First Aired - 10/31/1991
This year's Halloween special comes from candy-induced nightmares: In "Lisa's Dream," Homer's monkey paw souvenir from Morocco makes wishes come true for his family and misfortune to befall everyone else, in "Bart's Dream," Bart's omnipotence forces everyone in town to be a Stepford Smiler or incur his wrath, and in "Homer's Dream," Mr. Burns builds the perfect plant worker and uses Homer's brain to make the robot come to life.
Tropes included in this episode:
- Acid Reflux Nightmare: The Framing Device is a series of nightmares induced by eating too much Halloween candies.
- Actor Allusion: "Bart's Dream" is a redo of The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "It's a Good Life". When the 1983 movie adapted the story, Nancy Cartwright had a small role as the tormented family member Ethel.Dan Castellaneta: She got trapped in a cartoon... just like in real life.
- Announcer Chatter: "The kick is up... It's looking good! The ball is turning into a fat, bald guy! And it's no good! And you know what we say every time something strange happens it's good that Bart did that! It's very good!"
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: A variation as Burns describes his condition after accidentally being crushed by his deactivated robot.Mr. Burns: Every bone shattered... Vital organs leaking fluid... Slight headache... Loss of appetite... Smithers, I'm going to die.
- Bait-and-Switch: "Bart's Dream" has the old Prank Call gag, only Moe shouts out an absurdly long self-insult ("I'm a stupid moron with an ugly face and a big butt and my butt smells and I like to kiss my own butt"), the implication being that Moe knows it's Bart and is just humoring him. Then when the bar starts laughing, he mutters "Wait a minute!", implying he didn't know.
- Bazaar of the Bizarre: Homer buys a monkey's paw in a Moroccan bazaar, which seems to vanish afterwards, but it turns out he just looked in the wrong direction.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: "Lisa's Dream". Everything the family wishes for gets twisted around by the Monkey's Paw, except for Maggie. Subverted when Ned gets it and everything goes right for him (at least on an immediate basis—look below).
- Maggie's wish - At first, it seems she's requested a gigantic, fancy limo...but it turns out it's only there to deliver her real wish: a new pacifier. Nothing goes wrong with that one.
- Bart's wish - He wants the Simpsons to be rich and famous, which eventually results in the world at large getting sick of them.
- Lisa's wish - She asks for world peace, but the universal pacifism and lack of weapons makes it easy for extraterrestrial aliens to conquer Earth.
- Homer's wish - He asks for a turkey sandwich, but then it turns out the turkey is a little dry.
- Flanders wishes to get rid of the aliens, and they're immediately chased off by Moe with a board and a nail. (On the other hand, Kang and Kodos state that humanity will now build bigger and bigger boards with nails, until they destroy themselves.) His second wish changes his house into a castle, but the story ends before we can see if there is anything wrong with it.
- Benevolent Genie: To Homer's utter frustration, the Monkey's Paw seems to basically grant Flanders's wishes as intended (bar Kang and Kodos's prediction that the boards and nails will eventually destroy the Earth).
- Big Brother Is Watching: How Homer is fired from the nuclear power plant. Interestingly, it's one of the few times in the series when Homer is actually fired for incompetence. Despite being non-canon, this is also the first time he noticed there's a camera in his workplace.Smithers: (over intercom) Attention: Homer Simpson. Attention: Homer Simpson. Wake up, Homer!
Homer: (wakes up and pushes random buttons) Huh? Wha?
Smithers: You're fired.
Homer: For what?
Smithers: For sleeping on the job.
Homer: How'd you know I was sleeping?
Smithers: We've been monitoring you on the surveillance camera.
Homer: Camera? (notices it) D'oh!
- Body Horror: What happens to anyone who doesn't think happy thoughts in Bart's dream.
- Brain Theft: Mr. Burns puts Homer's brain in a robot, but the plan backfires as Homer's brain turns the robot into a Lazy Bum.
- Brick Joke: Early on in Bart's dream, American history is rewritten because of Bart, so that America is called "Bonerland". Later on, Bart and Homer go to visit Dr. Marvin Monroe, part of the Bonerland Medical Association.
- Catapult Nightmare: The end of "Bart's Dream."
- Creating Life Is Bad: Apparently, because it will only eat donuts and sleep on the job.Mr. Burns: Oh, Smithers, I was wrong to play God! Life is precious, not something to be toyed with. Now take out that brain and flush it down the toilet!
- Death Glare: Bart gives Marge one when she orders him to come with her, forcing her to rephrase the demand as a request.
- Didn't Think This Through: Mr. Burns' plan to steal somebody's brain to power his robot didn't work out because he used Homer's brain.
- Dream Episode: Most of the episode's running time is the nightmare segments, with only brief linking sections in the waking world.
- Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: Parodied in "Lisa's Dream", Ned wishes that the aliens were gone. Cue Moe (and only Moe) chasing them away.Kodos: He's got a board with a nail in it!
- Eat the Camera: Done at the end of Bart's nightmare, when he wakes up screaming (because of Homer kissing him, among all things.)
- Everybody Lives: To date, this is the only Halloween special where no one dies (unless one counts Mr. Burns's head being separated and placed onto Homer's head as a death).
- Exact Words: Homer uses the paw to wish for a turkey sandwich, and specifies that he wants no "weird surprises". It turns out the turkey in the sandwich is a little dry, which is a perfectly mundane surprise (but not to Homer, who still considers it a horrid thing).
- FaceHeel Turn: After turning out to be Good All Along in their previous appearance, this time, Kang and Kodos are unambiguously evil.
- Failed a Spot Check:
- Mr. Burns needs a brain for his robot? When he and Smithers first walk into the lab and pass by the Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks in the foreground, there's a living human brain in a specimen dish right there.
- In the same segment, Bart and Lisa only realize Homer went missing when Marge informed them he'd been gone for two days.
- Faux Horrific:
- In "Bart's Dream," Dr. Monroe suggests that Bart is using his omnipotent powers as a way to earn Homer's affection. He encourages the Simpson men to spend quality time together. They do so, become much closer, and say that they love each other. Homer then gently kisses Bart on the head...which causes the real Bart to wake up screaming in terror.
- Homer reacts to eating a turkey sandwich with meat that's a little dry with more fervor and anguish than Earth being enslaved by aliens.
- Five-Second Foreshadowing:
- As Mr. Burns, having been crushed by his robot, is telling Smithers to grab surgical tools and some ether, we cut to Homer screaming in bed before we learn what those tools were to be used for.
- Also, here's what is immediately said after we cut to Homer screaming:Marge: Did you have a nightmare?Homer: No. Bart bit me.
- We also don't immediately see the right part of Homer's body. But apparently his family did after he got up.
- Also, here's what is immediately said after we cut to Homer screaming:
- As Mr. Burns, having been crushed by his robot, is telling Smithers to grab surgical tools and some ether, we cut to Homer screaming in bed before we learn what those tools were to be used for.
- Foreshadowing: Lisa's nightmare begins with a dream-like crossfade, and Bart's nightmare as he closes his eyes (seen from his POV). Homer's "nightmare" just has a straight cut to the beginning of the story, foreshadowing the twist ending.
- Gone Horribly Wrong: Mr. Burns comes to this conclusion when the robot powered by Homer's brain fails to live up to his expectations and behaves just like Homer:Mr Burns: It wasn't supposed to be this way! It was supposed to be a thing of beauty, not this abomination!(cut to the Homer robot loudly snoring while asleep at its post)
- Global Ignorance: In the first segment, Homer confuses Morocco with Monaco.Homer: What a dump! Why would Princess Grace live in a place like this?
Lisa: Dad, that's Monaco.
- Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks: When Mr. Burns and Smithers descend into Burns' laboratory, they pass a worktable in the foreground featuring loads of glassware and a human brain in a dish. As they pass behind them, the audience's views of their bodies become distorted, stretched and squashed when viewed through the liquids.
- Grave Humor: Like the first Treehouse of Horror special, there are some funny gravestones in the intro. One reads "Cajun Cooking" and another reads "Lose Weight Now, Ask Me How".
- Grave Robbing: In "Homer's Dream," Mr. Burns and Smithers do this to find a brain for their robot. They find Homer sleeping in an open grave.Mr. Burns: I feel like a kid in a candy store!
- How Hard Can It Be: Homer's question when Lisa realized a possible job requires to operate an ultrasonic lithotriptor. Lisa shakes her head at Homer's question.
- In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: What Kang and Kodos are convinced humanity will do after being chased off the planet.Kodos: Well, Kang, it seems the earthlings won.
Kang: Did they? That board with the nail in it may have defeated us, but the humans won't stop there. They'll make bigger boards and bigger nails. Soon, they will make a board with a nail so big, it will destroy them all! (both laugh)
- Innocuously Important Episode: While it was a dream, this is the first time Homer is aware there's a camera on him.
- Insufficiently Advanced Alien: In "Lisa's Dream," after humanity has gotten rid of their weapons, Kang and Kodos conquer Earth with slings and clubs.Kang: Your superior intellect is no match for our puny weapons!
- Irony:Lisa: I wish for world peace!
Homer: Lisa, that was very selfish of you!
- Irritation Nightmare: In this episode's second act, Bart dreams that he can read minds and turn people into anything if they don't think happy thoughts. After Bart turns Homer into a jack-in-the-box, Marge takes him to Dr. Marvin Monroe, who suggests that Homer spend time with him. Homer and Bart form a strong bond, and after Bart turns Homer back to normal, they say they love each other. Cue Bart waking up screaming.
- It's Popular, Now It Sucks!: An in-universe example. Bart wishes for the Simpsons to be rich and famous, resulting in the world getting sick of them.
- Jackass Genie: As usual, the Monkey Paw.
- Jerkass: Jimbo and Kearney threaten to egg Homer's house if he didn't hand over the candy bowl...then they egg it anyway and smash his pumpkin.
- Jump Scare: Bart's Catapult Nightmare scream at the end of his dream where he rapidly zooms really close to the screen and then his black mouth overtakes the entire screen.
- Laser-Guided Karma: When Flanders gets the Monkey's paw, it works flawlessly for him.
- Limited Animation: Marge at the window: "Oh Homer, this is awful."◊
- Literal Genie: When it can't be a Jerkass Genie thanks to Homer taking his time wording his final wish, it acts as a literal one. When Homer doesn't want any weird surprises in his turkey sandwich, the paw doesn't give him a 'weird' surprise, but an ordinary one by making the turkey a little dry.
- The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Parodied:Marge: Eugh! Homer, where did you get that ugly thing?Homer: From that little shop right over there—(Points to an empty lot, where sand devils whirl. He gasps in disbelief, then corrects himself.) Oh, no, wait, it was right over there.Shop Vendor: (waving) You'll be sorrrrrrry!
- Morality Pet: In "Homer's Dream", after the experiment is a proven failure, Smithers gets Burns to reverse the procedure on Homer.
- Multiple Head Case: Mr. Burns' head is stitched to Homer's body.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Lisa's reaction after the aliens invaded, we see Lisa moping at the table with Marge comforting her in the background while Bart was reading the newspaper.
- Not Hyperbole: When everyone starts to despise the Simpsons for appearing everywhere:Homer: Come to think of it, the guy who sold me this thing said the wishes would bring "grave misfortune". I thought he was just being colorful.
- Not So Above It All: Burns using the brain as a coonskin cap and yelling, "Look at me! I'm Davy Crockett!"
- Off-Model: Happens fairly frequently, being an early episode from Anivision. Bart especially falls victim to this, often looking very much like he did in the early Season 1 episodes.
- Only Sane Woman: Marge (as usual) takes this role throughout the episode. In the framing device, she warns everyone not to eat too much candy; in "Lisa's Dream," she's the only person who suggests that the wishing might go wrong; and in "Bart's Dream," she demands that the family attend therapy to sort out their problems.
- On the Next: Parodied at the end of "Homer's Dream." Homer wants to go to a spaghetti dinner, while Burns insists on attending a reception for the Queen of Holland.Homer: Oh, I hate having two heads!
- Or Was It a Dream?: The end of "Homer's Dream," where Homer finds Mr. Burns' head grafted to his shoulder.Homer: I didn't wake up! It's all a dream! It's just a dream!
Mr. Burns: Oh, that's right. It's all a dream... or is it?! (laughs)
- Police Are Useless: Justified in both Lisa's and Bart's dreams. In the former, they could not stop the aliens due to Lisa's wish on world peace. In the latter, since Bart has powers that he uses whenever he is not pleased, all the cops could do is wave "Hi Bart!" when the bus passes them at 88 miles per hour.
- Prank Call: In Bart's dream, he calls Moe and has him yell out the Punny Name of... "I'm A Stupid Moron With An Ugly Face And A Big Butt And My Butt Smells And I Like To Kiss My Own Butt." The end of the scene implies Moe didn't realize it was Bart.
- Psychic Static: Homer attempts this when he tries to kill Bart in "Bart's Dream," using the traditional "think other thoughts" method. The problem? His "other thoughts" are thoughts about not thinking about killing Bart ("OK, don't think about how you're going to kill him"). Needless to say, it doesn't work.
- Puny Earthlings: Subverted for laughs. Kang and Kodos only invade Earth after humanity has voluntarily dissolved its militaries and destroyed all its weapons, leaving them helpless against the aliens' arsenal of wooden clubs and slingshots. The aliens even boast, "Your superior intellect is no match for our puny weapons!" They flee the planet when Moe thinks to attack them with a wooden board that has a nail sticking out of it.
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: How Smithers gets Mr. Burns to return Homer's brain to his body.
- Reality Warper: Bart in "Bart's Dream." Justified as it's a parody of The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "It's a Good Life" about a boy named Anthony Fremont who had similar powers.
- Recycled Animation:
- The footage of Lisa saying, "Don't forget, Dad: tonight, my class is having an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner." is recycled from "Homer Defined".
- The Cold Open of Marge warning the viewers and the opening pan through Springfield and through the gates of the cemetery are reused from the previous Treehouse of Horror episode, with new dialogue from Marge for the former.
- Riddle for the Ages: Maggie ate just as much candy as her family at the beginning, so it is possible she had a nightmare as well, but we just don't see it.
- Ridiculous Exchange Rates: On their way back from Morocco, Homer is frisked by airport security and is revealed to have smuggled food under his shirt. This leads to:Airport security: You must pay a fine!... of two American dollars.
Homer: (nonchalant) Okay.
- Rock Beats Laser: Parodied. The primary weapon for the human uprising against their alien overlords is Moe wielding a board with a nail in it. This makes sense considering the aliens invaded when the entire earth was unarmed after Lisa wished for world peace, and had things like slingshots. After being driven off, the aliens muse that one day the humans will "create bigger boards and bigger nails" until one day "they will create a board with a nail so big it will destroy them all!"Kang: Your superior intellect is no match for our puny weapons!
- Satiating Sandwich: When Bart and Lisas wishes for fame and fortune and world peace go horribly wrong, Homer uses the last wish from the monkey paw on something he believes cant possibly backfire: a turkey sandwich. He even demonstrates some genre savviness by explicitly specifying that the sandwich not be made from zombie turkeys, that he not be turned into a turkey himself, or any other weird surprises. Subverted, however, when Homer evaluates the conjured sandwich...Homer: [eating] Not bad. Nice, hot mustard. Good bread. The turkey's a little dry. [gasps] The turkeys a little dry?!? OH FOUL ACCURSED THING!!! WHAT DEMON FROM THE DEPTHS OF HELL CREATED THEE???
- Self-Deprecation: After Bart wishes for The Simpsons to become rich and famous, a large merchandising campaign starts up, causing the general public to grow tired of them.Otto: (listening to a Simpsons album) Man, this thing is really getting out of hand.
Helen Lovejoy: Is there anything they won't do?
- Sharing a Body: Mr. Burns's head is stitched to Homer's body.
- The gravestones at the start show the tombstones of "Bambi's Mom", Jim Morrison (which has writing all over it and is being worshipped by hippies, which how Morrison's grave looks in real life), and Walt Disney (with icicles and frost all over it, a reference to the urban legend that Disney is cryogenically frozen).
- The children in Halloween costumes running past Homer's door are a reference to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
- Homer being searched by the Moroccan police at the airport is a reference to the arrest of the drug smuggler in Midnight Express.
- Lisa wishes for world peace, which shows scenes of Argentina and the United Kingdom making up over the Falklands and people dancing in a large peace symbol to the tune of the hippie anthem "Get Together" by The Youngbloods.
- Flanders' castle is a reference to the Disneyland castle.
- Bart and Lisa watch The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on TV.
- Mr. Burns scolds the robot he created with the insult: "Clinking, clattering cacophony of collagenous cogs and camshafts", similar to The Wizard of Oz's line to the Tin Man: "You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk!" He also hums "If I Only Had a Brain" while scooping Homer's brain out of his head. Coincidentally, "If I Only Had a Brain" is also the title of this segment.
- Homer and Mr. Burns's heads sharing the same body reference The Thing with Two Heads.
- Skewed Priorities: When Smithers asks Mr. Burns to put Homer's brain back in his own body, Mr. Burns whines: "Oh come on, it's 11:45!"
- Spot the Thread: Homer's segment is the only one that doesn't have a transition to the "dream" portion.
- Stepford Smiler: Everyone in Bart's dream, because if they don't think happy thoughts, Bart turns them into something horrific. And it's a good thing that Bart does that, it's a real good thing.
- Tempting Fate: Marge warns everyone to not eat too much candy or they'll get nightmares.
- They Called Me Mad!: "Oh, that fellow at Radio Shack said I was mad. Well who's mad now? Ah-hahahahahaha!"
- This Ain't Rocket Surgery:Mr. Burns: Dammit, Smithers! This isn't rocket science, it's brain surgery!
- Too Old to Trick-or-Treat: The opening credits feature Jimbo Jones and Kearney Zzyzwicz trick-or-treating at the Simpson's residence. Homer Simpson asks them if they aren't too old to trick-or-treat and points out that they aren't even wearing costumes.
- Vocal Dissonance: When Bart wakes up screaming at the end of his nightmare, his scream sounds more like Lisa's, though this could be attributed to Early Installment Weirdness.
- Whole Plot Reference: