154. Treehouse of Horror VII

(originally aired October 27, 1996)
Bit of a late start for this season, so this one opens with the Halloween show, a custom that would be all too recurring in later seasons. But at least this one aired before Halloween. Anyway, on with the review; first up, “The Thing and I.” The Simpson children hear strange noises in the attic at night, and their parents remain elusive as to what it is. There’s a great eerie aura set in; Bart in his bed at night hearing creaks and grunts, and a dark shadow dashing from view in the vent is actually quite spooky. Also great is later when they inspect the attic, and Bart whips the flashlight over to a wall only to see chains rattling; a creature has gone loose. Said creature is revealed to be Bart’s identical brother Hugo; separated at birth, Hugo was deemed to be the “evil” twin, and has been locked in the attic on a diet exclusively of fish heads. The family and Dr. Hibbert go off to search for him, but Hugo never left the house, leaving Bart for him to fulfill his fantasy of conjoining them once more. Nancy Cartwright is really great as Hugo, a deeper register Bart with a twinge of madness to it. The end reveal that Bart was the evil twin all along is mildly clever, but made funny at the slow, laborious way it was revealed (capped by Bart’s “Oh, don’t look so shocked”) and the horrible outcome for Bart to switch places with his brother. It’s a wonderfully twisted end for a really odd segment.

“The Genesis Tub” suffers from being the middle segment as much as Lisa suffers for being the middle sibling. Lisa is all set with her science project involving a tooth slowly dissolving in soda, but a spark of static electricity ends up breeding new life, one that grows at a fantastic speed, passing even ours within a mere night. She is most impressed with her creation, but Bart whilst goofing around nearly destroys their entire world. In a fantastic piece of animation, tiny war planes retaliate by attacking Bart in his bed; the sequence of the planes zooming up to his head from the foot of the bed is so fantastic. Following this, Lisa is beamed down into the petri dish, learning that the people believe that she is God and that Bart is the Devil. They are shocked to hear that they are related, and have a number of questions to ask of their Almighty Creator. It’s really this last part that’s the most interesting, thinking about the world from their perspective and dogging Lisa with questions she doesn’t hold the answers to. But this also begs the question, why did they shrink her down in the first place, especially considering they couldn’t change her back? I rebut with, they emerged from soda water and are like two days old, so they can’t be too bright. It’s a neat little story, only suffering from being sandwiched between two dynamite ones.

“Citizen Kang” is one of my favorite TOH shorts: it’s creepy, it’s funny, and touches on the most terrifying subject of all: politics. Homer is abducted by our favorite Rigilians Kang and Kodos, but their “take me to your leader” plan is complicated when Homer informs them of the upcoming election. The aliens proceed to abduct then-President Bill Clinton and GOP nominee Bob Dole and assume their bodies. As the two imposter candidates do their rallies, Homer is left looking like a madman in his efforts to expose the extraterrestrials. Every single line from Kang/Dole and Kodos/Clinton is absolutely hysterical for oh so many reasons: the vocal disconnects, the aliens’ complete lack of knowledge of human history or behavior, and other characters’ responses to them, all of which oblivious (“I am Clin-Ton. As overlord, all will kneel trembling before me and obey my brutal commands. End communication.” Watching at home, Marge scoffs, “That’s Slick Willie for you, always with the smooth talk.”) Also, being about the 1996 election doesn’t date this story in the least; there are some allusions specific to Clinton and Dole, but the focus on the campaign trail and the rigamarole and talking points with it remain timeless. At the eve of the election, Homer finally unmasks the imposters, but Kang and Kodos present that the populous has to vote for one of them under the two party system. And indeed they do. The best line of the show, one of the best lines of the series, is in response to an outraged man in the crowd yells, “I believe I’ll vote for a third party candidate!” And Kang responds, “Go ahead, throw your vote away!” Brilliant. America would rather be enslaved by aliens than vote for a third party. Bad news for Ross Perot. I can’t be bothered ranking these, but this segment has got to be in the top five. All in all, another great Halloween trilogy. I should enjoy these while they last.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The opening bit is kept short and sweet: Homer is lighting a candle, ends up lighting himself on fire, he runs around screaming. Good enough.
– I love how cavalier Homer is bringing the bucket of fish heads to the attic, and his little diddy he sings along with it. The direction is so great too, where we see from the entrance of the attic the kids peeking upward and just hear the ravenous sounds of the heads being devoured.
– The kids forming a human ladder to open the attic door is a cute moment within a creepy show. The attic is full of references to past episodes, as it usually is, along with stacks and stacks of Homer’s unsold autobiography, “Homer, I Hardly Knew Me.”
– I absolutely love how Dr. Hibbert appears in the house so startlingly, and how when Marge screams in shock, Hibbert mimics in kind. So bizarre. Hibbert’s got a lot of great lines and moments here, responding to Lisa’s claims of “Siamese twins” not being PC (“And hillbillies prefer to be called ‘sons of the soil.’ But it ain’t gonna happen,”) calling Hugo “too crazy for boy’s town, too much of a boy for crazy town,” and how he subdues the boy by swaying him with a fake mirror… then socking him in the face. The timing on that bit is great, where we see it’s a false mirror with Hibbert’s face staring through… wait… PUNCH.
– Great moment flashing back to Bart and Hugo’s birth. One starts gnawing repeatedly on the other, Marge instinctively holds her arms over her bosom and comments, “I think I’ll bottle feed that one.” I also love the stupid mislead of Hibbert slicing down a paper cutter after narrating he’d have to separate the boys, then of course revealing he’s cutting up waivers for Homer and Marge to sign.
– Love Lisa’s cheerful commentary regarding her science project (“Science has already proven the dangers of smoking, alcohol and chinese food, but I can still ruin soft drinks for everyone!”)
– Easy, but great joke of following Lisa’s shock that she’s created life quickly distracted when Marge calls that there’s waffles for breakfast. They end up being just square pancakes (Lisa grumbles, “The waffle iron’s been in the shop forever…”)
– For no discernible reason, the tiny world seems to have duplicate versions of Frink and the three college nerds. Oh right, rule of funny (“Unshrink you? Well, that would require some sort of a re-bigulator, which is a concept so ridiculous is makes me want to laugh out loud and chortle, and… uh… but not at you, O holiest of gods, with the wrathfulness and the vengeance and the blood rain and the hey-hey-hey-it-hurts-me…”)
– The end of Bart passing off the project as his is great, as is Willie throwing the other projects in the trash, and the reveal all this hassle was over a paltry gift certificate.
– Upon being abducted, Homer seems all too willing to accept an anal probe. Kang and Kodos are disgusted (“Stop! We have reached the limits of what rectal probing can teach us.”)
– So no one will believe Homer, the aliens spray him with booze (love the dramatic angle of Kang/Dole saying, “Rum!”) Sure enough, when Homer tells the family the next morning, Bart is incredulous (“Sure you were, rummy.”) I also love that even in retelling his ridiculous sounding story, Homer feels the need to lie in commenting he had caught a large fish before the abduction.
– Classic classic scene with Kang/Dole: “Abortions for all.” Crowd boos. “Very well, no abortions for anyone.” Crowd boos again. “Hmm… Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others.” Crowd cheers.
– I love Kang/Dole and Kodos/Clinton walking hand and hand, and the awkward read of the aide telling them how odd it looks. Kang/Dole responds, “We are merely exchanging long protein strings. If you can think of a simpler way, I’d like to hear it.” And the two continue walking with big grins. So hilarious.
– Phil Hartman does a fine Clinton, as he did on SNL, and Harry Shearer is equally great as Bob Dole. I like their back-and-forth on the alien ship of how they’ll put aside the partisan politics for the greater good, just in time for Homer to accidentally shoot them out into space. The animation of them flailing about briefly before dying and floating off is fantastic.
– Love the staging of the ship crashing into the Capitol, then panning down hearing him run down the steps and outside to expose Kang and Kodos.
– We end with a classic line, then has become somewhat of a meme during election time, from Homer following the enslavement of Earth: “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.”) Like it would have been any different. Brilliant.


8 responses to “154. Treehouse of Horror VII

  1. “Citizen Kang” may just be my all-time favorite Treehouse of Horror short. The laughs come smart and fast, and there’s just so many of them. Endlessly quotable, too – you wouldn’t believe how often I use “What the hell is this, some kind of tube?”

  2. On “Citizen Kang”, that moment at the end where the now-enslaved family is forced to push construction materials. Homer stops, while Marge continues pushing….and it is HER, not her husband, who gets a whippin’ from an alien. A golden era indeed.

    I also find it fascinating how, IIRC, this is the lone Treehouse Of Horror were every single segment ends with its respective protagonist screwed.

  3. “The opening bit is kept short and sweet: Homer is lighting a candle, ends up lighting himself on fire, he runs around screaming. Good enough.”

    Really? I consider VII’s intro to easily be the weakest intro of any THOH special. It’s like they couldn’t think of anything so they made up Homer’s arm catching on fire at the last minute.

    Other than that, this is a pretty good THOH special, though I think I like VIII a tad better.

    • The weakest intro of *any* TOH?

      Naaah. It’s practically gold compared to the ridiculously over-the-top, and ridiculously long, TOH intros of the Zombie era (though I’d still put it behind the amusing tombstones, Krusty as the Headless Horseman from VI, and the Fox censor from VIII).

      I do believe, though, that it is the *shortest* intro of any TOH – closely followed by the aforementioned Krusty intro from VI. I guess Bill and Josh wanted to give as much time to the segments as they possibly could…

      • I agree about it being the weakest of the first 8 THoH episodes. It just feels like they weren’t even trying with this one. I like it, but it could have been better.

  4. I’ve always found the first segment of this episode to be very Problem Attic.

  5. I love all three segments here, but I don’t think they match up to the quality of previous ones. My favorite line from “Citizen Kang” is, “We need to go forwards. Not backwards. Not upwards. Not forwards. And twirling, always twirling.”

    As for “Genesis Tub,” Mike, I think you are looking at it wrong. Those tub people might have only been alive for 2 days to Lisa (and us), but to them it has clearly been centuries. I really like the moment when Lisa sees a dude nailing stuff to a Church door.

    The episode with Hugo is great too. My favorite bit from that is the moment of realization that Bart was the evil twin the whole time. It was so obvious and yet so funny, especially with Cartwright’s delivery. I also like how they reference this on the chalkboard in “Homer They Fall.”

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