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Recap / The Simpsons S4 E3 "Homer the Heretic"

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Original air date: 10/8/1992

Production code: 9F01

"I'm not a bad guy...I work hard, and I love my why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I'm going to hell?"

Homer skips church for a Sunday due to the blistering cold weather and has such a great time, he decides to forgo mainstream religion in favor of his own self-invented theistic religion.

This episode is notable for two reasons: One, it was the first episode produced by Film Roman as opposed to Klasky-Csupo, and two, it was also the first episode animated overseas by Rough Draft Studios, which would be a major contributor to the series and is still working on the show to this day.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: When Homer tries to rebuke Reverend Lovejoy's attempt to bring Homer back to church, he tries to invoke a bible verse from the Book of Mathew (the same book Lovejoy quoted from). Not only was it a real verse, but it did also fit in with Homer's argument (albeit awkwardly since Homer was surprised by the passage's existence).
    Lovejoy: Homer, I'd like you to remember Matthew 7:26. "The foolish man who built his house upon the sand."
    Homer: And you remember... Matthew... 21:17.
    Lovejoy: "And he left them and went out of the city, into Bethany, and he lodged there"?
    Homer: ...Yeah. Think about it.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: When Bart asks why Homer's not going to church:
    Marge: Your father's... resting.
    Bart: Resting "hung over", resting "got fired"... help me out here.
  • Animation Bump: A very noticeable one, being the first episode animated overseas by Rough Draft Studios; the animation is more fast-paced and times more exaggerated, compared to the animation from AKOM and Anivision. The difference would remain until after Season 6, when all three Korean studios' work would become mostly indistinguishable from each other on this series.
  • Artistic License – History: The Playdude Homer is reading is from 1966 and has an article about Lorne Michaels in it. Lorne Michaels wouldn't be famous until 1975, with Saturday Night Live.
  • As the Good Book Says...: From both Lovejoy (Matthew 7:26) and Homer (Matthew 21:17). The latter is a subversion because while it is a real verse, it's irrelevant to any kind of point Homer was trying to make.
  • Badass Adorable: Apu's nephew Jamshed makes his first appearance in this episode, and he manages to be this. As Apu goes to extinguish the fire at the Simpson house, he tells Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearney not to steal anything while he's gone. Since it's clear that they can't be trusted (Kearney is seen eating from a box of Krusty-O's cereal), Apu puts Jamshed in charge to guard the store. Jamshed says, "I have waited for this day" and pulls out a shotgun, which scares off the three bullies.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Played with. Homer literally says something along this line. After staying home while others go to church he chuckles: "Everyone is stupid except me." Keep in mind this is Homer speaking and the house fire that happens next.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Ned breaks into the house while it's on fire to rescue Homer and get him out before the fire department arrives.
  • Big "NO!": Ned in the burning house when, while trying to carry Homer out, a burning beam falls in his path and blocks off the front door.
  • Big "YES!": Homer, when the public affairs program he is watching is interrupted by a football game.
  • By "No", I Mean "Yes": Marge asks Homer if he is actually giving up his faith when he announces he is never going to church again. He denies it, then admits he is giving up his faith.
  • Celebrities Hang Out in Heaven: "That's game, Hendrix!"
  • Cold Snap: The episode opens on a cold Sunday morning, so cold there's a polar bear outside the Simpson's yard. This spurs Homer to stay inside, while Marge and the kids freeze in church due to its furnace not working, and the door freezing shut keeps people from leaving after the service.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • It's rather odd to see Lisa so upset at Homer for, in her own words, "devoting his life to blasphemy" when later episodes emphasize her as a proponent of freedom of religion who has her own reservations with Christianity.
    • To a lesser extent, Marge is shown as more religious in this episode than she generally became later on. While she remains the most religious member of the family, things like calling Homer "wicked" or flatly telling him she values her faith over him don't really line up with her later characterization (which frame her focus on church as being more about wanting to appear respectable.)
  • Convenient Escape Boat: The Flanders family is chasing Homer in their car, so Homer heads to Springfield Harbor. He drives off a pier, landing on a garbage barge. The Flanders' hit the brakes, almost falling into the water. Homer waves back at them, then asks the captain where the barge is headed. "To Garbage Island," he replies. This is apparently a reference to the film White Lightning.
  • Couch Gag: When the family sit on the couch, the wall rotates around, leaving an empty couch from the other side.
  • Creator Killer: In-universe, Johnny Calhoun released "These Things I Believe", a spoken word album of his right-wing political views, which killed his career.
  • Crisis of Faith: Near the end where Homer is rescued from his burning house by Flanders and a multi-faith volunteer fire brigade.
    Ned Flanders: Homer, God didn't set your house on fire.
    Reverend Lovejoy: No, but He was working in the hearts of your friends and neighbors when they went to your aid, be they Christian [gestures to Flanders], Jew [gestures to Krusty], or [pauses] ...miscellaneous [gestures to Apu]!
    Apu: Hindu! There are seven hundred million of us!
    Reverend Lovejoy: Aw, that's super!
  • Disney Creatures of the Farce: Happened twice. Homer strolls his garden serenely as two birds and a squirrel flock to him. Cut to later, when they're still flocking around him while he's taking a shower, and he asks "Guys, please, can you give me five minutes?"
  • Dream Intro: The episode begins with Homer dreaming he’s in a womb when a pair of hands attempt to pull him out. Fade to Marge trying to drag Homer out of bed.
  • Dream Sequence: How Homer meets God. The writers had to frame it this way because they were afraid people would complain about Homer actually meeting God outside of his dreams. According to the writers, it made Homer look like he was narcoleptic.
  • Epic Fail: Flanders tries to rescue Homer from the burning house by tossing a mattress on the lawn and praying that Homer hits the mattress instead of the ground. Homer ends up bouncing off the mattress and back into the burning house.
  • Fictional Video Game: The Great White Hunter arcade game appears at the Kwik-E-Mart.
  • God Before Dogma: Homer's argument against going to church is that he's tired of being constantly told about how he's going to hell for minor indiscretions despite the amount of good he does for others. When he seemingly talks to God in a dream, God does actually concede with him by saying that he understands why the church isn't as engaging or meaningful since the lectures are more about fearing him and boring the audience.
  • God in Human Form: Probably; we can't see His face, but He seems to fit the Trope. (Homer's description is "Perfect teeth, nice smell, a class act all the way.")
  • God Is Displeased: Subverted. Homer is convinced that the fire was delivered by God as vengeance for Homer not going to church. Ned and Reverand Lovejoy assure him that God didn't start the fire, rather He was working through the hearts of everyone who came together to save him and the Simpsons' house.
  • Heroic Dog: Subverted with Santa's Little Helper. As the house is on fire, Homer is asleep on the couch, Santa's Little Helper takes a candy bar from his pocket and escapes.
  • Honor Before Reason: Marge in this episode. Apparently, she's so religiously dedicated that she will insistently go to church even in the middle of a bone-chilling blizzard.
  • I Read It for the Articles: Homer reads a copy of Playdude while his family is at church, and he actually is reading the articles (though he does turn the page when he finds out the article is an interview with Lorne Michaels).
  • Impact Silhouette: Homer crashes through a window and leaves a him-shaped hole.
  • Insurance Fraud: Homer tries to exaggerate the value of the loss after the house burns down:
    Insurance agent: Any valuables in the house?
    Homer: Well, the Picasso, my collection of classic cars...
    Insurance agent: Sorry, this policy only covers actual losses, not made-up stuff.
    Homer: [miffed] Well, that's just great!
  • Interrupted by the End: At the end of the episode, Homer convinces God to tell him the meaning of life as they stroll through Heaven together. God gets as far as "The meaning of life is—" before the credits cut Him off. (The intention was that, when the episode was originally broadcast, God would be cut off by a promo for the next show. Ironically, it turned out to be a rare occasion where Fox didn't run one.)
  • Isn't It Ironic?: While having the best day of his life due to skipping church, Homer joyfully sings Tom Jones' "Delilah" in the shower, which is a Murder Ballad.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Homer might be refusing to go to church for selfish reasons, but he explains to God that he isn't a bad man. He works hard and loves his family and what he questions is having to give up part of his day to be lectured about how he's going to hell unless he's as pious as Flanders. God seems somewhat convinced of Homer's reasoning, and the weather was, indeed, kind of bad, resulting in Marge, Lisa, and Bart having a horrible morning due to Marge's insistence, who was also mad he didn't go despite splitting his church pants.
  • Kick the Dog: When Krusty appears at the door on Sunday collecting donations for a Jewish clown charity directed at helping the families of 75 Jewish clowns killed when a tornado hit their convention center, Homer cuts off Krusty and closes the door after derisively asking if it's "a religious thing" and finding out it was; Krusty wasn't trying to convert Homer, he was seeking a charity donation. He also mocks Hinduism to Apu when he goes to buy beer and cigars.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: When Homer tells Reverend Lovejoy that God spoke to him in a dream:
    Homer: He appeared before me in a dream, and I knew that was special because I usually dream about naked... Marge.
  • Literal Genie: During his Heroic Fire Rescue, Flanders, before dropping an unconscious Homer out of a window onto the mattress below, asks God to "guide Homer to the mattress, square and true." Sure enough, Homer does land onto the mattress, but bounces right back into the burning house.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney when Jamshednote  pulls a shotgun on them.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Homer believes he's really encountered God in a dream, while Marge and Reverend Lovejoy obviously don't.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Invoked during Reverend Lovejoy's sermon. Bart's so cold that Hell is sounding pretty good.
    Lovejoy: And he was cast into the fiery cauldron of Hell! The searing heat, the scalding rivers of molten sulfur!
    Bart: Ahhh, I'm there.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: God has five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot, a departure from the show's traditional use of Four-Fingered Hands.
  • Nutritional Nightmare: Homer's "moon waffle", made with waffle batter, liquid smoke, and heaping handfuls of caramel and wrapped around a stick of butter after burning the waffle iron. It currently provides the page image, and was recreated on Binging with Babish.
    Homer: Mmm... fattening.
  • Oh, Crap!: The flipping TV gets one. The TV in Homer's dream flashes "Uh-Oh!" on its screen before God reaches down and removes the house's roof.
    • Homer gets a big one when he wakes up and sees the house is on fire.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Lovejoy, who is generally portrayed as being quite lax and unenthusiastic about his faith and role as a minister, has nonetheless apparently memorized (at least large portions of) the Bible, right down to the chapter and verse numbers, since the joke wouldn't work otherwise:
    Lovejoy: Homer, I'd like you to remember Matthew 7:26. "The foolish man who built his house upon the sand."
    Homer: And you remember... Matthew... 21:17.
    Lovejoy: "And he left them and went out of the city, into Bethany, and he lodged there"?
    Homer: ...Yeah. Think about it.
  • Over-the-Shoulder Carry: How Ned rescues Homer from the fire.
  • Pals with Jesus: Homer has recurring dreams about God and strikes up a friendship with him.
  • Pet the Dog: The normally self-centered Krusty is shown trying to help the families of deceased Jewish clowns by raising money for them.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: After spending the entire episode pressuring and shaming Homer into going back to church, Marge finally wins him over, only for him to end up sleeping through the sermon, much to her visible chagrin and humiliation.
  • Quote-to-Quote Combat: The above exchange where the reverend is trying to recover a lost sheep and Homer attempts a random and failed comeback.
  • Radio Contest: Homer wins a contest to name the record Johnny Calhoun released after "Gonna Find Me a Genie With a Magic Bikini", despite getting the answer slightly wrong.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: God, as seen by Homer in his dreams. He's willing to hear Homer out as to why he stopped going to church and admits that he understands why Homer is bored as sometimes even he'd rather be somewhere else.
  • Religion Is Wrong: Subverted. Homer doesn't question religion itself, he merely muses on which religion is correct ("What if we picked the wrong religion? Every week we're just making God madder and madder").
  • "Risky Business" Dance: Though Homer dances to "Who Wears Short Shorts" instead of "Old Time Rock and Roll".
    • Homer is shown wearing his briefs while the rest of the family is in their Sunday best.
  • Say My Name: Ned yells Homer's name twice through the living room window, trying to wake him up, before breaking into the house to rescue him.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: Throughout the episode, Homer is shown to be succumbing to the seven deadly sins:
    • Sloth: Homer misses church in order to sleep in and lounge around the house, and is shown to be very reluctant to get out of bed. The opening image of the episode shows him sleeping in his mother's womb and freaking out when the amniotic fluid drains and a hand goes to grab him.
    • Gluttony: Homer making the extremely fattening moon waffle.
    • Greed: Homer finds a penny and declares it to be the best day of his life, dwarfing his wedding day and the day a beer truck overturned and he got to dance in the ensuing shower (the latter of which can also count as "gluttony"). To be fair, he did have a pretty good day compared to his wife and kids complete with a football game that was nothing but "razzle-dazzle."
    • Wrath: Homer slams his hands on the wheel of his car in anger when he fails to lose Ned in the car chase. Also: Apu lashing out at the ducks who are holding him up in traffic and Marge yelling at Lisa while struggling to start her car.
    • Envy: Homer is upset that Marge always takes someone else's side, including Flanders, the water department, and God.
    • Lust: Homer reading Playdude magazine and cajoling Marge into coming to bed while she's praying.
    • Pride: Homer invents a new religion that caters to his own whims. Just as Pride is often believed to be the source of the other deadly sins, in this case, Homer's pride in creating his own religion also led to him committing the other sins. In addition, Homer's pride manifests verbally when he says "Everyone is stupid except me," directly after which his house catches fire. This is the last of the seven sins that he commits, and the fire immediately afterwards can be considered a punishment for his continued sinning.
  • "Shaggy Frog" Story:
    Homer: Kids, let me tell you about another so-called "wicked" guy. He had long hair and some wild ideas. He didn't always do what other people thought was right. And that man's name was...I forget. But the point is... I forget that, too. Marge, you know what I'm talking about. He used to drive that blue car.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The scene where Homer dances in his underwear to the song "Short Shorts" is a nod to Risky Business.
    • Flanders's rescue of Homer is inspired by Backdraft, particularly the floor collapsing under him.
    • The brand of Homer's waterproof radio is the No Soap Radio, a reference to a popular anti-joke: "Two polar bears are sitting in a bathtub. One asks the other to pass the soap, to which the other replies "No soap! Radio!"
  • Skewed Priorities: Apu stops the fire truck en route to the Simpsons' house as a line of ducks crosses the street in front of him. Bear in mind he's in the middle of racing to the Simpson house, which is on fire.
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein:
    Homer: "When the fire starts to burn, there's a lesson you must learn: Something, something, then you'll see, you'll avoid catastrophe!".....D'OH!!!
  • Spoof Aesop: After the house catches fire and Homer is rescued by religious people; Homer interprets the fire as the wrath of God and a warning to go back to church, while Lovejoy tries to tell him that faith motivated the firemen into saving him from his own negligence.
  • Steam Never Dies: An unusual variation: the freight train during the Train Escape scene is hauled by a fairly contemporary-looking diesel locomotive, but the sound of a steam locomotive whistle is used!
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Homer falls asleep with a lit cigar in his mouth. It ignites the magazines on the floor and eventually the whole house is engulfed in flames.
  • Take That!: Homer drools over an interview with Lorne Michaels in an issue of Playdude, then grumbles "Wait, that's no good!" and turns the page.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: Homer does this as the fire spreads through the house, muttering, "Marge, turn down the heat. [nothing happens] That's better." He doesn't wake up until the fire singes his two hairs.
  • Three Stooges Shout-Out: Homer watches them on TV and chuckles: "Moe is their leader."
  • Token Religious Teammate: Marge Simpson, who calls Homer wicked for giving up the church and a bad influence on the family. It's also implied that she would divorce Homer for not sharing her faith and forcing her to choose between her husband and her faith.
  • Train Escape: Subverted with Type 1; Ned and his family pursue Homer in a car chase; Homer attempts to drive across a railroad crossing as a freight train is approaching and just makes it across at the last moment, but Ned manages to jump through an empty open-door boxcar to continue after him.
  • Two Decades Behind: Early episodes of the series can be somewhat loose on whether they take place in the modern day or the days of the writers' childhoods, which shows quite a bit in the conflict over Homer not going to church. It was expected in the 50s and 60s and even 70s for people to go to church, even if they weren't particularly religious, if only to keep up appearances, with church being as much a communal event as it was a religious one. By the 90s, this behavior was in decline, which makes the fact that Homer's lack of religiosity sparks such a noticeable backlash very strange.
  • Visual Pun: Jimi Hendrix and Sir Isaac Newton are playing air hockey in a Fluffy Cloud Heaven.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: At the end, Homer announced he'd be at church next Sunday. He was. He simply didn't say he'd stay awake.