Original air date: 1/6/1994 (produced in 1993)
Production code: 1F09
While the Simpsons sleep, their house is invaded by the Springfield Cat Burglar, who leaves a calling card in exchange for such valuables as Marge's pearls (even though Marge has a large ball of replacement pearl necklaces in a drawer), Bart's stamp collectionnote and portable TV, and Lisa's saxophone. It's up to Homer and his newly-formed vigilante group to catch their man — if only they'd stop bullying everyone in town.
This episode contains examples of:
- Accidental Public Confession: While Homer might have thought he was being clever and using Confusing Multiple Negatives, it's really this trope.Kent Brockman: Well, what do you say to the accusation that your group has been causing more crimes than it's been preventing?
Homer: Oh Kent, I'd be lying if I said my men weren't committing crimes.
Kent Brockman: Mmm, touché.
- Affably Evil: Molloy. If it weren't for his stealing and, at the end, tricking everyone into going on a wild goose chase so he can escape prison, he'd just be affable (and even then, he left a politely worded letter to explain the purpose of the wild goose chase). If anything, Springfield's attempts to deal with the cat burglaries cause more damage than he does.Molloy: I may have stolen your worldly possessions, but your charming little town has stolen my heart. (All of the citizens of Springfield go "aww" at that and say that they should let him go).
- Artistic License Gun Safety: In addition to the Juggling Loaded Guns example below, Homer checks the barrel of his shotgun by looking down the barrel. After cocking the gun. The lack of trigger discipline is especially egregious in the case of Skinner, who is an ex-Green Beret.
- Bait-and-Switch: When Abe appears with fruit all over him, the family thinks he's been pelted like Homer. Turns out he just fell on a cart while taking some fruit to throw.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: Abe says he found a clue during "one of [his] frequent trips to the ground" (with a flashback of him walking down the hall at his nursing home and suddenly tripping).
- Batman Gambit: Molloy convinces everyone to leave him unguarded so he can escape by sending them on a wild goose chase.
- Beneath Suspicion: Molloy got away with being a thief for many years because he lives in the one spot in Springfield where nobody will care to look: in the Springfield Retirement Castle, because he's an old man.
- Big "NO!": Homer's reaction to Jimbo Jones quitting the posse to go to law school after he feels Homer let him down.
- In Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk, Patty comments that Homer probably spent his stock money on magic beans instead of anything smart. This episode reveals that when Homer was supposed to buy insurance for the family, he did indeed get magic beans instead.
- The Irish man who complimented on Grandpa Simpson chasing the Irish out of Springfield back in 1904 is the same one who commented on Whacking Day being an excuse to beat up the Irish (it's the same guy, but Dan Castellaneta used a softer Irish voice for this appearance).
- Calling Card: The cat burglar leaves his business card at his crimes, saying that he's been in "business" since the 70's.
- Cat Scare: Played with. Grampa fears the cat burglar has come into his room and panics...only to see it's his fellow retiree, Molloy, coming to ask him for some medicinal ointment. Later, it's revealed Molloy is the cat burglar, meaning Grampa wasn't wrong.
- Clue, Evidence, and a Smoking Gun: Abe's summation against Molloy runs as follows: a) he noticed that Molloy wears sneakers, "for sneaking!", b) he witnessed Molloy using a grappling hook to scale a building, c) Molloy, "unlike most retired people, has the world's largest cubic zirconia on his coffee table."
- Code Name: Homer briefly suggests these for his group, him being "Cue-Ball", Skinner as "8-ball", Barney as "12-Ball" and Moe as "Cue-Ball".Moe: You're an idiot.
- Comedic Sociopathy: Not only Homer but Marge and Lisa laugh hysterically at the fact that Bart had a stamp collection, a fact they discover because he's upset to find it stolen along with the rest of their valuables.Lisa: Bart's pain is funny, but mine isn't!
- Comically Missing the Point: Because Homer can't make out Molloy's signature on the note at the end of the wild goose chase, he and everyone else immediately disregard the rest of the note (which said that there was no buried treasure and Molloy used the time they spent looking to escape from jail) and keep digging for the nonexistent treasure.
- Connect the Deaths: Played for Laughs; disappointed that he can't figure out a pattern to the locations of the robberies, Wiggum rearranges them to look like an arrow. Lou notices the arrow is pointed right at the police station, and the cops all flee in terror.
- Cool Old Guy: The thief turns out to be a polite old man named Molloy, who gives up everything he stole once he realizes he's been caught.
- Couch Gag: The family run in and explode on contact, with Maggie's pacifier falling onto the blackened crater.
- Crazy-Prepared: Molloy left a briefcase with a signed confession buried on the edge of town, which he uses as a distraction should he ever be imprisoned.
- Delicious Distraction: Molloy gives Santa's Little Helper a sausage link and he ignores the robbery. It works equally well on a sleepwalking Homer.
- Disproportionate Retribution:
- In response to Molloy's cat burglar spree, the Kwik-E-Mart closes down and Apu shoots anybody that gets close to it with a sniper rifle.Apu (after scaring someone off): Thank you for coming! See You in Hell! (shoots another person)
- If Herman's story is factual, the United States Government felt that it was a perfectly good idea to make plans for dropping nuclear bombs on beatnik gatherings during the Fifties.
- Some random peddling saxophonist on the street gets surrounded by an angry militia, who questions where he got the saxophone (because Lisa's was stolen). The saxophonist's answer that he bought it in Sears only enrages the militia more and they start to chase him with full intent to beat the crap out of him.
- People placing automated laser cannons in their homes as an anti-theft deterrent.
- In response to Molloy's cat burglar spree, the Kwik-E-Mart closes down and Apu shoots anybody that gets close to it with a sniper rifle.
- Drunk with Power: It takes the neighborhood watch all of a few minutes to start abusing their power.
- Dumbass Has a Point: At the end, after everyone forgives Molloy, Chief Wiggum reminds them that he broke the law and the appropriate punishment is him going to prison. He's also right that Mayor Quimby picked just about the worst possible moment to give him his monthly kickback.
- Easily Forgiven: After Molloy is caught, he talks the citizens into forgiving him. The trope is subverted when, despite this, Chief Wiggum arrests him and he has to escape.
- Easy Come, Easy Go: Thanks to a house's laser system, Jasper regains his eyesight but loses it seconds after. He even mentions the trope when he accepts the loss.
- Even Nerds Have Standards: Bart has a stamp collection, which even Lisa laughs at.
- Evil Old Folks: Molloy, of the Affably Evil variety.
- Expy: Molloy was modeled on Raffles, particularly the David Niven version.
- Failed Attempt at Drama: The cat burglar calls in to "Eye on Springfield" to taunt Homer about his next robbery. It might have worked better if Homer had realized who he was talking to.Molloy: Hello, Homer, my arch-nemesis.
Homer: (cheerfully) Y'ello.
Molloy: (nonplussed) Uh, you do realize who this is?
Homer: (confused) ...Marge?
Molloy: No, Homer, I'm not your wife.
- Fast Tunnelling: At the end of the episode, all of the townspeople dig a hole looking for buried treasure, but find an empty trunk. Not at all discouraged by this, they continue digging well into the night until they find themselves at the bottom of a very deep pit.Otto: How do we get out?
Homer: We'll dig our way out!
Chief Wiggum: No, no, dig up, stupid!
- Forgot About His Powers: Despite Skinner being established to be an ex-Green Beret in the previous episode, he's still one of the people to do a negligent discharge with his shotgun as with the rest of Homer's militia.
- For the Evulz: This appears to be the only reason Molloy takes to cat burglary.
- Gentleman Thief: After being caught at the end of the episode, Molloy graciously returns the items he has stolen.
- Graceful Loser: Molloy calmly returns everything he'd stolen after being caught.
- Hidden in Plain Sight: The most prolific cat burglar in Springfield hides in the Springfield Retirement Castle, completely Beneath Suspicion by the regular folks. Even Grampa Simpson didn't think that there was something odd about his room being full of loot until Molloy took the gigantic cubic zirconium.
- The final few minutes of the episode are an homage to It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
- In fact, when they reach the "Big T," you can see the "Big W" in the background.
- Also caricatures of IAMMMMW actors such as Phil Silvers, Milton Berle, and Buddy Hackett start appearing in the crowd during this sequence.
- The scene of Bart tricking Phil Silvers into driving into the river is a direct homage to the movie.
- The Simpsons didn't have insurance because Homer spent the money on Magic Beans.
- The final few minutes of the episode are an homage to It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
- Incompetent Guard Animal: A cat burglar very easily keeps Santa's Little Helper at bay by offering him a sausage. Amusingly, he uses the same trick to distract a sleepwalking Homer straight after.
- I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Homer and Wiggum after a jailed Molloy drops a hint about the location of his hidden millions.Homer: Well...I guess I'll be going to my home now and...sleep...Chief Wiggum: ...Yeah. Me too. I will also go home. (Beat) For sleep.(They and the other two cops stampede for the door.)
- Instantly Proven Wrong:
- Homer doesn't even make it halfway through his attempted speech that, as grown men, the militia can be careful with firearms before every single one that they are carrying goes off because they kept their fingers on the triggers... and Bart grabbed one of them without anybody noticing, until it went off the same way.
- After people decide the Springfield Cat Burglar is not so bad after all and want him released from jail.Chief Wiggum: Oh, sorry, folks. Gee, I really hate to spoil this little love-in, but Mr. Molloy broke the law. And when you break the law, you gotta go to jail.
Mayor Quimby: Uh, that reminds me, er, here's your monthly kickback.
Wiggum: [Utterly dumbfounded] You just... you couldn't have picked a worse time!
- Juggling Loaded Guns: Homer's vigilante squad check their guns inside Homer's house. Marge comments that she doesn't like the idea of them using guns, and Homer tries to give her a reassuring talk that they are responsible adults who know how to handle firearms- only to be interrupted by an accidental discharge from Moe. Homer tries to resume his talk, but is interrupted by more accidental discharges from Moe, the Sea Captain, Principal Skinner, Moe again, and Bart.
- Karma Houdini: Zig-zagged: the whole town was just going to let Molloy go, but, in a moment of rare smarts, Wiggum arrests him anyway. Molloy managed to escape custody afterwards thanks to the fact everybody left to look for his "treasure".
- Media Scaremongering: Kent Brockman's initial report on the Springfield Cat Burglar — which suggests that mass murders may happen next, and that the burglar may be a Wolf Man — ends with him asking a professor if it's time for the town to panic over the matter. The professor says it is!
- Moving Buildings: One of Professor Frink's anti-theft security measures that he demonstrates to the news is a pair of robotic legs that pop out from beneath the home and make it run away (although the model malfunctions and the home comes crashing down before it goes off in flames, model inhabitants and all). On a latter scene, as Bart walks down a street with houses full of high-tech defensive equipment, one of the homes deploys the same legs and tries to run off before crashing down and setting itself on fire in the same way.Prof. Frink: [As the 'family' of to-scale dummies falls out of the house, also on fire] Well, obviously the real people won't, won't burn... quite so quickly.
- Never My Fault: Homer hates the magic beans for him not having the money to pay for the insurance.Marge: Ooh, stop blaming the beans!
- News Travels Fast: Played for laughs. Right after Bart reveals he had a stamp collection, Nelson somehow catches wind of it and calls the household to join the rest of the Simpson family in laughing at him for it.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- Not only Homer's militia doesn't make any good, but Homer himself unwittingly contributes to the robbery of the much-valued diamond.
- At the beginning of the episode when Molloy tries to break into the Simpsons' house, he quickly realizes that Homer left the keys in the door, making his job that much easier.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The town forgives Molloy at the end after he returns their possessions, but Chief Wiggum has a Dumbass Has a Point moment and arrests Molloy anyway because he still committed burglary.
- Noodle Incident: The story Homer tells at the dinner table: "So I says, 'Look, buddy, your car was upside-down when we got there. And, as for your grandma, she shouldn't have mouthed off like that!"
- Principal Skinner's Stormin' Norman commemorative plates were stolen...again. When was the first time that happened?
- Not Helping Your Case:
- When Homer first forms the militia, Marge is concerned about having guns in the house. Homer assures her that they are "responsible adults", but he's repeatedly interrupted by the group's guns accidentally going off. And one of the members holding a rifle that went off accidentally is Bart.
- When Lisa accuses the militia of just bullying random people and not doing anything to actually help in terms of fighting crime, Homer pulls out the list of objectives he has set for the militia. One of them is world domination.
- When Homer was accused of sleeping on duty, he replied that instead of asleep, he was drunk.
- Only Sane Man: The Phil Silvers expy is the only one to realize that Molloy outwitted the entire town with a wild goose chase.
- Produce Pelting: After the diamond is stolen, Homer is greeted by everyone in town throwing fruit at him.
- Riding the Bomb: When Herman shows Homer an A-bomb that was designed to kill beatniks, Homer not only imagines himself doing just that in a direct Dr. Strangelove parody, but also straddles the bomb in reality. Herman then directs Homer's attention to a sign posted nearby: "DO NOT RIDE THE BOMB".
- Rule of Funny: The only conceivable reason anyone could mistake Homer or Barney for MC Hammer. Justified as Homer is talking through a megaphone that has rap music blasting out of it and the kids were more interested in the rap music than Homer's safety messages.
- Rule of Three: "Since the police can't seem to get off their duffaroonies to do something about this burglareeno, I think it's time we start our own neighborhood watch...aroonie!"
- Sentry Gun: One of the anti-theft measures some Springfield citizens add to their homes is automated laser cannons. Instead of scaring off truants, it leads instead to them tossing rocks at the houses to see the resulting light show of the cannons shooting the rocks.Otto: All right! Free laserium! All the colors of the 'bow, man!
- Serious Business: "Lisa, never EVER stop in the middle of a hoedown!"
- When Homer and Skinner nod back and forth to each other, the theme to Dragnet plays.
- Homer imagining how the government plans to nuke Hippies to kingdom come would have gone copies the climactic bombing run of Dr. Strangelove, Riding the Bomb included.
- After Molloy talks about his treasure, the third act becomes a full-blown Homage to It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
- Special Guest: Sam Neill as Molloy.
- Spinning Newspaper: Used to show the cat burglar's crime spree... until the burglar takes it too.
- Take Over the World: Homer's group wants to do this, though Homer denies as much.Lisa: "World domination"?
Homer: That's a typo. (thinking) Mental note: the girl knows too much.
- Take That!: Homer and his group chasing down a street musician after he tells him he got his saxophone from Sears.
- Theme Naming: Homer's Code Names for the vigilante group all end with "ball".
- They Have the Scent!: Wiggum tries to use a rather vicious one to get Homer's scent using a handkerchief, but foolishly wipes his face and underarms with it first.
- Toilet Humor: A subtle example: Grandpa Simpson's line, "I'm filled with piss and vinegar. At first, I was just filled with vinegar."
- Too Dumb to Live:
Wiggum: No no, dig up, stupid!
- Chief Wiggum has a handkerchief the cat burglar left behind during a robbery and is about to let a police dog smell it when he decides to use it to wipe some sweat from his face. Unsurprisingly, the dog attacks Wiggum.
- The people of Springfield continue digging for the non-existent treasure because Homer can't make out Molloy's signature on the note explaining the wild goose chase he'd sent the town on. Several hours later, after digging themselves into a very deep pit, they decide to get out of the pit by continuing to dig.
- Underling with an F in PR: Inverted. It's Quimby (Wiggum's boss) who picks a way wrong moment to undermine Wiggum's case that he's a functional law enforcer by handing him his monthly bribe right after Wiggum arrests Molloy. Wiggum even points it out.
- Unlikely Spare: Marge is shown to have spares of her necklace.Marge: And my necklace!
Homer: Ehh, that's no big loss.
Marge: Homer, that necklace was a priceless Bouvier family heirloom.
Homer: Oh, you've probably got a whole drawer full of 'em.
Marge: [pulling out a whole ball of similar necklaces] Well, yes I do. But they're all heirlooms, too.
- Vigilante Injustice: Homer's vigilante militia just does more harm than good by being highly incompetent and violent and don't stop the cat burglar's break-in of a museum because they were on a kegger. And the kicker is that the burglar is brought to justice by Grandpa reporting someone's suspicious activity, completely independent of everybody else's efforts.
- Vigilante Militia: Ned forms a vigilante militia (after which Homer takes over as leader when Ned admits that he doesn't feel comfortable leading anybody) to find a Gentleman Thief who has been going on an unstoppable spree all over town. Then they go on to do everything but enforce the law, bullying random people (at one point, it's noted that while minor vandalism is down 80%, beatings with doorknob-filled sacks (the vigilante group's MO) are up 900%) and at one point where the burglar announces that he will steal from the Springfield Museum and teases Homer to try to stop him, Homer ends up having a kegger with some teens in the middle of his guarding and lets the burglar steal what he wanted. It becomes crazier/worse when Homer reads the list of objectives he's set for the militia to Lisa and he mentions that one of them is world domination.
- Villain Protagonist: Homer, who takes charge of a Vigilante Militia that causes far more harm than good, ends up allowing the Gentleman Thief to steal the diamond instead of stopping him, and, according to his list of objectives, plans to commit world domination.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Otto is seen in the bar joining Homers vigilante group, but after that scene, he never appears with them.
- Who Watches the Watchmen?: Lisa asks this to Homer, with little success:Lisa: Dad, don't you see you're abusing your power like all vigilantes? I mean, if you're the police, who will police the police?
Homer: I dunno... Coast Guard?
- Worst News Judgment Ever: Played for Laughs. While the cat burglaries are worthy of above-the-flap placement, the secondary story — "Man Marries Woman in Wedding Ceremony" — is less so.