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Recap / The Simpsons S11 E9 "Grift of the Magi"

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Original air date: 12/19/1999

Production code: BABF-07

A Christmas Episode in which Springfield Elementary blows its already-small budget on ramps to accommodate the wheelchair-bound Bart (who broke his coccyx while jumping on Homer's bed in drag), but the school ends up bankrupt and shut down after Bart is cured and after Principal Skinner discovers that the construction workers are mob-connected...and a toy company buys out the school and turns it into a focus group to create the next "must-have" Christmas gift.


  • Adam Westing: Gary Coleman portrays himself as a Cloudcuckoolander security guard.
  • Amusing Injuries: When Dr. Hibbert diagnoses Bart with a broken coccyxnote , this prompts the family to laugh at him for a few seconds.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Homer gets attacked by the Hibberts' dog when he breaks into their house to steal their Funzo.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: The Krusty doll Funzo destroys borders between this and Living Toy, visibly choking when getting strangled by its pull string.
  • Artistic License – Economics: A toy company designs and manufactures a new doll and accessories about a month before Christmas.
  • As Himself: Gary Coleman as a security guard.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Seen throughout the play that Skinner and the Springfield Elementary students hold for Mr. Burns.
    Bart: I can't take Mr. Burns to the ho'pital 'cause I'm too dumb to read a map. Oh, why did my school have to close?
  • Bait-and-Switch Suicide: In the ending, Moe is seen with his head in the oven, invoking the Running Gag around him being suicidal. Then it turns out he's in the oven to pull out a turkey he had cooked for the Simpson's Christmas dinner.
  • Blatant Lies: Moe suggests to quell the money woes of the school that they sell liquor and says he's doing great by it, yet he wears Wonder bread bags for shoes.
  • Butt-Monkey: Poor Lisa falls victim to this trope, from getting detention for doing math to being brushed off by people who want Funzo in spite of its dangerous method.
  • Christmas Carolers: Bart and Lisa do this in order to battle an evil corporation. Kid First Industries releases a new toy, Funzo, that is programmed to destroy all other toys kids get for Christmas. Lisa and Bart go from door to door singing carols as a way of distracting the families while Homer steals the toys (dressed as Santa Claus, of course).
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Gary Coleman. He called up a Chinese food place to complain about his "Galaxy of Prawns" order... despite the phone not being plugged in. He then "gets" a call from the President.
  • Confusing Multiple Negatives: Bart's stance on Springfield Elementary after Kid First Industries bought it?
    Bart: Alls I know is I'm gettin' straight A's, and that ain't not bad.
  • Cool Teacher: Jim Hope presents himself this way and very easily wins over Bart's class. Of course, it's easy to be cool when you're just gathering customer data and have no intention of teaching anybody anything.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Kids First executives essentially bought Springfield Elementary and turned it into a testing ground for toy development. If robbing kids of an education wasn't bad enough, they then built a toy that was deliberately programmed to wipe out its competition by destroying all the other toys in its vicinity.
  • Couch Gag: Marge, Lisa, Bart, and Maggie slide down a fire pole that's next to the couch, but Homer gets stuck in the hole and flails about helplessly while yelling, "Get me down!"
  • Creepy Doll: The Funzos are programmed to destroy other toys, but go well beyond that by mutilating them in front of kids. The Funzo Bart and Lisa have beheads a Krusty doll and a Malibu Stacy and then giddily parades their heads on top of two pencils.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Kid First Industries could have made a fortune on Funzo had they not programmed it to destroy rival toys.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: The toy executives were already set to make a lot of money off Funzo, but felt the need to program the dolls to destroy other toys to remove the competition. This just incentivized Bart and Lisa to hunt down and destroy every Funzo in Springfield before they ruined Christmas.
  • Didn't Think This Through: As described above in Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat, the Kid First executives designed Funzo to destroy other toys to wipe out the competition. Bart and Lisa's horrified reactions to their Funzo beheading a Krusty doll and Malibu Stacy shows this was totally unnecessary and would've most likely been a P.R. disaster resulting in lawsuits galore from very unhappy families and other toy manufacturers had the Simpsons not stolen all of the Funzos on Christmas Eve.
  • Expy Coexistence: Funzo is a clear parody of Furby and Tickle Me Elmo, and as he explains himself, Jim Hope name-drops both toys, meaning they exist in the world of the show.
  • False Reassurance: When Principal Skinner told the students they no longer had to worry about The Mafia threatening them for money, it was because they already have it (and the school ends up bankrupt as a result).
  • Faux Furby: This episode introduces Funzo, a Furby-like toy created by the in-universe Kid First Industries to become the hottest-selling kid's toy. As it turns out, the Funzos are Killer Robots that destroy other toys so that the Funzos will be the only toys left, and later try to attack the Simpsons.
  • Funny Background Event: While Bart and Lisa go caroling at various homes, Homer dressed as Santa goes into their homes to steal the Funzos; breaking into the Hibberts' house has him knock over the Christmas tree coming in the window and then getting his arm mauled by their dog.
  • Gay Bravado: Milhouse talks Bart into dressing in drag on this premise.
    Bart: Wouldn't that make us kind of fruity?
    Milhouse: What's the matter? Scared you might like it?
    Bart: I'll show you who's scared! (puts on a dress) Oh wow, this really hides my thighs.
  • Good News, Bad News: How Skinner frames telling everyone about both paying off Fat Tony and the school closing down. Unsurprisingly, the kids are more thrilled by the latter.
  • Hero of Another Story: Mr. Burns and Moe both had their own offscreen adventures, going through Yet Another Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Plot respectively.
  • Humiliation Conga: Bart suffers this early in the episode; aside from breaking his coccyx on a bowling ball while dressed in drag and the family laughing at him for doing so, he also has to endure lying in a sling, having to wear a "fanny cast" for his butt, having a team of interns watch this happening and for Dr. Hibbert to explain that the cast has a "viewing window" (which he removes) as the interns take notes and one even murmurs that he should exercise more.
  • I Lied: Bart says even though his homework assignment under the Kids First administration is easy (bringing his favorite toy to class), he's still not going to do it. The next scene, however, shows he brought his Krusty doll to school anyway.
  • If I Had a Nickel...: As the group takes the Funzo toys to the tire fire.
    Lisa: The madness ends here.
    Homer: Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard that...
  • Ignored Expert: Flanders comes up with a great idea about selling the old motorhome of his he doesn't use to help pay to keep Springfield Elementary open, which Homer shoots down immediately. Even Marge and Skinner agree about this, calling it a terrible idea.
  • Irony:
    Lisa: The word is "Irony".
    Bart: Huh?
  • It Makes Sense in Context: One such summary of the episode, which appears in a tie-in episode guide book:
    "Bart gets injured playing dress-up and is temporarily wheelchaired."
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: When Lisa leads Chief Wiggum to the broom closet where she found the Kid First surveillance room and prototype Funzo, she discovers that it has been converted back into an ordinary broom closet. Lisa continues to insist the room was there, but Wiggum sarcastically replies, "And I'm Ed Sullivan." He then does a good impression of him (after a false start, that is).
    Homer: Ugh, is this going to be like one of those horror movies where we open the door and everything's normal and we think you're crazy, but then there really is a killer robot and the next morning you find me impaled on the weather vane? Is that what this is, Lisa?
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Homer is correct about Mr Burns refusing to give money for the school, as he releases the hounds at every charity that comes to his door; "Feed the Children", "Save the Whales" even "Release the Hounds".
  • Metaphorically True: The Kids First Industries representative defends his company's actions by pointing out that all the profits for Funzo will be going to children. "We're all somebody's children" after all.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Kid First Enterprises would've gotten away with scamming the kids out of an education and made millions off Funzo, but they had to program the thing to destroy any other toys giving Bart and Lisa incentive to steal all the Funzos in Springfield before they ruined Christmas.
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: Bart is initially reluctant when Milhouse proposes they dress up like ladies. Milhouse then taunts him by asking, “What’s the matter? Scared you might like it?” Bart immediately puts on one of Marge’s dresses.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • As explained by Homer, who is trying to determine the number of past Christmases:
      Homer: Let's see, this will be three Christmases I saved, versus eight I ruined... two were kind of a draw...
    • Mr. Burns tries to get rid of Principal Skinner and the Springfield Elementary students by opening a trap door, but it inexplicably leads them back to the room, prompting him to say "Oh, it's doing that thing again", suggesting that it isn't the first this happened.
  • No Sympathy: What's Skinner's reaction to seeing Bart falling to the ground after trying to get into the school on a wheelchair? Scold him for fooling around.
  • Oh, Crap!: Bart when he and Milhouse are dressed in drag and Homer, outside the bedroom, tries to open the locked door. This causes him to fall off the bed and land on a bowling ball. Ouch.
  • Opening Shout-Out: When Lisa is caught doing math while brainstorming a name for a toy, we see her Writing Lines in a shot very similar to the opening sequence, complete with the camera panning in through a window. Compare the real opening with the imitation.
  • Pet the Dog: Unlike the previous Christmas episode "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace", this episode ends unambiguously happy for the main characters, who enjoy their Christmas dinner and welcome a suddenly-generous Mr. Burns and Smithers (the former who donated money to reopen the school), a humbled Moe and a lonely Gary Coleman to join them.
  • Playing Drunk: Well, last-minute. When Homer catches Bart and Milhouse dressed in drag, he demands "a non-gay explanation." Milhouse claims they're very drunk, and Homer immediately buys it.
  • Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The title is named after The Gift of the Magi, but does not include any elements from the story (or grifting, for that matter).
  • Rejecting the Consolation Prize: A variation: Skinner and the other staff from Springfield Elementary receive a "generous severence package" from Kid First Industries in the form of a fruit basket. Cut to Skinner and said basket, who promptly throws down the "gift" in disgust since the Valencia oranges within are best used for juice, not eating.
  • Saving Christmas: Bart and Lisa eventually have to do this by stopping the Funzo dolls from destroying every other kid's Christmas presents.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Mr. Burns decided to donate money to save Springfield Elementary School after receiving a visit from three spirits of Christmas and Moe gave up his suicide attempt after an angel showed him what the world would be like if he never existed. Both events happened offscreen and were just mentioned by a narrator.
      • Another aspect of A Christmas Carol is spoofed with Gary Coleman saying, "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, everyone?" in the exact same manner as Tiny Tim saying, "God bless us, everyone."
    • The burning Funzo rising out of the tire fire parodies The Terminator.
  • Special Guest: Tim Robbins as Jim Hope, Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony and Clarence Clemons as the narrator.
  • Status Quo Is God: The school is restored to the state education system after Mr. Burns gives a donation, having been visit by three ghosts in the night.
  • Swapped Roles: Lisa's punishment for doing math in class? Bart's usual punishment: writing on the chalkboard. Bart himself arrives to comment on the ironing.
  • Take That!:
    • When Funzo destroys Bart and Lisa's toys, Lisa deduces they're programmed to destroy the competition:
      Bart: You mean like Microsoft?
      Lisa: Yeah.
    • When Gary Coleman catches Homer, Bart, and Lisa destroying the Funzo toys.
      "Well, well, well. If it isn't the biggest rip-off since Webster."
  • That Came Out Wrong: After the many wheelchair ramps are built:
    Skinner: And now, here's the first of what I hope are many disabled students, Bart Simpson!
  • That Poor Cat: When Homer accidentally drives up on the sidewalk, we hear a cat yowl after presumably getting run over.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Gary Coleman after being conned and mocked throughout the episode ends up spending Christmas with the Simpson family.
  • Unnaturally Looping Location: The Trap Door in Burns' office immediately lets out from the ceiling of the same room.
  • Villain Has a Point: Kid First Industries actually had the right idea in getting kids to design a toy. What better way to know what the consumer wants than asking them directly? However, their method of doing so, taking over a school and substituting a proper education and tricking the kids into doing the work, was wrong. Not to mention when they design their toy to destroy other toys. Lisa, Bart, and Homer wind up having a long discussion about Kid First Industries' actions with Gary Coleman after he catches up to them at the Springfield Tire Fire.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The two executives from Kid First Industries just disappear after the third act.
  • Worst Aid: Why does Dr. Hibbert use the defibrillator on Bart's ass? "It's good for the batteries."



If you don't have Funzo, you're nothing!

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