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Recap / The Simpsons S4 E16 "Duffless"

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After getting busted on a DWI ("driving while intoxicated," not DOA ["dead on arrival"], as Chief Wiggum learned) chargenote  after sneaking out of work to go to a Duff Beer Factory tour, Marge urges Homer to go 30 days without beer. Meanwhile, Bart destroys Lisa's steroid-injected tomato and becomes an unwitting test subject in her new science fair project: "Is My Brother Dumber Than a Hamster?"

Tropes featured:

  • Bait-and-Switch: Just as it appears Lionel Hutz is going to help Homer out of his jam, it turns out that the Amoral Attorney is actually his neighbour in prison.
  • Bedtime Brainwashing: The episode opens with Principal Skinner awarding Bart first prize at the school science fair. The phrase "first prize" echoes until the scene transitions to reveal that Lisa was saying this into Bart's ear while he was dreaming because she was "just screwing with [his] mind."
  • Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: Man checking beer bottles at the Duff Brewery: "Fine, fine, mouse, fine, mouse, rat, fine, syringe..." And then shortly after that, while the checker is distracted by Barney, Adolf Hitler's head goes by!
  • Black Comedy: Chief Wiggum confusing DWI with DOA. Also Homer laughing at the montage of car wrecks (and Troy McClure's attempts to make jokes during it- "Here's an appealing fellow; in fact, they're a-peeling him off the sidewalk!").
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  • Broken Aesop: Invoked in-universe. An ad outside the Duff Brewery says: "Friends don't let friends drive drunk" before it switches to a Duff ad depicting two friends drinking beer on the hood of a car. Homer putting this message into action also causes the episode's dilemma.
  • Comic-Book Time: Ned Flanders says it's been 4,000 days since his last drink. Four thousand days is almost 11 years, but Ned makes it sound like his bad event that made him join Alcoholics Anonymous only happened yesterday.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Homer tries and fails to escape Duff advertising, to the point where a blimp bearing the sign "Surrender to Duff" airdrops beer bottles directly onto him.
  • Crack Defeat: Lisa decides to use Bart as a guinea pig for a science project (out of spite for him ruining her original one on a practical joke) dubbed "Is My Brother Dumber Than A Hamster?". When it comes time to show her results at the fair, she's shown up and actually beaten by Bart who simply dresses up a hamster with a tiny scarf and goggles, puts him a model plane and appeals simply for cute factor. (He does later apologize to Lisa, though; you have to see the scene on DVD as syndication cuts out that part.)
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  • Cuteness Proximity: Bart exploits this with his "Can hamsters fly planes" project. No one questions how relevant or scientific the project is because of the endearing diorama of a hamster in a toy plane.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: This even applies to mascot costumes, as Police Chief Wiggum finds out the hard way.
  • Fair Weather Friend: Homer goes back to Moe's who is happy to welcome him despite badmouthing him the day before.
  • Get Out!: Lovejoy screams this to Homer after he tells the meeting that he was so desperate for beer he snuck behind the bleachers and ate some dirt (likely being spilled by beer), after Lovejoy assures Homer there's no shame.
    Reverend Lovejoy: I CAST THEE OUT!
  • Giant Spider: One of these guards the way out of the plant via Sector 7-B. The directions Homer was given say "To overcome the spider's curse, simply quote a Bible verse", but after saying a fumbling "Thou shalt not—", Homer gives up and drops the spider with a well-placed rock to the head.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Bart destroyed Lisa's giant tomato that she had grown for the science fair. However, Lisa's retaliation is to use Bart as a guinea pig for an experiment designed specifically to humiliate (and psychologically damage) him, so she's no saint, herself.
  • Imagine Spot: Lisa has one where, thanks to her initial project, she's so famous that a family in India has a picture of her, ostensibly as a Messianic Archetype.
  • Ironic Echo: Skinner places Bart's project for "First Prize" as a result of a dream induced by Lisa. In reality, he ends up giving it to Bart as well, for an entry Bart made in reply to Lisa's humiliating project.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Barney gets away with essentially kicking off the episode's main plot by urging the police to give Homer a breathalyzer test right after he flawlessly passed a field sobriety test (granted, Homer beat Barney pretty bad in order to dissuade him from driving). After failing the breathalyzer test, the clearly sober-enough-to-drive Homer is arrested, stripped of his driver's license, forced to attend AA meetings, and gets into a bet in which he can't drink beer for a month; meanwhile, the obviously skunk-drunk Barney is allowed to drive off, even knocking one of the cops off a cliff as he speeds away.
    • We don't see Skinner punish Bart for throwing a giant tomato at him. To add insult to injury, when Lisa does try to get back at Bart, it backfires as he triumphs over her automatically at the science fair.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Wiggum arrests the still relatively sober Homer, and allows the very clearly drunk Barney to drive home without doing any tests on him. He's immediately knocked off the road by Barney and sent rolling into a tree before inexplicably blowing up.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: At the end of the episode, when Homer leaves Moe's bar to go on a bike ride with Marge, Moe proclaims "You'll be back. And so will all of you, and you... and you," whilst looking and pointing directly at the viewer, before quickly cutting to a different shot to show he was talking to Barney.
  • Made of Explodium: Chief Wiggum's beer-stein costume. (He's OK after the commercial break.)
  • Made of Iron: In order to prevent him from driving drunk, Homer punches Barney in the face, clubs him with a crowbar, and slams the car door on his head five times to no effect.
  • Minor with Fake I.D.: Homer sings a version of "It Was a Very Good Year" by Frank Sinatra, changing the lyrics thus:
    "When I was seventeen,
    I drank some very good beer
    I drank some very good beer I purchased
    With a fake ID
    My name was Brian McGee..."
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: The "void" stamping on Homer's license is done by his sister-in-law Patty, who's very pleased about doing it.
  • Oh, Crap!: Homer confuses his internal and external monologues at breakfast before going to "work" and thence to the Duff Brewery.
    [Thinking] Well, off to the Plant.
    [Aloud, slyly] Then to the Duff Brewery.
    [Thinking] Did I say that or just think it?
    [Panicky] I gotta think of a lie, fast!
  • Only Smart People May Pass: Bart hides Lisa's report and dares her to find it by deciphering a fiendish series of clues ... only for Lisa to find it before he's finished gloating.
  • Parent Produced Project: One boy's father made his science fair model volcano for him and snaps when he asks to adjust it himself. It's also virtually certain that somebody else (if perhaps not his almost as dumb parents per se) made Ralph's alcohol-fueled car for him.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: One Mrs. Phillips shows up at the police station and tells Chief Wiggum she's there because someone called and said her husband was found DWI. Realizing it's another of his usual DOA/DWI mixups, Wiggum directs her to other cops and leaves for lunch.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The scene where Bart can't bring himself to touch two cupcakes (which look like women's breasts) is a reference to A Clockwork Orange.
    • The 1950s-era ad shown at the Duff Brewery mentions the company was a "proud sponsor" of the Amos 'n Andy TV show.
    • Another of the ads (apparently partway through Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential debate) has JFK singing Duff's praises, drawing cheers from the audience. Nixon's more halfhearted endorsement is loudly booed in contrast (Homer: "The man never drank a Duff in his life!").
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The gruesome driver's ed film is accompanied by the goofy stock music piece "Round the Bend".
  • Status Quo Is God: Anyone who is vaguely familiar with The Simpsons knows that Homer's sobriety is shortlived (he's back the drinking the next episode). It dampens the heartwarming ending on rewatch. Admittedly, his goal wasn't to stop drinking entirely, just to show he could survive without it and stop being the near-alcoholic he was.
  • Take Our Word for It: Obviously, we do not see the multitude of car crashes in the film that Homer and his AA class watch. We can still imagine the horror of it all, given the sounds of the crashes (the offensive Soundtrack Dissonance aside) and the reactions of the class (which range from shock, disgust and fear, save for Homer, who finds it funny since he doesn't know any of the victims).
  • Take That!:
    • Homer tries to watch a ball game during his "dry spell", finding the whole business boring.
    • When snickering at the thought of having revenge on Bart, Lisa tells Marge that she remembered a bit from Herman's Head. Marge looks on worriedly, probably more than if Lisa had told her the truth.
  • Younger Than He Looks: Hans Moleman is revealed to be 31 years old and looks old because of severe alcoholism. Before anyone cries "Negative Continuity!", this ties in with the birth date on his driver's license, as seen in "Selma's Choice," which is August 2, 1961 (which would make him around 31 to 32 years old at the time of this episode's premiere).


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