This is the last episode written by David X. Cohen before he left to work on Futurama. This is also the last appearance of Troy McClure. The episode is dedicated in the memory of Phil Hartman, who voiced McClure, Lionel Hutz, Lyle Lanley, and various other characters on the show. Hartman was tragically killed by his wife four months before the episode aired.
This episode provides examples of...
- Accidental Aiming Skills: How Bart kills the bird.Nelson: You even compensated for the crooked sight!
- Adam and Eve Plot: By the end of the episode, Springfield is overrun by massive population of Bolivion tree lizards descended from a single pair (both presumably from the same mother).
- Adults Are Useless: Before Marge goes after Bart, she tells Homer to punish Lisa for lying about his whereabouts (she knew he'd gone to Nelson's and said he was at Milhouse's). Homer's punishment involves sending Lisa to the Kwik-E-Mart to pick up some beer and snacks for himself (as well as giving her a little extra to get something for herself).
- Artistic License Astronomy: Played for Laughs. Homer proclaims that he hasn't been this excited "since Halley's Comet collided with the moon."Lisa: ...that never happened, Dad.
Homer: Suuuuure it didn't.
- Artistic License History: Skinner says the Bolivian tree lizards were the ones behind the extinction of the dodo, but we all know perfectly well mankind itself was the one species behind the tragic fate of the dodo.note
- Artistic License Ornithology: Principal Skinner insinuates that the cuckoo and the nene are extinct birds. Cuckoos aren't even a species (they're a family) and couldn't be more common, while the nene is classed as "vulnerable" (basically, "almost endangered") but not extinct.
- The Atoner:
- Bart, after Marge punishes him by neglecting him and Bart realizes that he made orphans out of the eggs in the nest, decides to take care of them in repentance.
- Just in case you thought Marge was a little too hard on Bart for flat-out giving up on if not outright cutting off ties with him earlier (and also unwittingly endangering the eggs by unplugging the cord connected to the incubator), she helps him warm the eggs and even allows him and the lizards to escape from getting killed.
- Badass Boast: Bart announces he's going to Nelson's after Marge explicitly told him not to, telling Lisa, "She doesn't scare me. I do what I want, when I want."
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: When Bart and Marge bring the lizards to Skinner, Burns tells Skinner, "Kill the horrid beasts ... and do away with their lizards."
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When the eggs finally hatch.Marge: I see a foot!
Lisa: I see an eye!
Bart: I see a neck!
Homer: I see a horn!
Lisa: (Confused) A horn?
(The eggs hatch, revealing lizards)
- Chew-Out Fake-Out: After Bart reveals that he began taking care of the dead bird's eggs, Marge looks a bit disapproving at first and prepares to scold him ... but then she couldn't bear herself to do it and forgives Bart by giving him a hug.
- Cruel Mercy: A non-lethal variant. When Marge finds out Bart has killed the bird, he realizes he can't run from this and says he deserves to be punished. Then Marge ignores him and lets him "have fun killing things", even though Bart clearly isn't proud of what he did either.
- Disappointed in You: Marge, after Bart kills the bird, and just ignores him (unless if she suspects he's up to no good again). She forgives him after discovering the birds' eggs.
- A Dog Named "Dog": Bart names one of his eggs "Chirpy Boy" — except it's a lizard, not a bird.
- Double Entendre: The episode has some fun using very naughty-sounding words on account of them all pertaining to species of bird.Skinner: It's already wiped out the dodo, the cuckoo, and the nene. And it has nasty plans for the booby, the titmouse, the woodcock, and the titpecker.
- Easily Forgiven: Once the lizards Bart released turned out to eat only pigeons, Skinner has no trouble admitting he was wrong and practically congratulates Bart.
- End of an Age: This was the last Simpsons episode to use the production code "#F##", the last Simpsons episode to feature Phil Hartman (playing Troy McClure), and also the last full-length Simpsons episode written by David S. Cohen,note who became executive producer and head writer for Futurama, adopting the name "David X. Cohen" there.
- HeelFace Revolving Door: In the span of the episode, Marge goes from somewhat sympathetic and reasonable, to bitter and spiteful, then returns to being kind and loving.
- Hypocrite: Marge comes across as this for meddling with what Bart is doing in his treehouse, given how she declared earlier that she's not going to put up with him or his shenanigans.
- Hypocritical Humor: When Lisa and Maggie cheat at skeeball to get tickets, Nelson calls them out for this and then prys the dispenser open with a crowbar and steals the entire roll.
- "I Can't Look!" Gesture: After Bart and Skinner's rooftop struggle causes the lizards to fall out and begin plumeting to the ground, Bart covers his eyes as he watches them fall.
- I Didn't Mean to Kill Him: Bart tried to explain to Marge that killing the bird was an accident. She doesn't buy it.
- I Have No Son!: While she didn't really disown Bart nor kick him out of the house, Marge's deciding that her constant punishments of Bart never sink in and concluding that he can do whatever he wants has this sort of effect. She forgives Bart only when she discovers him taking care of the eggs as a way of repentance.
- Imagine Spot: After accidentally killing the bird, Bart imagines himself in a courtroom full of birds and confesses to killing an innocent bird. The judges react with horror, saying they only wanted Bart to put fresh newspaper on the tribunal floor, as the birds are up to their knees in their own droppings. But in light of Bart's confession, the birds decide to peck Bart's face off.
- Infant Immortality: Averted. Bolivian tree lizards devour bird eggs without the mother's knowledge and lay their own in the nest to replace them.
- Introduced Species Calamity: Two Bolivian Tree Lizards hatch in Springfield, where their population explodes and they end up eating almost all of Springfield's pigeons, much to the delight of the population of Springfield (who view pigeons as disease-ridden "flying rats"). When Lisa points out that now Springfield is full of Bolivian Tree Lizards, Skinner outlines Springfield's solution; first, they will import large numbers of lizard-eating Chinese Needle Snakes, and then when the snake population becomes uncontrollable, they will import snake-eating gorillas; they don't need any animals to deal with the gorillas, because the gorillas will freeze to death when winter comes.
- Jerkass Ball: While Marge's resentment towards Bart is chalked up to Rage Breaking Point and at least understandable, she ends up bordering into spiteful jerkassery when she barges in on what Bart's doing due to suspicions he's up to no good again, right after deciding to ignore him from then on, and she doesn't even bother to listen to him. Of course, Homer didn't exactly help by suggesting Bart could be operating a drug lab in his treehouse.
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- As harsh it may have been, Marge did have every reason to be angry and fed up given Bart is normally an endless troublemaker and she insisted he shouldn't hang out with Nelson (for good reason).
- Killing Bart's lizards might have been cold, but Skinner's decision to do so is very understandable considering the damage foreign species have historically caused to the ecosystems they're introduced to, especially since these lizards in particular have already driven multiple birds to extinction.
- Karma Houdini:
- Lisa, Maggie, and Nelson incur no consequences for cheating for and outright stealing tickets at the fun park.
- Bart even gets a reward from the mayor (a scented candle, but still) for unleashing an invasive species that has all but rendered pigeons extinct within the city limits after a climactic act where people were trying to chase him over that (Lisa even points this out ... then decides Calling Shotgun is more important).
- Apu is the man who unleashed the lizards onto the town (they came in a crate full of "fresh" South American donuts for his store). He never tells and nobody ever finds out.
- Kick the Dog:
- Nelson does this a lot. He mocks Bart for refusing to shoot the bird, coercing him into doing it. Nelson then suggests throwing the dead bird into a car full of girls and starts slapping Bart because he's bored. Then there was his earlier comment of "Cram it, ma'am" when talking to Marge.
- While Marge has every right to be angry and disappointed towards her son, when she storms Bart's treehouse, Marge unplugs the cord connecting to Bart's incubator, which could have seriously endangered the eggs. Granted, she did not know about this.
- Earlier in the episode, when she's telling Bart to stay away from Nelson, she insults him for being a troubled child and that he needs to be isolated from society.
- Lovable Lizard: Played with. Bart takes in what he thinks are two bird eggs, but they turn out to be Bolivian tree lizards, a fictional species that lay their eggs in bird nests to feed off the birds. Bart grows attached to them anyway, and is horrified when Principal Skinner tries to kill them (as he runs a birdwatching club and considers the lizards destructive) but saves them with Marge's help and releases them into the wild. Here, the "lovable" part comes not so much from the lizards themselves, but with Bart's fondness for them, which is truly heartwarming:Bart: Everyone thinks they're monsters. But I raised them and I love them.
- Mama Bear: By the climax, both Bart and Marge feel this way towards Bart's lizards. Bart because he raised them, and Marge because she knows how it feels to love a kid even when everyone else thinks they're a monster.
- A Million Is a Statistic: Bart feels great guilt over taking away a pack of unhatched birds' mother by accident and tries to raise them. Then it turns out the eggs held bird-eating lizards which will reproduce and eat thousands of pigeons. The town considered the pigeons a plague, so it gives Bart no real guilt over it.Lisa: I don't get it, Bart. You got all upset when you killed one bird, but now you've killed tens of thousands, and it doesn't bother you at all.
Bart: Hey, you're right ... I call the front seat!
Lisa: You had it on the way over!
- Mix-and-Match Critters: The lizards seem to have elements of green iguanas, Jackson's chameleons, and gliding lizards in their designs.
- Moral Luck: Bart feels bad for killing the mother bird, even though it was an accident caused by trying to avoid killing her. When he saves an invasive species of lizard and releases them into the wild, they turned out to be killing a type of bird no one likes, so he's celebrated as a hero—even by the people who tried to stop him!
- My God, What Have I Done?: Bart feels very much this way after accidentally shooting and killing the bird, especially as he hadn't wanted to and tried not to do it when coerced. He tries to repent by looking after the eggs until they hatch.
- Mythology Gag: When she learns Bart has disobeyed her by hanging out with Nelson, Marge says "Bart is in deep, deep trouble", referring to the Simpsons song "Deep, Deep Trouble".
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: In as much as you could call Skinner a villain in this case, but his attempts to forcefully pull the lizards away from Bart results in their escaping into the wild.
- Not So Different: Bart tells Marge during the climax that while he knows everyone else thinks the lizards are monsters, he still loves them because he sees them as his children. Marge of course, assures him that she knows exactly how that feels and helps him protect them.Bart: Everyone thinks they're monsters. But I raised them, and I love them! I know that's hard to understand.
Marge: Not as hard as you think.
- No, You: Lisa points out that what hatched from the eggs are lizards because (1) they don't have beaks, (2) they don't have feathers, and (3) they're lizards. Bart tells Lisa that she's a lizard.
- Oh, Crap!: Bart after he kills the bird by accident, and again when Marge shows up, as he knows she's very angry with him.
- Parents for a Day: Bart, hence the title.
- Pesky Pigeons: After accidentally killing the mother bird, Bart decides to be a surrogate parent for its eggs. Said eggs turn out to be for a male and female pair of an invasive species of lizard, which then escape and breed like crazy. The resulting pigeon apocalypse is greeted with universal cheer.
- Rage Breaking Point: Marge is already upset when she finds out Bart had disobeyed her, but discovering he also killed a bird causes her to reach her wit's end and become fed up with him.
- Running Gag: Homer falling downstairs into the unlit basement.
- The Scapegoat: When Bart asks for a go with Nelson's gun, he says he'll be pleased to have Bart's fingerprints on it.
- Shout-Out: At one point, Nelson taunts Bart by calling him an "octo-wussy".
- Shown Their Work: While there are a few liberties regarding the portrayal of the three bird species which Skinner claims, were driven to extinction by the lizards, their illustrations are otherwise rather accurate to the real animals, and even have the correct binomial names in a nice aversion of Canis Latinicus:
- Dodo (Raphus cucullatus).
- Black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus).
- Nene (Branta sandvicensis).
- All the other birds mentioned by Skinner in a Double Entendre moment are real species as well, except the "titpecker".
- Skewed Priorities:
Nelson: Hmm ... hot food is tempting, but I can't say no to a weapon.
- When Nelson gets enough tickets to win an easy-bake oven or a BB gun, he replies with this gem:
- After Lisa (understandably) points out that Bart's act of kindness has accidentally unleashed a destructive species onto Springfield's local ecosystem, Bart calls shotgun on the Simpsons' car. Lisa instantly becomes more concerned about this.
- So Long, Suckers!: At the Birdwatching Society meeting, Jasper looks out the window and sees a pigeon, which happens to be the last bird in his spotting list. He promptly ditches the group, uttering this phrase.
- Somewhere, a Herpetologist Is Crying: Done intentionally, the Bolivian tree lizards are a completely made-up species for the episode.
- Springtime for Hitler: Bart never wanted to kill the bird, and tries to intentionally miss the bird when he goes to shoot it after being coerced by Nelson, only to accidentally land a direct hit on it because of the crooked sight (even though the entire gun was clearly pointing elsewhere).
- Suck E. Cheese's: According to the sign outside, the Family Fun Center was once seen on the FOX reality special, When Disaster Strikes 4. Viewers aren't given more information on how and why the Family Fun Center was featured there.
- Summon Bigger Fish: Done four times in a row. After Bart releases the lizards to prevent them from being killed, Skinner warns him he has no idea what he has unleashed ... and later changes his tune because the lizards wiped out the pigeon population, which the town considered a plague.Skinner: Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.
Lisa: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?
Skinner: No problem. We simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.
Lisa: But aren't the snakes even worse?
Skinner: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
Lisa: But then we're stuck with gorillas!
Skinner: No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.
- Theme Tune Cameo: Nelson hums The Simpsons' theme while cooking.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: After mentioning that the lizards are a destructive species and it's required by law that they must be destroyed in the most painful way possible, Skinner orders Bart to bring them forth... while he pulls out a massive drill and the rest of the bird-watchers' group pulls out hammers and other big blunt weapons.
- This Is Unforgivable!: Marge's reaction upon learning Bart shot the bird, even though it was an accident.
- Truth in Television: As it turns out, there are animals that use other animals to raise their young for them.
- Wham Line: When the eggs are hatching, Homer says...Homer: I see a horn!
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Downplayed with the lizards, the birdwatchers don't dislike them for being lizards but because they're a foreign invasive species that can potentially ruin Springfield's ecosystem. Played straight when they find out they mostly feed on pigeons and accept them because all of Springfield including the birdwatchers don't see pigeons as anything more than just "feathered rats."
- Wing Pull: Just when Chirpy Boy and Bart Jr. look like they're going to be sent hurdling off a building, it turns out they have gliding membranes like flying dragon lizards, which allow them to parachute down unharmed.Lisa: Wow, did you know they had those webbed flaps for gliding?
Skinner: Yes. But I was hoping they didn't know that.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Nelson inflicts this on Bart when he praises him for shooting the bird through the neck, calling him a "cold-blooded killer". In front of Marge no less.
- Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Bart operates under the assumption that his lizards are male and names them Chirpy Boy and Bart Junior. The fact that they could breed implies one of them was female.note