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Recap / The Simpsons S 4 E 21 Marge In Chains

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Episode - 9F20
First Aired - 5/6/1993
"Marge in Chains" is the twenty-first episode of the fourth season of The Simpsons. In this episode, Marge is tried and imprisoned for shoplifting a bottle of bourbon. Her time behind bars however makes Springfield go haywire.

Episode Summary

Homer watches an infomercial for an orange juicer, and in spite of being comically noisy and inefficient, he and the entire town buy the thing. Unfortunately, at the factory in Osaka, one of the workers has the flu, spreading it on all the juicers shipped to Springfield, generating an epidemic.

At the Simpson home, Marge is the only one spared from the illness, and is forced to run errands for them at the Kwik-E-Mart, which has jacked up the prices. As she exits the store, Apu notices a bottle of bourbon in her coat (that Grampa asked for) and calls the cops on her.

After Mayor Quimby accidentally reveals to the townspeople Marge is a shoplifter (being specifically told by Chief Wiggum to keep it confidential), all of her acquaintances begin to badmouth her. After unsuccessfully trying to get Apu to drop the case (his mind being set on getting Marge in jail), Homer hires the services of Lionel Hutz, although the judge has a grudge against him for hitting his son with his car.

At the trial, the Blue-Haired Lawyer is so confident of Marge's guilt that he decides to talk to the jury about Hollywood stars, Helen Lovejoy gleefully railroads her by implying she is a heavy drinker, while Professor Frink links her to the Kennedy assassination. While Hutz starts out well by outfoxing Apu's self-described "photographic memory" and convincing him that Marge could be innocent, his performance soon drops to pathetic depths and gets Marge sentenced to 30 days in prison.


In spite of her initial fears, Marge blends in nicely, making friends with her tough-as-nails cell-mate (who murdered her husband with a monkey-wrench). Things fall apart for everyone else however. The rest of the family somehow turn the house into a disaster (including having an alligator in the toilet) and run through the wardrobe over the course of 10 minutes while the annual bake sale comes up short without her cakes, forcing the town to get a statue of Jimmy Carter instead of one of Abraham Lincoln as it was planned. This becomes enough to send Springfield into a pandemonium.

Realizing their mistake, the people of Springfield decide to forgive Marge and, once she is freed, they honor her by modifying the Carter statue and dedicating it to her.


"Marge in Chains" contains examples of...

  • Accidental Theft: Marge accidentally steals a bottle of bourbon, setting the episode's plot in motion.
  • The Alcoholic: Helen Lovejoy implies Marge drinks. Marge's incredibly tense reaction suggests it's true, although it's just as likely she's tense because Helen's gleefully digging Marge's grave.
  • Anything but That!: Lionel Hutz imagines what life would be like without lawyers, which features people from every race, ethnic background, creed and color dancing under a rainbow while a non-copyright-infringing version of "I'd Like to Teach The World to Sing" plays. It sickens Hutz.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The alligator is shown with interlocking teeth as it crunches Abe's dentures. Gets jarring in that it was correctly shown with an overbite in other scenes.
  • As Himself: David Crosby (who is said to be a doppelganger for Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder), from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Lionel Hutz repeatedly ran over Judge Snyder's son for reasons unknown.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Flanders thinks his family falling ill from the Osaka flu epidemic is God's way of punishing him for watching and laughing at Married... with Children.
    Flanders: The network slogan is true: Watch Fox and be damned for all eternity.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • When Dr. Nick turns on the juicer, it makes a very loud grinding noise. Troy shouts, "ARE YOU SURE IT'S ON? I CAN HARDLY HEAR IT!" Nick shouts back, "IT'S WHISPER QUIET!"
    • Mr. Burns finds Homer in his secret chamber and asks what he's doing. Homer responds "My name is Mr. Burns" to Burns' face.
  • Brick Joke: Lionel Hutz imagines what life would be like without lawyers, which features people from every race, ethnic background, creed, and color dancing under a rainbow while a non-copyright-infringing version of "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" plays. After Hutz loses Marge's case, the judge announces that the next case features Hutz as the defendant being sued by the very same people featured in his imagination.
    Hutz: Oh right, that thing.
  • Buffy Speak:
    Lionel Hutz: I move for a "bad court thingy".
    Judge Snyder: You mean a mistrial?
    Hutz: Yeah! That's why you're the judge, and I'm the... law-talking... guy.
    Snyder: The lawyer?
    Hutz: Right.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin':
    • Played Straight: Marge, having a bad day, forgets to pay for an item at the Kwik-E-Mart, after having paid for all of the rest of a big basket of items. She is immediately arrested and sentenced to 30 days imprisonment.
    • When Apu starts to gloat after Marge's sentence that his store is now safe, we cut to Snake towing the entire Kwik-E-Mart to Mexico.
  • Chewbacca Defense: An example that predates the Trope Namer! Instead of actually arguing his case prosecuting Marge, the Blue-Haired Lawyer decides to instead ask the jury who's more attractive: Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson. When the judge asks him how this pertains to the case, the lawyer says that he is "so confident in Marge Simpson's guilt that [he] can waste the court's time by rating the superhunks." Both the jury and Hutz take this as a trial-winning argument.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Wanting a cure for Osaka flu, the people of Springfield mob Dr. Hibbert's office, who tells them that the only cure is bed rest and that anything else would be a placebo. The mob then overturns a truck filled with killer bees in search of placebos.
    Bystander: (eats a bee) I'm cured! I mean, ouch!
  • Continuity Nod: One of the jurors at Marge's trial is Jack Marley, from "Marge Gets a Job".
  • Designated Villain: In-universe. Marge is suddenly treated like a pariah by nearly everyone in Springfield because she accidentally forgot to pay for a bottle of bourbon.
  • Disastrous Demonstration: The Juice-Loosener, Dr. Nick's current invention and Troy's current shilling target. Not only does it make a deafening grinding sound and rattle like it's about to explode, but it only manages a single drop of juice despite Nick dumping what looks like eight oranges in there. Naturally, Troy and Nick cheerfully shout about how they can't hear a thing over the din, and Troy marvels that Nick got "all that out from one bag of oranges?"
  • Disguised in Drag: Bart's Imagine Spot for breaking Marge out of prison involves him dressed as a woman named "Bartina", romancing the warden, then knocking him out with a crowbar to get the cell keys.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Marge forgets to pay for a bottle of cheap bourbon at the Kwik-E-Mart (she was too exhausted from dealing with her sick family for several days to notice it was in her pocket). She apologizes for that and makes clear she will pay immediately. Apu calls the cops on her (which arrive with multiple officers that point their guns at her like she was a psychotic thief) and she's put through trial and then placed in jail. The rest of the townspeople treat her like a drunken maniac — and as a matter of fact, it's because of this that they lie in court and take Helen Lovejoy's slander as iron-clad proof in order to declare her guilty.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: While battling the alligator, Grandpa keeps taunting it with a toilet plunger until his dentures fall into its mouth. The gator promptly crunches them to bits and gives Grandpa a mocking grin.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Literally. When the Springfieldians riot over the Jimmy Carter statue, Wiggum attempts to sic the police dogs on the rioters. When Lou notes that they look angry, Wiggum explains that's because he's been mistreating the dogs to rile them up (such as starving them, teasing them and singing off-key). The dogs proceed to tear him apart when they're set loose.
  • Easily Condemned: All it takes is her forgetting to pay for a bottle of bourbon (which she was perfectly willing to pay for and apologize, but Apu didn't care) and Helen Lovejoy gossiping about her being a drunken maniac while she's testifying under oath in order for Springfield to toss Marge in jail.
  • Epic Fail:
    • When Burns finds Homer eating a sandwich in the special chamber he's built for himself to sit out the flu epidemic, Homer's cover story for what he's doing there: "My name is Mr. Burns."
    • Lionel Hutz gets busted on jury-tampering by submitting the verdict himself...on a cocktail napkin, that still says "guilty", and "guilty" is spelled wrong.
    • After only ten minutes of the family returning home, the house descended into chaos and despair.
  • Evil Is Petty: Helen Lovejoy spreads gossip that Marge is an alcoholic maniac (which is lying under oath), which gets Marge imprisoned, just because she'll never stop spreading gossip.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: "Could you imagine a world without lawyers?"
  • Foreshadowing: Apu's Laser-Guided Karma in Snake stealing the Kwik-E-Mart and transferring it by truck to Mexico is the first sign that Springfield will enter chaos.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Lionel Hutz switches out the verdict with a cocktail napkin, if you pay attention when the verdict is being handed to the judge you can actually see Hutz performing a quick sleight-of-hand and switch the verdicts. It happens very quickly and you'll only see it if you know to look for it.
  • For Want of a Nail: Had Marge not been in prison, she could've helped out with the bake sale to raise money to buy a statue of Abraham Lincoln, instead of the Jimmy Carter statue which angered the citizens so much a mass riot broke out.
  • Funny Background Event: During the riots, a man can be seen stealing a TV in nothing but his underwear.
  • Gaslighting: During the court case, Hutz attempts to manipulate Apu into believing his memory is faulty. He does this by asking Apu what tie he was wearing, not-so-discreetly hiding it away when Apu isn't looking, then demonstrating his bare neck.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • After Marge was found guilty, Apu commented on how safe the Kwik-E-Mart was. Cut to Snake and an unnamed criminal loading the store onto a flatbed truck and hauling ass to Mexico.
    • With Marge gone, Lisa suggests that if the rest of the family work together they can keep the house clean. 10 minutes later, and the kitchen is a total mess.
  • The Glomp: In one of the conjugal visit trailers, Marge aggressively glomps Homer for sex, which then turns over the trailer.
    Homer: Honey, I don't know what you're feeling, right now. So I don't want to push anything. We can just hold hands or sit and talk...
    (Marge, overwhelmed with feelings of lust, immediately glomps Homer aggressively)
    Homer: Whoa!
  • Gossipy Hens: Helen Lovejoy, by her own admission. She even gives gossip as evidence at Marge's trial.
  • Heel Realization: The whole town had this when they realize putting Marge in jail was the worst mistake they ever did due to her not able to help with the bake sale and lead them to getting a Jimmy Carter statue instead of Abraham Lincoln one.
  • Hong Kong Dub: Parodied; the two Japanese factory workers' dialogue is deliberately wildly out of sync to give the impression it has been dubbed.
  • Infection Scene: A Japanese worker at a kitchen appliance factory begs one of his co-workers not to tell the supervisor he has the flu, right before he coughs a visible cloud of green and red germs into a box shipping a juice loosener to Springfield. This leads to an Osaka flu outbreak in Springfield when the juicers arrive at their destination several weeks later.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • After Marge is accused of shoplifting, Professor Frink, testifying for the prosecution, pretty much accuses her of being the second gunman of the Grassy Knoll. His evidence is nothing but a blue bush that looks similar to Marge's trademark blue hair. Even though it's unlikely, the jury buys it.
    • Apu thinking that Marge being in jail will mean the store is safe. Even without the scene with the store being hijacked, one of the recurring gags about Apu is how often his store is robbed by people who aren't Marge. Though he might have assumed Snake and Marge were in on it together.
  • Jerkass: Apu, Sanjay and the majority of on-screen characters who gossip about Marge because she forgot to pay for the bourbon even though it was clearly an accident due to how stressed out she was. Special mention goes to Helen Lovejoy, whose gossip mongering and testimony help get Marge thrown in prison.
  • Jerkass Ball: Apu and Sanjay cheering and celebrating at the idea of getting Marge arrested and jailed.
  • Just Following Orders: When Homer asks Apu and Sanjay to drop the charges against Marge, Apu tells him they're required by company policy to prosecute her. Their celebratory mood over the issue, however, makes it clear that it's not the only reason they're doing it.
  • Kangaroo Court: Poor Marge gets put through this, experiencing a Felony Misdemeanor and untrustworthy testimonies to receive an excessive and unnecessary sentence.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Homer going to the Kwik-E-Mart to see if Apu can just let go of the charges, only to find him and Sanjay celebrating and Apu pausing long enough to tell Homer that he can't do that because it's company policy to deal with any shoplifters with the full extent of the law (and talking about Marge like she was a criminal as bad as Snake).
    • The main reason why Marge ended up in prison is because Helen Lovejoy is a bullying Gossipy Hen.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • The majority of Springfield treating Marge like a pariah comes back to bite them big time when riots break out after the city purchases a statue of Jimmy Carter instead of Abraham Lincoln, all because they couldn't raise enough money to buy Lincoln. The reason behind this is because, had Marge been able to help out with the bake sale used to fund the statue's purchase, they would've made just enough to buy Lincoln.
    • Apu assumes the Kwik-E-Mart will be safe now that Marge is in prison. We see that while he's been at Marge's trial, Snake has loaded the Kwik-E-Mart on a truck and is now driving it to Mexico.
  • Lazily Gender Flipped Name: Bart's Imagine Spot for breaking Marge out of prison involves him dressed as a woman named "Bartina".
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded by Lisa when she gets her clothes dirty.
    Lisa: It seems like I've been wearing this same red dress forever!
  • The Lopsided Arm of the Law: The ringing of the Kwik-E-Mart's silent alarm to deal with an accidental shoplifter merits multiple patrol cars that arrive within seconds of the button being pressed and officers pointing their guns at Marge like she was armed and dangerous. Later on, Snake steals the whole damn building with a flat-bed truck, yet nothing happens.
  • Master of Your Domain: Bart deliberately suppresses his immune system in order to avoid school.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Exaggerated. With Homer in charge after Marge's imprisonment, it takes all of ten minutes for the house to become a complete mess.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Maude was basically the voice of the town who thought this after putting Marge in jail.
  • Noodle Incident: What did Hutz do to piss of the International Council of Churches so much?
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Troy McClure gets a literal "Oh Crap" moment when, during an infomercial for Dr. Nick's Juice Loosener, he tries on Dr. Nick's Tanning Cream/Laxative without knowing what it is.
    • Otto sunbathing on a rooftop, just as he realizes he's about to be hit by a dollop of vomit infected with the dreaded Osaka Flu falling from Arnie Pie's helicopter. Shown from the perspective of said dollop.
  • Plaguemaster: At the Juice Loosener factory in Osaka, Japan, a worker carelessly coughs into numerous machine boxes, thus causing the Osaka Flu outbreak in Springfield.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Of Arnie Pye's vomit.
    Otto: (laying down to sunbathe) Okay, Mr. Sun, gimme what you got! (cut to POV of the vomit falling towards Otto) Aaaahhhh!!!
  • Powder Keg Crowd: The fact that the statue purchased by the mayor was of Jimmy Carter instead of Abraham Lincoln is enough to make everybody angry enough for a riot to quickly break out afterwards.
  • Sewer Gator: A sewer gator appears trapped in the Simpsons toilet - and battling Grampa:
    Bart: "We flushed the gator down the toilet, but it got stuck halfway, and now we have to feed it."
  • Shooting the Swarm: When the clouds of infected air are spreading the Osaka flu, Wiggum tries shooting one of them.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: Apu testifies in a courtroom scene in the episode that he is able to recite 40,000 decimal places of the number pi. He correctly notes that the 40,000th digit is the number one. The writers prepared for this scene by asking David H. Bailey of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (now at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) for the number of the 40,000th decimal place of pi. Bailey sent them back a printout of the first 40,000 digits.
  • Special Guest: Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure
  • Steel Drums and Sunshine: Quimby pretends he cancelled his vacation to the Bahamas because of the pandemic, but is Instantly Proven Wrong by a beachgoing pannist walking in front of the camera.
    Quimby: Hey, you! Get that steel drum out of the, uh, mayor's office.
    Pannist: Sorry, mon.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: At the juice loosener ad, Troy McClure smashes an orange at his face to imply that's the only way to extract juice from it before the loosener was invented. Homer is then seen using that method while watching the ad and being surprised it's not the only way. Considering the success of the product, it seems Springfieldans have no idea about other methods either.
  • Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: For Apu and Sanjay's brief lines of Hindi dialogue, the writers called the Embassy of India in Washington to get them to translate. The Embassy was not "interested or happy" but still did it.
  • Take That!:
    • The crowd goes into a riot when, instead of an Abraham Lincoln statue, a Jimmy Carter statue is built (according to the DVD commentary, the writers do believe that Jimmy Carter was a bad U.S. President, but not as bad as George W. Bush):
      Random Townsperson: He's history's greatest monster!
    • Marge being accused of shooting JFK could be this towards the various conspiracy theories.
  • Tempting Fate: After Marge gets sent to jail, Apu pronounces that the Kwik-E-Mart is safe once more. Even at this moment Snake is stealing said store and driving off to Mexico with it.
  • Throwing Your Gun at the Enemy: Wiggum encounters a strain of Osaka Flu and, after shooting at it futilely, throws his gun at it.
  • Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket: An ad for the "juice loosener" suggests that without said product, the only way to get juice from an orange is to painfully squeeze it against your forehead. Indeed, Homer was unaware of any other way.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: A juice loosener factory worker refuses to take a sick day, which sends an epidemic to the places they were shipping.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: When Arnie Pie is giving his helicopter news report, he gets sick and vomits out the copter window. We don't see it, but smash cut to Otto, who is about to sunbathe. The camera takes the viewpoint of Arnie's vomit, which falls towards a screaming Otto.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: According to a sign at the end of Act Two, Springfield is 678 miles from Mexico City, putting it around southern Texas.
  • Who Shot JFK?: Frink accuses Marge of this, claiming a hedge by the grassy knoll sort-of resembles Marge's hairstyle.
  • Working Through the Cold: One of the employees at the juice loosener factory causes Springfield's Asian flu epidemic. His coworker claims to have a shattered pelvis.


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