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Recap / The Simpsons S 7 E 13 Two Bad Neighbors

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Original air date: 1/14/1996 (produced in 1995)

Production code: 3F09

During a neighborhood rummage sale, Homer sees a moving van at a vacant house across the street from his home and learns that the new neighbors are former President George H.W. Bush and ex-First Lady Barbara Bush, whom everyone (except Bart and Homer) welcomes with open arms.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: There are walkable sewers running perpendicular to the street when Bart and Homer attempt to sneak into Bush's house.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: When Bush retaliates by putting up a poster that says "Two bad neighbors" with very crude drawings of Homer and Bart:
    Dr. Hibbert: I don't understand. Are you saying you and Barbara are bad neighbors?
    Bush: No! That's not Bar and me. It's them.
    Ned: Who? Maude and me?
    Bush: No! The man and his boy.
  • Acrofatic: Homer displays impressive agility in the final fight with Bush, running up the side of the sewer then bodyslamming Bush from above.
  • Artistic License – Politics: U.S. presidents actually aren't allowed by the Secret Service to drive cars on open roads that the public can access, but George H.W. Bush is shown driving to Krusty Burger.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Bush gets a can of spray paint and makes a comment that suggests he'll spray-paint the Simpsons' home. He instead paints the "Two Bad Neighbors" banner.
  • Berserk Button: Homer's rights being violated by Bush after learning what happened to Bart...
    Homer: First Bush invades my home turf, then he takes my pals, then he makes fun of the way I talk... probably. Now he steals my right to raise a disobedient, smart-alecky son! Well, that's it!
  • Bilingual Bonus: Gorbachev's line to his security detail roughly translates to, "Well, we know who the boss is here."
  • Birds of a Feather:
    • After each accepting a glass of lemonade, Bush and Flanders begin exchanging "diddlies" and "doodlies" and then briefly speak in unison.
    • At the end of the episode, Homer and Gerald Ford both fall over and say "D'Oh" identically.
  • Blatant Lies:
    Homer: He spanked you? You, Bart Simpson?
    Bart: I begged him to stop, but he said it was for the good of the nation! Note
  • Brick Joke: When searching through the attic for stuff to sell, Marge finds a jackets that was meant to spell “Disco Stud” but stopped one letter short, spelling “Disco Stu”. A few minutes later, one Disco Stu (in his first appearance) refuses to buy the jacket because “Disco Stu does not advertise”.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: Some of the items at the rummage sale are the Olmec head Mr. Burns gave the family, a Be Sharps album, Bart's "I didn't do it" shirts, Lisa's "Lisa Lionheart" dolls, Bart's Mary Worth phone, and Homer and Abe's tonic. One of Marge's Ringo Starr paintings is also visible in the attic.
  • Cool Old Lady: Barbara Bush is portrayed is being very tolerant, even amused at Bart's antics, unlike her husband, and forces Bush to apologize.
  • Couch Gag: Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie are mounted heads on the wall, and Homer is a bearskin rug on the floor. A game hunter comes in, sits on the couch, and smokes a pipe.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Not Bush with Homer and Bart, of course, but Barbara explains that after the respective conflicts with Noriega and Gorbachev subsided, they became friends with the president (with the latter even bringing him a housewarming gift).
  • Disco Dan: Disco Stu makes his first appearance, as the punchline to a joke about Homer having tried to write "Disco Stud" in rhinestones on a jacket, but ran out of space before he could add the last letter.
    Guy: Stu, you should buy that!
    Disco Stu: Hey, Disco Stu... doesn't advertise.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Bart and Homer begin an Escalating War against former President George H.W. Bush that involves shooting bottle rockets at his house and gluing a comical wig onto his head all because Bush spanked Bart. Very lightly. As punishment for destroying his memoirs.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The "Two Bad Neighbors", in question refers to Homer and Bart as evidenced by Bush's banner, but also to how well Homer and Bush get along with each other.
  • Double Standard: Violence, Child on Adult: Explored throughout, first with the contrast between how Bart treats Bush and how Bush retaliates, then with the hypocrisy of Homer's anger over the spanking when he throttles Bart on a regular basis. Marge especially that while she claims she doesn't believe in that kind of discipline she never stops Homer from strangling Bart.
  • Drive-Thru Antics: Bush holds up the line at Krusty Burger's drive-thru by asking if they have stew and commenting that a "Krusty Burger" doesn't sound appetizing.
  • Foreshadowing: Bush is upset that his wife doesn't bake cookies for him but isn't brave enough to openly complain to her. She turns out to be the one to force him to stop the conflict between him and the Simpsons.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Right after Bart accidentally shreds Bush's memoirs, a sliver of paper briefly flies in front of the screen with the words "V.P. Quayle...embarrassment."
  • Gadget Watches: George Bush's watch has a concealed wire garrote that he tries to strangle Homer with at the climax. It was a farewell present from the CIA.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Bush, especially with Bart around (albeit he's justified due to the latter's annoying behavior).
  • A Handful for an Eye: After Bush dodges his opening attack in their fight, Homer throws a handful of sewer muck in Bush's face, blinding him enough briefly for Homer to get the upper hand.
  • Hands Go Down: When Bush gives a speech at the Elk Club with a rainbow wig glued to his head.
    Bush: Any questions?
    (all reporters put their hands up)
    Bush: Keeping in mind that I already explained about my hair.
    (reporters put their hands down)
  • Henpecked Husband: When Bush spanks Bart for shredding his memoirs, he provokes an Escalating War between himself and Bart and Homer, which culminates in Bush and Homer having a fistfight in front of Bush's house just as former Russian Premier Mikhail Gorbachev has stopped by to give a housewarming present. Fed up with the whole conflict, Barbara orders her husband to apologize to Homer.
    George: But Bar, we can't show any weakness in front of the Russians!
    Barbara: (glaring at him with her arms crossed) GEORGE...
    George: (grumbling under his breath) Yes, dear.
    (Gorbachev smiles evilly and says something in Russian to his aide)note 
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • When George and Homer are grappling with each other, Bush taunts Homer by telling him "I'll ruin you like a Japanese banquet!" This is a reference to the time George, seriously ill from gastroenteritis, blew chunks on the then current Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa at a banquet he was meant to give a speech.
    • Abe claims that Presidents used to spank kids all the time back in his day, and Grover Cleveland spanked him on two nonconsecutive occasions. Cleveland is the only President to have served two nonconsecutive terms in the White House.
  • Hollywood Law: Both Bush and Ford are shown with Secret Service agents, since per the Former Presidents Act of 1958, every ex-President is entitled to lifetime Secret Service protection (provided they weren't impeached). However, Bush, and Ford driving are inaccurate, since an ex-President would not ever be allowed to drive a car themselves in real life; also when Homer goes to confront Bush, Bush asks the agents to stand down, which would never happen in real life, when the Secret Service would keep Homer at an arm's length from Bush to guard him.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Apu sings an off-key version of Cheap Trick's "Dream Police".
  • Hypocritical Humor: Homer is livid that Bush would dare spank his son... whom he regularly strangles. Most likely doubles as The Only One Allowed to Defeat You in which Homer feels he is the only one who should be allowed to physically discipline Bart.
  • I Meant to Do That: In real life, George Bush lost his reelection campaign in an upset to challenger Bill Clinton. When writing his memoirs, he declares that "since I'd achieved all of my goals as President in one term, there was no need for a second."
  • It's the Principle of the Thing: Even after finding out why George was mad at Bart, Homer still wanted to beat him up.
    Homer: For the last time, Bush, apologize for spanking my boy!
    Bush: Never! You make him apologize for destroying my memoirs!
    Homer: (to Bart) You didn't tell me you destroyed his memoirs. (to Bush) NEVER!
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Most of Homer’s grievances against Bush are petty; however when in the drive-through at Krusty Burger, Bush was sitting in his car trying to work out what to order, apparently ignorant of what the place he has come to even served (he asks for a stew at a burger joint). Show of hands, who has never gotten frustrated at a fast food restaurant because the people in the front of the line can’t make up their minds?
  • Karma Houdini: Neither Bart nor Homer receive repercussions for harrassing and pranking George Bush.
  • The Klutz: Both Homer and Gerald Ford discover this as a point they have in common when they both trip simultaneously.
    Both: D'oh!
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: There's a joke in this episode with the punchline being that "Disco Stu" is coincidentally both Homer's misspelling of "Disco Stud" and the nickname of a disco-loving man named Stu. If you've seen any episodes after this one (or even if you haven't), you'll likely already know who Disco Stu is, leaving the joke confusing since this is his first appearance.
  • Littering Is No Big Deal: Lampshaded:
    Homer: Good old Evergreen Terrace: the swankiest street in the classiest part of Pressboard Estates.
    Bart: Well, if you love it so much, why are you always littering?
    Homer: [finishing a canned drink] It's easier, duh. [tosses can on ground]
  • Never My Fault: Homer honks at Bush for holding up the line at the Krusty Burger drive-thru in spite of him waiting until the last minute to order breakfast.
  • Not Helping Your Case:
    Marge: Grampa, I know in your day, spanking was common. But Homer and I don't agree on that kind of punishment.
    Grampa: And that's why your no-good kids are runnin' wild!
    (Lisa, quietly reading a book, looks up and smiles)
  • Odd Friendship: Bart Simpson hits it off with Barbara Bush.
  • Papa Wolf: Homer decides to go on a revenge prank campaign with Bart because Bush gave Bart one slap on the tush in retaliation for Bart acting like Dennis the Menace. Also overlaps with Disproportionate Retribution (Bush explaining why it happened doesn't make Homer even so much as tell Bart to say he's sorry).
  • Poor Communication Kills: Subverted; Bart never mentions the fact that he destroyed Bush's memoirs to either of his parents, and when Bush reveals this fact during his fight with Homer and Bart in the sewers, Homer looks shocked that Bart failed to mention this... for all of about three seconds, after which he decides he doesn't really care about it and resumes fighting with Bush.
  • Retcon: Season 2's "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish" implied that Homer spanks Bart often, to the point where he automatically responds to Homer calling him over and patting his knee by assuming spanking position on his lap. In this episode, Homer and Marge don't believe in spanking, which Bush and Abe blame for Bart acting the way he does. It's still grade-A Hypocritical Humor for Homer to be as offended as he is about Bart getting spanked by Bush given his own propensity for strangling the kid.
  • Scenery Censor: One of the things Marge asks Homer to sell is an old t-shirt of his depicting a caricature of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini with the caption "Ayatollah Assaholla" with her hand covering the first "S". Later when Homer pulls it out again to sell, it's folded in a way so the profanity isn't fully readable.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Bush finishes his memoir by claiming that "since [he'd] achieved all [his] goals as President in one term, there was no need for a second." In reality, Bush sought to be re-elected but was defeated by Bill Clinton.
  • Series Continuity Error: Admittedly, the series was never big on continuity, but the house and walled gate across the street is mostly relegated to this episode only. It does appear in the video game Virtual Springfield, which was in development around the time this episode aired, though it isn't an explorable location in the game.
  • Serious Business: Homer actually goes through his word in this one.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "It's all in the Bible, son. It's the prankster's bible."
  • Shout-Out: The episode itself is one to Dennis the Menace.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Homer and Bart coming up with ways to get at George Bush that must have taken a lot of skill and planning.
  • Song Parody: Homer's renditions of "Big Spender" and "Table Five".
  • Take That!: George Bush gets to be the butt of nearly every joke. Ironically, this happens while somehow providing one of the few sympathetic portrayals of Barbara Bush to be shown in an American sitcom. (But only as a pastiche of Mrs. Wilson.)
  • Terrible Artist: Bush spray-paints a banner reading "Two bad neighbors" with Homer and Bart's faces, but the faces are drawn too crudely for other neighbors to recognize.
  • Time Marches On: The main plot of the episode doesn't age well with Barbara Bush's death on April 17, 2018, and George Bush Sr.'s death 7 months later on November 30, 2018. On the other hand, the writers had no idea that there really was a George Bush Jr..
    • Homer stating he voted for Prell brand shampoo to go back to its original glass bottle was already a dated reference in 1996 (Prell was at the peak of its popularity in the late 1970s), but it’s unlikely for many viewers today (especially outside the U.S.) to have even heard of the Prell brand.
  • Title Drop: The text on Bush's poster reads "Two bad neighbors".
  • Two Decades Behind: George Bush isn't quite on par with the modern-day world, such as using a typewriter to write his memoirs instead of a computer and being perplexed by Krusty Burger's drive-thru menu. This was most likely a reference to the viral myth that Bush didn't know what a price scanner was.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: It’s one of the 9 states where George Bush claimed residence at the time.
  • You Never Did That for Me: George is annoyed that Barbara offers to bake cookies for Bart, saying he can't remember the last time she did that for him.