The Simpsons have been on the air for 30 years now, but have we considered the possibility of a main character of the Simpson family dying? Sure, the show has dealt with character death before, and some characters have been flat out retired, but what if a character of Homer’s status were to pass on? How would the world be different? How would his family react? How would he handle his last moments? Well, interestingly enough, Season 2 just so happened to have an entire episode dealing with that, and today, we are going to be taking a look at that episode.
“One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish” was the eleventh episode written for and to air in The Simpsons second season and it released on January 24th, 1991. The chalkboard gag for this episode is, “I will not cut corners,” with ditto marks following his first three lines (implying that Bart has not learned his lesson and will continue to cut corners). The couch gag features the entire family coming in, sitting on the couch, but then the couch topples over backwards.
Dr. Hibbert: “You can expect to go through five stages. The first is denial.”
Homer: “No way! Because I’m not dying!”
Dr. Hibbert: “The second is anger.”
Homer: “Why you little..”
Dr. Hibbert: “After that comes fear.”
Homer: “What’s after fear? What’s after fear?”
Dr. Hibbert: “Bargaining.”
Homer: “Doc, you gotta get me out of this! I’ll make it worth your while!”
Dr. Hibbert: “Finally, acceptance.”
Homer: “Well, we all gotta go sometime.”
Dr. Hibbert: “Mr. Simpson, your progress astounds me.”
It is meatloaf night at the Simpson household and Lisa is lamenting because she wants to be more open-minded and try new things. After some discussion, the family decides to go out to eat the following night and even after some reluctance from Homer, the family decides to go to The Happy Sumo restaurant and try sushi for the first time. Homer isn’t too thrilled at first, but eventually comes around to it and starts enjoying the new cuisine. He then starts trying and taste-testing all of the things on the menu, including a sliced pufferfish dish known as fugu, which can be quite fatal and deadly if not prepared properly.
The head chef has his hands busy, so he is unable to prepare the fugu, so the task of slicing the fish falls to one of the lower-ranked chefs. Although it seems like Homer enjoys the dish, when the head chef returns, he notices that the fish was prepared wrong and the entire kitchen staff rushes into the dining room to give Homer the news; that he could have been poisoned. Homer is taken to the hospital where he finds out that he only has 24 hours (22 after waiting so long) to live.
Homer plans to spend his final day on Earth spending quality time with his family and friends, as well as doing a lot of things he had always wanted to do or try. However, he ends up sleeping through his alarm and missing a very large part of his morning. He spends the afternoon having a man-to-man talk with Bart, listening to Lisa play her saxophone, and making a video tape for Maggie for her to remember him by. However, when Homer goes to make-up with his father and tell him that he loves him, Grandpa is happy and wants to make up for lost time, so Homer spends most of his afternoon with his father, resulting in Homer having to cross-out a lot of the stuff on his list. On his way home, Homer starts speeding which catches the attention of a nearby patrol car. Homer orders the cops to hurry it up so he doesn’t waste anymore time, but because of his attitude, they decide to arrest and lock him up in jail instead.
Homer calls Barney to bail him out of jail and after telling Barney the news, and getting the chance to tell off Mr. Burns before he passes away, Homer is convinced by Barney to have one last beer at Moe’s Tavern before he dies. After the drink and telling the entire bar that he loves them, Homer asks Barney to drive him home, but Barney is taking too long to fix a tire, leading Homer to run all the way home to be with his wife and family, who are waiting for him to return home for dinner. He makes it home, but the reunion is cut short as Homer and Marge go upstairs to share one last intimate night together.
Before the sun rises, Homer gets out of bed, says one last goodbye to all of his children and sits in the living room chair while listening to an audio book of The Bible read by Larry King. During this, Homer passes out and is assumed dead. Marge wakes up and notices that Homer is no longer in bed. She goes into the living room and finds his presumed lifeless body in the chair. However, she quickly notices that Homer’s drool is still warm, therefore he is still clinging to life. She wakes him up and both are happy to discover that Homer did not succumb to the venom of the blowfish. Homer vows to live the rest of his life to the fullest…and then proceeds to spend his day watching a bowling match while eating pork rinds.
“The three little sentences that will get you through life. Number 1: ‘Cover for me.’ Number 2: ‘Oh, good idea, Boss!’ Number 3: ‘It was like that when I got here.'”
This was always a strange episode for me growing up because it was definitely on my Simpsons VHS tape, but I never remember understanding the plot of this episode until much later on in life. In fact, I was completely shocked that there was even an episode that gave Homer an actual death sentence and that he spent the entire episode trying to make sure he covered all of his loose ends. I definitely remember a lot of scenes of this episode; particularly the scenes with Homer bonding with kids and the drool scene with Marge at the end of the episode, but I had little to no context on what exactly was going on here, as most kids probably would not have due to a subject matter of this nature. I’m just surprised my parents even kept the episode on the tape to begin with considering how serious the subject was, but I guess they had always considered me very mature for a young age.
Homer: “Hey Burns! Eat my shorts!”
Mr. Burns: “Who the Sam Hill was that?”
Mr. Smithers: “Why it’s Homer Simpson, sir. One of the schmos from sector 7-G.”
Mr. Burns: “Simpson eh? I want him in my office 9 AM, Monday morning. We’ll see who eats whose shorts.”
For the first act, even though it’s largely irrelevant to the main plot of the episode (aside from the poisonous blowfish obviously), it is actually kind of fun to see the Simpson family having a nice time in a new environment for them. You see the doughnut-gorging, meatloaf-eating Homer actually enjoying sushi for the first time, you get to see the kids performing a karaoke version of “Shaft,” in the restaurant…it’s just a really nice time for the whole family and is largely engaging in its own right. I also just remember being younger and being a little thrown off when the head chef leaves the kitchen to go engage in some….car romance …with Mrs. Krabappel. I was shocked because 1) it was Bart’s teacher of all characters and 2) the fact that they got away with that scene. Given, it’s not like they showed any nudity, and they could have just been “fooling around,” and not actually engaging in anything adult, but still, just a very interesting scene. I also enjoy the casting of George Takei as Akira, the waiter at The Happy Sumo. Although his performance is short and sweet and nothing super substantial in regards to the plot of this episode, I do like George Takei as a person and he’s always a good voice to hear, and it’s great to see him come back in future roles for both The Simpsons and Futurama. Continuing with more of the first act, I also think the scene with Dr. Hibbert at the hospital is great too. First, when Homer looks at Marge, claiming that he can read her like a book, and immediately reacts, “Oooh! It’s good news, isn’t it?” because Marge is looking somewhat perturbed about the diagnosis. That’s a line I’ve always found myself quoting at some time or another just because of the way Homer reacts. I also enjoy the back and forth between Homer and Dr. Hibbert when he’s going over the five stages of death, because Homer just manages to flawlessly act out each stage in their exchange.
The second act is where I think this episode is at its strongest. I absolutely love the scenes with Homer and his family. The scene with Marge at the beginning is sweet as they talk about what Homer’s plans are for the following day. I love the scene with Homer and Bart because it really shows a great dynamic for their relationship. I love how Bart immediately assumes he is in trouble when Homer wants to talk with him; immediately dropping his pants to be spanked, almost on instinct alone. More than that though, the scene is just so heartfelt with Homer teaching Bart the three most important sentences in life, and then of course how to shave. The scene with Lisa is short, but also just shows that they also just have a great dynamic together as well. Homer listens to Lisa play her sax, but when the music is too depressing for Homer, Lisa spices it up and plays a more upbeat tune that Homer starts dancing to. There isn’t really any interaction with Maggie, because really, how could there be? However, it’s still good to see Homer wanting to take care of that loose end as well and doing something for her, especially when you consider how easily Homer forgets about Maggie in future episodes of the show. Even the scenes with Homer and Grandpa are nice just because it does show a good side to that relationship after so much of their relationship is bickering about how Homer doesn’t come to see him enough, at least in future episodes anyway.
Before I move on to the final act, I just want to reiterate that this is the Homer Simpson I love seeing in action. Yeah, Homer isn’t perfect, he’s definitely not that bright, and he does have narrow-minded interests at times, but at the very core of his character, he is a family man and he loves his wife, children, and really just his entire family. Sure, there are aspects of his family that bug him at times; Bart is a trouble-maker, he doesn’t have very much common ground with Lisa, and his relationship with his father isn’t that great, but he still loves and cares about them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tuned into a future episode from more recent season of the show, just to see Homer make a joke about “Man, things would be so amazing if I didn’t have kids,” or in one scene that really disgusted me, Homer had a dream about letting his father die, just for him to wake up and remark that he had the most incredible dream. I really hate that about the future seasons of the show because they really have turned Homer into a complete jerkass of a character, completely turning against, or in a more accurate light; spitting on such great scenes like the ones in this episode. Heck, in just looking at Homer’s list of what he wants to do before he dies; there are so many good take-aways for how you can examine Homer’s character. There are the loving-father and caring-husband tasks, that I’ve already gone into great detail discussing. You see that Homer wanted to go hang-gliding as well as plant a tree before he died; showing his more adventurous side. Heck, even with all of those nice tasks, he even managed to stick in a few rebellious things in his list as well, like telling off his boss and having one last drink at his favorite bar with his friends. Homer really is a multi-tiered characters with a lot of different layers and that’s what I really like about him; that’s he’s not just a bumbling idiot eats donuts all day…there’s a complex, but amazing entity within and the writers and producers really cherished that entity early on in the series.
The final act is a little strange, just because a large majority of it is just trying to get Homer home after he was taken to jail at the end of act 2, but for the most part I wouldn’t say it’s too bad. We get another Moe’s Tavern prank call out of it, there are some funny gags with Barney, and even Homer telling off Mr. Burns is pretty great. For some reason, I also just really like the beginning of the act when Homer is listening to his jailmate playing the harmonica and he asks what the guy is in prison for, to which the stranger responds “Atmosphere.” I don’t know why, but just the response of that has always made me smile and I’ve found myself quoting that on occasion. Then we get to the end of the episode which is just more of the same (in a good way) emotion that was explored in the second act. Marge and Homer’s final moments are beautiful and Homer saying goodbye to each Simpson child is great (particularly when he whispers such great compliments to both Maggie and Lisa, and then remarks to Bart, “I like your sheets”).
The ending itself…it’s good. I wouldn’t say it’s anything amazing, just because of the nature of this show and how we’ve all gotten so used to everything returning to normal and back to the status quo, so a part of that does kind of mess with things and when it is revealed that Homer is still alive, you do kind of have that feeling of “Well, of course he is, they wouldn’t kill off the main character halfway through the second season.” However, the sentiment and emotion is still there and I do think that it works despite those circumstances. The second the show confirms his status is still a very celebratory moment and you do feel good about the experience and all the nice feels you had along the way, which is the most important part of this episode.
As far as the ending’s ending…with Homer sitting on the couch, eating pork rinds in front of the television in his attempt to “live life to the fullest,” I mean…it’s kind of a silly way to end it, sure, but to me, this wasn’t the real ending. As far as I’m concerned, the actual ending is what we saw when Marge discovered Homer still being alive at the end of act three, not what happens while the credits are rolling. After all, usually when credits roll, they just show a black screen with names while playing the show’s ending theme, so this was really more of a bonus to begin with. One thing I will point out though; apparently there was another scene planned for the credits that involved Homer being at the Flanders cookout the next day (an invite Homer accepted only because he thought he was dying and wouldn’t be able to attend anyway), where he is constantly reminded of all the mishaps from the previous day, including his father still being love-starved and Mr. Burns calling to leave a message that he wants to see him Monday after being told-off the previous day. The scene ends with Homer saying, “I wish I were dead.” While I think this would have been a funny scene (funnier than what we got anyway), I am actually kind of glad it wasn’t used, just because I could see it cheapening the emotional response that we did get from the episode as a whole, but that’s my opinion on the matter. I always found that piece of trivia interesting and was one of the things I really enjoyed about watching the audio commentaries on the DVD boxsets, when they feature insight of that nature.
“Goodbye Bart…I like your sheets!”
~Homer’s Goodbye to Bart
If you can’t tell from my overall feelings, I really like this episode. It’s a great story, it deals with a very emotional topic, treats that topic seriously, but at the same time, isn’t afraid to make jokes along the way either. It’s got a great balance of what I think makes a very engaging episode and it makes you interested in seeing how everything concludes at the very end of the story. Even if you know everything is going to be all right at the end, it’s still very interesting in seeing how Homer deals with this crisis and how he feels about his family. At the end when Marge discovers Homer’s body, you feel her pain and sadness when she thinks her husband is dead. Heck, even I teared up a little when I watched Homer say goodbye to all of his children and I’ve seen this episode a large number of times; the writing is just that good.
And again, not to constantly turn this into an essay about why the modern episodes of the show aren’t that good, but this is just a topic that I could not see the modern era of the show covering very well. The show has gone in such a different direction that I feel like you would lose a lot of the special moments that were spotlighted in this episode. This is why I’m glad this episode was handled with care and treated the core character, in this case, Homer, in a very mature manner. You can have a silly character like Homer Simpson deal with a bunch of serious issues and rough topics without being over the top, or without dulling the character down to a very somber mood and mindset. You can still have fun with the character while still not making light of the situation either, and that’s what I really like about this episode. It’s quite easily, in my opinion, one of the best episodes of Season 2,
And that’s going to do it for this episode, which means we are officially halfway done with Season 2! I will say, I was expecting to be a bit further along now than where I am at this moment, and I honestly meant to have this write-up done a couple of days ago, but I am still trying to get adjusted with my new schedule and my new PC. While I pretty much have everything set-up at this point, I mainly just have to work on getting my mind set on pushing forward and getting things done; maybe even designating certain days and times to working on specific things (like this for example). Next episode; we will be taking a look at, and a look back, to Homer and Marge back in high school, as we cover the very first flashback episode, “The Way We Was.”