Recap / The Simpsons S 9 E 8 Lisa The Skeptic

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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:

  • Affectionate Parody: Springfield's Dumbest Criminal parodies America's Dumbest Criminals.
  • Analogy Backfire:
    Bart: Why are we getting dressed up? Are we going to Black Angus?
    Marge: Well... you might say we're going to the best steakhouse in the whole universe.
    Bart: (confused) So... we're not going to Black Angus?
  • 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 (Stephen Jay Gould doing a cameo) 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. In addition, in some traditions angels also have the ability to shapeshift. Therefore even those who believe in angels, especially the preacher, should have called it out as a fake from the beginning. Lisa and the scientist should also have noticed that the wing bones on the skeleton are an inaccurate depiction of the skeletal structure of avian wings considering the angel appearance the people who made the skeleton are going for is 'human with wings'.
  • "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 in 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.
  • Call Back: Homer's closet contains things he did in previous episodes.
  • 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.
  • Ho Yay: Invoked. Thinking he has nothing to lose if the world's ending, Smithers kisses Mr. Burns on the mouth. When it's revealed the angel was just a publicity stunt:
    Smithers: Uh, sir, about that, uh, kiss... I hope you understand it was merely a sign of my respect.
    Mr. Burns: Yes, yes, of course. (looks weirded out)
  • 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 here is a condescending and anti-theistic 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, namely Buddhism). 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."
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction:
    Flanders: Reverend, I've got to admit. This doomsday warning has me just a smidge twitterpated.
    Lovejoy: Oh, now, be calm, Ned. But be afraid also- tremendously afraid- for the day of reckoning is upon us!
  • 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.
  • Late to the Realization: Homer visits the police station, thinking he won a raffle for a free motorboat. Instead, it's a ploy to arrest people with outstanding warrants and tickets. Even after the ruse is exposed and he pays the fine, Homer still thinks he's going to get a free motorboat.
  • 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.
  • Potty Emergency:
    Lisa: Ah, here's Dr. Gould now. What were the results, professor?
    Stephen Jay Gould: Inconclusive.
    Lisa: (disappointed) Inconclusive? Then why'd you come running up like that?
    Stephen Jay Gould: (whispers) Can I use your bathroom?
  • Science Is Wrong: The basis for the episode.
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: Subverted, when Homer is detained by police:
    Wiggum: What's this perp in for, Lou?
    Lou: 235 unpaid parking tickets totaling $175.
  • 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.
  • Take a Third Option: a meta example in an episode about science vs religion instead of taking a side the writers opted to make it about the evils of capitalism
  • Word Schmord:
    Lisa: Hey, they can't just build a parking lot on Sabertooth Meadow! That's where they discovered all those fossils.
    Homer: Fossils, schmossils. You can't stop progress 'cause of some moldy old bones. Bones, schmones.
    • And later:
    Homer: Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true. Facts, schmacts.

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