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Recap / The Simpsons S2 E11: "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish"

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Episode - 7F11
First Aired - 1/24/1991
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The Simpsons have dinner out at a Japanese restaurant, which turns deadly when Homer eats some improperly-cut fugu (raw blowfish) and is told by Dr. Hibbert that he has only 22 hours left to live.

Thirteen years before this episode fugu poisoning was the plot of an episode of Columbo.


Tropes:

  • Aesop Amnesia: When Homer is ecstatic that he's alive, he vows to live life to its fullest. The next scene is Homer watching TV and eating pork rinds. (Maybe that is living life to its fullest, by Homer's standards.)
  • Art Major Biology: Contrary to how it is potentially depicted here, the actual Fugu poison is a paralytic neurotoxin, not a slow-acting asymptomatic killer. The toxin (known as tetrodotoxin) causes paralysis by blocking sodium ions in nerve axons, preventing any brain signals from being sent and causing muscles to cease movement, including involuntary breathing muscles, and the actual death comes from the person being unable to breathe.
    • The other difference is that while terodotoxin has no known antidote, the treatment for fugu (if one can do it fast enough) is to be placed on life support and have the stomach pumped until the poison is metabolized and the body can regain function. It is not the untreatable and delayed death sentence that fugu is shown to be here, and it is certainly not asymptomatic (i.e. there would be NO ambiguity about whether he was poisoned).
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    • If the fugu had actually been improperly prepared, Homer would have known after less than 30 minutes if he had been poisoned, and then realized he would have been fine. Even if Homer ate a nonlethal dose, he would have likely suffered major convulsions, seizures, and potential heart failure within 1-4 hours of ingestion.
  • As Himself: Larry King (reading The Bible on tape).
  • Auto Erotica: Krabappel and the head chef of the sushi restaurant.
  • Borrowed Catch Phrase:
    Homer: Hey Burns! Eat... my... shorts!
  • Captivity Harmonica: Parodied. Homer asks his harmonica-playing cellmate what he's in for. The answer? "Atmosphere."
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • Lou and Eddie act like incompetent or malicious policemen when generally speaking later on in the series they are portrayed as more reasonable, competent foils to their boss, Chief Wiggum.
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    • Smithers sees Mr. Burns eyeing a beautiful woman and not only doesn't get jealous, but also encourages him and seems to be interested in the woman himself.
  • Creator Cameo: Simpsons co-producer Richie Sakai appears as himself at the karaoke bar, although Dan Castellaneta voices him using his natural voice.
  • Crossing the Burnt Bridge: While believing he had less than 24 hours to live, Homer jumped at the opportunity to tell Mr. Burns off. We never get to see the consequences when it turns out that Homer isn't going to die (see What Could Have Been on the Trivia page).
  • Defying the Censors: The censors did not like Bart and Lisa singing the theme from Shaft, so the producers had to show a clip from the Academy Awards when that song was nominated, as proof that it had previously been performed on prime time television without repercussions.
  • Disney Death: Homer appears to die at the end of the episode, but Marge discovers that he's only fallen asleep.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: When Lisa says she wants to go somewhere without burgers, pizza, or fried chicken, Homer says, "We'll go to Mars!", indicating he doesn't believe restaurants exist that don't sell those entrees.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Homer and Dr. Hibbert go through this in about 30 seconds. "Mr. Simpson, your progress astounds me!"
  • The Food Poisoning Incident: Homer is afraid he's going to die from eating improperly cooked fugu.
  • Gilligan Cut and Hypocritical Humor: When Homer survived the fugu, he tells Marge he's going to take advantage of life and start really living. The episode ends with Homer watching a bowling competition on TV while eating pork rinds.
  • Hair Reboot: Homer shows Bart how to shave and Homer's stubble grows back within a single frame.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Homer grumbles about how he wouldn’t be in his situation if he didn’t agree to eat at a sushi bar, never mind the fact HE was the one who didn’t listen to the staff’s warnings when they tried to tell him, instead ordering them to bring him food without question.
    • The loud argument between the restaurant staff translated makes evident they blame the other for the improperly prepared Fugu.
  • Not Helping Your Case: During Homer's Video Will recorded for Maggie, he tries to eulogize himself as "a simple man. A kind man. A gentle man who loved his children and— D'oh!" He's been interrupted by a phone call from Milhouse, so he ends up standing up close to the camera, scratching his butt and exclaiming, "Bart, get your butt down here!"
  • Recycled Animation: The animation of Homer watching bowling on TV and eating Pork Rinds Lite is reused from Season 1. It originally showed Homer choking on the pork rinds, but that was cut out and Homer's chewing was put on a cycle.
  • Sequential Symptom Syndrome: Homer starts suffering the five stages of grief as soon as Dr. Hibbert describes each one of them.
  • Shown Their Work: When the chef of the sushi bar finds out that Homer has been poisoned, he yells at his apprentices in Japanese. The staff wanted the language they spoke to be actual Japanese, so they hired a Japanese actor who translated the lines for them.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Mrs. Krabappel's role consists of having sex with the only chef in the Happy Sumo to have the required experience to cut fugu. If not for that, Homer would not have spent the rest of the episode thinking he was poisoned and would die from it.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Normally, Lisa is portrayed as being adept at the baritone saxophone. However, in this episode, a bass saxophone is heard playing instead.
  • Special Guest: Joey Miyashima as Toshiro; Sab Shimono as the sushi bar chef; George Takei as Akira (later replaced with Hank Azaria); Diane Tanaka as the bar hostess
  • Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: All the Japanese in this episode is legitimate. It probably helps that all the people speaking it are Japanese.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Homer orders the Fugu blowfish platter, which the waiter tries to warn him about the dangers of that particular dish. However, Homer ignores the warning and tells him to give him his dish because he was impatient. Then he inadvertently caused the amateur chef to mess up the cutting with his impatient shout, “I WANT MY FUGU!” Never mind the restaurant having Fugu on their menu in the first place, despite their clear uncertainty about preparing it safely.
    • In Real Life, this would never have even been attempted. The Japanese take proper fugu preparation VERY seriously, requiring years of schooling and experience to obtain a license to handle it, as well as extensive preparation time and special tools needed. Even at the time of airing, despite sushi being far less ubiquitous than it is today, America had very strict regulation of the fish. Most sushi restaurants back then, and even today, have the fugu safely sliced in Japan and freeze-flown to the United States. Had Homer actually died from this mishap, the restaurant would have been in ENORMOUS legal trouble. A more likely outcome would be for the chef to adamantly refuse making it.
    • Also, fugu is VERY expensive because of the expertise required and the need to import it, as unlike most fish used for sushi, fugu is not present in water outside of East Asia. A modern sushi place that serves fugu (if you can find one, not many of them do) would charge at least $200 for it. A working-class family like the Simpsons would likely stay far away from such an order.
  • Video Will: Homer tries to film one for Maggie, but is interrupted by a phone call from Milhouse.

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