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Recap / The Simpsons S7 E17 "Homer the Smithers"

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"Doughnuts? I told you, I don't like ethnic food!"
Episode - 3F14
First Aired - 2/25/1996
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Smithers goes on vacation after having a mental breakdown over not being able to save Burns from being harassed by a drunken Lenny. Homer takes Smithers' place as Mr. Burns' assistant, but all the abuse Homer takes from Mr. Burns causes him to snap and punch the old man in the face, which drives Mr. Burns to be more self-reliant.

Tropes:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Homer manages to light a bowl of cereal on fire by pouring milk on it.
  • The Alcoholic: With Barney as this trope defined, it's reached the point where distracting him while Moe accepts the next shipment has become a paying job. Without a distraction, Barney will accept and drink the entire shipment in a few seconds! No wonder his tab is over $14 billion.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Smithers goes on vacation to a resort that seems to have only men and doesn't allow pictures to be taken.
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  • Antagonistic Offspring: Mr. Burns does not get along with his 122-year-old mother. She apparently had an affair with President Taft, for which he's never forgiven her, and he tried to pull her life support. Surprisingly, she not only pulled through, she's lived for five decades.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Smithers explains his 2800 small jobs to Homer, who is filling in for him while he goes on vacation: "Your new duties will include answering Mr. Burns' phone, preparing his tax return, moistening his eyeballs, assisting with his chewing and swallowing, lying to Congress, and some light typing."
  • Bad Boss: Mr. Burns, only this time, Homer gives him a black eye for it. However, instead of firing him, Burns thanks him for forcing him to be self-sufficient.
  • Bait-and-Switch: After Lisa comments that Smithers would probably get a job anywhere, the scene cuts to a sign reading AT&T. A zoom out reveals that the full sign reads "Neat & Tidy Piano Movers".
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  • Be Careful What You Wish For: When their plan is botched, Smithers attacks Homer in a rage and goads him to fight back. Bad idea.
    Smithers: Stop fighting like a girl, Simpson!
    Homer: Okay... [Slugs Smithers in the face hard]
  • Beleaguered Assistant: The episode has Homer take Smithers' place as this while he's on vacation.
  • Berserk Button: Mr. Burns may not like his mother, but he's still furious at Homer's attempted impersonation of her.
  • Bungled Suicide: Convinced he's a failure, Smithers tries to drown himself in the office water cooler. Burns just holds down the pump until it's empty of water.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Homer's theory on why he was chosen as Smithers' substitute.
      Homer: Smithers chose me to cover for him because of my motivational skills. I've been told everybody has to work harder when I'm around.
    • While impersonating Mr. Burns' mother, Homer is under the impression even she calls him "Mr. Burns."
  • Captain Oblivious: Lenny comes up to Burns' car to cheerfully thank his boss for sponsoring a night at the ballpark, unwittingly terrifying the rich old man with a thumbs-up.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When mentioning Homer to Mr. Burns, Smithers states that "all the recent events in your life have revolved around him in some way."
    • Bobo, Mr. Burns' teddy bear from "Rosebud", appears near the end of the episode.
    • This is the second time Homer snapped and viciously attacked Mr. Burns.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Homer tries to ask Smithers about what he should do in case of fire in Mr. Burns' office, but Smithers can't hear him as he leaves. No sooner than that, a fire starts.
      Homer: Aw, just my luck...
    • Apparently, Moe's Tavern's phone number spells out "Smithers" (7-648-4377).
  • Defeat Equals Friendship: After Homer punches him, Burns is initially scared of Homer. However over time when he becomes self-reliant, he thanks Homer and even puts him back to work at his old job.
    • This happens again between Homer and Smithers. After the fight between Smithers and Homer leads Homer to knock Burns out the window accidentally and put him in traction, Burns orders Smithers to make sure that Homer gets "exactly what he deserves." Smithers, who is now back to waiting on Burns hand and foot, does so by sending the Simpsons a large basket of fruit with the words "Thank You."
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Moe follows up on his end of the Running Gag of giving Bart a death threat in response to a prank call. ...Except it was Burns sincerely calling for Smithers.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Mr. Burns' attempts at driving by himself are pretty hazardous.
    Chief Wiggum: That's some nice reckless driving, Mr. B!
  • Easily Forgiven: After their fight winds up putting Mr. Burns in a full body cast (thus making him need Smithers again), Smithers responds by sending Homer a fruit basket.
  • Epic Fail:
    • Homer somehow setting fire to Mr. Burns' bowl of cereal—after pouring milk and cereal into a bowl like any of us would normally do. It's the present image for its Western Animation page.
    • Smithers' attempted suicide: dunking his head inside of the reservoir of a water cooler to drown himself. All Burns needs to do to stop it is press the water dispenser button until it drains.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Burns learns to respect his underlings after getting punched in the face. He also stops Smithers' attempted suicide and insists he takes a vacation.
  • Exact Words: While at a public phone, Smithers tells Mr. Burns he has to end the call because there's a line behind him. It's a conga line.
  • Failure Montage: Homer tries to make Mr. Burns' breakfast, and screws up every single time. All meals catch fire, even a simple bowl of cereal. Later, Smithers fails to keep any new job he gets.
  • Faux Horrific: While Smithers steps out for a moment, leaving Mr. Burns alone in his car, a drunken but friendly Lenny comes to thank him. To Burns, Lenny looks like an attacker, and even talks about "the glint of murder in his eye" on the ride home.
  • Foreshadowing: The opening has Mr. Burns relying on Smithers for everything, even moreso than usual.
  • For Want of a Nail: By snapping and punching out Mr. Burns, Homer inadvertently made Mr. Burns learn to take care of himself, causing him to fire Smithers the second he gets back.
    • Likewise, Homer and Smithers' fight near the end winds up resetting the status quo due to them knocking over the bear Mr. Burns was hiding on top of, knocking him out the window.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Smithers chooses Homer to be his temporary replacement based on the theory that he'll prove so monstrously incompetent that he won't take Smithers' job permanently. It works; Homer proves to be such a terrible assistant that Mr. Burns has no choice but to become self-sufficient, resulting in him not needing Smithers anymore.
  • Hand Wave: Smithers needs to find a temporary replacement who won't outperform him. When he searches the employee database using keywords such as "incompetent," "lazy," and "monstrously ugly", and the search turns up 714 names:
    "Ahh, nuts to this, I'll just go get Homer Simpson."
  • Incompetence, Inc.: Looking through the personnel computer files for incompetent employees gets 714 results. Looking through the computer files again, adding very precise search details like "monstrously ugly", still gets 714 results. Smithers, fed up, decides to just get Homer.
  • Impossible Task: Mr. Burns asks Homer to prepare him a Dodo egg for him to eat. Homer correctly points out that Dodos are extinct.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Mr. Burns is right, Homer is utterly useless as an assistant. Though this was the reason Smithers gave him the position in the first place.
  • Kevlard: Smithers' fist gets stuck in Homer's stomach, which prompts Homer to laugh and push Smithers' head. Until he gets angry and bites, at which point they both separate.
  • Made of Incendium: Homer tries to make breakfast for Burns only to repeatedly set it on fire. Even when he pours a bowl of corn flakes and milk.
  • Megaton Punch:
    • More because Burns is canonically absurdly weak, but still Homer's single punch on the moment he can't take Burns' insults anymore knocks him out flat for a long while and actually make Homer believe for a moment that he had killed him.
    • He gives another one to Smithers when the latter taunts him during their fight.
  • Mistaken for Prank Call: Mr. Burns tries to call Smithers but doesn't know how telephones work and mistakenly calls Moe's Tavern and Moe thinks Mr. Burns is pranking him.
  • Mood Whiplash: Homer humorously struggles to keep up while substituting as Mr. Burns' personal assistant, until he punches Burns in a fit of rage.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Homer is absolutely horrified when he punches Mr. Burns out, and runs home immediately believing he actually killed the old man.
  • Never My Fault: When Homer and Smithers are caught by Burns, who chews them out, Homer just tells Smithers he "blew it". This is the last straw for Smithers.
  • Noodle Incident: Smithers explains to Homer that Mr. Burns' relationship with his mother is strained, explaining that he hasn't forgiven her since her affair with President Taft. Also, there's this exchange he has while having a phone conversation with "her":
    Mr. Burns: Oh, hello, Mater. Sorry about pulling the plug on you. Who knew that you would have recovered and live for another ... five decades? Boy, is my face red!
  • Oh, Crap!
    • Homer when he punched out Mr. Burns.
    • Also Moe's reaction when he realises Barney's escaped to get at the midnight beer delivery. And the delivery men when they finally notice that the man who approached them is Barney.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Averted Trope. The attempt by Smithers to obtain an incredibly incompetent employee by searching through the plant's files using several keywords still manages to bring up the files for every employee in the plant. In his exasperation, he just goes for Homer.
  • "Psycho" Strings: When Homer realizes he knocked out Mr. Burns.
  • Rage Breaking Point:
    • Burns' endless barrage of requests and belittling make Homer mad enough to punch his lights out (and actually believe for a moment that he killed him). The resulting fear of Homer forces Burns to become self-sufficient, and because of this he decides to fire Smithers (who put Homer on the secretary position hoping it would force Burns to ask for his return faster).
    • Following getting fired and a long list of failed attempts at new jobs, Smithers is willing to go along with wacky scheme with Homer to get his job back. When Homer bungles it and gets him chewed out by Burns, Homer adds salt to the wound by telling a gutted Smithers how bad he blew it this time. Smithers snaps upon this and attacks Homer for repeatedly ruining his livelihood. Given the aforementioned crap Homer suffered because of Smithers earlier however, he's more than willing to fight back.
  • Reality Ensues: Smithers tries to look up incompetent employees to take over his job as Mr. Burns' servant. He gets 714 results, so he adds additional parameters, making it as if the episode is building up to the computer recommending Homer. Instead, the number of results don't actually change, so Smithers gives up on this and just selects Homer at the spur of the moment.
  • Riddle for the Ages: How was Burns' office set on fire?
  • Springtime for Hitler: Out of fear his place as Mr. Burns' assistant would be taken by someone who'd eclipse him, Smithers gives Homer the job. Homer is so incompetent (and violent) that Mr. Burns decides to do things by himself. By the time Smithers returns from his vacation, Mr. Burns has decided he no longer needs an assistant.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Smithers thinks about accepting Moe's "Barney Blocker" job when Homer intervenes.
    Homer: You can't let yourself end up in a place like this. You can give up on yourself and take the Barney-guarding job, like so many of us have contemplated in our darkest moments, or you can admit to yourself there's only one person that can make you happy and do whatever it takes to get them back!

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