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Recap / The Simpsons S14 E5 "Helter Shelter"

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The family ends up on an The 1900 House-type reality show after Lisa's newly-obtained hockey stick from a Russian player infests the house with termites.

This is the final episode aired to be animated with cels before permanently transitioning to digital ink and paint ("How I Spent My Strummer Vacation", which aired 3 weeks earlier, was the last produced episode using cel animation); digital animation had been experimented with before in a few preceding episodes, but after this episode, the technique became a mainstay.

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Tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: Marge and Lisa push a TV crew member down a cliff. Only they find out the cliff was too tall and the man can be heard screaming a long while, making both gasp.
  • Americans Hate Tingle: In-universe. If the opening is to be believed, hockey is very unpopular in Springfield.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Bart complains about how Mutt and Jeff isn't funny. The reality show is set in 1895, and Mutt and Jeff was first published in 1907.
    • Apu claims that Oreos were first made in 1896. They were actually introduced to the market in 1912.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Bart has to wear a very feminine outfit, complete with curly wig, on reality TV, which he fears will get him beaten up. Marge says that his classmates will be jealous. Pan to the bullies standing outside, with Jimbo getting ready to jump Bart.
    Jimbo: God, I wish I had that little outfit.
    Kearney: Yeah, those golden curls are to die for.
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  • Disproportionate Retribution: Among the past things Homer will strangle Bart for, he's punished for "whistling on the Sabbath".
  • End of an Age: This was the final episode aired to be animated with cels before the show transitioned to digital ink and paint.
  • Epic Fail: Several people don't realize they're going to a hockey game until they see the sign at the stadium.
  • The Gay '90s: The Simpsons sign up for a reality show where they have to live like it's 1895.
  • Gilligan Cut: When a pipe fell on Homer's head at the plant, Burns was afraid he'd hold out for millions. Cut to the next scene with Homer and the family going to a hockey game to enjoy the skybox. And Homer didn't even realize it was a hockey game before Lisa pointed it out. In fact, several people didn't realize they were going to a hockey game until they read the sign at the stadium.
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  • Good Is Boring: The Simpsons soon become much nicer after living a 19th-century lifestyle, but ratings plummet. Cue the network attempting to save the show by bringing in Squiggy.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Homer refuses to live as if it were 1895, saying they’d be unable to save Lincoln and Kennedy from being assasinated. When Moe points out he could save McKinley, Homer declares “It’s not a time machine, Moe.”
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: When the Simpsons ask the writers of the show for food, they comment they're not allowed to interfere with the show, just after they had put the Simpsons' house in a river. And just to rub salt in the wounds, he orders all the leftover food will be burned.
  • Immoral Reality Show: The reality show that the Simpsons signed up to drops them without warning in the jungle (which destroys everything they own at the moment and kills actor David Lander ("Squiggy") and the Simpsons team up at the climax with former contestants of a Survivor rip-off that were left behind by another production team... because the prize for the final challenge was being taken back to civilization.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The Simpsons team up with other groups that had also been abandoned by the television executives to get revenge on the writers.
  • Of Corset Hurts: On the reality show, one clip shows Marge wearing a tight corset, and the camera zooms down to her horribly swollen feet.
  • Oh, Crap!: Marge reflexively blurts out a personal secret when she's introduced to the confessional camera.
    Marge: (suddenly shuts herself into the confessional room and faces the camera) ... uh... heh heh... my hair isn't really blue... (Beat) GASP! I NEED THAT TAPE! (attacks the camera)
  • Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The title is a reference to the song "Helter Skelter" from The Beatles' White Album.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The exterminator company's name was "A Bug's Death" and their truck had a design that resembled A Bug's Life.
    • While the Simpsons' house is being fumigated, they act out the opening credits to King of the Hill, complete with theme music.
  • Toilet Humour: One of the more interesting and literal examples in the series:
    Bart: [opens the kitchen door and the termite-damaged knob comes off] Hey Mom, our crapshack's going to Hell.
    Marge: [offended] Bart, watch your potty mouth!
    [Homer suddenly falls through the ceiling onto the kitchen table while still seated on the toilet]
    Homer: [notices Marge and Bart] Hey, get out! I'm in here! [Beat] Oh.
  • You Monsters: Homer calls the television executives this through the confessional camera after learning they had put the house into the river, turning the show into a Survivor clone.
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