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Recap / The Simpsons S2 E13 "Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment"

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Original air date: 2/7/1991

Production code: 7F13

Homer gets an illegal cable hook-up, which causes Lisa to worry for her father's soul, as she learned about the 8th Commandment in Sunday school ("Thou shalt not steal") and begins seeing theft everywhere she looks.


Tropes:

  • Anyone Remember Pogs?: Barney asks Moe why the bar doesn't have cable TV. He replies, "It was that, or the mechanical bull. (camera pans back to show the cobweb encrusted bull) I made my choice, and I stand by it."
  • Being Good Sucks: Homer misses the match and deprives himself of cable after his conscience gets the better of him.
    Lisa: Dad, we may have just saved your soul.
    Homer: Yeah, at the worst possible time!
  • Body Wipe: With Homer, as he is putting his foot down, after bickering with Marge about unplugging the cable.
  • Call-Back: While Homer is watching TV, one sound clip heard is Scratchy saying "Lemonade?"
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  • Card-Carrying Villain: A brief intro sequence depicts an Old Testament version of Homer who answers to "Homer the Thief" having a friendly chat with "Zohar the Adulterer" and the local "Carver of Graven Images." When Moses comes down from Mount Sinai and starts reading aloud from his new stone tablets, the trio are less than thrilled.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • It seems unusual for Lisa to be so gung-ho about Christian morals after she's been a Buddhist for several seasons, not to mention more concerned with the environment and social justice than her own moral status. She still would not be okay with Homer stealing, of course, but the point is that there would be another reason for it than the one of this episode.
    • Despite the episode being heavily rooted in Christian morality, Ned Flanders is only seen in the opening scene, and his angry reaction to being offered free cable is shown to be the result of him just generally disliking criminals rather than being a violation of the Eighth Commandment, which is what you'd expect him to object to. Likewise, he briefly mentions that he got basic cable because he wanted to watch the arts and crafts channel; while this isn't completely inconsistent with his more established character, just about any future episode would have shown him more interested in the Christian channels.
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  • Compressed Vice: In addition to stealing cable, Homer has a persistent case of Sticky Fingers we've never seen up to this point, albeit it only extends to petty amenities such as office supplies from work and mugs from Moe's Tavern. Just to drive it home, his Biblical equivalent in the intro sequence is called "Homer the Thief." (This trait would eventually become an occasionally-seen feature of his character, usually when it came to taking stuff from Flanders.)
    Lovejoy: You're here for a reason. Is your father stealing bread?
    Lisa: Maybe. I don't watch him every minute.
  • Corrupt Cop: Some cops show up at the Simpson residence upon being informed Homer has an illegal cable hook-up. Homer is initially afraid they're there to arrest him but they tell him they just want to watch the match.
  • Couch Gag: The Simpsons do an Egyptian dance before jumping on the couch in a "Ta-da" pose.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lisa forces Marge to admit she ate two grapes to a grocery store clerk. Rather than comically overreacting, the clerk does not care and openly mocks Marge for asking to be charged for them.
    Clerk: Uh, I need a price check on two grapes. Yeah, you heard me, Phil. Two measly... stinkin' grapes.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: This trope is played remarkably straight. Even the guy who hooks up the cable is later shown to be stealing car stereos and breaking into houses. Homer, who's shown to have stolen from Moe's and work and is an unabashed alcoholic and Jerkass, comes to view this (although only after Lisa and Marge guilt-tripped him to the point he gave in) as a kind of evil even he can't support.
  • Dirty Kid: Bart takes a liking to the adult programming on Top Hat Entertainment, and charges all the other boys in the neighborhood to come watch it.
  • Distant Prologue: "Mt. Sinai: 1220 B.C.", when the commandments are first announced.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • When Homer says he only invited a few close friends to watch the fight, and then Apu shows up, it's meant as a joke: the idea is that Homer has actually invited anyone and everyone to watch the fight, even if they're less a "close friend" and more just a "guy I see at the convenience store a lot". Since this episode aired, however, the show has really built up the friendship between Apu and the Simpson family, to the point where him showing up at a gathering of Homer's close friends would make complete sense. It also creates some weird continuity issues after Season 5's "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" where Homer and Apu were in a music group together in the 80s.
    • The episode being so steeped in Christian values can come off as incredibly weird for the Simpsons considering mocking conservative Christians and Christianity in general would become one of the most common targets for them in the later seasons.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Lisa makes Marge feel like a criminal for stealing from her local supermarket (and Marge tearfully confesses to the cashier), which is a bit of an overreaction when you consider that all Marge did was eat two grapes.
  • Funny Background Event: Jimbo Jones can twice be seen stealing things in the background, at the supermarket and later at the Kwik-e-Mart.
  • Holier Than Thou: Lisa really lays it on thick over the Eighth Commandment. When she guilts Marge into paying for two grapes she sampled at the grocery store, the clerk is annoyed that he has to call in a price check for two grapes.
  • I Am Not Shazam: In-universe. Bart's comments while watching hours of movies on cable: "This is where Jaws eats the boat!" "This is where Die Hard jumps out the window!" "This is where Wall Street gets arrested!"
  • Insistent Terminology: When Mr. Burns shows up to watch the fight, Homer tells Bart to hide the stuff he "borrowed" from work. Bart won't obey until Homer admits that, by "borrowed", he actually means "stole".
  • Insufferable Genius / Rightly Self-Righteous: Lisa and Marge guilt trip Homer into giving up cable. Homer eventually admits defeat, but tells them he loathes them for it. They just smirk in response. Earlier, Lisa did the same to Marge over testing two grapes in store, Marge was similarly annoyed by it while Lisa just smiled. She's right and both sides sure know it.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: At the very end, when Homer cuts the cable, the picture is replaced by static just before the credits, implying the viewers was also stealing cable.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Bart takes full advantage of his ability to say "hell" to his parents since that was the topic of that week's Sunday School.
      Marge: So, what did you children learn about today?
      Bart: Hell.
      Homer: BART!
      Bart: But that's what we learned about. I sure as hell can't tell you we learned about Hell unless I say "hell", can't I?
      Homer: Well, the lad has a point.
      Bart: Hell, yes!
      Marge: Bart!
      Bart: [singing] Hell, hell, hell, hell...
      Marge: Bart, you're no longer in Sunday School. Don't swear.
    • Later that same day:
      Marge: What's gotten into Lisa?
      Bart: Beats the hell outa me.
      Homer: BART!
  • Missing the Good Stuff: In addition to guilt-tripping him into accepting that stealing cable is wrong, Marge and Lisa guilt-trip Homer into staying outside the house while the boxing match is on (and Homer forces Bart to stay outside, too). As a result, while a large number of people are inside partying, the Simpsons males are suffering in silence.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Drederick Tatum is a parody of Mike Tyson. His opponent Watson is based on Marvin Hagler.
  • Offer Void In Nebraska:
    "You're watching Top Hat Entertainment. Adult programming all day, every day. Except in Florida and Utah."
    • The line refers to state and municipal ordinances in those two states attempted during the 1980s that sought to prohibit cable systems from transmitting objectionable content offered by mainstream and adult-oriented pay television services that, through lawsuits filed by HBO and other groups, were struck down in district and circuit courts on First Amendment grounds.
  • Oh, Crap!: Homer after realizing he just bought cable from a criminal who breaks into people's houses.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: The normally friendly Ned is furious that he was offered illegal cable hook-up and yells at the shady cable man to leave.
  • Parallel Porn Titles: The two adult films Bart watched are Stardust Mammories and Broadcast Nudes.
  • Shout-Out: The sequence where Homer stops the cable guy's truck is a frame-by-frame homage to North By Northwest. The plate on the truck even reads ''1NBNW''.
  • Skewed Priorities: Lisa chews out Marge for "stealing" two grapes, while in the background Jimbo Jones is visibly stealing several far more valuable items.
  • Slumming It: Mr. Burns attends Homer's fight-viewing party so he can experience lower-middleclass life despite being able to easily afford the program himself.
  • Soapbox Sadie: From the moment Lisa learns about the commandments (especially the eighth, "Thou Shalt Not Steal") she gets on it and guilt-trips her entire family into accepting that stealing is wrong and getting varying degrees of humiliation as a result (Marge is insulted by a jackass clerk and Homer accidentally cuts the power to the entirety of Evergreen Terrace trying to cut the cable).
  • Special Guest: Phil Hartman as the Cable Guy, Moses and Troy McClure
    • And a bunch of the voices on TV. They really got their money's worth out of Hartman's appearance!
  • Stealing from the Till: Homer. When Burns and Smithers arrive to the Simpsons' house to see the match, the former asks Bart to hide a lot of stuff he borrow..., er, stole from the power plant, from pencils to a computer, before the latter enter.
  • This Is the Part Where...: "...Jaws eats the boat!" "...Die Hard jumps through the window!" "...Wall Street gets arrested!"
  • Time Passes Montage: While Homer and the rest of the family watch cable TV after they first got it, a potted plant sapling appears next to the couch (it wasn't there earlier in the scene). As the montage progresses, the plant grows bigger during each fade to the following scene. At the end of the montage, at which point, Marge tells Homer to get ready for church while he's watching Davey and Goliath, the plant has withered.


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