Recap / The Simpsons S 8 E 18 Homer Vs The Eighteenth Amendment

Episode - 4F15
First Aired - 3/16/1997

Alcohol is banned from Springfield after Bart accidentally gets drunk at the St. Patrick's Day parade and the local law clerk discovers that there's apparently been a Prohibition-law for the last two centuries, but was never enforced. To combat this, Homer becomes a bootlegger — and the town fights back with a no-nonsense, Elliot Ness-style lawman who puts the incompetent Chief Wiggum out of a job.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Accidental Pervert: When the anti-alcohol women's group catch Chief Wiggum dancing with Princess Kashmir, Wiggum decides to "give them the old Wiggum charm." Just as he struts up to the group, smiling, Helen Lovejoy screams, "PERVERT!" thinking that he was going to molest her.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The newspaper headlines "Beer Baron Beats Banner" and "Banner Bars Booze (Booze Barred By Banner)".
  • Anachronism Stew: Banner is first seen stepping out of a Treasury department building. The Treasury doesn't handle illegal alcohol production anymore; that bureau got absorbed into the Justice department in 1930. It's probably just another joke referencing Eliot Ness, and in any case a modern day American town practicing Prohibition and having jazzy speakeasies is pretty anachronistic anyway.
  • Asshole Victim: Rex Banner, who gets launched by the catapult after testing it by launching a cat.
  • Behind the Black: After returning from a Beer Baron run, Homer briefly considers checking to see if the coast is clear before taking his wheelbarrow inside...and running into Marge, who's standing right in front of him.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • After escaping Banner, Homer insists to Marge that nothing happened to the car, despite the obvious damage to it. Averted in the next scene when Marge asks why he has so many bowling balls.
    Homer: I'm not gonna lie to you, Marge. So long. [leaves]
    • When the tub alcohol starts exploding like crazy, Homer keeps saying that the explosions that are rocking the house to its foundations are his farts. It takes an explosion setting him on fire and Marge calling him out for him to admit it.
  • Broken Aesop: Rex Banner's Jerkass Has a Point moment when he says you can't not follow a law just because it's not liked really loses validity points when it's revealed the Prohibition law was actually repealed a year after it was made official, meaning everyone who disobeyed the law were punished for nothing. Likewise, Banner and the anti-alcohol women's group were the ones who should've been arrested for unlawfully imprisoning and punishing citizens who technically hadn't broken any laws.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: The plot gets kicked off by Bart accidentally ingesting a truckload of booze fired from a Duff parade float and getting drunk. In 5 seconds. You could justify it by the fact that he's a kid, so he doesn't have any experience with the stuff, and his dad's a noted alcoholic, but even then, he probably only would've been drunk in a few minutes, not seconds.
  • Catapult to Glory: The catapult is the method of punishment for breaking Springfield's (obviously outdated) prohibition law.
  • The Comically Serious: Rex Banner. For example, look at him on his birthday and his inability to laugh naturally.
  • Designated Driver: Moe tells all of the arriving patrons that, since it's St. Patrick's Day, it's going to be the biggest drinking day of the year. Moe then asks for the designated drivers to identify themselves, then tells them, "Beat it. I got no time for cheapskates."
  • Do Wrong, Right: Marge is impressed with Homer for running such a successful operation with less of his characteristic stupidity than usual.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Rex Banner's first scenes after obtaining his telegraph show how brutal he is. He literally kicks Wiggum out of his seat to steal his job, and causes a major (and obviously fatal) accident on a highway if it means keeping alcohol out of the city.
  • Exact Words: When Marge confronts Homer about the bowling balls (which are hollowed to smuggle beer), Homer's response is "I'm not gonna lie to you, Marge.". He then proceeds to drive off without saying anything.
  • Expy: Rex Banner is a clear spoof of Elliot Ness of The Untouchables (specifically the Robert Stack version, who was pretty much The Stoic).
  • Fartillery: Homer's Blatant Lies about what is causing the house-rocking explosions are that it's his farting, rather than admitting that he mixed up the bathtub brews incorrectly. Marge finally calls bullshit when the explosions continue well into the night and they're lying side by side in bed.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Banner, and the police he's got with him, don't notice at all that the customers of Moe's are holding beer glasses filled with beer, even when they have them in full view.
    • The clerk who unveiled the old Prohibition law didn't noticed that there was a note on the manuscript that explicitly said it had been repealed one year after it was passed because the paper was rolled.
  • Genre Refugee: Rex Banner. He is an animated copycat of Elliot Ness as portrayed by Robert Stack in The Untouchables' TV series and an exaggeration of Ness' Hayes Code-era stoicism and righteous mentality, and that alone makes him stand out in a cartoonishly corrupt nuthouse like Springfield.
  • Gilligan Cut: The head of Duff Brewery, under the belief his customers like beer for its flavor and not for its alcohol, announced Duff Zero. Cut to thirty minutes later, the brewery was out of business.
    • Also, when asked what'd happen to him, Homer said he'd probably be just fined. Cut to the town ready to give him death by catapult.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Because he's the only one who can supply it, eventually Homer is overtaxed with liquor requests and after he runs out of the barrels of liquor left by Duff Brewery's closing and getting too proud of the home-made liquor he'd made, he starts experimenting with the recipies, and suddenly the house is rocked with explosions 24 hours a day.
  • Go to Your Room!: When Marge and Lisa finds out Homer's beer smuggling, the former is very impressed that Homer is using his own intellect for once and raising money for the family. When Marge says the prohibition was a dumb law, Lisa says it's still a law and was about to provide some additional speechifying when she is sent to her room by Homer, Marge, and Bart.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Implied with Banner. During his speech about the necessity to maintain law regardless of public opinion, he says that if there were no laws, he would kill anybody who "looked at him cock-eyed."
  • Hidden Depths: Homer manages to brew more than forty different beverages in the basement.
  • Homage: Multiple details from the episode from the moment the law is enabled and Banner arrives (such as the Walter Winchell "newsreel"-style narrator) is an obvious aping of the TV series of The Untouchables.
  • Honor Before Reason: Lisa is the only character besides Banner to support the anti-alcohol laws as she calls her family out on the smuggling. She's grounded as a result.
  • I Shall Taunt You: A funny example here, when Rex vows to get the Beer Baron. Homer taunts him from a very far distance.
    Rex Banner: You're out there somewhere, Beer Baron, and I'll find you!
    Homer: No you won't!
    Rex Banner: Yes I will.
    Homer: Won't!
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Banner might have just cemented the Jerkass part by using a cat to test the catapult but he rose a quite valid point with his speech against ignoring a law just because it's not liked (and then adds more Jerkass points to himself by saying that he would be killing anybody who was looking at him funny if there weren't laws in place to prevent that).
    • Obnoxious as they were, the anti-alcohol women's group were right. A 10-year-old got drunk during the parade because someone fired alcohol into the crowd, and Wiggum was brazenly not enforcing the prohibition law note  by getting drunk at a speakeasy.
  • Karma Houdini: The police are able to catapult a cat and Rex Banner in front of a large group of people and nothing happens except the mayor saying that was unexpected.
  • Karmic Death: Rex Banner gets flung by the same catapult he'd just tested by flinging a cat.
  • Kent Brockman News: Averted. Kent Brockman is disgusted by everyone's behavior during the St. Patrick's Day parade.
  • Kick the Dog: Or in this case, Catapult the Cat. Also, in his Establishing Character Moment, Banner bricks up a road and causes multiple cars to crash. He smiles at the carnage.
  • Knight Templar: As the road blockage shows, Banner is willing to kill innocent people if it means stopping alcohol from getting into Springfield.
  • Lawful Stupid: Rex Banner is too inept to realize Homer is the Beer Baron he's been hunting down. He also creates fatal countermeasures against alcohol smugglers, but is totally uninterested in Fat Tony's heroin smuggling ring, presumably since it's not his department.
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: Moe fronts his speakeasy as Moe's Pet Shop. However, the fact that it plays jazz music at 1:00AM and attracts a certain partygoing clientele make its true purpose blatantly obvious.
    Banner: What kind of pet shop is filled with rambunctious yahoos and hot jazz music at 1:00AM?
    Moe: Um, the best damn pet shop in town.
    [Crowd cheers]
  • Loony Laws: A prohibition law in and of itself isn't "loony". That the sentence for being caught breaking it is to be exiled from the town by way of being launched out of a catapult is.
  • Made of Explodium: Eventually Homer gets too greedy with the Baron business and starts experimenting with the tub-made boozes, making them all explode constantly. Part of the reason he agrees to the plan to let Wiggum arrest him is because Marge gets tired of all the ruckus.
  • Meaningful Name: Rex Banner, who does a slightly better job at keeping Springfield dry than Wiggum.
  • Moral Guardians: The anti-alcohol women's group, again.
  • Move Along, Nothing to See Here: A parade float honoring Irish police is escorted by several of them, all saying things along the lines of this trope.
  • Nighthawks Shot: The opening of the scene where Banner and his assistants are at the diner (on Banner's birthday) is framed like this.
  • Only Sane Man: Kent Brockman, of all people, is appalled by the excess drinking and violence that occurs during the St. Patrick's Day parade and distances himself from it.
  • Outside-Genre Foe: Played for Laughs with Rex Banner. He probably would fit better on a Depression-era or Hayes Code-era gangster film (where he would be allowed to triumph just because he's a lawman) that he does on the super-corrupt and highly incompetent Crapsack World that is Springfield.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • Why Wiggum is tossed off the force. We also get a gag of an officer who keeps his badge in his mouth.
    • Not that Rex Banner is much better, just better than Wiggum. He blatantly fails to notice all the obvious evidence that Homer is the Beer Baron, and does nothing to arrest Fat Tony when the man tries bribing him or mentions he's smuggling cocaine.
  • Police Brutality:
    • The Irish cop float was surrounded by Irish policemen that clubbed parade viewers while saying Move A Long Nothing To See Here.
    • Rex Banner makes it clear he's running on old-school police rules by violently shaking or slapping pretty much everybody he gets his hands on and his only complaint about the use of a catapult is that it has not been used in a hundred-plus years and thus needs to be tested to ensure it's still functional.
  • Rabid Cop: Banner. The man makes it pretty clear on his big rant at the end that he would go on a killing spree if the law allowed him to do so (and the closest we see to him being actually happy is when he causes a multiple-car pile-up for the sake of maintaining prohibition). Even then, he goes around kicking people off chairs, slapping them, shaking them hard, grabbing them by the shirt and generally acting as violent as a Hayes Code-era cop could get away with.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Rex Banner doesn't accept bribes.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The 200-year old law banning alcohol in Springfield had been repealed the following year.
  • Shout-Out: Comic Book Guy references Superman.
    Banner: Are you the beer baron?
  • Skewed Priorities: Banner shuts down Fat Tony's operation immediately.
    Fat Tony: Okay, you win. From now on, we'll stick to smuggling heroin.
    Banner: See that you do.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Trying to evade Rex Banner had to take some serious planning for Homer and Bart. Marge actually shows pride at Homer's skill when he explains his scheme to her.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Lisa, once again, gets a big moment when she points out that even if the prohibition law is dumb (so dumb that Marge praises Homer for becoming a booze baron) it still is the law nevertheless and it needs to be obeyed... and she is given a Big "SHUT UP!" mid-speech by all three other Simpsons yelling at her to go to her room.
  • Stopped Reading Too Soon: A 200-year-old law banning alcohol is discovered in the Springfield Charter. It took until the very end of the episode to discover that it was repealed 199 years ago.
  • Take That!: To non-alcoholic beer. The head of Duff Brewery, under the belief his customers like beer for its flavor and not for its alcohol, announced Duff Zero. Cut to thirty minutes later, the brewery was out of business.
  • Think of the Children!: Since Helen Lovejoy is part of the anti-alcohol women's group, it's only natural that she shout out her Catch-Phrase at one point.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: When it comes to the alcohol ban. Banner and Lisa choose law, while the rest of Springfield chooses "good".
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The clerk who unveiled the old Prohibition law especially because he never bothered to read the whole parchment and learn the law was no longer in effect. It would be a miracle if he managed to retain his job after making such a horrible blunder. Of course, this is Springfield we're talking about.
  • Versus Title
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Springfield anti-alcohol women's group that forced the application of the outdated prohibition law in the first place disappears after Rex Banner is hired to head the police force.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The Prohibition Era of The Roaring '20s and The Untouchables.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie / Non-Answer: When Marge confronts Homer of bringing so many bowling balls (which are hollowed to smuggle beer) to bowling.
    Marge: Why do you have so many bowling balls?
    Homer: I'm not gonna lie to you, Marge. So long! (proceeds to get in his car and drive off)
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Rex Banner acts like he's in 1920s Chicago rather than Springfield.
  • You Are Grounded: Lisa's the only person who supports Banner, and when she finds out about her father's smuggling, she goes on a tirade on law. She's grounded and ordered to go to her room.