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Recap / The Simpsons S7E22 "Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in 'The Curse of the Flying Hellfish'"

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Original air date: 4/28/1996

Production code: 3F19

Mr. Burns sends an assassin after Grandpa when he becomes the only person standing between him and a collection of priceless paintings that the two looted during the Second World War. With Bart helping him, will Grandpa recover the paintings in time, or will Burns beat him to it?

Tropes Are:

  • Affectionate Pickpocket: Bart hugs Mr. Burns, seemingly pulling a Faceā€“Heel Turn, but is actually stealing the keys to the Hellfish Bonanza so that he and Grandpa could go after it.
  • All for Nothing: Grandpa's quest to get the paintings ends up in failure because the State Department takes them and then gives them back to the descendant of the proper owner. Then again, he was equally motivated by making sure Burns didn't get them. And Bart has a newfound respect for him.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Grandpa to Bart at a Grandparent's Day at Springfield Elementary:
    Grandpa: Now, my story begins in 19-dickety two. We had to say "dickety" cause the Kaiser had stolen our word "twenty". I chased that rascal to get it back, but gave up after dickety-six miles. [The children laugh.]
    Martin: Dickety? Highly dubious.
    Grandpa: What're you cackling at, fatty? Too much pie, that's your problem.
    [Martin is mortified.]
    Grandpa: Now I'd like to digress from my prepared remarks to discuss how I invented the terlet.
    Mrs. Krabappel: "Terlet"? Ha!
    Grandpa: Stop your snickering! I spent three years on that terlet.
    [Everyone laughs, while Bart hides his head in his shirt, ashamed.]
    Bart: [Talking to his family at dinner] ...and then he claimed he was the one who turned cats and dogs against each other!
  • And the Rest: In the flashback, Abe lists off the Hellfish, providing more detail to the descriptions of Wiggum, Skinner and Barney's likely parents (or at least close relatives) before finishing with a hurried "there was also Griff, Asa, Ox and Etch".
  • Assassination Attempt: Grandpa tells Bart about how he almost killed Adolf Hitler during World War II, but misses because Monty Burns hits his rifle with a tennis ball. Keep in mind though, this is Abe Simpson telling the story...
  • A-Team Firing: Vidal's machine gun barrage hits literally everything else in the room but Grandpa (who is sitting in a couch). So does the blasts of the nurse's shotgun.
  • Badass Bystander: The retirement home's nurse, who scares Grandpa's assassin away with a shotgun.
  • Berserk Button: Calling Burns a disgrace to the Hellfish. It was enough for him to kill Bart over.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Grandpa loses the paintings to the State Department, who returns them to their rightful owner, but he is able to triumph over Burns and regain Bart's respect.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Grandpa and Mr. Burns are tussling over a set of paintings that they stole from a German castle, but Abe was actually following the rules of the tontine up to that point, and Mr. Burns, in addition to already being overwhelmingly rich, tried to kill his CO and his CO's grandson.
  • Bowdlerisation: On BBC Two in the UK, the part where the Brazilian assassin bursts in and opens fire on Grandpa Simpson at the rest home was edited, but not for violence. You see, in the United Kingdom (much like in Japan after the "Electric Soldier Porygon" disaster), any type of scene featuring rapidly-flashing lights is slowed down so as to not cause seizures in epileptic viewers. In this case, all of the bright flashes coming from the Brazilian assassin's gun had to be slowed down.
  • Cassandra Truth:
  • Cool Old Guy: Milhouse's grandfather is cool for exploring the country with his wife in an RV. Grandpa is a Grumpy Old Man ...until he regains some of his coolness while trying to recover the treasure.
  • Couch Gag: The family sits on the couch. Homer notices a plug in the middle of the floor and pulls it, causing everyone and everything to get sucked down the drain.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Grandpa shows how badass he can be despite his senility.
  • Cruel Mercy: Grandpa spares Burns after watching him squirm, and discharges him from the Hellfish for trying to murder him, allowing him to claim the paintings.
  • Curse of The Ancients: Bart says "Consarn it!" while he and Grandpa chase Mr. Burns in the ending.
  • A Day in the Limelight: This episode focuses more on Bart, Grandpa, and Mr. Burns than it does the Simpson family.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "I was in the Second World War 2."
  • Description Cut: Vidal describes his final plan to attack Grandpa on the Retirement Castle "as intricate and precise as a well-played game of chess" (he's even calculating stuff on a blueprint of the retirement home as he says this). Cut to him just kicking the door open and blasting away with a machine gun, hitting everything but Grandpa.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When Burns takes old paintings from Abe Simpson at gunpoint, and Bart calls Burns a coward and an embarrassment to the name Hellfish, Burns points the gun at Bart's head; Abe says Burns can take the art, just not hurt the boy; Burns remarks that he would rather do both, and kicks Bart into the empty case so hard that it ends up falling into the water, and then Burns boats away, saying "So long, Sarge, see you at the reunion in November!" Seeing as how Burns could have taken the art without hurting the boy, trying to drown him was either in response to his insults or For the Evulz.
  • Dynamic Entry: Shortly after Grandpa finishes recounting his story to Bart, Mr. Burns crashes through the room's wall with a cherry picker. He messes up as he tries to leave and crashes through Lisa's room too, somehow managing to convince her she's dreaming while the rest of the family doesn't wake up.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: As much as he likes Mr. Burns, Smithers is at first unwilling to kill Grandpa Simpson and offers to "let nature assassinate him for us". Burns, on the other hand, says it's a chance he won't take.
  • Evil Is Petty: Burns is willing to kill Grandpa Simpson, his commanding officer over paintings they hid away during the war. Yeah, priceless paintings, but he is plenty rich. He then tries to kill Bart for insulting him after he took away the paintings at gunpoint.
  • Exact Words:
    • When he was a WWII sergeant, Grandpa Simpson and his Flying Hellfish platoon establish a tontine for German artwork, as proposed by Mr. Burns, with the last remaining Hellfish member receiving the tontine. In the present-day, Burns tries to murder Grandpa in order to make himself the last remaining Hellfish, and in the end, Grandpa invokes his authority as sergeant and has Burns kicked out of the platoon, thereby taking away Burns's claim to the tontine.
    • As Burns leaves, Bart says that he can't take the paintings away from Grandpa. The State Department, on the other hand...
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • The nurse at the retirement home fails a listen check and doesn't hear the sounds of gunfire when Vidal attempts to shoot Abe a room away until said gunman actually opens fire on her. When he does, cue the shotgun.
    • Homer and Marge somehow don't hear Burns smashing down the walls of their house.
  • Finger-Licking Poison: Fernando Vidal's first attempt to kill Abe is to poison the water where he keeps his dentures. It fails when Abe hears the alarm clock and absentmindedly smashes the glass and puts the clock in his mouth.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: This episode is more of an action/adventure tale with comedy thrown in than the usual straight sitcom fare.
  • Friend Or Idol Choice: To Abe, when Burns traps Bart in the empty safe and throws it to sink in the lake, Abe has to choose between saving his grandson from drowning (the friend part) or chasing after Burns to get the treasure (the idol part). Abe chooses the former and then after saving the boy, both of them chase after Burns.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Burns was this to the Hellfish. When Abe breaks the rules of the tontine to get the paintings, he's okay with it because he knows none of his comrades would want Burns to get the treasure.
  • Generation Xerox: Many of the Flying Hellfish are the fathers of several Springfield citizens (specifically Barney, Skinner, and Chief Wiggum) and strongly resemble their modern counterparts. There's also mention of a Commander Flanders, even though "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song" and "Hurricane Neddy" establish that Flanders' father was a beatnik (unless he became a beatnik after the war or it was his grandfather or uncle). The Flanders' Book of Faith has mention of a Commander Nedwynn Flanders, who is Ned's great uncle. While non-canon, A Serious Flanders does depict Ned's grandfather, Sheriff Flanders, who could have been a commander as some military personnel later on become police officers.
  • Genius Ditz: Ox.
    Burns: How many of you are familiar with the concept of a tontine?
    [Ox raises his hand]
    Burns: All right, Ox. Why don't you take us through it.
    Ox: Uhh, essentially, we all enter into a contract whereby the last surviving participant becomes the sole possessor of all them purdy pictures.
    Burns: Well-put, Oxford.
  • Hanging Judge: Nelson's grandfather clearly enjoys handing out death sentences.
    Judge Muntz: Why, just this morning I sentenced my 46th man to death. (Laughs) No, 47th.
  • Heroic Bystander: The nurse:
    Nurse: [Carrying a shotgun] Our residents. [Click-clack, BLAM] Are trying. [Click-clack, BLAM] To nap!
  • Hypocrite: Lisa chastises the rest of her family for being dismissive of Abe, stating old people need to be cherished. She later shows she has just as little interest in dealing with Abe as the rest of the family, and otherwise makes no effort to support him.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The Badass Bystander nurse telling Vidal that "our residents are trying to nap" as she uses a very loud double-barreled pump-action shotgun to scare him away.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!: Abe has this moment with Mr. Burns at the end when he finally catches him and pins him down.
    Mr. Burns: Don't kill me!
    Abe: I ain't gonna kill ya. That'd be cowardly - Monty Burns cowardly! I just wanna watch you squirm.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Burns says he's going to honor the platoon's agreement, then the moment he's out of earshot orders Smithers to have Abe killed.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Vidal clearly can't aim for crap, seeing as he didn't even hit Grandpa in the chair.
  • Ironic Death: Ox, the member of the unit who explained what a tontine is, was the first one to die and it was due to complications from a hernia he got from carrying the crate with the paintings out of the castle.
  • Ironic Name: The Flying Hellfish are a unit in the army.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: Asa Phelps' funeral is held when it's rainy.
  • Jerkass:
    • The descendant of the original owner of the paintings. He is completely ungrateful to the State Department officials who got them back to the point of insulting them, cares more about keeping the compact disc player that's in the trunk of his car pristine than the priceless paintings that are being loaded there, and mocks Grandpa and Bart for having a heartfelt moment.
    • Mr. Burns. He is willing to murder his commanding officer (and his grandson) over some priceless paintings that he probably already has copies of due to his extreme wealth. He also was a vile lazy dimwit during wartime, doing stuff like conning a medical team to carry him around with a stretcher and preventing Grandpa from sniping Hitler by hitting him with a tennis ball (deliberately or not, it's hard to tell, but he nevertheless decided to play tennis in the middle of a mission) as he was pulling the trigger.
  • Job-Stealing Robot: Asa Phelps used to work as a molder until a Molder-Matic replaced him.
  • Jumping on a Grenade: In Abe's story, he saves Burns from an artillery shell by jumping on it and covering it with his helmet before it goes off.
  • Karma Houdini: Though Grandpa did beat him up and humiliate him, Mr. Burns got away scot-free with his attempted murder on Grandpa. Neither of them is arrested for stealing the paintings, come to that.
  • Karmic Death: Ox died from a hernia he got from carrying the stolen paintings out of the castle.
  • "Kick Me" Prank: During Grandpa's flashback, Principal Skinner's father once had a "shoot me" sign taped on his back.
  • Kick the Dog: Abe and Burns are revealed to be the last surviving members of their WWII unit, and that a deal was made such that the last surviving member would get to keep a case of art stolen from civilians; Burns hires an assassin to kill Abe, but said assassin is not successful at it. Bart convinces Abe to go get the case anyway, and when Abe and Bart retrieve it, Burns shows up and takes the art at gunpoint. Bart calls Burns a coward, then Burns points the gun at his face; Abe says Burns can take the art as long as he does not hurt the boy. Burns remarks that he would rather do both, then kicks Bart into the empty case which falls back into the water. Note that he could have taken the art without drowning the child, he just tried to drown the child anyway, for no apparent reason other than that said child insulted him.
  • Lampshade Hanging: During the story, Bart asks how someone as rich and influential as Burns was only a private in the US Army. Abe tells him that Burns got busted down for obstructing a probe from J. Edgar Hoover.
  • Like Father, Like Son:
    • Chief Wiggum's father was also a screw-up, Skinner's father was also a ridiculed tight-ass, Barney's father also burped loudly and Flanders' father was in some way better than his Simpson comrade (being a Commander to Grandpa's Sergeant).
    • Grandpa gets annoyed at Ned Flanders, just like Homer does.
      Ned: Well, howdy-doodilly, stranger. Couldn't help but notice you stealing my boat.
      Abe: (Annoyed) I'll bring it back.
      Ned: You ever operated a powerboat?
      Abe: No.
      Ned: Know anything about water safety?
      Abe: No.
      Ned: What do you need it for?
      Abe: It's a secret.
      Ned: Ooh, sounds spine-tingly-dingling. Just promise you'll have a good time.
      (Ned throws the keys to Abe, who keeps frowning and sawing the boat's chain.)
  • Lonely Funeral: Mr. Burns and Abe Simpson are the only people attending the funeral of Asa Phelps. The only reason they're there is that they've entered a Tontine over a set of priceless German paintings that they stole from the Nazis during World War II.
  • Meaningful Name: Ox is actually short for Oxford as in the U.K. university when it's revealed that he's the only one other than Burns with the knowledge of what a tontine is. Considering he was also The Big Guy and his death came from getting a hernia due to the one doing most of the work lifting the crate, it could also go with him being "strong as an ox."
  • Mood-Swinger: Abe, when he's counting the tugs from Bart under the water.
    Abe: [Sadly] 61... 62... 63... Oh no, 63! He's out of air! I've sent my own grandson to a watery gra- [Excited] 64! He's found the treasure! I'm rich!
  • Murder by Inaction: The death of Ox via a hernia from carrying the crate with the paintings inside is implied to be the fault of the others since Ox's large size meant sticking him with most of the work.
  • Nazi Gold: Subverted. When Abe finally unlocks his stash of priceless Nazi paintings, he is immediately stopped by State Department agents who confiscate and return them to their rightful owner, a spoiled and obnoxious German yuppie, for diplomatic purposes.
    Agent: Baron von Wortzenberger, on behalf of the American people, I apologize for-
    Baron: Ja ja ja, mach schnell mit der art things, huh? I must get back to Dancecentrum in Stuttgart in time to see Kraftwerk. (They begin loading paintings into his car) ...Hey und dummkopf, watch out for the CD-changer in mein trunk, eh? Idiot.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner: The paintings from the Hellfish tontine are quickly seized by federal authorities, although Grandpa defeated Burns by kicking the crap out of him then kicking him out of the platoon, and earned newfound respect from his grandson Bart.
  • Noodle Incident: The Veterans' Day Float Disaster of '79, which somehow killed five members of the Hellfish (including Skinner's, Barney's, and Wiggum's apparent fathers).
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Smithers has this reaction when after pointing out they need to jettison something if they want to outrun the Simpsons, and Burns turns to him with a Death Glare.
    • Burns when he sees a seriously pissed off Grandpa clamber onto his boat.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Grandpa knows something is fishy when his family comes to visit him (as they hardly if ever do that), and barely avoids a knife to the head from the poorly disguised Vidal.
  • Out of Focus: After the Simpsons discuss where Grandpa should sleep while he stays at their house for his safety, the rest of the family (except for Lisa in a one-note gag and Homer in a brief exchange) disappear from the episode entirely. Homer and Marge don't even hear anything when Mr. Burns crashes through Bart's bedroom wall.
  • Papa Wolf: After Burns tries to kill Bart, Grandpa shoots a harpoon into Burns's boat, waterskis using his slippers, then pulls his way to Burns' boat, coming on board, and kicking the crap out of him.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Mr. Burns, Smithers, and the assassin they hired to kill Abe disguise themselves as Marge, Bart, and Homer respectively to get into the nursing home where Abe lives. Abe isn't fooled ...because his family never visits.
  • Pet the Dog: While he is later willing to kill Bart, Burns treats him affectionately when he offers to join him and apologises for waking up Lisa.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Grandpa is shown doing this in his flashback to World War II.
  • Punctuated Pounding: The Badass Bystander nurse does this, with every "punch" being a shotgun blast followed by One-Handed Shotgun Pump.
  • Reassignment Backfire: Because he'd obstructed a probe of J. Edgar Hoover, Mr. Burns was demoted and assigned to Grandpa Simpson's platoon, which discovers some priceless artwork, to which Burns proposes a tontine among the platoon.
  • Refusal of the Call: As Bart and Grandpa get ready to go get the paintings, Homer comes into the room and asks if he can come along. He instantly takes it back when Grandpa says that it's something that may place him in danger and he may have to work.
  • Retired Badass: Grandpa commanded a group of army soldiers during World War II. He regains a lot of his badass status in his quest to recover the paintings.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Jonathan Collier, who wrote the episode, got the idea after reading several then-current stories about lost art surfacing.
  • Rousing Speech: Bart gives Grandpa one to raise his spirits.
    Bart: I can't believe you, Grandpa. The sergeant in that story you told would never be scared of a dork like Burns. You gotta get that treasure. You gotta do it for Ox and Asa and Griff and Burnsie! Well, not so much Burnsie.
    Grandpa: You really think I can do it?
    Bart: [Hesitantly] Uh, yes... But we gotta act fast!
  • Screw the War, We're Partying: While Abe is trying to assassinate Hitler, Burns flubs his shot due to playing tennis.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Vidal the assassin retreats when he sees the nurse is packing.
  • Sergeant Rock: Turns out that Abraham Simpson was one of these during World War II and he only needs a good reason to get the rust off the badassery. Burns even calls him "Sarge" a few times during the episode.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Bart and Abe beat Burns to the paintings, but they're immediately seized by the State Department, which apparently had had its eye on the situation for a while. It's not a total loss as Bart has gained a newfound respect for his grandpa.
  • Shout-Out: During his assassination attempt against Hitler in the flashback, Abe says "Now, they'll never save your brain, Hitler...", referencing the 1968 B-movie They Saved Hitler's Brain!.
  • Shown Their Work: Many of the paintings in the episode are based on real paintings that went missing during World War II. The animators referenced a book of lost art for the designs.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: For different reasons, both Milhouse's and Nelson's grandfathers compare themselves to Superman.
  • Sundial Waypoint: A beacon in the Hellfish statue at the cemetery points to the location of the paintings.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • After defeating Burns, Bart claims no one can take the paintings from him. Cue State Department officials.
    • During the World War II flashback, Abe mentions he'd hate to end up in an retirement home.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Montgomery Burns for the Flying Hellfish. It was his idea to steal the paintings from a German castle, and before that he'd pretended to be dead to avoid performing his duty (also to avoid walking). However, he has enough respect for the group that Bart calling him a disgrace to the name Hellfish triggers his Berserk Button.
  • Tontine: It's revealed that Abe Simpson and Mr. Burns served together during World War II, and their squad (the Flying Hellfish) acquired a set of priceless German paintings with the agreement that the last member of the Hellfish to die would get them. The episode ends just as Abe manages to claim the paintings by "discharging" Burns, but the State Department shows up, confiscates the paintings, and presents them to a descendant of their original German owner for diplomatic purposes. The descendant is not too worried about their safety, either.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Baron von Herzenberger is a contemptible scumbag who doesn't give a rat's ass about the paintings, but they are rightfully his, and returning them to him prevents an international incident from occurring.
  • We Win, Because You Didn't: After the State Department takes the paintings and Bart points out that this makes the whole adventure All for Nothing, Grandpa says he's still glad because Burns didn't get the paintings and he got to spend time with his grandson.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Mr. Burns's tearing a hole in Bart's and Lisa's rooms is never mentioned again.
  • With Catlike Tread: Fernando Vidal attempts to kill Grandpa stealthily... by bursting into the retirement home, guns a-blazin'.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Mr. Burns is willing to possibly kill a child just for insulting him.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: When Bart managed to steal both keys from Burns, Abe is initially reluctant to search for the treasure, as he knows Burns will try to take it from him. However Bart motivates him, saying the Sergeant from Abe's story wouldn't fear someone like Burns.
  • You Are Fat: When Martin questions Abe's claim about the number "dickety", Abe calls the boy fat.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: When Abe attempts to explain to the family that Burns is trying to kill him, they think he's off on one of his senile rants—not helped by the fact that the way he chooses to tell them that Burns and his accomplices dressed up as them to gain access to the nursing home is with a Wizard of Oz-style "And You Were There, and you, and you."


Video Example(s):


Abe Simpson tries to kill Hitler

Abe Simpson misses his shot to kill Hitler, thanks to Monty Burns.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / AssassinationAttempt

Media sources: