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Recap / The Simpsons S3E4 "Bart the Murderer"

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Episode - 8F03
First Aired - 10/10/1991

Bart's bad day at school turns good when he gets a job as a gofer for local mob boss, Fat Tony, but spending time with mafioso may be turning Bart into one of them — especially when news hits that Principal Skinner has gone missing.


This episode provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: In-Universe, with the Very Loosely Based on a True Story Show Within a Show-movie-of-the-week Blood On the Blackboard, that depicts Bart as a young man so vile that he manages to become a criminal mastermind by bullying Fat Tony and is also the architect of Skinner's murder. The real Bart thinks it's pretty cool, mostly because this also makes him an Adaptational Badass.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Fat Tony, as portrayed in Blood On the Blackboard, is a Nervous Wreck who gets slapped and bossed around by the film's version of Bart Simpson. And he's much slimmer too.
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  • Affably Evil: Fat Tony and his gang.
  • Amoral Attorney: Bart is nearly convicted for Principal Skinner's murder, but it turns out this crime never even happened. The prosecutor tries to get Bart convicted anyway, moving for Skinner's testimony about how he is not dead to be removed from record. The judge instantly rejects the motion with prejudice ("DENIED!").
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: When Mrs. Krabappel announces that Skinner is missing, all the students cheer. Except Bart, who has an Oh, Crap!.
  • As Himself: Neil Patrick Harris (playing "Bart"); Joe Mantegna (playing Fat Tony) [both on the show and in the made-for-TV movie within a sitcom Blood on the Blackboard: The Bart Simpson Story].
  • Badass Teacher: Minor thing, mostly because it shows Fat Tony being more of a wimp, but still Skinner managed to stop him and his goons cold from doing whatever they were planning to do to him with a simple bellow of Get Out!. He also manages to save himself from his entrapment by improvising a rocket out of baking soda, a lemon and a balloon, with only one free arm.
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  • Bait-and-Switch: When Bart first stumbles upon the hangout and Fat Tony asks him to pick a horse in the third race.
    Bart: Eat my shorts.
    Fat Tony: Eat My Shorts? Okay, let's see - wait a minute, you little punk!... Eat My Shorts is in the fifth race! I said the third race!
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The whole drama Bart suffers in the third act is the result of him wishing something happened to Skinner in retribution for giving him detention and saying it aloud in the middle of a room full of Mafia guys.
  • Book Dumb: Bart. After his dog eats his homework, it spits a part that has "9 X 9 = 100".
  • The Bore: Skinner strikes again. Bart being the only student in the building because everybody else is on a trip, he asks him to help lick envelopes closed and when Bart tells him he's getting bored, Skinner tells him to entertain himself by seeing how many envelopes he licks in an hour and then trying to beat that record. He later lets Bart go a minute early (mostly because Bart's tongue is completely dry — he even needs to write his question for Skinner) and makes it a "we'll make this our little secret" gesture. He later says in the courtroom that he attempted to pass the time while trapped under newspapers to bounce a basketball, seeing how many times he could bounce it in a day, then trying to beat that record. This prompts an eye-roll from Bart.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Bart is left behind and it starts raining as he starts walking to school. As soon as he arrives, the rain stops and a rainbow appears, prompting an angry "D'oh!" from Bart.
    • After the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon (where a line-up of cats gets mowed down by a minigun-wielding Itchy, Fat Tony remarks "It's funny because it's true", a phrase normally attributed to Homer.
  • Bribe Backfire: Bart's attempt to bribe Principal Skinner resulted in a mid-episode chalkboard gag ("I will not bribe Principal Skinner").
  • Butt-Monkey: Bart. Plain and simple.
  • Call-Back: Skinner's bouncing of a basketball and seeing if he can beat his own record while trapped under his newspapers refers back to when he made a game out of licking envelopes, seeing how many Bart can do in an hour and trying to beat it. Bart rolls his eyes when Skinner says this.
  • The Cameo: Sideshow Bob appears in the same jail cell as Bart, lifting weights.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Bart screams when he wakes up after his nightmare.
  • Class Trip: The school goes to a chocolate factory, a trip Bart misses because he forgot his permission slip.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Bart's Nightmare Sequence is in black-and-white, along with shades of blue.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The visiting Don gives Fat Tony the Kiss of Death because his Manhattan wasn't good.
  • Disregard That Statement: After Skinner shows up alive and completely destroys the murder case against Bart, the prosecution moves to have his testimony stricken from the record anyway. The judge immediately shouts an exasperated "DENIED!" and dismisses the case.
  • A Dog Ate My Homework: Santa's Little Helper eats Bart's homework. After a moment of horror, Bart is surprised that dogs really do that kind of thing.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Bart has this reaction towards his classmates mocking Skinner's disappearance. Justified because he thinks the mafia has killed Skinner when Bart wished something would happen to Skinner for giving him detention. Boy, did that one come back to bite him.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Sideshow Bob, with bulgy arms from weight-lifting, sharing a cell with Bart and NOT trying to kill him?!
    • Principal Skinner is shown living by himself, instead of with his Beloved Smother. His house is also shown to be a bungalow instead of two-storey (story).
  • Easily Condemned: Bart is very quickly set up for murdering Skinner with next to no evidence of him committing it—or that Skinner was dead in the first place. The judge justifies this with the track record given by everyone whose put up with him, including his father.
    Homer (breaking down in tears on the witness stand, after the prosecutor asks him if Bart would be so vile): Aw, it's true, IT'S TRUE! ALL THE PIECES FIT!! *bawls*
  • Empathic Environment: Played for Laughs. The school bus drives off without Bart, and it immediately starts pouring with rain. The rain immediately stops when Bart arrives at school, much to his anger. Later, the second he leaves school, it starts raining again.
  • The Family for the Whole Family: Fat Tony showcases many things in this episode that appear in later appearances, such as the fact that acting more forceful than him can make him go away (or at least start to do so before going all "wait a minute, I'm the Mafia guy here!").
  • Epic Fail:
    • Legs makes a Manhattan so crappy that another crime lord thinks it justifies giving Fat Tony a Kiss of Death.
    • This is the only way to describe the police's attempts at finding Skinner... only polite way of describing it, anyway. They were close enough that Skinner could hear them and they never heard him shouting back.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • When Bart and Sideshow Bob are stuck in the same jail cell together, the latter appears to give a Disapproving Look to the former.
    • Bart has made Skinner's life a living hell both before and after this episode, but the idea of someone actually killing the man (let alone him getting the blame for it) shocks him.
  • Foreshadowing: At the start of the episode, Bart wakes up happy, only to step on a toy when he gets out of bed, affirming his Butt-Monkey status throughout the episode. Also, if you look carefully, his permission slip for the chocolate factory can be seen under his pillow before he gets out of bed. Unfortunately for him, he leaves it at home by accident.
  • For Want of a Nail: Two nails. Bart would never have met the Springfield Mafia if he had remembered to bring his permission slip to school, or if his skateboard hadn't lost a wheel on his way home, causing him to fall down the stairs to their hideout.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad:
    • Lisa is quite smug towards the horrible turn of events Bart suffers.
    • Bart gets a visit from the squad while playing around on the monkey bars:
    Bart: Hey girls, look at me!
    (Bart splits his pants attempting a gymnastics trick; girls point and laugh)
    Bart: ...You can stop looking at me now.
    (Bart is hit in face with football; girls continue to point and laugh)
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Bart's permission slip can be seen under his pillow when he first wakes up.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Willie slaps Ms. Krabappel when she breaks down over the inauguration of a fire hose dedicated to Skinner's memory.
  • Get Out!: Principal Skinner orders Fat Tony and his associates out of his office when he was confronted.
    Principal Skinner: GET! OUT!
    Fat Tony: Okay, okay, you don't have to yell!
  • Gut Feeling: Marge suspects correctly that Bart is hanging out with criminals, and also suspicious with the pizza truck that's been parked across the street for two weeks. Homer mostly ignores her concerns ("a job is a job"). Angry at his indifference, Marge demands that Homer check to see if she's right.
  • Head Desk: Bart miserably does this after the second Oh, Crap! example below (he screams when he realises he left his permission slip at home).
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: In-Universe, Blood On the Blackboard depicts Bart as the one who actually killed Skinner. Not that the real Bart seemed to care, as he liked how it showed him as a hardened criminal.
  • Humiliation Conga: Bart throughout the entire first act.
  • Idiot Ball: The whole town holds onto it in the third act by condemning Bart for Skinner's murder with next-to-no evidence that he had done it or that Skinner was even dead, and then believing Fat Tony's lies that Bart was heading the mafia.
  • Implausible Deniability:
    • Fat Tony is asked by Wiggum about a truckload of cigarettes being hijacked, and Fat Tony asks him, “What’s a truck?” Wiggum tells him not to play dumb. Later Wiggum bursts into the Mafia's hideout to arrest them for Skinner's murder, Fat Tony asks, "What's a murder?" Again, Wiggum doesn't buy it.
    • Fat Tony and his goons frame Bart, a ten-year-old boy, as the "capo di tutti capi" of the Springfield Mafia on top of his alleged role as the mastermind of Skinner's (supposed) murder. The people of Springfield are absurdly gullible to buy that.
  • Incredibly Lame Fun: Only Seymour Skinner would find fun to spend hours licking envelopes.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Fat Tony "explains" to Bart how hijacking a truckload of cigarettes isn't wrong.
    Bart: Uh, say, are you guys crooks?
    Fat Tony: Bart, is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?
    Bart: No.
    Fat Tony: Well, suppose you got a large starving family. Is it wrong to steal a truckload of bread to feed them?
    Bart: Uh uh.
    Fat Tony: And, what if your family don't like bread? They like... cigarettes?
    Bart: I guess that's okay.
    Fat Tony: Now, what if instead of giving them away, you sold them at a price that was practically giving them away. Would that be a crime, Bart?
    Bart: Hell, no.
  • Jerkass Ball: Lisa in the first act. She says that the Humiliation Conga Bart suffers is something he deserves... for apparently no reason. She also gives him a smug little wave as the bus leaves without him.
    • Also Otto. Bart ran up to the bus shouting "Wait! Wait!" Otto did wait, only to slam the doors in Bart's face and drive off without him, leaving him to walk to school and get there forty minutes late. He then splashes Bart with a Roadside Wave when Bart miserably leaves school.
  • Karma Houdini: The mobsters setting up Bart as a fall guy weren't punished for what they've done to him. Once their testimony is proven false, no cares that they'd repeatedly perjured themselves. They agree with Bart's theory that crime doesn't pay... before each driving off in their large limos.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Lisa in the first act, see Jerkass Ball and The Freelance Shame Squad.
  • Kiss of Death: One is given to Fat Tony when he serves the Mafia boss a "flat, flavorless Manhattan" (due to Legs making it instead of the usual bartender, Bart).
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: This episode marks the first appearance of the Trope Namer.
  • MacGyvering: Skinner escaped from his garage trap by building a rocket with baking soda and lemon juice.
  • Made of Iron: Bart fell down the stairs to the Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club and suffered no injuries at all. This was after a football struck him in the face and gave him a black eye.
  • Nerves of Steel: Bart has no problem mouthing off to the Mafia when he first encounters them, even after they'd pointed their guns at him.
  • Never Found the Body: And yet, everyone was willing to believe a ten-year-old would kill Principal Skinner. And as it turns out, the police didn't even look too hard.
    Skinner: (in the basement) I'M IN HEREEEEEE!
    Wiggum: Well, let's go.
    Eddie: Okay, Chief.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Bart suffers a particularly frightening one, where after Skinner is reported missing, Bart sees Skinner's body everywhere he goes, moaning "YOU KILLED ME, BART!", much to Bart's horror. He then ends up on death row and is sentenced to the electric chair, whereupon Bart wakes up screaming.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: The mob find it more efficient to frame Bart (who had been a highly loyal member of the gang up until then) for Skinner's murder (and every other crime of theirs) than simply deny a crime they didn't commit.
  • Not My Lucky Day: Bart suffers a hefty Humiliation Conga before coming face to face with the mafia.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Some of Bart's classmates dole this to Bart after Skinner's disappearance, such as Lewis pretending to be Skinner's corpse.
  • Oh, Crap!: Bart has several:
    • Bart when he sees Santa's Little Helper eating his homework. He then remarks that he didn't know dogs really did that.
    • Bart lets out a horrified scream when he realises he left his permission slip for the field trip at home.
    • Bart on the way home from school when the wheel comes off his skateboard. He then has another one seconds later when he finds himself with several gun barrels in his face held by the Mafia. "Uh-oh", indeed.
    • Bart again when Mrs. Krabappel announces that Skinner is missing. "Uh-oh", again.
    • Bart again in his nightmare when he suddenly finds himself in the death house.
    • In the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon, the line-up of cats all have one when they see Itchy about to mow them down with a minigun.
  • The Oldest Profession: Supposedly, one of the rackets Bart was involved in as head of the Mafia.
  • Police are Useless: They searched Skinner's home, but all they did was dig around his bedroom. They never checked the basement where Skinner was trapped and somehow never heard his loud cries for help.
  • Poke the Poodle: Fat Tony and his henchmen arrive to do something awful to Skinner because he gave Bart detention, sure, but Skinner managed to stop them by just bellowing them to Get Out!.
  • Radish Cure: When Homer finds out that Bart's room is full of cigarette cartons he's holding for Fat Tony, Homer believes that they're his and was about to make him start to smoke all of them (as in several thousand) in order to give him this regarding smoking. It's a good thing the transport guy Fat Tony sent to take out the cartons arrived at that moment.
  • Reality Ensues: Bart only sees the benefits of associating with the mob, so when the reality of his actions hit him, it hits him hard.
    • The mafia has the power to kill and they will do so if someone makes too much trouble for him. Fortunately for Skinner, his actions weren't proportionate enough for death and it would be too hard to explain how a predominant figure, like him, could disappear overnight and have nobody question it.
    • When the authorities finally catch up with the mafia, Bart is thrown under the bus since he's considered dispossable for just being a bartender. The only way he escapes, is by Skinner reappearing in trial and explaining what happened. Afterwards, Bart burns bridges with the mob and quits.
  • Roadside Wave: Bart suffers two of them. After the school bus leaves without him, a car drives through a puddle and splashes him. Then, after he leaves school, the bus drives through a puddle on the way back to school and soaks him again.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Skinner wouldn't accept bribes.
  • Smoking Gun: Skinner suddenly enters the courtroom when the judge is about to declare Bart guilty of his murder.
  • Special Guest: Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure; Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony.
  • Spoof Aesop:
    • After almost being convicted for a crime that didn't even happen, Bart said he learned crime didn't pay. Fat Tony says he agrees... only to leave the courthouse in a limousine, which is followed by limousines belonging to Legs and Louie.
    • Skinner was trapped in his basement because a large pile of newspapers fell on top of him and kept him trapped. He later says, "Let this be a lesson to recycle frequently."
    • After Homer finds hundreds of cigarette cartons in Bart's room, he orders Bart to smoke them all all to teach him a lesson. However, once Fat Tony's delivery guy comes to pick them up, Homer apologizes for doubting Bart's explanation.
  • Spy Ship: A pizza truck's been parked outside of the Simpson house for two weeks. When Marge asks, "How long does it take to deliver a pizza?", the agents inside remark that their cover's blown and pull away, only to be immediately replaced by a "Flowers By Irene" truck.
  • Tempting Fate: Bart remarks early on that he has done his homework for once. It doesn't end well.
    • Actually, Bart's line to Lisa about why he's so happy that morning. It's a lovely day, his homework is done and he's going on a field trip. Santa's Little Helper eats Bart's homework, he has to walk to school in the rain and realises too late that he left his permission slip at home, under his pillow.
    • When Bart's skateboard loses a wheel, he falls down the steps to the Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club and sarcastically asks, "What next?" Cue several gun barrels pointed at him.
    • Homer believes all the cigarettes in Bart's room are his and orders him to smoke them all. When the transport guy by Fat Tony shows up, Homer realises he was wrong and says he will never doubt Bart again. Come the trial, guess what happens.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs:
    Fat Tony: You Skinner?
    Skinner: (angrily) I'm Principal Skinner, yes!
  • Van in Black: Marge notices a pizza van that had been parked outside the Simpsons's house for days, which a government agency surveillance team was hiding out in. After Marge asks 'How long does it take to deliver a Pizza?' it zooms off to be replaced immediately with a "florist" van. The florist's name: Flowers By Irene.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: In-universe, Blood On The Blackboard: The Bart Simpson Story portrays Bart as a hardened mobster who genuinely attempts to murder Skinner, despite the movie being made after he was proven innocent. According to Marge, the film being inaccurate means they didn't have to pay Bart royalties.
  • Villains Never Lie: Legs tells Bart that they did not kill Skinner. As it turns out, they were right. They still tried to frame Bart for doing it, however.
  • Villains Out Shopping: The mobsters watch an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon with Bart.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Springfield Mafia point several guns at Bart when he first falls down the steps to their club. They then do it again to threaten him when he protests he doesn't know how to make the Manhattan cocktail for Legs.
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