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Recap / The Simpsons S4 E13 "Selma's Choice"

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Original air date: 1/21/1993 (produced in 1992)

Production code: 9F11
"Duff Beer for me, Duff Beer for you, I'll have a Duff, you'll have one too..."

Selma's Choice is the 13th episode of the fourth season of The Simpsons.

Selma once again must find a man so she can raise a family and not die alone like her recently-deceased aunt Gladys, but when Homer falls ill due to eating a rotten sandwich, Selma volunteers to take Bart and Lisa to Duff Gardens, she soon realizes that she has little to no motherly skills or instinct.

It marks the first appearance of Jub-Jub the iguana.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Amoral Attorney: Lionel Hutz tries to forge Great Aunt Gladys's video will to get 50,000 dollars.
    Gladys: Now, let's get down to business. (starts to read, her voice recorded over by Lionel's) To my executor, Lionel Hutz, I leave $50,000.
    Marge: (appalled) MR. HUTZ!
    Lionel: You'd be surprised how often that works. You really would!
  • Amusement Park of Doom: Duff Gardens is a subversion. The worst the park has is roaming gangs (Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearney, who are shown getting arrested as part of a commercial, but later steal three bumper cars and ride them off into the sunset) and unprofessional/incompetent workers (Surly, the Barrel Roll coaster operators, the "Complaints" line lady who tells a customer to "get bent," and the "doctor" who gave Lisa a handful of pills). The real danger comes from Bart wreaking havoc (by pulling down the George Washington robot's pants and getting stuck on a roller coaster) and Lisa getting high on the tainted water in the "Little Land of Duff" ride.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: While browsing a catalogue of high-status men whose sperm is available:
    Marge: A Nobel Prize winner! An NBA all-star! Ooh, one of the Sweathogs!
  • Artistic License – Law: Lionel Hutz's trick of forging wills to make himself a beneficiary would never hold up in court; it is illegal to benefit from a will for which you're the executor. Of course, this is par for the course, as Lionel Hutz is a corrupt and incompetent lawyer while Springfield's justice system is deeply flawed.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The man on the ham radio is actually speaking foreign-sounding gibberish. This is notable, because, normally, the Simpson writers and voice actors would at least make the effort to learn a new language that actually exists. In this case, they didn't.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Homer loses interest during Aunt Gladys's video will by fast-forwarding to the end of Great Aunt Gladys's reading of Robert Frost's poetry—Marge scolds him for this, but when Homer says, "All in favor of skipping the poem?", everyone else (including Marge's sisters and their mother) raise their hand in agreement.
  • Beer Goggles: When Bart tries on the beer goggles and looks at Selma, she's gotten prettier and sexier and sweeter.
  • Black Comedy:
    • Homer and Bart singing "Ding-Dong, The Witch Is Dead" after Marge gets them to stop singing "On Top of Spaghetti" while driving to the funeral.
    • Homer only breaking down in tears at the funeral because there was no catering.
    • Bart tricking Lisa into thinking Great Aunt Gladys is alive.
    • Jackie wanting the bowel obstruction that killed Great Aunt Gladys rather than her pet iguana Jub-Jub.
    • One of the Moleman kids falling out the window (in the fantasy of what Selma's life will be like as Hans Moleman's wife), followed by a long, chilling silence before it goes back to reality.
  • Body Wipe: With Selma, as she is dragged off a bench by Lisa and Bart.
  • Bowdlerisation: In-universe, Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" from Transformer (filled with many references to sex work, racism, transsexuality, and drug abuse) is performed by Hooray for Everything at Duff Gardens. In keeping with the group's "clean-shaven sounds", the lyric "And the colored girls go" is changed to "And all the races sing."
  • Brutal Honesty: After giving Selma a literal handful of pills to give Lisa so she comes down from her high, the "doctor" bluntly admits he isn't one.
  • Call-Back:
    • One of the movies Marge rents for a sick Homer is The Erotic Adventures of Hercules, starring Troy McClure as Hercules and Norman Fell note  as Zeus. The Erotic Adventures of Hercules was first mentioned in the episode "Mr. Plow", during Carnival of the Stars.
    • Selma continues her search to find a man and have a baby out of fear of dying alone, as seen in "Principal Charming" and "Black Widower".
    • Lance Murdock makes his first appearance since "Bart the Daredevil".
  • Car Ride Games: On their way to Aunt Gladys's funeral, Bart and Lisa play a "counting game", which Marge thinks is nice. It is then revealed that they're counting bags and suitcases that fell off the car.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Jub-Jub is introduced early as a seemingly random joke to indicate Gladys' unusual choice of pet. He's adopted by Selma at the end after she realizes she's just not cut out for children.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Patty, Selma and Marge's Aunt Gladys—besides being a loner, she keeps irregularly-shaped potato chips, referring to them as her "children." However, unlike most examples of this trope, Gladys's behavior can be attributed to being elderly and ultimately never getting married or having children, which she fears will end up happening to her nieces, Patty and Selma.
  • Color Failure: Homer becomes pale from food poisoning while Lisa becomes pale from drinking the tainted water.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Selma questions Homer's success at parenting by asking "How do you do it?". Homer initially thinks that she's asking how to turn a bedsheet into a toga before Selma explains what she really means.
    • Homer thinking artificial insemination involves having sex with a robot. When Marge whispers what it really is, Homer says, "I knew that."
  • Couch Gag: The family is caught in a rope trap.
  • A Day in the Limelight: For Selma.
  • Deranged Animation: Lisa's hallucination of Selma after drinking the Duff Gardens water.
  • Determinator: Spoofed. Even with his severe food poisoning, Homer is determined to get to Duff Gardens. He doesn't make it past the driver's seat of his car.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: When Selma says that Gladys's legend will live on, Homer thinks to himself, "Yeah, the legend of the dog-faced woman." He then repeats the phrase aloud in amusement, leading to a scolding from Marge.
  • Edutainment: Subverted. Selma assumes the "Beer Hall of Presidents" is this and insists the kids have to sit through the whole thing, when it's actually just a thinly-disguised ad for Duff Beer. It's not even that entertaining.
    "Settle down. Anything this bad has to be educational!"
  • Epic Fail:
    • Homer failing at the kid's maze placemat game (repeatedly) at The Buzzing Sign Diner.
    • The priest not realizing that Gladys was a woman until one of the ushers whispered it into his ear while he was in the middle of giving the eulogy, during an open-casket funeral.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Even Groundskeeper Willie, a brash, slovenly school janitor who has seen his share of disgusting moments in school (mostly bathroom accidents and Wendell the pale kid puking), thinks Selma's dating video of her doing the cherry stem knot trick on a lit cigarette is revolting ("Back to the loch with you, Nessie!").
    • Homer, for all his hatred for Marge's sisters, is actually civil to them in this episode (barring the "Legend of the Dogfaced Woman" crack and fast-forwarding the video will, which even Patty, Selma, and Jackie agreed was boring and wanted Homer to do it). He doesn't snark back when Patty tells Selma to "close your eyes and think of MacGyver" when Homer hugs them and Homer feels bad for Selma not being able to handle the kids during the trip to Duff Gardens, even taking her hand without her showing any negative reaction.
  • Feigning Healthiness: Homer insists he's healty enough to go to Duff Garden, despite being very pale and collapsing several times thanks to food poisoning.
  • The Food Poisoning Incident: Homer falls ill from eating a 10-foot-long party sub salvaged from a power plant luncheon picnic that's been eaten by him even when it decayed far beyond the point of edibility over the span of nearly a month, leaving him in absolutely no condition to even walk a short distance down the street let alone drive. This forces Marge to nurse him back to health and ask Selma to take Bart and Lisa to Duff Gardens.
  • Forging the Will: Lionel Hutz edits Gladys's video will to make her say she's leaving him $50,000. Everyone sees through the ruse because Hutz didn't disguise his voice. It's not the first time he tries to pull that sort of scam.
    Lionel Hutz: You'd be surprised how often that works, you really would!
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": The funeral home actually has a sign that reads, "The Lucky Stiff Funeral Home — We Put the 'Fun' in Funeral". Bart also scares Lisa into thinking that Aunt Gladys's corpse is still talking.
  • Generation Xerox: The babies that all look and belch like Barney Gumble, and the Hans Moleman kids (who are all blind and ugly) in Selma's Imagine Spot of life as Mrs. Hans Moleman.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The psychic trying to con Selma into buying a fake love potion fails as a consequence of ingesting her own truth serum.
  • Hostile Animatronics: Animatronic George Washington becomes one briefly after Bart shorts him out by pantsing him.
  • Illness Blanket: Homer is wrapped in a blanket after getting sick, although this doesn't last long as he spends the rest of his illness in bed.
  • Imagine Spot: Selma has one of her being married to Hans Moleman, with several visually-impaired and ugly children. She immediately tosses Moleman out of her car.
  • I'm Going to Disney World!:
    Announcer: Hey, Lance Murdock, you just jumped sixteen blazing school buses. What are you going to do now?
    Lance: (in pain) I'm going to Duff Gardens!
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: As Bart and Lisa take the long-awaited trip to Duff Gardens and leave an ailing Homer behind.
    Bart: It won't be any fun without you, Dad.
    Bart and Lisa: (as the car drives away) YAAAAAAAAAAAAY!
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Selma asks the sperm bank how she can be sure she's "getting quality," to which she's assured that donors are subjected to a rigorous screening process. This being a Springfield institution, Barney immediately emerges from the back and reveals himself to be a repeat donor.
  • Iwo Jima Pose: Homer eats a potato chip shaped like this.
  • Jerkass: Surly of the Seven Duffs. He even says so himself when he refuses to get Bart off the rollercoaster.
    Surly: Hey, Surly only looks out for one guy: Surly.
    Selma: Sorry, Surly.
    Surly: Shut up.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: During the funeral, the funeral home director repeatedly refers to Aunt Gladys as a man until someone finally corrects him.
    "That's a woman?! Well, I guess most of what I said can be salvaged."
  • Lampshaded the Obscure Reference: While the Simpsons and Bouviers are eating at a diner on their way to the funeral, Marge reminisces the time she and her sisters dove into the water and made a skydiver formation as their Aunt Gladys watched on from a pier. "Oh, wait, that was Prince of Tides."
  • Last Disrespects: Boy, does Great Aunt Gladys get these! First off, the priest that is giving the eulogy repeatedly refers to her as a man until one of the ushers tells him that she is a woman, his response to this being that "most of what [he] said can be salvaged". When Patty kicks out the priest and takes over in giving the eulogy, all the people at the funeral leave after Patty says that Gladys wasn't a rich woman, with the only ones staying being herself, her sisters, their mom, and Homer and the kids. If that wasn't enough, when watching Gladys's video will after the funeral, everyone (sans Marge) decides to skip the part in which she reads one of Robert Frost's poems, Lionel Hutz tries to forge her will so it would benefit him as well, her sister Jacqueline reveals her cause of death (a bowel obstruction), and Homer eats the irregularly-shaped potato chips she left Marge, which she collected and referred to as her "children". And before any of this, Homer makes a joke about her being a "dog-faced woman".
  • Lonely Funeral: When the family arrives for Aunt Gladys's funeral, there are many people attending. After Patty takes over giving the eulogy and says that Gladys "wasn't a rich woman," everyone except for her, her sisters, their mother, Homer, and the kids all get up and leave. One man returns upon hearing she was rich in spirit, but it turns out he'd forgotten his hat.
  • Looped Lyrics: "Duff Beer for me, Duff Beer for you. I'll have a Duff, you have one too..."
  • Love Potion: Selma tries buying one from a psychic, but said psychic accidentally ingests a Truth Serum, which causes her to reveal that the love potion Selma was about to buy is "mostly just corn syrup and rubbing alcohol" and that if Selma were to actually take it, "[Selma will] be lucky if it doesn't make [her] hair fall out."
  • Mushroom Samba: Lisa's personal Nightmare Sequence after drinking the water in "The Little Land of Duff" ride. It actually gets to the point where she escapes from the ride and runs loose through the park before being found skinny-dipping in the Fermentarium.
    Lisa: (panicking) They're all around me! No way out! (laughs hysterically; grabs Selma) No way out, I tell you!
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Selma decides that she'd better get on top of finding herself a husband and having children before it's too late.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: Gladys gives her pet iguana, Jub-Jub, to her sister Jackie (the mother of Patty, Selma, and Marge), who's unimpressed, sarcastically saying she would rather have gotten the "bowel obstruction that killed [Gladys]." When Patty picks him up to give to Selma, she says Jackie was trying to stab him with a hatpin.
  • Never My Fault: Homer blames the rotten sandwich for him being sick. He takes it back immediately, though, and Marge has to smack it out of his hand to finally stop him from trying to eat it.
  • Nightmare Face: Selma's head when Lisa has a bad trip from drinking the water.
  • Noodle Incident:
  • No OSHA Compliance: Duff Gardens suffers from this greatly. The commercial openly advertises a rollercoaster that isn't even finished yet, the "beer-quarium" has real live fish that appear to be drunk, and drinking the water on one of the rides can cause erratic behavior and hallucinations.
  • No Sympathy: When Bart and Lisa try to wake their parents up for the trip to Duff Gardens, Homer is shown to be incredibly unwell. Bart responds with an annoyed "Oh, great. Dad's dead!", without any regard for Homer's unwellness.
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse:
    Homer: Marge, I'd like to be alone with the sandwich for a moment.
    Marge: Are you going to eat it?
    Homer: (beat) (beat) (beat) Yes.
  • Oh, Crap!: The moment Selma says she wants a baby, Maggie wakes up and struggles to get out of the car.
  • Only Cares About Inheritance: At the funeral of Marge's great aunt, Patty states during the eulogy that the aunt wasn't a rich woman, prompting nearly everyone to leave.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Patty's and Selma's reaction when Homer, who usually despises them, actually sympathizes with them in light of their Aunt Gladys's death and Selma not being able to care for the kids.
  • Out-of-Character Moment:
  • Over-the-Shoulder Carry: Homer does this to Marge while imitating the hero of The Erotic Adventures of Hercules.
  • Paper Destruction of Anger: The family stops at a diner on their way to Aunt Gladys's funeral. Homer keeps failing to solve a maze on a placemat, so he keeps crumpling them in anger and tossing them on the floor.
  • Parents for a Day: Selma starts to worry her biological clock may be ticking and decides to find a way to become pregnant. Selma tries video dating and eventually considers an anonymous sperm donor. Meanwhile, Homer promises Bart and Lisa they will go to Duff Gardens, a popular amusement park, but Homer becomes ill after eating a rotten sandwich. Marge, in an effort to give Selma a chance to experience the responsibilities of motherhood, nominates her to take the two. Bart and Lisa wear Selma out at Duff Gardens.
  • Pet the Dog: Homer gives Selma a hug after she expresses regret over her failures in this episode.
  • Pun-Based Title: The episode title is a pun on Sophie's Choice.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What exactly was that liquid that Bart dared Lisa into drinking? One popular answer is that it is water, but it's so polluted (or laced with discarded drugs such as LSD) that it's considered unpotable and anyone who tries to drink it will suffer from hallucinations, paranoia, and erratic behavior.
  • Shared Family Quirks: After Selma responds to Patty's comment that no man will want her once she has a baby, she gives a rather depressing reply that "All I've got now is sperm in a cup.". This leads Marge and Patty to spend the rest of the scene trading concerned grunts back and forth.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Duff Gardens is a double-pronged spoof. In real life, the Busch Gardens theme parks (which contain a combination of wildlife exhibits and thrill rides) were still owned by a beer company when this episode was made and ran with the idea, resulting in a park where beer is the main theme. The other spoof target is obviously the Disney Theme Parks, such as "it's a small world" (Little Land of Duff), The Hall of Presidents (Beer Hall of Presidents), and the Main Street/Disneyland Electrical Parade (Duff Gardens Parade). Even the Seven Duffs are a shout out to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
    • The potato chips that resemble celebrities include Otto von Bismarck (a conservative German statesman who dominated European affairs from the 1860s to his dismissal in 1890), Maurice Chevalier (a French singer and actor), and Jay Leno (an American comedian and talk show host). The one Homer eats after Leno is the famous flag-raising statue and picture from the Battle of Iwo Jima.
    • The ending where Selma sings Aretha Franklin's "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)" to Jub-Jub is based on the Murphy Brown episode where Murphy Brown sings this to her baby. The DVD commentary says it was an obscure reference, as Murphy Brown isn't remembered much today. In fact, except for Mike Reiss, everyone on the commentary actually forgot the reference.
  • Slasher Smile: After Bart pulls down the robot George Washington's pants, the (now-malfunctioning) robot gives Bart one as its eyes start glowing red.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: Selma chews up cigarettes and does the cherry-stem-knot-trick to impress men. Even Groundskeeper Willie thought it was gross. Currently provides the page image.
  • Souvenir Land: To avoid Product Placement or copyright issues the Simpsons go to a theme park that doesn't exist in our universe, but seems to be very famous in theirs.
  • Special Guest: Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Homer fast-forwards over part of the video will. Marge protests, but when Homer asks for a show of hands, every other family member sides with him, even Patty and Selma.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Bart fakes his height to get on a ride and then very quickly learns why height restrictions exist on rides as detailed under You Must Be This Tall to Ride below.
  • Take That!: The "Hooray For Everything" show at Duff Gardens, including the bowdlerization of "Take A Walk On The Wild Side" is said to be based off of the Christian right-wing Moral Re-Armament group originated musical "Up With People".
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Bart sneaks onto a roller-coaster that he's too short to go on. But when the safety bar doesn't secure him because he's too short, all Bart can get out before the ride starts is "Whoa, that isn't good."
  • Time Marches On: The Duff Gardens commercial shows a rollercoaster called "The Whiplash" that won't be completed until 1994...which is now almost thirty years ago. Because of this, some non-English dubs have changed the line so the reference won't be dated.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Even after getting serious food poisoning from eating the rotten sandwich, and seeing that it had turned purple and grown fungi on it, Homer still wants to eat what's left of it.
  • Totally Radical: The rapping Abraham Lincoln robot at the Beer Hall of Presidents is a spoof of this.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: The minister is shocked when one of the ushers tells him that the man he is eulogizing is, in fact, a woman. He assures that "at least most of what [he] said can be salvaged," but an angry Patty takes over giving the eulogy, ordering the priest to sit down and warning him not to put the eulogy on the bill.
  • The Un-Smile: The animatronic people in the "Little Land of Duff" ride have creepy smiles. Bart whimpers that he wants to get off the ride, but Selma, Bart, and Lisa have to suffer through five more continents of those kid robots (at least until Lisa freaks out from drinking the toxic water and escapes with one of the robots in hand).
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Nobody at the parade scene seems to notice a hallucinating 8-year-old girl just running around and stopping in front of the parade floats.
  • Video Will: Gladys recorded one. Homer fast-forwards over the part with the poem, and Lionel Hutz brazenly dubbed over part of it to try to get a large sum of money (which he says works more often than one would think).
  • Visual Pun: After the funeral, the group leaves with a grandfather clock. It goes off just before Selma announces she wants a baby—meaning her biological clock is literally ticking.
  • Waxing Lyrical: After being rescued from swimming naked in the Fermentarium, a strung-out Lisa declares herself "The Lizard Queen!"
  • You Must Be This Tall to Ride: Deconstructed when Bart learns exactly why this is the case. He sneaks onto a roller coaster by sticking candy apples onto his shoes to meet the height requirement, the safety bar doesn't secure him properly, and he nearly falls out of his car.