Follow TV Tropes


Recap / The Simpsons S7 E4 "Bart Sells His Soul"

Go To
"Who's stupid now? Huh?"

Original air date: 10/8/1995

Production code: 3F02

"Bart Sells His Soul" is the fourth episode of the seventh season of The Simpsons. To prove that souls do not exist in his opinion, Bart sells his to Milhouse. But several events make him regret this bargain. Meanwhile, Moe tries to turn his bar into a family restaurant.

Episode Summary

Bart pulls a prank at church, switching the intended church hymns for Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" (or as it's presented: "In the Garden of Eden" by "I. Ron Butterfly"). Reverend Lovejoy soon catches wind of the ruse, and after the 17-minute song ends with the organist collapsing, he angrily confronts the children to demand who was behind it. Milhouse snitches on Bart out of fear of God's wrath and both are forced to clean the organ pipes as punishment (Bart for the prank and Milhouse for being a tattletale).

Milhouse tells a disgusted Bart that he snitched on him because he wanted to save his soul. Bart however scoffs at the idea that man has a soul, and to prove his point that the soul isn't real, he writes "Bart's Soul" on church stationery and sells it to Milhouse for $5.

Meanwhile, Moe bemoans that no one wants to go into "dank pits" anymore after the Hibberts refuse to have their Sunday brunch at the tavern. So he decides to repurpose the bar into a family restaurant, buying Army surpluses such as a fryer that can fry an entire buffalo in two minutes.


With the money from his soul, Bart buys a sponge dinosaur, but it fails to grow. After finding out, Lisa is dismayed at Bart's action. telling him the soul is the most important possession a person can have. Bart then has a series of mishaps, such as the pets failing to recognize him, the Kwik-E-Mart's doors not opening for him, being also unable to blow into the window door of a freezer and dreaming about not being able to row his way to a castle while Milhouse doesn't have to row at all for he has two souls. After he becomes unable to laugh at Itchy & Scratchy, he and Lisa realize it's serious, so Bart tries to retrieve his soul from Milhouse, who now charges him fifty smackers for it.

The Simpsons have their Sunday dinner at "Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag", who offers a bowlful of fries for birthdays as well as a "smiles policy" (if Moe doesn't smile it's free) and an overall campy atmosphere. After Lisa deliberately leaves him out of her prayer, Bart storms out to look for his soul. But "Uncle Moe" has his share of problems: Aside from running a large-scale operation for hours on end, he has to carry the birthday fries on his head and customers take advantage of him, not to mention that his personality isn't suited to running a family-friendly establishment, finally snapping at a little girl who asks him for a warmer drink. This leads to the outraged clientele walking out and Moe reverting to his old tavern before the night ends.


Bart rushes to the Van Houten residence only to find out the house is being fumigated. So, he has to head downtown to Milhouse's grandmother's apartment, encountering an evil streetcleaner and Wiggum dealing with a doom-saying vagrant on the way (Bart tries to get Ralph's soul in the process). Unfortunately, when he finds Milhouse, he tells Bart he's already traded the soul at the Android's Dungeon for some ALF pogs. The following morning, Bart goes to the shop only to be told by the Comic Book Guy that his soul had been bought as soon as it came, keeping the customer's name confidential. Fearing his soul has been acquired by bad people, Bart prays to God to give him back his soul... and the paper appears all of a sudden, as it turns out Lisa was the one who bought his soul. Bart promptly scarfs down the paper while Lisa tries to explain him the importance of the human soul. The episode ends with Bart dreaming of him and his soul rowing to the castle.

"Bart Sells His Soul" features examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Both of Bart's parents have enough of a sense of humour to not get mad at Bart's prank despite seemingly knowing about it, and Marge shushes Homer when he reminds her of the times they used to make out to the "hymn", though not before cracking up.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: At first Bart mocked the idea of a soul, but after strange things started happening to him, and after his Catapult Nightmare where everyone else has their soul but him, Bart asks to buy it back from Milhouse, who demands ten times the amount he paid for it. Later, after Bart tracks Milhouse to his grandma's house in the middle of the night, he says he's willing to do anything to get it back, but Milhouse tells him he traded it for some pogs.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Bart did his homework with that hymn prank: "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" was originally called "In The Garden Of Eden." Doug Ingle wrote the title down while drunk and sleep-deprived, resulting in it coming out as incomprehensible gibberish. And, yes, the song really is seventeen minutes long.
  • Animals Hate Him: After Bart sells his soul, Santa's Little Helper and Snowball II growl and hiss at him.
    Bart: (to Snowball II) Geez! You're pretty uppity for someone who eats bugs all day!
  • Answer Cut: Milhouse asks what people could have to gain from lying about the existence of God, and the camera cuts to Reverend Lovejoy counting the money from the collection plate.
  • Anyone Remember Pogs?: The Trope Namer, though the exact phrase isn't used, with Milhouse showing off his ALF pogs. Amusingly, the episode was actually made at the height of the Pog craze - the "outdated, forgotten fad" the show is poking fun at is supposed to be ALF.
  • Beg the Dog: Milhouse gets quite the payback for all of the grievances he's suffered at Bart's hands. After Bart sells his soul for five bucks to Milhouse, he begins to find very odd things happening to him and fears he's becoming truly soulless. He begs Milhouse for the piece of paper representing his soul back and even offers to pay him back - only for Milhouse to jack up the price on him and cackle evilly. He later trades the soul to Comic Book Guy for ALF pogs even though he knows Bart still wants it back.
  • Big "NO!": Bart lets one out after Milhouse tells him he traded his soul for pogs.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": As Milhouse looks at Bart screaming and running off into the night from the front door of his grandma's apartment:
    Grandma: Close that door, you're letting the heat out!
    Kirk: Shut up, shut up! SHUT UP!
  • Big "WHAT?!":
    • Moe screams at Homer for saying "Hey, Moe!" a lot.
    • Bart gives Milhouse one when Milhouse offers Bart's soul back to him... for 50 dollars.
  • Blatant Lies: When Homer meets Moe at the restaurant's opening, he reacts like he never met Moe before and is surprised Moe knows his name. Marge isn't fooled for a minute, however, given how many times she's had to go into Moe's to find Homer over the years.
  • Break the Haughty: By the time the episode is near its end, Bart is miserable, disheveled and fearing for his own life after selling his soul and prays to God for help. When it seems it didn't work, Bart cries pathetically.
  • Broken Aesop: Played for Laughs. After Moe gets rid of all of the restaurant stuff, he confides to Homer that the restaurant was very stressful and that he's learnt his lesson that he's happier doing what he's always been doing — and then Homer points out that the reason Moe decided to create the restaurant was that attending the same five drunks every day was not making him enough money, which depresses Moe all over again.
  • Call-Back: Much like in "Bart the Lover", one of the Flanders' children swears after hearing an adult swear.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Lampshaded.
    Sherri & Terri: Bart, it's time to end this dream / And don't forget the standard scream! (cue Bart waking up and screaming)
  • Clueless Aesop: This is an incredibly ambiguous episode due to the fact that it refuses to make its point known. Sometimes, it’s a religious episode, while other times it's not. Sometimes the characters are depicted as The Woobie while other times they are jerkasses. It doesn’t even say definitively whether or not the soul exists.
  • Corrupt Church:
    Milhouse: But every religion says there's a soul, Bart. Why would they lie? What would they have to gain?
    (Cut to Lovejoy, in his office, working a change sorting machine.)
  • Couch Gag: The family drives around the room in go-karts while wearing Shriner fezzes. They line up in front of the couch and honk their horns simultaneously.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: Maude Flanders covers her son Todd's ears after Moe loses his temper and repeatedly uses the word "freaking".
  • Crazy Homeless People: The raving crackhead Chief Wiggum stops to try to calm down, who references Alfred Hitchcock, The Old Curiosity Shop and John Gielgud in the nonsense he yells.
  • Creepy Children Singing: Sherri and Terri in Bart's nightmare.
  • Darker and Edgier: Bart's existential dread is obvious and much of the time is not Played for Laughs. Then there's the apparent violent death of the creepily laughing street sweeper.
  • Deal with the Devil: Bart selling his soul.
  • Deep-Fried Whatever: The biggest selling point to "Uncle Moe's" is the massive deep fryer that deep-fries everything, including champagne bottles.
  • Delayed Reaction: Lovejoy lets the entirety of "In the Garden of Eden" go by, seemingly without realizing that he was pranked. Possibly justified because he might not have wanted to cause a scene by interrupting the song while everyone was singing.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Perhaps it was a Foregone Conclusion that Moe's conversion of his bar to a family restaurant would fail in the end, but keeping up with all the gimmicks and offers he self-imposed needlessly added to his stress.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Lovejoy has the frightened children make an oath under threats of hellfire if they withhold the truth on who started the mess in church. While Ralph Wiggum and Milhouse are scared and nervous, Bart, however, remains calm and recites the oath nonchalantly and without a care in the world, not buying it at all.
  • Dream Sequence: Bart dreams he has no soul to row along with him to a magic castle on an island in a lake. Near the end of the episode, he has the same dream again now with his soul along his side.
  • Dress Code: The policy "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Salvation" is written at a sign in front of the First Church of Springfield.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Lisa discusses such a concept at the end when she notes that some people believe a soul is earned through things like thought and prayer. These things are, as she notes, what Bart did throughout the episode, perhaps truly earning his soul back, and thus gaining a happy ending, after all (Bart isn't listening).
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: Bart puts Michael Jackson on a list of fictional things adults make up to scare children.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: After Bart sells his soul to Milhouse, Santa's Little Helper and Snowball II both growl at him.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • Milhouse has one when begged by Bart to give him his soul back, but with a price: Fifty bucks. Given that it's Milhouse, it's... lame.
    • The street sweeper that wrecked Bart's bike has one too. Right before he crashes.
    • And Bart himself does a low-key version when passing out the "hymn" sheets.
  • Exact Words: Snake invokes this when he gets his check. Moe's commercials promise that if he isn't smiling, the meal's on him.
    Snake: Oh, dude, you did not smile. We eat for free. Come on, Shoshana. Let's roll!
    (Snake and his date rush out of the restaurant)
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Bart sells his soul (to Milhouse).
  • Eye Scream: In "Skinless in Seattle", Itchy saws off the top half of the Space Needle, the point of which lands in — you guessed it — Scratchy's eye. He runs around in pain with the whole thing just slightly lodged in his eye.
  • Funny Background Event: Lisa tries to cheer Bart up to no avail since Bart loses his soul. This takes place in the foreground, while in the background (and what Lisa sets up to cheer Bart up), Homer gets stuck on the stairs' railing and calls for help. Santa's Little Helper bites his butt.
  • Glamour Failure: Automatic doors don't open for soulless Bart, he can't fog up the glass with his breath, he can't laugh, his eyes briefly turn cat-like as he performs a Hiss Before Fleeing, etc.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: A stressed-out Moe finds himself unable to keep his temper and language in check at his new family restaurant.
    Moe: (to a little girl complaining her soda's too cold) Your teeth hurt? Your teeth hurt?! Well, that's too freakin' bad! You hear me?! I'll tell you where you can put your freaking "sodie" too!
    (All the customers gasp)
    (Maude Flanders covers Todd's ears)
    Todd: Ow, my freakin' ears!
    Maude: Oh, let's go, dear.
    Ned: Well! I expect that type of language at Denny's, but not here!
  • Happy Birthday to You!: As the traditional "Happy Birthday" song was still copyrighted at the time, Uncle Moe's, like a lot of similar Kitschy-Themed Restaurants, has its own corporate birthday song. Every time someone orders "Million Dollar Birthday Fries", Moe comes to their table to perform the following ditty:
    Here you go, here I am! Uncle Moe! Thank you, ma'am! This'll be a treat. Uncle Moe! Here I am, while you eat!
    • He has to do it twice for Sherri and Terri since they're twins! The second time, though, he's not as enthusiastic.
    Here you go, here I am. Eat your fries. Eat them.
  • Headdesk: Bart on the Comic Book Guy's display case.
    Comic Book Guy: Um, excuse me: no banging your head on the display case, please. It contains a very rare Mary Worth in which she has advised a friend to commit suicide. Thank you.
  • Hidden Depths: Bart must have a strong musical knowledge for arranging a 17 minute long song for the church organ and making the lyrics a choral for churchgoers.
  • Hiss Before Fleeing: Bart does this when he is caught trying to buy Ralph Wiggum's soul. For bonus points, he disappears into smoke like a supernatural being and his eyes are briefly slitted.
  • Hypocrite: Milhouse. He snitches on Bart out of fear of going to Hell, but still gladly buys Bart's soul, plays with it like a toy, and refuses to give it back.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • It takes until the middle of the song "In the Garden Of Eden" — the 17-minute version, as the elderly organist (Mrs. Feesch) collapses in complete exhaustion at the end — for Reverend Lovejoy to figure out that his congregation was the victim of a (not-too-funny but rather impressive) prank. In the real world, even clergymen who are hip to secular rock music (whether or not they actually condemn it) would almost immediately figure out that the wrong song was being played and put a stop to it, but Lovejoy never does, not even as congregation members (some of which are sweaty and disheveled from making out to the "hymn") are throwing beach balls at him and holding up cigarette lighters and lit candles at the song's extended coda.
    • Also Moe for putting in policies for his restaurant that would cause him grief in the first place, he probably wouldn't have snapped if he hadn't given people a guaranteed people a free meal if he wasn't smiling.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Lovejoy assures Milhouse that he did the right thing by telling on Bart, only to immediately grab him for punishment alongside Bart for snitching.
  • Instant Mass: Just Add Water!: Subverted and mocked. Bart uses his five dollars to buy dinosaur-shaped sponges which the package advertises as growing gigantic when made wet. Bart imagines them growing into large dinosaur-sized animated sponges with one of them biting down on Lisa, scaring her and making her soaking wet. What he gets is a pair of sponges that get slightly bigger and then get washed by the hose down the sewer drain.
  • Jerkass:
    • Lovejoy manipulates the kids into telling him who played the prank and punishes Milhouse for telling him Bart was responsible.
    • The random street sweeper who destroys Bart's bike for no reason and takes the time to laugh mockingly at him.
    • Comic Book Guy buying and selling Bart's soul (and refuse to say who bought it) is jerky enough, but what seals the deal is when Bart's banging his head on the counter, he just condescendingly tells Bart not to do that without a hint of concern or compassion.
  • Jerkass Ball: Milhouse is quite a jerk to Bart in this episode, a change from his usual meek Butt-Monkey status: he begins the episode by ratting Bart out to Reverend Lovejoy, he buys off Bart's soul for $5 and delivers a big Kick the Dog scene by raising the price to buy it back to $50, gloating about having Bart's soul all the while, and then, while he knows well that Bart is incredibly distressed over it, he somehow managed to convince the Comic Book Guy to trade it for a bunch of Alf pogs. Worst of all, he gets no comeuppance whatsoever for most of this, except for being forced to clean the organ pipes with Bart.
  • Kick the Dog: When Lisa's saying grace, she goes well and beyond to rub it in that he sold his soul. Bart responds by throwing a meatball at her. She does make up for it by buying it back from Comic Book Guy for him.
  • Kneel, Push, Trip: In Bart's dream, Nelson appears to be sympathizing with him, but then pushes Bart over, with Nelson's soul kneeling behind.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The street sweeper who seemingly wrecks Bart's bike on purpose. Instant karma strikes as he turns around to give an Evil Laugh after the bike falls to bits. Not looking where he's going, he crashes down the steps of a subway station and the sweeper blows up.
  • Lost in Translation: In the Brazilian Portuguese dub, the line where Reverend Lovejoy calls Milhouse "snitchy" is changed to have Milhouse being called "Milhouse". That made some Brazilian viewers assume Milhouse was being punished not for being a snitch but because Reverend Lovejoy took Milhouse's knowledge of Bart being the prankster as proof he's also involved in the prank.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Things start becoming a bit odd for soulless Bart, such as not being able to open automatic doors, his pets hissing wildly at him, and... not being able to breathe on the glass. But it's never firmly established if he really did lose his soul.
  • Mondegreen Gag: Bart fools Lovejoy into thinking "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" is a church hymn under the guise of "In the Garden of Eden".
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Nancy Cartwright mentioned in an NPR interview that "the youngest daughter in Mrs. Doubtfire" was the inspiration for the voice she used of the little girl that Moe yells at in his restaurant. When Mara (a big Simpsons fan) found this out later, she was extremely flattered, quipping in a podcast that it was like "finding out your name is in the Torah".
  • Nobody Likes a Tattletale: Rev. Lovejoy is after the one who pranked the church by tricking the congregation into singing "Ina Gadda Da Vidda", warning that lying leads to eternal damnation. A frightened Milhouse says it was Bart, so Lovejoy punishes Bart by cleaning the church organ... and has Milhouse join him for snitching.
  • Noodle Incident: Moe even wants to get rid of the fire extinguisher, because it has "too many bad memories" (unless he means "bad memories of running Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag" instead of "bad memories of using fire extinguishers").
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: When Marge gives Bart a goodnight hug, she notices there's something off about how he takes it, but at the most can only determine that something is missing from Bart. When Bart suggests it might be his soul, Marge laughs and says that he's not a monster, which troubles Bart.
  • Off-Model: Jasper's briefly seen without his beard as the church sings "In the Garden of Eden". It's... unsettling.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Before the episode even begins, Bart manages to arrange a seventeen minute long song for the pipe organ, then transcribe the lyrics to a choral style for the church-goers, then copy the hymn papers for everyone in the church (and these were the days before everyone had a printer and could download sheet music off the internet). The song even contains a drum solo that goes on for five minutes, yet the hymn is explicitly stated to last the full seventeen minutes, meaning Bart somehow transcribed a drum solo for the pipe organ.
  • Pet the Dog: Despite rubbing it in that Bart sold his soul, Lisa is the one who buys it back and returns it free of charge.
  • Platonic Kissing: When Lisa reveals that she bought Bart's soul and returns it to him, he gives her a sweet and heartfelt kiss on her cheek.
  • Prayer Is a Last Resort: In his desperation, Bart says a prayer asking for his soul back, and he does, learning that Lisa got his soul back from Milhouse.
  • Rage-Breaking Point: After having to do the Birthday Fries gig for both Sherri and Terri, being mocked by a kid with a drawing of him as "Mr. Stinky", and getting ripped off by Snake, Moe finally reaches his when a little girl complains that her drink is too cold.
    Moe: [losing his cool] Oh, your "teef" hurt, huh? Your "teef" hurt? Well, that's too freaking bad! You hear me? I'll tell you where you can put your freaking sodie too!
  • Raised Lighter Tribute: The churchgoers hold up candles as the organist finishes playing "In the Garden of Eden".
  • Recycled Animation: The shot of Bart waking up from his soulless nightmare is recycled from Season 3's "Treehouse of Horror II", with Lisa removed.
  • Restaurant-Owning Episode: Moe changes the bar over to a restaurant.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: After Milhouse reveals that Bart was the one behind the "In the Garden of Eden" prank, Lovejoy takes him along for punishment for ratting on his friend.
    Milhouse: [Scared by a crow] Bart did it! That Bart right there!
    Bart: [Angry] Milhouse!
    Lovejoy: Milhouse, you did the right thing. Bart, come with me for punishment. [drags Bart away] You too, snitchy. [takes Milhouse with him]
  • Say My Name: As seen above, Bart yells "Milhouse!" in fury when Milhouse rats him out for his prank at the start of the episode.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: When Moe goes on his temper tantrum and screams at a little girl (whose soft drink was too cold for her teeth), everyone is aghast and immediately walks out. Moe sees what is happening and realizes he made a mistake ... too late.
  • Script Swap: Bart replaces the hymn sheets and music at the local church with those of Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", labeled as being titled "In the Garden of Eden" by "I. Ron Butterfly". When Reverend Lovejoy picks up on the swap, he remarks that it "sounds like rock and/or roll."
  • Seven Deadly Sins:
    • Lust: Everyone looking disheveled and Sex Dressed during "In the Garden of Eden", Marge and Homer giggling over memories of making out to the "hymn", and Snake's sexy girlfriend Soshanna.
    • Gluttony: Homer grousing over having to wait 40 seconds for a flash-fried buffalo; Homer's brain telling Homer not to call Bart back because he can have Bart's meal.
    • Greed: Lovejoy counting his collection plate money, Milhouse gloating over having Bart's soul and demanding ten times what Bart sold it to him for Bart to buy it back, Homer taking Bart's meal (see also Gluttony), and Moe starting Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag because restaurants make more money than bars.
    • Sloth: Bart and Milhouse slacking off at their organ-cleaning duties and Milhouse's dad telling Bart to go away because he needs to sleep.
    • Wrath: Moe snaps at a little girl for complaining about her drink, Lovejoy getting mad at Bart and Milhouse over the prank, and Bart yelling at Lisa when Lisa keeps mocking him over the loss of his soul during grace.
    • Envy: Lisa wants $5 after Bart spent it on dinosaur sponges, Bart envying the souls of the kids in his dreams, and Moe envying restaurants for bringing in more money than bars.
    • Pride: Bart prides himself for making an easy five bucks and is too proud to admit that the soul exists (until bad things begin happening to him). He also attempts to sell other conceptual aspects of himself to Lisa due to believing them all worthless.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Silence, You Fool!: Homer's brain tells Homer to be silent so he could steal Bart's spaghetti and Moe balls.
  • Sold His Soul for a Donut: In an attempt to prove the soul doesn't exist, Bart writes "Bart Simpson's Soul" on a piece of paper and sells it to Milhouse for $5. Milhouse in turn trades it to the Comic Book Guy for Alf pogs. Bart, meanwhile, experiences some unusual happenings, apparently due to now being soulless, and spends the episode trying to retrieve the piece of paper.
  • The Soulless: Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for $5. His breath doesn't fog glass, automatic doors don't open for him, his dog growls at him. It doesn't really make him evil, but he does get desperate enough to try and take Ralph Wiggum's soul. When Chief Wiggum interrupts him, Bart hisses at him and his eyes briefly turn into slits. He returns to normal after Lisa buys back the "soul" (a piece of church stationery with the words "Bart's Soul" on it) for him and Bart eats it.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: "Bart sold his soul, and that's just swell / Now he's going straight to — / Hello operator, give me number nine..."
  • Take That!:
    • Lovejoy is working a change sorting machine when Milhouse wonders why the Church would make up lies like the existence of a soul.
    • When Moe insults the little girl, everyone leaves, with Ned saying: "I expect that type of language at Denny's, but not here!". In non-English international translations, "Denny's" is changed to "McDonald's". The Take That! still works, as both are low-rent fast-food restaurants — Denny's is just more suited to sit-down meals.
    • When Lovejoy rounds up the kids he suspects might be responsible for the musical prank, he puts single mothers on the same level as murderers.
  • Third Time's the Charm: In "Skinless in Seattle", Itchy's first two attempts to hit Scratchy are total misses. The third one hits Scratchy right in the eye.
  • The Un-Smile: The commercial for Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag ends on an extreme close-up of Moe's grinning face, something he is known to be unaccustomed to doing. He starts having facial tics.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There were other waiters initially shown working at Uncle Moe's, but later, it is seen that Moe appears to be running the place by himself.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Milhouse agrees to sell Bart's soul back to him for ten times the price Milhouse paid to buy it in the first place.
    Milhouse: Who's stupid now, huh? (laughs maniacally)


Video Example(s):


Bart's Instant Dinosaur

Bart's dinosaur sponge isn't as impressive as advertised.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / InstantMassJustAddWater

Media sources: