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Recap / The Simpsons S7 E15 "Bart the Fink"

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"Forget it, kid! There's no silver lining this time!"

Original air date: 2/11/1996 (produced in 1995)

Production code: 3F12

While doling out checks to everyone he knows after opening a bank account, Bart accidentally reveals that Krusty the Klown has been hiding his earnings in an illegal offshore account in the Cayman Islands, resulting in his hero's financial ruin (after the IRS seize his assets) and apparent suicide.


  • Absurdly Long Wait: When the IRS take control of Krusty Burger, they change the place so all orders are made like filling taxes (and take as long to go through).
    Squeaky Voiced Teen: Fill out Schedule B. You should receive your burgers in six to eight weeks.
  • Accordion to Most Sailors: While looking for Krusty, Bart and Lisa encounter Handsome Pete, a lookalike at the docks who plays the "Sailor's Hornpipe" on the concertina and dances for nickels. As they leave, Bart tosses a coin into his cup.
    Sea Captain: Not a quarter! Aar, he'll be dancing for hours!
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Which convinces Krusty to come back.
    Lisa: What about the great feeling you get from knowing you're better than regular people?
    Bart: What about being an illiterate TV clown who's still more respected than all the scientists, doctors, and educators in the country put together?
    Krusty: (drops the anchor) Yeah! I'm not gonna let those guys hog all the respect while I'm out here in this stinking tub. (dives into the water and swims to shore) That's just what those eggheads want! Well, forget it, Poindexter, 'cause Krusty's back in town!
  • Artistic License:
    • Lisa wants to donate her inheritance to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The CPB is a Federal corporation responsible for directing the government's appropriations to NPR, PBS, and local stations; it doesn't solicit donations. The writers probably meant for Lisa to want to donate to PBS, whose member stations do also solicit and are funded by donations from foundations and individual citizens.
    • After Krusty's presumed passing, The US Postal Service introduces a memorial stamp in his honor. In reality, the Postal Service doesn't issue memorial stamps till at least 3 years after the subject's passing (excluding US presidents).
  • As Himself: Bob Newhart is pressed into eulogizing Krusty at his funeral, despite having never met him or watched his show.
  • Auction: When Krusty gets caught for tax evasion, the IRS auctions off his house and the stuff inside it for peanuts.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    Kent Brockman: Ladies and gentlemen, Krusty the Klown!! ...was arrested today for massive tax fraud.
    • At the auction where all his belongings are being sold off, he protests the selling of his personal biplane and tells the audience of a time that he and Dean Martin were flying in it and that "the moon hit his [Dean's] eye like a big pizza pie" and that they wrote a song about it... which ended up infringing on the more popular one that the former wrote years earlier.
    • When Bart inadvertently causes Krusty to get busted for tax evasion:
      Banker: Some might say you're a hero, kid. (pause) Not me, however. I loved Krusty.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The bankers of the Bank of Springfield. They wear different headgear as gimmicks but they're very competent at their jobs, and even end up getting Krusty busted for tax fraud. One of them even declares himself a fan of Krusty scornful of Bart for exposing the means to ruin him — but he still does the right thing.
    Marge: A professional in an ape mask is still a professional.
  • The Cameo: Kermit the Frog is seen at Krusty's funeral, with writer John Swartzwelder as his puppeteer.
  • Call-Back: The haunted house the Simpsons sleep in is the same one from "Homer Loves Flanders".
  • Celebrities Hang Out in Heaven: Homer uses this to reassure Bart after Krusty seemingly dies.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early on, we see Krusty's signature, complete with celebratory stars drawn around it, on Milhouse's stomach. Those same stars appear on a bounced check at the Sea Captain's shop, giving Bart and Lisa the information they need to track the clown down.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When "Rory Bellows" was swimming from his boat to the shore, his face colors melted, revealing his "Krusty" face. This goes with the revelation on "Homer's Triple Bypass" that Krusty's "clown make-up" was not make-up, but a result of his heart condition.
    • When Homer does taxes at IRS Burger, he asks Marge about her gambling losses ($700), a reference to the season five episode "$pringfield", in which Marge became a gambling addict and apparently, no effort was made to cure her of her problem.
    • Bart and Lisa irrefutably identify Rory B. Bellows as Krusty in the same manner as in "Kamp Krusty".
    • Attending Krusty's funeral are Sideshow Raheem, Sideshow Luke Perry, and Corporal Punishment. Sideshow Mel also mentions Sideshow Bob, saying he couldn't be present.
  • Continuity Snarl: Agnes Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers are shown dating in this episode. Fast forward a dozen and a half seasons or so and it's revealed that he was married prior to at least Season 16.
  • Conveniently Timed Distraction: Superintendant Chalmers is returning Agnes Skinner from a date when they are greeted by Seymour in his pajamas. Skinner wishes for a distraction to take attention away from his embarrassing situation, and at that moment Krusty flies by on his airplane, wailing loudly. "That'll do nicely," says Seymour.
  • Couch Gag: The couch ejects a sheet of paper like a fax machine that has a screenshot of the family.
  • Cutting Corners: Krusty gets nabbed for tax evasion and the IRS seizes his assets. As a result, his show is renamed Herschel Krustofsky's Clown-Related Entertainment Show, there's no longer money for sets, costumes, or even banana cream pies. Or somebody to throw them.
  • Delayed "Oh, Crap!": The Cayman Islands banker. See "Swiss Bank Account" below for the details.
  • Dirty Old Man: Jasper tries to buy Krusty's porn stash at the auction, but is outbid because he only brought a dime. He notes that, if he'd known there'd be porn, he would have brought more.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?:
    Bart: It doesn't matter what you did wrong, though, as long as you're on TV, people will respect you.
    Krusty: (spits) Bah! What good is respect without the moolah to back it up? Everywhere I go, I see teachers driving Ferraris, research scientists drinking champagne. I tried to drink a Coke on the bus, and they took away my pass! (breaks a bottle of scotch) That's no life for a famous clown.
  • Epic Fail: When Lisa and Bart find Rory B. Bellows and confront him with the knowledge that they know he is Krusty the Clown, he at first insists he is Bellows, before trying to escape by boat. Only to find the boat was still docked and tied.
    Rory/Krusty: You know, you kids coulda said something instead of letting me make an ass of myself.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: When Bart and Lisa convince Krusty to come back to his old life:
    Bart: So, Krusty, what are you gonna do about your tax problems?
    Krusty: Don't sweat it. The life of Rory B. Bellows is insured for a surprisingly large amount.
    (Krusty's boathouse explodes; he and the kids laugh)
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Upset that Krusty signed his check with a stamp instead of his actual signature, Bart goes to the bank and complains to one of the tellers. The bank teller proceeds to explain:
    Bank Teller: Ah, no, no. Stamping the back of a check is perfectly legal, little boy. Many people do it to save time. You see, in this case, instead of writing out his name, Krusty has stamped the name of his Cayman Islands Holding Corporation on the... hmm. (reads the stamp again) Uh... e-excuse me a minute. (steps aside to make some phone calls)
    • And then, those calls reach a man in the Caymans.
    Cayman Islands Offshore Holding Corporation Owner: (using a hand fan; on the phone) Oh, I'm sorry. I can't divulge information about that customer's secret, illegal account. (hangs up; Beat) Oh, crap. I shouldn't have said he was a customer. Oh, crap! I shouldn't have said it was a secret. Oh, crap! I certainly shouldn't have said it was illegal. (sighs; resumes fanning himself; tired) It's too hot today.
  • Fake-Out Opening: The episode initially looks like it will be about the Simpsons spending the night at a haunted house, but that plot ends as soon as it begins (it cuts from their arrival to the next morning, completely without incident).
  • Faking the Dead: Krusty faked his death to start a new life and later faked the death of his alter ego to collect insurance money.
  • Fat Bastard: The guy on the Cayman Islands. He even looks and sounds a lot like Sidney Greenstreet.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Bob Newhart's ad-libbed eulogy and the frightening epitaph on Krusty's tombstone make for a darkly comedic funeral service.
  • Grave Humor: Krusty's grave has the horribly macabre epitaph: "See ya real soon, kids!".
  • Happiness in Minimum Wage: Krusty as "Rory B. Bellows" insists he is a lot happier as a salvager. It isn't until Bart and Lisa bring up his (fake) friends and the amount of respect he used to get as a clown that he finally agrees to go back to being Krusty.
  • Haunted House: Subverted. The family have to spend the night in a haunted house. Homer, foolishly, says it's perfectly safe since there's no such thing as ghosts. The spooky music rises and the door slams behind them, complete with a flash of lightning... Next morning, the sun is shining and it's beautiful out, and they've had a pleasant night's sleep and absolutely nothing's happened.
    Lisa: Their tap water tasted better than ours.
  • Identical Stranger: Handsome Pete, the musical entertainer working under Captain McCallister, looks like a miniature Krusty with a distorted face. He's summoned when the Captain mistakes a warped Krusty picture on a half-inflated balloon for him.
  • Innocently Insensitive: A banker tells Bart that Krusty got arrested for tax evasion, thanks to Bart, much to his shock. Then the banker declares him a hero, except to the banker because he "loves Krusty".
  • Insurance Fraud: Krusty goes bankrupt and fakes his death to avoid his debt. Once Bart and Lisa discover his new life and talked him into coming back to being Krusty, he then faked the death of his fake identity commenting that it was insured for quite a lot of money.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: To get Krusty's back taxes, the IRS take 95 percent of his future earnings (it'd be 75 for the next 40 years but Krusty said he didn't plan to live that long) and took over his show and Krusty Burger (renamed IRS Burger and with a tax theme). Though Krusty does plenty to deserve it, the IRS are portrayed as vindictive and/or incompetent, using his assets in ways that are both humiliating and unprofitable (like selling his family heirlooms and awards for literal pocket change).
  • It's All My Fault: Bart feels this way after Krusty apparently committed suicide.
    Lisa: Would it help if I told you you're not responsible for Krusty's death?
    Bart: Yes. Yes, it would.
    Lisa: Well, I can't. You'll just have to learn to live with your mental problem.
  • Lowest Common Denominator: In-Universe. When Krusty attempts to resume his new life as Rory B. Bellows, Bart and Lisa attempt to point out how he would be giving up the fringe benefits of celebrity life. It's not until Bart tells Krusty about how he is still more respected than all the doctors, educators and scientists in the U.S. put together (despite being illiterate himself) that Krusty comes to his senses.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Bart getting a check not signed by Krusty himself → revelation of tax fraud (in less than five minutes!).
  • Move Along, Nothing to See Here: Subverted by Chief Wiggum, who starts shooing away a crowd from the plane crash wreckage while insisting there's nothing to see there because he didn't notice it, and thus there really wasn't anything to see. After he notices it, Wiggum invites the crowd to gawk all they want.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Bart when he inadvertently gets Krusty arrested. All he just wanted was Krusty's autograph. Even when Lisa pointed out that Bart can't hold himself responsible for it as Krusty committed tax fraud by his own volition, Bart sadly states that the other kids at school will still hold him responsible for Krusty's predicament.
    Bart: Krusty's my hero. How could I do this to him?
    Lisa: It is a tragedy for all us kids, but Bart, but you can’t beat yourself up.
    Bart: Yeah. There’ll be plenty of people to do that for me at recess tomorrow.
  • Nice to the Waiter: The Sea Captain says that Handsome Pete dances for nickels. Bart gives him a quarter.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Cayman Islands banker is clearly patterned after 1940s actor Sydney Greenstreet (of The Maltese Falcon fame).
  • Not Helping Your Case: When the IRS declare they'll be garnishing Krusty's wages by 75% for the next forty years to pay back the taxes he owes, Krusty retorts "I don't plan to live that long!" and the IRS promptly increase the deduction to 95%, much to Krusty's chagrin.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Krusty gets arrested for tax evasion, we see one side of a telephone conversation with his banker in the Cayman Islands.
    Banker: Hoho, I'm sorry, I can't divulge information about that customer's secret illegal account. [hangs up] ...Oh crap, I shouldn't have said he was a customer. Oh crap! I shouldn't have said it was a secret. Oh crap! I certainly shouldn't have said it was illegal! ...Oh, it's too hot today.
  • On One Condition: Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie had to spend a night in a haunted house in order to inherit $100 each. The lawyer said that condition was a standard clause.
  • Pie in the Face: Krusty tries to do the routine on his show, but since the budget can't afford pies, the IRS guy throws his briefcase, hitting Krusty in the eye.
    Krusty: Oh, the corner!
  • Porn Stash: Among Krusty's items that gets auctioned off is thirty-two cases of pornography—for twelve cents!
  • Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The episode's title is inspired by the film Barton Fink.
  • Riches to Rags: Krusty after the Feds caught him.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The episode was based on the "big tax problems" that some celebrities, such as country singer Willie Nelson, had at the time.
  • Saying Too Much: The Cayman Islands banker offers, completely unprompted, the information that Krusty has a secret, illegal account.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Famous!: Downplayed. Krusty is arrested for using a Cayman Islands offshore holding company to evade taxes. When Krusty pleads that he can't go to jail because he lives a fancy lifestyle and is used to the best, the IRS agents assure him that "This is America, we don't send our celebrities to jail", but they do take control of 95% of his assets until he can pay off the debt.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Krusty's tirade after he loses his fortune, particularly "I got to ride the bus like a schnook!", paraphrases Henry Hill's last lines from Goodfellas ("I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.").
    • According to Bill Oakley, Krusty's Faking the Dead stint is based on longtime rumors that Andy Kaufman fabricated his 1984 death from lung cancer.
    • "Hi, I'm Troy McClure! You might remember me from such funeral services as 'André the Giant: We Hardly Knew Ye' and 'Shemp Howard: Today We Mourn a Stooge'!"
    • The Sea Captain ends his phone call by saying, "Call me back, Ishmael."
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: When Bart sees Krusty sitting off the curb, Bart tries to cheer him up. Krusty's response is basically this trope in a nutshell.
    Bart: I'm sorry for all the trouble I've caused you, Krusty, but you know, my mom says God never closes a door without opening a window.
    Krusty: No offense, kid, but your mom's a dingbat! There's no silver lining here.
  • Silly Will: When the family are informed their late aunt Hortense's last will stipulates they get her money if they stay in a haunted house, Marge questions this. Apparently it's a fairly standard clause.
  • Spotting the Thread: When Bart and Lisa confront "Rory B. Bellows" (the man resembling Krusty Bart started seeing after Krusty's supposed death), they notice he has Krusty's distinct pacemaker scar and superfluous third nipple (as he's not wearing a shirt). After hearing this, Krusty drops the act.
  • Stupid Crooks: Of a rare white collar kind. Krusty evades his taxes by investing his money in the suspiciously-named "Cayman Islands Offshore Holding Corporation," which is enough to tip off the first bank to notice and begin conducting a serious investigation. And the guy who works at the holding corporation turns out to be a little too loose-lipped, revealing Krusty's fraud over the phone unintentionally.
  • Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard: Krusty is not fazed by Marge's saying, so he responds with:
    Krusty: No offense, kid, but your mom's a dingbat!
  • Swiss Bank Account: The Cayman Islands version.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • As he laments how everything's gone to crud for him, Krusty says that at least he has all the things locked up in his mansion. He then walks into the auction of all his family memorabilia being held in his mansion.
    • Upon seeing Krusty flying his plane, Bart says he has feeling that Krusty will be alright. As if on cue, the plane crashes into a mountain.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Most of the episode follows Krusty's humiliating fall from grace. His suffering is kept more funny than tragic because he brought it entirely on himself and clearly thinks being famous makes him better than regular people.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: In an innocent attempt to get Krusty's autograph, Bart starts a chain of events that expose him as a serial tax-dodger going back a couple decades at minimum.
  • Whammy Bid: Inverted. Krusty's family heirlooms are auctioned without his notice, though due to an incompetent auctioneer who makes no starting bids, they are sold for prices seldom above a buck.
  • White-Collar Crime: When Bart takes the check he made out for Krusty to the bank so that they could make Krusty sign it and get his autograph, the banker makes a series of phone calls where it is discovered that Krusty underreported his income from his show, licensing rights, and properties. Krusty's soon after arrested for tax evasion, and as punishment his income is severely garnished, his business assets are confiscated, and his personal assets are sold off to help pay off his back taxes.
  • Work Off the Debt: Krusty's salary is heavily garnished until he pays his back taxes, which is expected to take the rest of his life. Inexplicably, they also take most of his show's budget which is not legal (Krusty doesn't own the station) and is a blatantly stupid idea (the show can't make any money if they can't make anything for people to watch).
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Feeling terrible about the situation he's put Krusty in, Bart gives Krusty permission to punch him in the face if he like. Though tempted by the offer and still enraged at the little boy, not even at his lowest point can Krusty go through with hurting a child. As such, Krusty refuses to punch Bart and instead coldly tells him to go home, making Bart even more dejected than ever.
    Bart: Well, if it makes you feel any better, you can punch me in the face. (closes his eyes to await the punch)
    Krusty: (attempts to make the punch with his fist, but decides not to) Nah, forget it. Go home, kid.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Bart saw a man who resembles Krusty, he believes that's really him (which eventually turns out to be right) and tries to convince his family Krusty's alive. Lisa think he's only imagined seeing him because he feels guilty for inadvertently causing his death.
    Bart: Mom, I just saw Krusty!
    Marge: Yes, dear, in your mind.
    Bart: No, on the street.
    Marge: On the street in your mind.
    Bart: [upset] Why won't you believe me?
    Marge: Sweetheart, sometimes when people die, you just want them to be alive so badly you see them everywhere. I went through the same thing when Lyndon Johnson died.


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