After being subjected to ever more anti-Semitic remarks from Cartman, Kyle finally agrees to see the Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ, which is playing at the Bijou. He is thoroughly traumatised by the scenes of Jesus' torture and crucifixion, and the Jews' role in it as presented in the film. He tells Cartman he was right about Judaism, but the wounds run even deeper as he starts having nightmares about participating in the Passion, leading him to question his faith. He finally decides that the Jewish community needs to formally apologise for having Jesus crucified, and says as much to the shocked congregation at his synagogue.
Cartman, meanwhile, is using the resounding box office success of the film to unite people who underwent a spiritual awakening after seeing it, and together they start a new political movement. His followers think they're just united by their love of The Passion, and don't realise that Cartman's Nazi regalia and anti-Semitic slogans (which they believe are Aramaic, not German) indicate that he means to finish what the Nazis started by exterminating the world's Jewish population.
Stan and Kenny, amazed by the film's box office take, decide they'd better see it as well. However, they hate the film and demand their $18 back from the ticket seller at the Bijou. He tells them they'll need to talk to Mel Gibson directly, so they board a bus to Malibu and track down Gibson at his home... only to discover he is completely insane, his behaviour part Daffy Duck, part characters from his own films, and part S&M fetishist. When he draws a gun on them and opens fire, the boys grab $18 from his wallet (despite having spent more than that to get to Malibu) and flee back to South Park, only for Gibson to drive after their bus, Mad Max-style.
The three plotlines collide as Cartman leads his unwitting neo-Nazi followers toward the synagogue, and the congregation run out to defend themselves... just as Stan and Kenny's bus returns, followed by Gibson in his truck, which he crashes into the Bijou in a fiery explosion. Seeing Gibson's insanity causes Cartman's followers to desert him en masse, resolving the standoff with the congregation of the synagogue and restoring Kyle's faith in Judaism, while Stan says that Christians should focus not on how Jesus died, but on what He taught when He lived. The episode ends with a stunned Cartman being defecated on by the cackling Gibson.
This episode provides examples of the following tropes:
- An Aesop: In the end, Stan imparts a lesson to the townspeople about how good Christians should be focusing on everything Jesus stood and died for, and how their obsession with the gruesome details of his death led to so much misery over the centuries.
- Ax-Crazy: Mel Gibson, which Stan and Kenny find out the hard way.
- Bait-and-Switch: Stan and Kenny stare blankly at the screen after the movie's over, but instead of being horrified like Kyle was, they simply say it sucked and that they want their money back.
- Berserk Button: Mel Gibson does not take kindly to being called crazy.
- Broken Pedestal: Cartman, and to a lesser extent the rest of the town, is quickly disappointed to learn how much of a lunatic Gibson is.
- Captain Oblivious: Applies to the Passion fans recruited by Cartman as a whole. It's one thing for them not to notice that they're chanting in German rather than Aramaic. It's quite another for them not to find it in any way odd that their group is led by a boy dressed as Hitler.
- Despair Event Horizon: Kyle goes into this after watching The Passion of the Christ.
- Epiphany Therapy: Kyle fully recovers from his Heroic BSoD and regains his pride as a Jew after Stan assures him that Passion is less of an encapsulation of the essence of Christianity than it is merely a manifestation of Gibson's psychosis.
- Hype Backlash: After much hype behind the film, Stan and Kenny decide to check it out...and they're put off by all the gore and simply think it's a bad movie and demand a refund.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Kyle thought so — Cartman claims that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus, as seen in the movie, and up till he saw it, he thought Cartman was just being the typical douche. Of course, this is subverted when the rest of South Park discover who Mel Gibson really is.
- Passion Play: Eric Cartman dresses like Hitler and uses a group of Christians' love of The Passion of the Christ to get them to help him to exterminate the Jews, making them think that the German for "It is time for revenge. We must exterminate the Jews" is Aramaic. Hilarity Ensues. The episode is extremely critical of the movie, but it ends with An Aesop about Christianity.Stan: It's our eighteen dollars! Your movie sucked!
Mel Gibson: You can't say my movie sucked, or else you're saying Christianity sucked!
Stan: No, dude, if you wanna be Christian, that's cool, but, you should follow what Jesus taught instead of how he got killed. Focusing on how he got killed is what people did in the Dark Ages and it ends up with really bad results.
Jack: You know, he's right, Elise. We shouldn't focus our faith on the torture and execution of Christ.
Ticket Salesman: Yeah. Lots of people got crucified in those times. We shouldn't rely on violence to inspire faith.
Cartman: Aw, aw, no, come on, people, we're so close to completing my final solution!
Kyle: Oh, dude, I feel so much better about being Jewish now that I see that Mel Gibson is just a big wacko douche.
(Mel Gibson craps on Cartman)
- Self-Deprecation: Stan mentions that the last bad movie he and Kenny sat through was BASEketball, a live-action movie made by Trey Parker and Matt Stone that the duo now considers an Old Shame.
- Gibson paints his face a la William Wallace.
- The whole chase scene where Mel Gibson repeatedly appears in front of Stan and Kenny in a different costume each time while singing is directly lifted from the "Looney Tunes" short "Yankee Doodle Daffy". Lampshaded when Stan says that Mel is "freaking daffy!"
- Snuff Film: Stan and Kenny flat-out panned The Passion as this, thus their trip to Malibu to get back their $18 from Mel Gibson.
- Sunk Cost Fallacy: In their effort to get back their $18 from Mel Gibson, Stan and Kenny spend an additional $80 in travel costs. They acknowledge this, but they agree that it's the principle of the thing that matters.
- Take That!: At The Passion of the Christ, which had recently been released at the time, as well as the hype - and controversy - surrounding it.
- Tempting Fate: Dr. Schwartz, the rabbi in the South Park synagogue tries to calm his congregation, insisting that people will recognise The Passion is just a film and there is no cause for alarm. Cue Cartman and his Passion group goose-stepping past the synagogue chanting antisemitic slogans (albeit none of them except for Cartman himself realizes that's what they're chanting).
- This Means War!: Mel Gibson's reaction when Stan calls him crazy.
- Would Hurt a Child: Mel Gibson who shoots at Stan and Kenny (don't worry, he misses) and tries ramming them off the road in retaliation for them not liking his movie.
- You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: This is Stan's reaction to seeing Mel Gibson pursuing them in the gas truck from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior while wearing William Wallace's facepaint from Braveheart.Stan: Oh you've got to be shittin' me!