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Recap / The Simpsons S 24 E 15 Black Eyed Please

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Former Saturday Night Live head writer, cast member, Weekend Update anchor, Sarah Palin impersonator, and 30 Rock star Tina Fey voices a substitute teacher named Ms. Cantwell who loves all of her temporary students, except for Lisa, and Lisa tries to find out why. Meanwhile, Flanders tries to atone for punching Homer in the face after Flanders' parents take a liking to Homer rather than their own son.

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  • Adults Are Useless: When Marge and Homer talk to Skinner and Chalmers about Lisa's bullying (which Cantwell is not even trying to hide from the latter), neither the school principal nor the district superintendent are willing to do anything about it, and tell so to them bluntly (they cite that the teacher's union would be on their ass if they did anything). Principal Skinner even tells Cantwell that Lisa told on her. He says he did it to teach Lisa not to tell on bullies. When Cantwell runs off from her classroom, they actually try to stop her by telling her that all they needed her to do from day one was clock in every day.
  • An Aesop: Adult bullying is a real thing — either adults bullying kids or adults bullying other adults; bullies have no age limit.
  • Badass Boast: In writing, by Bart: I will make your life a living hell. The demonstration of what he can do within two minutes of arriving to her class is enough to send Cantwell running.
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  • Big Brother Instinct: Ultimately, Bart is the one to drive Cantwell away. While it isn't shown, the fact that Bart agreed to do this at all shows that he does care about Lisa.
  • Brick Joke: Both times Flanders punches him in the face, Homer says he didn't know Flanders was left-handed.
  • Commercial Break Cliffhanger: Homer will forgive Ned on one condition: he wants Ned's wife. One "Gasp!" and commercial break later...
    Homer: To elaborate, I want your wife — the teacher — to help get rid of Lisa's substitute.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: When Cantwell tries to run away from Springfield Elementary after getting a first-rate demonstration of how much of a hell-raiser Bart is, Skinner and Chalmers try to stop her by pointing out that all they needed her to do from day one was just to clock in time every day, with no teaching needed.
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  • Disappointed by the Motive: Lisa's reaction to Cantwell's Motive Rant that Cantwell saw she was pretty and considered her someone that used her looks to get by in life, and thus worth hating. It actually stuns Lisa (and makes her happy, because the teacher is calling her "pretty") long enough for Cantwell to deliver one last zing via splashing her with mud as she drives away.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • The reason why Ms. Cantwell terrorizes Lisa is for being "a pretty girl".
    • Principal Skinner intentionally makes Ms. Cantwell more hostile towards Lisa in retaliation for telling on her.
      Skinner: You should never tell on a bully, Lisa. Everyone knows that.
  • Dramatic Irony: Ms. Cantwell explains the reason why she hates Lisa is because "bookworms like her can't stand party girls like her". Due to Lisa always wearing pearls and her blonde hair, Ms. Cantwell actually believes Lisa is one of these even though Lisa is the complete opposite (to the point of having a friendless background in some episodes).
  • Dumb Blonde: Just because Lisa's hair is blonde, Ms. Cantwell assumed her to follow the stereotype. She also assumes Lisa to be a Brainless Beauty used to being complimented on her looks.
  • Evil Counterpart: From Lisa's point of view, Cantwell is one to Mr. Bergstrom.
  • Hate at First Sight: Cantwell's reaction to Lisa.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: Ned insists that Homer hit him back so they can be even.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Skinner and Chalmers tell Homer and Marge they can't fire Ms. Cantwell because she already has two week tenure, Homer says he hates unions, because they even let a guy who has called three meltdowns keep a job at the nuclear power plant, only for Marge to remind him that he is, in fact, the same guy.
    • In the same scene, Chalmers says that the school does not hire bullies... before pressuring Skinner into shutting up.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: Homer asks Marge to make her trademark murmur, imitating it. Marge insists she’s never made that noise, before making it as she leaves.
  • Innocent Innuendo: When Flanders is "insisting on a fisting", he's just using his rhyming Verbal Tic; he clearly has no idea what a "fisting" actually entails.
  • Insult Backfire: The exact reason Cantwell dislikes Lisa is saved for the very end, where she goes on a Motive Rant that Lisa reminds her of the pretty girls in high school that harassed her. Lisa barely listens to anything after that because she's not used to anyone calling her pretty (previous episodes have her very insecure about her looks due to other kids teasing her).
  • Ironic Hell: Ned's nightmare, with cameo guest star Richard Dawkins as his personal devil and, like him, kind of milquetoast (even the ominous chanting is loaded with "diddlys").
  • Jerkass:
    • Cantwell has absolutely no respect for anybody. On top of treating one of Springfield Elementary's top students like her personal punching bag, she insults her boss and her boss' superior to their faces and even says that she thought that they were in a gay relationship.
    • Homer decides to rub in Flanders' face that not accepting the latter's offer to get even for being punched by punching him back makes him the moral "better man" of the situation (very technically). Flanders punches him out again as a result.
    • Skinner and Chalmers refuse to do something, anything, about Lisa's situation, and say so to her parents' faces. They Hand Wave that this would violate Cantwell's tenure somehow and they would get in hot water with the union as a result, but later on what they tell Cantwell (that all she needed to do was clock in every day) to try to keep her from running off makes it look like they were telling Blatant Lies out of laziness. Even worse is that Skinner told Cantwell that Homer and Marge talked to him and Chalmers (making Cantwell even more hostile towards Lisa) in order to teach Lisa not to rat on bullies.
  • Jerkass to One: Cantwell makes Lisa's school life a living hell. All of the other students at her classroom get an exemplary teacher that likes them all and gives them high grades (better than Lisa's, at least).
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Everything Cantwell does to Lisa, motivated by hatred.
    • Skinner and Chalmers not only refuse to do anything to stop Cantwell's bullying, but Skinner even tells Cantwell that Lisa tried to tell on her (which makes her even more hostile) and tells Lisa that he did this so she will learn to never rat on bullies ever again.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Bart being put into the second grade and causing chaos in just two minutes would destroy Cantwell's life for her evil actions against Lisa.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Cantwell questions "what eight-year-old wears pearls".
  • The Law Firm of Pun, Pun, and Wordplay: Invoked.
    Ned: Homer, if you punch me, we'll be even according to Exodus, Leviticus and Matthew.
    Homer: So you hired a law firm, eh?
  • May I Borrow a Cup of Sugar?: Homer goes to Flanders' house in the morning and asks for sugar, then cream, both of which Flanders agrees to give him. Homer then asks for bacon and eggs. Flanders sighs and invites him in for breakfast.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Ms. Cantwell seems to think Skinner and Chalmers are a gay couple.
  • Nuclear Option: What Ms. Krabappel calls sending Bart to Ms. Cantwell's class to drive her away.
  • No Sympathy: Skinner and Chalmers not only are completely apathetic to Lisa being bullied by Ms. Cantwell, but Skinner decides to make Ms. Cantwell even more hostile to Lisa so she will learn to never tell on bullies again.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: When Bart arrives to Ms. Cantwell's classroom. Played with on Ned's nightmare — the chanting is full of "diddlys" and thus ends up sounding pretty milquetoast for an actual (although equally milquetoast) vision of Hell.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: The plot treats Bart and his pranking expertise this way, to the point Krabappel actually calls the idea of placing him in Lisa's class so he can torment Cantwell "the Nuclear Option" and when he arrives Ominous Latin Chanting plays as background music. He then goes on to demonstrate that he definitely deserved the treatment.
  • Plot Hole: The first time Homer is hit by Ned, the doctor forces Homer to wear an eyepatch while he recovers, which he does up until Ned hits him again, and then he doesn't wear the eyepatch anymore, and actually seems to heal within hours if not a day or two. Homer is also told that the punch gave him severe nerve damage on the eye, but this is never addressed again within the episode nor later.
  • Plot Parallel: While Lisa tries to win an authority figure's approval while said authority figure bullies her, Flanders tries desperately to get Homer to bully him so he can get God's forgiveness for punching someone in the face.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Flanders reaches it twice on the episode regarding Homer: first when his parents who came to visit like Homer more than him (although the three of them smoking pot may have helped), and the second time when Homer decides to be "the better man" by not hitting Ned and stupidly decides to rub it in.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Subverted at the very last minute. If not for Lisa actually jumping on Cantwell's car hood to insist on knowing why, we may have never known that Cantwell bullied Lisa because she thinks she's pretty and thus a Dumb Blonde party girl like the ones that bullied her as a kid and would have had to accept her explanation that "sometimes people just won't like you".
  • Sadist Teacher: Ms. Cantwell to Lisa, and only Lisa. To everyone else she's great. She even likes Ralph Wiggum over Lisa.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: The reason Lisa gets a "B"-grade on her work while Ralph gets an "A" on his lousy drawing? "Because I said so".
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Right after two minutes of dealing with Bart (during which he wrecks the classroom, incites a riot, writes a hundred times on the chalkboard "I will make your life a living hell" and posts an embarrassing video of her on YouTube), Cantwell decides to run away from the school.
  • Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: Lisa can't imagine why any teacher wouldn't like her. Turns out that Cantwell thinks she's a pretty girl that deserves a living hell because of Freudian Excuse (even if Lisa is an established Hollywood Nerd that oftentimes lives a living hell because she's not "pretty" enough).
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To "Lisa's Substitute". The first one gives Lisa a Be Yourself message (and her first, dramatic, heartbreak), while this episode is about her (kind of) learning that some people will hate you from the second they meet you and you may or may not know why.
  • Take a Third Option: How the Cantwell situation is resolved by Homer: with option one being hitting Ned (which he doesn't want to do) and option two being doing nothing, Option Three is him convincing Edna that he will accept Ned's apology if she can think of something. Edna decides on the Nuclear Option.
    • Ms. Cantwell has to choose being putting up with Bart or being nice to Lisa. She chooses to quit her job.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Played with: Cantwell arrives to the classroom and it appears to be set up to be similar to the episode "Lisa's Substitute", and apparently she does a good job teaching the rest of the class. It's Lisa that bears the brunt of her mean-spiritedness.
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