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Recap / The Simpsons S3 E21 "Black Widower"

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Original air date: 4/9/1992

Production code: 8F20

The Simpsons are getting ready to have dinner with Patty, Selma and Selma's new boyfriend. Of course, one can imagine their surprise when he turns out to be none other than Sideshow Bob, freshly released from his stay in prison after the events in "Krusty Gets Busted". While everyone is impressed at how much Bob has changed due to The Power of Love, Bart still fears that Bob is planning to kill him — or someone close to him.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Appointment Television: Patty and Selma never miss an episode of MacGyver. Selma even hurried a coach driver during a date with Sideshow Bob when she notices she is going late.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The hotel room exploding wasn't caused by Selma smoking, it was caused by Chief Wiggum having a cigar outside the room... and then tossing the lit match.
  • Big "NO!": Bart gives one, warning Selma not to light her match as the room is filled with gas.
  • The Bluebeard: Sideshow Bob was planning to kill Selma during their honeymoon.
  • Brain Bleach:
    • Sideshow Bob's reaction to sex with Selma is to thoroughly scrub himself ("Even murder has its ugly side").
    • Bart imagining Homer (or a Homer clone) as Selma's new boyfriend.
  • Brutal Honesty: Played with. Sideshow Bob is unable to hide his disdain for MacGyver, a show he knows Selma loves. When he voices his dislike after being forced to sit through an episode, it reduces Selma to tears and nearly results in the wedding being called off. Oddly enough, it's Homer who gets the pair back on track.
  • The Bus Came Back: This is the first reappearance of Sideshow Bob after his first appearance in "Krusty Gets Busted", but it is certainly not the last!
  • Call-Back:
    • See Dark Reprise below. Bob returns to the hotel room after it explodes and sings a Dark Reprise of "Somethin' Stupid", before a Wham Shot reveals Bart is sitting in the chair.
    • Marge noting "There was one little boy who never lost his mistrust" is a twisting of the final line of "Krusty Gets Busted", where Krusty thanks the "one boy who trusted him all along".
  • Chair Reveal: Bob, thinking his plan to kill Selma with a gas-explosion has succeeded, goes to his now-wrecked room, only to find Bart sitting in Selma's chair.
    Bart: Sideshow Bob, I'm afraid the only victims here are the good people at Best Western Hotels!
  • Characterization Marches On: This episode features Sideshow Bob at a transitional stage between his Season 1 persona and the one he'd have in future episodes. He's sore at Bart for exposing him, but is indicated to mostly blame himself for his sloppy job of framing Krusty — or at least is being pragmatic enough to set his hatred of Bart aside in the interests of his plan — and is much less Obviously Evil than in his later appearances.
  • Confound Them with Kindness: As Homer points out, Bob should really be harboring some kind of anger toward Bart after the kid got him sent to prison. His claim to be over any hard feelings is one the family, sans Bart, is far too quick to swallow.
  • Continuity Nod: Bob and Selma's Karaoke Bonding Scene takes place at The Happy Sumo, the restaurant from Season 2's "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish".
  • Couch Gag: Two burglars are in the process of stealing the couch. The family comes in and sits down, but the burglars throw them off and leave with the couch.
  • Dark Reprise: Bob, thinking Selma to be dead, playfully sings a rather twisted version of "Somethin' Stupid", the song he and Selma sang earlier in the episode.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Sideshow Bob is not very good at hiding his nature and still makes a lot of comments on how he is not that changed, but no one but Bart sees anything suspicious about him.
  • Dying Alone: Patty claimed fear of this as the reason Selma entered a prison pen pal program.
  • Easily Forgiven: Sideshow Bob's claim to have been reformed by his love for Selma is accepted without question by everyone except for Bart. Even Krusty himself buries the hatchet, happily reuniting with him on TV and attending his wedding.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: "Tonight on MacGyver! (echos) MacGyver! MacGyver! MacGyver!"
    Bart: Aunt Selma has one hour to live!
    Homer: Hey, down in front!
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: After saving Selma, Bart has the closing line: "Now let's get out of this gas-filled hallway before we all suffocate". To which the whole family laughs, possibly as a result of the gas.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Bart doesn't like his aunts and prefers to avoid spending time with them, but he doesn't want them to die.
  • Evil Laugh: Bob does one as he drives himself and a sleeping Selma to their honeymoon.
    Bob: That's right, dear. Enjoy your rest. The wedding was very tough on you. And the honeymoon is going to be... murder. [cue Evil Laugh]
  • Face–Heel Turn: Despite this being Bob's second major appearance, it's the first time he does something genuinely evil. Although framing Krusty for armed robbery is despicable if only for Apu's sake, at least one can understand the frame of mind he was in after years of Krusty treating him like crap. Selma, however, was nothing but loving towards him, and he still happily tried to kill her for her money. And from this point on, Bob is the attempted murderer he is in almost all future episodes.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: Deliberately written as such with the assistance of author Thomas Chastain, then-head of Mystery Writers of America.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: Set to Sideshow Bob and Selma singing Frank and Nancy Sinatra's "Somethin' Stupid". They have a boat date, have their hair done together, they enjoy a day by the sea and walk in the sand, and they frolic in a meadow.
  • Falsely Reformed Villain: Bob pretends to go straight and marries Selma with the intention of murdering her.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Bob considers having his Daytime Emmy taken away by the prison guards to be his lowest point. This compared to being thrown in prison in the first place for armed robbery.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • To Bob's plan: Selma's honeymoon footage not only shows him assaulting a bellhop due to their room not having a gas fireplace (which was in the brochure), but also shows him fiddling with one near the end, all while musing over the destructiveness of fire.
    • There's also Selma mentioning that she lost her sense of smell (and taste) after a bottle rocket incident when she was younger.
    • It's also heavily implied throughout the episode that Bob wants to murder Bart for exposing his original crime. Bob would act on this a little over a season later in "Cape Feare".
    • When Bob publicly apologizes to Krusty during a charity event for having framed him, Krusty tells Bob he'll be back in jail if they open the event's ledger. In "Bart the Fink", Krusty is arrested for tax fraud.
  • Gold Digger: Bob, apparently. Selma "bought stock in a mace company just before society crumbled". When she mentions it during the wedding preparations, Bob jovially expresses hope that people won't think he's marrying her for her money. A closeup of Bart shows that's exactly what he is thinking.
  • The Grim Reaper: In Bart's Imagine Spot, Sideshow Bob is this.
  • Guess Who I'm Marrying?: The Simpsons kids yell in horror when they find out their aunt Selma's new boyfriend is Sideshow Bob.
  • How About a Smile?: A variant occurs when Sideshow Bob is chewing out a hotel bellboy:
    Bob: I WANTED A ROOM WITH A FIREPLACE, YOU BRAINLESS LUGGAGE MONKEY! Like the one in your brochure! (realizes Selma is capturing him on camera) Oh, Selma dear... I was just chatting with my good friend... (looks at his name tag) ...Dennis! Now, smile for the camera, there's a good lad! (Dennis struggles to produce a nervous smile)
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Bob offers one to Bart while at the Simpson household:
    Bart, if I'd wanted to kill you, I'd have choked you like a chicken the moment I walked through that door... [everyone gasps] but then, what kind of guest would I have been? [laughs]
  • Imagine Spot: Bart has one during the wedding. He sees Sideshow Bob as the Grim Reaper when he says "I do".
  • I Shall Return: Bob promises this as he's dragged away by the Springfield Police:
    Bob: I'll be back! You can't keep the Democrats out of the White House forever... and when they get in, I'm back on the streets, with all my criminal buddies!
  • It's All About Me: Bob has a moment of this when he and Selma have to rush back to Patty and Selma's place to watch MacGyver.
    Bob: Selma, I thought I was the only man in your life.
    Selma: Sit down and shut up!
  • Karaoke Bonding Scene: There's a scene with newly-engaged Selma and Bob singing a karaoke duet of Frank and Nancy Sinatra's "Somethin' Stupid".
  • Kid Has a Point: Bart is the only one not won over by Bob's speeches on how he has changed. Not even Krusty forgiving Bob convinces him to give Bob a chance. His skepticism is vindicated when Bob plans on murdering Selma.
  • Lame Rhyme Dodge: As Bob is rubbing Selma's feet at the hotel, he quietly mutters his plans to kill her, before Selma gets confused, and he quickly counters by replacing his plots with foreign languages for how lovely her feet look.
  • Lethally Stupid: As usual, Chief Wiggum's ineptitude is on top form:
    • At the wedding reception, he accidentally leaves his gun next to the wedding cake, within easy reach of where anyone could pick it up. Luckily, no one does.
    • After he and his team rescue Selma, they share celebratory cigars, and he carelessly tosses a lit match behind him. It lands inside Selma and Bob's gas-filled hotel room, causing it to explode. Thankfully, it was long vacated by the time it does.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Within moments of their reunion on the telethon, Krusty has Bob drop his pants and gives him a couple of these.
    Bob: Oh, Krusty, I can't tell you how [*kick*] MUCH! I miss this.
  • Love Redeems: Or so Bob claims.
  • MacGyvering: Discussed at the end of the episode Patty, Selma, and an annoyed Bob watched.
    Man: Thank you, Señor MacGyver. You saved our village.
    MacGyver: Don't thank me. Thank the moon's gravitational pull.
  • Meadow Run: Selma and Bob frolic in the meadow together. It's part of their falling-in-love montage.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Selma misses the first part of the MacGyver episode she, Patty and Bob watch. According to Patty, the part Selma missed featured the title character wearing a tank top. Selma is annoyed that she missed it.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Selma prepares the match she's going to use to light her cigarette with unusual slowness and drama. The way the scene plays out, it looks like she's doing a yoga move.
  • Negative Continuity: Bart and Bob act like they haven't seen each other since Bob's original plan to frame Krusty, completely ignoring Bob's cameo as Bart's cellmate in "Bart the Murderer".
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Despite Bart working out his plan, Bob could conceivably have claimed that the evidence against him was circumstantial — if not for the slight matter of him singing about his misdeeds in front of what he assumed to be Selma's corpse, but actually turned out to be Bart, with both Chief Wiggum and Selma herself hiding within earshot.
  • Noodle Incident: Bob appears on Krusty's telethon and apologizes for sending him to jail, to which Krusty replies, "Hey, if they ever open the books on this telethon, I'm right back in there!"
  • Old Fashioned Row Boat Date: Selma and Bob have a date on a row boat during their falling-in-love montage, complete with Selma holding a Parasol of Prettiness.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Bob wins a Daytime Emmy for "Best Supporting Performer in a Children's Program" (a category which doesn't exist, but is hardly implausible for the massive amount of categories they provide).
  • Power of Trust: Spoofed; Marge congratulates Bart for not losing his mistrust in Sideshow Bob. (It is also an inversion of Bob's previous appearance, where Bart never losing his trust in Krusty was responsible for saving the day.)
  • Prison Rape: Bob's flashback to his time in prison shows a time when Krusty was working an awards show and Bob won the award. He sneered at Krusty (from a live feed from the prison), "This is one more than you'll ever win, you bantering jack-in-the-box!" Krusty shot back, "Just don't drop that thing in the shower, Bob!" The two exchanged a few more insults until Bob was sedated.
  • Quit Your Whining: At the wedding, Lisa gripes that she could have been a flower girl instead of Maggie, and would be better at it because she wouldn't keep falling down.
    Bart: Hey, they chose Maggie, OK?
  • Replacement Scrappy: In-universe. While reuniting with Bob on the telethon, Krusty tells him, "That jerk I got to replace you, he isn't fit to hold your slide whistle". Cut to a morose Sideshow Mel watching at home: "All I can be is myself".
  • Sarcasm Mode: Bob giving his opinion on MacGyver:
    Sideshow Bob: That was a well-plotted piece of non-claptrap that never made me want to retch.
  • Say My Name: Bob says Bart's name, then Selma's, in shock at the end of the episode after he finds Bart in Selma's chair.
  • Serious Business: MacGyver, of course, for Patty and Selma. Selma's love for the character is so strong that Bob proclaiming how much he hates the show drives her to tears and makes her consider calling the marriage off. In a weird way, Selma's faith in the character actually proves to be beneficial to her, as it's what provides Bart with the last piece he needs to figure out Bob's plan. Bob's disdain for the character counts as well since he'd rather jeopardize his plans regarding Selma than say he loves MacGyver.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Happens after the end of Sideshow Bob and Selma's honeymoon video:
    Sideshow Bob: Oh, Selma dear. You and your little camera. Whaddya say we shut it off for a while...
    Selma: ...and make love?
    [Selma removes the sheets, revealing her nude offscreen]
    Sideshow Bob: [sighs] I suppose so.
    [tape ends]
    Marge: Aww, that's sweet.
  • Shout-Out:
    • At the beginning of the episode, the Simpsons are watching Dinosaurs. Through backhanded compliments of how realistic it is, they accuse it of ripping them off. ("It's like they saw our lives and put it right up onscreen.")
    • In Lisa's Imagine Spot, Selma's boyfriend is The Elephant Man.
    • An Expy of Frank Sinatra reuniting Bob and Krusty parodies when the real Sinatra reunited Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin on one of the former's MDA telethons.
    • Bob is prisoner no. 24601.
    • Bob working on a chain gang is reminiscent of Cool Hand Luke.
    • When Bob goes into the room to see Selma's corpse, he turns around the chair, only to see Bart sitting in it. Bob turns around and sees Selma in the doorway. These shots, from Bob turning the chair to Selma in the doorway, are a reference to the ending of Psycho, right down to the music.
    • Bob does a shout-out to Robert Burns with "My best-laid plans have gang agley!" Bonus points for using the actual Scots-language words and not the more common English translation.
  • Spanner in the Works: Patty arguably serves as one when she visits the Simpsons and they change the channel to MacGyver for her. Hearing the title character's name helps Bart finally figure out Bob's plot.
  • Special Guest: Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob.
  • Spoiler Title: The title of the episode doesn't leave you in a lot of suspense as to Bob's intentions for Selma.
  • Take That!:
    • Sideshow Bob is almost willing to abort his Gold Digger scheme purely because he finds watching his victim's most beloved show, MacGyver that unbearable.
    • While being taken away, Bob says they can't keep Democrats out of the White House forever and, once they get in, he'll be back on the streets with his fellow convicts. According to Groening, this wasn't a knock on Democrats (who are perceived to be weak on crime) but a knock on the Republican allegation that Democrats are weak on crime. Of course, this ended up backfiring on the writers, as Bob was released from prison less than a year after Bill Clinton became president.note 
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Played with: Bart wastes several minutes trying to explain Bob's plan to Homer before giving up and explaining it to Marge. By the time everyone is caught up and they make it to the hotel Selma is at, Bart only barely manages to prevent Selma from striking her match.
  • Toilet Seat Divorce: Selma and Bob's near-breakup over MacGyver.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: When it looks like the wedding will have to be called off, Homer is the one who suggests to Bob going for a walk while Selma watches MacGyver, unknowingly helping Bob out with his plot, as then he can be out of the room when the match blows Selma up.
  • Vanity License Plate: Bob is seen making these in prison during a flashback which are all related to wanting to kill Bart; BART DOA, RIP BART, DIE BART, I H8 BART. The final one appears on Bob's car after he and Selma leave their wedding.
  • Villain Love Song: "Somethin' Stupid" may count in this context, as it is a duet between Bob and his current Love Interest, Selma. It's not really needed to seduce her, as they're already engaged.
  • Wham Shot: Bob returns to his destroyed room and walks towards Selma's chair, expecting to see her corpse in it. Instead, it's Bart. Selma is actually standing in the doorway behind Bob.
  • Whispered Threat: While Bob rubs Selma's feet on their honeymoon, he repeatedly mutters under his breath his intent to murder her. When Selma overhears, he passes his statements off as loving compliments made in other languages.
  • Women Are Wiser: Bart takes one try to explain Bob’s plan to Marge to convince her of the danger and get everyone to stop it, whereas Homer still didn’t get it even after four explanations.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Homer is surprised by Sideshow Bob's apparent reformation, stating that if a kid got him sent to jail, "the first thing out I'd find out where he lives and tear him a new belly button". In fact, Bob admits that he has fantasized about avenging himself on Bart in some way, though his willingness to make his thoughts a reality won't become clear until Season 5.