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Recap / The Simpsons S3 E9 "Saturdays of Thunder"

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Original air date: 11/14/1991

Production code: 8F08

After failing a magazine test on being a good father, Homer decides to help Bart out with his Soapbox Derby race car — and soon is left out when Martin gives Bart his race car (after crashing into a wall and getting sent to the hospital) so he can win against Nelson Muntz. Meanwhile, Patty and Selma get their hair styled.

This episode has the following tropes:

  • The Alleged Car: The Little Lightning, the soap box car that Homer and Bart built themselves, at least compared to what all other children (even Nelson) are driving. And then again, the thing falls apart before it reaches the finish line.
  • Alliterative Name: The VHS Village, formerly known as the Beta Barn.
    • Bart's car: The Little Lightning.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Played for Laughs when the Honor Roller's nose heats up red from air friction and explodes into flames despite it being a soap box racer and not having any fuel inside!
  • Bad "Bad Acting": In the Show Within a Show, McBain reacts to his partner bleeding out in his arms with something that sounds less like grief and more like mild annoyance.
  • Blatant Lies: When trying to buy a product on TV over the phone, Homer at first says his credit card expired in 1989 but then says it expires in 2012.
  • Characterization Marches On: Homer's despondency over if he's a good father to the point of seeking out professional help on the matter is quite a stark contrast to later seasons where he shows little interest in Bart and his hobbies.
  • Continuity Nod: Among Homer's poor carpentry jobs is the spice rack he made Marge in "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge."
  • Couch Gag: The family sit on the couch and sink in halfway.
  • Doom It Yourself: Homer is not the greatest of handymen.
  • Epic Fail: Bart and Homer's Soapbox Derby race car doesn't reach the finish line.
    • Martin's parachute only opens after his car crashed.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Martin's soapbox car crashes into a brick wall, resulting in an explosive fireball, despite it not having an engine.
  • Extreme Sports Plot: Bart decides this week to take up soap box racing and his dad decides to show he can be a good father by helping him. It really becomes "extreme" by showing Martin's literally explosive collision and Nelson's car being rigged with illegal weapons.
  • Girls Have Cooties: When he wins the derby Bart is photographed receiving a kiss on the cheek from an attractive model, to his visible disgust.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Thanks to Martin's genius, he was able to build the fastest car in the race. Unfortunately it was so fast that he lost control during the race and got into a crash that resulted in a broken arm.
  • Graceful Loser: Nelson once Bart beats him in the finals of the Soapbox Derby races.
  • Insistent Terminology: Bart's Soapbox Derby role model is always referred to as "Three-time Soapbox Derby champion Ronnie Beck."
  • Jerkass: Homer becomes this after Bart decides to drive Martin's car. He gets better at the end.
  • Kick the Dog: This moment:
    Homer: I don't know jack about my boy! I'm a bad father! [begins crying]
    Selma: You're also fat!
    Homer: I'm also fat! [resumes crying]
  • Like Father, Like Son: Dave and Dave, Jr. at the National Fatherhood Institute. Also, when Bart ridicules Nelson for losing the race, Homer gladly joins in.
  • Loophole Abuse: When Homer retakes the test from National Fatherhood Institute near the end, he takes note that the last question involves naming another father he's talked to concerning parenting. He decides to quickly ask Flanders when a boy should start dating... and leaves immediately as Flanders starts to answer.
    Homer: (as he speeds off in his car) I talked to Flanders about parenting! I'm a perfect father!
  • Man on Fire: The Honor Roller's crash leaves Martin on fire. Firefighters focus on the crash site, while Martin runs around screaming.
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: Scoey, McBain's partner.note 
  • Murder by Mistake: The assassin at the restaurant initially had his gun targeting McBain, but oddly enough switched his target completely to McBain's partner after he inadvertently took the first bullet and kept shooting only Scoey, even though McBain was vulnerable after the first shot moving his partner's body frame away from him. The assassin even had a laser pointer for his pistol, despite being only three feet away from his target!
  • No Sympathy for Grudgeholders: While Homer does have a right to be upset at Bart for ditching the car they built together, it's clear by the time that he refuses to go the big race that he's letting his resentment get the best of him and any sympathy the characters (and the audience) may have had for him pretty much vanishes at that point.
  • Oh, Crap!: Dave's reaction when Homer calls the National Fatherhood Institute and says he got a zero on their test.
  • Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The title obviously riffs on Days of Thunder.
  • Retirony: Parodied in the McBain clip.
  • The Reveal: Bart's hero, three-time Soapbox derby racing champion Ronnie Beck, turns out to be a kid that's younger than him and Bart was well aware of it.
  • Reverse Psychology: Homer's brain uses it to convince him to use it to convince Bart to let him help with the Soapbox Derby race car.
  • Serious Business: The championship race between Bart and Nelson is broadcast on local television, complete with one of the I Am Very British announcers who called the championship match between Bart and Todd Flanders on KBBL Radio in "Dead Putting Society".
  • Shout-Out:
    • The song playing during Homer and Bart's montage of building the racer is Bobby Goldsboro's "Watching Scotty Grow".
    • The card taped next to the paternity test on the refrigerator is a Monopoly card.
  • Skyward Scream: Arguably the show's most famous example:
    • "Martin. I'll curse that boy til the day I die!"
  • Smooch of Victory: After winning the race, Bart is kissed by a pretty lady (though he is clearly disgusted by it).
  • So Proud of You: Homer responds to Bart's mockery of Nelson with "That's my boy!"
  • Stylistic Suck: Little Lightning is a literal "soap box" car, in comparison to all of the other cars on the derby (especially the shuttle-looking Honor Roller).
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Homer insists on joining Bart in building the latter's soap box car "Little Lightning" despite his own abysmal skill in carpenting, whereas Bart himself turns out to have good carpenter skills and doesn't really need Homer's "help." In a more conventional story, the two of them would nonetheless manage to build a winning car while having a bonding experience. In this episode, however, because of Homer's incompetence Bart not only loses to both Martin and Nelson in the first race, but his car falls apart before it even reaches the finish line, resulting in Bart driving Martin's car in the next race after the latter's injury. Without Homer's meddling, it's likely that Bart would have at least managed to beat Nelson and his car.
  • Take That!: Bill Cosby is treated kindly by the episode, though one piece of a dialogue was written as a knock on his criticism of the show (and also the fact that, at the time, The Simpsons and The Cosby Show were scheduled directly against one another, a move which had attracted widespread derision when first announced and erroneous predictions, claiming that it would kill off the animated show's viewership completely).
    Homer: God bless you, Bill Cosby! You've saved the Simpsons!
    • The criticism likely dates back to Season 2 when Marge called Dr. Hibbert at home. That home looked suspiciously like the kitchen on The Cosby Show.
    • Also, Cliff Huxtable tells Olivia to take off a Bart Simpson mask on his own show.
    • When Selma maces Barney, Barney becomes convinced she actually is Mary Tyler Moore. The writers of this episode had worked with Moore on an unsuccessful sitcom and did not enjoy the experience.
  • Tempting Fate: McBain's partner mentions that once they take down the evil senator Mendoza, he's retiring in two days, when his daughter's graduating college, and he and his wife will sail around the world like they always wanted to in the aptly-named "Live-4-Ever". He then gets shot 17 times.
  • Threatening Shark: While Homer's at the National Fatherhood Institute, a shark somehow gets into a tank and attacks a father and son in the middle of an underwater activity.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Bart after winning the race, ironically Nelson was being very polite about it.
    Marge: Bart, you know there's such a thing as being a bad winner.
    Bart: Mom, I never won anything before. I may never win anything again.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The white-coated men from the National Fatherhood Institute happen to arrive to grab Homer while a bunch of Bart's classmates are over.
    Milhouse: Hey Bart, I think they're finally hauling your dad away.
    Bart: Maybe it's for the best.
  • Weaponized Car: Nelson's car has Ben-Hur-style Spiked Wheels that he uses to try to stop Bart at the climax.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Marge calls Homer a bad father when he refuses to go to the big race.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The entire thing is a callout to an old Bill Cosby routine about soapbox derby racing.


Video Example(s):


Test Your FQ

Patty finds a fatherhood quoitient test in a magazine and suggests to Marge to test it on Homer who fails to answer any of the questions.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / DoesntKnowTheirOwnChild

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