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Recap / The Simpsons S 4 E 20 Whacking Day

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Original air date: 4/29/1993

Production code: 9F18

Bart is expelled from school after running down the Superintendent with Groundskeeper Willie's tractor, and Marge takes to home-schooling Bart after transferring him to another school proves useless. Meanwhile, Lisa is sickened and disgusted by an upcoming town holiday where snakes are driven to the center of town and beaten.

The episode was awarded the Genesis Award for "Best Television Prime Time Animated Series" in 1994 for "consciousness-raising on behalf of animal issues."

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This episode contains examples of:

  • Acrofatic: When practicing for Whacking day, Homer demonstrates some very kinetic, karate-like moves. It's worth noting because in most episodes (both before and after this one), Homer's shown to be so out-of-shape that even the slightest movements can leave him winded.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Springfield's Whacking Day was inspired by the Real Life practice of rattlesnake roundups.
  • Anti-Interference Lock Up: Bart, Jimbo, Nelson, Dolph, and Kearney getting locked in the basement of their school by Principal Skinner so that he doesn't have to deal with them during the latest school inspection. Bart escapes, but Skinner forgets to let the others out until the very end of the episode...several days later.
  • Artistic License – History: Grampa's story about how he had to pose as a German cabaret singer after he got separated from his platoon during a raid in Dusseldorf is impossible, not just because of how cartoonish the flashback was, but because the German cabaret was outlawed in 1935 (long before WW2 officially started), with many involved either fleeing the country or getting put into concentration camps due to their anti-Nazi views (and some of the performers possibly being Jewish). The Dusseldorf air raid that Grampa was said to be a part of happened in 1942. But since this is Grampa Simpson we're talking about, Bart (knowing his grandfather) is justifiably skeptical of the story.
    Bart (with a questioning look on his face): Is that story true, Grampa?
    Grampa: Well, most of it. I did wear a dress for a period in the '40s. Oh, they had designers then!
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  • As Himself: Barry White's a guest at the Whacking Day carnival and ends up helping Bart and Lisa save the snakes.
  • Bad News in a Good Way: When Principal Skinner furiously proclaims that Bart is expelled, Bart has an Oh, Crap! look on his face. When he tells Homer about it later on, though, he says it in a cheerful and fond tone, and with an accompanying smile.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Superintendent Chalmers says "D'oh!" when Lunchlady Doris tells him why she is also the school nurse.
    Lunchlady Doris: I get two paychecks this way.
  • Brick Joke: The story starts with Principal Skinner locking Bart, Nelson, Dolph, Jimbo and Kearney in the school's bomb shelter before the superintendent's inspection. Bart is able to get out, but the other bullies are forgotten about — until the end when Skinner invites Bart back to school for saving the town, then realizes that he didn't let the bullies out of the bomb shelter (and the bullies have started a support group about their behavior).
  • Censor Box: Parodied in the news report about a nudist colony for animals.
  • Comically Missing the Point: After learning what the holiday is all about, Barry White cuts the Whacking Day introduction short and decries the Springfielders and their cruel tradition. The crowd misunderstands and cheers.
    Barry White: Were they even listening to me?
    Mayor Quimby: I, uh, don't think so.
    • Earlier:
      Jimbo: How are we gonna get out of here?
      Nelson: And when are we gonna get our mountain bikes?
  • Companion Cube: Groundskeeper Willy's tractor. "Were it not a violation of God's law, I'd make ye my wife!"
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Lisa aside, most of Springfield accepts Whacking Day as normal and fun, including voices of reason like Marge. When outsider Barry White finds out what the holiday actually entails, he has a "No. Just... No" Reaction.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Barry White happens to pass by the Simpsons' house after telling the crowd how disgusted he was at Whacking Day, just as Bart and Lisa are looking for something with strong bass-like sounds to lure the snakes to safetynote .
  • Couch Gag: The couch is replaced by a small wooden chair, which the family crowds together on it.
  • Delayed Reaction:
    Homer: Hey kids. How was school?
    Lisa: I learned how many drams in a pennyweight.
    Bart: I got expelled.
    Homer: That's my boy. [takes a swig of Duff] Mmm, beer... WHAT?!
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Making a classroom out of a garage turns out to be a bad idea as Homer almost hits Bart twice while driving into it.
    • Apu tells his customers he's hidden a snake in the store and the one who finds and kills it wins a free Squishee. Cue everyone ransacking the place and breaking merchandise and everything else in the store. Apu even lampshades the fact he should have put more thought into the promotion.
  • Disguised in Drag: A flashback to World War II shows Grampa disguised as a German cabaret singer, though he does imply that the story isn't (entirely) true.
    Bart: Is that story true, Grampa?
    Grampa: Well, most of it. I did wear a dress for a period in the '40s. Oh, they had designers then!
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Bart is kicked out of a Christian school within a few minutes, with the teacher leading the entire class in an angry mob, for singing a rude playground song about how beans are "the musical fruit.".
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Willie leaves with a beautiful Scottish woman just in time for Bart to stumble on his unattended tractor.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Some of the lines of dialogue and scenes centered on Whacking Day can be construed as sexual: Marge getting aroused when Homer tests out his new whacking stick, Homer asking Marge if he should start out slow or go fast when whacking snakes, and Miss Springfield opening the festivities with "Gentlemen, start your whacking!"
  • Dumbass No More: The usually Book Dumb Bart has an increased interest in history, and he's the one who discovers that the Whacking Day is a farce. Subverted though, as this is reverted for the next episode.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Two cases, both regarding Superintendent Chalmers.
    • Chalmers coming to the school is shown to be a very big deal, implying that such a thing rarely happens. Chalmers slowly started to appear more and more often until eventually he started appearing essentially whenever Skinner appeared, appearing at student events, teacher meetings, or just whenever Skinner catches Bart committing another prank.
    • Also, he is shown to be a very neutral and steadfast inspector of the school, with no ill will towards anybody, at least until Willie's tractor hit him. In later episodes, he shows an extreme distaste for Skinner (while still usually supporting his authoritarian or corrupt plans), allowing for his Catchphrase "SKIN-NER!" to come into being. In fact, a lot of modern episodes have him appear just to make a joke about the catchphrase.
  • Epic Fail: During a past Whacking Day, Richard Nixon tried to whack a snake but accidentally whacked the guy holding the snake down.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • Skinner gives one after tricking bad students out of the way.
    • The pipe on Willie's tractor after getting Bart expelled.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: One of the exhibits at Olde Springfield Towne is a military base called "Fort Sensible". It got its name from when it was surrounded by the enemy (whether this enemy was the Confederates, the First Nations or the British is not mentioned) who said that if the soldiers sent out their captain, the rest of them would be spared. The soldiers did just that, and they all lived...except for the captain, of course.
  • Expelled from Every Other School: After Bart's expelled from Springfield Elementary, his family tries enrolling him in a bunch of other schools (including at least one private school) but gets rejected from all of them—Marge ultimately resorts to homeschooling her son.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: When Marge tries to introduce him to the Christian school, Bart gets chased outside by a cricket bat-wielding teacher and a mob of his prospective classmates for reciting "Beans, beans, the musical fruit."
    "Avert your eyes, children! He may take on other forms!"
  • Folk Hero: Jebediah Springfield's association with whacking snakes turns out to have been invented long after his death as an excuse to beat up the Irish.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Lisa's horrified by what's being done to the snakes. Barry White, too.
  • Funny Bruce Lee Noises: Homer makes them while training for Whacking Day.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel:
    • The gag of Evil Homer dancing on Good Homer's grave is perhaps the show's best-known example of this trope.
    • One variation is Willie's tractor talking Bart into releasing its brake. It even taunts him by calling him chicken, and a rooster next to Bart says he's insulting them both. When Bart is expelled, the tractor gives an Evil Laugh...until its cap falls off.
  • Heel Realization: After being trapped in the bomb shelter for what was probably several weeks, the bullies experience this.
  • Hidden Depths: Surprisingly, Bart greatly takes to reading Johnny Tremain when Marge is homeschooling him—initially, it's strictly because his mom revealed that the main character has a deformed hand. But once he gets to actually reading the book, he seems to genuinely enjoy it and absorb the message pretty well. It suggests he may truly just be unmotivated rather than stupid.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In order to get all the school's major troublemakers (Bart, Nelson, Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney) out of the way during Superintendent Chalmers' visit, Seymour fights dirty, luring them into the basement by announcing that they've all won mountain bikes. Their escape plan involves sending Bart through a narrow vent to the grounds outside, where he spots Willie's unattended tractor and promptly rams it into Chalmers' rear end, causing Chalmers to pass Seymour over as "assistant superintendent" in favor of an obviously flawed rival. If Seymour hadn't tried to get rid of Bart, he might have still been an embarrassing addendum to the tour, but he would have been in his classroom with Edna to keep his havoc in check.
  • Homeschooled Kids: After getting expelled from Springfield Elementary and rejected from every other school that his family tried enrolling him in, Marge ultimately resorts to homeschooling Bart so he can still get an education despite not going to a regular school. He shows more improvement under Marge's tutelage than he did at any of the actual schools, possibly because Marge knows how to get him interested in schoolwork.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Springfield created an entire holiday based on beating snakes to death just for the hell of it. It is later revealed in the episode that Whacking Day was invented as an excuse to beat up the Irish.
  • Imagine Spot: When Homer talks to Lisa. When she remarks about how Whacking Day is bad, Homer describes human nature as a constant conflict between good and evil that cannot be resolved.
    Evil Homer: [while dancing on Good Homer's grave with maracas] I am Evil Homer! I am Evil Homer! I am Evil Homer! I am Evil Homer!
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: While target practice in training for Whacking Day, Wiggum tells Eddy and Lou to aim for the body of a paper target of a snake. A light next to the target is promptly shot out.
  • Implausible Deniability: When Marge decides to home-school Bart, she turns the garage into a classroom. When Marge is hit with a paper airplane, Bart blurts out "I didn't do it!" even though he's the only other person in the garage.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: This is how Bart gets the first clue that the Whacking Day is a farce—Jebediah Springfield (the town founder) had apparently created it on the same day that he led an attack on Fort Ticonderoga, which makes Bart question how he could've been in two places at once. Later, it's revealed that Whacking Day was actually invented back in 1924 (just less than seventy years prior to the events of this episode) and that it was actually invented as an excuse to beat up the Irish.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: Skinner announces via the intercom that the Superintendent is arriving for an inspection, immediately followed by the curious announcement that the five most unruly students have inexplicably won mountain bikes, which they are to collect from a utility room in the basement. If it wasn't already enough of an Obvious Trap, Skinner then lets out a derisive "...fools!" followed by an Evil Laugh, before realizing he forgot to turn the microphone off first. The boys still fail to catch on.
    Bart: Hey! What do you think he meant by that "fools" remark?
    Nelson: Ah, who cares! Time to get me a mountain bike!
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: Possibly the trope namer. During the march through town, The Mafia's banners read "Legitimate Businessmen's Club". Instead of beating the snakes to death, they just shoot them.
  • Locked Up and Left Behind: Nelson, Jimbo, Dolph, Kearney and Bart get locked in the school's bomb shelter by Skinner while Chalmers is paying a visit. Only Bart is shown getting out. At the episode's end, possibly at least a week later, Skinner realizes the rest are still in there. Luckily, the bomb shelter had plenty of food and water so they're okay.
  • Match Cut: A rather hilarious one. The tractor rams towards Chalmers' butt accompanied by a Hit Flash, then we cut to him at the nurse's officer saying "Ow, ow, ow." in monotone.
  • Newer Than They Think: An In-Universe example—in the end, Bart (after doing some intense research) reveals to the town that "Whacking Day"note  was actually invented in 1924note . And since it's also revealed that the holiday was invented as an excuse to beat up the Irish, it's very likely that its association with snakes is even more recent.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Bart has no interest in reading Johnny Tremain until his mom reveals that the lead character gets his hand deformed in an accident.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Homer hit a referee with a whiskey bottle one time. The only other information given is that Lisa remembers it and it happened because Homer had squeezed his rage into a bitter, little ball, then released it at (what he considered) an appropriate time. We don't know what sport it was or whether or not Homer got away with it.
    • Grampa Simpson claims to have worn women's dresses for part of the 1940s (not the flashback of him as a German cabaret singer). The only real information we get out of it is that Abe felt that the designers they had in the 1940s were really good.
    • We never learn just what the captain of what became Fort Sensible did to enrage "the enemy," much less who the enemy actually were.
  • Offscreen Inertia: In the opening scene, Skinner lures Bart and the school bullies into the bomb shelter by promising mountain bikes, then locks them in. Bart escapes, but not the others. At the end, several days later, Skinner invites Bart back...and suddenly realizes those other students are still locked in the bomb shelter.
    Skinner: Now we give 'em the bikes, no one sues! [laughs nervously]
    Willie: [false laughter] What if they're dead, sir?
    Skinner: Then we ride these bikes to Mexico! And freedom, Willie! Freedom!
    Willie: Freedom! Ha! [quietly] I'll turn ye in at the first tollbooth.
  • Oh, Crap!: Skinner when he finally remembers he forgot about the bullies.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Rather than yell and fly off the handle at Bart like he normally does, Skinner very calmly tells Bart that he's been expelled.
    • Bart himself is so enthralled by Johnny Tremain that he pays more attention to the book than to Itchy & Scratchy.
  • The Parody: Of Oliver Stone's JFK. In an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon with "special guest director Oliver Stone", Scratchy is escorted out of a jail, like Lee Harvey Oswald, and is shot by Itchy, like Jack Ruby.
  • Run for the Border: When Skinner remembers he still didn't let the bullies out of the bomb shelter, he goes into a rush to release them and give them the promised mountain bikes in hopes it'll convince them not to sue him. When Willie asks what he'll do if the bullies are dead, he says he'll flee to Mexico. Willie mutters that he'll turn Skinner in "at the first tollbooth". The episode even ends with a mariachi version of the show's theme.
  • Sadist Teacher: The teacher in the Christian school is very strict. So strict, in fact, that he leads the other students in an angry mob to run Bart out of the school just for singing a rude playground song.
  • Shaming the Mob: Barry White attempts this when he finds out what Whacking Day is about. It falls flat as the audience continues to cheer him on, causing him to realize that they're not listening to a word he's saying.
  • Shoe Shine, Mister?: Bart's suggestion for how he can make a living after being expelled from school. Homer isn't buying it.
    Bart: Look, Dad, I don't need school! I'll make my way as a bootblack. Shine your boots, guv'nor?
    Homer: No son of mine is gonna be a 19th-century cockney bootblack!
  • Shout-Out: To Johnny Tremain, possibly the only book that could hold Bart's interest. And while he initially only reads it because of the title character's deformity, the principles of The American Revolution start to resonate with him.
  • Snakes Are Sexy: Barry White loves "the sexy slither of a lady snake". It's probably best not to think too deeply about that...
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Whacking Day is built around this, as it's an excuse for people to go around and kill snakes. Averted when the snakes themselves are shown to be harmless and docile. (There are apparently no venomous species in all of Springfield.)
  • Something We Forgot: Jimbo and the other detained bullies, to Skinner's terror when the principal does his Oh, Crap! realization. From the time he locks them in the basement and Bart escapes, to the final scene, they aren't seen...possibly for days, until well after the Whacking Day festival has kicked into full swing, or even so much as referred to, and are presumably left for deadnote .
  • Start My Own: When Bart gets kicked out or rejected from every school in town, Marge finally decides to homeschool him herself. He actually shows more improvement under Marge's tutelage than he did in any other school.
  • Status Quo Is God: Bart returns to Springfield Elementary after Skinner sees his creativity and intelligence in saving the snakes. Ironically, Bart probably would have been better off with Marge continuing to homeschool him. He actually showed more improvement under her tutelage, particularly since she knows how to appeal to him, than he did at Springfield Elementary.
  • Stealth Pun: Naturally, the Mafia is all too happy to celebrate Whacking Day.
  • To the Tune of...: "O Whacking Day" is strong Lyrical Dissonance for Americans and Germans familiar with the yuletide hymn "O Christmas Tree"/"O Tannenbaum", less so for Britons who know the bloodthirsty lyrics of the revolutionary hymn of the same tune, "The Red Flag" (to give you a taste, the first two lines are "The People's flag is deepest red/it shrouded oft our martyred dead").
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: One of the episode's plotlines deals with the town celebrating Whacking Day to Lisa's dismay. The other one centers around Marge homeschooling Bart after he's expelled. They merge when Bart figures out how he and Lisa can save the snakes and reveals the truth about Whacking Day to the townsfolk.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened between Groundskeeper Willie and the mysterious Scottish woman he met?
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Everyone (except for Lisa and Barry White) is okay with a holiday about killing snakes.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The show opens with "Eye on Springfield", where Kent Brockman teases a feature on the Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz, before a cut shot to a row of gravestones in the cemetery. note 
  • Written Sound Effect: Bart's runaway tractor ride culminates with him hitting Superintendent Chalmers, which comes complete with a Hit Flash straight out of Looney Tunes and the word "POW!" flying around. It's actually Stock Footage from the Itchy and Scratchy cartoons, but this still results in perhaps the most un-Simpsons-like moment in the history of the show.
  • You Put the "X" in "XY": A sign at the Springfield Christian School reads "We Put the Fun in Fundamentalist Dogma". As it turned out, having fun will get you kicked out.

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