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.
This episode contains examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: All Ms. Krabappel does in response to Bart's warning about Warren's impending motion sickness is threaten to punish him for making noise.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Bart's punishment for talking on the bus is singing "The Ballad of John Henry".
- Darkest Hour: When Homer smashes Bart's piggy bank for beer money. Leads to a My God, What Have I Done? moment from Homer.
- 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 side 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.
- 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?Terry: 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 Terry, 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 IncidentMrs. 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: Smithers is black. Sherri and Terri are also (briefly) drawn without bodies.◊
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!"