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Recap / The Simpsons S3 E16 "Bart the Lover"

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Original air date: 2/13/1992

Production code: 8F16
"I can't help but feel partly responsible."
Yo-yo fever hits Springfield Elementary and Bart proves to be rather skilled. However, when his latest antic destroys the class aquarium, Mrs. Krabappel confiscates his yo-yo. This spurs Bart into revenge by creating an imaginary romantic pen pal for the lonely educator. Meanwhile, Homer curbs his swearing after Flanders confronts him about his son, Todd, picking up Homer's profanity while building a doghouse for Santa's Little Helper.


  • Achievements in Ignorance: Homer manages to solve two problems simultaneously, each one solving the other! When trying to build a doghouse, he hurts and injures himself, causing him to cuss a lot. Marge suggests a swear jar. After several days of trying to build the doghouse using the swear jar, he eventually stops, and gains enough change this way for Marge to buy a doghouse. (And a six pack of Duff.) In other words, the doghouse project helps him stop swearing and the swearing helps gain a new doghouse!
  • Agony of the Feet: While building a doghouse, Homer steps on a nail after smashing his thumb with a hammer. Enraged, he starts kicking his unfinished project with his injured foot, grunting in pain and frustration all the while.
  • All Just a Dream: In-universe with "A World Without Zinc".
  • Alternate Catchphrase Inflection: We get an affectionate "Why, you little..." from Homer after Bart compliments his addendum to the breakup letter.
  • Angrish: Most of Homer's swearing turns into this.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: "A World Without Zinc" starts with Jimmy trying to drive until he's told that, since his wish for no zinc became true, there are no car batteries. He then tries to phone his girlfriend to explain himself but phones don't work without zinc either. He's so depressed he tries to kill himself but his gun's firing pin is made of zinc.
  • Berserk Button: Yo-yo's, as Edna develops a hatred of them.
    Edna: That's it! [slams book onto her desk] I am getting sick and tired of talking about yo-yo's. From now on, I will not accept any book reports, science projects, dioramas, or anything else on yo-yo's or yo-yo-related topics. Am I making myself clear?
    Bart: Yo!
  • Bizarrchitecture: Homer's "attempts" to build a doghouse.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • When Bart accidentally smashes the class fish tank with his yo-yo, he says he didn't do it...even though the yo-yo is still in the broken tank and the string is tied to his finger.
    • When Lisa is showing Homer the new doghouse she and Marge bought with the swear jar money, she says it's not a commentary on Homer's skills.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "A World Without Zinc" teaches important uses for zinc such as car batteries, phones and hand guns.
  • Broken Tears: When "Woodrow" doesn't show up for his date, a lonely Edna breaks down crying in the middle of their meeting place. She's still overcome with despair the next day, which convinces Bart to try and set things right.
  • Bungled Suicide: Played for laughs. Jimmy from "A World Without Zinc" is so horrified that he gets a gun to shoot himself in the head. He pulls the trigger, but nothing happens. He learns the firing pin was made of, you guessed it, zinc.
  • Catfishing: The picture Bart passes off as "Woodrow" is actually of NHL player Gordie Howe. Edna never catches on.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Edna's failed marriage had been mentioned a few times until now, exclusively in passing, and was treated mostly as an extension of the joke about her being surprisingly promiscuous. This episode portrays her situation is a far more serious and tragic light.
  • Characterization Marches On: Ned finds out that Homer's swearing has rubbed off on his kids, so he tries to make Homer stop, even being willing to shave off his mustache to do so. This contradicts two later episodes.
    • In "Home Away From Homer", Flanders is willing to give up his new life in a wonderful town because the townsfolk hate mustaches and he's not willing to shave it off.
    • Despite Flanders having a bone to pick with Homer for his swearing (albeit relatively minor swear words like "hell" and "damn"), when Homer unleashes an Atomic F-Bomb (which he and his kids hear) in "Who Shot Mr. Burns", all he can say is "Dear Lord, that's the loudest profanity I've ever heard!"
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Homer agrees to Marge's swear jar proposal. A Humiliation Conga results with Homer constantly suffering misfortunes that make him swear and put money in the jar.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Ned calls Reverend Lovejoy about how Todd said he "didn't want any damn vegetables," Lovejoy first assures Ned that "you know kids and vegetables," which leads Ned to clarify that Todd using a swear word is the problem.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Bart's detention is him doing things Groundskeeper Willie should be doing like the plumbing and waxing the floor.
  • Costume-Test Montage: Mrs. Krabappel tries a different outfit for her date.
  • Couch Gag: A space alien is on the couch with a drink in its hand. It opens a trap door in the floor and escapes through it before the family comes in and sits.
  • Curse Cut Short: Several from Homer ("Da-", "You sunofa-", "You dirty bast-," and "Aw..."). According to the DVD commentary for this episode (the first one, not the secret), Dan Castellaneta went on several foul-mouthed tirades in Homer's voice during recording and the tirades were cut short on the track.
  • A Day in the Limelight: For Mrs. Krabappel.
  • Detention Episode: Bart gets a month's detention when he plays with a yo-yo in class and accidentally breaks the fish tank.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Rather than take responsibility for damaging school property and accept a month's detention, Bart creates a fictional love interest and writes fake love letters to Mrs. Krabappel, which is extremely cruel. It's implied that he's simply too young and clueless to have a very deep concept of what romance means to an adult, as he's blindsided to find her still waiting for "Woodrow" after he's had his laugh over the Prank Date and then caught a movie, causing him to have just enough of a Heel Realization to try to set things right.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: The gentleman who explains to Jimmy why his car, his phone and his gun don't work has a pipe.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: While polishing Mrs. Krabappel's desk as part of his detention, Bart encourages her to confide in him to gain more fodder for his love letters, and acts like The Bartender, wiping off her empty coffee mug to drive the resemblance home.
    Bart: Penny for your thoughts, Mrs. K.
    Mrs. Krabappel: I was just thinking...oh, you wouldn't be interested.
    Bart: Try me. Sometimes it helps to talk. (spits into the mug)
  • Do-It-Yourself Plumbing Project: As part of his detention, Bart has to do some plumbing work at the school. He's surprisingly good at it, unclogging a sink by removing the Malibu Stacy head some kid stuck in the pipe.
  • Doom It Yourself: Homer tries to build Santa's Little Helper a doghouse. Needless to say, it turns out badly.
  • Dull Surprise: When Marge shows Homer the doghouse, she says that there's a little surprise for him if he looks inside. The "surprise" initially seems to be Maggie riding in the doghouse, which Homer says "oh, cute." Averted with the real surprise, which is a case of beer Marge got to reward Homer for keeping his promises about filling the jar and curbing his swearing.
  • Educational Short: Memorably parodied in the short Mrs. Krabappel shows the class about "A World Without Zinc". Truly a terrifying dystopia.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: The family sees Bart writing a love letter, and assume he has a crush.
  • Epic Fail: Homer building a dog house with no door to it. While it is physically possible to do something like that, the fact that Homer did (without noticing it before) shows the true depth of his ineptitude.
  • Exact Words: Bart opens his first letter to Edna with "Dear Edna, I never answered a personal ad before—but I found yours irresistible."
  • Facepalm: Reverend Lovejoy has a glorious facepalm when his wife informs him that Flanders is on the phone. Lovejoy would prefer to enjoy his dessert in peace and not to deal with Ned's latest "crisis".
  • Failed a Spot Check: Homer does this twice:
    • At church, Homer absentmindedly puts a bill in the collection plate, not realising that it was a 20 dollar bill until Bart points it out to him.
    • Homer fails to include a door in the doghouse he built until after it's already been built (and Lisa asks how the dog is supposed to get in).
  • Forged Message: Bart creates a boyfriend for his teacher Mrs. Krabappel and writes her letters based on his parents' old love letters, pretending to be a guy called "Woodrow".
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Gordie Howe's hockey stats at the end of the episode.
    • Earlier, Todd holds up a figure that looks a bit like Toad.
  • From the Mouths of Babes: Todd, after learning profanity from overhearing Homer.
    Maude: Would you like some mixed vegetables?
    Todd: Hell no.
    (everyone else gasps)
    Maude: What did you say?
    Todd: I said I don't want any damn vegetables.
    Ned: Oh that's it, young man! No Bible stories for you tonight!
    (Todd runs upstairs, crying)
    Maude: Weren't you a little hard on him?
    Ned: Well, you knew I had a temper when you married me.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: An epic one from Homer, when he's mentally conditioned not to swear.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Ned tries to talk Homer into cutting down on his cursing, unaware that the old timey phrases he uses himself would qualify as curses (or at least, crude language) in the modern age.
    Flanders: Look Homer, all of us pull a few boners now and then, go off half-cocked, make asses of ourselves. I don't want to be hard on you, but I just wish you wouldn't curse in front of my boys.
  • Hidden Depths: It's Homer, of all people, that thinks of the ending for the love letter: "With a love that will echo through the ages."
  • Honesty Aesop: Subverted. Homer says Bart should tell the truth to his teacher about the love letters but Marge points out that the truth would humiliate her.
  • Humiliation Conga: After Homer promises to start using the swear jar, he suffers a long serious of misfortunes that prompt him to swear. He eventually puts so much money in the jar that Marge can use it to buy a new doghouse.
  • Implausible Deniability: When Bart accidentally breaks the aquarium with his yo-yo, he tells Krabappel, "I didn't do it" while the yo-yo string is still attached to his finger.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Homer suggests putting "I am gay" in the break-up letter. Marge refuses.
  • Innocent Swearing: When Todd Flanders first hears Homer's cursing, at dinner Todd says the swear words, not knowing how bad they are (he gleefully says "I said I don't want any damn vegetables!") But then Ned punishes Todd ("No bible stories for you tonight!"), and Todd, unaware of what he did wrong, starts crying as he goes to his room.
  • Invented Individual: Bart creates "Woodrow" in response to a personal ad from Mrs. Krabappel.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition:
    Krabappel: (in deep thought, while looking at Woodrow's picture) "When I read your letters, I feel as if you are right here watching me." (puts the picture down to see Bart in his desk staring at her) Bart, eyes down!
    Bart: Yes, ma'am!
  • Irony: Homer yells "Damn it!" in church after donating more money to said church than he intended to.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: Parodied with an educational film about a world without zinc. At one point, the protagonist attempts to shoot himself because the world is so terrible.
    Jimmy's Dad: Think again, Jimmy. You see, the firing pin in your gun was made out of... yep, zinc.
    Jimmy: Come back, zinc! COME BAAAACK!
  • Legacy Character: Lisa asks for an autographed photo of the female yo-yo performer, Sparkle. Lisa points out in confusion that the woman in the photo looks nothing like her, which Sparkle replies with "That was the old Sparkle".
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Bart names his invented boyfriend after Woodrow Wilson, whose picture is in the classroom where he's serving detention.
  • Love Letter: Bart and Edna write several love letters to each other. Bart asks for tips from his whole family, and Marge shows Bart a love postcard she got once from Homer.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Homer does this after training himself out of swearing. Stepping on a nail, he says "Fiddle-de-dee. That will require a tetanus shot." It actually turns out to be Tranquil Fury and Homer finally does explode after saying that.
  • Male Gaze: Referred to when Bart asks Marge if Homer sent her any love letters. Instead of a love letter, Homer once sent her a "love postcard" from the Duff Brewery, where he drunkenly wrote that she had "a butt that won't quit." Edna is thrilled when Bart uses the compliment in one of his fake love letters.
  • Mean Boss: The manager of the Twirl King Yo-Yo Company performers.
    Boss: Get your worthless butts in the van. We got three more schools to do! Let's go, go, go!
  • Momma's Boy: When Bart asks why she doesn't try dating Skinner, Edna remarks "His mommy won't let him out to play."
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Downplayed; while Bart is guilt-stricken when he realises just how much his prank upset Mrs. Krabappel, he claims that he feels "partly responsible", even though he's 100% responsible.
  • Name One:
    Homer: Can you believe it!? Pretty soon, I'll be able to quit my job and live off the boy!
    Marge: What? Name me one person who's gotten rich by doing yo-yo tricks!
    Homer's Brain: Donald Trump? ... No. Arnold Palmer? ... No. Bill Cosby! ... No.
    Homer: D'oh!
  • Never My Fault: Downplayed; Bart feels "partly responsible."
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Harry Shearer based "Woodrow"'s voice on Ricardo Montalbán.
  • No Entrance: Homer's best attempt at building a dog house is perfect in every detail... except he forgot to put in a door.
  • No Sympathy: When Edna breaks down into tears after "Woodrow" doesn't show up for their date, a waiter just callously continues to put away chairs as if she wasn't there (because the restaurant was closing, regardless). As a bonus, the candle at the table also finally goes out when Edna cries. It's actually subverted by Bart who watches this whole scene and ends up having a Heel Realization.
  • Noodle Incident: Lovejoy's reaction to Flanders' telephone call.
    "Oh, if this is about that stupid quarter again..."
  • Not So Above It All: Marge encourages Homer to curb his swearing habit, but when Homer asks about when they have sex, she says it's okay.
  • Prank Date: Bart's very cruel "no show" practical joke he pulls on his teacher.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Since we only see the latter part of the educational film "A World Without Zinc", the "why" of Jimmy choosing to wish for said world is never apparent.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: One of Homer's swearing incidents is caused by a beehive suddenly falling on him while he's relaxing in a hammock. We then cut to a hand covered in bee stings putting change in the swear jar.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Referenced. One of Ned’s theorised sources where Todd could’ve learned to swear is ‘Grandma’.
  • Shout-Out: A World Without Zinc is a fairly close parody of the similarly weird educational film A Case of Spring Fever.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Homer displays quite the foul mouth in this episode.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Poor Edna turns out to be deeply lonely and miserable underneath her very dry Deadpan Snarker exterior.
  • Standard '50s Father: Parodied with the wise, easygoing, pipe-smoking father in "A World Without Zinc".
  • The Stinger: The episode ends with a trading card-style rundown of the hockey career of Gordie Howe, Woodrow's face; this was a creative way of filling a slight time under-run.
  • Swear Jar: Marge makes Homer put money in it for foul language because the youngest Flanders boy picked it up from him. Eventually, the family just buys a doghouse with the money from the swear jar.
  • Swear Word Plot: This episode's B-Plot has Todd start swearing when he overhears Homer doing the same thing while trying to build a doghouse for Santa's Little Helper. When Ned explains his problem to Homer, Homer agrees to watch his language in exchange for Ned shaving off his mustache.
  • That Didn't Happen: While showing off a yo-yo trick, Bart accidentally breaks a fish tank.
    Bart: I didn't do it.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Homer goes through all sorts of painful humiliations and misfortunes as he tries to build the doghouse, among other things, and loses a lot of money to the Swear Jar in the process. It ends up paying off when there's so much money in the jar that Marge can just buy a new doghouse. She also buys Homer a sixpack of beer, probably as a reward for keeping his promises to fill the jar and stop swearing.
  • Tranquil Fury: Unable to react to frustration in his customary way (Marge had suggested that he keep a swear jar), Homer combines this with rapid-fire Major Injury Under Reaction and Gosh Dang It to Heck! when the dog house he's attempting to build finally pushes him too far:
    [Homer hits his thumb with a hammer]
    Homer: Oh, fudge, that's broken. [Eye Twitch]
    [steps on a nail]
    Homer: Fiddle-dee-dee, that will require a tetanus shot. [full-body twitch] I'm not going to swear, but I am going to KICK THIS DOG HOUSE DOWN!
  • Two Words: Added Emphasis: Homer's suggestion for a break-up letter for Mrs. Krabappel is "Three simple words: I am gay."
    Marge: Homer, for the last time, I'm not putting that in!
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Milhouse asking Bart to do another yo-yo trick (after Mrs. Krabappel banned yo-yos) led to him accidentally breaking the fish tank, getting detention and retaliating against Krabappel.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Marge calls Bart out for writing a fake love letter. Homer tries to do the same thing by telling Bart to tell the truth about the letters, but Marge tells Homer that they can't do that since Edna would be humiliated if she found out the truth. Homer only said it because he thought Marge would expect him to.


Video Example(s):


Homer's Swear Jar

The Simpsons start using a swear jar, much to Homer's annoyance.

How well does it match the trope?

4.97 (34 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheSwearJar

Media sources: