Recap: The Simpsons S 4 E 13 Selma's Choice

Episode - 9F11
First Aired - 1/21/1993

Selma's Choice is the 13th episode of the fourth season of The Simpsons.

Selma once again must find a man so she can raise a family and not die alone like her recently-deceased aunt Gladys, but when Homer falls ill due to a rotten hoagie and Selma volunteers to take Bart and Lisa to Duff Gardens, she soon realizes that she has little to no motherly skills or instinct.

It marks the first appearance of Jub-Jub the iguana.

This episode contains examples of (YMMV tropes can be found here):

  • Amusement Park of Doom: Duff Gardens is a subversion. The worst the park has is roaming gangs (Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearney, who are shown getting arrested as part of a commercial, but later steal three bumper cars and ride them off into the sunset) and unprofessional/incompetent workers (Surly, the Barrel Roll coaster operators, the "Complaints" line lady who tells a customer to "get bent," and the "doctor" who gave Lisa a handful of pills). The real danger comes from Bart wreaking havoc (by pulling down the George Washington robot's pants and getting stuck on a roller coaster) and Lisa getting high on the tainted water in the "Little Land of Duff" ride.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The man on the ham radio is actually speaking foreign-sounding gibberish. Usually, the Golden Age writers of The Simpsons actually research a foreign language and teach it to the voice actors, but, in this case, they decided not to do it as Rule of Funny.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Homer loses interest during Aunt Gladys's video will by fast-forwarding to the end of Great Aunt Gladys' reading of Robert Frost's poetry, much to Marge's annoyance (however, Jackie, Patty, Selma, Bart, and Lisa want Homer to skip over it).
  • Black Comedy: Bart tricking Lisa into thinking Great Aunt Gladys is alive.
    • One of the Moleman kids falling out the window (in the fantasy of what Selma's life will be like as Hans Moleman's wife), followed by a long, chilling silence before it goes back to reality.
  • Bowdlerisation: In-universe, Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" from Transformer (filled with many references to prostitution, racism, transsexuality, and drug abuse) is performed by Hooray for Everything at Duff Gardens. In keeping with the group's "clean-shaven sounds", the lyric "And the colored girls go" is changed to "And all the races sing".
  • CallBack: One of the movies Marge rents for a sick Homer is The Erotic Adventures of Hercules, starring Troy McClure as Hercules and Norman Fellnote  as Zeus. The Erotic Adventures of Hercules was first mentioned in the episode "Mr. Plow", during Carnival of the Stars.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Jub-Jub is introduced early as a seemingly random joke to indicate Gladys' unusual choice of pet. He's adopted by Selma at the end, after she realizes she's just not cut out for children.
  • Color Failure: Lisa turns pale under the effects of the water she drinks at the Little Land of Duff.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Selma questions Homer's success at raising his children by asking "How do you do it?". Homer responds by explaining how to turn a bedsheet into a toga.
    • Homer thinking artificial insemination is having sex with a robot. When Marge whispers what it really is, Homer says, "I knew that."
  • Continuity Nod: In Treehouse Of Horror XXV
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: When Selma says that Gladys's legend will live on, Homer thinks to himself, "Yeah, the legend of the dog-faced woman." He then repeats the phrase aloud in amusement, leading to a scolding from Marge.
  • Edutainment: Selma assumes the Beer Hall of Presidents is this (it's actually a thinly-disguised ad for Duff Beer) and insists the kids have to sit through the whole thing: "Settle down. Anything this bad has to be educational!"
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even Groundskeeper Willie, a brash, slovenly school janitor who has seen his share of disgusting moments in school (mostly bathroom accidents and Wendell the pale kid puking), thinks Selma's dating video of her doing the cherry stem knot trick on a lit cigarette is revolting ("Back to the loch with you, Nessie!")
    • Homer, for all his hatred for Marge's sisters, is actually civil to them in this episode (barring the "Legend of the Dogfaced Woman" crack and fast-forwarding the video will). He doesn't snark back when Patty tells Selma to "close your eyes and think of MacGyver" when Homer hugs them and Homer feels bad for Selma not being able to handle the kids during the trip to Duff Gardens.
  • Forging The Will: Lionel Hutz edits Gladys' video will to make her say she's leaving him $50,000. Everyone sees through the ruse because Hutz didn't disguise his voice. It's not the first time he tries to pull that sort of scam.
    Lionel Hutz: You'd be surprised how often that works, you really would!
  • Generation Xerox: The babies that all look and belch like Barney Gumble, and the Hans Moleman kids (who are all blind and ugly) in Selma's Imagine Spot of life as Mrs. Hans Moleman.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar
    • The slogan for the sperm bank is, "Put Your Sperm in Our Hands".
    • Lisa's hallucinations after drinking the water are clearly a bad hallucinogenic drug trip. This is actually very daring considering this is an eight year old girl we're talking about. Later when the park administrators hand out some pills to cure Lisa Selma thanks the man: "Thank you doctor" to which he dismissingly answers: "Oh, I'm not a doctor."
  • I Ate WHAT?: The rotten hoagie that Homer took home from a nuclear plant picnic. Subverted in that Homer knew what he was eating, but he kept it for so long, it began to turn purple and grow fungus on it (and he still ate it despite that and his obvious illness). This was based on an actual sandwich that one of the writers ate that did go bad overtime, though it never turned purple in real life.
  • I'm Going to Disney World:
    Announcer: Hey, Lance Murdock, you just jumped sixteen blazing school buses. What are you going to do now?
    Lance: (in pain) I'm going to Duff Gardens!
  • Iwo Jima Pose: Homer eats a potato chip shaped like this.
  • Jerkass: Surly of the Seven Duffs. He even says so himself when he refuses to get Bart off the rollercoaster ("Hey, Surly only looks out for one guy: Surly.")
  • Lampshaded the Obscure Reference: While the Simpsons and Bouviers are eating at a diner on the way to the funeral, Marge reminisces the time she and her sisters dived into the water and made a skydiver formation as their Aunt Gladys watched on from a pier. "Oh, wait, that was Prince Of Tides."
  • Lie Back And Think Of MacGyver: How Patty and Selma cope with Homer hugging them.
  • Love Potion: Selma tries to buy one from a psychic, but the psychic accidentally ingests a truth serum after confessing that the "love potion" is made of mostly corn syrup and rubbing alcohol and that "you'll be lucky if it doesn't make your hair fall out..."
  • Mushroom Samba: Lisa's personal Nightmare Sequence after drinking the water in "The Little Land of Duff" ride.
  • Nightmare Face: Selma's head when Lisa has a bad trip from drinking the water.
  • Noodle Incident: When Bart pulls down the George Washington robot's pants, his eyes turn red and it looks as if he's going to attack Bart or run amok, but it goes to the next scene before anything happens. Later when Bart is rescued from the Barrel Rollercoaster, the George Washington robot is headless and jabbering. What happened in the interim?
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Patty and Selma's reaction when Homer, who usually despises them, actually sympathizes with them in light of their Aunt Gladys's death and Selma not being able to care for the kids.
  • Pun-Based Title: The episode title is a pun on Sophie's Choice.
  • Shout-Out: Duff Gardens is a double-pronged spoof. In real life, the Busch Gardens theme parks (which contain a combination of wildlife exhibits and thrill rides) were still owned by a beer company when this episode was made and ran with the idea, resulting in a park where beer is the main theme. The other spoof target is obviously the Disney Theme Parks, such as "It's a Small World" (Little Land of Duff), The Hall of Presidents (Beer Hall of Presidents) and the Main Street/Disneyland Electrical Parade (Duff Gardens Parade). Even the Seven Duffs are a shout out to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
    • After being rescued from swimming naked in the Fermentarium, a strung-out Lisa declares herself "The Lizard Queen!"
    • The potato chips that resemble celebrities include Otto Von Bismarck (a conservative German statesman who dominated European affairs from the 1860s to his dismissal in 1890), Maurice Chevalier (a French singer and actor), and Jay Leno (an American comedian and talk show host). The one Homer eats is the famous flag-raising statue and picture from the Battle of Iwo Jima.
    • The ending where Selma sings Aretha Franklin's "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)" to Jub-Jub is based on the Murphy Brown episode where Murphy Brown sings this to her baby. The DVD commentary says it was an obscure reference, as Murphy Brown isn't remembered much today.
  • Slasher Smile: After Bart pulls down the robot George Washington's pants, the (now malfunctioning) robot gives Bart one as its eyes start glowing red.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: Selma chewing up one of her cigarettes and doing the cherry-stem-knot-trick to impress men. Even Groundskeeper Willie thought it was gross.
  • Souvenir Land: To avoid Product Placement or copyright issues the Simpsons go to a theme park that doesn't exist in our universe, but seems to be very famous in theirs.
  • Special Guest: Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure
  • Totally Radical: The rapping Abraham Lincoln robot at the Beer Hall of Presidents is a spoof of this.
  • Time Marches On: The Duff Gardens commercial shows a rollercoaster called "The Whiplash" that won't be completed until 1994...which was 21 years ago as of this writing.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: The minister is shocked when one of the ushers tells him that the man is eulogizing is, in fact, a woman. He assures that "at least most of what [he] said can be salvaged," but Patty tells him to sit down and warns him not to put the eulogy on the bill.
  • The Un-Smile: Due to Uncanny Valley, the animatronic people in the "Little Land of Duff" ride. Bart whimpers that he wants to get off the ride, but Selma, Bart, and Lisa have to suffer through five more continents of those kid robots (at least until Lisa freaks out from drinking the toxic water and escapes with one of robots in hand).