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Recap / The Simpsons S6E21 "The PTA Disbands"

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Original air date: 4/16/1995

Production code: 2F19

After a disastrous field trip, Edna and the teachers agree to a strike as they have had it with Skinner cutting the school's budget to the point that he's selling the kids' futures short. While Bart revels in the strike by making mischief, Lisa is suffering from not being in a classroom setting, Milhouse gets tutored and becomes smarter than he thought possible, and the PTA decides to hire neighborhood people (one of which is Marge) as scab teachers.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Agree to Disagree: Defied. When Flanders points out that Skinner and Krabappel have their respective good points on their discussion and says this, they refuse to agree even on that before storming off.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Doing anything and everything gets you paddled by Jasper, including paddling the school canoe.
  • The Alleged Car: The Springfield Elementary school bus is in extremely poor repair, with a rusted out hole in the floor that keeps getting bigger and brakes so worn that students need to use their jackets as drag chutes to help slow the vehicle down. This is nothing next to the other bus the school owns, which is in such a bad shape that a Cutaway Gag shows the bus sitting on the school's parking lot on top of some bricks and exploding when a little leaf falls on its roof.
  • Always Someone Better: Principal Valiant from Shelbyville Elementary School, who has state-of-the-art school buses and even gives a tip to the cashier from Fort Springfield.
    Skinner: (bitterly) He thinks he's so hot ever since he swept the Princi Awards. Those things are rigged...
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Marge. Her being a teacher makes Bart a Bully Magnet.
  • Apathetic Teacher: It's clear that Miss Hoover (and many other teachers, too) is just using the teacher's strike as an excuse to not do her job and she actually doesn't care about it. Her driving off the school while tossing away the class assignments and telling her students to go home immediately after Mrs. Krabappel announces the strike says it all.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Jasper's "That's a paddlin'" speech, the last "jaywalking" part being "paddling the school canoe".
    Oooh, you'd better believe that's a paddlin'.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • At Fort Springfield, the tour guide explains how they had restored a cannon to firing condition, and how it was very sensitive and could go off from slight jolts and was also aimed at the base of a watch tower. The Springfield Elementary crashes into it, knocking off a wheel, and... nothing happens.
    • While in bed, Marge announces her concerns about Bart and Lisa's behaviour, while Homer is distracted by Lisa's perpetual motion machine. Soon after, Homer calls Lisa in... to yell at her about the machine.
      Homer: In this house... WE OBEY THE LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS!
    • This scene, after Bart causes Moe to leave in tears:
      Skinner: Well, children, I don't know what you did to all those substitutes, but it's going to stop now. Leopold?
      Leopold: All right, listen up, you little FREAKS! Fun stops here. You're gonna SHUT your stinkin' traps and behave, dammit! This is one substitute you're not gonna SCREW with!
      (Loud Gulp from the students)
      Leopold: ...Marge Simpson! (Marge walks in and Leopold leaves)
    • Almost immediately after Marge enters, Milhouse reminds Bart of the booby trap he had set for the new substitute, prompting Bart to rush up to the chair at the teacher's desk to knock off a tack (under the guise of pulling out the chair for Marge). When he sits back down:
      Milhouse: I meant the other booby trap!
      Bart: (gasps; gets up to knock Marge away from a swinging log)
  • Black Comedy: The episode begins with a group of actors trying to kill a bunch of schoolchildren for... trying to watch a re-enactment for free (with them actually appearing to kill poor Üter). Not to mention the re-enactment being soldiers murdering other soldiers trying to surrender being portrayed as good people.
  • Blame Game: Edna blames Skinner for forcing teachers to half-ass their job because of not giving them resources, while Skinner keeps blaming it all on not enough budget and nobody willing to give more money (he ends up being right, though). Bart triggers a riot in a bank by hollering that it's out of money and people coming to blows when the cashier points out that someone's money went to pay someone else and that someone's money went to pay someone else (a la It's a Wonderful Life).
    Moe: What the hell's my money doing in your house, Fred?!
  • Blatant Lies: Principle Skinner and Edna fight over the mic. On finally getting it, all Skinner can declare is "all is well in the school, my authority as principal is total" before Edna seizes it back from him.
  • Booby Trap: Bart has to rescue Marge from the swinging log he rigged to hit the substitute.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: When a PTA meeting is held regarding the teachers strike, Krabappel argues that Skinner's budget cuts are harming the education the parents' children are receiving, and that they need the resources to do their job. The parents are inclined to agree with her until Skinner explains that the school's on a very tight budget as it is, and that for the administration to meet the teacher's demands, they'd have to raise the parents' taxes. That gets the parents complaining about taxes being high enough as it is, and the debate between Skinner's and Krabappel's positions ends up going back and forth. The episode ends by Skinner and Krabappel deciding to Take a Third Option and rent out the school's cloakrooms to the prison system to raise extra moneynote .
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Homer thinking Canada is a southern country after Marge tells the family that the kids had trouble finding Canada on the map.
    • When Moe volunteers to teach Bart's class, Bart rigs the class attendance sheet with pun names like "Maya Buttreeks." Moe thinks the children are laughing at his big ears and runs out crying.
  • Couch Gag: The living room is at the center of an M.C. Escher Relativity-style environment, with the family entering from various directions (and dimensions) and until they reach the couch.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • Lisa has an Strike Preparedness Kit ready to go, complete with audio recording of a teacher scolding students.
    • Milhouse's parents, just in the brief time it takes the strike to be announced and Milhouse to rush home, manage to hire a tutor.
  • Creepy Child: Bart takes to flying a kite at night, and has very noticeable bags under his eyes as he does. This is addressed by Marge:
    Marge: There's something about flying a kite at night that's so unwholesome.
    Bart (looking up at Marge from outside): Hello, mother dear...
    • This moment ultimately serves to be the final straw for Marge, who decides they have to get the kids back to school ASAP.
  • Cutting Corners: Krabappel resents Skinner's refusal to fix things all supposedly because their budget can't allow it.
  • Daytime Drama Queen: Jimbo starts watching soap operas with his mother during the strike.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Subverted. The tour guide explains that their cannon could go off if hit with the slightest touch, and is pointed to a lookout tower which is occupied by a friendly staff member. After the cannon is violently crashed into, she explains that it wasn't loaded for safety reasons ("It's just common sense").
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Try to learn for free at Diz-Nee historical park, and the soldiers will not hesitate to give some "sugar" to children!
      Actor 1: Hey, they're trying to learn for free!
      Narrator: (Beat) Get 'em!!
      Actor 2: Use your phony guns as clubs!
    • Doing anything and everything gets you paddled by Jasper.
  • Dissonant Serenity:
    • At the end, violent criminals have been placed in the school, with one making a grab at the students. Mrs. Krabappel cheerfully tells them to just ignore the convicted murderer.
    • Marge took almost being killed by a swinging log (one that her own son set up) rather too well.
  • Diving Save: When Marge becomes the new 4th grade teacher, Bart does this to save her from a booby trap. Namely A SWINGING LOG.
  • Driven to Madness:
    • Lisa, from not being in school. She demands to be graded for instance.
    • Bart, in a slightly different sense. Not being in school makes him wreak havoc elsewhere and he starts flying his kite at night, to add to the Creepy Child vibe.
  • Education Mama:
    • Marge, when she realizes that Bart's and Lisa's personalities have been affected by the strike.
    • Milhouse's parents, who hire a tutor for their son after hearing about the strike. Poor Milhouse does not even have one day off.
  • Embarrassing Relative Teacher: Marge briefly becomes Bart's substitute teacher after Bart drives the other subs away. She embarrasses Bart by calling him "sweetie" in class. What's telling is that she not only introduces herself as "Bart's mother" but her introduction on the blackboard is "Mrs. Simpson (Bart's Mommy)".
  • Epic Fail:
    • Bart plays three games of chess at the same time against three opponents at a park, drawing a crowd. However, they all checkmate him.
    • Marge finds her attempts to teach Bart's class exhausting because the kids took 40 minutes to find Canada on the map despite it being the U.S.A.'s neighboring country and one of the largest in the world. Homer follows this up thinking Canada is a small, obscure country.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • The teachers of Springfield Elementary are not what you would call dedicated at their work, and even Edna Krabappel has shown a lack of care for her students' physical welfare from time to time (especially Bart), but they all eventually go on strike when Skinner becomes so extremely, and quite shamelessly, cheap, that they are unable to do their jobs with any degree of comfort.
    • Bart has at least two dangerous traps prepared for his substitutes (the chair tack and the log) but he would rather be labeled a teacher's pet and mama's boy than have Marge fall victim to those pranks.
  • Expospeak Gag: Milhouse, now a brainiac after being tutored, refuses Bart's request to play and ends up having to translate "It might be feasible in a fortnight" to "I can play in two weeks." Bart is still confused.
  • Gas Siphoning: Principal Skinner pulls Otto the bus driver aside and tells him to gas up the bus. He then hands Otto the "credit card," a length of hose and a breath mint for later. This serves to underscore just how destitute Springfield Elementary is. When they're forced to flee after Skinner tries to circumvent the admission fee, Otto is found siphoning gas from the more affluent schools' gas tanks.
  • Gossip Evolution: Bart's plan to extend the strike involves starting a rumor at the back of a crowd of teachers that "Skinner said the teachers will crack any minute." By the time the rumor reaches the front of the group it's become "Skinner said the teachers will crack any minute, purple monkey dishwasher." Needless to say Edna takes special exception to the "purple monkey dishwasher" comment.
  • Hair-Trigger Explosive:
    • Subverted, a tour guide in Fort Springfield is giving a lecture on a "fully restored and in ready to fire condition" Civil War cannon aimed directly at the base of a manned lookout tower. She mentions that these cannons are "very sensitive" and that the "slightest jolt" can set them off as the Springfield Elementary bus starts swerving towards the cannon. The bus hits it and... one of the cannon's wheels falls off.
    Tour Guide: Of course for safety reasons, we don't keep the cannon loaded. It's just common sense.
    • The school's previous bus, shown without tires, and its front wheels sitting on blocks, explodes after one leaf falls off the tree the bus is sitting under, and lands on the bus's roof.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Homer, of all people, complains about Lisa's so-called perpetual motion machine... because it "just keeps getting faster and faster".
      Homer: In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
    • It turns out Jimbo likes to watch soap operas with his mother.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Skinner, when Bart deliberately stokes up the tension by telling him Krabappel called him an Extreme Doormat.
    Skinner: Simpson, I always thought you were sneaky and manipulative, but now I see you're really a very sensitive little boy.
    Bart: (innocently) Thank you, sir.
  • Hypocrite: Skinner outright tells Edna that he thinks that the students have no future whatsoever, yet he is the one running the Sucky School they attend to and giving them the mediocre education they are receiving.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Bart, during the strike. There's a whole runner of him being unable to even say "what".
    • When Bart tells Skinner demeaning things that Mrs. Krabappel supposedly said about how quickly he'd give into the strike, this somehow changes Skinner's earlier conviction that Bart is "sneaky and manipulative" and leads him to trust Bart unquestioningly.
  • Incredibly Lame Fun: Milhouse gets a recess during his tutoring, but with the assignment of reading five chapters of a book about the Teapot Dome Scandal. He cheers anyway.
  • Inspirational Insult: Invoked. Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner have a heated discussion in the cafeteria during lunch about the teacher union's demands.
    Mrs. Krabappel: Our demands are very reasonable. By ignoring them, you're selling out these children's futures.
    Seymour: Oh, come on, Edna! We both know that these children have no future!
    (everyone stops and stares at Seymour)
    Seymour: (laughs) Prove me wrong, kids. Prove me wrong!
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: Bart spreads a rumor among a crowd of teachers about Skinner saying that "[they] will crack any minute". When the rumor reaches Mrs. Krabappel, it has an additional "purple monkey dishwasher" insult directed to her at the end. Edna's response to this is that they'll show Skinner that they can endure it because of the "purple monkey dishwasher" insult.
  • Jerkass Ball:
    • Skinner has always done (and will always do) idiotic decisions that hurt children for the sake of Cutting Corners and do changes that (only he) believes are beneficial to his school, but he's at his worst in this episode. He considers the fact a kid (Üter) has been left behind and implied to be clubbed on a school trip inconsequential because he's got the parental agreement forms to cover his ass.note  He also openly tells Edna that he thinks none of the students have any future whatsoever. Conversely, Edna is a lot more caring and sympathetic towards the children in this episode than she usually is and not just for the sake of her and her coworkers' paychecks.
    • Jasper holds this in Lisa's class by threatening her and the students with "a paddlin'".
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Skinner has taken his Cutting Corners tendencies to their breaking point in this episode, but as several episodes have shown, the budget for Springfield Elementary really is that bad! The state government is constantly slashing their funding, and the townspeople absolutely refuse even the smallest tax increases, meaning that Skinner really has no choice, since there isn't any money for him to access. He even points this out after he and Edna are locked in a room together by the end, saying that there's nothing to discuss, because the money genuinely isn't there.
  • Jerkass Realization: Bart regrets allowing the strike to continue when his own mother becomes his teacher.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: The battle being reenacted at Fort Springfield is one from the American Civil War. In 1864, the Ninth Bearded Infantry were just standing around when the troops they were fighting crested the hill they were standing at the bottom of. The enemy troops were surrendering unconditionally, many of them waving white flags. All of them were injured, some sporting bandages, others leaning on crutches; one soldier was on a stretcher. A soldier spoke for the group, saying that they were sick and "need leeches, and hacksaws to cut off [their] gangrenous limbs". How did the Ninth Bearded Infantry take to this surrender? By charging up the hill, and brutally finishing their enemies off! And what's worse, they're celebrated for this! And the children who were watching the reenactment cheer!
    Soldier: Come on, boys! Those white flags are no match for our muskets!
    Narrator: And the Springfielders heroically slaughtered their enemies as they prayed for mercy.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Bart deliberately provokes the strike simply because he thought it would be a fun alternative to school, and indeed he proceeds to wreck havoc on the town, and scares off substitutes when he is forced to go back to school. That said, it comes back to bite him in the ass hard when he has to suffer the embarrassment of having Marge teach his class and ends up a target of Nelson and his gang, who freely beat him up while distracting Marge so she wouldn't intervene, forcing him to undo all his damage.
  • The Last Straw: While riding in the dilapidated school bus, Bart comments it’s still safer than the old bus. Cut to said bus which was missing its tires and several other key components. A single leaf falls from a tree on top of the roof of the bus, causing it to explode.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Bart manages to make the bad situation between Skinner and the teachers worse.
  • Megaphone Gag: Bart gets hold of a megaphone at a construction site and tells the operators of the machines to do ridiculous things. The construction foreman angrily snatches the megaphone and berates his workers for not being able to tell the difference between his voice and Bart's, in a voice that sounds exactly like Bart's, including his Catchphrase!
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: Inverted with Professor Frink—he gets assigned as a substitute kindergarten teacher, and he ends up trying to explains physics to his new students.
  • Mood-Swinger: The easily-swayed crowd.
    Edna: Our demands are simple. A small cost-of-living increase and better equipment and supplies for your children!
    (crowd murmurs in approval)
    Skinner: Yeah, in a dream world. We have a very tight budget. To do what she's asking, we'd have to raise taxes.
    (crowd murmurs in disapproval)
    Edna: It's your children's future!
    (crowd murmurs in approval)
    Skinner: It'll cost ya.
    (crowd murmurs in disapproval)
    Edna: Come onnnnn!
    (crowd murmurs in approval)
    (Skinner rubs his finger and thumb together)
    (crowd murmurs in disapproval)
  • Never Trust a Title: The episode is called "The PTA Disbands," yet it focuses on a teacher's strike. Lampshaded when a horrified person yells "The PTA has disbanded!", and jumps out the nearby window, before Flanders explains that the PTA has not disbanded, prompting that man to jump back through the window, dusting himself off.note 
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Milhouse's tutor was based on Tony Randall.
  • No Conservation of Energy: As repeatedly mentioned above, Lisa eventually snaps and builds a perpetual motion machine in a failed attempt to cope.
    Homer: In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
  • Noodle Implement: Exactly what Bart is doing flying his kite at night, and the motives behind it, are left to the imagination.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Before Moe, the other substitute teachers humiliated by Bart included Chief Wiggum, Barney, Lionel Hutz and Gabe Kaplan.
    • Why did Mr. Largo ban his class from playing "Pop Goes the Weasel"?
  • Not Now, Kiddo: While the teachers are protesting, Lisa asks Miss Hoover what would they be learning if she were teaching class at that day. Her answer to Lisa's question? "get away from me".
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Ms. Hoover was sitting at her desk when Edna gave the announcment that they were going to strike. Just as the announcement finished and Ralph was about to ask something, Hoover was already driving off in her car.
  • Oh, Crap!: The priceless look on Bart's face when he realizes that Marge will be their substitute teacher.
  • Private Profit Prison: The episode ends with Springfield Elementary becoming one of these in order to provide money to raise the budget. Which meant psychotic killers and violent robbers sharing the classroom space with innocent kids (and Bart). And the teachers don't care one bit, thinking that this will teach the unruly students about consequences... of course, unknown to them, Bart plans to help Snake escape because he will be paid if he does.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Parodied. During the re-enactment, the narrator talks about how brave the Springfield army was for slaughtering unarmed and surrendering soldiers suffering from grievous injuries and sickness.
  • Punny Name: Principal Valiant, a play on Prince Valiant.
  • Sanity Slippage: Lisa steadily becomes unstable since she's unable to go to school. She begs Marge to grade her, runs out of the house screaming her head off when she can only list two synonyms for "relax", and Marge mentions she found Lisa dissecting her raincoat. Bart is also afflicted with this, albeit for the opposite reason; too much freedom is clearly draining him of energy but nevertheless keeps acting out.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Within seconds of the strike being declared, Miss Hoover abandons the school in her car, tossing away the class assignments on the way out.
    Miss Hoover: Go home, children!
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Milhouse, after an extensive amount of tutoring.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: Springfield Elementary serves "malk" ("Now with Vitamin R!") instead of milk.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Jasper's "That's a paddlin'..." spiel spoofs the "Night in the box" monologue from Cool Hand Luke.
    • The bank scene includes a reference to It's a Wonderful Life. It goes wrong.
    • The historical theme park is based on Disney's proposed "Disney's America" in Virginia. They eventually abandoned the project.
    • The cannon scene from the Civil War historical park is reference to the opening credits of F Troop. The soldier in the lookout tower even bears a striking resemblance to Private Vanderbilt. However, unlike F Troop, this cannon doesn't go off and knock down the tower because it's not loaded ("common sense").
    • The scene where the Springfield field trip gets chased by Civil War reenactors parodies the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Skinner yelling "Start the bus, Otto!", much like how Indiana Jones yells "Start the plane, Jock!".
    • Plan A in case of a prolonged strike? "Replace teachers with super intelligent cyborgs."
  • Smart Ball: Homer is suddenly knowledgeable about the laws of physics for the sake of a joke. His line after Lisa builds a perpetual motion device (that actually keeps going faster and faster)?
    Homer: In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
  • Smart People Play Chess: Subverted. Bart is seen in the park playing several games of chess at once; he loses all of them.
  • Soap Within a Show: During the teachers' strike, Jimbo watches a soap with his mother:
    "(sobbing) I just can't believe Stark would stoop to that right in the middle of Montana and Dakota's wedding."
  • "Stop Having Fun" Guys: In-Universe, Professor Frink does not allow the kindergarteners to play with a toy because "You won't enjoy it on as many levels as I do."
  • Strike Episode: A disastrous field tip and Principal Skinner cutting the school's budget to the point that he's selling the kids' futures short leads Edna Krabappel and the other teachers to agree to a teacher's strike. While Bart revels in the strike by making mischief, Lisa suffers from not being in a classroom setting, Milhouse gets a tutor, and the PTA decides to hire neighborhood people as scab teachers.
  • Sucky School: Springfield Elementary has gotten so bad that even the most disinterested teachers can't ignore it. It's telling that Lunch Lady Doris, who is well known for using low-quality or questionable ingredients for the school meals, is complaining about using shredded gym mats as a substitute ingredient.
    "There's very little meat in these gym mats."
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: After making a big deal about how sensitive the cannons of the Civil War era were, and how the one they're looking at was aimed at a manned lookout tower, when the Springfield Elementary School bus arriving and knocking it over results in nothing happening, the guide points out they obviously wouldn't keep the things loaded for safety reasons.
  • Surrender Backfire: The Civil War battle reenactment. The Confederate army approaches Fort Springfield sick and injured with white flags in hand, surrendering and begging for mercy from the Union soldiers. The Springfield army responds with shooting and stabbing the Confederates regardless.
    General: Their white flags are no match for our muskets!
  • Take That!:
    • Lisa: "I probably won't even get into Vassar." Called out as an unwarranted slam by Homer: "I've had just about enough of your Vassar bashing, young lady!"
    • One of the "books that were banned by other schools" is the first TekWar novel.
      Skinner: Well the kids have to learn about TekWar sooner or later.
  • Teasing the Substitute Teacher: In Bart's case, it's almost more like "terrorizing", but no other teacher manages to last on Bart's class for more than a day tops before Marge arrives.
  • Tempting Fate: Skinner expresses a hope that renting out the cloakrooms to Springfield Penitentary as cells might scare straight some of the more troublesome students (i.e., Bart). Seconds later, Bart is helping Snake plan a jailbreak.
  • Violence Discretion Shot: The last we see of Üter, he's fallen behind and a group of soldier have surrounded him with clubs raised. Then it cuts away.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Bart gets hold of a construction supervisor's bullhorn and starts giving out destructive orders. The supervisor grabs the horn away and complains that people should have been able to tell the difference between his voice and that of a 10-year-old boy — the joke being that the supervisor sounds exactly like Bart (including using the Catchphrase "¡Ay caramba!").
  • Weird Trade Union: Edna Krabappel happily announces another union has joined them in a sympathy strike, "The Piano Tuners Local 412"; the staff all look confused and we cut to a single piano tuner proudly striking.
  • We Need a Distraction: A variant. While Bart is being pummeled, Kearney distracts Marge with a jig.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
  • Would Hurt a Child: The staff at the Diz-Nee historical park are willing to club children. As the commentary track points out, Üter is most likely killed (except not, as revealed in later episodes) by the actors.


Marge the sub teacher

Bart is embarrassed by Marge (his mother) being the substitute teacher.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / EmbarrassingRelativeTeacher

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