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Recap / The Simpsons S 3 E 3 When Flanders Failed

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Episode - 7F23
First Aired - 10/3/1991

Ned Flanders announces during one of his barbecues that he's quitting his job as a pharmacist and going into business for himself by running a specialty store catering to the left-handed, but Homer's jealousy (and a wishbone wish) drive Flanders' business into the ground. Meanwhile, Marge encourages Bart to do other things with his time rather than watch TV, so Bart takes karate lessons — and skips them for time at the arcade.


This episode provides examples of:

  • A Day in the Limelight: This was the first episode to focus on Ned Flanders.
  • And Show It to You: Bart claims he learned how to do this in karate class.
  • Back for the Finale: Sort of. This was intended to be the finale for Season Two in production order, and features a mass amount of cameos of nearly every character from the first couple of seasons.
  • Bait-and-Switch: At first, the subplot appears to set up Marge going on another crusade, this time against television in general, because Bart spends his afternoons watching it. Then an advertisement on karate plays, and Bart decides to do that.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Homer wishes that Flanders' store goes bankrupt, but once it actually happens and he witnesses the family begin to suffer as a result, he feels guilty about it.
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  • Chekhov's Gun: The left-handed citizens that Homer meets throughout the episode prove imperative for saving the Leftorium during the climax.
  • Entitled Bastard: Downplayed, but Homer still displays some traits of this.
    Homer: Hello, Jerry. Homer Simpson. Remember last month when I paid back that loan? Well, now I need you to do a favor for me.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Homer thinks that outright wishing for Ned to die would be going too far, but not wishing he'd go broke and lose his store (until it actually happened).
  • Evil Laugh: Homer at the end of the barbecue scene. Unfortunately for him, he had a mouthful of burger at the time, causing him to choke partway through the laugh and for Ned to have to perform the Heimlich maneuver on him.
  • Fictional Video Game: After playing Touch of Death at the arcade, Bart claims to know the "Touch of Death" technique, trying it on his sister and some bullies. There is also a ''Nurse and Michael Jackson arcade game.
  • Gratuitous German: Lisa tells Homer about Schadenfreude, the German term for taking pleasure in the suffering of others. This leads Homer to ask what's the opposite of that; when she replies that would be "sour grapes," he believes that it's another German word, saying "Boy, those Germans have a word for everything.".
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Homer. He breaks out of it when he sees Ned's life being wrecked all around him.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Bart skipping his karate lessons and threatening Lisa with the "Touch of Death" comes back to bite him when Lisa threatens the bullies with Bart.
  • Hope Spot: A bill collector comes to Homer's house, accidentally thinking it's the Flanders household. When Homer sets him straight, the man says, "You're Homer Simpson? See you Thursday.".
  • Irony: The bill collector who accidentally knocks on the wrong house (he meant to go to Ned's house) says an ironic statement:
    Homer: Flanders is in debt? Are you sure?
    Chuck Ellis: We don't make mistakes.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: Hilariously deconstructed and lampooned. When on the grill by Homer and Marge at dinner for what he learned at his first karate class, Bart pulls out of his hat that he learned the "Touch of Death", something which he took directly from a video game he played when he ditched class. When karma comes to bite him in the ass for harassing Lisa with the "Touch of Death" by pitting him up against Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearny, all of that non training really pays off when he doesn't know the first thing about how to defend himself and just wimply tries to look menacing by posing his hand.
  • It's All My Fault: Homer says exactly this when Flanders loses his house. The reality of the situation is, while Homer certainly didn't help Flanders with his store, he's actually far from the reason it's failing.
  • Jerkass: For years, the writers used this episode as the limit for how much of a jerk Homer could be. Of course one hell of a Jerkass Realization still set some sort of limit here.
  • Karma Houdini: The bullies received no comeuppance for trying to steal Lisa's saxophone.
  • Kick the Dog: When Ned has a garage sale out of desperation, Homer takes advantage of it and buys a lot of his stuff for next to nothing. He feels bad later on and decides to give his stuff back.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Bart getting beat up by the bullies after skipping karate class to play video games, while trying to get Lisa's sax back.
    Lisa: It's funny how two wrongs sometimes make a right.
    • To a lesser extent, Bart taunts Homer about not going to the barbeque by gorging on food. The B-plot is about Marge signing him up for a martial arts class to make him lose weight, though it was partially his idea.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Homer after seeing Flanders' store going bankrupt.
  • National Stereotypes: The karate teacher is of course a Japanese man. However, as a bit of a Continuity Nod, it's Akira, the Happy Sumo waiter from One Fish Two Fish Blowfish Blue Fish.
  • Necessary Evil: After Ned's home is foreclosed, Ned tells Homer that the agent who evicted his family was only doing his job.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: As Flanders mopes in his failure to Homer, who is already undergoing a Heel Realization for basking in his struggles, the former laments it's almost like since the barbecue he has been cursed. This causes Homer to break down in Tears of Remorse.
  • Off-Model: Much like "Some Enchanted Evening", this episode was actually delayed due to excess errors, originally produced for late Season Two. This happened because the episode was farmed out to a "company that no one had ever heard of; it was people that had just recently gotten opposable thumbs" (that said, the credits still list AKOM as the animators). Mike Reiss had said he will always remember the episode "that came back animated with a thousand mistakes in it and was just a complete and utter mess". They had attempted to clean up as much as possible, but errors still made it through. That the delay meant it aired with the relatively crisper Season Three only exacerbates it.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Yes Marge, Bart would obviously be taught something so dangerous and killer as "The Touch of Death" by a publicly accessible martial arts school out at the mall.
  • Pacifist Dojo: One of the many reasons why Akira's dojo is able to be sucessful enough to have a commercial in the first place. The first thing students learn when they start? Reading up on Sun Tzu's Art Of War. Bart can consider reading books and pacifism lame all he wants, but no one hears about Akira's students getting their asses handed to them around Springfield.
  • Pursue the Dream Job: Ned Flanders quits his job as a pharmacist and opens a specialty store catering to the left-handed. Deconstructed when his business nearly goes under and the Flanders are forced to move away; reconstructed when Homer gathers everyone in town who's left-handed to come to his store.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Bart's skipping karate class because he didn't want to study comes back to bite him. While he thinks of Akira's methods as old-fashioned and boring, proper training (such as studying) is completely necessary as to prevent injury to the user. When Bart tries to fight the bullies without training, he gets his ass handed to him.
    • Despite the subtle inklings of Homer "cursing" Flanders, it is made clear the latter is not doing a brilliant job promoting his Leftorium, and going in relying on his optimism and good natured (and occasionally doormat-ish) sale making. Sure enough Flanders is not making ends meet, with the store risking shut down and his family risking losing their home due to the large investment they made on it. It takes Homer wide spread advertising the store to get his business back on foot.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Upon finding out that the karate lessons weren't as much fun as he expected, Bart quits within seconds of the first class.
    Bart: Pay money to read books. The hell with this.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Homer rallying the townspeople to save Ned's store echoes the ending of It's a Wonderful Life. Maude is also wearing the dress that Donna Reed's character wore. She even makes the same expression in one close-up.
    • One of the bullies calls Bart "Karate Kid".
  • Triumphant Reprise: When the Leftorium is about to close down, Ned's family sings "Put on a Happy Face" to cheer themselves up. After Homer saves the store, they sing the song again, this time in celebration of the store's success.


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