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Recap / The Simpsons S2 E8 "Bart the Daredevil"

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Original air date: 12/6/1990

Production code: 7F06

The Simpsons family end up attending a monster truck rally one night, which features a performance by renowned daredevil Lance Murdock. Despite Murdock's stunt going hideously wrong, landing him in the hospital, Bart declares the man his new hero, and aspires to be a daredevil himself. Bart isn't put off when he's injured during his first attempt, even when he's introduced to a ward of children who have been left badly hurt by attempting daredevil stunts of their own, if anything else it pushes him to succeed.

Bart keeps his stunts fairly tame to start with, using his skateboard to jump over cars, animals and swimming pools, but soon sets his sights on jumping the Springfield Gorge. Lisa is horrified and takes Bart to meet Murdock in the hospital, hoping that the man will get Bart to change his mind. Unfortunately Murdock only encourages Bart, and so Lisa has no choice but to give in and tell their parents. However Bart stubbornly ignores anything that Homer has to say, and still heads out to the gorge to complete the stunt.

Homer follows Bart, and determined to show Bart how it feels to watch a family member do something incredibly stupid and dangerous, attempts to perform the stunt himself.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Actually Quite Catchy: Homer spends most of Lisa's recital impatiently waiting for the end so the family can get to a monster truck rally. On the ride after, Homer hums the 1812 Overture (the cool part, with the cannons). "I reached him!" says Lisa, satisfied.
  • An Aesop: When someone says "Don't Try This at Home", they mean it.
  • Amusing Injuries: Downplayed. Homer's pain and injuries from falling down the gorge seem more serious than the way it would be treated on common contemporary cartoons or a Looney Tunes classic like Wile. E. Coyote. But on the other hand, it's far from realistic or graphic, and most important of all, it doesn't go with an extreme level of painfulness, but rather, something exactly as painful as it can get while still being very funny. It definitely falls in the middle ground between realism vs. pure slapstick.
  • Author Appeal: The writers and many other staff members were big fans of Evel Knievel and it shows.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Despite the obnoxious Testosterone Poisoning commercial and the many problems faced getting there (including Truckasaurus totaling their car with them inside) the whole family has a great time at the Monster Truck Rally, even Marge and Lisa.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: When Bart first mentions his intention to jump the gorge, Otto is the only adult around and it looks like he'll try to talk Bart out of it but instead encourages him.
  • Bloodless Carnage: A very rare aversion for the show: Homer splatters blood on his way down the side of the gorge.
  • Characterization Marches On: Dr. Hibbert, in his first appearance, is as a stern, competent professional. By his very next appearance, he became somewhat absent-minded and laugh-prone ("Ah-hee-hee-hee!") and an Expy of Bill Cosby, complete with a wife who looks like Phylicia Rashad (only with darker skin), a teenage son who looks like Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and a daughter who looked like Keisha Knight-Pulliam and in later seasons got himself a Morally Ambiguous Doctorate.
  • Combat Pragmatist: During the wrestling match, Professor Werner von Brawn beans Rasputin on the head with a wrench he smuggled under his belt while the Russian's back is turned, knocking him out. The referee inexplicably permits this and declares him the winner, much to the outrage of the announcer and the audience.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Todd Flanders is beautifully playing the violin, his father Ned starts crying.
    Homer: Come on Flanders, he's not that bad.
  • Couch Gag: Homer tips the couch over on its side with everyone on it, except Maggie, who falls onto couch cushion.
  • Death of a Child: When it sinks in that it's literally impossible for him to prevent his 10-year-old son from making a doomed skateboard jump over Springfield Gorge if he's made up his mind to do it and doesn't care about punishments or potential consequences, Homer breaks down crying, saying Bart's "as good as dead."
    Bart: Hey, man, you can tell me not to do it, but there's no way you can watch me 24 hours a day, and the minute your back is turned I'm grabbing my skateboard and headin' for that gorge.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: In-universe. Bart still wants to jump the Springfield Gorge despite being confronted with the painful sight of many daredevils in the hospital.
  • Epic Fail:
    • The ambulance carrying Homer goes about five feet before crashing front-first into a tree, causing Homer's gurney to roll out the back and down the gorge.
    • Lance successfully clears the jump of the pool filled with all the frenzied predators, only to accidentally fall in afterward when he returns to the landing ramp to wave victoriously to the audience.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Rasputin the Friendly Russian (nee` the Mad Russian), thanks to the inevitable forces of history.
  • Hope Spot: During the (accidental) jump across the gorge, Homer believes he is going to get across, but then his forward momentum stops near the middle and he falls down.
  • If You Thought That Was Bad...: Homer invokes this to Lance Murdock when they wind up in the same ward in traction.
    Homer: You think you've got guts?! Try raising my kids!
  • Like Father, Like Son: Though not watching the wrestling match together, Homer and Bart's actions and commentary mirror each other.
  • Make an Example of Them: A self-inflicted example; Homer and Marge (mostly Homer) are worried because their son wants to risk his life to become a daredevil. Homer eventually makes Bart give up by threatening to jump over Springfield Gorge so Bart will know what's like fearing for a family member's life.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Homer ends up accidentally skateboarding across the gorge, but misses the other side and falls down. He ends up in traction at the hospital.
  • Nice Guy: The folks at the Monster Truck Rally are very accommodating after the family is mistakenly attacked by Truckasaurus, apologizing sincerely, writing them a cheque to make up the damages to the car, and providing a bottle of champagne.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Lance Murdock = Evel Knievel, right down to the world record for most broken bones.
  • Pet the Dog: During the symphony, Homer is so focused on getting to the monster truck rally that he ignores pretty much everything. Once the family is finally on their way to it, though, Homer hums the tune Lisa was playing as he drives along.
    Lisa: I reached him.
  • Recycled Animation: The animation of the school bus driving back from Springfield Gorge at the start of the third act is recycled from "Homer's Odyssey", namely the bus driving down a winding road and past a prison (Likely Springfield Prison). The gradient backgrounds are what make the footage even more egregious.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Would Bart have made the jump to the other side of the gorge? Even if it seems likely that he would not, possibly working in his favor is him having a much smaller girth than his father's and knowing not to celebrate before making it to the other side like Homer did.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After Bart's first attempt to perform a stunt, his friends decide to scram rather than help him.
  • Shout-Out: Homer's extended tumble into Springfield Gorge is a reference to the scene in Porky Pig's Feat when Porky and Daffy pull the rug out from underneath a hotel manager causing him to tumble down an endless staircase.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Despite trying to convince Bart of the dangers of daredevil stunts, Lance Murdock is instead impressed by Bart's interest in it, which causes Lisa to tell Homer about it, fearing that he may get hurt or die despite getting the most attention.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: When Bart watches a televised wrestling match:
    Bart: If you ask me, this is going to be one helluva match.
    Lisa: Oh, Bart, I hope you're not taking this seriously. Even a 5-year-old knows that this is as choreographed as any ballet!
    (Gilligan Cut to Moe's Tavern)
    Homer: Eh, Rasputin's got the reach, but on the other hand, the Professor's got his patented coma lock. If you ask me, this is going to be one helluva match.
  • Three Stooges Shout-Out: Dr. Hibbert says a lot of children imitate violence they saw on TV: "I won't even subject you to the horrors of our Three Stooges ward."
  • Truth in Television: Lisa's speech about the effects of the fall of the Soviet Union's effects on pro wrestling was actually pretty spot on. Not long after the SU fell, many previously highly established "Evil Russian" heels began turning into America friendly faces, most notably Nikolai Volkoff and Nikita Koloff.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In a failed attempt to discourage Bart from trying to jump the Springfield Gorge, Lisa took him to the hospital room where daredevil Lance Murdock was in after one of his stunts. Murdock actually encouraged Bart to try.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: The introductory wrestling match features the debut of Rasputin the Friendly Russian, who went by Rasputin the Mad Russian not long ago. Lisa muses that the fall of the Soviet Union changed wrestling forever.