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Recap / The Simpsons S 7 E 16 Lisa The Iconoclast

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Original air date: 2/18/1996 (produced in 1995)

Production code: 3F13

On the days before Springfield's Founders' Day, Lisa discovers that Jebediah Springfield was actually a pirate who tried to murder George Washington and changed his name to dodge authorities, but no one (not even her own mother) wants to hear the truth — except for Homer, who risks his role as town crier for the Founders' Day parade to help his daughter.


  • Ad-Break Double-Take: The exhumation of Jebediah Springfield's coffin.
  • Alliterative Name: Hollis Hurlbut.
  • Appeal to Audacity: Homer is the only person who believes Lisa's claims. He recognizes that she wouldn't say something so insane and dire about the town's founder unless it was absolutely true.
  • Assassin Outclassin': Sprungfeld tried to assassinate George Washington, only to get his ass handed to him.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: The famous story of Jebediah Springfield taming a wild buffalo is revealed to be a fraud in his secret confession; the buffalo was already quite tame, and he simply shot it and mounted its head as a trophy.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Hans Sprungfeld tried to assassinate Washington while he was posing for the famous portrait by Gilbert Stuart; he failed, but escaped, ripping a small piece off the painting, explaining the "unfinished" segment.
  • Bread and Circuses: A newspaper ad asking for people to join a parade has the headline "Parade to Distract Joyless Citizenry".
  • Call-Back: Sprungfeld's confession mentions his shooting a buffalo, something established way back in "The Telltale Head". Here, he clarifies the buffalo had in fact been tame. He'd just shot it.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Jebediah Springfield/Hans Sprungfeld's secret confession has him explicitly describe himself as a "murderous pirate", and even includes him transcribing his Evil Laugh.
  • Cassandra Truth: No one believed Lisa on the truth of the real Jebediah Springfield (except for Homer, surprisingly).
  • Cerebus Retcon: To other episodes that showcased Springfield as a cool historical figurehead, such as "The Telltale Head". Turns out that Jebediah Springfield was such a hard-core vile son of a bitch that Bart's little crime ends up being a little karmic.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    Chief Wiggum: Jebediah Springfield has been replaced with a skeleton!
  • The Comically Serious: When Lisa jokes about having "Chester A. Arthritis", Hollis only says "You have arthritis?".
  • Contagious Cassandra Truth: Homer comes to believe Lisa's claim that that the wanted pirate Hans Sprungfeld assumed the identity to escape the authorities, because she's smart enough to know what she's talking about, and is also the only one who supports her when she asks the town council to dig up "Springfield's" grave to prove whether she's right or wrong.
  • Couch Gag: Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Grampa (who’s sleeping), Santa's Little Helper, and Snowball II are in a Brady Bunch-style nine-square grid, with the couch in the center square. Everyone except Grampa runs to the center square.
  • Daddy's Girl: Homer is very supportive of Lisa in this episode since he knows she tends to only talks like that when she knows something is true, and helps her as much as he can.
  • Dead Guy Puppet: Played for laughs when Chief Wiggum picks up Jebediah Springfield's skull and plays ventriloquist with it.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Moe exclaims that while he supports pretty much any prejudice you could name, Lisa's denouncing of Jebediah Springfield disgusts him.
    • Even if Lisa is the kind of person that would expose a truth even if that means destroying someone's life because she believes it's the right thing to do, the fact that exposing this truth would destroy the hopes and dreams and sacrifices of countless generations of Springfield citizens past, present and future is something that makes her decide to keep it buried.
  • Evil All Along: Jebediah Springfield turns out to have always been a criminal and jerk instead of the beloved founder everyone takes him as.
  • Evil Laugh: Jebediah Springfield/Hans Sprungfeld, both when he attacked George Washington and when he finished writing his confession (he even wrote down his sinister laughter in it as well).
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional: Hurlbut claims that the Jebediah confession has as much credibility as the Howard Hughes will, the Hitler Diaries, and the Emancipation Retraction.
  • Female Misogynist: Ms. Hoover has shades of this when she accuses Lisa of "Dead white male bashing," calls her a P.C. thug and it's girls like her that make it difficult for women to get husbands.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: When Lisa goes back to the Historical Society to confront Hurlbut, he was in the midst of sweeping the floor. He takes a furtive look around him and starts sweeping the dust under the rug.
  • Foreshadowing: Apu refers to himself as a "semi-legal immigrant," which would later be explored in "Much Apu About Nothing".
  • Genre Savvy: Homer's starting to wise up, which is why he believes Lisa and decides to back her.
    Homer: You're always right about this type of thing, and for once I want in on the ground floor.
  • Groin Attack: A flashback shows George Washington, while in his fight with Hans Sprungfeld/Jebediah Springfield, using his wooden false teeth to bite Sprungfeld/Springfield on the family jewels.
  • He Knows Too Much: At the climax, when Lisa is about to expose the truth about Jebediah Springfield to the crowd attending the parade, we find out that Quimby ordered a sniper to shoot Lisa if she revealed the truth. Quimby tells the sniper to wait so they can hear what she will say, Lisa decides to not tell the truth... and the sniper fires anyway (whether on his own volition or on Quimby's orders, we don't know), hitting where Lisa was standing one second before.
  • Hidden Disdain Reveal: Springfield/Sprungfeld's confession reveals that he considered the people who venerated him to be a bunch of easily duped halfwits.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Jebediah's silver tongue. Hollis had hid it as a cowboy in one of the display cases of the Jebediah Springfield Museum. The 'plain sight' aspect is slightly questionable, since no one (except Lisa) ever visits the museum.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: George Washington is ambushed by a would-be assassin, but out-wrestles him and sends him fleeing; of course, possibly not much of an "upgrade" for him at all, seeing how tough he was said to be.
  • Historical Domain Character: George Washington, he was Jebediah Springfield's (in his Hans Sprungfeld identity) enemy and even managed to put off an intense fist fight during Jebediah's assassination attempt. He later appears to Lisa as a vision to scold her when she considers giving up her effort to expose Jebediah Springfield as a fraud.
    George Washington: We had quitters during the Revolution, too. We called them 'Kentuckians'.
  • Honor Before Reason: The situation with Sprungfeld stands out all the more (especially because of latter-season Flanderization) because it's a pretty rare time where Lisa decides on her own volition to not go down this path in the end, after an entire episode of trying to expose Jebediah come hell or high water.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Just as Wiggum checks Jebediah's skull for the silver tongue, he begs the founder to forgive them and that they mean "no disrespect." Five seconds later, he uses the skull as a ventriloquist dummy, to the delight of everyone present.
  • Idiot Ball: Despite having at least one piece of empirical evidence that Jebediah Springfield and Hans Sprungfeld are one and the same (the near-identical pictures she showed to her family), Lisa never bothers to present it to any of the people she tries to convince of the truth.
  • Jerkass:
    • Hans Sprungfeld decided to write down a letter to confess all of his crimes only when he was dying of Diphtheria and did so with much glee (he even wrote down his Evil Laugh!). Among multiple other ruthlessly violent things he did during his lifetime, he tried to assassinate George Washington. He also has no problem calling all of the citizens of Springfield past, present and future (because they followed him into founding the town) a bunch of idiots.
    • Ms. Hoover, especially toward Lisa; she denounces Lisa's essay about Jebediah's true nature in front of the entire class and dubs her a "P.C. thug" who keeps women like Hoover from landing a husband.
  • Jerkass Ball:
    • Marge outright dismisses and insults Lisa's findings without even considering it a possibility.
    • Downplayed, but the whole plot is set forward only because Lisa carelessly played around with historical belongings, something the character, at least at this point in the show, would usually consider an incredibly disrespectful and stupid risk.
    • George Washington (in the flashback scene) when he half-heartedly says he'll use Betsy Ross's flag and then angrily refuses to pay for it.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: After losing his fight with George Washington in a spectacularly painful fashion, Hans Sprungfeld crawls away while Washington is distracted.
  • Literal Metaphor: When Lisa talks about Hans Sprungfeld’s silver tongue (his real tongue was lost after it was bitten out in a fight), Reverend Lovejoy argues that people only say that Jebediah Springfield had a silver tongue because he was such a fine speaker. Homer ultimately proclaims that the only solution is to dig up Jebediah’s grave to prove whether or not he had a real silver tongue.
  • Mondegreen Gag: Homer mishears Lisa recounting Ms. Hoover calling her a "P.C. thug" as "greasy thug". He's still just as sympathetic to her plight.
  • Museum of Boredom: To everybody else in town but Lisa, the Jebediah Springfield Museum is this.
  • No Hero to His Valet: The main plot of this episode. When Lisa does find proof that might convince everyone (causing Mayor Quimby to consider shooting her before she can reveal it) she changes her mind, telling everyone that she was wrong the whole time. (Why? After seeing the positive factors of the town's bicentennial celebration like the veterans at the parade and children having fun, she decided that the town knowing the truth would destroy hope and morale.)
  • Noodle Incident: Apparently, no town meeting in Springfield has ended without someone digging up a corpse.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Homer laments having been called a "greasy thug", and how much it hurts him. Then, his solution for making Lisa feel better is grease himself up, go around to the museum and smash everything with a baseball bat.
  • Older Than They Look: This was the first episode to imply that Kearney is above the normal age for an elementary school student. According to Principal Skinner, Kearney is the only kid in Springfield Elementary to remember both the 1976 Bicentennial and the Watergate scandal (which, at the time of the episode, would put him between the ages of 20 and 39) and he is seen shaving.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Hans Sprungfeld changed next to nothing about himself to start his life as Jebediah Springfield, only switching from a pirate outfit to a coonskin hat. Not only did this work in the 1800s, it continues to work in the present; even with Lisa holding up near-identical pictures of Springfield and Sprungfeld, Marge refuses to believe that they're the same man.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Trope Namer. This is the episode that introduced "embiggen" (which means "to empower") and "cromulent" (which has come to mean "acceptable" or "appropriate") as words that would later become part of the Oxford English dictionary.
    Mrs. Krabapple: "Embiggens"? Never heard that word before I moved to Springfield.
    Ms. Hoover: I don't know why, it's a perfectly cromulent word.
  • Persona Non Grata: Played with when an outraged Hollis Hurlbut, who after first hearing the news about the real Jebediah Springfield from Lisa, have Lisa (and her next two generations of progeny) banned from the historical society... for three months.
    Hollis Hurlbut: Get out! You're banned from this Historical Society. You, and your children, and your children's children! ... for three months.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Homer believes Lisa's theory and goes out of his way to support her when all others in Springfield, including Marge, doubt or deride her for expressing such views.
    • Apu, at least, is more polite about it than the others. Instead of yelling at Lisa that she's wrong, he uses his "semi-legal" status as the reason that he cannot afford to put up Lisa's unpopular announcement up in his store. Moe, as well, does not direct any venom at Lisa either, but at Homer instead, presumably for encouraging Lisa to spread views that -- in Springfield -- could very well get her killed.
    • During the parade, Homer takes back the town cryer hat and bell from Flanders. Helen Lovejoy demands that the police do something, but Chief Wiggum is so impressed by Homer's energy he decides to let him march.
  • Poke the Poodle: After Lisa learns the truth about Jebediah Springfield, Hollis immediately bans her, her future children, and her future children's children from the historical society... for three months.
  • The Power of Legacy: Lisa does a rare backtrack in her quest to expose the truth about a man because doing otherwise would demolish whatever good faith Springfield has that was born out of looking up to Jedediah Springfield.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Parodied when Hurlbut bans Lisa from the Springfield Historical Society: "You are banned from this historical society! You, and your children, and your children's children! ...For three months".
  • So Crazy, It Must Be True: Most of the townspeople scoff Lisa's insistence that Jebediah Springfield was actually a bloodthirsty pirate and rogue. But Homer believes her because she's smart and insightful and usually right about these things, even if they sound crazy.
  • Special Guest: Donald Sutherland as Hollis Hurlbut.
  • Stylistic Suck: The movie about Jebediah the school kids watch. Examples include an obvious stuntman, Troy McClure riding a blatantly fake buffalo (with the squeaking of the prop left in the film), two extras pushing the fake buffalo into a crowd then trying to look inconspicuous, and the boom mic slipping into frame.
  • Take That!: George Washington says the Revolution's quitters used to be called 'Kentuckians'.
  • Tongue Trauma: Hans Sprungfeld's/Jebediah Springfield's silver tongue. His real tongue got bitten off by a Turk.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Springfield's founder Jebediah Springfield was actually a murderous pirate named Hans Sprungfeld, who once tried to assassinate George Washington. And Hollis Hurlbut and Lisa are not the only ones who know the truth, as Mayor Quimby is also shown to know or at least strongly suspect it... and he would go so far as to have Lisa murdered in order to keep it a secret.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Hans Sprungfeld was a pirate that tried to kill George Washington. But he changed his name to Jebediah Springfield and founded the city where he is considered the greatest man of their history. As his secret confession shows, the man himself considered his people "halfwits" and laughed himself silly at the idea that they would never learn the truth.
  • Would Hurt a Child: A sniper confidently states he can hit Lisa. Mayor Quimby only tells him to stop because he wants to hear what she has to say. And when she decides not to tell the truth, the sniper fires anyway. She's lucky she walked away.