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Recap / The Simpsons S 15 E 1 Treehouse Of Horror XIV

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Original air date: 11/2/2003

Production code: EABF-21

The first TOH to be written entirely by one person, rather than having a different writer for each segment.

In this installment, Homer fills in for The Grim Reaper, Professor Frink tries to revive his dead father (voiced by none other than the inspiration for Frink's character, Jerry Lewis), and Bart and Milhouse's new stopwatch can control time.


The opening has Bart and Lisa compare Halloween candy yields. Lisa has more than Bart, but that's not enough- she steals one of his. Bart starts choking Lisa, who breaks a vase on his head. He then tries to stab her with a poker, but gets Homer instead. Homer is very upset about this, and tries to attack them with a log from the fireplace. The log instead lands in Grandpa Simpson's lap, setting him on fire. He remarks that he's still cold. Homer then rolls the kids up in the carpet, and tries to bash them with a club. Marge comes in and disagrees with Homer's approach by using a shotgun. Homer's bloodstains on the wall behind him spell out Treehouse of Horror XIV. Kang and Kodos are shown to be observing the Simpsons house and criticize the family for showing a Halloween special in November, when they've already set up for Christmas.


Reaper Madness

Death knocks on Homer's door. He's come for Bart. Marge tells Bart to run like the wind (which she pronounces as 'wined' until corrected by Lisa). Cue Scooby-Dooby Doors, set to Yakety Sax. Eventually, Death corners Bart and pins him to the wall. But before he can kill Bart, Homer kills him. Bart is saved. However, Death has an important duty. Without him, The Jim Belushi Show will never be canceled, a man shot up by the mob will never die no matter how many holes they put through him, and Moe is getting very bored after hanging himself.

Homer mourns Death, and Marge tells him to just take Death's body out to the curb, as it's trash day. Homer does so, emptying Death's robes out into the trash. He notices that the robe's pretty soft, and tries it on himself. He then shows it off for his family. But as he does so, one of his hands withers and becomes skeletal. Death's scythe and 'To-Die' list materialize in his hands. Homer is going to be the new Grim Reaper. He tries to refuse, but the robe convinces him not to by crushing his groin.


Homer settles into his job, and eventually grows to enjoy doing it- at least until the next person on his list is Marge. He is horrified, and later goes up to God with her corpse to beg God to let him give up the job. God does... and then finds out that the corpse was actually one of Marge's sisters with Marge's beehive taped to her head. He chases Homer, but gives up.

Homer enjoys a family dinner with the now short haired Marge.


Professor Frink has won the Nobel Prize in Physics (Though Lisa Simpsons had to inform him of this due to the Nobel Prize committee calling the Simpsons household by mistake), and Frink expresses regret that his father won't be there to see it, having become estrangled over Frink Sr. - whom Frink described as a 'He-Man Scientist' who "Worked on the atom bomb by day, sleep with Marily Monroe at Night (And sold secrets to the Russia at lunch)" - being always constantly disappointed with him. When Lisa offered to help patch up their differences, Frink revealed this would be more difficult due to Frink Sr. being dead (having tested a blood-based sun tan lotion while studying sharks), but is now resolved to revive him so he could finally watch his son be awarded and be proud of him.

Professor Frink managed to succeed, but had to resort to replacing much of his father's organs with machinery (except his penis, which he can't find a substitute for). Confused over being revived in the 21st century and angry at his freakish nature, the reanimated Frink Sr. goes on a rampage to harvest organs from other living people, such as stealing the heart of Ned Flanders, ripping out the spine of Principal Skinner and stealing the ass off the Comic Books Guy (Who isn't miffed, but wanted his 'Jab-in-the-butt' tattoo back). The now organically-stuffed Frink Sr. is eventually confronted by Lisa, who admonished him by pointing out he won't be there to see his son winning a Nobel Prize. Horrified and ashamed that he chose his organ-lust over his own son, Frink Sr. stopped his rampage and rushed to Stockholm for the ceremony.

At the Nobel Prize ceremony, Professor Frink graciously accepted his award from hosts Dudley Herschbach and Jennifer Garner, but expresses his disappointment that his father won't be there to see it. His father would show up at that exact moment however, declaring he turned a new leaf, reconciling with him to the applause of the other attendees (Including the Simpsons family). However, his organ-lust comes back with a vengeance due to seeing all the big juicy brains of the scientists and geniuses present, leading to another rampage which saw Frink Sr. stealing the brains and knowledge of those present. At the behest of the Simpsons, Frink was forced to stop his father at the cost of his father's renewed life, though not before Frink Sr. declared he was finally proud of Frink for 'stopping him like a man', and the segment ends with Frink revealing he at least managed to capture Frink Sr.'s soul with a Soul-Catcher.

Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off

Bart and Milhouse find an ad for a time-stopping watch in one of Marge's old comics. They buy it, and find out that it does work exactly as advertised. Pushing the button on the top will cause time to stop, with anyone holding onto the watch being unaffected. The pair use it to go on a town-wide pranking spree. They take Homer's donuts out of his hand (and when he tries to commit suicide, replace the knife with a banana), pull Principal Skinner's pants down, and otherwise screw around with the townspeople.

Of course, people notice, and a meeting is called about the mysterious pranks. The sign suddenly changes several times, but there's a good turnout there. The mayor takes the podium to discuss what's been happening, while Bart and Milhouse prank him by putting him in weird costumes.

Mayor: People, Springfield is in crisis. Fingers have been shoved up noses, pants have been pulled down, and [gets put in a French Maid costume] mayors [American Colonial costume] have [Viking costume] been [horse costume] repeatedly [giant sandwich costume] humiliated. Damn it!

Unfortunately for the pranking pair, the Mayor is one step ahead of them, and he has a plan.

Mayor: I thought our mysterious pranksters might be here tonight, so I covered the meeting hall with ultraviolet powder. [flips switch] Behold, the perpetrators!

The lights turn off, and what do you know, there are glowing footprints leading right to Bart and Milhouse. The crowd runs after them intent on payback, and Bart and Milhouse have to quickly escape from the angry mob. Bart manages to get out the magic watch, and he and Milhouse stop time together. Just in time, too- a bullet from Wiggin's gun was just about to strike Bart's head. Unfortunately, the watch breaks, trapping both kids in stopped time.

Milhouse is happy about it- now he's the second-coolest kid on Earth! Bart is more upset about it at first, and then realizes that it means that they can do anything they want. Steal money, museum pieces, and famous artworks? Sure. Live on candy? Why not. Keep Bart's family in his house as statues? It's not like they can complain, even when Bart accidentally knocks Homer's head off. Turn celebrities into punching bags? Probably the most use anyone's gotten out of them. Give the Pope wedgies? He can't stop them. Play naked basketball? Nope, they won't be doing that.

Eventually, Bart gets rather tired of that life. He misses being a regular kid, getting hugs from his mom (who's currently serving as the stand for a basketball hoop in the kitchen). Milhouse thought he would be happy now that his parents back together, but it's kind of hollow since 'back together' meant 'tied up together with ropes'. They get a book on watch repair, which says they can learn it in 8 1-hour lessons.

Fifteen years later, Bart and Milhouse have finally repaired the watch. But before they re-start time, Bart realizes that if the town sees what they've done, they'll kill the two anyway. They give the mob a scapegoat in the form of Martin Prince, and then re-start time. The mob chase Martin and beat him to a pulp.

Back at the Simpsons' home, Marge wonders why Bart is so tall and shaggy. Homer thinks it's just another one of life's mysteries, like why Homer's nose is jammed with plastic soldiers. Lisa says that it's because Bart used his magic stopwatch to stop time. Bart asks if she's jealous. Lisa is. At Homer's urging, Bart lets Lisa borrow the stopwatch. Lisa gets curious about what a different button on the watch does, and presses it.

What it does is gives the Simpsons other than Lisa rocket torsos. And when she presses it again, it turns them into opposite-gender versions of themselves (with Bart being 10 years old again). Further presses turn them into bobbleheads, TV Guide magazine covers, the Fantastic Four, and then into their normal selves, but spinning around hula hoops.

Homer: Okay, that's good. Stop there.

This episode provides examples of...

  • An Arm and a Leg: Death loses one of his legs briefly to Santa's Little Helper.
  • And This Is for...: When Homer killed the Grim Reaper, he said it was for Snowball I and John F. Kennedy.
  • Anything but That!:
    • When Homer realizes Marge is the next person to die.
    • When Milhouse suggests playing "naked basketball".
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Homer executes Patty in place of Marge.
    • Ned proudly announces his participation in a charity walk to "cure homosexuality" mere seconds before Frink's father harvests his organs.
  • Batman Gambit: The Mayor pulls one off to expose Bart and Milhouse as the ones pranking Springfield, betting on them not being able to resist pulling pranks at the meeting.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: At the end of the final segment, when Lisa realizes what Bart has been doing with the stopwatch, she asks, "Why can't I tinker with the fabric of existence?" Homer has Bart give her the stopwatch, and she notices a red button on it. She presses it to see what it does, only for the rest of the family's bodies to split into rockets. She ends up changing them multiple times, trying to correct her error.
  • Beyond the Impossible:
    • Lisa validates the claim that muffins are far less healthy than they appear and that the pyramids were built by Sears on a calculator!
    • Grampa is apparently "still cold" despite being on fire.
  • Big "NO!": Homer's reaction upon the idea of a world without death meaning Jim Belushi would never be cancelled.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Death cursing "Why you little-!" when Bart evades him one too many times.
  • The Bus Came Back:
  • Call-Back: During "Frinkenstein," Homer wistfully muses about being Death again, referencing the first segment and implying they're in the same continuity.
  • Close-Enough Timeline: After Lisa’s fiddling with the stopwatch causes the Simpson family to undergo weird transformations, the last one has the family back to their normal selves, but inexplicably spinning hula hoops. They decide that this is good enough.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Putting on Death's robe makes Homer the new Grim Reaper.
  • The Death of Death: The entire story of "Reaper Madness" happens because of Homer killing Death.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Homer killing Patty instead of Marge and then disguising the former as the latter to trick God into releasing him from being the Reaper before escaping the Lord's wrath on a conveniently placed motorcycle could be classed as this.
  • Driven to Suicide: Homer attempts to stab himself in the gut after Bart and Milhouse keep stealing his donuts. They swap the knife for a banana before he can do the deed.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: While it is true that Bart and Milhouse pranked the town with their magic watch, the townspeople go into a blood-thirsty rage against the two ten-year-olds once they are discovered. Chief Wiggum even fires his gun at Bart, nearly striking the young boy in the head before time was once again stopped.
  • Easily Condemned: After Bart and Milhouse expose themselves as the ones playing pranks all over town, they're pursued by an angry mob. They stop time again and (eventually) put Martin in their place, who the mob immediately beat up instead, even though he looks nothing like them and there's only one of him.
  • End of an Age: This is the last THoH special to have an upbeat harpsichord/theremin rendition of the Simpsons theme during the credits.
  • Fanservice: A female crossing guard in Sweden is depicted working completely naked for no reason.
  • The Fantastic Faux: Briefly, the Simpsons family turns into the Fantastic Four, with Homer as The Thing, Marge as the Human Torch, Bart as Mr. Fantastic, and Maggie as The Invisible Woman.
  • Gender Bender: Briefly happens to Homer, Marge, Bart, and Maggie when Lisa keeps messing with the watch at the end. On the upside, this is the first change that restores Bart to his original age.
  • Giant Novelty Check: Oscar De La Hoya is holding one when Bart and Milhouse stop time to escape the angry mob.
  • Gilligan Cut: The watch repair book says that Bart and Milhouse can learn watch repair in eight one-hour lessons. It takes them fifteen years.
  • God: He tries and ultimately fails at chasing Homer, only for him to give up and to admit that he's "too old and too rich for this."
  • The Grim Reaper: Death himself shows up at The Simpsons' house to take Bart's soul. Homer defeats him and becomes the new Grim Reaper.
  • Groin Attack:
    • That's how the Grim Reaper's robe forces Homer to take on the job.
    • Ditto on how Frink kills his re-animated father.
  • Hanging Up on the Grim Reaper: In the segment "Reaper Madness", the Grim Reaper comes to the Simpson house to take Bart's soul. After a goofy chase scene, Homer saves his son by bludgeoning the Reaper to death.
  • Invisible Jerkass: Bart and Milhouse after they discover the time-pausing stopwatch.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Happened instantaneously to Nelson, who Bart and Milhouse bring into the scene to laugh at a naked Homer, only for his clothes to disappear before he can finish his Signature Laugh.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Homer in the opening after he's stabbed in the chest with a poker. And Grandpa's only reaction to being set on fire is to remark that he's still cold.
  • Man on Fire: During the opening segment, Homer takes a flaming log out of the fireplace and hurls it at the kids, only for it to land in Grampa's lap, engulfing him in fire.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Frink's father initially only targeting male victims is initially forgivable, since he was established as a "macho" man in life, and probably wanted men's body parts. But it's kind of pushing it when he only targets male geniuses for their brains at the award show.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: For all his faults and questionable parenting, Frink's father deep down truly does love his son and was horrified when Lisa Simpsons called out his organ-stealing rampage by pointing out that he chose that over his son getting a Nobel Prize. He immediately heads to Stockholm to reconcile with Frink.
    Frink Sr.: Oh dear GOD! I have let my organ-lust come between me and my son?! [Weeps and uses his own stolen intestine to wipe his tears]
  • Naked People Are Funny: Bart and Milhouse steal Homer and Nelson's clothes at one point while stopping time.
  • No Sympathy: When Frink Sr. tears out Principal Skinner's spinal column, his mother comes by just to express her disappointment for her son being literally spineless.
  • Nose Shove: Homer dismisses Bart’s sudden growth spurt as "just one of life's mysteries — like, 'why is my nose jammed full of army men?'"
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Bart when The Grim Reaper informs him that his time is up.
    • Death!Homer when Marge is the next person on the "To Die" list.
    • Professor Frink when his dad goes on a rampage.
    • Bart and Milhouse when the Springfieldians chase them all through the town concerning the stopwatch.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: When Death has pinned Bart to the wall with his scythe.
  • Papa Wolf: Homer attacks the Grim Reaper with a bowling ball to stop him from killing Bart.
  • Relieving the Reaper: In the segment "Reaper Madness", Homer kills the Grim Reaper to save Bart from dying. However, after Homer grabs the Reaper's scythe and wears his robes, he is also forced to take his job of reaping souls.
  • The Scapegoat: Bart and Milhouse use Martin as one in the last segment. They know somebody will be blamed for their messing with the time.
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: As Death tries to take Bart, he gives him chase, setting up a hilarious game of this, complete with "Yakety Sax" to top off the scene.
  • Sexy Scandinavian: The traffic warden in Stockholm is an attractive woman — she's slim and blonde, and completely naked. She has just a whistle and a police officer's cap. It's used as a gag to set up the scene for the Nobel Prize ceremony in Sweden.
  • Suicide as Comedy:
    • In the first short when it is stated people cannot die, we cut to a shot of Moe's feet dangling showing that he hanged himself, and then we focus on his head with him mostly annoyed that it is taking so long, and that he should have turn on the TV. And apparently he even ordered a pizza beforehand.
    • In the third short, after realizing all of the doughnuts in the break room keep disappearing before he gets a chance to eat them, Homer decides to stab himself in the stomach... only for the boys to replace the knife with a banana at the last second.
  • Take a Third Option: In Reaper Madness, Death!Homer finds out that Marge is next to die. When he initially refuses, the "To Die" list replaces her name with his (either she dies or he dies). But later, he kills Marge's sister Patty instead.
  • Take That!:
    • The aforementioned Big "NO!" example regarding Jim Belushi.
    • Kang and Kodos think humans are silly for showing a Halloween episode in November. It's a reference to how the Treehouse of Horror episodes weren't being shown around Halloween from seasons 12-20 due to Fox's rights showing the World Series games. It wasn't until "Treehouse of Horror XX" in season 21 that they'd start airing around Halloween again.
    • When Bart first stops time, he comments that Lisa now looks like a Hanna-Barbera background character.
  • Touch of Death: Homer as Death; he uses the supernatural power for people that are actually scheduled to die (Jasper), and also does it just for fun (the unnamed hobo, a whole lot of people at the baseball game, and Patty).
  • Trauma Conga Line: What Homer goes through at Bart and Millhouse's hands. First any donuts he tries to eat vanish before they reach his mouth, then his resulting attempt to kill himself is foiled by the knife being replaced with a banana, and then as he despairingly cries to himself, they take all his clothes off and bring Nelson in to laugh at him.
  • The Unreveal: There is no explanation given as to why Bart was chosen by Death to have his soul taken.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The pizza guy delivering to Moe's doesn't seem to care that Moe is hanging from the ceiling in another botched suicide attempt.
  • What Does This Button Do?: When Lisa gets the stopwatch, she gets curious over its red button. She ends up repeatedly changing the other Simpsons with each press of the button.
  • Would Hurt a Child: After Bart and Milhouse are revealed to be the ones behind the time-stopping pranks, the townspeople (including their own families) angrily chase after them, some of them wielding weapons. When the boys get the watch repaired and substitute Martin as The Scapegoat, the mob continues their pursuit and they give Martin a heavy beating.