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Recap / The Simpsons S 7 E 23 Much Apu About Nothing

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Original air date: 5/5/1996

Production code: 3F20

Anti-illegal immigrant fever sweeps town after taxes get raised over bear extermination, and Apu faces deportation unless Homer and company can help him pass his citizenship exam.


  • All for Nothing:
    • Homer's Rousing Speech against Proposition 24 changes the minds of the people at his barbecue, but not the rest of the townsfolk who all vote in favor of it.
    • Proposition 24 itself is probably this, given that a municipal town has zero authority over immigration. Notably, Willie comes right back to Springfield in future episodes.
  • Anachronism Stew: The episode ends with Groundskeeper Willie being deported back to his homeland on a four-funnel ocean liner which haven't existed since the decommissioning of the RMS Aquitania in 1950. Also by the late 20th century, transatlantic travel by ship has mostly been phased out in favor of air travel so it's more likely deportees would have been sent home on a plane.
  • Artistic License – Law: Under US law, the federal government has exclusive authority over matters of immigration — a town such as Springfield could legally collaborate with the feds to apprehend illegal immigrants (though there was no evidence of that here), but not take matters into their own hands. Which would explain why in future episodes, Groundskeeper Willie was back as if nothing had happened.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • After Apu reveals that he, too, is an illegal immigrant, Homer (one of the major proponents of the anti-immigration bill) has an empathetic expression and admits, "I got so swept up in the scapegoating and fun of Proposition 24 I never stopped to think it might affect someone I cared about. You know what, Apu? ... I'm really, really gonna miss you." And proceeds to staple an "I want you OUT" poster next to him.
    • After Kearney tries to buy alcohol and cigarettes using a fake ID card to pass off as an adult, Apu will overlook ... the ice cream sandwiches Kearney is hiding under his armpits freezing him.
    • Later, during the party held to celebrate Apu's recently-gained American citizenship, Homer makes a speech that convinces the attendees to vote against Proposition 24. It still passes with a landslide.
    • When the bear first appears, a horrified Flanders freaks out, crashes his car, and sprints towards his home and is so desperate to escape the danger that he jumps through a window into his home after a nervous Maude is unable to unlock the front door. All the while the same bear is at least 100 feet away and watching the scene unfold in confusion.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Parodied. The appearance of a bear invokes a Springfield-wide panic that kicks off the plot, but the actual bear does no harm by itself (aside from minor property damage) and never once shows aggression. It actually seems just mostly confused.
  • Beary Friendly: A bear wanders into Springfield and was just curious and harmless, the townsfolk overreact and panic. In some scenes, the bear is just as confused as they are.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Apu gets his American citizenship, but the anti-immigration proposition is still passed and Groundskeeper Willie is deported.
  • Body Wipe: With Homer, near the beginning, as he walks to the fridge to get beer.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Moe is the most vocal about illegal immigrants, but he is illegal himself.
  • Boring, but Practical: The angry mob organized by Homer immediately gets an audience with Quimby—not through intimidation but because Skinner called the office in advance.
  • Brick Joke: When the angry mob first confronts Mayor Quimby, Moe complains that one "swiped my pic-a-nic basket!" Once the mob leaves, it turns out the actual culprit is Mayor Quimby.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The episode starts with the people of Springfield hilariously overreacting to a bear that was just wandering through the town and not really doing anything. Then it turned into a very serious episode dealing with immigration issues.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Manjula first appears as a little girl in Apu's flashback, in which Apu tells her that he is sorry that their Arranged Marriage will not happen, before he travels to the U.S. She comes back in "The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons" where Apu learns that he can't escape his arranged marriage with her.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Homer suggests that Apu marry Selma so he can stay in America, but she shuts down the idea.
  • Comically Missing the Point: A bear roams the streets. It is caught and Homer immediately demands more protection against bears, even though it was the first time the town ever encountered this problem. After a special "bear patrol" is installed, Homer tells Lisa he feels much safer now.
    Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
    Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
    Homer: Thank you, dear.
    Lisa: By your logic, I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
    Homer: Oh, how does it work?
    Lisa: It doesn't work.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
    [Homer thinks about this, then pulls out some money]
    Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
    [Lisa is about to explain again, but gives up and accepts the money instead]
  • Comical Overreacting: Ned's reaction to seeing a bear placidly sitting in the middle of the road? Shrieking in terror, crashing his car, climbing out of the wreck and running for his house as if the bear were hot on his heels and out for blood, and when Maude (who's similarly panicking) can't unlock the door, Ned jumps through a window to get inside ... all while the bear, which hasn't even moved through all of this, just watches, looking completely nonplussed.
  • Compartment Shot: Homer looking into the fridge to find no beer.
  • Couch Gag: Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie are mounted heads on the wall, and Homer is a bearskin rug on the floor. A game hunter comes in, sits on the couch, and smokes a pipe.
  • Crowd Chant: Three times. First Homer leads the people of Springfield in a march on city hall chanting "Were here! We're queer! We don't want any more bears!" Later they march on city hall again chanting "Down with Taxes!" And at the end Homer gets everyone to chant "No on 24!"
  • Dangerous Key Fumble: Maude is so panicked that she cannot work the doorknob to let in Ned, who is fleeing the bear.
  • Dated History: At the end of his citizenship test, Apu is instructed to explain the causes of the American Civil War and begins to give a long explanation about how multifaceted it was before the examiner tells him to "just say slavery." The joke was originally intended to highlight Apu's knowledge about US history and was based on an incident that happened to one of writer David Cohen's friends in a real citizenship test. However, in the years since the episode's airing, the historical consensus grew to overwhelmingly agree that slavery was the primary driver of the Civil War, with the Confederacy itself citing the continuation of slavery as its motive for secession in its documents and speeches. Additionally, the idea that the causes of the war were more nuanced is now recognized as being the result of a prolonged propaganda campaign by Confederate apologists and white supremacists during the early 20th century, when anti-black racism was at its highest.
  • A Day in the Limelight: This episode substantially details Apu's backstory.
  • Democracy Is Bad: Stated by Homer after a proposition is passed that requires all illegal immigrants to be deported.
  • Description Cut: In the end, Marge is happy that things worked out for everyone they care about. The next scene shows Groundskeeper Willie being deported ("Ach ... ingrates").
  • Disproportionate Retribution: It's even more hypocritical that Springfield complains over a five-dollar tax increase, which Lisa points out as being the smallest tax increase in history, considering that among the vehicles the Bear Patrol uses to keep an eye out (and deal with) bears there is a B-2 "Spirit" Stealth Bomber.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Selma cites this as her reason for refusing to marry Apu, saying that the last thing she needed was to add "Nahasapeemapeti-whatever" to the mix (which includes Bouvier, Terwilliger, Hutz and McClure).
  • Entitled Bastard: The Springfielders want round-the-clock anti-bear security across the city, but don't want to actually pay for it.
  • Epic Fail: In trying to tranquilize the bear, Chief Wiggum not only entirely fails to hit it, but hits Barney instead.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: When the family is trying to figure out a way to keep Apu from being deported, Abe mentions he could try living in a balloon. Lisa exclaims "That's it!", leading Bart to declare that she's as dumb as he is. She explains that she connects Abe being a grandfather with grandfather clause, with his statement being irrelevant.
  • False Cause:
    • An isolated bear attack leads the mayor to fund a massive Bear Patrol scheme. Homer claims that the lack of bears proves the Bear Patrol works, at which point Lisa points out that you might as well say that a rock keeps tigers away, since she's holding the rock, and she can't see any tigers. Homer's response? "Lisa, I want to buy your rock."
    • The town quickly accepts that immigrants are the reason why their taxes are so high, even though the reason for the increase in taxes was because of the bear patrol they wanted so much.
  • Fantastic Racism: Everyone in Springfield has this toward bears.
  • Felony Misdemeanour: One count of Being a Bear, and one count of Being an Accessory to Being a Bear for Barney.
  • Foreshadowing: In the flashback of Apu leaving India, he says goodbye to a girl named Manjula, and apologizes that their arranged marriage won't come to pass. A couple of seasons later...
  • Fun with Acronyms: Apu attended the Springfield Heights Institute of Technology.
  • Gilligan Cut: After Homer's Rousing Speech, everybody begins chanting "No on 24", even as they walk into the voting booths. Cut to a news report saying that 95% of people voted YES ON 24.
  • Great White Hunter: Can be seen in the opening Couch Gag sitting on the Simpsons' couch, which was also used in "Two Bad Neighbors".
  • Guilt by Association Gag:
    • A rather dark one. The people of Springfield originally said they were just going to get rid of illegal immigrants. Instead, they try to get rid of immigrants in general.
    • Barney is sedated by an errant tranquilizer dart that missed the bear. He is arrested by Wiggum because he is "an accessory to being a bear".
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Panic over bears (actually a bear) leads to backlashing against immigrants.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Homer starts out completely on board with the anti-immigration hysteria gripping Springfield (and is indirectly responsible for it in the first place), and is absolutely willing to have Apu deported. He eventually changes his mind and works to help Apu gain his citizenship and turns against Proposition 24.
  • Heroic BSoD: Apu, after he shamelessly rejects his heritage, buys a fake passport and fears deportation.
  • Hidden Depths: Apu is revealed to have a master's degree in computer science and extensive knowledge of the history and political system of the U.S.
  • Honor Before Reason: Apu tries to save himself from deportation by buying a fake passport and "acting American", but drops the charade when he feels like he's betrayed his heritage.
  • How's Your British Accent?: In this episode, the American Hank Azaria plays an Indian character who fakes an American accent.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Homer goes to bed after telling Apu sleeping is for the weak.
    • Moe is vehemently opposed to illegal immigrants but is later seen taking the citizenship test in disguise.
    • Not to mention Moe criticizing immigrants for not learning to speak English properly while repeatedly mispronouncing the word immigrant and doing so with blatantly poor grammar, Homer likewise providing a grammatically incorrect response, and Barney merely agreeing with drunken gibberish.
  • Identical Grandson: Orville Simpson is the spitting image of Homer. Later episodes show him resembling Abe instead.
  • The Illegal: Apu is revealed to be one. He originally came to Springfield on a student visa so he could study computer science at the Springfield Heights Institute of Technology. He didn't feel comfortable leaving the country after graduation without paying his student loans off, so he took his job at the Kwik-E-Mart. He wound up staying because he liked his new life in America, but his visa had long expired, making him an illegal immigrant.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: Apu was very proud to live in America even before becoming a citizen. He also has extensive knowledge of U.S. history and the American Political System, to the point where he exceeded the requirements for passing the citizenship test. He's brought to tears of joy when he receives his first jury duty summons, declaring that this officially made him an American citizen before promptly throwing it in the trash.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • An isolated incident involving a bear wandering into Springfield is responded to by the creation of a multi-million-dollar "Bear Patrol". When Homer states that the organization is stopping bears from coming into town, Lisa compares his logic to claiming that the ordinary rock she's holding is a potent tiger repellent, since there aren't any tigers around. Homer, naturally, offers to buy the rock.
    • Homer's statement that if they were going to be trapped inside the house, he'd better go out and buy some beer.
  • Jerkass: When Üter the German exchange student is picked on by other kids for being a foreigner, Principal Skinner sides with them.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: When the angry mob descends on Quimby a second time due to the raised taxes necessary to pay for the Bear Patrol that they demanded (and which they refuse to give up). It's hard not to sympathize with him when he asks, "Are these morons getting dumber, or just louder?"
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Homer is initially caught up in the fever of Proposition 24, and isn't very sympathetic when Apu told him he might be deported, but resolves to help him after his breakdown.
  • Jury Duty: After getting his citizenship, Apu receives a letter summoning him for jury duty and he happily takes it as a sign he's now an American. Then he casually tosses the letter at a wastebasket. It contradicts another episode where Apu was a juror.
  • Kick the Dog: The horrible treatment that immigrants suffer at the hands of Springfielders. Special mention goes to the elementary school students (and Skinner) picking on Uter, a foreign exchange student who came to America legally. Even NED FLANDERS joins in!
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Let's just say Homer is very lucky that he was born in America and never had to take a citizenship test. He offers to "tutor" Apu about American history, and spouts off nonsense like the flag's 13 stripes being for good luck and only having 47 stars, as well as claiming America's three branches of government are not executive, legislative and judicial. When Apu falls asleep at the Simpsons' kitchen table, he wakes up the next morning forgetting everything Homer "taught" him, much to Lisa's relief.
  • Landslide Election: Proposition 24 passes with 95% of the voters voting yes, despite Homer campaigning against it.
  • Literal Metaphor: Grandpa recounts how the Simpsons came to America. Upon seeing the Statue of Liberty, his father points out that they have reached their new home—The family lived in Lady Liberty's head until it got full of trash.
  • Literal-Minded: Homer asks Apu to identify "this object," presenting an American flag. Apu replies that it's the flag that disappeared from the public library last year.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "Much Apu About Nothing" is named after William Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing.
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy: Apu originally emigrated to the US to attend college.
  • Malaproper: Moe rants angrily against the "imigants."
  • Marriage of Convenience: Selma considers marrying again for money.
  • Minor with Fake I.D.: Kearney tries to buy cigars and beer with a fake ID and assumed name. Apu recognizes Kearney immediately (his claims of his "adultivity" didn't help), but is impressed by the ID's quality. Apu asks where he got it, to obtain forged citizenship papers to avoid deportation, in exchange for letting Kearney keep the snacks he was trying to shoplift at the same time. Oddly, this was around the time when Kearney started being portrayed as well over drinking age despite being in elementary school.
  • Noodle Incident: Selma apparently married and divorced Lionel Hutz sometime between her marriages with Sideshow Bob and Troy McClure. While her marriages with Bob and Troy were each the central plot of one episode each, the Hutz marriage is only brought up this one time and never mentioned again.
  • Oh, Crap!: Subverted. When Apu falls asleep at the Simpsons' kitchen table the night before his citizenship test, he wakes up having forgotten everything Homer "taught" him. He's horrified, but Lisa is delighted, since Apu already knew everything he needed to pass the test.
  • Only Sane Man: Lisa, of course, is the only Springfielder to point out that the bear patrol tax ($5) is the smallest new tax in the town's history.
  • Oppressive Immigration Enforcement: Mayor Quimby creates a law project to instantly deport all illegal immigrants from Springfield if it's passed (and it does, although Apu is able to get naturalized as a citizen almost on the nick of time) to toss chaff on a $5 tax to create a Bear Patrol that made the population angry (It Makes Sense in Context). What little we see of the deportation process (on top of being a heavy case of Artistic License – Law because it affects only one small town) implies that Chief Wiggum, in his customary style, rounded up all of the immigrants and placed them in an old cruise ship that heavily resembles the Titanic to send them to Europe (the fact Springfield's geography changes from episode to episode raises the additional question of if the ship is actually set in the ocean and, thus, if it wouldn't be more practical to just send them to another state).
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Moe's disguise for the citizenship test? A false mustache which falls off when he's not looking.
  • Perp Walk: Apu has to make his way to the citizenship exam through a crowd of protesters.
  • Pet the Dog: Groundskeeper Willie leaps to Üter's defense when the rest of the school starts picking on him for being an immigrant.
    Willie: Ya' want to pick on immigrants? Then pick on Willie!
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Played for Laughs: the bill to deport illegal immigrants from Springfield still goes through, but since their friend Apu managed to attain citizenship, the Simpsons conclude that everything worked out fine. Cut to Groundskeeper Willie bound for Scotland.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • Much of the inspiration for the episode came from news reports of bears roaming streets in Southern California around the time when the episode was in production. David X. Cohen said that when a bear swims in somebody's pool or goes in somebody's garbage can, it becomes a popular news item in California.
    • Another inspiration for the episode came from California's Proposition 187, which proposed the rescinding of employment rights and benefits from illegal immigrants. Cohen decided to name the referendum "Proposition 24" because 24 was the number he had on his Little League Baseball uniform. Cohen commented that "the main theme of the episode is illegal immigration and anti-immigration sentiment, which is a big issue here in California. So both the intro with the bear and the main theme are yanked from the California headlines."
  • Rousing Speech: Homer gives one against Proposition 24.
    Homer: Most of us here were born in America. We take this country for granted. But not immigrants like Apu. While the rest of us are drinking ourselves stupid, they're driving the cabs that get us home safely. They're writing the operas that entertain us every day. They're training our tigers and kicking our extra points. These people are the glue that holds together the gears of our society. If we pass Proposition 24, we'll be losing some of the truest Americans of all. When you go to the polls tomorrow, please vote no on Proposition 24.
    Everyone: [Repeating] No ... on ... 24.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: During his citizenship test, Apu is asked the cause of The American Civil War. Apu states it was "the schism of abolitionists and anti-abolitionists", then begins to list contributing causes. In other words, slavery.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Kent Brockman's keen reporting skills show when, as he covers the bear wandering down Evergreen Terrace, describes it as a "large bear-like creature, quite possibly a bear".
  • Shout-Out:
    • The belief that picnic baskets have been stolen by a smarter-than-average bear.
    • Chief Wiggum's list of deportees include "your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses yearning to breath free," referencing Emma Lazarus' poem, The New Colossus in the Statue of Liberty.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The bear is quickly removed, but what happens afterwards is based on people's reactions for its mere presence.
  • So Unfunny, It's Funny: At the party for Apu, Homer begins his speech with a joke.
    Homer: If I could just say a few words, I'd be a better public speaker.
    [Bart openly laughs, while everyone else stares quietly]
  • Spinning Paper: Informing us about the ballot.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: One of the Bear Patrol's weapons? A stealth bomber.
  • Think of the Children!: Helen Lovejoy does this both times when the mob approaches the mayor.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: It is the townspeople's angry response to the "Bear Crisis", and they march on town hall:
    Mayor's aide: Sir, an unruly mob is here to see you.
    Quimby: Does it have an appointment?
    Mayor's aide: [checks his clipboard] Yes.
    Skinner: (pops his head in) I phoned ahead!
    • Later, they march again against a tax increase, which was the result of having to fund the "Bear Patrol" that they were campaigning to get during the first march. Which they apparently thought would be a free service. Quimby is not entirely without the audience's sympathy when he remarks:
      Quimby: Are these morons getting dumber, or just louder?
      Mayor's aide: Dumber, sir. They won't give up the bear patrol, but they won't pay the tax for it either.
  • Uncle Sam Wants You: Parodied with an anti-immigrant sign reading "I want you ... OUT".
  • Unreveal Angle: Homer tries to locate Springfield on the map, he points near Chicago. Lisa corrects him, but the view of her pointing at the correct location is obscured by Bart's head.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The bear, epically. It doesn't do anything to harm people, it comes across and just walks around and sits down curiously. Yet, people go into a mass panic. The incident is what spearheads the Bear Patrol and later on starts Proposition 24 when the citizens refuse to pay taxes for it.
  • Very Special Episode: Deals with themes of immigration and anti-immigrant sentiment, both serious issues at the time of the episode airing.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Chief Wiggum's checklist for deportation is citing from the sonnet The New Colossus.
    "Here's the order of deportations: First you'll be rounding up your tired, then your poor ... then your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Pretty much invoked when Homer tries to locate Springfield on a map, and points near Chicago (note that the state capital of Illinois is named Springfield). Lisa says that that's nowhere near Springfield, and indicates the right location, which we're prevented from seeing when Bart blocks the view.
    Apu: Oh, this is so confusing. I don't even know where I'm getting kicked out of anymore.
  • Windmill Crusader: The people of Springfield form an angry mob and demand the town government do something to protect them from "constant bear attacks". All because a total of one bear wandered into town, destroyed one mailbox, and was swiftly and painlessly taken down by Animal Control. Naturally, the mayor forms a "Bear Patrol" and passes the cost onto the taxpayers.
  • Would Rather Suffer: When Homer calls Selma to talk her into marrying Apu, much to the chagrin of Selma (who doesn't want to add a long surname to her already lengthy name-by-failed-marriages).
    Homer: How would you like to marry Apu so he doesn't get deported?
    Selma: I'd rather eat poison.
  • X Days Since: The sign outside the federal building reads "131 years without a Civil War."


Video Example(s):


Finding Springfield on a map

Homer points to the wrong spot on the map, so Lisa corrects him... but then Bart gets in between the map and the viewers.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (31 votes)

Example of:

Main / WhereTheHellIsSpringfield

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