We're snowed in! We're gonna miss Christmas!
In this year's Christmas episode written by Tim Long (and the final episode of the 20th century), Bart and Lisa (and their main recurring classmates) get snowed in at the school due to a freak blizzard—Principal Skinner and Groundskeeper Willie are the only adults around, due all the other school staff/faculty being at some "emergency caucus" (they're at a ski lodge). Principal Skinner must call upon his skills as a drill sergeant to keep the kids in line (which doesn't work, as Bart and the others lead a revolution).
- Angry Fist-Shake: Homer does this when he refuses to leave the circus during a storm, demanding that they nourish the child within him.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When the kids realize their predicament snowed into the school building...
: We're trapped in the school! Students
: Aaaaaah! Milhouse
: We're gonna miss Christmas! Students
: Aaaaaaaaaah!!! Skinner
: I fixed the DVD! Students
- Artistic License Biology: Um....Elephants are herbivores. (But then, Skinner isn't exactly a reliable narrator.)
- Artistic License Physics: Skinner claims that it's physically impossible to climb up a rope. It actually is possible, just very difficult (though he may have meant that he couldn't climb the rope while stuffed in a sack from the neck down...)
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Bart shouts "di di mau" at Skinner because he's a Vietnam veteran, which is a grammatically incorrect way of saying "go faster." It's actually a Shout-Out to The Deer Hunter.
- Ascended to Carnivorism: Apparently Vietnamese elephants eat people.
- Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Chalmers demonstrates, yet again, that he's very lapsing as a Reasonable Authority Figure whenever he feels like it when he demands to know if there's an explanation for all of the insanity of the episode...and when he's told that there is an explanation, he says it's all he needs to know and leaves.
- Skinner told the students they'd watch a story about a grinchy creature that almost stole Christmas. Then he showed "The Christmas that Almost Wasn't, But Then Was".
- Earlier in the episode, the radio announced that all schools were closed, including Springfield Elementary (Bart: Gasp!) My Dear Watson Detective School. Then it mentions Springfield Elementary School, and after Bart and Lisa cheered, it added, "...is open."
- Chief Wiggum appears to be writing his name in the snow, then asks Lou to shake out the last few drops. It turns out Wiggum was using coffee he was pouring from a Thermos.
- Marge seeing the flexible female acrobats gives her ideas, making us think she's referring to sexual positions... but then we see her thinking of using contortion skills to clean.
- Beyond the Impossible: Although absent from TV syndicated run, after Milhouse tears up and crumples Lisa's slightly unflattering permanent record, it not only reassembles and uncrumples itself, the page then reasserts itself within the permanent record book, the book closes on its own, and then the drawer it's in closes on its own.
- The Bore: Skinner refuses to shut down the school no matter what ever (even if that means forcing the students to risk getting killed because of the overly-icy roads and having to just sit around because there are no teachers), he picks the crappiest Christmas film in the history of the world to show during that time (he's the only one that shows anything other than pained boredom at seeing it) and he attempts to maintain control, even if that makes him a complete tyrant. It's even mentioned in passing that he ruined all of the books in the library by "spending many hours crossing out the sass-back".
- Brief Accent Imitation: Lisa and Homer briefly speak in a French accent at the beginning:
Marge: Ready for the circus, Homer?
Lisa: Le Cirque de Pureé. We've had tickets since Septembre.
Homer: But I want to watch Brett Favre.
- Call-Back: When Ned tries to remind Homer of his Mr. Plow business, Homer responds, "I think I know my own life, Ned." This is a call back to a similar remark he made in "Mom and Pop Art", when he screws up a Continuity Nod to "Brush with Greatness".
- Continuity Nod: Upon reading his permanent record, Bart read "Underachiever and proud of it?" and asked how old that thing was.
- Also, Flanders asks Homer whatever happened to his Mr. Plow business (for those who don't know, an unseasonably warm winter and Komatsu Motors repossessing the plow Homer never made payments on is why Homer doesn't have his Mr. Plow business anymore), and points out that he still has the jacket (which Homer kept around because Marge likes it when Homer wears it in bed).
- Contortionist: Marge watches some of these perform at Le Cirque de Pureé.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The title to The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, But Then Was.
- Ear Worm: Even though Homer cannot remember being Mr. Plow, he remembers the jingle.
- End-of-Episode Silliness: On the way home from rescuing the kids, the car fumes get to Homer again and he hallucinates Lisa as a camel and Bart as a harem girl.
- Epic Fail:
- When Homer attempted to make a snow angel, he ended up making a snow devil instead (which, according to Homer, always happens).
- At one point during the In-Universe Christmas movie, the reel broke in half and the projector caught fire.
Next time, get a DVD!
Skinner: This is a DVD!
- Everyone Has Standards: Despite loving school and being a teacher's pet, Lisa also was upset due to missing out on a snow day and she was also among the many students who rebelled against Skinner's tyranny.
- Fridge Logic: Invoked when the students rummage through the file cabinets while Skinner is tied up.
Nelson: Hey, look how much Skinner makes. $25,000 a year!
Bart: Let's see. He's forty years old, times 25 grand. Whoa! He's a millionaire!
Skinner: I wasn't a principal when I was one!
Nelson: Plus, in the summer, he paints houses!
Milhouse: He's a billionaire!
- Gym Class Rope Climb: As revenge for Skinner being such a hard-ass, Bart and the other classmates force Skinner to climb a rope. Skinner protests that it's physically impossible.
- Halfway Plot Switch: The episode starts out with the Simpsons attending a French-Canadian circus, but then a snowstorm rolls in and blows the circus away.
- Hand Wave: Flanders explains his car's lack of airbags by saying "The church opposes them for some reason."
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Skinner's insistence of not closing the school right before a major blizzard shuts down the city is what eventually leads the students to overthrowing him as the leading authority figure, and imprisoning, and humiliating, him in large burlap sign.
- Hydrant Geyser: Homer crashes a fire hydrant on Ned's car, trapping both of them when the water freezes over.
- I'm Standing Right Here: While Homer and Flanders drive to school to rescue the kids, they hear a loud thump.
Oh! I think we hit something! Homer:
I hope it's Flanders! [Flanders gives him a Death Glare]
I'm just kidding!
- Instantly Proven Wrong: When Bart moans that everyone is off except the students of Springfield Elementary, Marge denies that, saying that adults still have to go to work...only for Homer to come in happily saying that he doesn't have to go to the power plant thanks to the snow.
- Jerkass Has a Point: While Skinner was needlessly strict, he was also trying his best to keep the elementary school children safe. Even when he gets his comeuppance he's essentially proven right, because he manages to collapse Bart's snow tunnel using only a few quick jabs with a mop. Bart's plan of the children, Skinner and Willie using it to escape could easily have gone badly wrong (then again, Willie and the others say the tunnel is pretty firmly built and Skinner has to poke on it for a while with tools to destroy it, so if anything it just cements him even more as an unwitting tyrant).
- Lead In: Homer watching a football show on television. He finally accepts going to the circus when Marge and Lisa's insistence makes him miss one of the hosts' zings, and he moans about how he will never be able to catch up with the rest of the narration.
- Locked Out of the Loop: After Chalmers arrives at the end, demanding an explanation for what happened at the school, Bart says that there is an explanation...whereupon Chalmers leaves, since "[he's] happy" that at least an explanation exists.
- MacGyvering: Homer and Flanders improvise a snow plow by attaching a piece of a house's rooftop (Flanders', and Homer sawed off the middle part, leaving a gigantic hole) to the front of Flanders' compact sedan.
- Mushroom Samba: The fumes getting inside the car cause Homer to hallucinate that he's a sultan with a harem and a hose full of salad dressing.
- Mustache Vandalism: When the kids take over the school, Milhouse decides to draw mustaches on paintings of former Presidents. He does it to portraits of Warren Harding and Woodrow Wilson but doesn't know what to do with William Howard Taft, who already has a mustache.
- Negative Continuity: Played with. Flanders recalls perfectly well that Homer used to have a snow-plow business ("Mr. Plow") and Homer still has the business' jacket (which he's wearing at that exact moment) and is still capable of singing the business' jingle. Homer is utterly unable to recall this and insists that this is the first time he's ever done any snow-plowing.
- Non-Giving-Up School Guy: All of the events of the episode happen because Skinner absolutely refuses to close his school, even if a snow day has been officially declared and there are no teachers available (and it's the last school day before Christmas break). The children nearly get killed on the way to the school, courtesy of Otto driving like crazy and lots of ice on the road.
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: During one of Homer's hallucinations, he is entertained by some belly dancers, but shoos them away:
Homer: Enough. I grow weary of your sexually suggestive dancing.
- Obsessed with Perfect Attendance: Skinner absolutely refuses to close school, even when the snow is waist-high and all the other schools in the area are closed. He congratulates the few students that showed up for keeping his "Cal Ripken-like" attendance streak intact.
- Oh, Crap!: Happens three times in a row. The kids shouted the first time when a snowstorm got them stuck inside school, the second when they realized it'd make them miss Christmas, and the last and loudest when Skinner announces his lame Christmas movie could be watched again.
- Only One Finds It Fun: Skinner plays The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, But Then Was to pass the time with all of the students at school because there are no teachers and he absolutely refuses to let the kids go home early (heck, he refused to close the school to begin with). The film can only be called "horrible", with its extremely nonsensical plot and bad production quality, and when the kids find out that they are snowed in the school, are going to miss Christmas, and Skinner says the film is the only entertainment available, they all scream out three increasingly-horrified skyward screams. As you can expect of this trope (and Skinner's general attitude), not only is Skinner the only one who enjoys the film, but he is outright gleeful when he says they can keep watching it.
- Out-of-Character Moment: When the kids are burning books, Lisa is with them, which is confusing considering that Lisa promotes education and would have at least tried to sway them from burning certain books. Subverted as it's implied that many of the books were already ruined by Skinner, who "spent hours crossing out the sass-back".
- Padding: Invoked: The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, But Then Was features a song that is apparently two hours long.
- Rage Breaking Point: Skinner thwarting Bart's escape attempt and destroying his escape tunnel winds up being the straw that breaks the students' back. However, it's downplayed in that, once it's clear he's trapped, Bart rallies the students into taking over the school.
- However, it's played straight when Willie refuses to take any more abuse from Skinner after protesting destroying Bart's escape tunnel.
- Scream Discretion Shot: The kids scream twice when they realize that A) the school has been showed in, and B) they're gonna miss Christmas. Then Skinner comes out of the classroom to announce that he has fixed his crappy Christmas DVD. Cue an outside shot of the school as the kids scream loudly.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
- Not wanting anything to do with a school being open during a snow day, the teachers instead attended an "emergency caucus" (which turns out to be a day at a ski resort).
- The hamster after Skinner orders him to chew through his (dodge) ball sack.
- Self-Serving Memory: Parodied.
Ned: Hey, whatever happened to the plow from your old snowplow business?
Homer: I never had a snowplow business.
Ned: Sure you did — Mr. Plow. You're wearing the jacket right now.
Homer: I think I know my own life, Ned. (proceeds to sing the Mr. Plow jingle)
- Shout-Out: The added alliterative appeal episode title is a parody of Smilla's Sense of Snow.
- Snowed-In: Thanks to Skinner refusing to let the children go home early during a blizzard (as well as outright refusing to close the school to begin with), the children end up getting snowed in and needing to be rescued by Homer and Ned.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!" as the kids hold on for dear life inside of the school bus courtesy of Otto driving crazier than usual because of the iced-over roads.
- Spoiler Title: The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, But Then Was.
- A Storm Is Coming: When the weather starts acting up, Sideshow Mel exclaims these words, adding, "I can feel it in my bone."
- Strangely Specific Horoscope: Subverted. When Homer and Ned crash Ned's car with his rooftop attached inside a crackers factory into a salt silo, a security guard says that his horoscope was right, but when he takes the paper out, it only says, "You will face challenges today."
- Stylistic Suck: In-Universe. The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, But Then Was is very much this, considering the reindeer are obviously cardboard cutouts, an elf appears onscreen for no reason other than to say he's happy, a stagehand appears onscreen, a sequence supposedly lasts two hours where a hobgoblin serenades a shepherdess, and the plot, despite the title, has almost nothing to actually do with Christmas. Unsurprisingly, it bores the kids to death.
- Suckiness Is Painful: There is no other way to describe The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, But Then Was (and, sure enough, Skinner is the only one who is immune). When the kids hear that Skinner fixed the projector, this is what makes them belt out a Skyward Scream.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Skinner. First, he keeps Springfield Elementary open despite every other school closing and all the teachers going on a ski trip, resulting in them being snowed in. Then, in his efforts to prevent anyone from ending up like his platoon in 'Nam, refused to let anyone leave even when they had the proper means to, becoming tyrannical. This reached its peak when he actually demanded that the escape tunnel Bart had dug be caved in, something even Willie felt was unnecessary. This act ended up biting him in the butt when he got trapped in the collapsing tunnel and as a result, lost control of the school.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: Skinner's Green Beret tendencies come back for the sake of trying to keep the kids safe during a snow-in.
- Writing Lines: Bart forces Skinner to write "I ain't not a dorkus" (which Skinner calls "a grammatical nightmare"). Bart also shows little sympathy to Skinner's complaints about a cramp in his wrist, demonstrating that all his years of doing it have left Bart with a wrist that "sounds like a cement mixer".
- Yank the Dog's Chain: The kids in Springfield Elementary are forced to sit through an incredibly piss-poor Christmas movie on the last day of school before the Christmas break, when literally every other school is closed due to the blizzard. When they're finally free to go home, they discover that they're snowed in and might miss Christmas. Worse, Skinner fixed the DVD (to the kids' horror), despite the fact that it had caught fire mere moments before. Cue them all screaming in pure frustration.