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Recap / The Simpsons S 11 E 14 Alone Again Natura Diddily

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Original air date: 2/13/2000 (produced in 1999)

Production code: BABF-10

While enjoying a day at the NASCAR races, Homer's shirtless antics inadvertently cause the death of Maude Flanders, and Ned's faith begins to falter when Homer bungles his way to helping his depressed neighbor.

Tropes featured:

  • 21-Gun Salute: In honor of the way Maude died, there's a twenty-one T-shirt-gun salute at her funeral.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Played for Drama. Homer is distracted by a bobby pin on the ground after the girls fire T-shirts at him. He ducks at the exact moment Maude returns with her family's food, which knocks her over the bleachers' top row railing.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Homer is a bit too into filming a shirtless Ned. He also remarks that Sherlock Holmes is a character (and not in the fictional sense), complete with sensual growl.
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  • Artistic License – Law: It's illegal to open a stand for an audience that is several heights tall without putting in a safety barrier that can prevent the death of anyone from falling off it (which is what happens to Maude).
  • Bait-and-Switch: "This is a love song about dude I met in a sleazy motel... A dude named God."
  • Boggles the Mind: Ned's solo Scrabble game. Most of the words are about his feelings of loneliness, but also on there is 'Flanswered' and 'Horny'.
  • Brick Joke: Homer mentions to Ned that the tape he used to make him a dating tape was the one used to film Maggie's birth (he was unable to edit out a few seconds of it). The tape abruptly ends by cutting to Marge pushing.
  • Broken Pedestal: Ned briefly loses his faith in God after failing to get an answer as to why Maude had to die.
  • Call-Back:
  • Continuity Cavalcade: Maude's funeral. In addition to the above call backs by Lovejoy, we also see the gravestones of Bleeding Gums Murphy, Dr. Marvin Monroenote , Bea Simmons and Frank Grimes.
  • Couch Gag: The family enters on bumper cars and slams Homer into the wall repeatedly.
  • Credits Gag: During the credits that run underneath the first sequence of the episode, the writer credit is larger than usual, timed to appear after Lisa comes across a tree with initials carved on it and wonders, "Why do jerks think everyone wants to see their stupid name?"
  • Despair Event Horizon: Maude's death nearly destroys Ned to a point that he momentarily refuses to attend church because he believed that God punished him for no reason and ruined his life.
  • For Want of a Nail: Maude's death can be attributed entirely to Homer. She goes to get food from the concession stand purely to get away from Homer, who has just taken his shirt off and is jiggling around to get the attention of the T-shirt cannon girls, goading them to fire at him. When they do so, he spots a bobby pin on the floor and bends down to pick it up just as Maude is returning with the food, so the shirts hit her instead, knocking her over the edge.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: One of Ned's dates is a stylish woman with a poodle he meets beside a pond, but it quickly becomes obvious she's clingy and obsessed with her poodle, so when she turns her back to talk to the poodle, Ned quickly hops into a swan boat and pedals away while fearing for his life. He's next seen entering Homer's house in a brief two-second scene, with the swan boat neatly parked where the Simpsons' car would normally be, implying that Ned somehow pedalled all the way there.
  • Gag Penis: Flanders', apparently.
  • George Jetson Job Security: After Bart catches Homer filming Ned, he asks if he even still has a job. Homer pointedly responds that he obviously doesn't.
  • Gilligan Cut: Ned tells his sons he won't attend church, saying "I'm going to sit right here and miss church. You just watch." Cut to Ned hurriedly driving, saying "Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry!"
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Combined with Bloodless Carnage, as the viewer never gets a look at Maude's corpse after falling to her death.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: This episode jumps tracks from the Simpson family taking a nature walk to them having a day out at the racetrack, then Maude dying in an accident and Ned coping with his loss. It also jumps tracks to Homer trying to set Ned up with someone new if one considers it to be a different plot.
  • Hand Wave: Lovejoy mentions the T-shirt ladies will fire a 21-Gun Salute at Maude's funeral "as part of a generous settlement", implying Ned filed a wrongful death suit against the racetrack and they settled.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Homer shows a strong preference for using star wipes when video editing, to Lisa's chagrin. After a scene where they discuss this, a star wipe is used in the episode itself to transition to the next scene.
  • It's All My Fault: Ned regarding Maude's death. He regrets not getting the hot dogs himself.
  • Idiot Houdini: Homer faces no serious repercussions for his role in the circumstances leading to Maude's death.
  • Irony: Rod and Todd want to be closer to the race, but Ned likes their seats up high in the stadium because they are away from dangerous things like car crashes. Minutes later, his wife is knocked over the stadium and dies.
  • Karma Houdini: Maude is killed by a barrage of T-shirts fired by cheerleaders who were aiming for a shirtless Homer (who had noticed a bobby pin on the ground and bent over to pick it up), falling off a 20-foot drop on a barrier-less grandstand. Neither the cheerleaders, Homer, nor the racetrack's owner face any serious repercussions for the circumstances leading to Maude's death (though a throwaway line suggests there was a settlement).
  • Killed Off for Real: Maude Flanders.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Lovejoy's eulogy for Maude.
    Lovejoy: In many ways, Maude Flanders was a supporting player in our lives. She didn't grab our attention with memorable catchphrases, or comical accents.
    Groundskeeper Willie: Aye...
    Captain McCallister: Yaar...
    Professor Frink: Oh, glaven, why, glaven?
    Lovejoy: But, whether you noticed her or not, Maude was always there... and we thought she always would be. My friends, life is about change. Just yesterday, Apu was a lonely bachelor.
    Apu: (holding octuplets) Yes, thank God those days are over.
    Lovejoy: (continuing) And the Van Houtens were enjoying a storybook marriage.
    Kirk Van Houten: Yeah, lots of storybooks have witches.
    Pyro: Shut up, Kirk!
    Kirk: Sorry...
  • Lethally Stupid: Homer's idiocy directly leads to Maude's death.
    • Why didn't the designers/architects of the stand put in a safety barrier? It would surely have made Maude bounce back and avoid falling.
  • Mood Whiplash: The ending of the first act where Maude dies. It's filled with normal Simpsons tomfoolery, but it takes a depressing tone the instant the T-shirts knock Maude off the grandstand.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Homer's short attention span ends up killing Maude, leaving Ned heartbroken and even angry.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The bleachers from which Maude had been sent falling to her death were clearly not designed to prevent this sort of thing from happening, lacking any sort of rails or barrier in the event that someone fell over, or was hit with a high-speed projectile as she had been.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Ned turns his back on God and outright refuses to attend church, much to the horror of his sons. It doesn't last very long, though.
    • At the racetrack, when Dr. Hibbert catches a free t-shirt, he states in a serious tone that it features a cartoon of a Ford vehicle urinating on a Chevrolet. His wife mentions that he usually chuckles at everything. He responds that indeed he does, while maintaining his serious demeanor.
  • Parting-Words Regret: Flanders regrets that his final words to his wife "No foot-longs" instead of "I love you" or something more meaningful. Homer vows to never let Marge leave the room without telling him how much he loves her, but settles for a pat on the butt after realizing how hard that would be.
  • Pet the Dog: After Maude's death, Homer decides to be an actual friend for him, lending his ear and even making Ned a dating tape to help him move on.
    • Meanwhile, Bart (at Marge's suggestion) decides to play with Rod and Todd (which mainly boils down to Bart playing Billy Graham's Bible Blaster as Rod and Todd watch).
    • Lovejoy offers some condolences to Ned at Maude's funeral.
    • Apu comforts Ned and reassures her that the Kwik E Mart is always there for him and he will give Ned all of Maude's squishy points, regardless of what the company says. Despite never having much of a relationship, Moe also offers words of comfort to Ned, even if it quickly turns into talking about how hot she was and saying that if Ned had died, he'd have been "all over her".
  • Pink Is Erotic: Homer's dating video for Ned has shades of this; the video shows a shirtless Ned doing some gardening with pink flowers and he's wearing a pink shower cap as his footlong penis is in full display (albeit censored) for the audience.
  • Pixellation: When Flanders is filmed taking a shower.
  • Signs of Disrepair: At Maude's funeral, Marge made a tombstone-shaped cake that said "REST IN PEACE", until Bart took away the A and the C.
  • Single Tear: Homer sheds one after he's told he has to start being nicer to Ned due to Maude's death.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Zig-Zagged. Ned, having lost his faith in God after Maude's death, defiantly declares he won't go to mass to demonstrate his bitterness. The scene then cuts to him driving there anyway, frantically apologising to God as he goes.
  • Special Guest: Musician Shawn Colvin as Rachel Jordan and Frank Welker as the forest animals.
  • Status Quo Is God: Heavily averted. Maude is Killed Off for Real and Ned becomes a widower. The other two major exceptions to this rule, Apu's marriage and the Van Houtens' divorce, are referenced.
  • Suicide by Cop: Played with: Moe intentionally pisses off Ned at Maude's funeral so that he would beat him to death and get with Maude in Heaven.
  • Take That!: Skimming a target in Billy Graham's Bible Blaster without hitting them will only convert them to Unitarianism.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies: The promos for "Alone Again, Natura-Diddily" literally asked: "Who will die?", and proceeding to list off a bunch of potential victims. Unfortunately, word got out before the episode aired that Maude would be the unfortunate one, so these promos didn't generate the expected suspense.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Homer is unusually bad here, never showing a moment of remorse for the part he played in Maude's death and even revealing that he was parked in an ambulance bay at the stadium, "preventing any possible resuscitation." (Even though Maude was pronounced dead on the scene by Dr. Hibbert) Then while Ned is still mourning his late wife, he sets about trying to find him a date.
  • Undignified Death: Maude is hit by a volley of t-shirts and knocked off the balcony, dying instantly.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Homer says on Ned's dating tape that he's "not afraid to cry"... which is shown with Homer abruptly macing Ned.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Homer is responsible for Maude Flanders' death; he tells a group of ladies to aim their t-shirt cannons at him, only to duck at the last possible second as he grabs a bobby pin off the ground. The barrage of t-shirts knocks Maude over the edge of the stadium to her death in front of everybody, including her husband and two children!
    • The racecar driver who gives the Simpsons free tickets to the show when they stumble upon the track, although they'd had a long day of hiking planned.
  • What You Are in the Dark: After Rod and Todd leave for church after Ned refuses to go, he angrily tells God his decision to not go... and we immediately cut to him hurriedly driving to church, apologizing along the way.
  • Wham Episode: First time in the show that a recurring character is Killed Off for Real (since, as Troy McClure notes, Bleeding Gums Murphy and Dr. Marvin Monroe weren't truly regular characters).
  • Wham Line: Dr Hibbert rushing to Maude, only to pronounce that she's dead.
  • Wipe: While Lisa and Homer are editing Ned's dating video, Homer suggests to use star wipes for every shot. Lisa tries to tell him there are other kinds of wipes than that, but Homer argues, "Why eat hamburger when you can have steak?" As Lisa decides to take her name off the project, what marks the transition to the next shot...? A star wipe!