Original air date: 1/10/1991
Production code: 7F10
Bart is hit by Mr. Burns's car and falls into a coma. When he wakes up, his family tries to create a lawsuit against Mr. Burns. Both Burns and the Simpsons exaggerate Bart's injuries, which leads to yet another strain on Marge and Homer's marriage.
This episode contains examples of:
- Affably Evil: Satan in this episode is quite pleasant and polite to Bart.
- Ambulance Chaser: Lionel Hutz. It's even mentioned the Simpsons first saw him when he was chasing Bart's ambulance. When Homer comes to see him, Hutz hears an ambulance and decides not to go after it this time since he's already got a case.
- And You Were There: After talking to Satan, Bart looks up at Hell's ceiling and sees the family, with Marge calling out to him. When Bart awakes after being hit by a car to find Homer, Marge and Lisa surrounding him, along with bottom-feeding attorney Lionel Hutz grinning cheesily at him:Bart: I did go away, Mom! I was miles and miles and miles away, writhing in agony in the pits of Hell. And you were there, and you, and you, and you... [to Hutz] You I've never seen before.
- Angry Guard Dog: Upon hearing that the Simpsons have been lying about Bart's injuries, Mr. Burns revokes his offer and sends Homer and Marge out by having his hounds chase them down. Whether he did this out of spite or he was always going to sic the hounds on them is anyone's guess.
- Animal Motifs: This isn't the first time, and it certainly wouldn't be the last, that someone refers to Homer as an ape.
- Artistic License Biology: Mr. Burns has a rhinoceros trophy which he describes as "the last Indonesian rhino on Earth". Not only is there no species called an Indonesian rhino in real life, but Indonesia actually has two kinds of rhinos, the Javan rhino and the Sumatran rhino (both still extant, but critically endangered). Also, the trophy looks more like an African species of rhino than any of the Indonesian species.
- Back-Alley Doctor: Dr. Nick Riviera makes his first appearance, and what he does is make sure Bart looks a lot more injured than he really is, including virtually mummifying him in bandages. Marge says in her statement that she really doesn't think he's certified at all.
- Backfire on the Witness Stand: When Mr. Burns calls Homer and Marge to his mansion to settle for $500,000 instead of the million Homer is asking for, he eavesdrops on Homer and Marge's conversation, and back at the courtroom, Burns has his lawyers ask Marge to repeat what she said back at the mansion. When Marge testifies, she states that she just wanted Mr. Burns to admit culpability and pay for Bart's hospital bill, but Hutz convinced her and Homer to instead sue for a million dollars and to take Bart to see Dr. Nick instead of Dr. Hibbert, because the former came up with the idea to make Bart's injuries look more serious than they were, and even states that Riviera may be a Back-Alley Doctor. As a result of Marge's testimony, Homer has to settle for zero dollars.
- Backhanded Apology: Zigzagged. Though Marge genuinely feels bad about ruining Homer's lawsuit, she words it as wanting Homer to "forgive [her] for doing the right thing." She never directly apologizes for it. Of course, he ignored her concerns about going too far.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Homer could've taken the offer and walked away but let his ego get the better of him. Mr. Burns manages to find out about the phony doctors after overhearing Marge. Then he has her come to the stand in court the next day. Not surprisingly, she winds up blowing it for Homer and winning the case for Mr. Burns. Downplayed in that, as evil as Burns is, Homer's lawsuit against him is by no means moral and is driven by pure greed.
- Big "NO!": Mr. Burns does this after Bart's been hit, according to his personal testimony.
- Blatant Lies: Both Bart and Burns's testimony at trial is pretty much this, though the jury seems more inclined to believe Bart's.Burns: [after giving his testimony and seeing everyone in the courtroom (even Smithers) glaring at him] What are you looking at me like that for?! You believed his cock-and-bull story!
- Blunt "Yes"Homer: Mr. Burns, are you trying to get me drunk?
- Characterization Marches On: Hutz is portrayed as more competent than he would be in later episodes, coming very close to winning the court case against Burns, and losing only due to the actions of the Simpsons. Later episodes would go on to show how he's not only a comically inept lawyer but that he may not even legally be one.
- Child Hater: When Burns runs over Bart, he is totally unconcerned about what he did and tells Smithers to just toss the (apparently dead) kid a nickel so they could move on, and he says in court under oath that he should be allowed to run over any kids he wants. Bart's faked statement of what happened exaggerates this, with Burns deliberately racing towards him while cackling like a madman with a car that is modified for killing people. Burns's statement makes Smithers the one who hates kids.
- Couch Gag: Homer pushes the family off the couch to have it all to himself while the rest of the family sits on the floor.
- Court Room Episode: The majority of the episode is set in court, where the Simpsons try to sue Mr. Burns.
- Cultural Translation: In Brazil, the line about Bart not being due in Hell until the Yankees win the World Series is changed to say Bart isn't due until Brazil wins the FIFA World Cup (which happened in 1994, on US soil). At the time of the episode's airing, the New York Yankees were in the middle of a long failure to even contend for a postseason berth as their last World Series victory was in 1978 while their last postseason appearance was in 1981. Meanwhile, Brazil had it worse as the soccer/football national team had not won the World Cup since their third title in 1970.
- Death Seeker: Burns' account of the incident during the trial depicts Bart as Laughing Mad and intentionally hurtling himself in front of Burns' car. Naturally, the court doesn't quite buy it.
- Decoy Protagonist: Bart is the title character whose accident sets the plot in motion. But not long after being hit, he gets pushed to the side as the episode moves into the court proceedings.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Bart dies for a short while and is on his way to Heaven... which sends him straight to hell for not holding on to the sides of the escalator taking him up and spitting over the side. To be kind of fair, they did tell him not to. And the Devil tells Bart spitting over the side is merely what cinched ending up in hell.
- Early-Installment Weirdness:
- This is one of few episodes, save for "Treehouse of Horror", where the title appears onscreen at the start of the episode. (The writers said they included it so people would wonder if all the previous episodes had onscreen titles and they just hadn't noticed.)
- Vocal example: Lionel Hutz sounded more like Troy McClure in this episode, no doubt because Phil Hartman was still finding his character. Same happens with Dr. Nick; his voice has more deeper tone than it would be in later episodes.
- Burns is driving himself as he hits Bart when the later episode "Homer the Smithers" establishes that Burns avoids doing anything for himself, including driving.
- In later episodes, Orville Simpson looks almost identical to either Homer or Abe. Here, he looks like neither, though this could be due to his appearance being entirely in Bart's imagination.
- Easily Forgiven: Double Subverted: Homer actually spends some time wrestling with the fact that Marge's actions cost him $1 million, fearing it's something he won't be able to live peacefully with and even that it may have caused him to fall out of love with her. However, after she urges him to look her in the eyes and decide how he feels, his anger melts away and he declares that he loves her more than ever.
- Episode Title Card: Parodied. Just as the title dissolves during the opening credits, Bart is hit.
- Even the Dog Is Ashamed: Well, right-hand man. Even Smithers scowls, unimpressed at Burns's false testimony. Not helped in the least that he vilified him in his retelling to make himself look good.
- Everyone Has Standards: Smithers is the only one who's actually concerned about Bart's safety during the initial hit. When Burns tells his side of the story, he switches and exaggerates this scene. Even Smithers looks unimpressed by this testimony.Smithers: Uh-oh, I think the boy's hurt.
Burns: Oh, for crying out loud, just give him a nickel and let's get going.
- Evil Is Hammy: Burns tears into his lawyers after the trial's initial stage for failing to get the jury on his side.Burns: HANG YOUR HEADS IN SHAME, YOU OVERPRICED, UNDER-BRAINED GLORIFIED NOTARY PUBLICS!! JUST GET THAT BIG APE TO MY HOUSE TONIGHT! AND WE'LL BUY HIM OFF WITH A BANANA OR TWO!!!
Burns: (while holding an unconscious Bart in his arms) NOOOOOOO! TAKE ME! I'M OLLLLLD!
- Even when he depicts himself as a good guy during his testimony, Burns is still plenty hammy during his (fake) flashback sequence.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Bart is indeed hit by a car.
- Flaw Exploitation: After observing Marge's unwillingness over the lawsuit's sneaky tactics and exaggerations, Burn's lawyer has Marge take a statement the following day, knowing she would expose everything.
- Frivolous Lawsuit: Burns accidentally hits Bart with his limo; the family attorney 'tricks' Homer into exaggerating the resulting injuries to squeeze more money from Burns.Hutz: Doctor, are you sure there isn't a little soft tissue trauma in the facial area?
Dr. Nick: Oh yeah, tons of it! [wrapping Bart's head with bandages] Just say when!
- The irony is they would have gotten something, at least covering Bart's hospital bill as Marge wanted, if they had just told the truth at trial rather than make up false claims. Or if Homer had just taken the half million Burns had offered him and went home. They ended up with nothing because Homer was greedy.
- A Glass in the Hand: Epically failed by Burns in one scene — he is so absurdly weak that he can't crush a paper cup.
- Gray-and-Gray Morality: Burns is just as wretched as ever and is completely unconcerned when he hits Bart. However, it really was an honest accident on Burns' part, Bart's jaywalking on his skateboard was as much to blame, and Homer's lawsuit against him is completely frivolous as Bart's injuries weren't particularly grievous or expensive, which is why Burns' win doesn't make him a Karma Houdini. Basically, no one's in the right here.
- HA HA HANo: A variant:Hutz: (rehearsing with Bart for the trial) Now let's pretend you're on the witness stand. How are you today Bart?
Hutz: (sarcastically chill) Oh fine. Isn't that nice? Bart says he's fine. (Right in Bart's face) WRONG!!! YOU ARE NOT FINE!!! YOU ARE IN CONSTANT PAIN!!!
- Honor Before Reason: Marge telling the whole truth when she is summoned as a witness by Burns' Army of Lawyers. Even more stupid because while there is the truth that Hutz is exaggerating Bart's injuries for the sake of getting the jury's sympathy and thus getting extra settlement money, she doesn't seem to care that Bart was hurt bad enough to be put in the hospital (and die for a while — then again, she probably doesn't know that this happened to him), and she doesn't insist that Burns should at least cover the bill.
- It Is Not Your Time: In Bart's Near-Death Experience, he gets sent to Hell, but escapes when Satan pulls up his file on a computer and realizes there's been a mistake, as he's not due to arrive until "the Yankees win the pennant," which is "nearly a century from now."
- I Warned You: Bart is told not to spit over the side of the escalator that brings him to Heaven. He does it anyway and is promptly thrown in Hell.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Burns angrily berates his lawyers for nearly losing the case. He's arguably justified given that they're being outwitted by the incompetent Ambulance Chaser Lionel Hutz. Notably, Burns wins the case almost on his own by inviting Homer and Marge to his house and then eavesdropping on their conversation and Marge's concerns about Hutz's sleazy tactics. His lawyers' only real contribution was to formally call Marge to the stand.
- Karma Houdini: Both Burns and Homer get this in different ways:
- Despite hitting Bart with his car, Burns gets away with not having to pay the Simpsons a penny due to Homer's and Hutz's sleazy legal tactics.
- Homer doesn't get any money, but he's frankly extremely lucky he didn't get fired or sued by Burns for trying to defraud him, not to mention that he didn't get charged with fraud or perjury (given that he's Bart's father, he's legally responsible for Bart perjuring himself in court, not to mention Bart needs to be spoon-fed the lies he tells during the trial).
- Kicked Out of Heaven: Bart gets into Heaven, but when he spits over the escalator to Heaven (right after a heavenly voice said not to), he's sent straight to hell. However, the devil finds out that Bart has died sooner than he's supposed to and he is brought back to life.Devil: You're here for a lifetime of bad deeds. Spitting over the escalator just clinched it.
- Kick the Dog: Burns scathingly tells Smithers to "just give [Bart] a nickel and let's get going", showing his obvious lack of concern for Bart's safety.
- Laughing Mad: Mr. Burns as he runs Bart over in the latter's retelling of the story.
- Moral Guardians: Satan tells Bart to "lie, cheat and listen to Heavy Metal music", in reference to the claim of many ultraconservative Christian fundamentalist preachers in the US who claimed metal music has Satanic messages.
- My Card: Hutz gives the Simpsons a card that turns into a sponge when you put it in water.
- Never My Fault:
- Homer refuses to take Burns' offer, and Marge tells him that she doesn't like the situation they're in, including Homer's greed and "phony doctors". Burns overhears this and has Marge up to the stands to confess everything. Later, Homer confesses to Marge that he isn't sure if he loves her anymore for blowing their chance at $1 million.
- Marge takes no responsibility for failing to ensure that at least Bart's medical bills were covered. Despite Homer rejecting Burns' offer of $100 because it didn't cover Bart's medical expenses, Marge focuses only on the $5 that she would have given Bart had he done his chores. Marge is in the right for standing against Homer's greed, but she could have told the truth about Bart's medical bills and still left the Simpsons in position to receive a few thousand dollars in damages from Burns to cover them. Although $5,000 to $10,000 is hardly anything to a billionaire like Burns, it's a significant sum to a middle-class family like the Simpsons, especially in 1991.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: It was a pretty open and shut case (particularly given how Burns incriminates himself during the trial), but Homer blew it by rejecting the initial offer, listening to Hutz, and ignoring Marge, who throws the Hero Ball and confesses everything in court.
- No Sympathy: While Smithers is concerned for Bart after he gets ran over, Mr. Burns sounds quite annoyed and just tells Smithers to give Bart a nickle and keep going. As Smithers suggests they call an ambulance for Bart, all Mr. Burns does is mutter angrily, treating it all like it was an inconvenience for the both of them.
- Not Helping Your Case: Burns proclaiming that a man of his stature should be allowed to run over as many kids as he wants probably played a significant role in the court believing Bart's story.
- Off-Model: During the cross-examination of Marge, when the Blue-Haired Lawyer asks her for her opinion on Dr. Nick, a shot of him mistakenly has him appear in both the foreground and background◊, while previous iterations of the same shot, such as this one◊, correctly has him only appear in the foreground.
- Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Marge brings up the phony doctors whilst at Burns's mansion, while he and Smithers were spying on them. She may not have known this fact, but she should have remembered to be careful of what she mentioned regardless.
- Our Demons Are Different: Satan apparently owns a computer to store the files of whom should be in Hell and who doesn't. Also In-Universe: later designs of Satan in the show would look different.
- Pathetically Weak: Burns threatens to crush Homer like a paper cup, then discovers he has great difficulty crushing a real paper cup.
- The Power of Love: After the trial falls through thanks to Marge's confession, Homer hesitantly tells her that he may not love her anymore; not because of the money, but because she couldn't be by his side when it mattered most. She then begs him to at least say it in front of her face to confirm this, and after a moment staring into her eyes...Homer: Oh who am I kidding? I love you more than ever!
- Pragmatic Villainy: Burns doesn't fire Homer because of the media backlash he would likely suffer as a result. He has to be convinced by Smithers first, though, as he initially imagines that he'll be regarded as a hero.
- "Rashomon"-Style: Both Bart and Burns deliver wildly different retellings of the accident to the court, exaggerating things to make themselves look more sympathetic in order to win the case. Bart claims that Burns intentionally tried to run him down, while Burns says that the boy moved wildly all over the road as he desperately tried to avoid hitting Bart (and let out an emotional Big "NO!" and Take Me Instead when he did). Neither are remotely true, but the court clearly sides with Bart and doesn't believe Burns for a second.
- Running Over the Plot: As the episode's title says, Bart is hit by a car. Being more specific, he's hit by Mr. Burns' car and the episode revolves around Homer trying to fleece Burns for all the money he can in court.
- Satan: Bart meets him briefly. They get along pretty (disturbingly) well.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Marge telling the truth and ruining the lawsuit.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Mr. Burns claims at the beginning of the trial he should be allowed to run over anyone he wants.
- Self-Inflicted Hell: Bart could have avoided going to Hell if he hadn't spit over the side of the escalator that brought him to Heaven.
- Bart arrives in Hell where he sees a scene from Hieronymus Bosch's triptych of the "Garden of Earthly Delights".
- Satan says: "Please, allow me to introduce myself", which is a reference to the first line in The Rolling Stones' song "Sympathy for the Devil" from Beggars Banquet.
- Bart lying in the hospital bed and saying "And you were there, and you..." is a reference to the ending of The Wizard of Oz.
- Smug Smiler: Burns and his lawyers leer imperiously at Homer and Hutz after winning the case.
- Spanner in the Works: The lawsuit was definitely going to be won by Hutz and Homer, up until Marge makes clear out loud one time too many that she doesn't feel comfortable about being part of it, or relying on someone who may not be a certified doctor (much less a real one). She then cinches it by confessing in court (thanks to Burns's lawyers summoning her as a witness) that Bart wasn't hurt too badly (that she knows of) as a result of being hit by the car.
- Special Guest: Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz and the PA announcer on the way to Heaven.
- Stairway to Heaven: Bart first gets on the escalator to heaven, but he messes up by not holding onto the handrail and spitting over the side.
- Take Me Instead: Burns's cry when Bart is hit by a car, according to his testimony."Take me instead! I'm old!"
- Take That!: Satan telling Bart to "lie, cheat and listen to Heavy Metal music".
- Time Marches On: Satan says Bart isn't supposed to arrive in Hell, until "the Yankees wins the pennant. That's nearly a century from now." In Real Life, the Yankees have won the A.L. pennant seven times and the World Series five times since the episode initially aired, the first time for each in 1996.note
- Too Dumb to Live:
- Bart forgot to look both ways before skateboarding across the street, and is hit by Burns' car.
- Bart actually goes to Heaven first, but he blows it by disobeying the rules immediately after hearing them. After which he plummets to Hell.
- Marge doesn't believe that an accident that warranted Bart waking up in the hospital is worth anything more than the $5 she and Homer would give Bart for his allowance. Even if she's uncomfortable with trying to bilk Burns for $1 million, she should have at least mentioned the cost of Bart's hospital bills and gotten those covered.
- Weaponized Car: Bart's exaggerated account of the events has him imagining that Burns's antique car has modifications for deliberate hit-and-runs that wouldn't look out of place in Death Race 2000, including a reinforced bumper, a sight for aiming the car on the driver's side and Smithers acting like a navigator.