Episode - 7F07
First Aired - 11/22/1990The definitive Thanksgiving episode and the only true one in Simpsons' history is Bart vs. Thanksgiving, where Bart learns the meaning of the holiday, remorse and forgiveness after getting into a fight with his family and running away from home.It is Thanksgiving Day, and Homer is watching Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on TV. Lisa is meticulously assembling a centerpiece to place on the family dinner table, while Marge is busy cooking and preparing for the guests Patty, Selma, Jacqueline and Grampa. Bart is basically getting in everyone's way. Later, as the guests assemble at the table, Lisa brings in the centerpiece and proudly shows it off, just as Bart brings in the turkey. When Bart tries to jockey for position in placing the turkey platter, he gets into an argument with Lisa about where her centerpiece should be set, resulting in a fight and, in the middle of the ruckus, the centerpiece lands inside the fireplace and instantly is destroyed in the flames. Lisa is devastated and runs to her room in tears, while Bart refuses to accept responsibility. An angry Marge with Homer (in a rare move) backing her up sends Bart to his room without dinner, and declares that because of him, "you ruined Thanksgiving!"Bart is told that if he can legitimately apologize and mean it, he will be allowed to dinner, but a stubborn Bart insists that he did nothing wrong and that Lisa was to blame. Bart continues to sulk and decides he's going to show his parents a thing or two by running away. Santa's Little Helper, who had been thrown out of the house, decides to join Bart as they wander through town. Bart first stops at a house that happens to be Mr. Burns' mansion, where he tries to swipe a freshly baked pie but is run off by Burns' bloodthirsty hounds. Later, after giving blood at a local blood bank (that happened to be open on Thanksgiving Day) for $12 cash, Bart passes out on the streets in a run-down part of Springfield. When he awakens is greeted by two street bums who bring him to a community Thanksgiving dinner for the less fortunate. There, Kent Brockman is preparing to do an insincere, self-serving commentary about the holiday and how society treats the poor and needy; during his live commentary, he interviews Bart, who claims he's homeless and "didn't apologize." Homer and Marge see the report and call the police, admitting to officers their fear that they may have been too harsh with Bart.Meanwhile, Bart and the two homeless urchins begin to have a conversation, where Bart seeing that his two new friends have no family or anything else admits he has a family that loves and cares for him, and that he has plenty to be thankful for. He begins to feel remorseful and, after giving his $12 to the bums, decides to go home dejected and realizing he may have learned something about the meaning of the holiday Thanksgiving.Upon returning home, he hesitates going inside after envisioning his family blaming him for everything. But when he hears Lisa crying in her room and conceding defeat, Bart calls her outside and after some initial struggles apologizes. Homer and Marge are relieved that all is okay between the two, and the Thanksgiving holiday at the Simpsons is saved. The episode ends with the family enjoying leftovers in the kitchen, with Homer thanking God for giving them "one more crack at togetherness".
This episode contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents/Jerkass: Marge, Patty and Selma's mother. As soon as she arrives, she tells Marge she never does anything right. And when she leaves, she tells Marge she's sorry she came at all. Marge also qualifies by straight-up telling Bart he ruined Thanksgiving just because of a burnt centerpiece.
- Chekhov's Gun: At first, Lisa's centerpiece doesn't seem to serve any purpose other than to just show that Lisa's a history geek...or fond of crafts....but it ends up driving the plot....
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: At the end of the episode when Bart finally apologizes for wrecking Lisa's centerpiece and she happily accepts it. She kisses his cheek, and Marge and Homer listen through the vent and remark that they are good parents.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Marge & Homer both punished Bart for burning Lisa's centerpiece and "ruining Thanksgiving".
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Lisa tells Bart to look deep inside himself and see why he should apologize.Bart: Okay, okay. Lookin' for the spot. Still checking. This is so stupid. I'm not gonna find anything. Just because I wrecked something she worked really hard on and I made her cry—uh-oh.
- Forgiveness: The major theme of this episode is about Bart knowing remorse and what it's like to forgive.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Bart tossing Lisa's centerpiece into the fire was no accident. If one pauses the scene at the right moment, he is seen smiling evilly as it gets thrown into the fire.
- Heel Realization: This is what finally gets Bart to apologize to Lisa. Though it takes Lisa badgering him to finally realize it.
- Imagine Spot: Bart has one as he's about to return home, thinking the family will blame him for everything if he apologizes.
- Jerkass Has a Point: While Homer and Marge went too far for punishing Bart and declaring that "he ruined Thanksgiving" regretful or not, Bart did threw the centerpiece to the fireplace on purpose and without remorse. Along with the fact that Marge has to deal with her sisters, her mother, and father-in-law, not to mention the preparation of the feast itself. One's patience can go so far, especially if one has Bart for a child.
- It's All My Fault: Bart hears Lisa crying in her room telling herself that she can't help but feel responsible for Bart running away. Homer and Marge also feel this way looking back at the nasty things they said.Marge: Homer, this is a terrible thing that's happened, but we can't blame ourselves. Children need discipline.Homer: We can and we will!
- Kick the Dog:
- Even though Bart did burn the centerpiece, accident or not, Marge telling her child he ruined Thanksgiving is not very nice by any means. Not helped when Marge orders Bart to apologize not too long after. You know you screwed up when the police are stunned when you confess to this.
- Homer has a more literal case when he kicks Santa's Little Helper out of the house for swiping some food.
- Legally Dead: Grampa Simpson says the retirement home will declare him dead and collect insurance money if he's not back by nine o'clock.
- Like Father, Like Son: Subverted. Abe says that Homer was never stubborn like Bart.Abe: He always folded instantly over anything. It was as if he had no will of his own. Isn't that true, Homer?
Homer: Yes, Dad.
- Loophole Abuse: Bart, in running away, stumbled across the homeless shelter's Thanksgiving dinner, and is allowed to have some. Or, as Bart puts it when he's featured on Kent Brockman's report on the homeless shelter:Bart: (with a plate of food, feeding some to Santa's Little Helper) Ha ha! I didn't apologize!
- Made Myself Sad: After calling himself the "boy nobody wanted", an excited Bart proceeds to look very downhearted.
- My God, What Have I Done?: The family have this when they find out Bart has run away. Homer and Marge in particular feel guilty for what they said to him.
- Never My Fault: The driving force of the plot is Bart thinking he shouldn't apologize for what he did. In the end, it is reversed.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Dan Castellaneta's voice for one of the homeless men is an imitation of Bill Murray.
- Recursive Canon: Probably one of the earliest examples of this trope, when Bart and Homer watch the Macy's Parade on TV, a Bart balloon can be seen, referencing the introduction of a real Bart balloon in that year's parade.Homer: If you start building a balloon for every flash-in-the-pan cartoon character, youll turn the parade into a farce.
- The Runaway: Bart
- Scape Goat: Bart imagines that everyone will blame him for everything from Homer being bald to America losing it's way on him if he apologizes to Lisa.
- Something Completely Different: This has few laughs in it and the tone is more on par with what you would find in a less preachy Very Special Episode of a live-action sitcom.
- Special Guest: Greg Berg as Rory (a homeless man at the soup kitchen)
- Thanksgiving Episode: While "Homer vs. Dignity" and "Homer the Moe" also have Thanksgiving in the plot, those episodes aired on Sunday instead of Thursday and had Thanksgiving shoehorned into the final act. This episode actually aired on Thanksgiving (which is on the last Thursday of November in America, while The Simpsons were competing with The Cosby Show on Thursdays. Canadian Thanksgiving is in October) and centered on a Thanksgiving meal gone bad. While many Thanksgiving episodes indeed are about ill-fated dinners, and there's plenty of in-jokes and gags, critics lauded this episode because it had actual sentiment and one of its central characters was enlightened about the meaning of the holiday (after he runs into two homeless men who have very little if anything).
- They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Mr. Burns who has a table of food that could feed people for months. He only eats a little of the slice of turkey and orders the rest to be thrown out, and is waiting for the pumpkin pie.
- Was Too Hard on Him: Homer and Marge feel this way when the police interview them about Bart. Lou and Eddie are clearly stunned themselves when Marge says she told Bart he ruined Thanksgiving.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Lou and Eddie are visibly shocked at Marge for telling Bart that he ruined Thanksgiving.
- You Answered Your Own Question: "Hello, operator! Get me the number for 911!"