62. Homer the Heretic

(originally aired October 8, 1992)
The writers have talked about a good source for ideas is looking at the Ten Commandments and seeing which one of them Homer can break. They did it previous with the 8th, and here we have the 4th: observing the Sabbath day. The ideals of hard work and altruism of an ideal religious man, say Flanders, are far from the mind of Homer, who would prefer a life of sloth and ignorance. This is a great character study show, featuring Homer at his unabashed happiest, being a complete slob free of any responsibility, before his seemingly perfect life goes up in smoke (literally). Being the first of the production run, it also boasts some incredible animation, ranging from some great character animation during Homer’s best day ever, to the amazing sequence of the Simpson house on fire.

One fateful Sunday, Homer decides to skip church… and it ends up being the best decision he’s ever made. Just seeing him home alone, left to his own devices, is funny enough: he takes great joy cursing in the shower, cavorting around in his undies, making the most unhealthy snack imaginable, watching football, and to top it off, finding a penny. In stark contrast, Marge and the kids end up stuck in the unheated icebox that is the First Church of Springfield. The choice is obvious for Homer: he becomes a hedonist. Most of the episode is quite leisurely, but only that the story is very introspective. Marge is very vocal of her concerns of her husband’s soul, but there’s only so much she can do. Same with Lovejoy and Ned Flanders, though the latter does engage in an insane car chase with Homer, in the sole over-the-top crazy scene of the show. Along his new travels, Homer observes other denizens of Springfield’s religions and scoffs: Krusty goes door-to-door raising money for the Brotherhood of Jewish Clowns, and Apu points out his statue of Ganesh he keeps at his post (“Please do not offer my God a peanut.”)

All it takes to shake Homer’s beliefs is a mere house fire that nearly turns his domicile to a pile of cinders. Luckily for him, Flanders, and a motley crew of volunteer firefighters, Apu and Krusty included, manage to rescue him and his home. As mentioned before, the sequence of Ned saving Homer is gorgeous, from Ned nearly falling through the floorboards into a fiery inferno, to the animation of he and Homer falling onto the mattress outside and smashing through the bottom window. One of the best things about the episode is the handling of its themes of religion, divine retribution, relations with others beliefs… it doesn’t go anywhere near being preachy or moralistic, but allows the characters, and the audience, to make what they will of the situations that occurred. For Homer, he believes God Himself saved his life, so he owes it to Him to go to church, and next week, he’s there front and center… snoring loudly. But that’s Homer, and this episode is perhaps his greatest characterization.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The intro is so great, featuring a peaceful prenatal Homer desperately attempting to prolong his stay in his comfy womb, just as a post-natal Homer attempts to stay in his comfy bed.
– I’ve always been tempted to try Homer’s Moon Waffles: caramel, waffle batter, liquid smoke, all wrapped around a stick of butter. Then I realize I’d probably go into cardiac arrest immediately upon eating it.
– I love how Lovejoy’s vivid depictions of the fires of Hell manage to warm up his freezing audience (Bart sighs, “I’m there.”)
– Great moment when Homer calls into Bill & Marty’s radio contest, and manages to fumble his answer (but still wins) even though he’s looking right at the record jacket (“This Things I Believe.” “Can we accept that?”) Also a wonderful Homer observation upon watching the Three Stooge: “Moe is their leader.”
– “I… found… a penny!!” Such incredible enthusiasm; I always quote it when I find a cent-piece. I also like his thinking back of previous best days ever: marrying Marge and running joyfully under a sprinkling of beer from a ruptured truck.
– Homer’s logic for not going to church is worded poorly, but still contains nuggets of truth: “And what if we picked the wrong religion? Every week, we’re just making God madder and madder!”
– Of course, the showcase of this episode is Homer’s dream of meeting God, who of course, has five fingers. I love His disappointment with Lovejoy, apparently not knowing whether St. Louis has a football team or not, and His parting words to Homer (“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to appear in a tortilla in Mexico.”) Also immensely quotable is Homer’s description of the Almighty: “Perfect teeth. Nice smell. A class act, all the way.”
– Homer tells Lovejoy of his dream of meeting God: “He appeared before me in a dream, and I knew that was special because I usually dream about naked… Marge.” I also like his attempts to swap Bible verses with the Reverend, which fails immediately.
– The car chase is so ridiculous, but hilarious for that very reason. The ending cracks me up: “Where’s this thing headed?” “Garbage Island.” [ship horn]
– Haven’t seen an Itchy and Scratchy in a while. This is one of the best ones; I love how nonchalantly Scratchy looks out the window, and how he thinks hiding in the closet will protect him from the moon falling to crush him.
– Classic Homer quote talking to the kids: “Let me tell you about another so-called ‘wicked’ guy. He had long hair and some wild ideas. He didn’t always do what other people thought was right. And that man’s name was… I forget. But the point is… I forget that, too. Marge, you know what I’m talking about. He used to drive that blue car?”
– I love how Marge’s last plea to Homer to go to church is crushed by a special on TV on how to make your own ladder.
– The fire spreads to the basement, right to two boxes, conveniently labeled “Oily Rags” and “Blasting Caps.” Maybe should’ve kept them in a safer place.
– Love fire chief Apu racing down the street, only to be stopped by a long line of ducks crossing: “You ducks are really trying my patience! …but you’re so cute.”
– It’s still funny, but a little horrible that after Ned has just risked his life to save him, Homer has a delightful vision of himself on a hammock laughing while Ned burns alive in his house.
– If I can make one complaint about the show, the run of gags following Homer’s rescue seem to go on a while. Barney chopping the mailbox, the insurance agent, Kent Brockman; they’re funny bits, but I feel that they should have kept it moving to the emotional climax after all that. The only thing that is crucial is the great bit of God seemingly having a hand in instantaneously saving Ned’s house, complete with a nice rainbow.

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4 responses to “62. Homer the Heretic

  1. What I always liked about the bible verse exchange betwen homer and lovejoy is that lovejoy quotes a verse from memory that makes his case and homer picks a verse at random which lovejoy also knows, but which is almost as applicable to homer’s case. Makes you think about how you can use bible verses to argue either side of anything.

  2. Best. Episode. Ever. My personal favorite.Throughly enjoyed your analysis. For some reason my favorite scene is Homer on the couch in his bathrobe smiling while watching the game. I just love the attention to detail in the scene. The way the cat is cleaning itself and Homer is picking chip crumbs of his robe. As you said, theres just something so damn funny about watching Homer left home alone to his own devices.

  3. One of my all-time favorites. I love how this show used to be able to make jokes about religion, especially Christianity, without coming off as hostile or antagonistic. It’s like comparing old, annoying goodie two-shoes Flanders to current, judgmental fundamentalist Flanders.

    I used to use that “But what if we chose the wrong religion” line to my parents all the time in high school.

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