Lisa becomes a finalist in a patriotic essay contest and travels to Washington, D.C., only to have her faith in the American way shattered when she witnesses a congressman taking a bribe and planning to destroy a forest.
- When Lisa wants to write an essay, she says: "America, inspire me!", whereupon a bald eagle lands on a tree branch and spreads his wings. This pose is a reference to the Great Seal of the United States, complete with arrows in its left claw.
- After witnessing corruption, Lisa watches a group of politicians near the Capitol and imagines them as cats scratching each other's backs and filthy pigs who are fed money by Uncle Sam and wipe their mouths with the American flag.
- Bait-and-Switch: George (H.W) Bush does this with a diplomat when he receives the bill to expel Bob Arnold.George Bush: Okay, this should make my bosses very happy.Diplomat: Your bosses?George Bush: Yep. All 250 million of them.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: At first, Bob Arnold seems like a decent guy, as evidenced by Moe and Barney's opinion of him, and even Lisa's.
- Broken Pedestal: Lisa looked up to Bob Arnold, hoping that she could vote for him once she's old enough.
- Comically Missing the Point: The Simpsons arrive at the airport where they see a chauffeur holding a sign that reads: "Simpson". Homer then says: "Look, Marge, that guy has the same last name we do!" and hails a taxi instead.
- Corrupt Politician: Bob Arnold. He takes a bribe to demolish the forest that inspired Lisa's essay, and is willing to allow oil drilling on Teddy Roosevelt's head. Though that second one was a sting operation to have him arrested.
- Did You Die?: Homer reads the family a tale of wilderness survival.Homer: "Then I heard the sound that all Arctic explorers dread: the pitiless bark of the sea lion!" [gasp] He'll be killed!
Marge: Homer, he obviously got out alive if he wrote the article.
Homer: Don't be so... [flips page] Oh, you're right.
- Dude Where Is My Respect: When Lisa tries to ask Thomas Jefferson's monument for advice, Jefferson feels angry because, compared to Lincoln, nobody visits him. Then, in a Sarcasm Mode rant, he starts naming all the so-called "unimportant things" he did for the United States.Thomas Jefferson: No one ever comes to see me. I don't blame them. I never did anything important! Just the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, the dumbwaiter...!
- Eagle Land: Zigzagged. The members of government can be corrupt, but Lisa's essay, even though it causes her to lose a contest, is what ends exposing Arnold, showing that people can bring down corrupt forces.
- HeelFaith Turn: According to a newspaper, Bob Arnold becomes a born-again Christian after his conviction. (This is a fairly obvious Take That! at the many Real Life criminals who claim to find religion in an attempt to win sympathy, and perhaps a reduced sentence.)
- Humble Hero: The FBI agent performing the sting operation says he's just doing his job.
- Intimidating Revenue Service: The Simpsons pass by the IRS Building in Washington D.C.Homer: BOOO!IRS Worker (looking out the window): Aw, boo yourself!
- Laser-Guided Karma: Lisa writes a second essay exposing Bob Arnold's corruption, which leads to him getting caught in an FBI sting operation, expelled from Congress, and sent to prison.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Homer says: "Oh, Marge, cartoons don't have any deep meaning. They're just stupid drawings that give you a cheap laugh." Then he rises from his chair and reveals his rear cleavage.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": During his tour of the cockpit, Bart presses the button that causes the passengers' oxygen masks to deploy. Homer screams "We're all gonna die!" and every other passenger begins panicking.
- Naked on Arrival: The Simpsons visit the White House, where they see Barbara Bush taking a bath. At first, she is startled, but then she just starts guiding them about the room.
- Normally there would be all kinds of charges leveled against the Simpsons, but they have a special pass put together by Reading Digest.
- Not So Above It All: Marge snickers at the phallic shape of the Washington Monument. Homer tells Marge to "grow up".
- Oh, Crap!: A Senator's aide was at the essay contest and informs his boss of what Lisa said about Bob Arnold.Aide: A little girl is losing faith in democracy!
Senator: Good Lord!
- Rage Breaking Point: Bart is continually annoyed by the pianist at the essay contest. In the final scene, he can't take it anymore and knocks him out with his slingshot.
- Shattering the Illusion: Lisa arrives in Washington to show off her patriotic pride with an essay, but loses faith in the American way when she witnesses a senator taking a bribe. Poor girl.
- The title is this to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The plot is similar too, with Lisa being a patriotic idealist as she enters Washington, becoming disillusioned when she witnesses the corruption there. Just like Mr. Smith, she goes to the Lincoln Memorial to ask him for advice and then uses her talents to criticize the system, which does result in the arrest of the corrupt people she witnessed.
- The Simpsons stay in the Watergate Hotel and visit the IRS Building, the National Air and Space Museum, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Capitol and the Winifred Beecher Howe Memorial.
- Ted Kennedy can be seen at the contest.
- The satirical pianist is a spoof of Mark Russell.
- Reading Digest is similar to the real life Readers Digest.
- Spoof Aesop: The lesson Bart takes from Lisa's speech is to stand up for what he believes in. Of course, he says that after he beamed the pianist simply for annoying him.
- Swamps Are Evil: Invoked metaphorically by Lisa in her essay "Cesspool on the Potomac", where — after witnessing the corruption in the U.S. Senate — she compares the stink of the swamp Washington D.C. was built on with the stink of corruption that fills it now."The city of Washington was built on a stagnant swamp some 200 years ago and very little has changed. It stank then and it stinks now."
- Swapped Roles: The Washington Monument scene, where Marge makes the immature observation and Homer reprimands it.Homer: Oh, Marge, grow up.
- Thomas Jefferson: Lisa visits his monument.
- Take That!: In an (imaginary) conversation, the statue rants about how the Lincoln Memorial is constantly crowded, and about how people care more about Lincoln than about him.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- After one of the judges suspects Homer of helping Lisa with her essay, she asks him if he's interested in politics or anything for that matter. After Homer shrugs it off with the words "I don't know", the judge asks him to touch his nose with his eyes closed, which Homer fails to do. Twice! (Before speaking to Homer, the judge suspected he had been giving Lisa help. After speaking to Homer, she considered giving Lisa extra points for doing so well despite him.)
- Homer thought he received a million dollar check prize in the mail and took it to the bank. The clerk tells him it's not valid, specifically pointing to how "This is not a check" is clearly written on it.
- Vacation Episode: The Simpsons travel to Washington D.C.