Recap / The Simpsons S 5 E 2 Cape Feare
Episode - 9F22
First Aired - 10/7/1993

Bart is plagued with threatening letters written in blood (except for one written in black by Homer that reads, "I'LL KILL YOU SCUM") and by the recently-paroled Sideshow Bob. To keep Bart from getting killed, The Simpsons go into witness protection and move away to Terror Lake.

This was the last episode written by the original writing team (e.g. Sam Simon, David Stern, Jeff Martin, Jon Vitti, Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky) before David Mirkin's new hires were brought aboard, so they wanted to go all out and leave a good last impression. To many fans, they succeeded.

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

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Chief Wiggum resented Bob for calling him "Chief Piggum", but when the others laughed at it, he rolled along with them.
    • Bart putting the "Wide Load" tattoo on Homer's butt earned the laughs of everyone in the room (except Homer).
  • Artistic License – Biology: The electric eels that prevent Bart from jumping off the houseboat to escape from Bob have flicking forked tongues as if they are snakes.
  • Bait-and-Switch / Rule of Three: Three times in the first act, before it's known that Sideshow Bob wrote Bart the death threats, Bart worries that three people around him are the culprit based on the first half of the sentence they say:
    Marge: (menacingly, holding scissors) Bart, I'm going to get you...... some ice cream at the store, since I'm saving so much money on Diet Cola!
    Ned: (menacingly, with Freddy Krueger-style blade hand) Say your prayers, Simpson...... because the schools can't force you like they should!
    Edna: (menacingly) You're going to be my murder victim, Bart!..... in our school production of Lizzie Borden, starring Martin Prince as Lizzie.
    Martin: (in drag, brandishing axe) Forty whacks with a wet noodle, Bart!
  • Bilingual Bonus: Sideshow Bob tries to pass off the tattoo on his chest (DIE BART, DIE) as German for "The Bart, The". You'd assume Bob was lying in order to deceive his parole board, but Die does, indeed, mean "the" in German (although it's more of a female term rather than a male term).
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Lisa's line, "The FOX network has sunk to a new low" after watching Up Late With McBain.
  • Boring Yet Practical: When Bob faints from blood loss, Snake suggests that he use a pen instead
  • Brick Joke:
  • The Chew Toy: Bob takes a hell of a lot of slapstick abuse in this episode from losing blood, hitting speedbumps, driving through cacti, stepping on rakes, getting crushed by an entire parade including elephants...and it is hilarious.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Bart's strategy for distracting Bob is foreshadowed by the family listening to the entire works of Gilbert and Sullivan on the way to Terror Lake.
  • Comeback Tomorrow:
    Bart: You wrote me those letters.
    Marge: You awful man! Stay away from my son!
    Sideshow Bob: Oh, I'll stay away from your son, all right. Stay away... forever.
    Homer: Oh no!
    Sideshow Bob: Wait a minute, that's no good. (tries to think of a different line but can't) Oh!
    (Bob gets up and leaves, but after a few seconds, rushes back)
    Sideshow Bob: Wait, I've got a good one now. Marge, say "Stay away from my son" again.
    Marge: NO!
    (Bob grumbles angrily)
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Sideshow Bob writes everything in blood (threatening letters to Bart, to-do lists, letters to Reader's Digest) while he's in prison. Lampshaded by Snake when Bob gets woozy from his anemia:
    Snake: Use a pen, Sideshow Bob!
  • Crosscast Role: Martin Prince as Lizzie Borden for a school play. Bonus points in that Martin is voiced by a woman.
  • Crush Parade: "No, not the elephants!"
  • Curse of the Ancients: When the police show up right as he is about to kill Bart, Bob shouts in frustration, “By Lucifer’s beard!” The officers are taken aback for a second, but then move on.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Occurs when the scene cuts over to Bob in prison.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The police officers are wearing bathrobes when they arrest Sideshow Bob and admit that they were just at a brothel.
  • Falsely Reformed Villain: Sideshow Bob pretends to go straight so he can get paroled out of prison and kill Bart.
  • Gilligan Cut: The Simpsons tried to hire someone to drive Bob away from town. The guy sounded like he'd be tough enough for the job. Cut to him whining to Bob while pathetically asking him to leave town.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Bart joins Bob in singing "I Am the Captain of the Pinafore."
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!
    Sideshow Bob: Bart Simpson? Ha! The spirited little scamp who twice foiled my evil schemes and sent me to this dank, urine soaked hellhole?
    Parole officer: Uh, we object to the term "urine-soaked hellhole" when you could have said "pee-pee-soaked heckhole".
    Sideshow Bob: Cheerfully withdrawn.
  • Hockey Mask and Chainsaw: Homer bursts into Bart's room wearing a hockey mask and brandishing a chainsaw, asking if Bart wants to see either. Currently provides the page image.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Sideshow Bob's parole board, who buy his explanation that his "DIE BART, DIE" tattoo is merely German for "The Bart, The".
    "No one who speaks German can be an evil man!"
  • Hypocritical Humor: Homer criticizing the guy (Sideshow Bob) smoking a cigar in front of his Family at the movies while he was smoking an even larger cigar.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The only options the Witness Relocation Program offers for the Simpsons to move to are Terror Lake, New Horrorfield, and Screamville.
    Homer: Oooh, Ice Creamville!
    Agent: No, Screamville.
    (Homer screams)
  • Infant Immortality: Bart plays this straight, but it is implied that Anya wasn't so lucky when Krull came into power.
  • Leitmotif: Sideshow Bob gains one in this episode: Bernard Herrmann's Cape Fear title theme.
  • Logo Joke: Midway through the episode, when the Simpsons get new identities, the opening plays again, this time introducing "The Thompsons" and gradually zooming in on their houseboat.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Sideshow Bob sends Bart threatening letters AND makes parole while he's still incarcerated! Somebody should really up the security.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Bart gets menaced by electric eels when he attempts to jump off the houseboat. Electric eels are indigenous to South America.
  • Noodle Incident and Riddle for the Ages:
    • Just how, when, and why did Bart put the "Wide Load" tattoo on Homer's butt?
    • And what did Linda Lavin do to deserve getting prank-called by Bart?
  • Out-of-Character Moment: It seems odd that Bob - who speaks out against lowbrow humor in other episodes - would find Jim Varney very funny, unless it's a Guilty Pleasure of his.
    • It's highly likely that Bob wasn't genuinely laughing, but merely doing it to annoy/bait the Simpsons. See also his cigar smoking.
  • Overly Long Gag: Bob vs. rakes, Round 1! It had to be shortened in syndication (excluding FXX) because of how long it was (it was approximately 30 seconds; the episode was running short and they needed padding).
    • Homer not responding to his witness protection name (Homer Thompson) would also qualify.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: Bart. When his family is kidnapped by Bob, and alligators and eels surround their houseboat, what does he do in the face of certain death? He asks Bob to sing the entire score of H.M.S. Pinafore in an effort to stall for time long enough to get to Springfield and have the police arrest Bob and save the day. Pajama-Clad Hero indeed!
  • Paranoia Fuel: In-universe, the entire episode revolves around this. Bart receives at least a dozen threatening letters and is soon misreading people's innocuous words and cues. Justified, however, in that he has a good reason to be on edge.
  • Rake Take: The first of many for Sideshow Bob.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Sideshow Bob's (first) Underside Ride. That is all.
    • Him passing out due to using his blood to write.
  • Running Gag: When Sideshow Bob finally climbs aboard the Simpsons' house-boat, the first thing he does is step on another rake. Makes you wonder what it's even doing there.
  • Scheherezade Gambit: When Bob has Bart cornered on the adrift houseboat and asks if he has any Last Requests, Bart plays on his ego, telling him he has such a lovely singing voice ("Guilty as charged!" exclaims Bob) and asks him to sing the entire score of H.M.S. Pinafore, Bob complies (mostly to prove he can do it, probably) oblivious to the fact that the boat is drifting towards Springfield as he does, and as he finishes, he's noticed by Chief Wiggum and a squad of armed police, who tell him to raise 'em.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Special Guest: Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob.
  • Spoonerism: Near the end, when Bart says, "Take 'em away, boys!", Chief Wiggum responds with, "Hey, I'm the Chief here! Bake 'em away, toys!" The other officers are clueless, even Sideshow Bob is confused.
  • Squirrels in My Pants: When Chief Wiggum's attention is called to the fact it's illegal to send threatening letters, he notices it's also illegal to put squirrels down one's pants for gambling purposes. Chief Wiggum then tells the cops who are doing it to "knock it off".
  • Stab the Salad: Happens to Bart several times as he worries about who might be out to get him. Homer even pulls this twice when they're in Terror Lake.
  • Take That!:
    • The family first meets Bob while watching a movie called Ernest Goes Someplace Cheap, a clear Take That towards movies with Jim Varney's Idiot Hero character Ernest P. Worrell (of course, most consider those movies Acceptable Targets).
    • Homer dreaming of being John Elway scoring the touchdown after being blown out in the Super Bowl, a Take That to Elway, who back then had the reputation of being a great quarterback, but one who chocked in the Super Bowl, being on the losing end of three.
  • Tempting Fate: "Surely there is no harm in laying in the middle of a public street." Cue a parade... with elephants.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: In his two previous appearances, Bob at least made the effort to appear like an honest, law-abiding citizen. This time around he's an outright Card-Carrying Villain, who makes no secret of his wishes to dispose of Bart.
  • Underside Ride: How Sideshow Bob follows the family.
    • "Hey kids, do you want to drive through that cactus patch?"
  • Would Hurt a Child: The plot of the episode, natch. Also implied with General Krull towards Anya, as she was unable to finish her letter to Lisa.
  • You Have to Believe Me:
    Bart: Mom, dad, I just saw Sideshow Bob and he tried to kill me!
    Homer: Bart, don't interrupt!
    Marge: Homer, this is serious!
    Homer: (rolls his eyes) Oh, it is not.