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Recap / The Simpsons S5 E15 "Deep Space Homer"

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Original air date: 2/24/1994 (produced in 1993)

Production code: 1F13

After discovering that the American people are more interested in sitcoms like Home Improvement and Married... with Children (read: sitcoms that have incompetent or hapless fathers) than telecasts of space launches, NASA decides to recruit an average man to go into space — and Homer (who has been passed up for a Worker of the Week award to an inanimate carbon rod) volunteers after they approach Barney Gumble.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Acrofatic: When Barney is training and he's found in a gym, as it turns out:
    Barney Gumble: Hey, Homer! Since they made me stop drinkin', I've regained my balance and my diction! Observe! [starts doing backflips] I am the very model of a modern Major-General / I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral... [lands on feet, poses]
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Marge admonishes Bart for writing "Insert brain here" on the back of Homer's head... and then starts to laugh at it.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Barney swears off alcohol and successfully completes his training program with flying colors. Unfortunately, when he takes a sip of a congratulatory glass of champagne, his face immediately reverts back into its permanently soused expression as he proclaims, "It begins." He then steals a jet pack and careens drunkenly through the sky until it runs out of fuel, causing him to crash onto a pillow factory roof and bounce onto the street below where he's run over by a marshmallow truck. The fact that it was non-alcoholic champagne says something about Barney's alcoholism.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: The ants are smart enough to realize what's about to happen to them, and curse their luck when Homer sends them floating around the shuttle.
  • Animation Bump: The sequence of Homer eating potato chips in zero gravity, which was guest directed by (an uncredited) David Silverman. The scene also used some early CGI for the rotation of the chips in a few shots.
  • Apes in Space:
    Scientist: Maybe we should finally tell them the big secret: that all the chimps we sent into space came back super-intelligent.
    Suit-wearing chimp: (British accent) No... I don't think we'll be telling them that. (grins and rollerskates away)
  • Artistic License – Physics: Played for Laughs. James Taylor says that he got rid of the ants at his vineyard by using an air compressor to create a total vacuum outside the house. A moment's reflection would reveal that this means he sucked up Earth's entire atmosphere.
  • As Himself: Buzz Aldrin and James Taylor.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Homer points the NASA recruiters towards Barney, they approach him and ask, "Sir, how would you like to get higher than you've ever been in your life?" Barney immediately replies, "Be an astronaut? Sure!"
  • Banana Republic: Implied to be what Mr. Burns is initially talking about at the ceremony:
    Mr. Burns: Compadres, it is imperative that we crush the freedom fighters before the start of the rainy season. And remember, a shiny new donkey for whoever brings me the head of Colonel Montoya.
  • Barely Missed Cushion: When his stolen jet pack runs out of fuel, Barney falls onto the roof of a pillow factory and gets run over by a truck carrying marshmallows.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Played for Laughs. When James Taylor is brought in to provide the astronauts some uplifting music, Aldrin politely declines, assuming Taylor will understand. Taylor however firmly states he is not as laid back as media makes him and insists on performing through their difficult situation whether they want it or not. When the problem derails further however he takes it as a sign to bail.
  • Beyond the Impossible: Barney somehow got drunk (as in, drunk enough to steal a jetpack, take off while singing an off-key rendition of "Charge" and come crashing back down to the ground) from non-alcoholic champagne.
  • Big "NO!": In slow motion, no less.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": "How did you get this number?"
  • Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: Man monitoring the x-ray machine at the power plant: "Clean. Clean. Pistol. Uzi. Two kids posing as an adult...(an ape skeleton appears) Hey, Homer."
  • The Bore: The newscasters reporting the space launch. They completely lack charisma and fail to make the latest mission sound interesting despite or perhaps because of their best efforts. They're so boring that Homer and Bart treat changing the channel as a life or death struggle. It's an early sign of how pitiful NASA's ratings have gotten.
    Tom: Now let's look at the crew a little.
    Newcaster: They're a colorful bunch. They've been dubbed the Three Musketeers. Ha ha ha ha.
    Tom: And we laugh legitimately.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Homer losing to a carbon rod.
    • Bart drawing on Homer's head.
    • Homer being unable to use a phone properly.
    • Homer phoning someone up, being asked how he got the number, and telling them to shut up.
  • Caligula's Horse: An inanimate carbon rod from the nuclear reactor is honored as Worker of the Month (much to Homer's chagrin), and after Homer accidentally "uses" a different Inanimate Carbon Rod to lock the door on the spacecraft after he broke it it's given its own ticker-tape parade.
  • Call-Back: Barney crash landing on the metal roof of a pillow factory (and then rolling off and falling to the street, then run over by a marshmallow truck) is similar to "Krusty Gets Kancelled", where Luke Perry was shot out of a cannon, crashed through cacti, sandpaper, and jars of acid, before landing safely in a pillow factory — which was then demolished with him still inside.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: After Lisa asks what Marge is basing her empty assurance of Homer's safety on, Marge takes a second before asking if anyone wants gingersnaps.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Right at the beginning, it's mentioned NASA's spending money on sending rockets up solely to see what weightlessness does for tiny screws. When the shuttle is prepped for launch, Buzz and Race note an ant farm. The two come together when Buzz reveals the ants were there to see if ants could sort tiny screws in space.
  • Content Warnings: From the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon: "The preceding program contained scenes of extreme violence and should not have been viewed by young children". In other words, the content warning was shown after the episode ended.
  • Couch Gag: The family find an obese man taking up the entire couch and try to squeeze in with him.
  • Crack Defeat: Homer loses the Worker of the Week award to an inanimate carbon rod, then, after damaging and accidentally repairing the door on the space shuttle using a rod — and being credited for it by Buzz Aldrin — the crowd again focuses only on the carbon rod.
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: Barney by far outperforms Homer, but as soon as he drinks (what he thinks is) alcohol, he reverts to his previous state, leaving Homer the winner by default.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: The chimp that became super-intelligent from his space mission has one, in addition to his suit and speaking in a British accent.
  • Double Entendre: Homer's line when calling President Clinton: "Hello, is this President Clinton? Good. I figured if anyone knows how to get Tang, it'd be you." Homer was referring to the powdered drink associated with astronauts (Tang), but, considering Clinton's rep as a Handsome Lech (and his many sex scandals: Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, and, later, with his intern, Monica Lewinsky), that line comes off as Homer asking Clinton to find him some easy women.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: After finding out Homer accidentally saved the shuttle (which he had put in danger in the first place) with the use of a carbon rod, Springfield promptly throws a commemorative parade... for the rod, with Homer and even his more deserving comrades completely ignored.
  • Employee of the Month: A variant with the "Employee of the Week" award, which Homer is hoping to win since he is the only employee to not have won it yet. Plus, the company handbook states that each employee must win it regardless of their incompetence. To his dismay, however, the award ends up going to an inanimate carbon rod instead.
  • Enmity with an Object: Homer and the inanimate carbon rod.
  • Epic Fail:
    • After winning the chance to go up to space, Barney kills it after drinking champagne and getting drunk and trying to fly off with a jetpack. The kicker was that it was non-alcoholic champagne.
    • Marge's attempt to assure the kids Homer will be fine falls flat when Lisa asks what, exactly, Marge is basing her assurance on.
    • Homer fails to win the Nuclear Power Plant's Worker of the Week award, despite the company handbook stating every employee must win it at some point and being the only employee who wasn't gotten it yet, and loses to an inanimate carbon rod.
  • Faux Horrific:
    • Homer and Bart find a space launch so boring that they scramble to turn it off and sigh in relief once they cut power to the TV entirely. There's even suspenseful music usually reserved for action sequences.
    • Ruffled chips. Though this is with the caveat they, and the crumbs, could clog up the sensitive instruments.
  • Fake High: When Homer and Barney join NASA, Barney excels while sober but becomes instantly drunk with a single glass of non-alcoholic champagne.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The episode is called "Deep Space Homer", so the question of whether Homer or Barney gets to go to space is kind of a given.
  • Flapping Cheeks: Both Homer's and Barney's cheeks flap when subjected to a centrifuge during astronaut training.
  • Fridge Horror: Homer's hit by this In-Universe when he tells the press that he and Barney won't be in danger unless they're sent to "that terrible Planet of the Apes" before suddenly figuring out what the movie's ending was supposed to imply and doing a perfect George Taylor impression out of sheer emotion.
  • Graceful Loser: Despite Homer's extreme competitiveness to get approved for the voyage, when Barney is chosen over him, he sadly congratulates him and toasts with the officials. Then Barney starts to drink...
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The security guards at the Power Planet let employees go through the x-ray even when they're carrying guns, or are two kids pretending to be an adult.
  • Hands Go Down: During the press conference where Homer and Barney are introduced as astronauts, two reporters ask if it's a joke. After saying "no", the NASA spokesman asks if anyone has more questions. All reporters raise their hands but put them down once the spokesman asks for questions other than if it's a joke or not.
  • Homage: This entire episode is a much shorter, less inspirational version of The Right Stuff.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Right after Marge says that Homer's family respects him, Bart writes "Insert Brain Here" on the back of his father's head, causing the entire family to burst out laughing then laugh even more when he goes crazy attempting to read the back of his own head, spinning endlessly on the floor. After a few seconds, they slowly stop laughing and just stare at him with worried expressions when he was still trying to look at the back of his own head.
  • Immoral Journalist: Kent Brockman instantly believes and reports on live television that the space shuttle has been invaded by alien ants and offers said aliens his collaboration to wrangle human slaves.
  • Is This a Joke?: When the director of NASA introduces Homer and Barney as the future of space travel, two reporters ask "is this a joke?" He tells them them "no," and refuses to take any more similar questions
  • I Will Show You X!: Homer to the inanimate carbon rod:
    "Inanimate, huh? I'll show him inanimate!" (stands perfectly still until nightfall)
  • Kent Brockman News: A classic example, where Kent Brockman, after seeing an ant float past the news camera, overreacts and immediately assumes a race of 'space ants' has enslaved the crew and is about to take over earth, then apologizes after someone presumably has a talk with him. He seems surprisingly okay with welcoming our new insect overlords before that point though.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: A variation occurs when James Taylor is singing "Fire and Rain" to the astronauts over the communication system...
    There's hours of time on the telephone line, talkin' about things to come,
    Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the grou...
    (stops playing guitar) Uh... (resumes playing)
    Sweet dreams and flying machines flying safely through the air...
  • Late to the Realization: It took Homer 30 years to figure out that the appearance of the Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes meant that the planet was Earth All Along.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: As the spaceship attempts a risky re-entry:
    Lisa: Come on, Dad, you can make it!
  • Major General Song: Barney sings it while doing flip-flops.
  • Mickey Mousing: Inversion with Homer eating the chips to "The Blue Danube".
  • Mining for Cookies: When Kent Brockman is welcoming Earth's "new insect overlords" he volunteers to help round up slave labour for their "underground sugar caves".
  • Mood-Swinger: Kent Brockman. At first he freaks out at the ants he mistakes for hostile aliens, and then he's happy about it.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: NASA is in trouble because the average American isn't interested in exceptional men performing dangerous missions and would rather watch stupid idiots like Tim Taylor, Al Bundy, and Homer Simpson.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: "Ladies and gentlemen and members of the press..."
  • New Job Episode: Homer gets a job as an astronaut.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Homer, constantly.
  • Noodle Incident: Homer somehow knows the number to NASA and the White House. He tells them to shut up when they ask how he got their number.
  • No-Respect Guy: Homer twice over is ignored while a carbon rod is commemorated like a celebrity (though the second time, he had it coming).
  • Not Helping Your Case: In the space launch near the beginning of the episode, the commentators try to shake off accusations of a boring launch by playing up the vibrancy of the crew, and don't do a good job of it.
    Commentator: They're a colorful bunch. They've been dubbed "The Three Musketeers". (stuffy laugh)
    Other Commentator: And we laugh legitimately. There's a mathematician, a different kind of mathematician, and a statistician.
  • Off the Wagon: Barney goes on the wagon for astronaut training and aces all his tests. However, he degenerates back into his town drunkard persona after celebrating with a toast of non-alcoholic champagne.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Inverted: Homer sounds increasingly more like Groundskeeper Willie during his Planet of the Apes meltdown (Dan Castellaneta voices both).
  • Overly Long Gag: In-universe, even Marge laughs at Homer rolling around on the floor trying to get a look at the back of his head, but she and the kids soon stop laughing when Homer just keeps going, and it becomes awkward.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Homer's floating around eating the chips is scored with "The Blue Danube Waltz."
  • The Quisling: Kent Brockman. "And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords".
  • Recognition Failure: Homer apparently believes that James Taylor used to be a United States President (apparently having conflated Zachary Taylor with James Monroe, Madison, Polk, Garfield or Buchanan).
  • Riddle for the Ages: How DID Homer get the number for NASA? Or, for that matter, that of President Clinton?
  • Running Gag: The NASA scientist bashing people with a cosh. He's prevented from doing so to James Taylor, though.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 2001: A Space Odyssey: Homer floating in weightless condition to the tune of Strauss' The Blue Danube. Later Bart throws a marker up in the air, which transitions to a scene in space, in reference to the famous scene where a prehistoric human throws his bone in the air, cutting to a spaceship 2,000 years later. Homer appearing as a fetus in space, while Also sprach Zarathustra plays in the background is a reference to the final scene of the film.
      • Also, the pod that Itchy rides in the Itchy & Scratchy episode.
    • Star Trek: The Background Music during Itchy and Scratchy's space trip mimics the theme song. The short is called "Scar Trek: The Next Laceration".
      • Meanwhile, Barney and Homer's NASA training includes a "Gamesters Of Triskelion" recreation, right down to the thrall outfits, the onlookers betting quatloos, and even the actual fight music from the show.
    • Alien: Itchy bursting through Scratchy's stomach.
    • NASA watches Home Improvement (which has Tim Allen run over his neighbor Wilson after charging up his riding mower) and Married... with Children (where Peg once again begs Al for sex, Al says no, and flushes a toilet right next to him) to show the committee what people like to watch these days.
    • Homer hopes they don't land on the "Planet of the Apes", then figures out the ending of the original Planet of the Apes.
    • During one of the tests, the speed of the apparatus morphs Homer's face into Popeye's ("I can't stands no more!"). Later in the episode, the same experience makes it morph into Richard Nixon.
    • One of the astronauts is named Race Banyon after the Quest family's bodyguard on Jonny Quest.
  • Shown Their Work: The Married...with Children parody is eerily on the mark. In addition to Al and Peg's appearances and voices, the living room is virtually shot-for-shot with the real series, he has his right hand down his pants (as he, and his actor Ed O'Neill, are left-handed) and Al also flushes a toilet, which is actually a Call-Back to the fifth episode of the third season, "A Dump of my Own", where Al buys a Ferguson toilet for his new bathroom that he gives preferential treatment to over Peg.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • All of NASA's massive bank of computing equipment is designed solely to track their Neilsen ratings. Almost none of it is able to tell what's going on with the shuttle.
    • After Homer breaks the handle off the hatch, he grabs a support rod to hit one of the other astronauts. The rod catches in the door and when it is pointed out that could allow them to return safely, he tries to remove the rod so he can continue the attack.
  • So Proud of You: Averted, with Bart once Homer gets recruited.
    Bart: Wow, my father's an astronaut. I feel so full of... what's the opposite of shame?
    Marge: Pride?
    Bart: No, not that far from shame.
    Homer: Less shame?
    Bart: (fondly) Yeah.
    • Played Straight at the end when Marge asks Bart if he has anything nice to say to Homer, to which Bart says "He knows how I feel" and repeats his earlier gag of writing something on the back of Homer's head, but instead of an insult it's HERO.
  • Start of Darkness: Played for Laughs: Barney spectacularly falls off the wagon after drinking non-alcoholic wine after weeks of being sober. He takes a jetpack and tries to fly off, crashing onto a roof of a pillow factory and after falling off, getting ran over by a marshmallow truck.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: After his jetpack fails, Barney falls towards a pillow factory. Instead of crashing onto soft pillows to break his fall, he bounces off the roof without making so much as a dent in it before falling off that and landing in the street.
  • Take That, Audience!: An in-universe example Played for Laughs:
    Homer: TV respects me. It laughs with me, not at me!
    Guy on TV: *points at the camera and laughs* You stupid!
  • Taking You with Me: After Homer breaks the handle on the shuttle, Banyon proclaims that if he dies, he's taking Homer to Hell with him.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • According to Marge, Homer had trouble using a touch-tone phone when they first met — and he still does.
    • The astronauts hold on tight to the ship as they open the hatch and create a vacuum to suck out all the crumbs and ants into space. Homer picks that exact moment to dust off his hands in a "job well done" gesture, ensuring that he nearly gets sucked out too.
    • Even though Buzz points out the rod can hold the door for them to return to Earth, Homer tries to pull it out, still wanting to bash Banyon.
  • Truth in Television: Some addictions have strong associations with flavors and smells and exposure to those can be enough to trigger relapses, as seen with Barney when he has a sip of non-alcoholic champagne.
  • Two Words: I Can't Count: Homer's reaction on being told that he has just won the astronaut position "by default":
    Default? Woohoo! The two sweetest words in the English language!
  • Uplifted Animal:
    Scientist: People, we're in danger of losing our funding. America isn't interested in space exploration anymore.
    Assistant: Maybe we should finally tell them the big secret: that all the chimps we sent into space came back super-intelligent.
    Chimp: (British accent) No, I don't think we'll be telling them that.
  • You Fool!: "Now we may never know if ants can be trained to sort tiny screws in space!"
  • Your Head Asplode: In the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon, Scratchy's head explodes after Itchy removes his space helmet.
  • Your Television Hates You: After losing to the rod at work and being ridiculed by his family, a depressed Homer decides to watch TV, saying: "TV respects me. It laughs with me, not at me." He turns it on and sees a man pointing at the camera, laughing, and saying: "You stupid...".


Hail Ants

And I for one ...

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