Episode - 7F16
First Aired - 2/21/1991Oh Brother Where Art Thou is the 15th episode of the second season of The Simpsons.After suffering a heart attack at the movie theater, Grampa realizes his mortality and lets Homer in on a dark family secret: Homer has a half-brother named Herb (the product of a one-night stand Grampa had with a dunk-tank carny-cum-prostitute) that he gave up for adoption before Grampa married Mona. When Homer finally finds Herb's whereabouts, the Simpsons are off to Detroit, where Herb recruits Homer to create a car for his company.See the YMMV page for details.
This episode contains examples of:
- Are We There Yet?: Bart and Lisa annoy Homer with that question during the car ride to Detroit.
- Bowdlerization: Bart singing the word "bastard" after justifying his use of it was edited out when shown on UK TV.
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: For their day out, Bart wants to go on a boat ride, and Lisa wants to go on a pony ride. Cut to Lisa riding a pony on Herb's yacht.
- Charlie Chaplin Shout-Out: One of the beggars in Herb's vicinity is Charlie Chaplin.
- Comically Missing the Point: The man in charge of the orphanage who Homer meets looks like Dr. Hibbert and tells Homer about his own lost twin brother. Homer fails to notice a connection. He also fails to get the enormous repeated hints at where his brother is and has to be directly told he is in Detroit.
- After Homer told Herb that they're brothers, he's in shock. But Homer thought he lost the connection.
- Downer Ending: Homer is left heartbroken after a bankrupt Herb disowns him. Some fans were so upset by Herb's downfall that the producers would ultimately do "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes" to give Herb a happy ending again (though a much later episode ["Changing of the Guardian"] reveals that Herb went broke again, and viewers don't get any information as to what happened).
- Though the commentary also reveals the original ending had Herb coming up with another idea as the bus pulled away.
- Epic Fail: The $82,000 note monstrosity Homer designed, intended as a car for the average consumer (a contemporary Honda Civic cost $15,000, for reference).
- Flashback: A quick one explaining how Abe had Herb. Quickly followed by Abe marrying Mona and the birth of Homer. (Incidentally, this is the first time Mona ever appeared.)
- Gone Horribly Right: Desperate to save his company, Herb turned to Homer to design a car. He got a big, ridiculous, unwieldy machine whose production bankrupted him on the spot.
- Identical Twins: The head of Shelbyville Orphanage looks like Dr. Hibbert and said he has a lost twin.
- Insufferable Genius: Herb's design team. They might have been taken seriously if they hadn't been so pompous or explained everything in a demeaning, "we-know-what's-good-for-you" attitude, such telling Homer "Americans don't want [X]" whenever he asked for something. The lead designer quickly calling Herb to complain and (from the context) making personal insults towards Homer didn't help.
- Improbably Cool Car: Averted. "The Homer" is a car only Homer Simpson would deem "cool" in any way, shape or form, and it (and its absurd price tag) become the laughing stock of the motor industry and sinks Herb's company.
- Japan Takes Over the World: Powell Motors is losing ground to the Japanese. When Herb loses his fortune, his company is bought by a Japanese company.
- Jerkass Has a Point: The design team makes some valid points about fuel efficiency and automobile designs, but how they express them ultimately demeans everything.
- Mean Boss: Herb is extremely dismissive and temperamental to his employees, viewing them as privileged idiots (in stark contrast to his own upbringing). This ends up being his own undoing, as he refuses to take their warnings of Homer's incompetence seriously, and forces them to continue with his doomed project until it's too late. They apparently know not to give what people want.
- Never My Fault: Herb blames Homer for ruining his company despite putting him in charge, shelving all other projects and outright ignoring his employees' warnings, who despite being 'privileged idiots' as he put it still know enough about business to be on the board of a car company.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Pope is apparently also present during the presentation of the new car.
- No Kill Like Overkill: In the McBain movie, McBain throws the villain out a window, landing on an oil tanker that explodes.
- Reveal Shot: Herb asked Homer and his family to visit him. We pull back to see his huge mansion.
- Riches to Rags: Herb thanks to Homer.
- Right Hand vs. Left Hand: The failure of Homer's project. What isn't caused by Homer's horrible conceptions is exacerbated by this. Any attempts to halt the project or warn Herb of the damage Homer is causing fall on deaf ears, either due to Herb's dismissive attitude towards his employees, or their pompous and demeaning method of explanation.
- Self-Made Man: Herb. It's established he put himself through business school and built his company from the ground up.
- Special Guest: Danny DeVito as Herb Powell
- Title Drop: Homer when he goes to the Shelbyville orphanage and thinks it's been replaced with a gas station. (Then he learns it just moved across the street.)