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Recap / The Simpsons S5 E4 "Rosebud"

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Original air date: 10/21/1993

Production code: 1F01

First episode (in production order) featuring David Mirkin as showrunner, taking over from Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who left the series to create The Critic.

It's Mr. Burns's birthday, but, despite getting everything a cold, heartless billionaire could ever want, all Mr. Burns really wants is Bobo, the teddy bear he abandoned the day he was adopted into wealth a la Charles Foster Kane. Little does he know that his long-lost childhood toy is closer than he thinks...

This episode contains examples of:

  • Accidental Hero: One of Burns's and Smithers's attempts to break into the Simpson house to steal Bobo is thwarted by Homer coming downstairs in the middle of the night in his underwear to spend hours eating 64 slices of cheese.
  • Adaptational Species Change: Barney the Dinosaur is depicted in this episode as a Stegosaurus rather than a Tyrannosaurus rex.
  • Adolf Hitlarious: Hitler blaming a teddy bear for his own failures.
  • AI Is A Crap Shoot: Prof. Frink claims his robotic bear is programmed to be just as cuddly as a normal teddy bear, but it doesn't work out that way.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: After all his attempts to get his bear from the Simpsons fail, Burns resorts to the only thing he can think of to change their minds: have Smithers beg them for it.
  • Always a Live Transmission: How Burns is able to hijack television.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Smithers's rather infamous fantasy of Mr. Burns as Marilyn Monroe.
    Smithers: On another topic, the preparations for your birthday have begun.
    Mr. Burns: I won't get what I really want.
    Smithers: No one does.
    (A thought bubble appears of Burns nude popping out of a cake.)
    Mr. Burns: (singing) Happy birthday, Mr. Smithers...
    Smithers: Hmmmmmm...
  • As Himself: The Roll- ...uh, The Ramones
  • Bad Future: In the year 1,000,000 A.D., apes rule the world, Homer is the only human alive (and has been cloned for slave labor), Mr. Burns is still alive (and kept that way on a robotic body), and Smithers's head is on a robot dog's body.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Bobo's journey after Burns dumped it to go with the rich familiar got it flying across the Atlantic in the "Spirit of St. Louis" and being in the possession of Adolf Hitler until the fall of Berlin (which Hitler blames on the teddy bear), among other things.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the end, Maggie willingly gives Mr. Burns the bear when he simply talks to her and sincerely orders her to cherish Bobo. Homer points out this means only Mr. Burns won, meaning only he got a happy ending and the Simpsons willingly forfeited a monetary deal that could save their livelihoods. On the other hand, Mr. Burns lifts the embargo on beer and television, meaning that things will go back to normal, and he returns Homer to his normal duties. Lampshaded by the family:
    Homer: Marge, I'm confused. Is this a happy ending or a sad ending?
    Marge: It's an ending. That's enough.
  • Blatant Lies: Mr. Burns tries to get out of offering Homer a big reward by claiming he's "strapped for cash." The ceiling above him immediately breaks and a torrent of gold and jewels falls on him.
    Burns: ...As you can see, this place is falling apart.
  • Bowdlerization:
    • On Canada's Global network and on UK TV, The Ramones' performance was edited to remove the lines "I'd just like to say this gig sucks!", "Up yours, Springfield!" and "Go to hell, you old bastard!" (making it seem as if Burns was traumatised solely because of the punk music [since his line before The Ramones' performance did imply that he thought the band would play something soothing], not the profanity and the punk music. It should be noted that some Canadian broadcasts did manage to let the "Go to hell" in "Go to Hell, you old bastard" slip by).
    • Around the time that Princess Diana's death was fresh in everyone's minds (both in the UK and globally), the scene of Mr. Burns getting his photo taken by a paparazzo was cut to remove Burns's line, "Damn you, paparazzo" in the UK because the paparazzi was implicated in causing the car crash that killed Princess Diana.
    • In Australia, the part where Mr. Burns's security guards beat everyone up after Burns cancels the rest of the party following Homer's horrible stand-up act was cut as well as the scene where Barney threatens Homer with a gun after Burns cuts off the beer supply and Homer slamming the door on Barney, causing him to shoot something (or someone), judging by the frightened woman's scream and an approaching cop car siren.
  • Butt-Monkey: George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter who aren't allowed at Burns's party, because they only served one term. Bush considers Carter to be even more of a loser than him and rejects his offer to hang out.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Homer's comedy routine at Mr. Burns's birthday is a disaster. The only reactions he gets to his "jokes" are angering Burns for calling him old and cheap, and gasps from the audience when he pulls down his pants to reveal the face painted on his butt.
  • Car Meets House: Homer refuses to return Mr. Burns's long-lost teddy bear and comments that they don't need Burns's money anymore because they're already financially sound. Cue Abe driving the car into their house.
  • Comically Lopsided Rivalry: Deconstructed. At first Burns's attempts to break Homer into handing Bobo over seem to be in his favour, given the billionaire tyrant can expectedly get as elaborate as he needs, especially with one of his own employees. When Homer doesn't crack and Burns gets more and more desperate, however, he resorts to Wile E Coyote levels of direct attacks on the Simpson household.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The whole town is looking for Bobo the plush bear because a millionaire will offer a reward for it. Meanwhile, a Contrived Coincidence causes Homer to find the bear in his house, illuminated by a lamp and magnified by a fish tank, while angelic music plays. His response: "When did we get these fish?"
  • Companion Cube: Bobo, of course. Burns is willing to move mountains just to get this old teddy bear back regardless of how heavily worn and damaged it is, and he speaks to it as if it's a living person.
  • Complexity Addiction:
    • Apu sends people on deadly expeditions to the Arctic to get ice for the Kwik-E-Mart. However, when he asks the explorers if they have a better way to get ice, they can't think of any either.
    • A cupcake turnstile in the power plant cafeteria is powered by a worker turning a wheel while being whipped in a subterranean cavern below.
    • In one of his attempts to break Homer, Mr. Burns hijacks television. Not shut down, however, literally hijack it, with he and Smithers proceeding to replace and personally act out their own programs (which Homer ends up enjoying).
  • Contrived Coincidence: Bart just happens to find Bobo at the Kwik-E-Mart right when Burns is missing his beloved teddy bear.
  • Couch Gag: The Simpsons run in and find an identical Simpsons family on the couch.
  • Deal with the Devil: A newspaper headline notes that Mr. Burns credits his long life to Satan. A picture below the headline shows Burns handing Satan a giant check.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Burns and Smithers try to retrieve Bobo from Maggie. One of their more covert attempts is to use a grappling hook from the Flanderses' rooftop to the Simpsons' chimney and sneak in from there... only for the fact that a) the two men are not athletic and b) they overshot their target so they ended up stuck in the middle of the wire to the point of having to be rescued by firefighters.
  • Disproportionate Retribution/Misplaced Retribution: Burns orders The Rolling Stones killed because of the performance by The Ramones.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: Burns's most outlandish plan to get Bobo is to hold television in Springfield hostage, and deliver his ultimatum to Homer. Funnily enough, he doesn't so much as hijack the airwaves with his own broadcast as he storms the studio of each channel, even running to a new one when Homer uses the remote.
    Burns: And if the rest of you beer-swilling, tube-jockeys have a problem with that... talk to Homer Simpson.
  • Do Wrong, Right: How Marge formats her plan to enact revenge on Burns when the Simpsons family plans to exploit him for money in exchange for Bobo. She explains that her scheme is to force Burns to double whatever initial amount he offers.
  • Epic Fail: Several by Burns in an attempt to reclaim Bobo:
    • Burns's and Smithers's first attempt to steal Bobo from the Simpsons' house ends with them stuck on the climbing wire they tried to use and having to be brought down by a rescue squad the following morning.
    • The following attempt they climb into the house by the ceiling, only to be halted by Homer reemerging at night to stuff himself with 64 slices of American cheese. He stays in the kitchen all night until their suction cups fail and they fall down to his confusion.
    • When all his previous attempts to get Bobo back fail, Burns is reduced to having Smithers grovel on his knees to give Bobo back.
    • Mr. Burns trying to force Bobo out of Maggie's hands, only to be outmuscled.
    Burns: [breathless] Beaten by an infant, what could be more humiliating?
    Reporter: [snaps photo] What a scoop!
  • Everyone Has Standards: After Burns takes the city's TV and beer away and demands Bobo back...
    • ...Nelson tries to use his father's inability to buy beer as a reason for him and Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearney to hit Bart, but Jimbo deems it too petty (or possibly confusing) a reason.
    • ...a big angry crowd barges into the Simpsons' house and rips the bear away from Maggie, but they immediately give it back when they see the poor baby suffering and getting ready to cry.
  • Faceless Goons: The guy that whips Homer to make the cupcake display turn wears a hood that covers his face.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: After Bart gives Bobo to Maggie (who proceeds to hug it), we get a close-up and a dramatic chord as we are shown... a "100% Cotton" tag. Cue a Record Needle Scratch as the camera "looks" around the bear until it finally locates the "Bobo" tag. Cue the record starting back up.
  • Fan Disservice: Smithers imagining Mr. Burns erotically popping out of a birthday cake for him clad in nothing but a sash.
  • Finger in the Mail: Bart suggests sending one of Bobo's eyes to Burns to get him to pay them a reward for returning the bear.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Burns's inability to out-muscle Maggie will become very relevant in the "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" two-parter.
    • Homer watching Barney the Dinosaur with Maggie, and thoroughly enjoying the repetitive sing-song, makes it no surprise when Burns's downgraded programming doesn't phase him that much.
  • Flashback: A large part of the episode shows Bobo's extended trip through history to end in Maggie's hands.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • Homer's September calendar has 31 days on it (September has 30 days).
    • When Burns interrupts Barney the Dinosaur, if you pause at the right moment, the two have swapped their backgrounds (Burns is in the grassy field, and Barney is in front of a blue screen).
    • When guests are entering Burns's birthday celebration, you can recognize several US presidents (Reagan, Nixon, and Bush Sr, who is not allowed to enter like Carter).
    • The gifts received by Burns include an Unicorn that is idly eating a tie.
  • Gainax Ending:
    Homer: Marge, I'm confused. Is this a happy ending or a sad ending?
    Marge: [tersely] It's an ending. That's enough.
  • Giant Novelty Check: Mr. Burns gives one of these to Satan as part of his deal for a long life.
  • Historical In-Joke: Charles Lindbergh throws Bobo from his plane onto a crowd in Paris, where it is picked up by Adolf Hitler. Lindbergh was accused of fascist sympathies throughout his life.
  • History with Celebrity: Mr. Burns is shown as being a sibling of George Burns.
  • Ignored Epiphany:
    Burns: Smithers, I'm so happy. Something amazing has happened, I'm actually happy. Take a note! [resolute] From now on, I'm only going to be good and kind to everyone.
    Smithers: I'm sorry sir, I don't have a pencil.
    Burns: Ehh, don't worry, I'm sure I'll remember it.
  • Instant Ice: Just Add Cold!: It happened to Bobo during the flashback from the fifties.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Burns is negotiating with Homer over the reward for finding his childhood toy, Bobo the teddybear:
    "Ah yes, ah, naturally I can't pay you much of a reward, because I'm strapped for cash. [the ceiling above gives way and a heap of money and jewels fall around him, including a crown on his head] ...As you can see, this old place is falling apart.
  • Iwo Jima Pose: When Smithers presented a slideshow of Mr. Burns's life on his birthday, one of the shots was of the Iwo Jima Pose with Mr. Burns's face superimposed onto all of the Marines. And on the flag itself.
  • Karma Houdini: It just so happens this is the episode that contains the picture included on the Karma Houdini main page. Mr. Burns apparently cut a deal with Satan to live for a long time.
  • Kids Prefer Boxes: Homer attempts to persuade Maggie to give up Bobo by giving her a box to play with instead. However, Homer becomes enthralled with the box and keeps it for himself despite Maggie's enthusiasm for it.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • When young Burns drives off with a billionaire he drops his teddy bear. His father runs behind him and yells for him to come back as the bear is "the symbol of his youth and innocence."
    • When Homer notices Bobo's face behind their aquarium he immediately asks: "How long have we had those fish?"
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Burns decides he wants Homer to perform comedy at his party, seeking his "fractured take on modern life."
  • Left Hanging: Milhouse apparently went missing, seeing that his face was seen on a milk carton. But we never find out where he went.
  • Lethally Stupid: One of the ice diggers, who went all the way to the Antarctic to get Apu some ice, brings the bags to Apu and says: "You've gotta start selling this for more than a dollar a bag. We lost four men on this expedition!" Apu apathetically challenges him to think of a better way to get ice, and the man can't come up with one.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: Mr. Burns does this pose, in the white Monroe dress, in one of the clips Smithers shows to the crowd.
  • Mood Whiplash: Smithers introduces Homer's comedy routine with an announcement that a dog has been run over in the parking lot. The audience did not appreciate it.
    Homer: Are you ready to LAUGH?!
    Man in the audience: Oh, the poor dog...
    Homer: I said: Are you ready to LAUGH?!
    Woman in the audience: Quiet, you awful man.
  • Mooning: Homer does this in an ill-considered comedy performance for Mr Burns' birthday, where he drops his pants to reveal a frowny face painted on his butt and does a mocking impression of Mr. Burns. It doesn't go down well.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Moe and the rest of the angry mob are horrified with themselves when they see how sad Maggie is after they take Bobo from her.
  • Nerves of Steel: When Burns announces that he's taken over all the TV channels in Springfield and diverted all its beer shipments away, Barney is so angry he pulls a gun on Homer, ominously warning Homer to give Bobo back to Burns. Homer isn't fazed at all and merely slams the door in Barney's face. This makes Barney accidentally fire, break a window, and cause a woman to scream. We then hear police sirens and Barney saying "uh oh."
  • Never My Fault: Adolf Hitler blamed Bobo (a teddy bear) for his downfall.
  • Noodle Incident: Homer mocks Mr. Burns at his birthday party, which involves drawing a frowny face on his butt and Mooning him. It ends badly, and apparently, it's not the first time it's happened.
    Homer: I'll never wiggle my bare butt in public again.
    Lisa: I'd like to believe that this time. I really would.
    • When did Milhouse go missing? (cf. the scene of Smithers sticking pictures of Bobo on milk cartons that have Milhouse's face on them)
  • Not So Above It All:
    • When the family has Bobo:
      Marge: I'm sure he'll offer us a fair reward. (Beat) And then we'll make him double it!
      Family: Huh?
      Marge: Well, why can't I be greedy once in a while?
    • That said, Mr. Burns as well. It's very odd to see such a greedy man who is so consumed with the desire for money to put all that aside in favor of wanting a nostalgic but financially worthless teddy bear from his youth.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Marge suggests the family make Mr. Burns double whatever offer he gives them, causing everyone to stare in shock. Marge retorts, "Why can't I be greedy once in a while?"
    • And then there's the fact that Homer seems to take Burns cutting off Springfield's beer supply in stride. That said, he probably didn't mind so long as Maggie was happy with Bobo, and it helps that he actually enjoyed Burns' new television programming.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Homer and Bart are gloating that they can demand any price for returning Bobo to Mr. Burns, and Marge replies "Now I'm sure he'll offer a fair reward... And then we'll make him double it!" When the rest of the family stares at her, she adds, "Why can't I be greedy every once in a while?"
  • Pet the Dog: Burns decides to let Maggie keep his old teddy bear.
  • Papa Wolf: In spite of bribery, threats, torture and even pleading (from Smithers), Homer can't bear to take Bobo away from Maggie after seeing her in tears without it.
  • Prized Possession Giveaway: Near the end of the episode, Maggie herself gives the bear to Mr. Burns, as she feels somehow that the toy means more to him than it does to her. Homer and Marge witness this scene, and the former is unsure if this should count as a happy or sad ending (Marge simply sees it as an ending, as she was quite tired of the matter by then).
  • Pun: Two signs the crowd carries after Mr. Burns banned all alcoholic beverages in order to get Bobo the bear back are "We want bear" and "We want beer".
  • Recognition Failure: Mr. Burns fails to recognize The Ramones— he is an old man — and is genuinely shocked by their performance. He then orders to have The Rolling Stones killed.
  • Same Surname Means Related: According to a flashback, Montgomery Burns was comedian George Burns's older brother (even though George Burns is older than Mr. Burns would be at the time... if you believe that Mr. Burns was 81 at the time and not in his 100s). In addition, George Burns' birthname in real life was Nathan Birnbaum, with "George Burns" being a stage name he chose in adulthood.
    George Burns: Buh buh buh buh, oh the sun shines so bright on my old Kentucky home, buh buh buh buh. Trust me, it'll be funny when I'm an old man.
  • Shaming the Mob: Done by the mob themselves, interestingly enough: after bursting into the Simpsons' house and being seconds away from leaving with Bobo, one look at how upset Maggie was over her toy being taken away was enough to have them give it back. And tellingly enough, the closest thing to a leader the mob had, Moe, was the first to notice.
    Jasper Beardley: What have we become?
    Dr. Hibbert: We've given the word "mob" a bad name.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The opening scenes with Burns in his bed and him going away from his parents during his youth are straight out of Citizen Kane.
      • So is the name of the episode.
    • The chanting soldiers in front of Burns' mansion reference the Witches' soldiers in The Wizard of Oz.
    • Mr. Burns claims he misses Sheriff Lobo.
    • Mr. Burns apparently owns Excalibur, the only nude photo of Mark Twain, the first draft of the US Constitution with the word "suckers" in it, the Ten Commandments, the Venus de Milo and a mummy.
    • Smithers' fantasy of Mr. Burns jumping out of a cake singing "Happy Birthday" references Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday" to John F. Kennedy, which she didn't do out of a cake though.
    • Mr. Burns' younger brother is George Burns, who was 97 when this episode first aired.note 
    • Homer prepares to do stand-up by practicing in front of the mirror with a golf club in his hand, referencing comedian Bob Hope.
    • Former presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush are seen getting in line to visit Burns's party, but Bush is not allowed inside because he only served one presidential term. Outside he is greeted by Jimmy Carter, who was also sent away.
    • The drawing of Mr. Burns that serves as the curtain at Burns's birthday party is done in the style of cartoonist Al Hirschfeld.
    • Homer watches Barney the Dinosaur with Maggie. It becomes a Take That! when Mr. Burns interrupts it.
    Barney: Two plus two is four, two plus two is four, two plus two is four...
    Homer: [chuckles] Heh, heh, heh, I can see why this is so popular.
    • One of the channels Homer flips to broadcasts Soul Train, but here it is named "Soul Mass Transit System".
    • The final scene with Homer in the future cloned and enslaved by apes references Planet of the Apes.
    • In Homer's Imagine Spot about having his own recording studio, Homer sings the old Big Mac jingle.
    • The slideshow presentation at Mr. Burns's birthday party is set to Diana Ross's Do You Know Where You're Going To?
  • Snow Globe of Innocence: Mr. Burns drops a snow globe while dreaming about his childhood where he immediately left his loving poor parents for a soulless billionaire, but also forgotten his teddy bear Bobo ("a symbol of [his] youth and innocence"). We pan to see he has a box full of snow globes next to his bed and has dropped several others already.
  • So Unfunny, It's Funny:
    • Homer's attempts at roasting Mr. Burns fail in hilarious fashion. Of course, the dead puppy in the parking lot didn't help.
    • Turned around when Burns takes over television and performs a jokeless sitcom in its place. Homer ironically is the only one who thinks it's hilarious.
  • Special Guest: The Ramones, albeit with Marky and C.J. instead of Dee Dee and Tommy.
  • Special Effect Failure: In-Universe example: Unlike the more well-done Iwo Jima example, Mr. Burns has a cut-out picture of himself poorly taped onto Muhammad Ali's body during his legendary defeat (and pose) over Sonny Liston. You can even see the scotch tape visibly on the picture.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Sort of. To avoid admitting to Smithers he was having a nightmare about his lost teddy bear Bobo, Burns claimed he was having one about missing the TV show Sheriff Lobo. Then we get to see Homer, who actually was dreaming about missing Sheriff Lobo.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: In the end, Mr. Burns gives up his quest to get Bobo back and lets Maggie keep it, urging her to not lose the bear like he did. This is ultimately what gets him reunited with Bobo, as Maggie ends up giving Burns the bear out of sympathy.
  • Take That!: To television, in general;
    [watching Mr. Burns's bad sitcom]
    Lisa: Is it my imagination, or has TV gotten worse?
    Homer: Eh, it's about the same.
  • The Television Talks Back:
    Mr. Burns: (on TV) What's that you say? You can live without television... as long as you have beer?
    Homer: (confidently): That's right.
    Mr. Burns: (sinisterly): Wrong.
    • Burns also knew Homer would change channels and to which channel he'd change.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • After Mr. Burns's attempt to take Bobo from Maggie by force failed, he wondered what could be more humiliating and a paparazzo showed up to photograph him.
    • Depressed because he gave up a fortune by refusing to give Bobo back, Homer says his life can't get any worse. Cue Smithers calling him on the tannoy to report for much worse duties.
    • When Homer refuses to take Bobo from Maggie, Burns rescinds his offer and storms out, after which Homer declares the family's doing okay and doesn't need Burns's money. Cue Grampa driving an uninsured car through the front of the house, claiming he hit three people on the way over.
  • There Was a Door: The robot bear escapes by going through the walls of Burns's mansion.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Driven mad by the lack of television and alcohol the rest of Springfield form a mob that marches on the Simpson house to take Bobo back.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Mr. Burns is so despondent over Bobo that he brushes off his birthday party and his gifts, turning away two one-term presidents who wanted to celebrate his day and dismissing both the citizens of Australia lighting up candles across the continent to spell out his name and a real, live unicorn.
  • Unishment: Out of all the torturous acts Burns attempts on Homer to force Bobo back, the television hijack fails miserably. Homer actually ends up enjoying his and Smithers's new programming.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Citizen Kane.
  • Worth It: Homer is willing to give up a million dollars and three Hawaiian islands, and it's implied he's later willing to go without beer, in order to make Maggie happy.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Most of Springfield, with Burns being the exception, is unwilling to make a baby cry, even to get their beer and regular television back.