Recap: The Simpsons Who Shot Mr Burns

This is not a clue... or is it?
"Who Shot Mr. Burns" is a two-part episode, and the only one in the series. It was the end of season 6 and the opener for season 7. YMMV tropes can be found here.

Part 1

Episode - 2F16
First Aired - 5/21/1995

While burying a dead gerbil, Groundskeeper Willie strikes oil on Springfield Elementary. Principal Skinner starts taking and accepting suggestions on what to do with the money the oil well will bring, including hiring mambo star Tito Puente to teach. Mr. Burns hears about the school's oil well, and swears to get the oil.

Meanwhile, Homer starts becoming unhinged by the fact that Mr. Burns can't remember who he is. It reaches the point where Homer attacks Burns in his office, screaming, "My name is Homer Simpson!"

Burns creates his own slant-drilling operation to tap the school's well, much to Smithers' displeasure. As a result, Springfield elementary has no oil, and from the cost of building and dismanteling their drill have to fire both Willie and Tito, who swear vengeance. Burns' oil drilling causes the Springfield retirement home and Moe's Tavern to close down. A gusher from the well hits Bart's treehouse, destroying it and injuring Santa's Little Helper, causing Bart to also swear revenge. But the worst is yet to come; Burns reveals that he plans on building a sun-blocker to keep Springfield in eternal darkness, forcing them to rely on his powerplant-powered lights 24/7. This is too much for Smithers, and he asks that Burns stop. Burns fires him instead.

At a town meeting, everyone voices their grievances about Burns, and the man appears himself. He reveals that following an attack from 'someone' he has started carrying a revolver around, and despite the entire town hating him, activates his sun-blocker, thinking himself invincible. Walking into an alley and obscured from view, he meets someone;

"Oh it's you, what are you so happy about? Ah, I see. I think you'd better drop it. I said drop it! Get your hands off-"

There's a gunshot, and Burns staggers out into the open and collapses onto the sundial, mortally wounded. As the townsfolk gather around his body, Marge realizes that since everyone hates Burns, any one of them could be the shooter.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The "pressing parcel processing" scene.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Burns of all characters asks one, when Springfield's hatred of him was even more intense than usual.
    McCallister: Arr, Burns, your scurvy schemes will earn ye a one-way passage to the boneyard!
    Ned: I'd like to hear from Sideshow Mel!
    Mel: I'll see to it that Burns suffers the infernal machinations of hell's grim tyrant!
    Otto: Yeah!
    Burns: Oh, you all talk big, but who here has the guts to stop me?
    The residents of Springfield all look around, expecting someone else to step forward; except for the shooter, who simply glares at Burns.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: At the town meeting, everyone states their reasons for hating Burns, all of them legitimate reasons to hold a grudge. Except for Marge...
    • And when Smithers tries to dissuade Mr. Burns from blocking out the sun.
    Smithers: But Sir, every plant and tree will die, owls will deafen us with incessant hooting; the town's sundial will be useless.
  • Asshole Victim: Mr. Burns himself.
  • Atomic F-Bomb: Homer when his plan to make Mr. Burns remember his name backfires.
    Ned: Dear Lord, that's the loudest profanity I've ever heard!
  • Blatant Lies: When Principal Skinner showed Superintendent Chalmers the headline "Awful School is Awful Rich", he covered the first "Awful". When Chalmers asked what was written behind the fingers, Skinner said it had nothing to do with the story.
  • Cliff Hanger: To date, the only 2-part Simpsons episode.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Homer when Marge gives him an idea to make Mr. Burns remember his name:
    Marge: I have an idea.
    Homer: What? What's your idea?
    Marge: When my father was first trying to catch my mother's eye, he sent her a box of candy with his photo in it. After that, she never forgot him.
    Homer: That's all well and good, but it's not really your idea, is it now, Marge?
  • Cone of Shame: Santa's Little Helper gets one after his legs are injured. Nelson and his parrot laugh at him, and Abe mistakes him for a lamp.
  • Continuity Nod: When Mr. Burns and Smithers are eating from Homer's box of chocolates:
    Smithers: Now look, there's a photo in here.
    Burns: Ah yes, I believe that's little Maggie Simpson, the baby who found my precious teddy bear Bobo. Oh, and that Simpson mutt, my former guard dog. Oh, and um... that's uh, Bart Simpson. He was my heir for a brief period, you know?
    Smithers: Yes sir, I remember.
  • Drowning His Sorrows: Smithers does not take being fired well.
  • Edited for Syndication: Notably, it removes Smithers saying he never misses Pardon My Zinger as a benefit for watching Comedy Central while out of a job.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: By the time Mr Burns is shot, everyone in Springfield has a motive to shoot him & Marge outright says the trope naming phrase. In reality, there was a handful of people who couldn't have done it. note 
  • Even Corrupt Politicians Have Standards: Mayor Quimby may be a corrupt mayor note , but he even thought the idea of Burns blocking out the sun to forced the people to pay for electricity was an outrage.
  • Foreshadowing: As Mr. Burns is threatened at the town meeting, Burns asks "You all talk big, but who here has the guts to stop me?" Everybody except Maggie lowers their face or looks away.
  • Homage: The whole episode, and the next by extension, is a parody of the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of Dallas.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The day after Willie strikes oil on the Springfield Elementary campus, the local newspaper's front page reads "AWFUL SCHOOL IS AWFUL RICH".
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The DVD box art for Season 6 features Maggie penned up in a miniature jail cell. However, the commentators' lips are sealed.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: After Mr Burns was collapses on the sun dial, Dr Hibbert comments "Well, I couldn't possibly solve this mystery... Can you?" whilst looking and pointing directly at the viewer, before quickly cutting to a different shot to show he was talking to Chief Wiggum. This was done in reference to the contest that ran over the summer, in order for the viewers to figure out the culprit.
  • Multi-Part Episode: Notably the only one the show has ever done.
  • No Indoor Voice: During the meeting, everyone seemed to have picked up a habit of shouting out what Burns had recently done to their lives. Lampshaded by Marge.
  • Not a Mask: Used at the end:
    Chief Wiggum: This isn't Mr. Burns' face at all! It's a mask! (pulls on his face) Oh wait, it is Burns. Heh his wrinkly skin lo-looked like a mask.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Mr. Burns tries to convince Skinner to give the oil to the power plant by disguising himself as Jimbo Jones. It works about as well as you would expect.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Subverted. Burns is portrayed as an opportunist with no moral restraint. When he decides to block sunlight from Springfield, a town hall meeting is called on the subject, and everyone brings a gun to the meeting. But when someone actually SHOOTS Burns (hid behind a Shadow Discretion Shot) he is perceived as a victim, despite his obviously evil nature, and the attempted murder is investigated anyway. This is VERY out of character for Springfield, the kind of town that would leave a boy in a well for previously pranking the town into thinking someone else fell into it.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Homer spray-painting "I am Homer Simpson" on the walls of Mr. Burns' office.
  • Sanity Slippage: Homer undergoes one as a result of his name not remembered by Mr. Burns.
  • Scale Model Destruction: Mr. Burns goes a bit too far with this.
    Burns: Take that, Bowlerama! Take that, convenience mart! Take that, Nuclear Power Plan— Oh, fiddlesticks.
  • The Scream: A variation appears; on realizing that Mr. Burns has forgotten his name yet again despite all his efforts, Homer takes a deep breath and yells a profanity (starts with an "F", the rest is covered by the sound of an organ playing). It's given exactly the same treatment as The Scream.
  • Shout-Out: The image of Joel/Mike and the bots in the theatre can be seen on the TV in Moe's bar.
    • The sequence involving the package being delivered spoofed the advertising campaign for Federal Express, including Mr. Burns saying the slogan "it must absolutely be there overnight."
  • Special Guest: Tito Puente. Applies to Part 2 as well.
  • Spoofing in the Rain: Mr. Burns climbs a lamp post in the same way Gene Kelly did in Singin' in the Rain.
  • Take Our Word for It: When Mr. Burns sent Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie (but not Homer) a thank you card, Homer reacted by shouting something Flanders considered the foulest word he ever heard.
  • Take That: After losing his job, Smithers now spends all his days watching Comedy Central, leading a disgusted Dr. Hibbert to utter "My God!"
  • Waxing Lyrical: Before he was shot, Mr. Burns paraphrases the Simon & Garfunkel song "Feelin' Groovy", saying "Hello, lamppost, whatcha knowin'? I've come to watch your power flowin'..."
  • Wraparound Background: Used on the Couch Gag.
  • You Monster!: Said by Bart after Mr. Burns mocks Santa's Little Helper's injuries.

Part 2

Episode - 2F20
First Aired - 9/17/1995

Kent Brockman reports that Burns was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead. He was then taken to a better hospital and pronounced "Alive, but barely." With Burns in a coma and the only witnesses to the shooting being Maggie and Santa's Little Helper, the police suspect Smithers. Smithers also suspects himself, because he has a gun that was recently been fired. Recalling shooting someone, a guilt-addled Smithers goes into a Catholic confessional to vent, which turns out to be a trap by Wiggum. On TV, Smithers makes a comment from an episode of 'Pardon My Zinger' that aired on the night of the shooting. Sideshow Mel realizes that if Smithers saw that episode he could not have been at the town hall to shoot Burns, and reports his thoughts. Smithers realizes that the man he shot was Jasper, but only in his wooden leg. Meanwhile, the sunblocker is torn down, crushing Shelbyville.

The police are once again, and as usual, baffled, as their only clue is the bullet pulled from Burns' body. Lisa, wanting to help, names some suspects and their motives; Skinner, Willie, Moe, and Barney, whose livelyhoods were endangered by Burns' oil drilling. Wiggum realizes that Tito Puente is also a suspect by that logic, and the police go out to investigate.

  • Tito's 'vengeance' turns out to be a slanderous mambo, much to entertainment of the police.
  • Skinner admits to preparing to attack Burns, but was applying combat make-up at the time of the shooting. A flashback shows that he mixed up his mother's make-up, and while Superintendent Chalmers can vouch for his alibi, "Anything else he says is a filthy lie."
  • Willie claims to have a crippling arthritis in his index fingers from Space Invaders (not the video game; actual space invaders), vouched by his medical records.
  • Via Lie Detector, Moe is also proclaimed innocent (and a pervert who ogles women in the Sears catalog).

After a dream involving Lisa and burning cards, Wiggum checks the suit Burns was wearing when shot. He finds an eyelash, and a DNA scan reveals that it came from the Simpson line. At this time Burns wakes up, crying, "Homer Simpson!"

The police raid the Simpson home, and find a gun in the family's car. It not only has bullet markings identical to the one from the shooting, but Homer's fingerprints on it! Homer is arrested, but escapes when Wiggum turns over the paddywagon while trying to get fast food from a drive-thru.

Lisa is unconvinced by the evidence, as the DNA was 'Simpson', not just Homer's. And a flashback reveals that Homer got his fingerprints on the gun by feeling around for an ice cream scoop is dropped.

Meanwhile, a check-up by Dr. Nick ("Hi, everybody!" "Ho, Mersimp Son!") reveals that "Homer Simpson" is the only thing Burns can say, the result of brain trauma.

Lisa goes to the town hall to investigate some more, and has a revelation on who the shooter is. Smithers issues a reward for Homer's capture "Dead or alive", and word gets out that the fugitive is at the hospital Burns is at! The entire town hurries there to find Homer shaking Burns, demanding that the 'accusation' be taken back. This cures Burns' trauma, and he still has no idea who Homer is.

His speech returned to normal, Burns reveals who shot him; Maggie Simpson!

Burns reveals that after the town meeting, he saw Maggie in the Simpson car with a lollipop. Wanting to actually 'take candy from a baby', Burns went at it, but found his strength to be lacking. During the struggle, his gun fell out and into Maggie's arms, firing.

Burns demands that his 'assailant' be arrested, but is shrugged off. After all, it was an accident.

Wasn't it?

The reveal of the real shooter has been referenced in several episodes since.

This episode contains examples of:

  • After Action, Villain Analysis: Smithers provides some.
    Smithers: [Burns] became consumed by greed, he'd steal from anyone...and when he tried to steal our sunlight, he crossed the line from everyday villainy into Cartoonish Supervillainy!"
  • The Alibi: Each of the main suspects has one, including Smithers, who initially thought he himself was the culprit.
  • All Just a Dream: The episode opens with Smithers waking up and finding Mr. Burns in the shower, leading him to conclude that the shooting was a dream. But then Burns explains that he and Smithers are crime-fighitng racecar drivers in the year 1965. And that's when Smithers wakes up for real. The whole scene is a spoof of the infamous ending of the eighth season of Dallas, an egregious example of this trope.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: When Sideshow Mel visits the police station and tells the officers that they have arrested an innocent man, Chief Wiggum thought he was talking about Dr. Colossus.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: The Springfielders who tore down Burns' sun blocker rejoiced once Principal Skinner stated the town it crushed was Shelbyville.
  • Art Major Biology: In-universe; Marge is under the impression that marrying Homer gave her Simpson DNA. Lisa is not impressed.
  • Big "NO!": Parodied in the foiler ending.
    Burns: The one who shot me was... (freaks out upon seeing Smithers) Waylon Smithers!
    Smithers: NOOOOOO! Wait a minute, yes.
  • Cartoonish Supervillainy: Smithers' recap of Mr. Burns' actions in Part One is the Trope Namer.
    Dr. Colossus: Bah! He was a rank amateur compared to Dr. Colossus! (Evil Laugh)"
  • Chalk Outline: Provides Lisa with a clue.
  • Crossover: A special episode of America's Most Wanted aired before this episode's debut, looking at the clues and suspects from Part 1.
  • Confess in Confidence: Smithers goes to confession.
    Smithers: Father, I'm not a Catholic, but...well, I tried to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade. But anyway, I've got a...rather large sin to confess. (sniffles) I'm the one who...shot Mr. Burns!
    Wiggum: (pokes head out, cocks gun) That's all I needed to hear! Boy, this thing works great.
  • Contest Winner Cameo: Subverted. The person correctly guessing the resolution to the season ender would be animated into an episode. No one officially guessed the right answer. Due to contest regulations, a winner had to be selected out of a random sample of entries. The sample did not contain any correct answers, so the winner who was chosen did not have the right answer and was paid a cash prize in lieu of being animated. However, only one viewer correctly followed the episode's trail of evidence and concluded that Maggie did the deed; but when the producers tried contacting them, it turned out the email address was a college email address that was no longer in use.
  • Edited for Syndication: It removes the revelation of Abe getting back his Smith and Wesson, leaving the shot of the dug-up hole in the Simpsons' backyard in Part 1 unresolved. Both of Dr. Colossus' appearances are also edited out: the first, when Smithers says that Burns crossed over into cartoon super-villainy when he tried to block out the sun, and the second when Mel and Krusty attempt to explain to Wiggum that he's arrested the wrong man. Finally, there's a scene at the beginning where a group of rioters tear down the sun-blocking device (and rejoice when they learn it fell on rival town Shelbyville).
  • Fair Play Whodunnit: Even though the culprit did seem to come out of the blue, the clues were indeed all there, with the mystery even being drummed up as a contest to see who could figure it out..
  • Fake-Out Opening: The episode opens with Smithers waking up and finding a thought-to-be-dead Mr. Burns in the shower ala Bobby Ewing. Mr. Burns suddenly exposits, "The year is 1965, and you and I are undercover detectives on the hot rod circuit." Cue the opening sequence of a show called Speedway Squad ("In Color!"). Smithers then wakes up for real.
  • Foiler Footage: Even though only a few of them could have been guilty, there was a gunshot, and Principal Skinner's gun had a silencer; Moe had a shotgun, which would've killed Burns, and Apu is shown using an automatic weapon that still leaves just one wound. They also shot a full alternate summation where Smithers goes through his whole Motive Rant, and it's explained how all the clues could have added up to Smithers being the culprit. As Troy McClure points out in "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular", the DNA evidence has to be ignored for this alternate ending to work.
    • There were also some brief, insane shots of various Springfieldians killing Burns, including Santa's Little Helper!
  • Gilligan Cut: After Tito Puente's mambo, Wiggum hopes all of the suspect interviews will be as much fun. Cut to the police interviewing the very dull Principal Skinner.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Tito Puente's The Villain Sucks Song includes the lines "Burns! / Con el corazón de perronote  / Señor Burns! / El diablo con dinero!note ", and ends with "Adiós, viejo!"note 
  • Homage: The opening scene references another Dallas storyline, in which the whole eighth season was revealed to had been All Just a Dream.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue:
    Marge: Why don't you solve the mystery of who put mud in the freezer?
    Bart: Who wants chocolate ice cream?
    Homer: Me! Me! Me!
  • Karma Houdini: Burns gets away with a lot. Sure, he got shot, but he stole millions of dollars from the school by rigging the oil well forcing them to let go a number of people including Willie, caused the retirement home to collapse in a sinkhole, ruined Moe's bar via toxin fumes, broke Santa's Little Helper's legs, and drove Homer so crazy over his inability to remember Homer's name that he assaulted him in his office. And his worse plan is to blot out the sun and kill all plant life and force everyone to use his electricity. Yeah, his device got torn down, but unless he paid to repair the damage above offscreen, or the device didn't last long enough to make up for the money he spent building it, he got away scot free with no consequences! The people who tore down Burns' device aren't seen receiving any sort of punishment for crushing Shelbyville.
  • Killed Off for Real:
    Kent Brockman: At 3 PM Friday, local autocrat C. Montgomery Burns was shot following a tense confrontation at Town Hall. Burns was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was then transferred to a better hospital where doctors upgraded his condition to "alive".
  • Make the Dog Testify: Eddie and Lou attempt to do this with Santa's Little Helper and Maggie.
    Lou: Did you see this guy? Was he anywhere near the parking lot when Burns got shot?
    Eddie: No, it's no use. They ain't talking.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Smithers when he believed he shot Mr. Burns.
  • Not Helping Your Case: As Burns snaps out of saying "Homer Simpson" nonstop, he still doesn't seem to know who Homer is, exasperating him.
    Homer: D'OOOOOOOOOOH! (pulls out a pistol) Say it, Burns! Say I never shot you... (realizes everybody's watching'') before.
  • Parrot Expo-what?: Jasper says "You shot who in the what now?"
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: Krusty accused Smithers of stealing a Madonna gag from him. When Sideshow Mel called him out for having stolen it from "Pardon My Zinger", he asked "Stole, made up. What's the difference?"
  • Poor Man's Porn: Moe is forced to admit under a lie detector test that he spends his evenings ogling the women in the Sears catalogue (even though Sears stopped sending out Sears catalogues in America at the time of the episode's first airing, but who's to say that Moe doesn't either have a stash of old catelogues, or getting new ones from Canada?).
  • Sherlock Homage: Sideshow Mel reaches the conclusion that Smithers must be innocent. While he ponders over the clues he lits a Holmesian pipe and orders Krusty (the Watson in this case) to come along with him to the police station.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Homer's escape from arrest and sneaking into a hospital disguised as a doctor all spoof The Fugitive.
    • Groundskeeper Willie's investigation while showing he's wearing nothing below his kilt references the most famous scene from Basic Instinct.
    • Chief Wiggum's dream is one to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
    • The "Speedway Squad" sequence from Smithers' dream references the opening sequence of Police Squad!.
  • The Villain Sucks Song: Tito Puente's creation of one is his alibi for not shooting Mr. Burns.
    Tito: Revenge? Of course. But why wound his body with bullets when I could set his soul afire with a slanderous mambo?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The subplot concerning the oil under Springfield Elementary that dominated Part 1 is quietly dropped and forgotten about, as is all of the damage that Mr. Burns caused in his efforts to seize it.
    • Chief Wiggum never investigates Barney (there's even a shot of Lisa's chart of suspects with everyone except him crossed out as Wiggum laments that he still hasn't got any leads).