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Recap / The Simpsons S1 E2 "Bart the Genius"

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Episode - 7G02
First Aired - 1/14/1990

Bart cheats on an intelligence test by swapping papers with class nerd Martin Prince, and soon finds himself transferred to an elementary school for genius kids, who don't see Bart as one of them, while Homer thinks otherwise and bonds with him.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Marcia Wallace's credit is misspelled "Marsha Wallace" in the original airdate.note 
  • Animation Bump: The only reason that the show stayed on the air past the disastrous production of "Some Enchanted Evening" was that this episode's animation was closer to and more consistently in the style that the show runners were going for: cartoonish designs with consistent anatomy, animated economically.
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  • At the Opera Tonight: Marge takes the family out to see a production of Carmen in Russian.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Martin politely asks Mrs Krabappel if he can study outside after finishing the exam, primarily so he can pull rude faces at Bart from the window.
    • Similarly the students of the gifted school act polite and studious in class, only to condescend and play pranks on Bart during breaks.
  • Can't Tie His Tie: Homer teaches Bart how to put on a necktie by presenting his clip-on: "The hook goes over the top, and these things go in there!"
  • Catch Phrase: Marks the first use of Bart's "Eat my shorts!"
  • Characterisation Marches On:
    • Martin Prince is more of a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing in this episode, mocking Bart when authorities aren't looking. This is quite a contrast to the hopelessly naive bully magnet he ends up being in later episodes.
    • Though Lisa shows subtle signs of her later precocious personality here, she actually shares Homer and Bart's derogatory view of the opera and finds their heckling Actually Pretty Funny. In any season after she'd be as humiliated as Marge.
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    • For that matter, Lisa taking Bart's promotion to genius in stride, because it hadn't been established yet that she's a gifted child that gets ignored by her peers.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Dr. Pryor reads Bart's confession:
    Dr. Pryor: You know... you misspelled "confession".
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Homer's scream as Marge almost runs him over is absent in the opening credits.
    • This is also the only Couch Gag (repeated in "The Telltale Head") that continues into the shot of the television screen until "The Wreck of the Relationship" from Season 26.
    • Principal Skinner has a secretary and an intercom in this episode, both he is directly stated to lack in the gag for a later episode. Such a frivolity makes sense to be done away with in episodes after, where the school's lack of funding and competent resources is a large source of comedy.
    • Lisa is not the least bit miffed that her idiot older brother is mistaken for a genius while her own sharp intellect continues to be neglected — mostly because that aspect of her character hadn't been established yet.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Homer's stupidity (his inability to recognize the word OXIDIZE during the Scrabble game and his line about Albert Einstein turning all sorts of colors when he invented the lightbulb) and his anger (chasing Bart around the house twice).
    • Lisa is shown to be wise beyond her years when she plays "Id" as a word in Scrabble, and is shown as the only member of her family to know what the word means (or even that it's an actual word, and not just her trying to sneak in "I.D.", as Homer initially assumes).
    • Bart's rebellious and inattentive nature is demonstrated when he repeatedly badmouths Scrabble, then when his turn comes he plays the nonsense word of "Kwyjibo", then attempts to declare himself the winner and leave. It's further demonstrated when Homer irately demands to know what a "Kwyjibo" is, and Bart tries a non-too-subtle Stealth Insult towards his father.
  • First Day of School Episode: Bart is mistaken for a genius and transferred to a new school, his first day there taking up one scene.
  • Foil: Ms. Melon is calm and nurturing to her students and encourages independence and creativity in a pedagogically progressive environment, which heavily contrasts Mrs. Krabappel.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Bart cheating leads him not only to avoid botching the exam but get labelled a genius and sent to a gifted school where he ends up feeling miserable and out of place. He attempts to shrewdly return to his old school by disguising his intentions as a study of less intelligent kids, only for Dr Pryor to put him at work with a complex proposal in response. Bart very quickly decides it isn't worth it and confesses the whole thing.
  • Imagine Spot: Bart has one while working on a math problem on the intelligence test.
  • Intelligence = Isolation: Bart gets rejected by Milhouse and company when he tries to visit them at Springfield Elementary.
  • It Runs in the Family: Skinner shows Homer and Marge Bart's crudely-written abent notes with Homer's signature. He's convinced Bart forged Homer's signature...until he sees Homer's handwriting.
    • Subverted when Dr. Pryor explains that genius such as the one Bart allegedly has is genetic, but, considering how stupid Homer is, Pryor handwaves it as a total mystery.
  • I Will Show You X: When Bart tries explaining what a "kwyjibo" is:
    Bart: Kwyjibo. Uh... [looks at Homer] a big, dumb, balding North American ape. With no chin.
    Marge: And a short temper.
    Homer: I'll show you a big, dumb, balding ape! [chases Bart]
  • Just for Pun: A calculus expression has the answer r^2dr, which the teacher uses to come up with the phrase r-squared dr (or r-d-r-r), which sounds like har de har har, which sounds a bit like Hardy Har Har. The other kids think it's funny, though.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Dr Pryor is implied to be such, given he repeatedly misdiagnoses Bart, including using Craniometry, an outdated practice in measuring his intellect (see above), and shoots down any of Skinner's suspicions on the matter in favour of an immediate transfer. Bart manages to keep him oblivious to the truth until he finally caved in from the pressure of his studies and confessed himself.
  • Literal Metaphor: When Bart is caught with red spray paint on his hands, and Martin Prince tells Principal Skinner "[He] might say [he] caught him red-handed".
  • Noodle Incident: Bart makes faces at Martin and Mrs. Krabappel ask Bart "Are those naughty dogs back again?" No other details are given other than supposedly two dogs mated in full view of Springfield Elementary's fourth-grade glass sometime in the past.
  • Nothing Personal: Martin insists he only told on Bart to fend off the desecration of the school building. After Bart tells him to stuff it, he tattles on him again and taunts him from outside the classroom.
  • Off-Model: Milhouse’s hair color keeps changing between dark blue and black, often from shot to shot.
  • Only Sane Man: Skinner and Lisa are the only ones suspicious of Bart's test results. Skinner even advises having Bart retake the exam, but when Pryor insists on moving him to a new school, he excitedly relents.
  • Scrabble Babble: The former Trope Namer of "Kwyjibo".
  • Special Edition Title: Downplayed in that the Title Sequence had Bart fall past the screen during the "Created By/Developed By" part (due to the Couch Gag having Homer force Bart out of the couch).note 
  • The Stool Pigeon: Bart switched papers with Martin largely to get pay back for his constant snitching.
  • Teacher's Pet: Martin.
  • TV Genius: Bart's new school turns out to be filled with this trope. All the students speak in Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and delight in discussing theories about the paradoxes of human nature. Subverting the tropes' usual social status, it is Bart that ends up isolated, since the students quickly figure out he's no genius and begin trolling and ostracising him.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Both Lisa and Marge react this way when Homer chases a naked Bart through the house at the end:
    Marge: (knitting) What's going on out there?
    Lisa: (watching TV) I think Bart's stupid again, mom.
    Marge: Oh. Well...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Bart's initial purpose for switching tests was to get back at class snitch Martin, though the consequences this has on him are never revealed. The original script included a scene where Dr. Pryor talks to Martin's parents about his failing the IQ test and needing to go to a school for children with mental disabilities.


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