Episode - 7F07
First Aired - 11/22/1990
The 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.
This episode contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents:
- Marge's, Patty's and Selma's mother, Jacqueline. As soon as she arrives, she tells Marge she never does anything right. And when Bart gets sent to his room, she tells Marge that she's sorry she came at all.
- Marge also qualifies by straight-up telling Bart he ruined Thanksgiving just because of a burnt centerpiece.
- 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.
- Chekhov's Gun: At first, Lisa's centerpiece just appears to be part of the montage illustrating the Simpson family's dynamics of preparing for a Thanksgiving dinner with no more importance to the story than Marge cooking the food or Homer watching Macy's parade....but it ends up driving the entire plot of the episode.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Marge and 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.
- 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!
- 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 in 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.
- 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, and Lisa breaks down in tears thinking she is responsible.
- Bart starts to feel remorse when he sees that he has more than the homeless men he had Thanksgiving dinner with and decides to go home. He changes his mind when he reaches the house thinking his family would scornfully mock him, but then a talk with Lisa causes him to realize how much he hurt her and he finally apologizes to her.
- 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.
- Off-Model: Kent Brockman, when leaving the homeless shelter. He looks more like Rainer Wolfcastle with white hair.
- Rage Breaking Point: While it was rather harsh for Marge for declaring Bart that he ruined Thanksgiving, Marge was at her wit's end from dealing with her sisters, her mother, and her father-in-law, and the preparation for the feast itself. One can't be too hard on her, especially when her son is Bart.
- 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, you’ll turn the parade into a farce.
- Rejected Apology: Bart's Imagine Spot where he begs and grovels for forgiveness but everyone mocks him instead as they blame him "for everything."
- 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!"