Original air date: 9/24/1992
Production code: 8F24
One of the series' most iconic episodes, notable for being one of three episodes considered for the plot of The Simpsons Movie, as well as being the last episode animated by Klasky-Csupo (in production order). It later received an Immediate Sequel in the 28th season called "Kamp Krustier", in which Homer's sexual frustration following the kids' return from camp leads to him becoming more productive at work, while the trauma experienced at camp catches up to Bart and Lisa.
The episode starts with Bart imagining the last day of school being a perfect day and then heading down for breakfast. He and Lisa are both excited because they will be going to Kamp Krusty the very next day, a new summer camp that, as its name suggests, is supposedly run by Bart's hero, Krusty the Clown, and whose advertising promises quite a number of fun activities. However, they must both make C averages.
Lisa gets all As ... and one B+ (much to her dismay), but Bart predictably gets all Ds. He tries to smooth-talk Mrs. Krabappel into changing his report card, but she refuses. He tries changing it from Ds to As on the way home, but even Homer isn't dumb enough to fall for his pathetic attempt. However, because Homer doesn't want Bart hanging around all summer, he permits him to go. The next day, Bart, Lisa and most of the other child characters on the series get on the bus for six weeks of fun at Kamp Krusty. When they're gone, the parents immediately start cheering and celebrating the thought of their kids being gone for six weeks and being able to do stuff they normally could not with kids around.
But when the kids arrive, Krusty is nowhere to be found. It turns out, the real owner of the camp is a man named Mr. Black (voiced by Harry Shearer), who merely bought the rights to use Krusty's name and image for the camp to attract kids and the clown has no actual association with the camp. But this is not all, as the marketing turned out to be false advertising. Instead of a fun and big budgeted summer camp, the titular Kamp Krusty is a low-budget, unsafe dystopia-like one, whose only purpose (save for making wallets in arts and crafts to sell) is to torture kids. Making matters worse, their counselors are none other than the bullies Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney! The cabins are vermin-infested, cold and locked tight from the outside at night, the lakes too dangerous to swim in, the kids roast pinecones instead of marshmallows, they're forced into sweatshop labor (for example, making fake wallets for export to Hong Kong), their nature hikes end in disaster, the infirmary staff members are more interested in smoking than tending to injured campers, they're fed nothing but imitation gruel ("9 out of 10 orphans can't tell the difference") which sometimes has living animals inside of it, they do not get to write any letters to their parents for obvious reasons, their presents from home are taken, and they are forced to sing a song praising the camp. Mr. Black and the bullies on the other hand enjoy a life of luxury while the kids suffer miserably.
Despite all the aforementioned horrors the kids are put through, Mr. Black manages to keep them largely complacent on the false pretense that he is only temporarily assuming Krusty's role as camp manager, and that Krusty will be coming in a few weeks. However, it soon becomes apparent to everyone except Bart that this is not the case, and it's officially confirmed (to the audience at least), by showing him on a trip to London, unaware of the camp's true nature. Lisa manages to sneak a letter to Marge and Homer, warning them about the camp, but they just think she's exaggerating because she's homesick, and it looks as though all is lost for the unhappy campers.
Eventually, likely to get more work out of the kids, Mr. Black hires Barney Gumble to come dress up as Krusty for the kids. But with their spirits completely broken, all they can do is blindly wonder why "Krusty" is acting "so funny". However, Bart — who had staked his entire sanity on Krusty's arrival — finally snaps and leads a revolution to overthrow the camp Lord of the Flies style. Mr. Black and the counselors hightail it and the kids seize full control of the camp. This makes news, and Homer loses his newly grown hair and regains the weight he lost when he sees Bart is the leader. Because of the camp crisis, Krusty is called back from England and comes to the camp. After learning from Bart what he and the other children went through because of him, he genuinely apologizes to the kids, claiming that Mr. Black offered him a huge sum of money for the trademark rights. To make it up to them, he takes the kids on a trip to the "happiest place on Earth" — Tijuana, Mexico. They have a wonderful time there.
This episode contains examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Lisa tries to warn Marge and Homer about Kamp Krusty (even pointing out that all communications have been cut off by the evil counselors so she's afraid the letter won't reach them and finishing the letter with her literal pleading for help), but they just brush it off as homesickness. (Mind you, pretty much every parent to send their kids to camp has gotten a letter like that at least once.)
- An Aesop: Don't sell your name to something that you know nothing about. Not only could it bring you bad publicity, but it also could hurt those you care about.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Of the last times Bart has bought subpar merchandise from Krusty, he says, "I got a rapid heartbeat from his Krusty Brand vitamins, my Krusty Kalculator didn't have a seven or an eight, and Krusty's autobiography was self-serving, with many glaring omissions."
- Bad Boss: Mr. Black does very little work, instead relying on the services of the school bullies Jimbo Jones, Dolph, and Kearney, who run the "Kamp Krusty" with an iron fist, to "crush their spirits".
- The plot's backbone: A camp advertised as being fun is used to lie to parents and lure their children in to what's little more than an illegal sweatshop (making cheap goods) and boot camp (to torture and break spirits).
- At one point, we see Homer giving Marge a massage on a hill. When she says they'll miss the fireworks, Homer says they have all the fireworks they need right here (implying that they're going to have sex). He then pulls back a blanket to reveal a picnic basket stuffed with fireworks.
- Krusty decides to make it up to the kids by taking them on a two-week trip to the happiest place on earth ... Tijuana.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Bart, being the big fan of Krusty the Clown that he is, really wanted to go to Kamp Krusty, even going so far as to alter his report card to do so. Homer decides to let him go anyway because he "didn't want him hanging around the house all summer." When he got there, however, Kamp Krusty turned out to be Camp Nightmare.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Hoover gives Lisa a B-Plus in Conduct just for the sheer hell of it (she tells Lisa that she needs a splotch on her record), when it's obvious that Lisa deserved an "A" if not an "A-Plus". Lisa's resulting nervous breakdown gives her enough gripping strength to nearly break Hoover's arm.
- The B Grade: Lisa has trouble accepting her report card had one B+ (in Conduct class) instead of only As. She goes into a panic attack and grabs Mrs. Hoover's arm hard enough while muttering that she needs to rectify this that Hoover says "You're hurting me" in a very disturbed tone.
- Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: Homer listening for lottery numbers on the radio:Homer: [In response to the announcement of "Seventeen"] D'oh! ["Thirty-two"] D'oh! ["Five"] D'oh. ["Eight"] Woo-hoo! ["Forty-seven"] D'oh!
- Blunt "No": During Mr. Black's introduction:Milhouse: Can we call you "Uncle Blackie"?
Mr. Black: No.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick:
- Brick Joke: When Kearney introduces the Krusty Brand Imitation Gruel, he says "nine out of ten orphans can't tell the difference." Later on, when Bart frees the fat campers, it cuts to Martin pigging out on the gruel.
- Broken Pedestal: Bart finally loses faith in Krusty when they try to pass Barney off as him and it's quite epic. Of course it gets better after he sees Krusty's Heel Realization when he finally shows up.
- Brutal Honesty: Bart admits freely he doesn't think much of Homer's intelligence.
- The Cake Is a Lie: It was never really the plan for Krusty to come to the camp at all. When Bart realizes this, he attacks.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Mr. Black gives a toast saying "Gentlemen, to evil!"
- Cassandra Truth: Homer and Marge think Lisa is being overly dramatic about how she describes Kamp Krusty, not knowing she is right.Marge: She complains now, but when we go to pick her up, she won't want to leave.
- Casual Danger Dialogue: While the cabin is caught in a Wizard of Oz-style tornado and the campers are hanging on for dear life, Bart says in a normal voice, "Lisa, I've been thinking it over. Next summer, I'm getting a job."
- Characterization Marches On: Rod is seen on the bus back from Kamp Krusty when it goes to Tijuana. Four seasons later, in "Hurricane Neddy", he says that he doesn't like Krusty (although this experience could be why).
- Comically Missing the Point: Homer and Marge interpret Lisa's letter for help (which outlines how brutal the camp is) as typical homesickness.
- Continuity Nod: Krusty's pacemaker, first mentioned in season one's "Krusty Gets Busted", is cited again when Lisa notices the scar on Krusty's chest (among other things), confirming that he's not another impostor like they suspected.
- Crossover Punchline: The Simpsons meet The Flintstones in this week's Couch Gag.
- Daydream Surprise: The episode begins with Bart asking Mrs. Krabappel to alter his grades so he can go to Kamp Krusty. After a few seconds' hesitation, she agrees. Then Principal Skinner, via the intercom, asks the students if they've brought their "implements of destruction". Cue the school being destroyed, until we cut to Bart in bed. Bart wakes up initially disappointed, until he learns it really is the last day of school.
- Disney Owns This Trope: The final lines of Kamp Krusty's song.We will always love Kamp Krusty ...
A registered trademark of the Krusty Corporation,
All rights reserved!
- Do Wrong, Right: When Bart alters his all-D-minus report card to show A-pluses, Lisa just laughs and asks why he didn't go for something plausible. When Bart shows his report card to Homer, Homer tells him, in a disappointed tone, that D's can be made to look like B's easily. "You just got greedy."
- Dream Intro: The episode opens with Bart in class on the day before summer vacation where Skinner makes an announcement over the speakers to tell them to take out their hardware tools to destroy the school, leading to a montage of the kids destroying the school as "School's Out" by Alice Cooper plays in the background. The dream ends with Bart destroying the school with a wrecking ball and then being woken up and having to attend the last day of school for real (though Bart is still happy about the prospect).
- Dream Reality Check: When Bart wakes up from his wonderful dream of the school being destroyed, Homer informs him that it's the last day of school:Bart: How do I know this isn't some beautiful dream, too?[Homer smacks him in the head with a rolled-up newspaper]Bart: Ow! Y'know, a pinch is more traditional!
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: One runs the fat camp.Drill sergeant: All right, you piles of pan-drippings, I wanna see Crisco coming out of those pores! We're not leaving till this Christmas HAM gives me a pull-up.
- Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Kearney eats the jellybean cookies Marge sent to Bart and Lisa, then he tells Lisa they "suck".
- Every Man Has His Price: Krusty's only excuse is that the camp organizers offered a huge sum for the use of his likeness, but he's very ashamed of what the camp turned out to be.
- Everyone Has Standards: Krusty is the type of corporate fat-cat that would sponsor anything (and that is anything), no matter how horrifyingly unsafe, as long as he got paid for it. He still burst out in tears and tries to make things right when he hears how badly children were treated at the camp, including a child being eaten by a bear (okay, only the hat was eaten — it was a nice hat, though).
- Faux Affably Evil: Mr. Black never raises his voice and always acts in a professional, if boring, dour and soulless, way. He's still a Card-Carrying Villain who revels in his evil.
- Felony Misdemeanor: The bully counselors consider one of the campers a troublemaker just for coughing.
- Five-Second Foreshadowing: As the bus enters Kamp Krusty, the bridge it drives over collapses, an indication of what's in store for the children.
- Flirtatious Smack on the Ass: Bart does this to Mrs. Krabappel in the Dream Intro.
- F--: Bart gets a full hand of F- grades...in the dream intro, where in real life he more plausibly gets all Ds.
- Former Child Star: Lisa demands that Krusty proves that he's the real Krusty by saying the name of the child actress who played his daughter on the short-lived sitcom President Clown. Apparently things didn't go so well for her.Lisa: Who played your daughter in your short-lived sitcom President Klown?
Krusty: I don't know her name, but she held up a liquor store last year!note
- For the Evulz: Everything Mr. Black does boils down to this.Mr. Black: Gentlemen, to evil.
- Gilligan Cut: After reading Lisa's distressed letter:Homer: Ah, kids' letters from camp.Marge:Oh, she complains now, but when we go to pick her up, she won't want to leave.[A severe thunderstorm rips through the camp, blowing off the roof of a cabin, and shows Lisa, Bart, and several other campers holding on for dear life]Bart: Lisa, I've been thinking it over. Next summer, I'm getting a job.
- Hoist by Her Own Petard: Miss Hoover gives Lisa a B-plus in Conduct simply because she feels Lisa needs a blotch on her record. Lisa's resultant Freak Out causes her to injure Hoover.
- Hong Kong Dub: The introductory video to Kamp Krusty is clearly dubbed over whenever Krusty mentions "Mr. Black."
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Homer tells Bart that if you want something out of life, you have to work for it ... and then tells him to be quiet so he can hear the latest lottery numbers.
- Marge cries very hard upon realizing that the dinner the family is having is going to be their last one together for six whole weeks. Then she parties along with the other parents when the camp bus is out of sight.
- In the Style of: They couldn't get the rights to Frank Sinatra's version of "South of the Border" for the ending, so they recorded a new version of the song for the show, with veteran session singer Gene Merlino doing a Sinatra-style vocal.
- Jerkass: The parents, who celebrate the minute their children are out of sight. One of them even shouts "Don't come back." And especially Mr. Black and his camp counselors.
- Kick the Dog:
- Mrs. Krabappel takes joy in sabotaging Bart's efforts to go to Kamp Krusty.
- Miss Hoover gives Lisa a B-plus in conduct just for the sheer hell of it. Lisa injures her arm in the resulting Freak Out.
- Some random jackass parent yells to his kid "and don't come back!" as the bus full of children leaves for Kamp Krusty.
- Mr. Black and the bullies perform a non-stop barrage of this with their flat-out inhumane management of the Kamp.
- Knighting: Krusty is in the middle of receiving one of these when he gets the phone call about Kamp Krusty. (Note this is possible for Americans in real life, they just can't use the titles Sir or Dame.)
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Bart tells Krusty "I'd never lend my name to an inferior product", a wry joke on the massive amount of Simpsons merch that was flooding the real-world market at the time.
- Logo Joke: The Gracie Films logo is different: the woman's shush is silent, replaced by a Mariachi version of the logo's jingle, finished off by a group of men — presumably the show's male voice actors — saying "¡Olé!"
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Hail to Thee, Kamp Krusty" is intended as a cheerful song about how great the camp is, but the lyrics make it clear that it's a decaying mess. This doubles with Soundtrack Dissonance, as the song plays over a montage of the camp falling apart.
- Madness Mantra:Bart: (in Troubled Fetal Position) Krusty is coming. Krusty is coming. Krusty is coming.
- Meaningful Name: Mr. Black has black hair, a black suit and a black heart.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Krusty, when he sees what he allowed to transpire in the camp he authorized.
- Naked People Are Funny: On the bus ride home from the last day of school, a small naked boy (possibly a kindergartener) can be seen running down the aisle as part of the kids celebrating school letting out for the summer.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Mr. Black!
- Nobody's That Dumb: Homer is more insulted that Bart honestly believed he could fool him with a report card that had all the D-minuses (poorly) changed to A-pluses than mad at him for forging his report card.
- Noodle Incident:
- Mr. Black was president of Euro-Krustyland for fifteen years until it blew up. We don't find out how that happened or if he was involved.
- We see Krusty being asked to keep it down at Wimbledon and apologizing to Queen Elizabeth and then, in his next scene, she's suddenly about to knight him.
- Krusty had a show called President Clown, and his co-star on that show robbed a liquor store.
- No Sympathy: When Milhouse collapses during the nature hike, Kearney jabs him with a stick. When Milhouse tries to tell him that a snake bit him, Kearney just tells him to get back in line.
- Not Afraid of Hell: Lisa writes to Homer and Marge, telling them she is no longer afraid of Hell because of her experiences at Kamp Krusty. Her letter goes on to describe death marches disguised as nature hikes, sweatshop conditions, Bart irrationally believing that Krusty will come and save the day and she fearing that her letter will not reach them (Homer and Marge).
- Not Hyperbole: Kent Brockman says, without hyperbole, that the Kamp Krusty revolt is a million times worse than the conflicts he's reported on in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: This is largely how it becomes first apparent that the first part of the episode is a Dream Intro: Mrs. Krabappel simply casually changes all of Bart's grades to a C, and then chuckles coyly when Bart gives her a Flirtatious Smack on the Ass and calls her "doll".
- Oh, Crap!: The expression on the kids' face when they meet the counselors.
- Patriotic Fervor: The kids all chant "USA!" when a teacher tells them who won World War II.
- Pet the Dog: Enfant Terrible though Bart may be as stager of a successful coup, one of his first orders of business is to free all the kids from the sadistic fat camp so they can finally get some real food.
- Photo Montage: The episode ends with a montage of photos after Krusty takes the kids to Tijuana and participating in acts that kids probably shouldn't be doing, such as watching a cockfight, Bart getting a tattoo, or Bart and Lisa watching Krusty passed out drunk on a bottle of tequila ... not to mention Krusty running after the bus (in a rather cartoonish manner) as it leaves to head home.
- Post-Treatment Lollipop: When Lisa tells Dr. Hibbert that she'll need her booster shots before she goes to camp, Hibbert tells her that she has "an advanced case of hypochondria" and the only known cure is a lollipop.Lisa: Don't patronize me, Doctor.
- Poverty Food: The Imitation Gruel that is the camp's only food source. Even the name is indicative of how much the counselors scrimped on budget for the kids. "9 out of 10 orphans can't tell the difference!"
- Rage Breaking Point: Mr. Black trying to pass off Barney as Krusty, in lieu of dinner, is what finally pushes Bart into action and revolt.
- Rightful King Returns: Parodied: through various traumas and Sanity Slippage, Bart clings to the promise that Krusty the Clown will eventually show up, and when the best the camp has to offer is Barney crudely disguised as Krusty, he stages a revolt that leads to the actual Krusty the Clown finally coming to make amends.
- Ripped from the Headlines: Downplayed somewhat as the incident was already a few years old by this point, but Krusty punching out a reporter is likely a reference to when Sean Penn assaulted a photographer on a film set in mid-1987.
- Rule of Cool: Bart's argument for renaming the camp "Camp Bart" instead of "Camp Freedom" as originally planned.
- Sadist Teacher: It's implied that Miss Hoover gave Lisa a B+ in Conduct, which is presumably left entirely up to her discretion, just to spite her.
- Sanity Slippage: Bart, after too long in Kamp Krusty. Also Lisa when she goes over her report card and sees a B+ on it.
- Second-Face Smoke: A grouchy nurse at Kamp Krusty does this to a kid with a broken arm at the infirmary, after striking a match to light her cigarette on the boy's cast.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: It is implied Mr Black's posse tormented and wore down the kids in hopes that Krusty being a no-show would fly over them. Instead that ends up The Last Straw and the kids straight up ambush them.
- Kearney playing the drums while the children are working on their wallets is a reference to Roman slavery ships, where one of the guards beat a drum to add tempo to the rowers' movements (and specifically to Ben-Hur (1959)).
- Lisa giving a letter to a 19th-century-style horseman is a reference to The French Lieutenant's Woman.
- The children taking over Kamp Krusty and raising their own society is a reference to Lord of the Flies. There's even a pig head mounted on a stake.
- The camp post-revolt is a reference to Apocalypse Now.
- Krusty yells, "Where were you when I sang at Farm Aid?" This alludes to Jackie Mason shouting at a detractor, "Where were you when I marched in the Civil Rights Movement?"
- A parent shouting, "Don't come back," is a reference to Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown where Lucy Van Pelt says the line.
- Krusty's superfluous third nipple is almost certainly a reference to Francisco Scaramanga from The Man with the Golden Gun.
- Shower of Love: Homer and Marge have sex in the shower during their time away from the kids.
- Skinny Dipping: Bart asserts his intention to do this at camp when Marge asks him where his bathing suit is.
- Summer Campy:
- A darker example of this trope.
- Fat Camp: Kamp Krusty has one of these as well.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Mr. Black notably chokes up once Bart sees that the "Krusty" he's brought in is really just Barney.Bart: That's not Krusty the Clown!
Mr. Black: What, do you think I slapped a clown suit on some wino? [Laughs nervously]
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: With how it turned out what Kamp Krusty was really like, Homer's Throw the Dog a Bone moment for Bart backfired terribly.
- Very False Advertising: The commercials we see of Kamp Krusty shows a really great place full of different activities and Krusty spending time with the campers. Needless to say, the real Kamp Krusty is practically falling apart, the campers only get pinecones and imitation gruel to eat, and Krusty can't even be bothered to do a single apparition for the kids.
- Villainous Breakdown: When Bart and the other campers finally rebel against him, Mr. Black finally begins to lose his composure and shows some rather vicious anger to his so-called 'camp counselors'.Mr. Black: (to Jimbo) I thought you said you broke their spirits!
Jimbo: We did...
[Mr. Black slaps Jimbo in the face and shakes him]
Mr. Black: YOU BROKE NOTHING!
- Doubles as a nonlethal example of You Have Failed Me.
- We All Die Someday: Played for very dark laughs as Bart and Lisa lose more and more hope.Lisa: I think I'm going to die, Bart!
Bart: We're all going to die, Lisa.
Lisa: I meant soon!
Bart: So did I.
- We Are Not Going Through That Again: While experiencing a hurricane at the camp, Bart tells Lisa that next summer, he's getting a job.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- The camp counselors go missing after the kids take over the camp. The bullies presumably made their way back to Springfield, but Mr. Black is never seen again (at least in the show. He returns in the licensed comics).
- It's also never revealed what happens to the drill sergeant that runs the fat camp. We only see a brief scene of him yelling at the kids to do pull ups. After that, when Bart liberates the fat camp, the drill sergeant doesn't even appear and never does so again.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: While the kids are away, Homer loses weight and his hair starts growing back. Then he sees Bart in charge of Kamp Krusty. His hair instantly falls out and his stomach bloats.