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Recap / The Simpsons S1 E11 "The Crepes of Wrath"

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Original air date: 4/15/1990

Production code: 7G13

Marge makes Bart clean up his room after he cripples Homer by leaving his skateboard out near the stairs. While doing so, Bart discovers a cherry bomb, which he flushes down a toilet in the boys' bathroom at school—creating an explosion in the girls' room that drenches Principal Skinner's visiting mother, Agnes. Skinner visits the Simpsons and tells them that a troublemaker like Bart can benefit from the school's foreign exchange program, so Bart goes off to France, where a pair of low-rent winemakers keep Bart as a slave. Meanwhile, the Simpsons host an Albanian boy named Adil, and Homer begins taking a shine to him, but does Adil like Homer, or is he using him to get information on the nuclear plant for his country?


This episode contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Adil is very polite to everyone and seems to genuinely like his foster family, even though he's a spy stealing nuclear secrets for Albania.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Bart's description of everything César and Ugolin put him through.
  • Art Imitates Art: Bart, Cesar and Ugolin drive through landscapes that are all references to famous French impressionist and realist paintings.
  • Bad Boss: César and Ugolin treat Bart like a slave by forcing him to do most of the work while they sit around and yell at him.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The French used is fairly accurate. Even the Albanian is.
  • Broken Record: While Homer lies on the floor with a crippled back and no one there to help him, he's forced to listen to Bart's Krusty doll say, "I like to play with you!" over and over until the doll's batteries die.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Bart returns to Springfield and watches Homer struggle to get a wine bottle open, he quips "My father—what a buffoon" in French...and Homer delightedly brags about how proud he is of his son's linguistic ability. To add to the joke, the French word for "buffoon" is "bouffon", a cognate that even sounds like its English counterpart—but Homer still can't pick up on the insult.
    • Also, as the Simpsons say good-bye to Adil, Homer promises to send him the plans he wanted due to them being so close. Despite the fact that Adil's been using him and that doing so would be aiding a spy.
  • Couch Gag: The family sits on the couch and Homer gets squashed off, landing on the ground.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Adil is an Albanian spy.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The vineyard Bart stays at is called the Chateau Maison.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After all the abuse he receives from César and Ugolin, Bart eventually gets them arrested.
    • At first, it seems Skinner has done this by sending Bart to France, where he suffers at the hands of the winemakers and finally faces genuine repercussions for his pranks. But as the abuse continues to a point where it is no longer funny, Disproportionate Retribution definitely comes into effect.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Here, Agnes Skinner is a kind old woman who embarrasses her son by calling him "Spanky", a far cry from the emotional and psychological abuse and Psycho-esque jokes about Seymour and Agnes years later. The DVD commentary justifies this change by stating that Bart's cherry-bomb prank is what turned Agnes cruel and bitter.
    • Also, Lisa argues with Adil about the worthiness of America, and her behavior is incredibly odd by the standards of her later characterization. Here, she takes a rather conservative pro-American stance, insisting that it is a land of opportunity with promises of equality. Later episodes would emphasize her liberal political values, and one can't help but suspect that nowadays she would likely side with Adil's critiques of capitalism and how the concept of the American dream is unrealistic.
    • This is the first foreign voyage episode, yet Bart travels alone, rather than with his entire family (since Bart going to France is part of a student exchange program/punishment for what he did to Mrs. Skinner, rather than a family vacation) and there is not as many jokes referencing things the foreign country is known for as there would be in later such episodes.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: While he's treated like dirt for most of the episode, Bart manages to pick up French and get his captors arrested. Afterwards, he's able to enjoy his time in France before going home.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: A rare inversion occurs when Bart is unable to get a police officer to help him. He walks away cursing his ignorance and inability to learn French...only to start speaking the language fluently as he continues to criticize himself. It takes him a few seconds to realize that he's actually picked up French through immersion; once he does, he runs back to the officer and tells him what's happening.
  • Famous-Named Foreigner: Adil Hoxha is named after former Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha.
  • Foreign Exchange Student: Bart and Adil.
  • French Jerk: César and Ugolin. Oh, so very much. The rest of the French though completely avert it, treating Bart very well after the first two's arrest.
  • Friendly Enemy: Adil is one with the American child spy he gets a Prisoner Exchange with at the end.
  • Funny Foreigner: Frenchmen and Albanians.
  • Global Ignorance:
  • Hate Sink: César and Ugolin. Their use of Bart as slave labor while making his life a living hell for no reason other than because they can, as well as making him drink wine with anti-freeze in it, something that could kill him. At a certain point, their abuse isn't even played humorously.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The two winemakers are brought down by the exchange student they abused.
  • Jerkass: César and Ugolin. Treating Bart like a slave, stealing his stuff, force-feeding him anti-freeze laced wine.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: While the trope was averted, it was played awfully straight in the Latin American dub, with all the French substituted with French-accented Spanish. The gendarme couldn't understand Bart because of his accent rather than his speaking a different language. The Quebec French dub, obviously, kept the French and also had the gendarme unable to understand Bart's accent, but there it made more sense, with the gendarme's trouble with Bart's Quebec accent being more realistic.
  • Karma Houdini: Adil gets off scot-free for his crimes of espionage because the CIA and Albanian intelligence do prisoner exchanges. Although, to be fair, he IS a child and more of an Anti-Villain than anything else, so possibly Justified.
  • Knight of Cerebus: César and Ugolin, who treat Bart like a slave and could have killed him by giving him antifreeze-laced wine. Their abuse starts off comedic but over time it's played completely straight.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The title is a parody of The Grapes of Wrath.
  • Maurice Chevalier Accent: All Frenchmen speak in this manner, though the police officer who helps Bart when Bart can finally speak enough French to ask him for help doesn't have that.
  • The Mole: Adil is discovered to be a Communist spy.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting:
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Adil Hoxha was named after then-Prime Minister Adil Carcani and former dictator Enver Hoxha.
  • National Stereotypes:
    • We only see two Frenchmen for most of the episode and they are both filthy, arrogant wine merchants. One of them wears a beret, has a moustache and smokes a cigarette. That being said, the police officer who helps Bart is actually a fairly nice man who couldn't help Bart at first because he doesn't speak or understand English (then helped him when Bart learned just enough French to tell the officer about the abuse and the wine tampering operation), even though French police officers in real life can be just as snooty and condescending as the wine merchants who abused Bart, especially when it comes to dealing with foreigners.
    • The Albanian is actually a Communist mastermind spy. His last name, Hoxha, references the former Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha.
  • Never My Fault: César and Ugolin's interactions make clear they sincerely think they treated Bart fairly and he is just ungrateful. They curse their downfall solely on signing up to the student exchange program in the first place when Bart gets them arrested for their awful treatment.
  • Old-Fashioned Fruit Stomping: Bart is forced to stomp grapes by his abusive caretakers while he's an exchange student in France.
  • Parrot Exposition:
    Skinner: Mr. and Mrs. Simpson, we have transcended incorrigible. I don't think suspension or expulsion will do the trick. I think it behooves us all to consider... deportation.
    Marge: Deportation!? You mean, kick Bart out of the country?
  • Pet the Dog: Despite being a pair of crooked child-abusing slavers, Ugolin and César actually treat Maurice the donkey with great affection and care - César is introduced petting the mule while telling him he won't have to do 'back-breaking labor' anymore as Bart arrives, they give him Bart's cap possibly even instead of selling it like his other possessions, and true to form, with Bart around Maurice is only ever shown following them around and getting a comfortable bed instead of being used for work. This is a rare case of this used to cast the characters doing the petting in a negative light, as the way they treat Maurice highlights just how badly they do Bart (even yelling at him not to disturb Maurice in bed and sleep on the floor), but it is nonetheless a surprisingly genuine kind habit both men share.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted. The first police officer Bart finds in France can't understand him and seems somewhat oblivious to his situation and visibly poor condition, but does wish to give him a hand (and gave him a piece of candy). When Bart realizes he's learned French, he tells the cop about how the wine merchants had been abusing him and the man instantly helps Bart, providing him shelter and proper clothes and getting the men arrested.
  • Prisoner Exchange: After Adil gets captured, the American government exchanges him for an American spy captured by the Albanians.
  • Pun-Based Title: The title is a pun on The Grapes of Wrath and the French word for pancakes ("crêpes"), which is odd, considering that the plot is more about grapes and wine.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A somewhat belated example in the bit regarding tainting wine with antifreeze. The plot point is based on a real scandal from 1985 in which numerous Austrian wine brands were discovered to have been diluting their products with diethylene glycol as far back as 1976, resulting in numerous Austrian and West German consumers suffering liver, kidney, and neuron damage as a result of either long-term exposure from constant drinking or short-term exposure from drinking wine that had been additionally laced with sugar (which prevents the ethanol in wine from counteracting the toxicity of diethylene glycol). The show's staff discuss the incident's effects on the episode in the DVD Commentary.
  • Secret Police: Adil is actually an Albanian spy.
  • Shout-Out:
    • While driving to the French farm Bart and his chauffeur pass through landscapes which are all references to famous paintings made in France, including works by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Rousseau and Édouard Manet.
    • The French winemakers César and Ugolin are based on the protagonists of the films Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources.
    • Bart brought a red balloon for Maggie from France, a reference to the critically acclaimed French children's short La Ballon Rouge.
  • Skewed Priorities: Averted. The police officer treats wine laced with anti-freeze as a serious offense, and he also fulfills his promise to Bart that he'll no longer be mistreated by César and Ugolin.
  • Smooch of Victory: After getting César and Ugolin arrested, Bart attends a ceremony during which he is honored by France. During this ceremony, the young boy receives a kiss from a pretty woman.
  • Teen Superspy: Adil and his spying activities. It's revealed at the end that the CIA had a pre-teen spy of its own operating on Eastern Europe (that is exchanged for Adil... and the two kids know each other).
  • Time Marches On: Since 1992, two years after initial premiere, Albania is a democratic non-Communist nation. The Albanian spy subplot had more relevance during the Cold War, which was already almost over when the episode aired.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Bart's near-death experience at the hands of César and Ugolin makes him genuinely miss his family. He buys them all thoughtful presents on the trip home and excitedly runs to hug them once his flight arrives at the airport. Bart even remarks that he's happy to see Homer (although he does call him a buffoon in French upon seeing Homer struggle to open a bottle of wine).
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode: Bart's abuse by César and Ugolin puts the episode in this territory.
  • Vacation Episode: The first of many; the Simpsons enjoyed having such traveling adventures about Once a Season. Here, Bart travels to France.
  • Would Hurt a Child: César and Ugolin treat Bart like a horse and risk his well-being by testing anti-freeze laced wine on him during their duration in the foreign exchange program. In a follow-up appearance in the comics, they return from prison to try and kill him.