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Recap / The Simpsons S1 E3 "Homer's Odyssey"

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Episode — 7G03
First Aired — 1/21/1990

After an incident at the Nuclear Power Plant, Homer is fired from his job as technical supervisor. Unable to provide for his family without a job and reduced to stealing from his son to buy beer, he runs away to kill himself — until a near accident gives him a new lease on life as a local safety advocate.

In case that description didn't tip you off, Early Installment Weirdness is here in spades, and that's not even getting into the shockingly dark and somber mood.


This episode contains examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: All Ms. Krabappel does in response to Bart's warning about Wendell's impending motion sickness is threaten to punish him for making noise.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Burns has a picture in his office of himself riding a green horse.
  • Characterization Marches On: Homer gets fired from his job for crashing a forklift, and goes into such a deep depression at losing the identity of household breadwinner that he actually attempts suicide so he wouldn't feel like a failure around his wife and children. At the end of the episode, he becomes the power plant's safety inspector because he's very concerned that the plant isn't being run safely and wants to make a difference. In later episodes, his on-the-job negligence is legendary, with him personally committing safety violations that would not only get him canned, but probably sent to prison for a long time, if the show cared about realism. He would regularly be sacked for gross incompetence and show little-to-no concern, or casually ditch work for the sake of whatever zany adventure he's going on in the episode. Also, even though his title of safety inspector continues to be mentioned, his job rarely seems to involve any safety inspecting. Homer does acknowledge here that he's not really qualified for the job as he caused more accidents than any other employee before he was fired, and accepted it mainly to provide for his family (with Burns having only offered him the job in the first place to shut down his protests), but even that kind of realization would be beyond the Captain Oblivious we see in later episodes.
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  • Class Trip: The plot is kicked off when Bart's class takes a trip to the nuclear power plant, and Homer loses his job trying to show-boat for his son.
  • Comically Missing the Point: A suicidal Homer still bothers to dodge a car and yell back at them for nearly running him over.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Bart's punishment for talking on the bus is singing "The Ballad of John Henry".
  • Darkest Hour: After he smashes Bart's piggy bank for beer money, a tearful Homer writes the family a farewell note and commits suicide by tying one end of a rope around his waist and the other end around a large boulder and jumping off a bridge.
  • Deranged Animation: Due to the show still figuring out its look. Check out some of the weird background characters in the crowd when Homer is giving his speech at the power plant (which is currently on the front page of this episode's page). Particularly eye catching is the guy with a bulging head and the left de of his face and mouth jutting out to the side. And the guy who seems to be wearing a bright red bandit mask for some reason. Also, see the guy in the "El Barto" scene with the spiky hair and slack jawed look. Matt Groening eventually made it a rule that background characters shouldn't be strange looking or distract from the action in the scene.
  • Driven to Suicide: Homer runs away to kill himself after being unable to find a job and resorting to stealing money from his own son to get a beer (and there wasn't even enough money, not even close).
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Blinky the three-eyed fish, who played a greater role in "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish", first appears as a throwaway gag.
  • Early Installment Character Design Difference: Smithers is black in this episode due to a coloring mistake that couldn't be fixed. The animators wanted to keep him that way, but saw that a black man being hired as a servile assistant to his white boss wouldn't go over well with American audiences, so they made sure that Smithers was yellow (which is Caucasian in the Simpson world) so this mistake wouldn't happen again. Smithers' skin color was hand-waved by saying he was really tan from being on vacation.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
  • Firing Day: Homer gets fired from the power plant and, after failing to find another job, his life goes into a downward spiral. After attempting suicide, he soon decides to become a safety advocate.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: An elderly couple pose as a particularly sociopathic example, heckling Homer as he walks off to kill himself.
    Old Man: He might just be taking his boulder for a walk. *cackles*
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Bart's report card reads, U, F, U, F, U, Dnote 
  • Heroic BSoD: Homer's depression at being fired leaves him lethargic, expressionless, and unresponsive. When he finds that his family had a cake with encouraging words that they were planning to surprise him with, he brushes it aside in his search for a beer.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Bart refers to Homer as a hero for wanting to take on the power plant, but he refuses to admit he actually said it.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Homer's suicide note had a "Don't give up" message.
  • Insult Backfire:
    Sherri: Hey Bart! Our dad says your dad is incompetent.
    Bart: What does incompetent mean?
    Terri: It means he spends more time yacking and scarfing down donuts than doing his job.
    Bart: Oh, okay. I thought you were putting me down.
  • Interrupted Suicide: The family manage to find Homer just as he's about to jump off a bridge.
  • Intoxication Ensues: "Beer. Now there's a temporary solution."
  • Karma Houdini: Sherri and Terri, who provoke Bart to get himself punished for the fun of it.
  • Like Father, Like Daughters: Homer's supervisor is implied to tear into Homer on a regular basis, and then coldly fires him in front of his son, before saying hi to his girls Sherri and Terri, who have been harassing Bart throughout the trip.
  • Limited Animation: Done deliberately for the Smilin' Joe Fission cartoon shown at the power plant.
  • Montage: Homer getting doors closed on him, including his own home. Bart actually slammed the door on him, telling him not to give up.
  • Mood Whiplash: As Homer has finally dragged the boulder all the way to the bridge so he can end his life, and the family has found his suicide note, the tone is somber... until Homer finds a boulder already at the bridge, rendering all that heavy lifting pointless.
    Homer: (upon discovering a boulder already at the bridge) Well, live and learn.
  • My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad: Homer's immediate supervisor at the plant is Sherri and Terri's father, and they make a point of telling Bart how little he thinks of Homer's work ethic and abilities.
  • Noodle Incident
    Mrs. Krabappel: Now class, I don't want this field trip to be a repeat of our infamous visit to the Springfield State Prison. So I want you all to be on your best behavior, especially you, Bart Simpson.
    Bart: Mrs. Krabappel, I didn't unlock that door.
  • Off-Model;
  • Out-of-Character Moment: In one point, Lisa actually enjoys Bart's prank call on Moe during the middle of the episode, as she is seen laughing alongside him. Later episodes would have her more fed up on Bart's pranks and even chiding him for it in certain occasions.
  • Papa Wolf: Seeing an oncoming vehicle, Homer races into the street to push Marge and the kids to safety.
  • Rock Bottom: After a string of failed job interviews and other misfortunes, a depressed Homer could really use a beer, but he can't afford another at Moe's and can't find any in the house. He resorts to robbing his own son; he reflects on how low he's sunk... and how he did it all for nowhere near enough money to buy a beer.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Homer has inner conflict when he's offered the job of safety inspector and is told by Mr. Burns to tell his supporters that the nuclear plant is safe.
    Mr. Burns: You mean you're willing to give up a good job and a raise, just for your principles?
    Homer: ...When you put it like that, it does seem a little far-fetched.
  • Shout-Out: The title is one to The Odyssey, by Homer.
  • Special Guest: Sam McMurray as the Worker Drone.
  • "Take That!" Kiss: After Mrs. Krabappel says she'll punish Bart if he makes one more sound, Sherri and Terri vow that they're going to get Bart in trouble. They do so by kissing him on the cheeks, causing him to scream out and he is given the Cool and Unusual Punishment as noted above.
  • Unbuilt Trope: This episode marks the first time Homer would be laid off from his job. But instead, we see a man forced into the pain of unemployment.
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode: Homer attempts to commit suicide because he feels that he's failed his family by not finding a job after getting fired (for the first time). Outside of two elderly neighbors cracking a joke about Homer "...taking his rock out for a walk," the situation is not Played for Laughs. Thankfully, he doesn't do it and instead decides to become a safety advocate after saving his family from being run over on a dangerous street, but it's still rather shocking.
  • Unishment: Bart is being disruptive during a field trip and Mrs. Krabappel punishes him by making him sing "John Henry Was a Steel-Drivin' Man" in front of everyone on the bus. This is intended to humiliate him, but he sings with great enthusiasm and obviously enjoys it, to the point that Mrs. Krabappel has to yell at him three times before he reluctantly stops the song.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Wendell, who makes it all the way to the power plant, but then vomits when Bart good-naturedly slaps his back.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: This is the one and only time when we see Sherri and Terri's father.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: The Springfield Shopper repeatedly headlines Homer's safety advocating, culminating with, "Enough Already, Homer Simpson!"
  • Your Television Hates You: Homer is watching a channel that explicitly caters to the unemployed, so this was bound to happen. The Duff commercial exactly describes the circumstances (out of work, sober, and hanging around the house all day) that make him so depressed.


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