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Recap / The Simpsons S5 E2 "Cape Feare"

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Homer: "OH, MY GOD! SOMEONE'S TRYING TO KILL ME! Oh, wait. It's for Bart."
Episode - 9F22
First Aired - 10/7/1993
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Bart is plagued with threatening letters written in blood (except for one written in black by Homer that reads, "I'LL KILL YOU SCUM") and by the recently-paroled Sideshow Bob. To keep Bart from getting killed, The Simpsons go into witness protection and move away to Terror Lake.

This was the last episode written by the original writing team (e.g. Sam Simon, David Stern, Jeff Martin, Jon Vitti, Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky) before David Mirkin's new hires were brought aboard, so they wanted to go all out and leave a good last impression. To many fans, they succeeded.


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  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Chief Wiggum resents Bob for calling him "Chief Piggum", but when the others laugh at it, he rolls along with them.
    • Bart putting the "Wide Load" tattoo on Homer's butt earned the laughs of everyone in the room (except Homer).
  • Adaptation Expansion: Mr Burns: A Post-Electric Play is inspired by this episode.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The electric eels that prevent Bart from jumping off the houseboat to escape from Bob have flicking forked tongues as if they are snakes. And, you know, are in North America rather than South America.
  • Audience Murmurs: Can be heard at the courtroom when Selma reveals that Sideshow Bob tried to kill her on their honeymoon.
  • Bait-and-Switch Accusation: When Lisa calls Moe and tells him she knows what he's up to, Moe thinks she knows about his panda bear smuggling ring.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bilingual Bonus: Sideshow Bob tries to pass off the tattoo on his chest (DIE BART, DIE) as German for "The Bart, The". You'd assume Bob was lying in order to deceive his parole board, but Die does, indeed, mean "the" in German (although it's more of a female term rather than a male term).
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Lisa's line, "The FOX network has sunk to a new low" after watching Up Late With McBain.
  • Blatant Lies: Sideshow Bob's tattoo (which reads DIE BART DIE) is just German for "The Bart the".
  • Boring Yet Practical: When Bob faints from blood loss, Snake suggests that he use a pen instead.
  • Bowdlerise: The episode was banned in Germany not only due to the large amount of violence (mostly aimed at a child [i.e., Bart]), but also because of the opening joke where Bart and Lisa watch a talk show called "Up Late with McBain", featuring a show announcer known as Obergruppenfuehrer (the SS equivalent rank of lieutenant-general) Wolfcastle, dressed in full SS uniform, complete with swastika armband. In Germany (for obvious reasons), depicting Nazism and swastikas outside of historical context is considered highly illegal (which is why the video games Castle Wolfenstein and Doom II are banned in Germany).
  • Brick Joke:
  • Chekhov's Gun: Bart's strategy for distracting Bob is foreshadowed by the family listening to the entire works of Gilbert and Sullivan on the way to Terror Lake.
  • The Chew Toy: Bob takes a hell of a lot of slapstick abuse in this episode from losing blood, hitting speedbumps, driving through cacti, stepping on rakes, getting crushed by an entire parade including elephants...and it is hilarious.
  • Comeback Tomorrow:
    Bart: You wrote me those letters.
    Marge: You awful man! Stay away from my son!
    Sideshow Bob: Oh, I'll stay away from your son, all right. Stay away... forever.
    Homer: Oh no!
    Sideshow Bob: Wait a minute, that's no good. (tries to think of a different line but can't) Oh!
    (Bob gets up and leaves, but after a few seconds, rushes back)
    Sideshow Bob: Wait, I've got a good one now. Marge, say "Stay away from my son" again.
    Marge: NO!
    (Bob grumbles angrily)
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • In his fantasy of being John Elway, Homer is causing Denver to lose painfully to San Francisco, but he's still happy with this.
    • After almost 5 hours of being stomped on the foot, being referred to as Homer Thompson, the new name the witness protection agents have chosen for the Simpsons as they elude Sideshow Bob to no avail, all Homer can say to one of the agents is, "I think he's talking to you."
  • Corner of Woe: Bart huddling this way on the playground.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Sideshow Bob writes everything in blood (threatening letters to Bart, to-do lists, letters to Reader's Digest) while he's in prison. Lampshaded by Snake when Bob gets woozy from his anemia:
    Snake: Use a pen, Sideshow Bob!
  • Crosscast Role: Martin Prince as Lizzie Borden for a school play. Bonus points in that Martin is voiced by a woman.
  • Crush Parade: "No, not the elephants!"
  • Curse of the Ancients: When the police show up right as he is about to kill Bart, Bob shouts in frustration, “By Lucifer’s beard!” The officers are taken aback for a second, but then move on.
  • Cut the Juice: Itchy stops the Death Trap by unplugging the lasergun with his tongue but it doesn't save him for long.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Roöös when the scene cuts over to Bob in prison.
  • The Faceless: We only see the hands of the originator of the threatening letters until the reveal.
  • Falsely Reformed Villain: Sideshow Bob pretends to go straight so he can get paroled out of prison and kill Bart.
  • Gender Bender: At the end of the episode, it's shown that Grampa apparently needs to take a type of medication to prevent this from happening to him.
  • Gilligan Cut: The Simpsons try to hire a PI to drive Bob away from town. The guy sounds like he'd be tough enough for the job. Cut to him whining to Bob while pathetically asking him to leave town.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Bart joins Bob in singing "I Am the Captain of the Pinafore."
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!:
    Sideshow Bob: Bart Simpson? Ha! The spirited little scamp who twice foiled my evil schemes and sent me to this dank, urine-soaked hellhole?
    Parole officer: Uh, we object to the term "urine-soaked hellhole" when you could have said "pee-pee-soaked heckhole".
    Sideshow Bob: Cheerfully withdrawn.
  • Hellhole Prison: Or "dank, urine-soaked hellhole" as Sideshow Bob puts it.
  • Hockey Mask and Chainsaw: Homer bursts into Bart's room wearing a hockey mask and brandishing a chainsaw, asking if Bart wants to see either. Currently provides the page image.
    "BARTYOUWANNASEEMYNEWCHAINSAWANDHOCKEYMASK?!"
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Sideshow Bob's parole board, who buy his explanation that his "DIE BART, DIE" tattoo is merely German for "The Bart, The".
    "No one who speaks German can be an evil man!"
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Homer criticizing the guy (Sideshow Bob) smoking a cigar in front of his Family at the movies while he was smoking an even larger cigar.
    • Lisa wonders what's wrong with Bart when he's disturbed by Scratchy's graphic death... which she laughed at.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The only options the Witness Relocation Program offers for the Simpsons to move to are Terror Lake, New Horrorfield, and Screamville.
    Homer: Oooh, Ice Creamville!
    Agent: No, Screamville.
    (Homer screams)
  • Iris Out: The episode ends with one shaped like a heart.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Bob forgoes evil plans and just tries to slice Bart to pieces with a machete. Perhaps to balance this out, he drives through a cactus patch, walks through a pile of rakes and gets trampled by circus elephants.
  • Leitmotif: Sideshow Bob gains one in this episode: Bernard Herrmann's Cape Fear title theme.
  • Logo Joke: Midway through the episode, when the Simpsons get new identities, the opening plays again, this time introducing "The Thompsons" and gradually zooming in on their houseboat.
  • Metaphorgotten: When Bart points out that Matlock is not real, Grampa counters with the analogy of his teeth not being real but still allowing him to eat corn on the cob... if someone cuts it off and smushes it into a fine paste.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Sideshow Bob sends Bart threatening letters AND makes parole while he's still incarcerated! Somebody should really up the security.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Bart gets menaced by electric eels when he attempts to jump off the houseboat. Electric eels are indigenous to South America (which Springfield is probably not in).
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Among the places the FBI suggests relocating the Simpsons are New Horrorfield Screamville, and Terror Lake. They eventually get sent to Terror Lake, which actually turns out to be pleasant.
  • Noodle Incident: While trying to figure out who's sending Bart threatening notes, it turns out Bart's been making crank calls to Moe and actress Linda Lavin for years. In the latter's case, she did something so bad even Lisa felt she deserved Bart's pranks.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Bart and Lisa when seeing Sideshow Bob at the theatre.
    • Right when Bob hears the band marching towards him, his eyes widen and they start trampling him.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: It seems odd that Bob - who speaks out against lowbrow humor in other episodes - would find Jim Varney very funny, unless it's a Guilty Pleasure of his.
    • It's highly likely that Bob wasn't genuinely laughing, but merely doing it to annoy/bait the Simpsons. See also his cigar smoking. Of course, the whole scene is a direct parody of the one in the movie Cape Fear, so Rule of Funny probably overrides established characterizations.
  • Overly Long Gag: Bob vs. rakes, Round 1! It had to be shortened in syndication (excluding FXX) because of how long it was (it was approximately 30 seconds; the episode was running short and they needed padding).
    • Homer not responding to his witness protection name (Homer Thompson) would also qualify.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: Bart. When his family is kidnapped by Bob, and alligators and eels surround their houseboat, what does he do in the face of certain death? He asks Bob to sing the entire score of H.M.S. Pinafore in an effort to stall for time long enough to get to Springfield and have the police arrest Bob and save the day. Pajama-Clad Hero indeed!
  • Paranoia Fuel: In-universe, the entire episode revolves around this. Bart receives at least a dozen threatening letters and is soon misreading people's innocuous words and cues. Justified, however, in that he has a good reason to be on edge.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Bart pulls a bag out of nowhere during Sideshow Bob's singing.
  • Psycho Electric Eel: Electric eels menace Bart when he tried to jump off a houseboat to escape Sideshow Bob. This despite the fact that they were nowhere near South America at the time. Also, the electric eels for some reason have snake-like tongues.
  • Rake Take: The first of many for Sideshow Bob.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Sideshow Bob's (first) Underside Ride. That is all.
    • Him passing out due to using his blood to write.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Apparently, Bob likes to work out to Callanetics.
  • Riddle for the Ages:
    • Just how and when did Bart put the "Wide Load" tattoo on Homer's butt? And how did Homer not notice?
    • And what did Linda Lavin do to deserve getting prank-called by Bart?
  • Rule of Funny: The episode invokes this trope to a significant extent. It was the last hurrah for a number of the show's original writers who were leaving. They threw every wacky or random gag into the episode with the mentality of "What are they going to do? Fire us?" This resulted in one of the most highly regarded episodes of the show ever. Among other things, the episode features an elephant stepping on Bob's face and Bob putting on a full Gilbert and Sullivan opera (complete with costumes and a playbill) after being asked to do so on the spot.
  • Running Gag: When Sideshow Bob finally climbs aboard the Simpsons' house-boat, the first thing he does is step on another rake. Makes you wonder what it's even doing there.
  • Savage Wolves: After the rest of the family packs up and leaves, Grandpa Simpson gets left behind at the Simpson house, knocking at the door and saying "Hello-o! Hello-o! You have my pills! Hello-o? I'm cold and there are wolves after me" (cue howling).
  • Scheherezade Gambit: When Bob has Bart cornered on the adrift houseboat and asks if he has any Last Requests, Bart plays on his ego, telling him he has such a lovely singing voice ("Guilty as charged!" exclaims Bob) and asks him to sing the entire score of H.M.S. Pinafore, Bob complies (mostly to prove he can do it, probably) oblivious to the fact that the boat is drifting towards Springfield as he does, and as he finishes, he's noticed by Chief Wiggum and a squad of armed police, who tell him to raise 'em.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Special Guest: Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob.
  • Spoonerism: Near the end, when Bart says, "Take 'em away, boys!", Chief Wiggum responds with, "Hey, I'm the Chief here! Bake 'em away, toys!" The other officers are clueless, even Sideshow Bob is confused.
  • Squirrels in My Pants: When Chief Wiggum's attention is called to the fact it's illegal to send threatening letters, he notices it's also illegal to put squirrels down one's pants for gambling purposes. Chief Wiggum then tells the cops who are doing it to "knock it off".
  • Stab the Salad:
    • Happens three times in the first act, before it's known that Sideshow Bob wrote Bart the death threats. Bart worries that three people around him are the culprit based on the first half of the sentence they say:
    Marge: (menacingly, holding scissors) Bart, I'm going to get you... some ice cream at the store, since I'm saving so much money on Diet Cola!
    (later...)
    Ned: (menacingly, with Freddy Krueger-style blade hand) Say your prayers, Simpson... because the schools can't force you like they should!
    (later...)
    Edna: (menacingly) You're going to be my murder victim, Bart!... in our school production of Lizzie Borden, starring Martin Prince as Lizzie.
    Martin: (in drag, brandishing axe) Forty whacks with a wet noodle, Bart!
    • Homer even pulls this twice when they're in Terror Lake.
    "BARTWOULDYOULIKEABROWNIEBEOREYOUGOTOBED?!"
    "BARTYOUWANNASEEMYNEWCHAINSAWANDHOCKEYMASK?!"
  • Starting a New Life: Homer and Bart embrace the idea of starting afresh under a new identity.
  • Take That!:
    • The family first meets Bob while watching a movie called Ernest Goes Someplace Cheap, a clear Take That towards movies with Jim Varney's Idiot Hero character Ernest P. Worrell (of course, most consider those movies Acceptable Targets).
    • Homer dreaming of being John Elway scoring the touchdown after being blown out in the Super Bowl, a Take That to Elway, who back then had the reputation of being a great quarterback, but one who choked in the Super Bowl, being on the losing end of three.
  • Tempting Fate: The last thing Sideshow Bob says before being trampled by a parade (which includes elephants) is, "Surely there's no harm in lying in the middle of a public street?"
  • Toilet Seat Divorce: Patty mentions that she wants to kill her sister because she always leaves the toilet seat up.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: In his two previous appearances, Bob at least made the effort to appear like an honest, law-abiding citizen. This time around he's an outright Card-Carrying Villain, who makes no secret of his wishes to dispose of Bart.
  • Underside Ride: Sideshow Bob tries this in a parody of the 1991 Cape Fear scene. While he does get to his destination, it doesn't quite work out as the family drives through a lot of cacti and over a fair few speed bumps on the way there, not to mention Homer spilling his hot coffee under the car.
  • Voiceover Letter: Lisa receives one from her penpal in a Banana Republic, only for the voiceover to change halfway through:
    Anya: Dear Lisa, as I write this, I am very sad. Our President has been overthrown and...
    Male Voice: ...replaced, by the benevolent General Krull. All hail Krull, and his glorious regime! Sincerely, little girl.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The episode is a loving homage to...uh, Cape Fear—both the original and the remake. It established the film's main theme as Sideshow Bob's leitmotif, and it's fair to say that the music is now remembered more as Bob's theme than it is the film's.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The plot of the episode, natch. Also implied with General Krull towards Anya, as she was unable to finish her letter to Lisa.
  • You Are Fat: The kids at school use this trope to humiliate Bart.
  • You Have to Believe Me!:
    Bart: Mom, dad, I just saw Sideshow Bob and he tried to kill me!
    Homer: Bart, don't interrupt!
    Marge: Homer, this is serious!
    Homer: (rolls his eyes) Oh, it is not.

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