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Recap / The Simpsons S 3 E 19 Dog Of Death

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Episode - 8F17
First Aired - 3/12/1992

The Simpsons must make budget cuts in order to pay for Santa's Little Helper's stomach surgery, but Santa's Little Helper runs away after the family expresses resentment for having to give up their favorite things in order to pay for the vet bill. Meanwhile, lottery fever hits Springfield, and local news anchor Kent Brockman hits the jackpot.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Androcles' Lion: In a sense, as Santa's Little Helper snaps out of his attack state once he realizes who he's supposed to (help) attack. In fact, SLH turns on Burns' hounds and changes them instantly from bloodthirsty killers to whimpering, sniveling cowards, literally saving Bart's life.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Santa's Little Helper encounters one while roaming the countryside. The two fight, but it's Santa's Little Helper that wins.
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  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: Several photos that the family are trying to use for Santa's Little Helper's missing poster are of Homer abusing him and/or he fighting him back, including a photo showing Homer strangling him and he then biting his hand and a memorable shot of the dog punching him out. The closest thing that got to a "normal" pose (that ended up on the poster) was of Homer's strangle pose hands just ducking in the picture as SLH anxiously stands by.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Lisa says "D'oh!" when Miss Hoover assigns the class to write a report on Copernicus, who's covered in the first encyclopedia volume she has to miss out on.
  • Brand X: Encyclopedia Generica.
  • Butt-Monkey: The family all make sacrifices to pay for Santa's Little Helper's operation. They all end up suffering for it:
    • Homer stops buying beer. He's forced to sing for quarters at Moe's to pay for a drink.
    • Bart gets his hair cut for free at Springfield Barber College. One of the students accidentally shaves his head.
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    • Lisa stops buying encyclopedias, and the first volume she misses out on covers the astronomer Copernicus. Miss Hoover then makes the class write a report on Copernicus. Lisa's forced to write her report using a third-rate Copernicus biography she found at the bus station.
    • Maggie's baby clothes need to last a while longer. Her last set immediately falls apart and she has to sleep in a Crown Royal whisky bag.
    • Marge gives up her weekly lottery ticket. This is the worst one of all, since Marge's numbers win $40,000 the week she stopped buying tickets. The family could have easily paid for Santa's Little Helper's operation without making any sacrifices.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Bart tries to ask if Kent Brockman saw his missing dog, Kent accuses Bart of trying to make him give money for a new dog.
  • Come Back, My Pet!: The family realizes that they were wrong in how they treated Santa's Little Helper and send Bart out to get him.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The map of Springfield used to follow Santa's Little Helper's adventures when he runs away includes the "Michael Jackson Expressway;" Mayor Quimby renamed the road that when everyone thought Jackson was coming to town in the Season Three opener "Stark Raving Dad".
      • Since March 2019 in certain countries, the name was blurred out for TV airings in response to the Leaving Neverland documentary, leaving just the world "Expressway".
    • Ned is wearing his Assassins sneakers.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    Homer: I've figured out an alternative to giving up my beer. Basically, we become a family of traveling acrobats!
    Marge: ...I don't think you thought this through.
  • Disney Death: Right before the first Act Break, Abe declares Santa's Little Helper dead. When the show returns from commercials, it turns out not to be the case, and Abe refuses to admit his mistake.
  • Expy: The vet is a parody of Ben Casey.
  • Flashback: Homer suggests that he could perform surgery on the dog, since as he sees it it wouldn't be any different from carving a turkey. We then go to a flashback to a previous meal as Homer proves no expert with an electric carving knife...
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Homer is hanging up the posters, you can see one of the Principal Skinner "Have you seen my body?" posters from "Bart The Murderer".
  • Gave Up Too Soon: Marge chooses to forego her weekly lottery ticket as part of a family-wide effort to save money needed to afford the dog's operation. The following week, the numbers she always picks end up winning the $40k jackpot.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: After Bart learns they can't afford the operation to save Santa's Little Helper:
    Marge: Bart, I know you're upset.
    Bart: Darn right I'm upset!
    Marge: (Strictly) Bart! Watch your language! (Realizes) Oh, you did. Sorry.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Mr. Burns wanted Santa's Little Helper to be a vicious attack dog and ended up being one person the dog attacked. Considering he was wearing protective gear at the time, however, it was likely he anticipated this.
  • Homage: Santa's Little Helper gets programmed into a killer in the same way that Alex was programmed not to kill in A Clockwork Orange. The montage (which features violence against dogs and things dogs hate, like cats and Lyndon Johnson holding his dog by the ears) even features Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as the soundtrack.
  • Incompetent Guard Animal: While usually subverted with Mr Burns' terrifying hounds, here we see The Runt at the End, Crippler. As Burns laments, Crippler was once as vicious a beast as all his other dogs, but having been around since Woodstock, time hasn't been kind to him.
    Burn: I remember when he bagged his first hippy. He didn't think it was so "groovy".
  • If I Were a Rich Man: Homer's Imagine Spot of him becoming a gold-plated demigod.
  • It's All My Fault: Bart really blames himself for making Santa's Little Helper run away.
  • Kick the Dog: In this episode, Burns not only tortures an actual dog to make him a killer, he sends him and the whole rest of the pack after a 10-year-old boy. However, Burns fails to count on SLH's instinct buried deep within him, denying him the satanic satisfaction of watching a young boy being mauled to death.
    • To pay for the operation, the family makes various cuts, including Homer giving up beers, Marge not partaking in her group's lottery ticket, Bart starts getting discount haircuts, and Lisa can no longer get encyclopedia volumes. Santa's Little Helper is saved, but the family is quickly grousing about the things they had to give up and shun the dog.
  • The Ludovico Technique: Burns brainwashes Santa's Little Helper into being a vicious, soulless killer.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Santa's Little Helper can be seen sickly limping and falling down in the background multiple times while the story is still focused on the lottery.
  • Moral Myopia: Despite an early scene in the first act plot having Burns regard dogs with utter distain, the second act plot is revolved around him considering his guard dogs a valuable commodity, even reacting wistfully towards one nearing the end of it's life.
  • Near-Death Experience: Santa's Little Helper has one during his operation, proving that there is a Doggie Heaven (despite Homer's claim otherwise later in the episode).
  • Pet the Dog: Mr. Burns, of all people, gets one reminiscing about his favourite attack dog, the elderly Crippler.
    Burns: I remember the day he bagged his first hippie.
  • The Power of Love: How Bart gets through to the brainwashed Santa's Little Helper. Bart saying he loves him causes SLH to remember all the good times they had and snap out of it.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The story is loosely based in writer John Swartzwelder's experiences with his own dog, which had also suffered from bloat. However, unlike the events in the episode, Swartzwelder's dog did not receive treatment as the operation was too expensive and the dog was too old, so it was euthanized.
  • Running Gag: Homer tossing a book in the fireplace when he realizes that it's useless.
  • Shout-Out:
    • People buy/check out from the library copies of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, thinking it's a how-to guide to winning the lottery, when really it's a short story about conformity gone mad.
    • Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit451 also lies in the fireplace.
    • While Santa's Little Helper strolls in the forest, music from Peter and the Wolf can be heard.
    • Among the violent films Santa's Little Helper sees are the Hindenburg disaster and President Lyndon Johnson yanking a dog's ears (as he used to do in real life).
  • Special Guest: Frank Welker as Santa's Little Helper
  • Truth in Television: Santa's Little Helper's diagnosis of bloat is a health risk for large dog breeds in real life, including greyhounds.
  • Those Two Guys: The two barflies who teases Homer for making a fool of himself dancing for spare change.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Mr. Burns. Unsurprising, really.
    Smither: I hate to interrupt your longevity treatment, sir, but there's a sweet little boy at the door.
    Burns: [without opening his eyes] Release the hounds!

Example of: