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Recap / The Simpsons S 20 E 11 How The Test Was Won

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Springfield Elementary ships out all the poor-testing students (along with Principal Skinner) on the day of a major standardized test. Meanwhile, Homer has to be extra careful now that his insurance has lapsed and has to wait until 3:00pm to get it reinstated.


  • An Aesop: Not everyone learns the same way. Not every value of intelligence can be calculated with a test. Skinner realizes that the his bad students that have little to no interest in education, actually seem to learn when given an applied example rather than simply being told facts.
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  • Artifact Title: In-Universe. All reading classes change their names from flower-based names to barnyard-based names, although one of the teachers, Mr. Becker, objects, so his team remains the Daffodils.
    Daffodils team: Go 'Dills! Go 'Dills!
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: Homer's injury Call-Back montage consists of mostly clips from the pre-HD seasons. These clips are presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio before cutting back to Homer laughing, done in the current 16:9 format.
  • Booby Prize: Bart is told that his practice test got a perfect score and is rewarded with a helicopter ride to a genius convention. Only when he boards and sees that the other "geniuses" are Ralph and the bullies does he realize that they're taking all the bad students away so they don't skew the aptitude test scores. Also, the helicopter is just the school bus in disguise.
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  • Book Dumb: When Skinner uses natural physics to swing a shipping container in the direction he wants, suddenly all the bad students find learning to be interesting. This was a revelation to Skinner, who immediately recognized the flaws of the standardized testing (which even Lisa was struggling with in her own C plot).
  • The Bus Came Back: Coach Krupt, the gym teacher who violently throws dodgeballs at students, returns after his first appearance in "My Fair Laddy" from season 17 (both episodes have the same writer). He reappears as a recurring character in seasons 24 and 25.
  • But Thou Must!: Lisa discovers that the answers for each question have the same meaning. As such, she is unable to decide which one to pick.
  • Dance Party Ending: Upon Seymour repealing the school's ban on dancing.
  • Daydream Surprise: We see a Disaster Dominoes reaction that kills most of Marge's friends, causing her to freak out because they're uninsured... right before she makes out with Lindsey Naegle, the only remaining woman, which Homer watches before it's revealed it was only in his head.
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  • Disaster Dominoes: Helen Lovejoy's hair catches on fire, she panics and runs, slipping on Bart's skateboard in the process, which sends her high heel shoes flying straight into Cookie Kwan's eyes, which causes Cookie to fall back into a statue holding an axe, which flies across the room and strikes Agnes Skinner in the back, with the three of them dying as a result. Marge panics about the situation... and proceeds to make out with Lindsey Naegle. Thankfully it was all a product of Homer's Imagine Spot.
  • Exact Words: Principal Skinner tells some students that he's the Principal and they must refer to him as such. Bart then calls him "such".
  • Eye Scream: In Homer's Imagine Spot, Helen's high heels fly across the room and stab Cookie Kwan in the eyes.
  • Fully Automatic Clip Show: When Homer talks about how insurance pays him everytime he gets hurt, it leads to clips of Homer's Amusing Injuries through the show's run...including a clip of the Homer clones falling into the gorge from "Treehouse of Horror XIII".
    Homer: Heh-heh. What a week.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: When Homer has an Imagine Spot about disasters that could happen while not insured, it quickly turns to Marge making out with Lindsey Naegle.
  • Noodle Incident: Why did Skinner ban dancing in the school?
  • Off-Model: Helen's shoes go from low-cut heeled flats to high-heeled pumps when they land on Cookie Kwan's eyes during Homer's Imagine Spot, likely intentional given it isn't a real situation to begin with. She also has two left feet during the scene.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Lisa completely chokes on a standardized test with no explanation why while everyone else seems to be able to do it fine including Milhouse. Since the test is thrown out anyway at the end, there's no real telling if the problem was with Lisa or the test itself with Lisa being the only one visibly distraught.
  • Piano Drop: Ralph is nearly squashed by an entire shipping container's worth of falling pianos. Averted, thanks to Principal Skinner's heroic lesson in applied physics.
  • Potty Dance: Ralph does it while on the bus. Skinner asks Otto to stop the bus so Ralph can go to a rest stop, but Otto is mesmerized by the "little boy's dance".
  • Reading Foreign Signs Out Loud: In the Russian airing, the actor voicing Skinner somewhat firmly translates the title of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar when Lisa is reading it during the final scene.
  • Religious Russian Roulette: When it's clear that none of the students are prepared for the test, and all other methods (like guessing) are strictly prohibited, Superintendent Chalmers advises the students to try this approach:
    Chalmers: Alright NOBODY GUESS! Just be right! Get down on your knees, pray to your God, and ask him, no, DEMAND he tell you the answer and if he won't, he is no God of yours!
  • Scantron Picture: Bart fills out the answer sheet of his practice test to read "SLURP MY SNOT".
  • Shout-Out:
    • The final scene of this is a direct parody of the final scene of Footloose.
    • "This is no genius copter, this is Con Air!"
    • Ralph mistakes a rat for Elmo.
  • Snipe Hunt: Chalmers tells Skinner that he accidentally left his shades on the bus. As Skinner goes inside, Chalmers takes his shades out of his pocket and signals Otto to close the door and drive, leaving Skinner inside.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Bart calls school a "suck shack", as does Chalmers in a later scene. Bart claims he learned the phrase from a kid at school, so Chalmers might have heard it from the same kid (or taught it to that kid, or been the "kid").
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Chalmers and Skinner tell Bart that he got a perfect score of 100% on the practice test, which would mean that a perfect score spells out "SLURP MY SNOT" on the Scantron sheet. Which it doesn't—the story was part of a ruse to get all the worst students off the property on test day.
  • Take That!: To standardized testing and how ineffective it really is. On the test, all of the multiple choice answers mean the same thing, skipping to the next question doesn't help because it requires the students to use the answer from the previous question, and there is a penalty for guessing.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The episode briefly features a scene from Otto's point of view, showing that he believes the school bus to be a helicopter flying through the air.
  • Toilet Humour: Students make a joke when Principal Skinner instructs them to use a number two pencil.