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Recap / The Simpsons S4 E5 "Treehouse of Horror III"

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"Treehouse of Horror III" is the fifth episode of the fourth season of The Simpsons (production code 9F04), first aired on October 29, 1992. In their third "Halloween Special", the Simpson family hold a party with Bart and Lisa's friends and tell scary stories, including the tale of a possessed Krusty doll, a Simpsonized parody of the classic horror film King Kong (1933), and a spell by Bart and Lisa unleashes a Zombie Apocalypse.

"Clown Without Pity"

It's Bart's birthday, and Homer (as always) has forgotten to get a gift on time, so he hurries to a bazaar/fro-yo parlor called "House of Evil", where he finds a talking Krusty doll and buys it in spite of the shopkeeper warning him about the doll having an horrible curse. Then Grampa exclaims he sees evil in the doll which later threatens to kill him out of the blue, but Homer brushes off these concerns until the thing almost harpoons him while bathing.
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After a number of incidents, Homer puts the Krusty doll inside a bag of dirty socks which he sends to a bottomless pit, but the doll then returns and attacks Homer, trying to drown him in the dog bowl. A frantic Marge calls the consumer hotline and a man is sent to the house, finding out that the problem was that the doll was switched on "Evil". After being switched on "Good", the doll becomes Homer's servant, but it doesn't matter to him as long as he has a Malibu Stacy doll for himself.

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"King Homer"

Showman Mr. Burns hires a single white female (Marge Bouvier) to come with them on an excursion to Ape Island to find the mythical King Homer. There, the natives notice them because of Marge's protruding hair and she is offered in sacrifice to the ape, who takes a liking to her instead of eating her. However, Burns' crew knocks King Homer out and Burns puts him on Broadwaynote .

King Homer's debut on New York goes well until the reporters' flickering flashbulbs enrage the ape, who breaks free from his chains and wreaks havoc around town. He then abducts Marge from the Empire State Building, but is only able to climb a couple of floors before passing out. While Burns declares his career over, Marge decides to marry him.

"Dial Z for Zombies"

After presenting a pop-up preschool book of the alphabet for his report, Bart is told to redo it. He goes into the Occult Section of the school library and finds a spell book. When Lisa reminds Bart about the anniversary of the death of Snowball I, he decides to use the book to bring it back to life. Their attempt ultimately fails and eventually return home, but unbeknownst to them, they do revive those resting at the cemetery.

The undead soon attack the townspeople and eventually break into the Simpson home. Homer offers to sacrifice himself, but the zombies don't think he's got enough brains, so they flee. Lisa resolves they go to the school library in hopes of finding a book that will reverse the spell. After Bart casts the counter-spell, the zombies return to their graves and everything returns to normal... until the family finds itself watching Fox.

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"TOH III" includes examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: Who knew that Time-Life also had a campaign to promote the Necronomicon?
  • Amusing Injuries: Bart and his friends use the front door to play 'Pin the Tail on the Donkey'. During Milhouse's turn Homer bursts in, crushing the poor kid into the wall.
  • Berserk Board Barricade: The family board up the windows in this manner, but when Marge asks Homer if he's boarded up the front door, he absent-mindedly mentions that he hasn't.
  • Blatant Lies:
    Bart: Grandpa, why don't you tell a story? You've lived an interesting life.
    Grandpa: That's a lie, and you know it!
  • Bloodless Carnage: The townspeople-turned-zombies look remarkably well for having had their skulls chewed open.
  • Brain Food: Zombies!
  • Brick Joke: As soon as the prologue for "Dial Z For Zombies" kicks in, Ned immediately bursts in as a zombie to scare the entire household witless. Come the arrival of the zombies, guess who is the first to be victimized into the undead?
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Bart says he has "a story so scary you'll wet your pants". Grampa tells him he already did. The kids back away from him.
  • Characterization Marches On: Ned Flanders celebrating Halloween, something that he fiercely opposes when he is later Flanderized into a Bible-thumping fundamentalist later in the show (although he goes back to celebrating Halloween again in the newest seasons).
  • Comically Missing the Point: Lisa says to Bart that the zombies have risen, but Bart corrects her: "Please Lis, they preferred to be called the 'Living Impaired'."
  • Continuity Nod: Among the cursed objects in the Asian shop is the Monkey's Paw.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: "King Homer". Justified, as it's a parody of the original 1933 King Kong, not its color remakes.
  • Demoted to Extra: Kang and Kodos, who had major roles in the previous Halloween specials, get only a Mandatory Line in this one and the next few. They wouldn't get another major appearance until Treehouse of Horror VII".
  • Disability Immunity: A bunch of zombies leave Homer completely unharmed. They were looking for brains to eat, and after a brief inspection decided that Homer just wouldn't do.
  • The Doll Episode: Homer gets Bart a cursed Krusty doll from a Chinese man's curio shop filled with cursed and weird objects from around the world.
  • Double Entendre: The famous "I think women and seamen (semen) don't mix" line. Depending on Fox's standards at the time, it might also count as Getting Crap Past the Radar.
  • Easily Forgiven: When the Krusty doll get switched from "Evil" to "Good" and Krusty says, "I love you, Homer," Homer immediately hugs him and says, "Come here, you."
  • Epic Fail: When King Homer climbs the Empire State Building and falls, he doesn't die. That's because he gets tired out just from climbing one story! Marge even points that out.
    Marge: You know you look a little flushed, maybe you should eat more vegetables and less people.
    Homer: Uh Huh.
    • Homer's "scary" story that he tries to tell to the kids. They end up more bored than frightened due to its inconsistencies.
    • Mr. Burns attempts to throw a gas bomb at King Homer that landed only a few inches away, gassing himself instead.
  • Evil Laugh: In Kang and Kodos' obligatory cameo appearance, they laugh at the thought of humanity being overrun by zombies. Bart also gets one for raising the dead.
  • Foreshadowing: After seeing a naked Homer run by, Patty remarks "There goes the last lingering thread to my heterosexuality." Several later episodes would make reference to Patty being a lesbian ("Bart After Dark" has her as one of the customers of the Maison Derrierenote  and "Jaws Wired Shut" has her in the "Staying In The Closet Float") and "There's Something About Marrying" would have her come out as a lesbian.
  • Forgotten Framing Device: The episode ends without a conclusion for the Halloween party wraparound segment, ending instead on The Simpsons turning into metaphorical zombies by watching TV.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: During the swirling newspaper gag announcing "Woman Marries Ape" (with the subheadline "Dick Cavett Born" featuring his adult picture), we briefly see a subheadline of "Woody Allen Born" with a picture of him instead, meaning the writers were originally going to use that as the joke, but had to have it changed before the episode aired.
  • Grave Humor: Like the previous two Treehouse of Horror specials, some funny gravestones are seen in the intro, including one that reads "I'm with Stupid".
  • Halloween Episode
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Parodied when Homer tells the zombies to prey on him so his family can escape. For a moment they consider the offer, but decline upon realizing that Homer doesn't have much of a brain to eat.
  • "How Did You Know?" "I Didn't.": See Not a Zombie below.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Ape Island. Burns' crew would much rather go to Candy Apple Island, which also has apes, they're just not as big.
  • Interspecies Romance: Between Marge and King Homer, ending with a wedding!
  • Killer Gorilla: Several people fall victim to King Homer's insatiable appetite, including Lenny, Smithers, Shirley Temple and Marge's father.
  • "King Kong" Climb: King Homer attempts to climb the Empire State Building, but only makes it up a few feet. By the time he collapses from exhaustion, the pilots circling around the top of the building head off to refuel.
  • Michael Jackson's "Thriller" Parody: Bart and Lisa resurrect the dead while the former wears the album cover of Thriller on his head.
  • Mood Whiplash: Homer is in a store selling forbidden objects and frozen yogurt (referred to as "frogurt"), leading to a back-and-forth containing this trope between Homer and the shopkeeper.
  • Morality Dial: The reason the Krusty doll kept trying to kill Homer was because his switch was set to 'Evil'.
  • Mundane Object Amazement: Provided by Barney:
    Wow, look at the size of that platform!
  • Naked People Are Funny: Homer dresses in a toga to play Julius Caesar, but the sheet catches on a nail and he stands in his underwear in front of everybody. Well, he did say "Behold, mighty Caesar, in all his glory!"
    • Later, the Krusty doll scares him out of the bathtub and he runs past Marge, Patty and Selma.
  • Not a Zombie
    Bart: Dad, you killed the zombie Flanders!
    Homer: He was a zombie?
    • This has been said to be Matt Groening's favorite line of the entire series.
  • Not His Sled: Rather than get shot at by helicopters on top of the Empire State Building, King Homer ends up marrying Marge.
  • Number of the Beast: All of the Dewey Decimal System numbers in the library.
  • One Steve Limit: Two zombies debate over the ownership of a particular grave belonging to "John Smith." Turns out the second guy had the wrong date.
  • The Operators Must Be Crazy: Marge tries to let the toy company know the Krusty doll is attempting to drown her husband as she speaks. She gets "Everybody Loves a Clown" as the hold music.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: While these zombies do eat brains, they're able to speak and possess a higher intelligence level than traditional walkers; Seymour Skinner, for example, is able to go on acting as the principal of Springfield Elementary (although he does call students down to his office for the express purpose of eating their brains). Possibly justified by the use of a spell to reanimate them. And could also be a reference to The Return of the Living Dead, which had similarly intelligent zombies who craved brains and used tactics to lure prey.
  • Perverse Puppet: The killer Krusty doll. Subverted in that he's only evil because of a switch on his back, and despite the Chinese man that sold the doll to Homer saying it was cursed.
  • Planet of Steves: Parodied with the two John Smith zombies. This is quickly cleared up with the year discrepancy.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Homer says these as he battles historical zombies.
    Homer: Take that, Washington! Eat lead, Einstein! Show's over, Shakespeare!
  • Pretend We're Dead: Homer spots Barney eating an arm and exclaims "Barney, not you too!" to which Barney replies: "I'm not a zombie, but hey, when in Rome..."
  • Properly Paranoid: Grampa in the first segment, in which he calls the Krusty doll evil.
    Marge: Grampa, you said that about all the presents.
    Grampa: I just want attention.
  • Primate vs. Reptile: King Homer is introduced battling a Tyrannosaurus rex.
  • Reality Ensues: In "King Homer", Homer, playing the role of the ape, grabs Marge and tries to scale a building with her. But due to his bad diet, barely even make it a foot up the building before dropping to the ground, winded.
  • Recycled Animation:
    • Kang and Kodos' appearance is recycled from the previous "Treehouse of Horror" without the human peace symbol.
    • When at the shop buying a Krusty doll, the "That's bad/that's good" footage of Homer reuses the same two shots over and over again.
  • See You in Hell: As the zombies return to their graves: "See you in Hell." "Still pushing that boulder?" "Uh-huh."
  • Shout-Out:
    • The pre-title sequence has Homer filling out the Hitchcock silhouette at the start of every Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode. He even says Hitchcock's famous line "Good eeeevening."
    • One of the graves in the graveyard belongs to inventor and architect R. Buckminster Fuller. His grave is even shaped like his most famous invention, a geodesic dome.
    • Bart dresses as Alex DeLarge.
    • The Asian shop keeper selling cursed stuff is a reference to Gremlins.
    • The "murderous doll" plot is specifically based on the The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Living Doll", hence the lines "My name is Krusty, and I love you very much" and "I'm Krusty the Klown and I don't like you." It also contains elements of Trilogy of Terror and Child's Play.
    • "Psycho" Strings play when the Krusty doll raises a knife.
    • The Krusty doll belts himself to the bottom of the car.
    • King Kong (1933): Well, duh!
    • Homer throws the doll in a bottomless pit, followed by a mafioso (who, surprisingly, isn't Fat Tony or any of his men) dumping a corpse, and a man throwing in a box of nude photos of Whoopi Goldberg, which are immediately thrown back again.
    • On the newspaper Marge is holding with Mr. Burns' wanted ad, the one above can be seen asking for someone who "likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain".
    • The natives on Kong Island shout "Mosi Tatupu" (which translates to "The blue-haired woman will make a great sacrifice") which is a wink to an American football player from Samoa.
    • Shirley Temple (voiced by Russi Taylor using the voice she uses for Martin Prince) is devoured by King Homer.
    • Mr. Burns claims that King Homer's career is over because Al Jolson's was too when he ran amok at the Winter Garden and climbed the Chrysler Building, which made Jolson impervious to getting arrested.
    • Cheesy music plays and a heart-shaped iris frames the Krusty doll with Malibu Stacy. This also closes out "King Homer".
    • Bart tries to read a Where's Waldo? book (titled Find Waldo Yet Again — it's so easy that Bart comments, "Man, he's not even trying anymore.") for his book review.
    • Raising the dead apparently requires wearing a copy of Michael Jackson's Thriller album on your head.
    • Bart and Lisa trying to raise their dead cat is similar to the plot of Pet Sematary.
    • Some of the graves in the pet cemetery are names of early 1990s animated TV series that were Follow the Leader attempts at cloning The Simpsons's success, all of which were cancelled after only a few episodes aired: Fish Police, Capitol Critters and Family Dognote .
    • Speaking of canceled shows being shown as "dead" in a graveyard, one of the tombstones reads, Drexell's Class, a live-action show that aired on FOX for a little while as The Simpsons's lead-out. That show had Dabney Coleman (among other things, he was the sexist boss in 9 to 5 and the voice of Peter Prickley on Recess) as the title character.
    • The zombie apocalypse is mostly a spoof of Night of the Living Dead (1968).
    • The spell to bring zombies to life has the last names of game show hosts (Cullen, Rayburn, Narz, Trebek) and the names of department stores (Zabar, Kresgenote , Caldor, Walmart note ).
      • The spell that turns Lisa into a snail consists of names of 1970s TV detectives (Kolchak, Mannix, Banacek, Danno), and the spell to return zombies to their graves are the brand names of condoms (Trojan, Ramses, Magnum, Shiek), which, back then, was considered risque.
    • Homer shockingly shoots the walking corpses of George Washington, Albert Einstein and William Shakespeare down.
    • When the zombies return to their graves one of the corpses says: "Still pushin' that boulder?", a nod to the ancient Greek mythological character Sisyphus.
  • Shown Their Work: The Springfield Shopper's November 19, 1936 issue includes the article "Dick Cavett Born." Cavett was actually born on that exact day.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    Lisa: Dad, we did something very bad!
    Homer: Did you wreck the car?
    Bart: No!
    Homer: Did you raise the dead?
    Lisa: Yesss!
    Homer: But the car's okay?
    Kids: Uh-huh.
    Homer: All right then.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Unlike the titular Kong of the original movie, King Homer doesn't get killed by the planes shooting him off the tower, being too unfit to even climb more than a single story in the first place.
  • Spelling Song: "My baloney has a first name, it's H-O-M-E-R. My baloney has a second name, it's H-O-M-E-R..."
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Smithers avers that "women and seamen don't mix" while the crew is sailing to Ape Island with Marge in tow. Given what we now know about Smithers, this could be interpreted another way.
    Mr. Burns: We all know what you think.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    Tribe Leader (in tribal language): The blue-haired woman will make a good sacrifice.note 
    Marge: What's he saying?
    Mr. Burns: Aaaaaaaaah... he's saying... ummmmm... "We wouldn't dream of sacrificing the blue-haired woman!"
  • Take Me Instead: Homer attempts this with the zombies in order to allow the rest of the family to escape, but it fails when the zombies realise he doesn't have a brain.
  • Take That!: A personal one, at that. Three of the headstones in the pet cemetery read Capitol Critters, Family Dog and Fish Police, all prime-time animated shows meant to compete with (and were promptly curb-stomped by) The Simpsons.
    • In-Universe: Homer is noticeably annoyed when the zombies are about to attack him to eat his brain... and after they check him over, they leave him be while still looking for brains.
    • The pictures of Whoopi Goldberg as mentioned in Shout-Out.
  • Tempting Fate: At the end of the third segment, Lisa remarks that's she glad none of the family turned into mindless zombies. Bart interrupts: "Shhh. TV." Everyone starts staring at the set, and gradually fall into a brainless trance.
    Homer: Man... fall down. Fun-ny.
    Other Simpsons: Mmmmm...
  • To the Batnoun!: After Lisa realizes the library may have another book to reverse the spell, Homer shouts, "To the book depository!"
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Amusingly inverted; the zombies ignore Homer because he apparently hasn't got (enough) brains to eat.
    • Played straight with Ned Flanders, who was dumb enough to let the zombies into his house.
    • Martin still going to the principal's office despite Principal Skinner clearly intending to eat him.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex: King Homer makes his first appearance battling one, choking it in much the same way Homer does to Bart. And then the natives sound a gong which distracts him, giving the dinosaur a chance to bite his arm.
  • Unimpressive Progress Reveal: In "King Homer", the eponymous giant ape climbs a skyscraper with Marge in his hand, but drops from exhaustion - from the second floor, about half his body height.
  • Verbal Backspace: Mister Burns' attempts to cover up calling Marge bait. It works.
  • We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: When zombie Sideshow Mel attacks Krusty the Klown on the air, a technical difficulties title card (featuring a drawing of a drunk cameraman) pops up for a few moments.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Martin Prince dresses up as Calliope, the Greek muse of heroic poetry.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Or rather would eat a child. Not even the little Shirley Temple is safe from King Homer's voracious appetite, though he did briefly enjoy her singing.
    • The zombified Principal Skinner has no problem with this either.
    Zombie Principal Skinner: Martin Prince, report to my office at once. And bring that big, juicy chess-club brain of yours along with you! Mmmmm! [licks his lips. Martin whimpers as he exits]
  • Your Brain Won't Be Much of a Meal: A zombie horde clamoring for "Braaaains" inspects Homer's head, then abandon him in disgust. Most ridiculously, the zombie taps Homer on the head and a hollow sound is heard before it moves along.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Spoofed.

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