Recap / The Simpsons S 4 E 21 Marge In Chains
Episode - 9F20
First Aired - 5/6/1993

While shopping for her family in the midst of an Asian flu epidemic, Marge gets arrested for shoplifting bourbon and her prison time (resulting from being railroaded in court and having Lionel Hutz as her attorney) has an adverse effect on the family and eventually the whole town, when the bake sale proceeds come up short and they have to buy a Jimmy Carter statue for their town instead of an Abraham Lincoln one.

This episode contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Helen Lovejoy implies Marge drinks. Marge's incredibly tense reaction suggests it's true, although it's just as likely she's tense because Helen's gleefully digging Marge's grave.
  • Anything but That!: Lionel Hutz imagines what life would be like without lawyers, which features people from every race, ethnic background, creed, and color dancing under a rainbow while a non-copyright-infringing version of "I'd Like to Teach The World to Sing" plays. It sickens Hutz.
  • Artistic License Biology: The alligator is shown with interlocking teeth as it crunches Abe's dentures. Gets jarring in that it was correctly shown with an overbite in other scenes.
  • As Himself: David Crosby (who is said to be a doppelganger for Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder), from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Flanders thinks his family falling ill from the Asian flu epidemic is God's way of punishing him for watching and laughing at Married... with Children.
    Flanders: The network slogan is true: Watch Fox and be damned for all eternity.
  • Blatant Lies: When Dr. Nick turns on the juicer, it makes a very loud grinding noise and Nick shouts to Troy, "IT'S WHISPER QUIET!"
  • Brick Joke: Lionel Hutz imagines what life would be like without lawyers, which features people from every race, ethnic background, creed, and color dancing under a rainbow while a non-copyright-infringing version of "I'd Like to Teach The World to Sing" plays. After Hutz loses Marge's case, the judge announces that the next case features Hutz as the defendant being sued by the very same people featured in his imagination.
  • Buffy Speak:
    Lionel Hutz: I move for a 'bad court thingy'.
    Judge Snyder: You mean a mistrial?
    Hutz: Yeah! That's why you're the judge, and I'm the... law-talking... guy.
    Snyder: You mean lawyer?
    Hutz: Uh, right.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Wanting a cure for Osaka flu, the people of Springfield mob Dr. Hibbert's office, who tells them that the only cure is bed rest and that anything else would be a placebo. The mob then overturns a truck filled with killer bees in search of placebos.
    Bystander: (eats a bee) I'm cured! I mean, ouch!
  • Continuity Nod: One of the jurors at Marge's trial is Jack Marley, from "Marge Gets a Job".
  • Designated Villain: In-universe. Marge is suddenly treated like a pariah by nearly everyone in Springfield because she accidentally forgot to pay for a bottle of bourbon.
  • Disguised in Drag: Bart's Imagine Spot for breaking Marge out of prison involves him dressed as a woman named "Bartina," romancing the warden, then knocking him out with a crowbar to get the cell keys.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Marge forgets to pay for a bottle of bourbon, apologizes and stays where she is clearly intending to pay for it. Apu hits the silent alarm and within moments is surrounded by a police force that would be more suited to a crazed gunman.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: While battling the alligator, Grandpa keeps taunting it with a toilet plunger until his dentures fall into its mouth. The gator promptly crunches them to bits and gives Grandpa a mocking grin.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Literally. When the Springfieldians riot over the Jimmy Carter statue, Wiggum attempts to sic the police dogs on the rioters. When Lou notes that they look angry, Wiggum explains that's because he's been mistreating the dogs to rile them up (such as starving them, teasing them, and singing off-key). The dogs proceed to tear him apart when they're set loose.
  • Epic Fail:
    • When Burns finds Homer eating a sandwich in the special chamber he's built for himself to sit out the flu epidemic, Homer's cover story for what he's doing there: "My name is Mr. Burns."
    • Lionel Hutz gets busted on jury-tampering by submitting the verdict himself...on a cocktail napkin, that still says "guilty," and "guilty" is spelled wrong.
  • Foreshadowing: Apu's Laser-Guided Karma in Snake stealing the Kwik-E-Mart and transferring it by truck to Mexico is the first sign that Springfield will enter chaos.
  • For Want of a Nail: Had Marge not been in prison, she could've helped out with the bake sale to raise money to buy a statue of Abraham Lincoln, instead of the Jimmy Carter statue which angered the citizens so much a mass riot broke out.
  • Funny Background Event: During the riots, a man can be seen stealing a TV in nothing but his underwear.
  • Gilligan Cut: After Marge was found guilty, Apu commented on how safe the Kwik-E-Mart was. Cut to Snake and an unnamed criminal loading the store onto a flatbed truck and hauling ass to Mexico.
    • With Marge gone, Lisa suggests that if the rest of the family work together they can keep the house clean. 10 minutes later, and the kitchen is a total mess.
  • Gossipy Hens: Helen Lovejoy, by her own admission. She even gives gossip as evidence at Marge's trial.
  • Insane Troll Logic: After Marge is accused of shoplifting, Professor Frink, testifying for the prosecution, pretty much accuses her of being the second gunman of the Grassy Knoll. His evidence is nothing but a blue bush that looks similar to Marge's trademark blue hair. Even though it's unlikely, the jury buys it.
    • Apu thinking that Marge being in jail will mean the store is safe. Even without the scene with the store being high jacked, one of the recurring gags about Apu is how often his store is robbed by people who aren't Marge. Though he would assume Snake and Marge were in on it together.
  • Jerkass:
    • Apu, Sanjay and the majority of on-screen characters who gossip about Marge because she forgot to pay for the bourbon even though it was clearly an accident due to how stressed out she was. Kudos to Helen Lovejoy, whose gossip mongering and testimony help get Marge thrown in prison.
    • The two factory workers who start the whole mess. One coughs into the box delivering the juicer, and the two laugh heartily about violating workplace safety standards.
  • Jerkass Ball: Apu and Sanjay cheering and celebrating at the idea of getting Marge arrested and jailed.
  • Just Following Orders: When Homer asks Apu and Sanjay to drop the charges against Marge, Apu tells him they're required by company policy to prosecute her. Their celebratory mood over the issue, however, makes it clear that it's not the only reason they're doing it.
  • Kick the Dog: The main reason why Marge ended up in prison is because Helen Lovejoy is a bullying gossipy hen.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The majority of Springfield treating Marge like a pariah comes back to bite them big time when riots break out after the city purchases a statue of Jimmy Carter instead of Abraham Lincoln, all because they couldn't raise enough money to buy Lincoln. The reason behind this is because, had Marge been able to help out with the bake sale used to fund the statue's purchase, they would've made just enough to buy Lincoln.
    • Snake stealing the Kwik-E-Mart and taking it to Mexico could be considered this for Apu and Sanjay.
    • This happens to Chief Wiggum thanks to the guard dogs as seen in The Dog Bites Back.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded by Lisa when she gets her clothes dirty.
    Lisa: It seems like I've been wearing this same red dress forever!
    • Homer points out that there's plenty of clothing in the attic, and then walks down the stairs dressed as a precious bride.
  • Looping Lines: Invoked. The two Japanese factory workers' dialogue is clearly dubbed.
  • Noodle Incident: What did Hutz do to piss of the International Council of Churches so much?
  • P.O.V. Cam: Of Arnie Pye's vomit.
    Otto: (laying down to sunbathe) Okay, Mr. Sun, gimme what you got! (cut to POV of the vomit falling towards Otto) Aaaahhhh!!!
  • Sewer Gator: A sewer gator appears trapped in the Simpsons toilet - and battling Grampa:
    Bart: "We flushed the gator down the toilet, but it got stuck halfway, and now we have to feed it."
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Apu testifies in a courtroom scene in the episode that he is able to recite 40,000 decimal places of the number pi. He correctly notes that the 40,000th digit is the number one. The writers prepared for this scene by asking David H. Bailey of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (now at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) for the number of the 40,000th decimal place of pi. Bailey sent them back a printout of the first 40,000 digits.
    • For Apu and Sanjay's brief lines of Indian dialogue, the writers called the Embassy of India in Washington to get them to translate. The Embassy was not "interested or happy" but still did it.
  • Special Guest: Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: At the juice loosener ad, Troy McClure smashes an orange at his face to imply that's the only way to extract juice from it before the loosener was invented. Homer is then seen using that method while watching the ad and being surprised it's not the only way.
  • Take That!:
    • The crowd goes into a riot when, instead of an Abraham Lincoln statue, a Jimmy Carter statue is built (according to the DVD commentary, the writers do believe that Jimmy Carter was a bad U.S. President, but not as bad as George W. Bush):
    Random Townsperson: He's history's greatest monster!
    • Marge being accused of shooting JFK could be this towards the various conspiracy theories.
  • Tempting Fate: After Marge gets sent to jail, Apu pronounces that the Kwik-E-Mart is safe once more. Cue Snake stealing said store and driving off to Mexico with it.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The juice loosener factory worker who refuses to take a sick day and the worker who doesn't report him for this.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: When Arnie Pie is giving his helicopter news report, he gets sick and vomits out the copter window. We don't see it, but smash cut to Otto, who is about to sunbathe. The camera takes the viewpoint of Arnie's vomit, which falls towards a screaming Otto.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: According to a sign at the end of Act Two, Springfield is 678 miles from Mexico City, putting it around southern Texas.
  • Who Shot JFK?: Professor Frink accuses Marge of this, claiming a hedge by the grassy knoll sort-of resembles Marge's hairstyle.
  • Willfully Weak: Bart deliberately suppresses his immune system in order to avoid school.
  • Working Through the Cold: One of the employees at the juice loosener factory causes Springfield's Asian flu epidemic.