to explode, including one that happens to be in use by Principal Skinner’s mother. Principal Skinner takes Bart home and discusses with Marge and Homer a way to punish Bart for his mischievous ways; not by suspension or expulsion, but by deportation.

Principal Skinner suggests signing Bart up for the student exchange program, where he would be sent to another part of the world to learn and study in a brand new environment. In exchange, the Simpsons will take in another student from a different country. This way, Bart will have a golden opportunity to see another part of the world, while both Skinner and the Simpsons get a break from Bart’s mischief. Marge and Homer are on board and when Bart hears of the opportunity, he becomes excited as well. Principal Skinner and Homer then celebrate on being rid of the boy’s shenanigans for a few months.

Bart is sent to Paris, France to live with two very strict winemakers; Cesar and Ugolin. They live in a worn-down, dilapidated chateau, and they don’t treat Bart as a member of the family, but as a slave to their business. All of Bart’s clothes and possessions are taken by the two French men and some of them are even given to the donkey. Bart very quickly starts to hate his temporary home. Back in America, the Simpsons have opened their home to a little Albanian boy named Adil. Adil is very kind to everyone and is very helpful around the house and Homer takes an immediate shine to him, even to the point of showing more love to him than his own son. During a talk with Marge though, Homer does admit that he does miss and love Bart, he just appreciates the more loving side of Adil.

Things start to get a bit suspicious though when Adil starts asking to go with Homer to the nuclear power plant. Homer thinks Adil is just inquisitive about his work and is unaware that Adil is taking pictures to send back to his home country of Albania. It turns out Adil is actually a spy working for the Albanian government and is trying to find out top secret information from American nuclear power plant generators. However, Adil’s signal is traced by the FBI and Homer unintentionally blows Adil’s cover, leading to the prompt arrest of the young boy. Charges are not pressed on Adil as the kid is exchanged for a young American spy who was caught in Albania for a similar act of espionage.

Back in France, Bart’s living conditions do not improve and on one rainy day, he catches the winemakers adding antifreeze to their product in order to make a shipment deadline. While being sent on an errand, Bart runs into a French police officer and he tries to tell the man about his predicament, but is unable to relay his information because they don’t speak the same language. Bart starts to feel depressed that he can’t speak French despite living in the country for the past few months, but during his monologue, he realizes that he does know how to speak some French and immediately goes back to the police officer to confess everything. When Bart reveals that Cesar and Ugolin have been putting antifreeze into their wine, the two brewers are arrested and Bart becomes a hero in France. He returns home with gifts and souvenirs for the entire family as the episode comes to a close.

 

Welcome to France“Welcome to your new home. Escape is impossible. My name is Cesar, this is my nephew, Ugolin. You may find life here at the chateau hard, but if you shut up and do exactly as we say, the time will pass more quickly!”
~Cesar

My Personal History:
As usual, I didn’t get to see this episode until the Season 1 DVD came out, but when I did get around to watching it, my god, I was surprised at how depressing the episode was, at least in terms of Bart’s story. Yeah, Bart can be a bit of a hell-raiser, and sometimes you feel like the bad karma train has to start sometime, but damn, Bart definitely did not deserve what he ended up with. I’ll get more into that later though, when I’m actually reviewing the episode.

 

Adil Speech“Although, oficially, I am required to hate you, I want you to know that I do not feel it in my heart!”
~Adil Hoxha

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
When examining this episode for favorite moments, there are definitely a few things that really click with me. For one, I love how invested Homer gets in Adil being part of the family. I don’t agree with him completely shutting out Bart or making jokes about exchanging Lisa too, but I think you have to realize that when it does come to Bart, he has been testing Homer’s patience for a long while now. Being a trouble maker at home, and having to endure that trauma, even on a physical level (with him falling down the stairs and hurting his back), and then having to hear about his son’s transgressions at school, and from around the neighborhood…honestly, Homer just really wanted a break from that and he got that from Adil, even if Adil’s actions came from a place of dishonesty and deception. Then, when Homer is completely clueless and unaware of what Adil is actually doing, I think it really adds a nice bit of humor to the equation as well. I think one of my favorite lines in the whole episode is near the end when the Simpson family is saying goodbye to Adil and Homer weepingly says, “Good bye Adil, I’ll send you those civil defense plans you wanted!” showing that even after the situation was explained to the family, Homer still didn’t understand that Adil was an Albanian spy committing foreign acts of espionage for his own government. You could say it just makes Homer look like an even bigger idiot, and I would see your logic, but from an entertainment perspective, that was a great line to close that story on.

I also think it’s very clever how the writers portrayed International affairs between America and other countries. I feel like this could have been a risky episode to release because some people could watch the episode and think that Albania is trying to spy and steal information from the US and they must be a bad country because of it. However, the last scene of that story shows the FBI informing the Simpson family that Adil is not going to be locked up or imprisoned, but rather sent back to his country at the exchange of an American spy who was pretty much doing the exact thing Adil was doing, giving the message that, “yeah, he was doing something bad, but we are definitely guilty of it too, so we don’t really have room to determine what needs to be done here.” I’m not saying that’s the way all politics work or should work; clearly if nations have to resort to spying, then there is obviously something not right with that relationship and something needs to be worked out, but again, as far as this “television show” is concerned, I think it was a funny route to take. In other words, I think it did a good job of trying to avoid International controversy. I’d say the same goes along with all the France stuff too, although I feel like there was less to worry about there because the evil nature of the two winemakers had nothing to do with them being French, but with them being bad people in general.

I also think the conclusion of Bart’s story was well-done as well, albeit a bit predictable and cliche. It’s the classic formula of “living under bad circumstances,” but then coming through or learning something at the end to make it a worthwhile venture. It’s something we’ve seen a lot in television, it’s something we’ll see a lot of in this show; it will just vary in how different the routes are that take that path. I think what makes it good in this path is just the fact that it’s an end to Bart’s suffering and the end of two bad guys who are up to no good. Bart really does go through some terrible experiences, which, despite his behavior at home, is not something he or anyone should ever deserve, no matter the circumstances. I will say though, it will definitely give Bart some things to think about at home. At the very least, I would hope he would try a little harder to keep his room clean, because after three months of sleeping on the floor or in a bale of hay, he’d probably be thankful for just having a bed.

Goodbye Adil“Goodbye Adil, I’ll send you those civil defense plans you wanted!”
~Homer Simpson

My Review:
I don’t actually have a lot to say about this episode (especially compared to the last episode I looked at). Overall, I don’t think it’s a bad episode, but once again, I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest episode either. It’s got a good story with nice conflict resolution, it has a side-story that’s entertaining to watch, and seeing how this is supposed to be a Bart episode, we get some good moments and some great development with our little yellow-skinned trouble-maker. I think one of the greatest character traits of Bart that gets shown here is that despite Bart’s resume for causing trouble and making mischief, he’s actually got a very strong sense of justice and for the way the law should work. He knows that what his “host parents” are doing is wrong and doesn’t hesitate to go to the police at his first available opportunity. You could say he does it out of convenience, as he is being treated as a slave, but still, we’ll see in future episodes that when it comes to Bart Simpson, he does not let criminals get away with anything. In fact…we may have an episode OR TWO coming up that complements this  very well, but of course, I’ll get into that when it’s relevant again. Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that Bart isn’t a bad kid at all. He’s a fun-seeker and a little rebellious at times, but he does know the difference between right and wrong.

In fact, I’d almost say the lowest point of this episode is just the act of watching and witnessing Bart go through the trauma of living with his strict host parents. When watching this back, I really felt sorry for Bart and disgusted that he had to live under those conditions. I believe in being punished for something if you do something bad, or that karma is boomerang, but I don’t believe anyone should endure what Bart had to go through, regardless of past acts. It was a little hard to watch honestly, but at least those evil men got what they deserved at the end of the day and it seemed like Bart was handsomely rewarded and given reparations for the few terrible months he had to endure. And hey, Bart learned how to speak French; that’s honestly pretty cool, am I right? So yeah, overall, I’d say it was a good episode and worth a watch, even if the middle of the plot was a bit rough to get through.

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We only have two more left guys, and coming up, we have a candidate for best episode of the season, and a candidate for worst episode of the season. I’m not going to spoil too much, not to mention it seems like a lot of my opinions have changed or been modified to a rather large extent after doing these rewatches, but at the very least, it’s been a lot of fun doing these retrospectives and I’ve enjoyed it very much. I do apologize for this one going up a bit late, as I meant to post it last week, but I had a lot of work I had to get done which resulted in this getting pushed back a little. And honestly, don’t be surprised if the same happens to the next episode as well, just because I am hitting a very busy point with all of my mediums. I’m still hoping to be done with Season 1 by the end of May, so here’s to hoping that all the cards will fall into place for that to happen!

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SSR #8: “The Telltale Head”

Intro

Introduction:
If I had to pick the most iconic episodes of Season 1, or rather, the episodes I feel like are the most well-known of the season, I’d probably have to give my vote to the Christmas episode and the episode we will be looking at today; The Telltale Head. In this episode, we will live (or relive) through one of Bart’s most notorious pranks in the show’s history. How will it all go down? Let’s find out! The Telltale Head aired on February 25th, 1990 and was the seventh episode written for the show, and the eighth one to air in the Simpsons first season. It’s kind of odd when you look at that fact, considering this episode was written before the previous episode, but it aired afterwards. I guess something must have held up this episode up or something. The chalkboard gag for this episode is, “I did not see Elvis,” and the couch gag is actually a repeat of the couch gag that showed in “Bart the Genius,” where Bart is sent flying into the air, coming down in front of the television screen while it’s showing the producer credits.

Pulled a Few BonersHomer: “You know, Bart, when I was your age, I pulled a few boners. But I think you’ll find out that people are pretty decent if you give them half…”
Townspeople: “Look! There it is! The Head! KILL HIM!”

Plot:
This episode actually starts with what will ultimately be the conclusion of this story. Bart and Homer are walking down a sidewalk at night while Homer is trying to console Bart. Apparently Bart has done something very bad and it’s very apparent that they have the head of a stone statue in their possession. Before Homer gets very far with his talk, a mob shows up and starts to chase them through town. They ultimately get surrounded, but before the mob can rip them apart, Bart decides to explain why they have the head of the town’s founder, Jebediah Springfield, and starts telling his story of the events that led to this moment.

The story starts with The Simpson family attending church on a Sunday morning. The kids attend Sunday school and the adults listen to a sermon given by Reverend Lovejoy. Although the church scene doesn’t really have much to do with the rest of the episode, it’s good for a few laughs as the kids continually stress out the Sunday school instructor with way too many questions that she doesn’t know the answer to. And then Homer, who is listening to the football game broadcast on a radio, starts celebrating when his team makes a last-second push to win the game, not realizing that his shouts of jubilation are heard through the entire church and interrupt the reverend’s prayer; which incredibly humiliates Marge. On the way home, Bart sees that the new Space Mutants movie is playing at the movie theater and he asks to see it, but Marge refuses, saying the movie is too violent. Bart gets the money to see the movie anyway from Homer after lying to him and so he skateboards to the theater.

When he arrives, he runs into Jimbo Jones and his friends Dolph and Kearney; three older kids who are known for having a bad reputation at school for being troublemakers. They ask Bart if he wants to sneak into the movie without paying and Bart reluctantly accepts. The four kids eventually get thrown out of the movies and then they proceed to go around town causing mischief. They steal goods from the convenience store and then they start throwing rocks at a statue of the town founder; Jebediah Springfield. Bart knows that what the kids are doing is wrong, but he goes along with it anyway because they start to accept Bart and think he is cool for hanging with them. They then lay down in the middle of a field and start looking at the clouds, remarking how certain clouds look like different things. Bart notices a cloud that looks like the Jebediah Springfrield statue, but without the head, and when he tells the others about it, they start remarking that it would be cool if someone did cut the head off of the statue. Bart has enough and tells Jimbo and his friends to stop, but then they start making fun of Bart for defending the town founder, and telling him to leave in the process.

Bart decides that he wants to cut the head off the statue, but before he does, he asks his father how important it is to be popular. Homer, completely unaware of the reason Bart is asking the question for, tells Bart that being popular is the most important thing in the world and that he should do anything (shy of killing someone) to be popular. Because of this, Bart goes out during the night to cut off the statue’s head. However, once the deed has been done, Bart starts to realize that there is no going back and thinks that he may have made a mistake.

The next day, the entire town is in an outrage about the missing statue’s head, including the Simpson family, but they are completely unaware that Bart is vandal. Bart hides and takes the head to show to Jimbo and the other guys, but before he can show it, the bullies remark that if they find out who cut off the head, that they would beat the person up. When Bart brings up the discussion from the other day, they claim that it was only “cloud-talk” and that they would never actually disrespect the statue of the person who founded the town and killed a bear with their bare hands. Bart continues to feel the guilt throughout the rest of the episode and at his lowest point, he decides to finally come clean. He shows the head to his family and explains that the only reason why he did it was because he got the impression that being popular was the most important thing in the world. Homer realizes that he gave Bart that thought and decides that both he and Bart must come clean to the authorities.

The scene from the beginning of the episode continues and Bart apologizes for doing what he did and is willing to take responsibility for his actions. The entire town decides that Bart has suffered enough and that he truly feels badly for what he has done, so they accept his apology on the condition that he puts the head back on. Bart heroically takes the head and puts it back on the statue, absolving him of any guilt and bad feelings he had prior. The entire town celebrates the restoration of the town founder’s statue while Homer and Bart leave; Homer remarking that Bart did a good job, but that lynch mobs are never usually this nice and Bart should consider himself lucky.

Cloud TalkBart: “But guys, come on, don’t you remember history class? Jebediah once killed a bear with his bare hands.”
Dolph: “Oh, sorry…”
Kearney: “We forgot how much you loved Jebediah Springfield…”
Jimbo: “Yeah, he’s your boyfriend! Beat it Simpson! Man…I thought you were cool…”

My Personal History:
If there was ever an episode this season that I watched before the DVD boxset came out (at least that I know of), this would probably be the only episode that would meet that criteria. This is an episode I will always remember and never forget, just because of how familiar it is in the Simpsons mainstream. I’m not sure if I would call it one of my favorites because of that, but I do know that many people I’ve talked to about The Simpsons have seen it, or at the very least, know of its plot of how Bart decapitated the head of the town founder’s statue. I guess you could say it’s a “classic” episode.

TalkBart: “So like, sometimes you could do stuff that you think is pretty bad so other kids will like you?”
Homer: “You aren’t talking about killing anyone are you?”
Bart: “No…”
Homer: “ARE YOU?”
Bart: NO!”
Homer: “Then run along you little scamp!”

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
I have to say, this episode doesn’t really have a whole lot of jokes involved with it. Sure, there are some funny moments in the opening act with Homer acting up in church and the children in Sunday school incessantly asking the most out-there questions for the instructor, but this is definitely a plot that is driven by emotion more than humor for sure; especially in the second and third acts. If I had to pick my favorite joke, it would probably be the very last line in the episode where Homer tells Bart, “Good going son! But remember; most lynch mobs are not this nice!” Not only is it poking fun at how easily the conflict wrapped up, but it’s also a very nice warning to Bart as well, as Homer seems pretty confident that something like this could happen again, so Bart should watch what he does from now on.

This story is a very clear parody (especially when you consider the name of the episode) of “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. Much like the character in the poem, Bart is living with the guilt of something bad he did, and he is constantly reminded of that guilt in the disappointment of all the townspeople and by the sound of the statue’s head talking to him; continuing to eat away at his conscious the longer and longer the prank goes on. Although The Simpsons will be known for making references and parodies throughout the entire span of the show’s history, I feel like this is the first big one, or at least the first one I recognize that focuses on an entire episode as opposed to a small scene. In fact, the episode also makes a reference (one of many over the show’s history) to The Godfather when Bart wakes up and finds the head of the statue in bed with him (a nod to “finding a horse head in your bed”). I’m sure I will definitely miss out on references as we move forward, so if there ever is a reference I don’t call attention to, and you feel like it’s noteworthy, feel free to do so by leaving a comment on this and all future posts. I don’t claim for this series to be an extensive encyclopedia to all things Simpsons; this is more so just my take and analyses of the episodes, so please keep that in mind.

Lynch Mobs“Good going son! But remember, most lynch mobs aren’t this nice…”
~Homer Simpson

My Review:
Much like “Bart the Genius,” this is a very a “lesson-learned” storyline, where we follow supposed bad-boy Bart Simpson, watch as he does something bad, and then starts to regret what he has done and seeing how the guilt affects him and how he decides to make amends for his actions. Unlike Bart the Genius though, I feel like this episode does a much better job of showing that Bart has learned his lesson; mainly because we didn’t really see the ramifications for Bart’s actions in the prior episode. In this episode, Bart is almost lynched by an angry mob, and the guilt he had for his prank was hitting him really hard as well. In fact, as soon as Bart cut off the head, he remarked, “What have I done?” so you can see Bart was already trying to fight against what he knew was wrong, which I do like to see in Bart’s character development. He’s not a bad kid by any means, he’s just impressionable and is trying to find his way, and sometimes during that journey, you will make mistakes. The key is learning from those mistakes.

So on the whole, I do think this is a very good episode and I can see why it is hailed as a classic Season 1 episode by many Simpsons’ fans. However, it’s hard for me to say that I like this episode better than other Season 1 episodes like Bart the General and another episode we will be seeing in a few weeks. I think it’s just because I’ve seen this episode so many times and have been familiar with the basic storyline for it, that maybe it has just lost its novelty for me. It would still probably rank as Top 5 for the season most certainly…just not in my highest tier. But yeah, that will do it for The Telltale Head, so thanks to everyone for reading, I’ll see you all next time, and remember…if someone talks about cutting off the head of your town founder’s statue, make sure it’s not just ‘cloud-talk’ before turning them into the authorities.

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All right, we are done with yet another episode, but before we move on to the next one, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you guys that I will be on vacation, so there will not be any posts of this series next week, and probably the following week either (and if it is the following week, it will be later in the week once I’m on schedule again). I’m honestly amazed I have made it to this point already, as I honestly figured I would be further behind, but I have to say that this series has struck a chord with me and I can see this continuing on for a really long time. We only have 5 episodes of the first season remaining and I’m itching to see how they will go. However, first thing is first…I need my annual vacation relaxation before I do anything else. Catch you guys later!

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SSR #5: “Bart the General”

Intro

Introduction:
Bart Simpson may be the troublemaker at Springfield Elementary, but he’s definitely not a kid that could be classified as a bully or ruffian. He’s a fun-loving boy with a tendency to be a class-clown at times, and he may not be the smartest kid around, but on the whole, he’s a normal kid like everyone else. However, recent developments have put Bart in the crosshairs of the local school bully, and now he must find a way out of this predicament, unless he wants to have daily school beatings for the rest of his life. The Simpson universe is about to become a warzone with Bart on one side and Nelson Muntz on the other. “Bart the General” debuted on February 4th, 1990, and was the fifth episode written and aired for The Simpsons first season. This episode, alongside “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” and “Life on the Fast Lane,” did not feature any chalkboard or couch gags, probably because the episode ran a bit longer than usual.

BloodKid: “Nelson, you’re bleeding!”
Nelson: “Naw, happens all the time. Somebody else’s blood splatters on me. Hey wait a minute! You’re right! You made me bleed my own blood.”

Plot:
We start the episode at the Simpson household where Marge is helping Lisa bake cupcakes for her teacher’s birthday. Here we find out a little more that Lisa is the “smart one” of the family. She studies hard, tries to develop a good relationship with her teachers, and is generally just a more pleasant student than what Bart is in his classes. Bart gives Lisa a hard time for this, calling her a “butt kisser,” an “egg sucker,” and an “honor student.” However, even Bart is kind enough to take it all back and apologize when he’s gone too far, showing that he really does love and care about his sister…even if he does it for the prospect of a free cupcake.

The sibling bond is developed further when a kid takes Lisa’s cupcakes and starts eating them. Bart steps in to defend his sister, threatening to beat up the kid if he doesn’t give them back, but his threats go in one ear and out the other. Bart starts to rough up the kid, unaware that the kid’s superior, and big bully of the schoolyard, Nelson Muntz, has come to step in, leading Bart into punching Nelson in the nose accidentally. Instead of taking him out right there, because school is about to start, Nelson tells Bart that he will take care of him after school. Bart spends the entire day worrying about his fate, having a vision of him being chased by a giant version of Nelson, and even a daydream of what his funeral would be. After school, Bart tries to leave before anything can happen, but he runs into Nelson, who proceeds to give Bart a beating and then stuffs him into a trash can. Nelson remarks that this will now become a daily part of Bart’s life as he sends Bart on a wild ride down the hill, still rolling in the trash can.

When Bart gets home, Marge and Homer learn that Bart is being harassed by a bully and give him advice on how to deal with the situation. Marge tells Bart to either tell the principal or try to talk to Nelson and try to find common ground. Homer scoffs at this advice and takes Bart with him to teach him how to fight back and fight dirty in response. The next day at school, Bart tries to implement Homer’s teachings, but is still completely outmatched by Nelson, and is once again beat up. Lisa suggests Bart talk to Grandpa Simpson, as he is the toughest Simpson alive. Grandpa is enthusiastic to help, but in his old age, is unable to give Bart the advice he needs for dealing with young blood, so he takes Bart to meet a friend of his who may be able to help.

Bart meets Herman, Grandpa’s acquaintance who works at a military antiques store. Herman is quite knowledgeable, and quite obsessed, with the subject of war and turns Bart’s plight into a war scenario. He has Bart round up a number of kids who are tired of Nelson’s tyranny and trains them to take on Nelson once and for all. What follows is a very entertaining montage of Bart training the other kids with obstacle courses, fighting exercises and inspirational march songs. Herman, Bart and his troops gain intelligence on Nelson’s daily schedule and lay an ambush for him with hundreds and hundreds of water balloons.

Nelson and his two cronies are completely overwhelmed by Bart’s assault, forcing Nelson to the ground and his two goons to surrender. Nelson is tied up and captured, but threatens to beat up Bart even more once he gets untied. Bart realizes that Nelson cannot be tied up forever and Herman suggests an alternative method for solving their conflict. Bart and Nelson sign a peace treaty; an agreement that states that while Nelson can no longer forcefully beat up Bart or other children on a regular basis, he can continued to be looked at as a physical threat and menace of the schoolyard. They celebrate their new agreement by sharing a plate of cupcakes with each other and everyone else in the room, ending the story on a peaceful resolution. The actual episode ends with Bart giving a small speech and message to the episode viewers on the subject of war and how it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be…with the exception of the Civil War, World War II, and the plot of the original Star Wars trilogy. It’s obviously not trying to be a super serious message, but I always found the inclusion to be a fun little joke and nod to those “viewer discretion” messages.

Herman“The key to Springfield has always been Elm Street. The Greeks knew it. The Carthaginians knew it. Now you know it.”
~Herman

Personal History:
Once again, I did not see this episode until I owned The Simpsons Season 1 on DVD, but thankfully I have a little more to say than just that. When I initially viewed the DVD in its entirety, this was probably my favorite episode of the entire first season. I just really enjoyed the story, the jokes, and the epic Act 3 montage and conclusion at end. It just really rounded out to be a great episode for me and was probably one of only a few episodes I really got excited about watching in the first season. Since then, I have gained an appreciation for other episodes of this season as well, so is it still my favorite? We will just have to wait and see; not just for the final episode review, but also for the end of the Season 1 retrospective as it is.

Grandpa Speech“Sorry, Bart. You can push them out of a plane, you can march them off a cliff, you can send them off to die on some godforsaken rock, but for some reason…you can’t slap them. Now apologize to that boy right now.”
~Abe Simpson

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
I don’t even know where to begin with this one, just because there are just so many great jokes and great moments of this particular episode, so I’m really going to need to narrow things down for this particular section. And please, do not be surprised if this section is quite a bit longer than other sections in these retrospectives. The first thing I want to call attention to are the daydreams/fantasies Bart has in the first act. They just seem so appropriate to what a child would be scared of when being terrorized by a bully. It’s that scary, childhood dream where you are being chased by a monster and you try everything you can to stop it, just to find out that it’s completely unavoidable and pointless. Heck, Bart used knives and a GUN in that daydream and nothing could phase Giant Nelson. The funeral daydream is also pretty humorous too, especially when Nelson shows up to give Bart a few last punches before they bury him.

I also really like the dynamic between Homer and Marge during Act 2 of this episode, how they both try to do everything they can to help Bart, even if their advice falls on deaf ears and doesn’t work. It really shows their two different parenting styles and shows that even though they are married, they can still have conflicting opinions and they don’t back down from their respective arguments. I feel like future seasons kind of overplay the “Marge and Homer have marital problems,” plot line, and heck, we’ll be starting to take a look at some of those plots later on this season, but here, I feel like it works because they both want what’s best for their son and there are merits for both of their sides. Marge is correct in saying that fighting isn’t always the answer, but Homer is also correct in saying that people do need to learn to hold their own and stand up for themselves. Not all parental arguments need to be marriage-ending. And in response to Homer’s advice, I also like when Bart is imagining what Homer is saying to him during the second exchange with Nelson. He reminds Bart of what he taught him, Bart tries and fails immediately, and Homer in Bart’s thoughts shrugs, being out of any other ideas and forcing him to watch Nelson just take him down.

Now we get into all the war stuff, which is definitely just the best part of the episode, in my opinion. Everything during the end of Act 2 and the entirety of Act 3 is just amazing and very well written and directed. First I’ll start with Herman, who was just absolutely hilarious in this episode and who I honestly wish would have been given a bigger role in future episodes. Everything he says is just so over-the-top and hilarious and the fact that he is so obsessed with war, to the extreme of turning this childhood scuffle into one, just works so well here. “The key to Springfield has always been Elm Street! The Greeks knew it, the Carthaginians knew it, and now you know it!” That’s a line that has just always stuck with me just because it is so over the top. And the fact that Grandpa knows the guy is nuts and confirms it to Bart just makes his character even better. They need him to win this war.

Speaking of Grandpa, another line, or speech rather, that I always remember from this episode is during the montage when Bart starts punishing a kid for not wanting to fight. Grandpa stops Bart immediately with a lecture, saying “Sorry, Bart. You can push them out of a plane, you can march them off a cliff, you can send them off to side one some godforsaken rock, but for some reason…you can’t slap them. Now apologize to that boy right now!” That may be my favorite quote of the entire season, just because of how it starts to set up some kind of important message for Bart, before Grandpa just forgets the message, and just tells Bart that it’s wrong to slap someone and to apologize. I remember for the longest time, I actually had that quote as my signature on message boards just because of how silly it is. I also like the following exchange where after Bart apologizes, the kid just remarks, “it’s cool,” when the kid was terrified and scared beforehand, so it wasn’t even a big deal anyway.

The training montage is honestly just a really solid scene to begin with though. It has the classic cartoon humor of watching kids trying to perform obstacle courses, and generally not performing super well (because they are only around ten years old here). It has a scene where you watch the kids beat up on a sandbag, while Herman absolutely destroys the sandbag, stabbing it with a bayonet, and ripping it apart saying, “Die! DIE!” And I don’t know what it is about Bart’s military chants, but it’s just so endearing to watch a 10-year old boy try to mimic an army general, and his march rhymes are pretty catchy as well, with most of them being about how he is a subpar student in school and various other child comebacks and sayings (like the “We are rubber, you are glue” saying). Then, the war with Nelson itself, despite being incredibly one-sided, is just worth the entire build-up of the episode. The kids, just being through with Nelson’s bullying, much like us being tired of seeing Nelson beat up on poor Bart, just get complete satisfaction from watching him get paid back, in full, with the wrath of hundreds of water balloons.

And finally, the last thing I want to point out, actually goes back to a little nod that was written in the second act when Bart is being introduced to Herman. The Simpsons is definitely a show where once an episode ends, it’s very rare that they will call attention to that particular episode or storyline again, almost like each episode is starting new without any memory of the previous episode. There are some very obvious exceptions, like when a character is written into the show and has a big connection with another character, or very important lifestyle choices and changes (like Lisa becoming a vegetarian in Season 7). For the most part though, everything seems to find a way back to the status quo. This is why I found this particular moment kind of funny though, because when Bart asks Herman about his missing arm, Herman gives a speech saying, “When your teacher tells you to leave your arm inside the bus at all times, YOU DO IT!” This is a nod to the 3rd episode, “Homer’s Odyssey,” when Mrs. Krabappel tells the children to keep their arms inside the bus at all times because of some kid losing his arm that way. I always thought that reference was cool, especially when considering the prospect of Herman being the kid Mrs. Krabappel was alluding to, just from many years ago. So yeah, I felt like sharing that little reference before moving on, just because I’ve always been fond of it.

Birthday BalloonsHerman: “Got the water balloons?”
Bart: “200 rounds, sir! Is it OK if they say ‘Happy Birthday’ on the side?”
Herman: “I’d rather they say ‘Death From Above,’ but I guess we’re stuck.”

My Review:
As I said before, when I first watched “Bart the General,” it was definitely my favorite episode of Season 1. And honestly, even after many years have passed, it probably still is my favorite Season 1 episode. I do like a lot of other episodes a little more than I used to, but this one definitely hasn’t lost any favor with me either, and if even possible, I like it even more, now that I can see why I like it so much. It’s a good story that doesn’t have to rely on any other plots to keep it fresh, and unlike many of the other episodes so far, I feel like the main point of this episode is dropped on us pretty much from the get-go. In the first act we get introduced to Bart’s plight and actually see some substance to it and how it’s affecting him. In the second act we watch him try to deal with it from a variety of different angles before deciding on a final measure. And finally, in the third act, we watch the final conflict unfold in a very exciting conclusion that keeps you on your toes, wanting you to know how everything is going to go down. Some could argue that the ending of the episode seems very forced and nonsensical, making you wonder if a conflict and rivalry that heated could end so peacefully. But, for the purpose of the show, I can see the logic being used here. They didn’t want to send the message that “all you need is strength in numbers, and you can take down anyone with no consequences,” and they didn’t want to just get rid of or permanently disable the trademark “bully” character either, just because they could definitely use him for future stories and episode plots down the road, which is definitely true considering the future legacy and popularity of the Nelson Muntz character. His “Ha, Ha!” laugh clip is probably one of the most famous Simpson catchphrases, after all the Homer and Bart ones anyway.

So yeah, overall, just a very exciting episode. It has great moments, great jokes, a great story…just everything that makes a great Simpson episode, and this early in the first season as well…that’s not too shabby. I have to say, I’m really pumped now to see what the rest of the season will bring as well, now that I’ve set the bar pretty high for the rest of the episodes to beat this one. I think once I’m done with all the Season 1 episodes, I’ll try doing a post where I personally rank all the episodes of the season in order of my favorite to least favorite. That should be fun in determining, at least, what my favorite episodes are from that particular season, and maybe then, sometime in the future, I can use that list to help determine a much grander ranking if I ever decide to rank all of the episodes (of every season). For now though, I think it’s time to bid farewell to “Bart the General,” and I give my salute on a job well done!

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This episode really was so much fun to watch and look at for this post and I think it will put a lot of things in perspective when we start getting to some of the following episodes…for reasons I won’t quite reveal yet. Anyway, as you may have noticed, I’ve stopped doing these once per week and have been kind of on a “one entry per week and a half” pattern as of right now. Things have just been really busy as of late and I’m trying to do as much as I can without stressing myself out too much. Not to mention, I do have a vacation coming up soon, and I want to make sure a lot of my Youtube stuff is taken care of beforehand. That vacation starts on March 31st, so I’m hoping to have the next two entries done before then, but as usual, if stuff comes up, it comes up and the next post will be delayed by a small bit.

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