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Recap / The Simpsons S19 E10 "E Pluribus Wiggum"

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Reluctantly facing the first day of a new diet, Homer decides to go on one final fast food binge at every restaurant on Fast Food Boulevard. As he passes the drive-up trash can at Krusty Burger, he throws out not only his piles of fast food containers, but a corroded car battery which leaks through the ground to a gas main... which is then ignited when Homer lights a cigar and disposes of the match, causing a chain reaction explosion that takes out Fast Food Boulevard in its entirety. Getting the funds to re-build will require passing a bond issue, so Mayor Quimby announces at a town meeting that it will be part of the presidential primary ballot. When Lenny points out that the primary isn't until June, the mayor moves the primary to the following week, making it the first on the calendar for 2008.
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The news that New Hampshire has been de-throned as the state to hold its first primary causes a circus of candidates, journalists, and pundits to descend on Springfield. The locals initially enjoy the attention, but a combination of their own vacuity, the empty promises from the candidates, and the manipulation of the media soon cause them to grow frustrated. Homer suggests to a crowd at Moe's that they Take a Third Option and write in the most unqualified, unsuitable candidate they can think of: Ralph Wiggum.

Ralph wins the primary by a landslide, but instead of ending the media circus, this merely fans the flames; in next to no time, Ralph is being hounded by the press for his stance on major issues (which he seems typically clueless about) and courted by both political parties to stand as their candidate (since he has no party affiliation). Equal parts angry that Ralph's candidacy is being taken seriously and upset to see him being pulled apart by the political and media machines, Lisa heads over to the Wiggum house in the hopes of persuading Ralph to leave the race. However, he surprises her by winning her over with a demonstration that he might not be as dumb as everyone thinks, explaining that he hasn't chosen a party affiliation to get both parties to work together and using 8-year-old language to tout the value of diplomacy over military force to resolve conflicts ("When we get mad, we'll just use our words!"). The episode ends with a spoof campaign ad in which Ralph, seemingly mistaking the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial for a department store Santa Claus, asks for toys and a better future for America.

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Tropes:

  • Art Imitates Art: The couch gag of the episode is a sequence in the style of The Bayeux Tapestry and depicts the Simpsons fighting a war with the Flanders over the Simpson family couch.
  • Ascended Meme: Apparently. Homer smokes "Jerkass Homer Cigars." "Jerkass Homer" is the nickname given by some fans of the show to Homer's callous, brash, rude, childish personality beginning during the Mike Scully era (seasons 9-12) onwards (and one of many reasons those fans attribute to why The Simpsons' quality has fallen in the later years).
  • Attack of the Political Ad: Parodied when Homer, Carl, and Lenny watch an attack ad in a focus group session:
    Narrator: Who should America elect in 2008? Former governor Vincent Aleppo said in the New York Times, "I will protect the nation from attack." (...) But, in that same issue of the New York Times, they also printed an article about terrorist leader Nussaf Al Mustaffi.
    Homer: Dear God, what have I done?
    Narrator: "And you shall judge them by the company they keep."
    (a Photoshopped image of Aleppo and Al Mustaffi sharing the same drink appears)
    Homer: (shocked) My God! They're going steady! Did everyone see that?!
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  • Buffy Speak: Homer's reaction to Ralph winning the primary: "What I did made the TV thing happen."
  • Call-Back: Lisa mentioned she and Ralph once dated.
  • The Chessmaster: Ralph Wiggum, believe it or not. He intentionally tricks the Republicans and Democrats into working together to sponsor him for the presidency, all the while acting like he knows nothing about what's going on.
  • Continuity Nod: One of the mascots mourning the loss of the Fast Food Boulevard at the town meeting is the Rib-it Frog that promoted Krusty Burger's limited Ribwich.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Why did Springfield even amalgamate all their fast food restaurants into one area rather than scatter them?
  • Gluttony Montage: Homer indulges in a binge on all his favorite fast foods after Marge imposes another diet on him.
  • Hand Wave: Lisa points out that Ralph isn't old enough to run for office, but Bart says the Patriot Act killed the Constitution.
  • Homage: Fast Food Boulevard has parodies of the mascots Wienerschnitzel's The Delicious One and Mayor McCheese.
  • Imagine Spot: Subverted for laughs—Homer imagines what a "think tank" is like...and it turns out that his interpretation is perfectly accurate, much to the surprise of everyone else.
    Homer: What, I can't get one right?
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: To force a man to stop a conversation with Mr. Burns (It Makes Sense in Context), Homer phoned the man claiming to have abducted the man's wife or, if the man doesn't have a wife, his brother. Then he said if the man obeyed all instructions his dog would be free.
  • Insane Troll Logic: When Kent Brockman asks Ralph which political party he likes, Ralph says Elmo... which Kent somehow interprets as:
    Kent Brockman: Ah, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Richard Nixon's chief of naval operations. So Ralph's a Republican!
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Homer about his candidate of choice after hearing that candidate appeared in the same issue of The New York Times that a terrorist did.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Homer for destroying Fast Food Boulevard. But since it turns out they were all rated between Awful to Mediocre, Homer may have been doing the town a favor.
  • No Ending: There's no resolution to the story; Ralph runs a candidacy ad on TV and then the credits roll.
  • Nominated As A Prank: The reason Ralph is on the ballot in the first place is because the residents of Springfield are tired of the various politicians and pundits bothering them. So, they decide to support a candidate so ridiculous and absurd, that it will embarrass them. However, the media instead starts treating Ralph as a serious candidate.
  • Orphaned Setup: Jon Stewart starts to make a zinger about there being more hot air in Springfield than somewhere, but he doesn't say the punchline because Krusty was trying to mine jokes out of him. Krusty does give a couple potential payoffs, though. "Albuquerque balloon festival? Rush Limbaugh's sweatpants?"
  • Shout-Out: Bill Clinton complains at Hillary what did he ever do to deserve getting forced to put up signs promoting Hillary's 2008 presidential bid. Monica Lewinsky of course.
  • Special Guest: Jon Stewart as himself. Also, legendary CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather.
  • Springtime for Hitler: The Springfielders chose Ralph in a failed attempt to rid themselves of the media hype.
  • Take That!: At the school debate, Nelson taunts a Washington Post reporter saying that "print media" is dying. Skinner scolds him... for being too hard on the poor blighter.
  • Wham Line: When Lisa tells Ralph that everyone advocating him as a presidential candidate is playing him for a fool, he basically responds by telling her that it's the other way around.
    Lisa: They just wanna use you!
    Ralph: (cheerfully) Maybe I wanna use them.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: As the reporters are clearing out of New Hampshire to go cover Springfield's primary:
    Man: To Springfield!
    Woman: Which Springfield?
    Man: The one The Simpsons live in!

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