Recap: The Simpsons S 9 E 8 Lisa The Skeptic

Episode 5F05
First Aired 11/23/97

When construction for a new mall threatens an area where a bunch of fossils were found, Lisa manages to convince Principal Skinner to schedule a school archaeological dig to find missing fossils. The field trip seems to have been futile, until Lisa finds a statue of a man with wings, which everyone in town believes is an angel — one with an apocalyptic message.

Tropes: (YMMV)

  • Affectionate Parody: Springfield's Dumbest Criminal parodies America's Dumbest Criminals.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Lisa is arguing against the authenticity of an angel skeleton and states that one who believes in angels might as well believe in such things as unicorns and leprechauns, to which Kent Brockman replies "Everybody knows leprechauns are extinct!" She even tries to prove scientifically that the angel is a fraud but the test come back as inconclusive. This episode comes off as downright bizarre given that it was in an era where Lisa still regularly displayed Christian beliefs. Added to that, angels are generally depicted as immortal, supernatural beings, and yet none of the believers in the town slightly doubt that one could die and leave behind a skeleton. She's right in the end. When she asks the scientist why his test didn't prove it was a fake, he admits he never did the test.
  • Artistic License Religion: Lisa, the skeptic, is the only person to suspect the skeleton is fake. All of the other people in town, including Reverend Lovejoy, criticize her for her lack of faith. Except that, according to Christian tradition, angels do not have physical bodies and cannot die. Therefore even those who believe in angels, especially the preacher, should have called it out as a fake from the beginning.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: All Springfieldians assume that it must be a skeleton of an angel, even though angels are a religious concept, without any scientific proof to argue for their existence (and are said to be immortal and have no physical bodies). They just blindly go along with the idea. And after the angel is proven to be just a marketing ploy they are not angry for being so foolish, they just want to go off and buy the stuff the angel was marketing.
  • Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word:
    Lisa: Wait a second... you planted a phony skeleton for me to find! This was all a big hoax!
    Businessman: Heh heh heh, not a hoax; a publicity stunt!
  • Blatant Lies: While Homer was cashing on the "Angel's" popularity, he told Lisa he never used the word "angel" anywhere. Lisa then pointed to a handwritten sign reading "angel" and he said it was a typo.
  • Deadly Euphemism:
    Mr. Burns: Fiddle-faddle, everyone knows our mutants have flippers - oh, I've said too much. Smithers, use the amnesia ray.
    Smithers: You mean the revolver, sir?
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: Chief Wiggum says, "Yes, everybody's heard of angels, but who's heard of a neanderthal!"
  • House Amnesia:
    Moe: Go home, science girl!
    Lisa: I am home.
    Moe: Good, stay there.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Moe indulges in this form of humor as a leader of the anti-science movement.
    "Science, what's science ever done for us. TV off." (TV switches off with his voice signal.)
    • Also,
    "Oh, I'm paralyzed, I just hope medical science can cure me!"
  • If Jesus Then Aliens: Lisa's careful balance between sweet little girl and intellectual genius was broken severely. Lisa is as a condescending and atheistic unbelieving skeptic, despite the fact that she was always portrayed as being somewhat religious before then (and after, to the point where when she lost her religion she was not satisfied until she found another). To her credit, we are talking about not believing in angel fossils here. And she was right, they weren't angel fossils at all.
    • Then again, at one point she wonders who could believe in angels, period. When Marge says that she does, Lisa immediately questions Marge's intelligence.
      • It's worth noting that Lisa's reply to Marge was in response to Marge's own condescension to her daughter, saying she felt sorry for her because she doesn't have faith.
    • Still, she is somewhat humbled when the esteemed Stephen Jay Gould messed up in this episode.
    Lisa: I don't understand professor, why didn't your tests show that the skeleton was a fake?
    Gould: I'm going to be honest with you Lisa, I never did the tests.
    • Alternatively, it may not be so much Stephen Jay Gould messing up, than the fact he felt that to perform tests on the angel fossil would be a waste of time. In fact, the full original line was: "I'm gonna be honest with you, Lisa. I never did the tests. I had important work to do."
  • Inventional Wisdom: Given by a robot. "Why? Why was I programmed to feel pain?"
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Implied.
    Mr. Burns: Fiddle-faddle, everyone knows our mutants have flippers. Oh! I've said too much. Smithers, use the amnesia ray.
    • Leave No Witnesses: The "Amnesia Ray" was a revolver and Burns told Smithers to use it on himself after he's done with the others.
  • Nerds Love Tough Schoolwork: Principal Skinner over intercom: "Attention. All honor roll students will be rewarded by a trip to an archaeological dig. Conversely, all detention students will be punished with a trip to an archaeological dig."
  • Pet the Dog: Lisa, who spent the entire episode banging her fists against the wall trying to prove the skeleton wasn't an angel, is outraged to find out it was just a publicity stunt. She even tries to call the mall directors out for exploiting everyone's beliefs...unfortunately, by that point the majority of them are too excited about shopping to care anymore.
  • Planning for the Future Before the End: Edna suggests she and Skinner have sex one last time before the end. Skinner agrees, but asks her to give him a bit so he can finish filling out the tardy slips. If the world was ending, who cares about tardy slips?
    • It's part of Skinner's character. He is like the latter-day depiction of Marge Simpson, who would rather do something boring than something exciting and he isn't aware of how this makes him.
  • Science Is Wrong: The basis for the episode.
  • Shout-Out: Hutz has only a sandwich and apple in his briefcase.
  • Silence, You Fool!: The so-called angel when it reveals that it's not predicting the apocalypse but instead an opening for the Heavenly Hills shopping mall in Springfield:
    Lisa: Well, there you go. I hope you all learned a valuable—
    Angel: Silence! Prepare for the end...the end of high prices! Behold, the grand opening of the Heavenly Hills Mall.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Lisa.
  • Special Guest: Stephen Jay Gould As Himself