(originally aired October 14, 1993)
So we follow “Cape Feare” with an episode just as crazy. It’s pretty jarring how nutty the show got so quicky; I can’t imagine what it must have been like for fans to return for the fifth season to find that their beloved show had gone insane. I was surprised to find this episode is pretty polarizing, with some thinking Homer’s characterization was pushed too far, and some others believing this to be the first appearance of the dreaded “Jerkass Homer.” I am not in this belief at all; this is one of the most memorable and hilarious episodes the series has to offer. The entire episode is a weird send-up of Animal House-style movies, but through our main character’s eyes. Homer’s seemingly cruel actions are only done out of delusion: Homer is so reliant on TV reality that he thinks his college antics are redeemable, and his hatred of the dean is acceptable, despite him actually being a pretty swell guy. He is misguided in his efforts, never overtly malicious. It’s a parody about a man attempting to live a parody.
Before we hit campus, we get a brilliant opener with a safety commission paying a surprise visit to the nuclear plant. Homer’s complete incompetence is quickly exposed, leading Homer to be forced to pass Remedial Physics 101 at Springfield University in order to keep his job. Things are crazy right off the bat as Homer manages to create a meltdown in the simulator (even though there was no nuclear material in the truck), and easily shakes off his radioactive green glow. Despite the madcap elements and humor in this show, it stays pretty focused and has a brisk pace. By act two, Burns has got Homer into college, and upon setting foot on campus he believes he’s in a college movie, berating “nerds” and begrudging the affable Dean Peterson. His attitude turns a bit when he gets friendly with his geeky tutors, and attempt to enlist them in wacky college hijinks, all of which go awry.
The number of laugh-out-loud moments in this episode are staggering: guarding the plant bee, the professor dropping his notes, Homer’s call to the dean, Snake posing as a wallet inspector, “Curly, straight!,” it just goes on and on. It bears a slightly different tone than the equally wacky “Cape Feare,” but is still pretty ridiculous overall. However, as different as it is from a season 3 episode, it still feels Simpson-y. Characterizations can wax and wane depending on the circumstances; here, Homer’s misguided delusions based upon old college movies leads him to become a bombastic lout. His behavior may emulate what “normal” Homer would do in a season 11 episode, but here its done with a purpose. This is a definitive classic, and one of the funniest episodes of the series.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Homer seems so focused on such an asinine task of watching the bee, and it’s hilarious watching him freak out about screwing it up. Smithers’ read, “I’m afraid he couldn’t bee here,” is fantastic, as is the classic Homer line, “The bee bit my bottom! Now my bottom’s big!” Also to note this episode has some pretty liberal animation, particularly with Homer running down the corridor and his exaggerated posterior welt. There’s a lot of great “off-model” moments in this episode that really get out a lot of character and emotion. You’ll see none of that nowadays.
– Burns’ attempt to bribe reminiscent to giving away game show prizes is a great moment, as is one of the inspector’s enthusiastic response (“The box! The box!”) Also great is when the other inspector lectures Burns that he can’t just throw money at a problem to make it go away, Mayor Quimby, donning a fur coat with a giant ‘$5000’ price tag on it, comes into frame to deliver a joke (“Gentlemen, I’ve decided there will be no investigation. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go away.”) The outro to the scene is wonderful too, the great line reading from Burns (“I have a feeling you’ll be dropping the charges,”) and his quiet chagrin about the painters having moved his desk. Every scene in this show is brilliant, I’m going to try to not list every single joke here…
– I really want to read Homer’s application essay based upon how it ends (“It was the most I every threw up and it changed my life forever.”) Also great photo of him scarfing down a birthday cake, complete with red eye. Love the admissions officer’s disturbed reaction (“Reading his essay would only waste valuable seconds.”)
– The “School of Hard Knockers” movie is one of the best moments of the entire series, one I quote endlessly with friends (“Mr. President!!“). It’s a pitch perfect parody of college movies.
– Burns appealing to the Springfield U council is such a fantastic scene, starting from his scary-ass chair, to one of the best uses of Burns’ total lack of strength. Love the man’s little “Stop that” in-between his sentence. Upon collapsing, Burns orders Smithers, “Dismember the corpse and send his widow a corsage.”
– And so the GED Homer worked so hard to get a mere six episodes ago goes up in flames. At least we got a classic line out of it (“I am so smart! S-M-R-T! …I mean, S-M-A-R-T!”)
– The start of Homer’s first class is an absolute classic scene. The instructor’s clever joke (“Out with the old, in with the nucleus”) is completely lost to Homer, but him accidentally dropping his notes kills Homer, in one of Dan Castellaneta’s greatest performances.
– Love the stupid joke involving Homer stealing cinder blocks from a construction site to use for his faux college dorm, only to have inadvertently thwarted the building of a children’s hospital. It’d be cruel if it weren’t so dumb. And funny.
– The nerds are really great characters, I wish they could have found some way to bring them back. When one tells Homer he needs to memorize the periodic table, Homer dismissively claims he’ll just write it on his hand. Another nerd scoffs: “Including all known lanthanides and actinides? Good luck!”
– Homer’s prank game plan is another classic line (“We roll him up in a carpet and throw him off a bridge!”) More great animation of the motion wipe of a ravenous and angry Sir Oinks-a-Lot biting Homer. Great Dean line (“That sounded like a pig fainting!”) Great quick guest appearance from Richard Nixon (“Oh, you’ll pay. Don’t think you won’t pay!”)
– Another classic scene of the Itchy & Scratchy short “Burning Down the Mouse,” where Scratchy seemingly has got Itchy right where he wants him: in front of piles of explosives. However, before the big finale, one of the nerds unplugs the TV. Bart and Lisa are horrified. Upon getting it back on, the cartoon is over. Krusty doesn’t make it any easier (“WOAH!! They’ll never let us show that again! Not in a million years!!”)
– I love how even Marge, who’s pretty much a saint in putting up with her husband’s antics, can’t defend him (“I want those geeks out of my house.”) To get them back into college, Homer devises he and the nerds pull off a zany scheme. Now here is a perfect example of the distinction between Homers. He’s only of the mindset that a zany scheme will work because he’s trying to emulate similar situations from TV. In later years, Homer will just come up with something stupid off the cuff with no reference to anything. There’s a difference.
– I don’t know why, but I love Homer’s line about his plan for passing the final exam (“During the exam, I’ll hide under some coats, and hope that somehow everything will work out.”)
– The montage of Homer studying is wonderful. In later episodes, they’d use a montage every single show (sometimes twice a show) just to kill time or move the story along, but this montage is memorable, funny and used effectively. The animation of Homer turning in his exam is wonderful; each action is clearly thought out and looks so fun. Homer is truly alive. And of course, the stinger: Homer fails.
– Love the end credits images of Homer’s second run of college played over “Louie Louie” (what else?)