(or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)
Original air date: 12/16/1993
Production code: 1F08
Legalized gambling comes to Springfield as a new revenue stream after news hits that the town's economy is on the down slope. When Mr. Burns constructs a casino, Homer gets a job as a blackjack dealer, Marge finds herself addicted to the slots, Bart opens up his own treehouse casino to show up a teenaged worker who had him thrown out for being underaged, Mr. Burns' constant surveillance of the casino turns him into Howard Hughes in his later years, and poor Lisa can't find anyone to help her make her Florida costume for the school state pageant.
This episode contains examples of:
- Adam Westing: Gerry Cooney, who lost his last two fights via quick knockout (George Foreman, 1990) or TKO (Michael Spinks, 1987), gets floored by the skinny, perpetually spaced-out Otto with just one punch.
- Angrish: Homer meant to say, and did say on the third try, "You broke a promise to your child," but he was too angry with Marge to talk coherently. She ended up having to remind him to think about what he was saying.
- Artistic License Gun Safety: After hearing Lisa's nightmare about the Boogeyman, Homer arms himself with a shotgun. When Marge comes home, we see that he has already fired a shot through the door; when she enters the door, he points the gun right at her face, and upon being relieved that it's her, he casually tosses the gun on the floor, causing it to discharge as he runs over to embrace her.
- As Himself: Gerry Cooney and Robert Goulet.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Back in the 1940s/1950s, Springfield's streets were literally paved with gold. After Jasper points this out, we see a man trying to drive down said streets with his car swerving out of control and crashing because the wheels kept slipping.
- Big Damn Heroes: Barney rescues Maggie from being mauled by a tiger.
- Blah, Blah, Blah: Marge in Homer's "phonographic memory".
- Blind Without 'Em: Henry Kissinger drops his glasses in a toilet while visiting the nuclear power plant. (Smithers assures him as he leaves that they'll keep an eye out for them, but Kissinger knows what happened, he's just too embarrassed to tell him.) In the next scene, the news reports that he injured himself walking into a flagpole.
- Calling Out for Not Calling: Marge develops a gambling addiction and Lisa is the first to be worried by her sudden lack of presence and dedication.Lisa: Do you get the feeling this family is disintegrating? I mean, we haven't had a meal with Mom all week. And she hasn't even started my costume for the geography pageant.
- Celebrity Impersonator: Bart tried to hire a Liza Minnelli impersonator for his casino. He found himself needing a replacement act because he found out the "impersonator" was the real Liza Minnelli.
- Churchgoing Villain: Burns is seen laughing hysterically in church (among other places) over a fond boyhood memory of deliberately maiming a boardwalk employee with a bumper car.
- Comically Missing the Point: Even after seeing Marge at the slot machines and being told by her he brought her bad luck, Homer still believed she was against legalized gambling.
- Compressed Vice: Marge's gambling addiction was never established earlier. Later episodes will sometimes point out Marge's gambling problem.Homer: Marge, I want you to admit you have a gambling problem.Marge: You know, you're right, Homer. Maybe I should get some professional help.
- Couch Gag: The family runs into each other and shatter like glass, with Santa's Little Helper walking in to look at the mess on the floor.
- Damned by Faint Praise: The episode opens with a newsreel from the 50s talking about how Springfield is blossoming into a major power. Its positive traits include: being in the top 400 fastest-growing cities, being the home of celebrity "Professor Rubbermouth" (a man who can fit several billiard balls in his mouth), and making half of America's galoshes. It concludes by issuing a warning to a competitor... Utica.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: The intro to News on Parade Corporation News features deeply unsafe atom bomb tests, families irrationally afraid of their new televisions, and the Amos n' Andy radio show (complete with a caricature of Freeman Gosden doing the voice) as glamorous and exciting.
- A Degree in Useless: Kent Brockman starts his report on mass unemployment by mentioning that joblessness is no longer just for philosophy majors.
- Dude, Not Funny!: The audience's reaction to Krusty's Herpes "comedy routine", which is sometimes cut for syndication.
- Either/Or Title/Overly Long Title: The actual title to this episode is: "$pringfield: Or, 'How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling."
- Epic Fail:
- Milhouse's magic act goes horribly, with one of the cats refusing to go in the box and the other escaping from his hat. He gets clawed by both cats.
- The Florida costume Homer makes for Lisa is so bad that Principal Skinner says it obviously was made without any help from parents. The only other costume to be declared as such is Ralph's Idaho, which consists of a piece of paper with "Idaho" written on it and taped on his shirt.
- Evil Laugh: Burns lets out one that goes on for days over a memory of deliberately crippling a boardwalk employee as a kid.
- For Want of a Nail: Henry Kissinger losing his glasses at the power plant and Homer finding them and wearing them for kicks ended up saving him from being laid off. When Mr. Burns was randomly laying off employees on his security monitors as part of a budget cut, he decided to keep Homer because his glasses made him look smart.Mr. Burns: Better keep the egghead, he just might come in handy.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The judges' panel for Homer and Barney's Gong Show appearance is comprised of Paul Williams, Jamie Farr, and show regular Jaye P. Morgan, a very appropriate and typical line-up for any 1977 variety show.
- Fright-Induced Bunkmate: Played with through Disproportionate Retribution. Look down on Things That Go "Bump" in the Night.
- The Gambling Addict: Marge becomes addicted to slot machines at the casino, and shows this trait occasionally in subsequent episodes.
- Game Show Appearance: Homer claims that being a blackjack dealer is his life-long dream, and Marge points out he previously claimed his lifelong dream was to appear on The Gong Show, which he did in 1977. His act involved him and his pal Barney Gumble playing a giant harmonica while wearing one leg each of an oversized pair of pants.Homer: (waxing nostalgic) We got more gongs than the break-dancing robot that caught on fire.
- Giftedly Bad: Homer is praised by the players at his blackjack table, though only because he's so bad at it that he causes them all to win every time. The second his shift is over and he is replaced by someone else, they all vamoose.
- Gilligan Cut: After gambling is approved by unanimous vote, Homer says that this is something that will bring better things for the children. Cut to a panning shot of the park with the Jeremiah Springfield statue, which has become a full-blown Sodom and Gomorrah-style Wretched Hive in mere seconds, complete with sleazy sax.
- Glasses Curiosity: Homer finds a pair of glasses in the toilet and decides to keep them (unknowingly swiping the ones Henry Kissinger wears) after he likes how intelligent he looks with them. Even if, from his new perspective, wearing them makes Bart and Lisa look like something from a Salvador Dali painting.
- Hidden Depths: Barney has five years of training in modern dance, six years of tap. He also instantly recognizes Marge's neglect of Maggie in favor of the slot machines as "classic compulsive behavior."
- Hilarious in Flashback: When Abe was a young man, Springfield was named one of America's 400 fastest-growing towns and had such a booming economy that the streets were paved with gold—a far cry from the town on life support from the power plant it's become by the show's present.
- Hope Spot: For Smithers. It looks like the resolve to get back to the power plant has snapped Burns out of his Howard Hughes-esque funk.Burns: Now, to the plant! [picking up his model] We'll take the Spruce Moose! Hop in!
Smithers: But, sir—
Burns: [pulling out a gun] I said hop in.
- Howard Hughes Homage: Mr. Burns temporarily turns into a germophobic recluse with many of the traits of Hughes in his later years. He also becomes obsessed with a model air-plane which he names "The Spruce Moose", a clear reference to Hugh's "The Spruce Goose" plane.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- The Squeaky-Voiced Teen throwing Bart out of the casino for being underage. Bart calls him out on this, prompting the Teen to respond, "I'm not authorized to answer that."
- Barney feels that Marge's gambling is a sign of very addictive behavior. Immediately afterwards, he mistakes cups with quarters in them for booze and guzzles them down, then belches them up as people gather to collect.
- At the beginning of the episode, Grampa and Jasper walk past a beggar:Beggar: Got any spare change, man?
Grampa: Yes! And you ain't gettin' it! Everybody wants somethin' for nothin'.
(the two walk into a Social Security office)
Grampa: I'm old! Gimme gimme gimme!
- Irony: Mr. Burns is a proud member of the Simpsons universe's counterpart of the Freemasons, but he's evidently scared of the real thing (when he imagines the microbes on Smithers' face announcing "Freemasons run the country!").
- Kids Are Cruel: Burns has a flashback of him ramming a poor worker repeatedly with a bumper car when he was a child, breaking the man's legs and only stopping long enough to hear the man's pleas for him to stop before continuing.
- Let's See YOU Do Better!: When Bart is kicked out of Mr. Burns' casino and notes the martinis suck, the Squeaky-Voiced Teen challenges him to have his own casino in his treehouse. Bart does just that, leading the teen to note how he was shown up.
- Logo Joke: The Gracie Films jingle is redone in a big band style for the first half, and we hear slot machines replicating the second half.
- Malaproper: Homer tries claiming he has a photographic memory. He can't even pronounce the word properly, calling it "phonographic."
- Manly Tears: Homer sheds them when Lisa is crying over her costume, and decides to get Marge to come home.
- Moral Guardians: Averted. The decision to legalize gambling in Springfield is unanimous, with even Reverend Lovejoy approving of it on the basis that "once something has been approved by the government, it's no longer immoral." Everyone expects Marge to stand against the proposal, but she agrees it could help improve Springfield's economy.
- Never My Fault: Homer makes a big mess for trying to protect the house from the boogeyman. When Marge returns home, Homer blames her for not being there and keep him from acting stupid.
- Noodle Incident: Homer's past goof-ups include getting caught stealing watches from Sears and letting an escaped lunatic in the house for being dressed as Santa Claus, which apparently aren't as bad as Marge's gambling problem.
- Not Hyperbole: Back in the late 1940s, Springfield's streets were literally made of gold. Jasper points this out to Abe Simpson when he says it sarcastically.
- Homer, Marge, Carl, and Martin's parents all look very strange when exiting the town hall in this scene◊.
- Robert Goulet has five fingers on his left hand while he's outside Bart's treehouse but then has Four-Fingered Hands that every Simpsons character has when inside the treehouse.
- The weird design of Nelson◊ while Robert Goulet sings "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells".
- One-Hit Kill: Not a kill, but Otto manages to floor Gerry Cooney with a single punch.
- Only a Model:
- When Mr. Burns is planning the layout and theme of his casino, a few men visit his office with models of their proposed designs. A British man proposes a British themed casino with a building that resembles the Palace of Westminster. A hippie then arrives with a model of what looks like the Woodstock concert venue. Mr. Burns rejects both of these ideas.
- Played with when Mr. Burns designs an airplane. It's clearly a scale model but Mr. Burns actually thinks it's real.
- Overly-Long Gag: Mr. Burns laughing at the memory of injuring an Irish bumper car worker as a child.
- Papa Wolf: Not a standard example, but Lisa crying because her costume isn't very good causes Homer to get pissed and give Marge a What the Hell, Hero? speech about letting down Lisa because she was too busy gambling.
- Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The title above references Dr. Strangelove.
- Production Throwback: The porn theater is showing takeoffs of I'll Do Anything and Terms of Endearment — both directed by executive producer James L. Brooks.
- Role Swap Plot: Subverting the more familiar formula, Marge is the one with a Compressed Vice and it's Homer who has to go Wet Blanket Wife when the kids suffer for it. When he manages to talk Marge down, he's pretty thrilled to have been the one in the right for once in his life.
- Sanity Slippage: Burns' sanity gradually erodes—a la Howard Hughes—the more he works in the casino. He grows a long shaggy beard and ridiculously long fingernails, becomes obsessed with germs, starts wearing tissue boxes on his feet, preserves his own urine in jars, and insists that a model of an airplane he built is a real, functioning airplane, to where he tries to get Smithers to board at gunpoint.
- Self-Serving Memory: Homer claims to have a photographic memory regarding the town meeting about whether they should legalize gambling when Marge argues that she never said that she was against it, which she wasn't. His actual memory is, in a word, warped: the colors of her hair and her dress are reversed, she has curlers in her hair and is brandishing a rolling pin, her pearl necklace is rainbow-colored and the other people in the room include Apu with three heads, Ned Flanders wearing a baseball catcher's glove, a random crocodile man in a suit, a baby in a diaper with a full beard and moustache, a moustached old bald man wearing nothing but a polkadotted bikini, a woman with an extended thin neck, a man with a penguin on his head and another man with flowers growing out of his ears. Homer, naturally, is extremely muscled and the last event of his "memory" involves a random tentacle passing a telephone receiver to him, saying the President wants to talk to him.
- Shaped Like Itself: "The News on Parade Corporation presents News on Parade! ...Corporation... News."
- Mr. Burns turns into Howard Hughes as the success of the casino gets to him. His bedroom in the hotel is modeled after that of the astronaut during the final scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- The titular characters of the film Rain Man visit the casino.
- Homer recites Scarecrow's "brainy" quote from The Wizard of Oz, which gets irritably corrected by someonenote .
- Just after pointing out that Marge's promise to stop gambling and help Lisa with her costume is "just like on TV", Homer trips over an Ottoman a la Dick Van Dyke in the opening titles of The Dick Van Dyke Show.
- Soapbox Sadie: Marge is such a well-known Moral Guardian example of this by now In-Universe that after the proposal to make gambling legal is near-unanimously voted "yes", everybody in Town Hall turns towards Marge, expecting her to have something against it.
- Spell My Name with an S: The episode's title.
- Springtime for Hitler: During Homer's rampage through the casino at the end, he angrily spins a giant wheel... only for it to land on double stars, causing everyone playing that game to win.
- Start My Own: When Bart gets thrown out of the casino for being underage, he creates his own casino in his treehouse.
- Sure, Let's Go with That:Mr. Burns: Nothing can stop me! (beat) Except microscopic germs. But we won't let that happen, won't we Smithers?
Smithers: Um... no sir.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
- Springfield in the 50's has the roads literally paved with gold, which makes it terrible to drive on as Gold doesn't have the grip that asphalt does.
- When Lisa complains about Marge's absence in the home due to her gambling problem and there being nothing to eat for breakfast, Homer himself improvises by pouring a jar of cloves and a bottle of Tom Collins mix into a frozen pie crust. Even though Homer is a Big Eater with a Bizarre Taste in Food, all it takes is one bite of his meal to realize how disgusting it is and conclude that they do need Marge around.
- Take That!:
- The start of Springfield's decline is attributed to the army base closing down, destroying the local liquor and prostitute industries.
- The waitress for the proposed "Brittania" casino are straight from England, and are total slags.
- Tempting Fate: The Squeaky-Voiced Teen gives Bart the idea of starting his own casino when asking what Bart would do about being expelled from Mr. Burns' casino.
- Gunter and Ernst (an Expy of Seigfried and Roy) claim their white tiger Anastasia enjoys show business far more than life in the wild... at which point the tiger remembers her capture from the wild and promptly and angrily mauls her handlers.
- Terrible Interviewees Montage: Mr. Burns is less than thrilled over the idea pitches for the casino. The first, Britannia, was supposed to be English-themed, with genuine Cockney waitresses (actually prostitutes fresh from the streets of Sussex). The second was a hippie who thought he was being brought in to pitch Woodstock. The third interview, the Sea Captain, tried to talk Burns into financing a spice expedition to the East Indies.Mr. Burns: We're building a casino!
Sea Captain: Arr... can you give me five minutes?
- Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: Invoked. Lisa's mention of the boogeyman in her nightmare causes Homer to freak out and lock the rest of the family in his and Marge's bedroom along with a shotgun thinking there might be a boogeyman or boogymen in the house. When Marge finally comes home, the bedroom door's got a few gunshot holes in it. Homer says it's Marge's fault for not being here to stop him.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: In a Deleted Scenenote , Homer is dealing cards to James Bond, who is playing poker with Blofeld. Being who he is, he not only deals him the Joker card but also the rules for draw and stud poker, which leads to Bond losing and being dragged off by Blofeld's henchmen.note Bond: Well, at least tell me the details of your plot for world domination.
Blofeld: Ho ho ho, I'm not going to fall for that one again.
- Wet Blanket Wife: Marge's typical role is sent up and Subverted throughout the episode. Everyone expects her to be the lone dissenter when the suggestion of building a casino comes up, but she actually thinks it'd be great for the economy, which doesn't stop Homer from remembering it differently and repeatedly getting on her case about her supposed resistance. When she later develops a gambling addiction, it's up to Homer to be the Wet Blanket. Once he successfully convinces her that she has a problem, he's more happy than not to finally get to be Rightly Self-Righteous.
- What the Hell, Hero?: After Homer's disastrous attempt at making Lisa's Florida costume causes her to break down in tears, Homer rushes over to the casino to call Marge out... although it takes him a few tries:Homer: (flails arms) Yer gotta redda kid forrad yarrar!
Marge: Homer, what is it? Slow down!
Homer: (slowly; while also slowly flailing arms) J'yer gedda ferda redderarrar.
Marge: Think before you say each word.
Homer: (points in Marge's face) You broke a promise to your child.
Homer: (upset) You promised Lisa to help her with her costume. You made her cry. Then I cried. (begins tearing up) Then Maggie laughed. She's such a little trooper.
- Women Are Wiser: One of the show's earliest subversions after season one. Homer, if somewhat haphazardly, manages to bring Marge out of her gambling addiction after telling her about missing out on Lisa's costume contest. He then revels in finally having one over her. However, in most other aspects this trope is played straight, as the biggest problem caused by Marge's gambling addiction is shown to be Homer's being too stupid to look after the family by himself, rather than the drain you'd think it'd place on their finances.