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Recap / The Simpsons S 7 E 2122 Short Films About Springfield

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Episode - 3F18
First Aired - 4/14/1996
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While spitting on cars from a bridge, Milhouse and Bart begin to wonder if anything interesting ever happens to the people of Springfield — and soon the episode shifts into several vignettes about the lives of everyone in town, from Apu leaving work to go to a party to Lisa getting gum in her hair to several "wacky sitcom" style set pieces (Principal Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers having lunch and Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel getting boots for Brandine) to Milhouse desperately searching for a bathroom to Nelson learning a lesson about laughing at others.

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Tropes:

  • Accidental Hero: Milhouse was just playing around with a mace when he saved his dad, Snake and Chief Wiggum from Herman.
  • Adult Fear: Homer getting Maggie stuck inside a newspaper vendor. His panic is not helped by a newspaper article headlined, "Deadbeat Dad Beat Dead".
  • The Alleged Car: Implied with the Tall Man's VW Bug — it works perfectly fine (that we can see), but the driver barely fits in and the man points out to Nelson that it's the tallest car he could afford.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Steaming a hamburger? It's possible. Which is why one of Chalmers' questions is why call them "steamed" when they were obviously grilled.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: "So you call them 'steamed hams' despite the fact they are obviously grilled." At which point Seymour is reduced to stuttering because he can't think of a new lie on the spot.
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  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Many of the Spanish words used in Bumblebee Man's segment are easily understood cognates of English and not accurate Spanish; this was done deliberately so that non-Spanish speakers could understand the dialogue without subtitles.
  • Author Avatar: The very tall man was a caricature of writer Ian Maxtone-Graham.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Turns out that Moe's Bar has a panic room with a small bulletproof window, that Moe uses when it's held up by Snake. The "impractical" part lies in both the fact that there is nothing in the panic room that can help prevent a thief that is inside the bar from simply opening the cashier and taking off with all the money and (to make things worse) the panic room has no ventilation.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Dr. Nick is a hard-core quack even when he's working for a fully-qualified hospital, with the review staff bringing up both him doing serious mishandling of cadavers (Nick answers back that he did it because he was bored and needed to use the carpool lane) and doing open-chest surgery with utensils of a seafood restaurant that he had used to eat with (Nick defends himself saying that he cleaned them with the napkin). Becomes a Bunny-Ears Lawyer situation because the fact he is the only true-blue "quack" in the house means that a combative Grandpa takes his false advice seriously.
  • Bee Afraid: The gum on Lisa's hair attracts a swarm of bees. One then flies off and ends up stinging Smithers, who has a bee sting allergy.
  • Beyond the Impossible: Somehow, Skinner manages to get away with passing off Krusty Burgers as "steamed hams" and prevents Chalmers from becoming aware that his house is on fire by claiming it's Aurora Borealis.
  • Blatant Lies: Skinner tells some during the "Skinner and the Superintendent" short.
    • The most blatant is his attempt to have his kitchen fire dismissed as an Aurora Borealis.
      Chalmers: Aurora Borealis? At this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within your kitchen!?!
      Skinner: Yes.
      Chalmers: (genuinely curious) May I see it?
      (beat)
      Skinner: No.
    • Skinner casually throws his mother under the bus just to save his luncheon.
      Agnes: Seymour! The house is on fire!
      Skinner: No, Mother, it's just the Northern Lights.
  • Blunt "Yes": When Chalmers questions the possibility of an aurora borealis in Skinner's kitchen, Skinner's response is a matter-of-factly "yes".
  • Book-Ends: Bart and Milhouse sitting at the overpass and spraying condiments down onto passerby.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The episode ends with Frink rushing in to do his vignette, only for the credits to start rolling.
  • Buffy Speak:
    Smithers: I-I'm allergic to bee stings. They cause me to, uh, die.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp":
    • Played for Laughs. Skinner calls the Krusty burgers he buys for his lunch with Chalmers "steamed hams" and falsely claims it's part of a regional dialect from Albany, New York.
    • Discussed by Lou. In a conversation he has with his partner and chief, the cop talks about McDonald's and how it serves most of the same food as Krusty Burger, but but all under different names the others find strange.
      Wiggum: Do they have Krusty Partially Gelatinated Non-Dairy Gum-Based Beverages?
      Lou: Mm-hmm. They call them 'shakes.'
      Eddie: Hmph. Shakes. You don't know what you're getting.
  • Code Silver: Dr. Nick's performance review is interrupted by Grandpa Simpson, in the middle of a nervous breakdown, grabbing a scalpel and threatening to stab anybody that gets near him unless a quack doctor listens to his complaining STAT. Dr. Nick (the only quack in the hospital staff) ends up being Saved by the Awesome as a result.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Tall Guy asks Nelson if he should be laughed at for owning a small car, Nelson, afraid of Tall Guy but either not understanding the question, or simply unable to not insult him, defeatedly says "I guess so".
  • Continuity Nod: The Kwik-E-Mart is closed for the second time ever (third, if you count the short scene in "Homer the Vigilante" where Apu is on the roof of the Kwik-E-Mart and shoots at a customer who stops by the store), and Apu eats a tofu dog at Sanjay's party.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: When Homer accidentally locks Maggie inside a newspaper dispenser, he writes a note on a scrap of paper with spray cheese and tucks it to Santa's Little Helper's collar. Unfortunately, SLH eats it.
  • Creator Cameo: The crowd on the street who laugh at Nelson includes caricatures of Matt Groening, Bill Oakley, and Josh Weinstein. Oakley wrote in the script that the street was filled with Springfield's biggest idiots and so the animators drew him, Weinstein, and Groening into the scene.
  • Cringe Comedy: Principal Skinner's lunch with Superintendent Chalmers, bluffing his way through claiming that the Krustyburgers he serves are homemade "steamed hams". And then saying that the fire in his kitchen is the aurora borealis.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Almost everyone for the residents of Springfield such as Smithers, Dr. Nick, and others (except for Professor Frink, whose chance at his own story gets cut off by the closing credits).
  • Dinner with the Boss: The segment of Principal Skinner having Superintendent Chalmers over for lunch.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Near the end of his lunch with Chalmers, Skinner excuses himself to enter the kitchen, only to immediately exit out and feign tiredness upon seeing the massive fire.
  • Dramatic Stutter: "So you call them 'steamed hams' despite the fact they are obviously grilled." At which point Seymour is reduced to stuttering because he can't think of a new lie on the spot.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-Universe — the Tall Man's reaction to Nelson mocking him because the VW Bug (that he barely fits in) is the tallest car that he could afford to buy is to Brake Angrily, get out and chase after him with apparent intent to beat the crap out of him, but settling only on panting him and forcing him to march down the street while everybody else mocks him.
  • Epic Fail: Skinner is so concerned about salvaging his dinner with Chalmers that he neglects to so much as turn the oven off as his roast is literally on fire. Cue the oven setting the house on fire. In fact, the fact that Skinner is so inattentive that his roast catches on fire in the first place (not an easy feat unless a lot of grease is involved) would normally be enough for this trope.
  • Exact Words: Cletus is atop a telephone pole.
    Cletus: Hey, you know what? I could call my ma while I'm up here. (yells) Hey, maw! Get off the dang roof!
  • Expository Theme Tune: The sequences involving Cletus ("Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel") and Skinner and Chalmers ("The Principal and the Superintendent") have them. Cletus' even has the lyrics appearing on-screen in a Follow the Bouncing Ball fashion. Frink made one for his segment, and sings a few lines to try to convince people to let it air, but he calls it quits when it's clear the episode is over.
  • Fat Bastard: The Comic Book Guy, as usual. He not only refuses to lend Milhouse his bathroom (saying that it's for customers only) while seeing that Milhouse is about to wet himself, but when Milhouse buys a used comic (worth about ten cents, all he can afford, and CBG insults Milhouse when he points at a Sean Connery picture (signed by Roger Moore) desperately looking for something to purchase) so he'll do and Kirk barges into the shop at that moment and thinks that Milhouse was just buying comics, CBG never explains what is going on, just saying that "the transaction is over" and letting Kirk drag his son out.
  • "Fawlty Towers" Plot: Principal Skinner accidentally burns the dinner he hoped to impress Superintendent Chalmers with and tries to pass off fast food hamburgers as his own cooking. ("I thought we were having steamed clams." "Oh, no, I said steamed hams. That's what I call hamburgers.") It ends with him trying to pass off a kitchen fire as the Aurora Borealis. Subverted in the sense that it actually works. Chalmers walks away believing everything Skinner said... but Skinner now has to call the fire department to deal with the house fire.
  • For Want of a Nail: Should Nelson not have opened up his big mouth as he always did, he would have avoided pissing off the wrong guy that day, and would have avoided Lisa's apathy to his plight as she helped point out the sewer where Nelson was lurking.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: Nelson, laughing at everything, including Lisa's new hairdo and Mrs. Glick after she trips over a trash can. He then sees a Volkswagen Beetle, the driver of whom is cramped inside and seated awkwardly in such a way that his knees rise above his head, and laughs. Suddenly, the car stops and the driver comes out ... and after revealing himself to be quite tall, Nelson realizes the man is coming after him and, after doing an "Oh, Crap!," tries to run. But the man is too fast, and after catching him, explains that he cannot afford to drive a nicer car. He then makes him pull down his shorts and walk down Main Street, the car following close behind. Everyone laughs at Nelson, just as he did to them so many times in the past during their misfortune, while Bart and Milhouse splatter ketchup and mustard on him from atop an overpass, where they are watching the events unfold.
  • Fridge Logic: Invoked by Chalmers.
    Chalmers: Aurora Borealis? At this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within your kitchen!?!
  • Hydrant Geyser: Parodied when Chief Wiggum, on foot, recognizes Snake at the wheel of his car at a light and in the ensuing attempt to flee Snake crashes into a mailbox which results in a geyser of letters spewing forth from the ground.
  • Gum In Hair: Lisa's dilemma in her story. She and Marge resort to more and more drastic measures to remove it.
  • Humiliation Conga: With pants down and forced to march down the city streets with a car steadily tailing him, Nelson is paraded forward with all of the town in joy and jest as "the kid who laughs at everyone" is given a taste of his own medicine. Only beginning his march of shame, Bart and Milhouse soon target him with condiments, and it's implied that there's even more to be had on Nelson as he continues his march.
  • I Am One of Those, Too: Skinner tells Chalmers that he calls hamburgers "steamed hams" because it's a dialect from upstate New York.
    Chalmers: Really? Well, I'm from Utica and I never heard anyone use the phrase, "steamed hams."
  • Idiot Ball: Both Skinner and Chalmers hold it during their segment (Skinner for his stupid mistakes and absurd, inconsistent lies. Chalmers for taking them at face value). Both Skinner and Chalmers are smarter than this, but the whole anecdote wouldn't be as amusing otherwise.
  • Implausible Deniability: Skinner denies that the house is on fire, casually telling his mother that it's just the aurora borealis. Chalmers points out how unlikely that is and asks again. Skinner upholds the lie, and Chalmers believes it.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong:
    Lisa (after seeing her new bob-cut after the barber takes out the gummed-up part): Thank you! I finally look like a real person!
    Gets out of barbershop, one second after saying that.
    Nelson (standing outside, points at her): Haw-haw!!
    Lisa, dejected, puts her beanie back on and shuffles away looking miserable.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • After a whole episode of feeling miserable because of the plight with the gum in her hair, Lisa finally gets it removed and gets a nice new hairstyle to boot, making her feel good about herself. Nelson mocks her the second she steps out of the barber shop, making her depressed again.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Nelson points and laughs at the Tall Guy. The Tall Guy pantses him, and parades him through the town, getting everyone to laugh at him. Right before laughing at the Tall Guy, Nelson laughed at Lisa's new hairstyle after she got the gum removed from her hair. Later on, when the Tall Guy is chasing him, Lisa tells the Tall Guy that Nelson is hiding down a manhole which leads to the Tall Guy pantsing him.
    • Though not the first time he had been arrested, Snake this time around is manhandled by a criminal worse than him, and unlike Wiggum, he never leaves the premises (probably thanks to Milhouse and his dad), implying Moe gets his money back and he is incarcerated, again.
  • Last Resort Takeout: In one of the most famous (or at least memetic) examples of this trope, Principal Skinner has Superintendent Chalmers over for lunch and manages to burn the roast, so he climbs out the window and gets burgers from the local Krusty Burger, calling them "steamed hams". (It's an Albany expression.)
  • Lethal Chef: Exaggerated. Skinner is apparently so terrible at oven-cooking a roast that it catches fire, and worse yet, he focuses on what to do to please Chalmers because of this mishap so much that he doesn't does anything about the fire until it has spread to the whole house.
  • Lethal Diagnosis: Played for Laughs. Thanks to Grandpa's (combative) insistence that he needs to hear a quack doctor, what may have been regular hypochondria and old-man pains ends up with him being electrocuted with live wires for hours.
  • Lighter and Softer: The sequence inside of the gun shop to the similar one in Pulp Fiction, thanks to Milhouse's and Kirk's accidental Big Damn Heroes intervention. Making a long story short, Tarantino's version includes some bloody Rape and Revenge.
  • Mugging the Monster: Nelson is horrified by how tall the Tall Guy actually was.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Sideshow Mel says that whatever the Simpsons end up doing, what they should not do is try to remove the gum by using a bone, while he fidgets with the bone in his own hair.
    • Whatever the directions Skinner gave to get Chalmers to his house were, they were apparently confusing enough that when Chalmers greets Skinner, he notes that he made it "despite your directions."
  • Non-Indicative Name:
    • There are actually 19 segments in the episode.
    • Skinner's "Steamed Hams" are obviously grilled. When Chalmers points it out, Skinner tries to book it because he can't think of any more Blatant Lies to try to cover his ass.
  • Nosy Neighbor: What seems to be the whole town enters the Simpson home and offers ideas on how to deal with the gum stuck on Lisa's hair.
  • Not Hyperbole: Barney comments that the people at Moe's had a good laugh when Moe said he'd need to send Barney's tab to NASA to calculate. Moe reveals that he did and the results have just arrived.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: Dr. Nick is accused of mishandling cadavers. "I get here faster in the carpool lane," he says in his defense.
  • Off-Model: When Superintendent Chalmers says, "I see," the outline of his nose briefly comes up to his forehead.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Barney, when Moe points out he owes him 70 billion dollars in bar tab debts. He calms down after Moe realises that was the cost of the Voyager spacecraft and promptly gives him his actual total: a mere 14 billion dollars.
    • From Nelson, when he realizes that the Very Tall Man has stopped his car and is coming after him for laughing about his appearance. Then a second time, after Lisa tells the guy that Nelson is hiding down the manhole.
    • "Oh, Egads! My roast is ruined!"
    • "Yes, and you call them 'steamed hams' despite the fact that they are obviously grilled." Cue the only time Skinner gets flustered in the entire skit, resulting in him excusing himself because he can't think of a good response.
    • "Yes, I should be—GOOD LORD! What is happening in there?!"
  • Parrot Expo What:
    Lou: You know, I went to the McDonald's in Shelbyville on Friday night—
    Wiggum: The McWhat?
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: The episode was a backdoor pilot for a spinoff called Tales from Springfield, which would showcase the lives of every character on the show who wasn't a member of The Simpson family. The crew decided it would be too much work, and the idea was abandoned.
  • Potty Emergency: Milhouse's story when he's at the Comic Book Guy's store and the antique shop where Snake and Chief Wiggum are held hostage.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Seymour Skinner would rather allow his house to be set on fire (endangering his mother as well) or look like a complete idiot in front of his boss with an endless barrage of Blatant Lies than run any risk of pissing off Chalmers by letting him know the house is on fire, or that yeah, they are eating Krustyburgers but there's an explanation for that.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Skinner manages to successfully entertain Chalmers with his "steamed hams" luncheon... at the cost of his house.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • Even though Skinner's lies keep getting more and more blatant, Chalmers ends up buying them all. Particularly the Aurora Borealis bit, where Chalmers is taken completely off-guard by Skinner's Blunt "Yes" and his initial incredulity turns into genuine curiosity.
    • Dr. Nick calms down a combative Grandpa by prescribing his regular old man pains as a faked disease that will make Grandpa's skeleton rip itself out of his body unless he electroshocks him constantly for several hours.
  • Running Gagged: The "Hi, Dr. Nick!" part of the usual "Hi, everybody! Hi, Dr. Nick!" exchange is less enthusiastic than usual. Justified because it's a medical review board that is sick of his lack of professional behavior and is going to fire him.
  • Saved by the Awesome: The medical review board is so astonished by the ease Dr. Nick was able to calm down Grandpa with his quackery that they allow him to keep his license.
  • Say My Name: Chalmers upon seeing Skinner trying to escape out the kitchen window.
    Chalmers: SEYYYYYYYYYYYYMOUUUUUUUUUURRRRR!!
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: In the segment he shares with Wiggum and Eddie, Lou talks in great detail on his recent experience eating at a McDonalds, and how it differs from Krusty Burger.
  • Series Continuity Error: In this episode, Smithers tells Mr. Burns he's deathly allergic to bee stings. In "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk", Burns starts a bee farm and invites Smithers to see it, and he's perfectly fine with bees.
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: Moe sent Barney's bar tab to NASA to calculate, and the total came back as $14 billion (for comparison, the Challenger space shuttle was a lot less expensive). He'd have to drink five beers a day at $2 each for roughly 3.8 million years.
  • Shout-Out: The salon where Lisa goes to remove the gum (and everything else added during the failed attempts to remove the gum) is named Snippy Longstockings.
    • Snake and Chief Wiggum's segments parody the Marsellus-Butch storyline from Pulp Fiction. Wiggum and Lou also do a version of the film's "Royale with Cheese" scene.
    • The name of the episode is a Snowclone Title to 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould.
    • The short that follows Dr. Nick briefly changes into a homage to ER with Grandpa's attack, even using a similar jingle as background music.
  • Shown Their Work: In the Mr. Burns story, every single word he yells at Smithers is real and used correctly. To maintain accuracy, the writers used a 19th-century slang thesaurus to look up words.
  • Something Completely Different: A Vignette Episode-cum-Pulp Fiction parody.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Lisa tells the Tall Man where to find Nelson.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!:
    Chalmers: Yes, I should be—(sees Seymour's kitchen on fire through the door) GOOD LORD! WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THERE?!
  • Tandem Parasite: Mr. Burns won't pedal while in his and Smithers's tandem bicycle, even when Smithers is stung by a bee; Burns just orders Smithers to pedal himself to the hospital.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: The Tall Man leads the people of Springfield in laughing at Nelson, complete with "Ha-ha!".
  • Vengeful Vending Machine: Homer tries to get a newspaper while walking the dog and carrying Maggie and groceries simultaneously. While he does manage to get the paper, he ends up accidentally locking Maggie in the vendor, and since he has no money left, he attempts to free her through various methods before ultimately taking the vending machine itself home with him.
  • Vignette Episode: Invoked when Bart and Milhouse discuss whether or not the people in town have their own adventures.
  • You Can't Miss It: Implied by Chalmers when he arrives at Skinner's doorstep:
    Chalmers: Well, Seymour, I made it... Despite your directions.

Agnes: Seymour! The TV Tropes Wiki is on fire!
Skinner: No, Mother, it's just the Red Links.
Chalmers: Well Seymour, you are an odd fellow, but I must say: You steam a good trope.
(As Chalmers leaves down the Information Superhighway, flames can be seen within every wiki article.)
Agnes: Help! Help!
(Chalmers turns. Skinner smiles and gives him a big thumbs-up. Chalmers finally disappears, and Skinner races back into the website.)

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