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Recap / The Simpsons S14 E18 "Dude, Where's My Ranch?"

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Original air date: 4/27/2003

Production code: EABF-13

After writing a song about Ned Flanders which becomes a sensation and is repeated endlessly on the radio, Homer and his family go to a dude ranch to escape for awhile. While there, Lisa falls for a boy, while Homer and Bart battle beavers that are intruding on Native American land.

Tropes of this episode:

  • Actually Quite Catchy: Ned and his kids actually enjoy the song Homer wrote bashing all three of them. Inverted with Homer himself, who comes to hate it due to its excessive popularityinvoked.
  • Age-Inappropriate Dress: Maggie’s Bare Midriffs Are Feminine outfit while dancing to Britney Spears’ "Oops!...I Did It Again".
  • And the Adventure Continues: After hearing Moe's song on the radio, the Simpsons head back to the ranch for another week to avoid it.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Luke stops Lisa from accidentally stepping on a rattlesnake egg. Rattlesnakes are live-bearers.
    • Beavers are portrayed with white teeth, when they should have yellow or orange teeth.
  • As Himself: David Byrne.
  • Bait-and-Switch: After Luke learns that Lisa almost had his sister die because she mistakenly believed she was his girlfriend, he seems to be touched that Lisa cared that much...until he harshly criticizes her and tells her she's horrible.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Lisa falls in love with a young cowhand, Luke. She endangers the boy's sister, originally thinking she was his girlfriend. When Lisa confesses, Luke, rather than touched, is appalled that Lisa put his sister in harm's way and burns bridges with her.
  • Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: A Native American woman sorting through her mail after Homer and Bart destroy the beaver dam.
    Native American: Treaty, treaty, treaty, bill, treaty, Peace Pipe Aficionado Magazine...
  • Bowdlerization: The scene where it's revealed Cookie died the night before the Simpsons leaves the ranch is often cut out for some reason.
  • Brick Joke: The end of the first act has Moe kidnapping David Byrne. At the very end, it's shown that Byrne has made a song about Moe.
  • Chekhov's Army: The beavers. Bart gets them to gnaw down a tree and save Clara when she gets trapped in the river.
  • Christmas Episode: The first act (and really only the first few minutes) of this episode is the only reason why this is included on a Christmas-themed DVD.
  • Creator Backlash: In-Universe, Homer grows to hate his song.
    Homer: I've come to hate my own creation. Now I know how God feels.
  • Disney Owns This Trope: When the Simpsons are singing Christmas carols door-to-door at the beginning, the Blue-Haired Lawyer informs them that they can't sing a certain song because it's owned by the original copyright owners. When Homer complains, the lawyer suggests public domain songs instead. However, Homer doesn't like any of his suggestions, and decides to compose his own:
    Lawyer: But don't use A-flat or G-natural. Those are owned by Disney.
    Homer: (moans)
    Lawyer: That's A-Flat.
    Homer: (moans in a higher key)
    Lawyer: That's better!
  • The Diss Track: "Everybody Hates Ned Flanders", natch.
  • Ear Worm: The majority of the plot happens because Homer's song becomes this on a nearly nation-wide length.
  • Gigantic Moon: Parodied. Lisa and Luke are looking at the night sky and comment on how big the moon seems. The camera then pans back to show the landscape they're on - with the moon taking up half the screen.
    Luke: You should see it when it's full!
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Homer composed "Everybody Hates Ned Flanders" as a diss track insulting Ned. Ned likes it and Homer gets fed up with hearing the song day in and day out.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: The Simpsons drive away to a dude ranch to get away from his song, but Byrne says they will like it more once they hear the extended salsa mix.
    ¡No nos gusta Flanders!
    ¡Es un hombre estúpido!
    ¡No nos gusta Flanders!
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Lisa behaves like this once she learns about Clara and immediately believes she's Luke's girlfriend. Then it turns out she's his sister and she regrets making her get lost and almost die through drowning.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The beginning of the episode makes it appear that this is a Christmas Episode with the Simpsons Christmas Carolers, but once Flanders interferes with Homer's songwriting, it becomes about Homer writing a hit hate song. But that's not all, the plot then changes to focus on the family's trip to a dude ranch just to get away from said song.
  • Hidden Depths: Crossing over with Brilliant, but Lazy, Homer shows he can be incredibly talented when he wants to be, writing a carol on the piano, coming up with much of the first verse without stopping.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Reverend Lovejoy is quite happy to lead his church's choir into singing "Everybody Hates Ned Flanders", a song that not only insults Ned (who, for all that Lovejoy hates him for being an overly persnickety fundamentalist, is still one of the church's most fervent and helpful parishioners) but also is slightly sacrilegious.
    • When the Blue Haired Lawyer suggests the Simpsons can still carol if they use public domain songs like "Good King Wenceslaus" and "Oh Tannenbaum" Homer complains that those songs suck. As he walks away to write his own song, he can be heard humming the tune to "Good King Wenceslaus."
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Double Subverted. Homer and Bart pause in disgust after being told that the indigenous chief just gave them bear urine to drink, but only do a Spit Take after they're told it's actually Fresca.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Clara saying there's more to life than boys and then upon seeing Bart, hits on him.
  • Irony:
    • Homer writes a song about how how hates Ned Flanders. Homer grows to hate his own song while Flanders grows to like it.
    • Lampshaded by the Native American tribe that Homer and Bart help out. Their land was damaged by beavers, but the beaver is also their god.
  • Jerkass Ball: Lisa gets this by sending Clara down the wrong path out of jealousy.
  • Kick the Dog: During Homer's song "Everybody Hates Ned Flanders", Homer at one point makes fun of how Flanders' wife is dead. That would be cruel enough without mentioning that Homer himself is responsible for her death.
  • Misspelling Out Loud: Homer and his friends misspell "Flanders" in "Everybody Hates Ned Flanders".
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Lisa when she discovers that Clara was Luke's sister.
  • Nice Guy: Luke is a fairly nice guy who befriends Lisa when she's upset with the Dude Ranch, is a good brother, defends his sister when Lisa badmouths her and then calls Lisa out on her attempt to get Clara killed.
  • Nosy Neighbor: The majority of the plot happens because Ned, completely uninvited, barges into the Simpson home to help Homer compose his song, a thing Homer disliked enough to literally kick Ned out and get inspiration to write "Everybody Hates Ned Flanders".
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Homer happily helps out the Native Americans whose land has been flooded by a beaver dam. He ignorantly calls them guests in the United States, but he still helps them.
    • Bart helps Lisa save Clara and fix her mistake because he got caught up in the moment.
    • Despite what Lisa did to her, Clara does not tell Luke she sent her down the wrong trail, saying she got lost on her own and that Lisa saved her.
  • Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The title is a reference to Dude, Where's My Car?.
  • Precocious Crush: At age 13, Luke is five years older than Lisa. She figures this won't matter much when they're 23 and 18 respectively.
  • Relative Error: Lisa thinks Luke and Clara are a couple. Turns out they're brother and sister.
  • "Risk"-Style Map: Homer has one for his planning against the beavers.
  • Rule of Three:
    • When Lisa first meets Clara, she sees the latter's name written on three spots.
    • When Lisa and Bart are out in the woods looking for Clara, an owl, fox and rabbit all making howling sounds one after the other.
  • Series Continuity Error: Lisa claims Luke was her first crush, but she's had several crushes before, notably on Mr. Bergstrom in Season 2's "Lisa's Substitute", Nelson in Season 8's "Lisa's Date with Density", and Jesse in "Lisa the Tree-Hugger"
  • Shout-Out:
    • William Shatner (actually Maurice LaMarche impersonating Shatner) does a spoken-word cover version of "Everybody Hates Ned Flanders" in the style of his infamous version of Elton John's "Rocket Man".
    • Maggie's dance parodies Britney Spears’ "Oops!...I Did It Again," as well as her then-recent Pepsi ad.
    • Moe kidnaps David Byrne after the latter lands in his car, even referencing Misery and asking if Byrne has heard of it.
    • Byrne also performs Homer's song in his famous Big Suit from Stop Making Sense, complete with a gag of Homer squeezing into it with him and asking what they're going to be wearing tomorrow.
    • Actor Allusion: Cookie's assistant Cleanie is an obvious one to Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, being both voiced by Andy Serkis and using the famous line "My precious" when gathering up the Simpsons' garbage.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • Homer is upset that the beavers wrecked a $17 deck of cards from a motel mini-bar that he used as a diversion so he and Bart could destroy the beaver dam.
    • Lisa was fine with sending Clara down a dangerous path when she believed Clara was a romantic rival, but gets horrified upon learning she's Luke's sister. Luke understandably calls Lisa out on the awful thing she did.
  • Special Guest: David Byrne, musician and former frontman of Talking Heads As Himself, Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Luke, and Andy Serkis as Cleanie.
  • Take That!: Homer and Bart give a Spit Take when the Native American who gave them a drink says it's Fresca.
  • Tempting Fate:
    Cookie: [pointing a shotgun at a tied up chicken] Free range, my ass! Tonight, you're gonna be swimming next to a matzo ball!
  • That Cloud Looks Like...: Luke tries to assure Lisa that out in the West, people respect animals more, only to find evidence that proves him otherwise. After diverting Lisa's eyes away from a bucket of cow tongues and Cookie about to shoot a chicken tied to a stump, he directs her gaze to the clouds. Lisa finds a cloud shaped like a lamb... who then gets its head cut off by a cloud shaped like an axe.
  • Too Dumb to Live: David Byrne dances on his car bonnet while his car is in motion. It ends with him slipping and landing in Moe's car, and Moe subsequently kidnapping him.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Lisa overhears her crush Luke expressing his love to a girl named Clara over the phone. When Lisa meets her, she tricks Clara into going the wrong way on the path to a dance, but finds out that Clara is actually Luke's sister. When Lisa eventually comes clean about what happened to Clara, Luke is offended and leaves her.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What about Snake as he took a family hostage? Although, it could be just a throwaway joke.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Luke calls Lisa despicable for what she did to Clara. Clara also tries to give Lisa a speech about how there's more important things than boys, only to see Bart and hit on him.