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Recap / The Simpsons S2 E19 "Lisa's Substitute"

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Episode - 7F19
First Aired - 4/25/1991

After Ms. Hoover announces that she's on medical leave for Lyme diseasenote , Lisa finds a kindred spirit in her substitute teacher, Mr. Bergstrom, but when he leaves and Ms. Hoover returns, Lisa is crushed and angry that Homer doesn't care. Meanwhile, Bart runs for class president.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: To the famous moment from The Graduate with the guy framed under a woman's leg, which is kind of odd since Dustin Hoffman was credited under the Punny Name "Sam Etic" rather than his actual name.
    Mr. Bergstrom: Mrs. Krabappel, you're trying to seduce me.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Mr. Bergstrom encourages students to make fun of his name and is amused by a picture of him captioned with "the singing dork".
  • Assumed Win: The fourth graders are so confident that Bart would win the election that none of them bother to vote. By the time Bart gathers Milhouse and Lewis from recess, it's already too late. Martin even poses with a newspaper whose headline reads "Simpson Defeats Prince".
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  • Bumbling Dad: Homer, of course.
    Mr. Bergstrom: Lisa, your homework is always so neat. How can I put this? Does your father help you with it?
    Lisa: No. Homework's not my father's specialty.
    Mr. Bergstrom: Well there's no shame in it, I mean, my dad—
    Lisa: Not mine.
    Mr. Bergstrom: You didn't let me finish—
    Lisa: Unless the next word was "burped", you didn't have to.
  • But Now I Must Go: Mr. Bergstrom accepts a job at another town and leaves Springfield.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Lisa drops a major eye-opener on Homer when it seems like he doesn't care about Mr. Bergstrom leaving or why she's sad, one that shocks even Bart simply because no one expected her to say it:
    Lisa: I didn't think you'd understand...
    Homer: Hey! Just because I don't care doesn't mean I don't understand.
    Lisa: [stands up angrily] I'm glad I'm not crying, because I would hate for you to think what I'm about to say is based on emotion, [points angrily at a startled Homer] but YOU sir... are a BABOON!
    Homer: [gasp] Me?
    Homer: [stricken] I don't think you realize what you're saying...
    Lisa: BABOON!!! [runs off crying]
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  • Cheer Them Up with Laughter: Homer pretends to be a monkey to make Lisa laugh which manages to cheer her up.
  • Chore Character Exploration: While Marge and Lisa are folding laundry, Lisa talks about how much she likes Mr. Bergstrom. At one point, Snowball II walks onto a sheet and Marge has to move her out of the way.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. Bergstrom is an intelligent, sophisticated, dedicated, loving, excellent teacher who really does care about the students. He becomes a giant inspiration for Lisa.
  • Crack Defeat: Deconstructed. Everyone is so sure that Bart will win the election that only two students (Bart's opponent Martin and a friend of his) voted, and Martin won.
  • Crowd Chant: "More asbestos! More asbestos! More asbestos!"
  • Decided by One Vote: Two, actually. Bart and his would-be voters were so sure of Bart's impending victory they didn't bother to vote. Martin won 2 - 0.
  • Dewey Defeats Truman: Parodied after Martin wins.
  • Dynamic Entry: Mr. Bergstrom shows up in cowboy attire and fires off fake gunshots into the air, scaring the wits out of Vietnam veteran Skinner. These days, doing something like that wouldn't be tolerated, even if the guns were fake.
  • Friend to All Children: One of the reasons Mr Bergstrom's so beloved.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Mr. Bergstrom says this when he sees Homer wallowing in self-pity.
    Mr. Bergstrom: Mr. Simpson, you have got to be a bigger man.
    • Marge makes Homer well understand the context of why Lisa snapped at him and called him a baboon rather than let him complain about being called one.
      Marge: Homer, you're not allowed to have hurt feelings right now! There's a little girl upstairs that needs you! Her confidence in her father is shaken, and no little girl can be happy unless she has faith in her daddy!
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Mr. Bergstrom was drawn to resemble Dustin Hoffman. They even threw in a Shout-Out to The Graduate.
  • Insult Backfire: While Bart and Martin are campaigning for class president, the latter hangs a poster attacking the former that reads "A vote for Bart is a vote for anarchy!". Bart is then seen hanging his own poster with the exact same slogan.
  • Landslide Election: Martin crushes Bart in the election. He wins with two votes, the amount of people who bothered to vote anyway.
  • Low Count Gag: Bart's class is about to elect a class president. Bart gets nominated and he wins the class over by telling jokes and other gimmicks. Certain of Bart's victory, they forget about voting, including Bart. So it happens that Martin wins with just two votes, his own and Wendell's.
  • Master of None: Mr Bergstrom tells Lisa that in reality he and other substitute teachers are this knowledge wise, they know just enough about a whole bunch of subjects to teach it for a day or two.
  • Metaphorgotten: Homer tries his best to cheer Lisa up by telling her that there are many special people waiting for her in the future, but loses his train of thought and can only describe them in a place "where the food is real good, and guys like me are serving drinks." He lampshades his inability to speak in metaphor and tries to be silly to cheer Lisa up instead.
  • Nice Guy: Mr Bergstrom is easily one of the best people to ever have been in Springfield. He's kind, considerate and a talented teacher who understands children and recognizes Lisa's intellect.
  • Precocious Crush: 8-year-old Lisa seems to be crushing on Mr. Bergstrom who is her teacher. The promotions all but confirm it.
  • Reaction Shot: Bart brings a video of his cat giving birth for Show and Tell. We only see the class' squicked-out reaction, and then Bart says "If I hit rewind, I can make them go back in!". Cue Screaming at Squick.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Mr. Bergstrom openly cries at the end of Charlotte's Web.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: In the end, from Bart's (and Homer's) POV. Bart is dejected at first when he loses the election to Martin, but Homer convinces him that as a class president, he would have to do more work without any special reward.
  • Special Guest: Dustin Hoffman as Mr. Bergstrom (credited as Sam Etic).
  • Steam Never Dies: An unusual variation, where the train Mr. Bergstrom leaves Springfield on is shown to have a diesel locomotive pulling the coaches, but it sounds like a steam train, complete with chugging and whistle.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: This is how Lisa's tearful goodbye to Mr. Bergstrom plays out. It's lampshaded, of course.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Krabapple, ecstatic that Martin won the election, rubs Bart's loss in his face by demonstrating the two votes that cost him his victory. "One for Martin, two for Martin!"
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Subverted, as Mr. Bergstrom reads some of the actual text of Charlotte's Web. The commentary notes that they used the absolute maximum they could get away with before having to pay for it.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are!: Mr. Bergstrom gives Lisa a simple piece of paper and tells her that if she ever loses her way or doubts herself, all she needs to do is read it. She unfolds the paper and reads four words that bring tears to her eyes: "You are Lisa Simpson."


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