Follow TV Tropes


Recap / The Simpsons S6E1 "Bart of Darkness"

Go To
"If that's not Flanders, he's done his homework."

Original air date: 9/4/1994

Production code: 1F22

A summer heatwave hits Springfield, so the Simpsons build a pool to beat the heat. But when a high-dive goes wrong and Bart breaks his leg, he ends up confined to his room, which only gets worse when he believes Ned Flanders has murdered his wife, Maude.

Of note, this is the first episode since season 1 to debut on Sunday night, in a new timeslot (8 PM/7 central), a slot the show has occupied ever since.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Annoyingly Repetitive Child: Invoked when Lisa calmly explains to Homer that he has to buy a pool to avoid a whole summer of the kids chanting, "Can we have a pool, Dad?" in unison.
  • Bad Humor Truck: Downplayed with the ice cream truck that looks normal, but really has no more ice cream; parodied with a rebuilt ice cream truck that... doesn't sell ice cream.
    Chili! Red hot, Texas-style chili! And we got ginger ale! Boiling hot, Texas-style ginger ale!
  • Big Brother Instinct: When Bart sees Flanders walking into his house with an axe while Lisa is exploring it for him, he immediately tries to save her. First, he tries calling the police since he can't walk on his leg, he then drags his way there.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: After Homer says "She's such a fox" in reference to Maude, he changes the line to "What's on FOX tonight? Something ribald, no doubt." At the time the episode first aired, the ribald live-action sitcom Martin had moved to 8:30 pm (Eastern standard).
  • Brick Joke:
    • When Martin is at the pool-mobile, bullies take his bathing suits. His last scene in the episode takes place after his pool breaks down and his bathing suit is taken away.
    • While Bart spies on people from his window, a Jimmy Stewart-esque character is watching him in return. Later, as Bart hobbles to the Flanders house, the Stewart character reappears and thinks Bart's coming after him.
  • Busby Berkeley Number: The Esther Williams variant is parodied as the kids make Lisa the star of the pool (until Homer comes in on an inner tube in his underwear drinking a beer and spitting it up as a fountain).
  • Call-Back: Bart and Lisa's threat to ask Homer "Canwehaveapooldad?" over and over again is similar to how in "Brush With Greatness", they asked Homer "Will you take us to Mount Splashmore?" over and over. Homer's clearly learned his lesson as he immediately agrees.
  • The Cameo: Kang and Kodos's spaceship briefly flies by right before Bart decides the universe is boring to look at.
  • Captain Obvious: When Homer and Bart are underneath the tent that's connected to the fridge, Homer tells Bart, "It's cool in here, boy."
    Homer: I got the idea when I noticed the refrigerator was cold.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The episode's plot happens through a bizarre combination of a massive Heat Wave, Nelson being a jerk, and Ned Flanders thinking that overwatering a plant makes him a murderer.
  • Couch Gag: The roles of the family and the couch are reversed; with the Simpsons sitting in mid-air while the couch assembles itself and sits on the Simpsons' laps, crushing them.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • Martin wears seventeen bathing suits at the pool mobile, knowing that bullies will take his. When he brags about it, the bullies take them all instantly.
      "I brought this on myself."
    • Apparently, the Springfield police have a code for regicide (the murder of a member of royalty, usually a king or a queen).
  • Critical Encumbrance Failure: Martin's pool gets so filled with swimming kids that just one more jumping in makes it explode.
  • Crossing The Burned Bridge: Lisa's brain tries to warn her about the False Friends using her for her pool; she tells it to shut up, she doesn't need to be smart if she has friends. Then the kids abandon her for Martin's pool, lowering the water level so far that she's trapped at the bottom.
    Lisa: I'm stuck in here... I've gotta think of a way to get out.
    Lisa's Brain: Well, well, well... look who's come crawling back.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Nelson pulls the "your epidermis is showing!" joke on Bart, and not only feels the need to explain it to Kearney, he explains it wrong.note 
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Kearney doesn't find Nelson causing Bart to break his leg very funny.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In-Universe: the Classic Krusty reruns reveal that Krusty was originally a socio-political talk show, with guests the intended audience of the show would not be familiar with such as Ravi Shankar.
  • Epic Fail: The whole family's first attempt to assemble a pool in their backyard results in them building a steel barn instead.
  • False Friend: The neighborhood kids only befriend Bart, and then Lisa, because they have a pool. When Martin gets a bigger one, everybody abandons Lisa. Then when Martin's pool bursts, they abandon him as well (and Nelson steals his bathing suit).
  • For Inconvenience, Press "1": Bart's attempt to call the police only gets the Police Rescuephone. He gives up after he accidentally presses the code for regicide and a recorded message tells him which code to push if he knows the victim's name.
    Phoneline: If you are being murdered, or are calling from a rotary phone, please stay on the line.
  • Freudian Slip:
    • Martin, while overseeing the construction of his own pool.
      Martin: Soon, I'll be queen of summertime! Oh, king. King!
    • Milhouse, while trying to get away from Bart's cast-signing request so he can play in the pool, ends up absentmindedly signing "MILPOOL" instead.
  • The Fundamentalist: Maude spends the episode at a Bible camp learning to be more judgmental.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Bart gets pretty weird after being alone in his room too long, Creepy Shadowed Undereyes and all.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Lisa discovers that Bart has began writing a play while he is isolated in his room. When he later reads it aloud to her, it contains a reference to St. Swithin's Day, a relatively obscure British holiday.
    • Despite being an illiterate clown Krusty managed to have a political talk show that hosted people as influential as George Meany.
  • Hope Spot: "Ice cream! Ice cream! I'm all outta ice cream! It's true, y'know."
    • "And we got ginger ale! Boiling hot, Texas-style ginger ale!"
  • Idiot Ball: Martin insists on being as popular as possible by cramming as many fair-weather friends as possible into his pool as possible ("I see some space over there!"), and the pressure causes the above-ground pool to explode. Consequently, his friends leave and his shorts get stolen again.
  • Implausible Deniability: Milhouse tries to get out of keeping Bart company by claiming he's left his glasses in the pool. The glasses he's wearing at that moment. Which Milhouse refuses to admit he's wearing.
  • Injured Limb Episode: Bart tries to dive into his pool, but thanks to Nelson teasing him, he ends up injuring his leg.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: Turns out Nelson doesn't know what an "epidermis" is any more than Bart.
    Nelson: (to Kearney) See, "epidermis" means "hair." So technically it's true. That's what makes it so funny.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: When Bart and Lisa believe Ned Flanders has killed Maude, we see him heading up to the attic, where Lisa's hiding, carrying an axe and singing "Mary had a little lamb". Even though the audience knows it must be a Mistaken for Murderer plot (even if they've seen it before, and know exactly what's going on), it's still very creepy.
  • Karma Houdini: Nelson doesn't face any consequences for causing Bart to break his leg.
  • Kids Are Cruel: This trope is exemplified quite a bit in this episode. Nelson causes Bart to break his leg with zero remorse, then all the kids abandon both Lisa and Martin after using them for their swimming pools (and the latter's bathing suit gets stolen for no reason as well).
  • Lack of Empathy: Nelson feels absolutely no concern for Bart falling off the treehouse and breaking his leg, and no remorse for being indirectly responsible for it.
    Nelson: (while looking at Bart's unconscious form) Haw-haw!
    Milhouse: Hey, Nelson, he's really hurt. I think he broke his leg.
    Nelson: (annoyedly) I said 'Haw-haw.'"
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Hans Moleman steps outside on a hot summer's day, and his coke-bottle glasses accidentally set his shirt on fire. His reaction? "Oh, rats..."
  • Mistaken for Murderer: When Ned appears to have committed spousal murder, Bart, to do him credit, is initially Genre Savvy enough to realize that he must have misunderstood something and turn his attention elsewhere. After a while, though, too much "evidence" piles up for him to ignore.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Bart getting Grampa tarred and feathered 20 minutes before telling the rest of the family about Flanders' possibly murdering Maude. We don't know what Bart did to Grampa to make that happen.
    • We also don't get to see how Lisa gets out of the pool after being stranded when it empties (though it can be assumed that Marge got her out or she struggled to pull herself out).
  • Not So Above It All: Homer and Bart cope with the heat wave by setting up a tent in front of the open refrigerator door to trap the cold air. Marge, accompanied by Lisa, pokes her head in to tell them why this is a bad idea. Both wind up crawling in next to them when they realize how refreshing it is. Unfortunately, Marge had a good point to begin with, as leaving the door open winds up overloading the motor.
  • Old Shame: Krusty's embarrassed about his 60s "Classic Krusty" shows, which were more like a late-night talk show a la The Mike Douglas Show.
  • Partially-Concealed-Label Gag: Bart thinks Ned Flanders has murdered his wife and sends Lisa into his house to investigate. Lisa goes to the freezer and pulls out a green bag labeled "human head", horrifying her and Bart. She is relieved after wiping off more frost, revealing it to be a "Schuman Farms head of lettuce".
  • Police Are Useless: The Springfield Police Department's phone line has an absurdly inconvenient menu, and no telling how long it will take for someone to pick up if the person who is calling just doesn't uses it.
  • Police Brutality: Wiggum orders Lou to open fire on Marge and Homer when they are skinny-dipping in their pool and (quite understandably) refuse to continue when they notice Wiggum is peeking at them from a helicopter.
  • "Rear Window" Homage: Bart breaks his leg, holes up in his room, and, after spying on his neighbors with a telescope, becomes convinced that Ned Flanders has murdered his wife. One of the things Bart sees through his rear window is Jimmy Stewart with a broken leg, looking out of his rear window.
    Stewart: Grace, c'mere! There's a sinister-looking kid I want you to see!
  • "Rear Window" Investigation: Parodied. Bart, injured from an accident diving into their swimming pool, overhears a scream from the Flanders house, and witnesses him burying something in the backyard. Believing Ned had murdered his wife Maude, Bart orders Lisa to go investigate. When Ned returns home early, Lisa gets trapped in the attic with Flanders, who is attempting to put away an axe (though from Bart's view it appeared Ned was threatening Lisa with the axe). It later turns out that Maude is alive, and was away at Bible camp the whole time. The scream that Bart heard earlier? It was Flanders.
  • "Rear Window" Witness: Parodied. Bart thinks Ned Flanders killed his wife, when it turns out he accidentally killed his wife's favorite houseplant. The high-pitched scream Bart heard earlier came from Ned.
  • Retraux: Bart watches a 1961 black and white episode of The Krusty the Klown Show. Krusty interviews George Meany on America's labor crisis.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Just why would anyone be selling red-hot chilli and boiling Texas-style ginger ale in the middle of a massive Heat Wave? They might as well have been selling oily rags to people who are on fire.
  • Sanity Slippage: Bart when he confines himself to his room after breaking his leg.
  • Scenery Porn: Bart first uses the telescope to gaze upon the wonderous visuals of the universe... before calling them boring.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Turns out that Ned can do this, which is why Bart heard "a woman screaming" right before Ned started shouting "My God, What Have I Done?! I'm a murderer!"
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Rear Window. Lampshaded when Bart starts spying on the town and finds Jimmy Stewart, also with his leg in a cast, doing the same thing.
    • The Itchy & Scratchy episode has one to the pilot of Star Trek: The Original Series.
    • To Witness, when the Simpsons accidentally make a barn instead of a pool, it references the barn raising scene. It's even Lampshaded when a random Amish guy shows up to point out Homer's blunder.
      Homer: All right, everybody in the pool!!
      Amish Man: 'Tis a fine barn, but sure 'tis no pool English.
      Homer: D'OH-ETH!!!!
    • At the beginning of the episode during the heatwave, a hippie is busking while singing "Sunshine on my Shoulders". This only earns him a punch to the face.
  • The Shut-In: Bart becomes this after he's forced to wear a cast all summer and is ignored by everyone using the Simpsons' new pool. He leaves the lights off in his room and Marge worries that he's becoming "isolated and weird."
  • Sincerity Mode: Homer sounds sarcastic near the end of the episode but he's being serious.
    Bart: Oh. Well, I guess that explains everything.
    Homer: Not everything! There's still the little matter of the whereabouts of your wife!
    Maude: Um, I'm right here.
    Homer: (in a sarcastic-sounding tone) Oh, I see. Then everything is wrapped up in a neat little PACKAGE! (everyone looks at him) Really, I mean that. Sorry if it sounded sarcastic.
  • Something Only They Would Say:
    Ned: I wish there was some other explanation for this, but there isn't! I'm a murderer! I'm a murderer!
    Bart: Then that's not the real Ned Flanders.
    Bart: If that's not Flanders, he's done his homework.
  • Stab the Salad: Flanders chases Lisa up to the attic with an axe, muttering "time to put you away for good"... only for it to turn out that he was actually talking to the axe itself.
  • Status Quo Is God: This is the only episode where the Simpsons have a pool; their acquisition of an above-ground pool makes the transition back to normal that much easier.
  • Talk to the Fist: Parodied during the heatwave.
    Street corner musician: (singing) Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy!
    (Just Stamp the Ticket Man punches him in the face)
  • Tempting Fate:
    • The exact moment Marge asks if using the refrigerator to cool the family will overload the motor, it broke down.
    • Bart assumes he can just spend the whole summer watching Krusty. At which point Krusty announces he's going on vacation and showing boring re-runs.
    • Bart manages to tear off five (yes, five) swimsuits from Martin. Turns out he came prepared for this.
      Martin: Take your best shot! I'm wearing seventeen layers! (All the bullies in the pool rush him and tear off every single swimsuit leaving him naked. He laughs at first, thinking they failed to strip him only to realize they did) ...I brought this on myself.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: When Lisa becomes popular, she decides she doesn't need her brain anymore. It returns when everyone leaves for Martin's pool, mostly to gloat.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: Homer and Marge have one late at night, but are interrupted by the police, who tried surveillance.
    Wiggum: Do not be alarmed! Continue swimming naked! Aw c'mon, continue! C'mon!...All right, Lou, open fire.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain:
    • Otto says the pool-mobile is only budgeted for one day, which he then realizes is a major tease.
    • Both Lisa and Martin are heavily ostracized nerds in Springfield Elementary and get a (very fleeting) increase in popularity because they own pools, which they lose the moment Martin reveals he has a bigger pool (for Lisa) and when the pool is destroyed (for Martin — Nelson even rips off his swimsuit before leaving, adding insult to injury).
      Martin: (after the pool is destroyed and everybody is leaving) My new lifestyle! NOOOO!!!!