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Recap / The Simpsons S7 E8 – "Mother Simpson"

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Original air date: 11/19/1995

Production code: 3F06

After faking his own death and getting the mistake cleared up at the town courthouse, Homer makes a discovery: his mother, Mona (Glenn Close) is still alive. She supposedly died when Homer was a kid. Mona's grave actually has the remains of Walt Whitman. But the joyous reunion at the cemetery is cut short when the FBI comes after Mona for something she did in the 1960s, which is connected to Mr. Burns and is why she abandoned Abe and Homer.

Much like Futurama's "Jurassic Bark", this episode was known for its Tear Jerker ending, where Homer once again has to say goodbye to his mom as she returns to the underground to evade authorities and Homer silently sits on his car and stares into the night sky.


  • All Just a Dream: Averted; Mona kissing Homer (when he was a kid) goodbye before she went on the run really did happen. Homer always thought he dreamt it.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Marge is further dumbfounded by the strange claims of Homer's "death" when Patty and Selma gleefully come over, having prepared his tombstone, with the inscription "We are richer for having lost him". This is one of the few times Marge gets angry at their treatment of Homer.
    Marge: A tombstone?!
    Patty: It came with the burial plot, but that's not important. The important thing is Homer's dead!
    Selma: We've been saving for this since your wedding day!
    Marge: Get out of here, you ghouls! (slams the door in their faces) A-ya-ya-ya...
  • Animation Bump: All over the place, given it's a David Silverman-helmed episode. The most obvious standouts being Homer's faked death and the scenes immediately following it.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Homer tells Marge that his mother had a very good reason for leaving him. Marge counters with "Which was?" and Homer stammers before guessing he may have been a horrible son.
    Marge: Oh, Homey, come on. You're a sweet, kind, loving man. I'm sure you were a wonderful son!
    Homer: (unhappy) Then why did she leave me?
  • Armor-Piercing Response: After reading in his file that his mom is considered still alive, Homer angrily points the bureaucrat to the stone angel that is placed at her grave... and his response is what truly kicks off the plot.
    Bureaucrat: Mr. Simpson, uh, maybe you should actually go up there.
  • Artistic License – History: In the flashback to the night Mona attacked Mr. Burns' germ warfare lab, Abe is seen watching Super Bowl III. Howard Cosell - voiced by Harry Shearer, in this case - is shown on-screen, talking about the two quarterbacks in the game, the New York Jets' Joe Namath, and the Baltimore Colts' Johnny Unitas. Cosell is seen wearing a jacket with the ABC's Wide World of Sports logo on it (or, at least, a crudely drawn representation of one). In real life, Super Bowl III was televised by NBC, with Curt Gowdy calling the game. However, Cosell is more well-known these days than Gowdy, despite the fact that Cosell never called a Super Bowl in his whole career...and Gowdy called seven of the first 13.
  • Artistic License – Law: In real life, Mona would have nothing to worry about since the statute of limitations on her crime would have long since passed.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Antibiotics wouldn't be able to cure asthma (but it would have been able to clear up Chief Wiggum's acne).
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: When the FBI raid the house to arrest Mona, her ex-husband Abe immediately jumps up to distract them, though even he's not sure if it's a distraction or just senility.
    Abe: A little from column A, a little from column B.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • After Homer and Bart throw the dummy down the waterfall, Homer says to him, "We've earned this Saturday, so let's make the most of it!" The scene cuts to two kites flying side by side in the air. Then the camera pans down the strings to show they're being flown by Lisa and Marge while Homer drinks in the hammock and a bored Bart hits the patio with a hammer.
    • Having learned why Mona went on the run, the family are startled by someone pounding at the front door. It turns out to be Abe showing up for dinner.
    • As the FBI interrogates a cabby who saw Mona, Bill Gannon is tapping away at a computer, talking about an aging program it has... only when he switches it around all it does is show a large "25", rather than a digitally aged Mona.
  • Bathos: Mona shares a loving final goodbye with her son...then bangs her head on the door getting into the van, letting out a pained "D'oh!"
  • Big Eater: "The Simpsons' 138th Episode Spectacular" reveals a Deleted Scene showing that as soon as they returned home from the post office, Homer starts scarfing down on all the candy Mona sent him over the years.
    Mona: Homer, please. You don't have to wolf down that 25-year-old candy just to make me happy.
    Homer: But it won't make you unhappy, right?
  • Bittersweet Ending: Homer has to watch his mom walk out of his life again after keeping her from getting caught by Mr. Burns. But this time, Homer is awake to see his mom leave and at least knows why she left him in the first place, and that she loves him.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: The final exchange between Homer and Mona:
    Mona: Don't worry, Homer. You'll always be a part of me.
    (turns around and hits her head on the van's doorway)
    Mona: D'oh!
  • Both Sides Have a Point: While Mona is justified in calling out Abe for lying to Homer about the reason for her absence, Abe himself was equally justified in calling out Mona for abandoning Homer and leaving him as a single parent.
  • Brick Joke: The cabby that's interrogated declares he'd seen Mona, only to correct himself to the more accurate "saw". Later on, the man at the cemetery says he saw Mona, only to modify his statement to he "seen" her.
  • Buried Alive: Hans Moleman was going to be because he didn't want to raise a fuss.
  • Calling Out for Not Calling: A major theme. Mona initially refuses to explain where and why she was gone for 27 years.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Upon reuniting with Mona, Homer tells her "Some people say I look like Dan Aykroyd."
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Wiggum's asthma, and the fact the anti-germ bomb cleared it up.
    • Patty and Selma use the insulting tombstone for Homer's grave as a coffee table and to point to the police where to find Mona.
  • Cool Old Lady: Bart likes Mona because she's a rebel and a fugitive; Lisa admires her strength and intellect.
  • Couch Gag: A bowling pin clearing bar scares Snowball II off the couch, and then a pinsetter places the family on the couch like bowling pins.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Mona needed to leave her husband and son to protect them after she was recognized in connection with the destruction of Burns' germ warfare laboratory.
  • Death Glare: Mr. Burns is not impressed Smithers taped over his copy of Ride of the Valkyries with "Waterloo" by ABBA.
  • Doting Grandparent: Mona is quick to get attached to her grandson and granddaughters and vice versa, even standing up for Bart when Homer strangles him for trying to extort money out of her despite not knowing his name.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Marge frequently shows a very high tolerance towards the insults her sisters throw at Homer, but when they show up a with a gravestone for Homer and are celebrating the fact he's supposedly dead, she tells them to leave immediately and slams the door in their faces.
    Marge: Get out of here, you ghouls!
  • Failed a Spot Check: Chief Wiggum fails to notice that he's been putting out an APB into his wallet.
    • Since Wiggum was secretly trying to help Mona escape, this may have been an intentional screw-up on his part. Sending all the police cars to Greek Town would certainly serve as a good distraction...
  • Faking the Dead:
    • Homer does this to get out of picking up garbage at a highway during a Burns-sponsored event.
    • Abe is revealed to have done this to Mona after she is forced into hiding, believing Homer would be better thinking she had died than willingly abandoned him.
  • Foil: Mona to Abe. Abe is a senile, cranky, and unpleasant old man who goes off on wild tangents and generally annoys Homer and his family, albeit his wear and tear largely coming from all he has gone through with his family. Mona has aged with dignity, retained all of her faculties, and is someone Homer and his family loves to have around, though is left with an incredibly distant relationship due to her occupation.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: In order to get out of picking up trash as part of a mandatory work activity, Homer fakes his death. However, this causes him to be actually considered dead; not only do Patty and Selma show up with a tombstone, but since their home was in his name, the town cuts off their power. This causes Marge to force Homer to go to the Courthouse to correct this... which is done within seconds of him (angrily) telling the bureaucrat that he's still alive. But then Homer demands to see his file (which he is legally allowed to do), which causes the true plot of the episode to start once he spots the mention of his mom...
  • Hippie Van: Mona's old hippie friends who rescue her at the end of the episode drive an electric Microbus with the usual psychedelic paint job. It also runs on an electric battery, necessitating Homer and Mona cut their goodbyes short before it runs out.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Mona's reason for leaving Abe and Homer. By contrast, Abe lied about Mona being alive to spare Homer the shame of knowing his mother was a fugitive.
  • I Have Many Names: Mona's aliases include Mona Simpson, Mona Stevens, Martha Stewart, Penelope Olsen, Muddy Mae Suggins. Word of God says the first is her actual name, but see Mythology Gag.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: While Lisa is spending time with Mona:
    Mona: (sees something) Gotta go, grandma stuff!
    (She runs back inside, leaving Lisa confused. Then she saw a police car drive by.)
    Lisa: (concerned) Huh?
  • It Will Never Catch On: Parodied with Abe's comment about Super Bowl III.
    Abe: If people don't support this thing, it might not make it!
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Abe was a pretty nasty father, but his anger toward Mona, for abandoning Homer, is somewhat understandable. She just rolls her eyes; though he was a lousy husband as well and it's implied he wasn't much interested in being a father until after she left.note  Also, Mona reveals she tried to keep contact with Homer even while on the run, only her care packages were deliberately not being delivered due to the postal workers pissed at not getting tips during the holidays.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Homer first meets Mona after she obliviously roars at him as an "awful, AWFUL man" for accidentally tripping into her son's grave. This fierce side of Mona vanishes the moment he defiantly claims his grave and the two figure it out.
  • Lazy Bum: Homer faked his death just to get out of trash duty.
  • Loud of War: Mr. Burns plays an audio cassette recording of Ride of the Valkyries as he storms the Simpsons' household...and the tape quickly cuts to Abba's Waterloo, which Smithers admits he recorded over the original music.
  • Manly Tears: Smithers displays this when the power plant workers think Homer died from being sucked into a power turbine.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The power plant workers after Homer is seemingly sucked to his death in a power turbine.
  • Mistaken Death Confirmation: Exploited. Homer fakes his own death to skip a cleanup organized by his boss, namely by throwing a $600 dummy (bones included) off a waterfall, which is then followed by sharp rocks breaking it apart, beavers ripping its clothes and the turbines of the nuclear power plant shredding what's left of it. In a rare display of efficiency, Springfield officially registers Homer's status as deceased, which leads to the power in the Simpsons' house being cut off.
  • Moment Killer: Homer, by his own admission. Seconds after a tender reunion with his mother, a pelican comes out of nowhere and drops a fish down his pants.
  • Mood-Swinger:
    Mr. Burns: Smithers, who was that corpse?
    Smithers: (crying) Homer Simpson, sir. One of the finest, bravest men ever to grace Sector 7G. (normal) I'll cross him off the list.
  • Mood Whiplash: The episode is full of this, with wacky scenes immediately followed by dramatic, emotional ones. Best highlighted by Abe chewing out Mona, before sheepishly asking if they could have sex.
  • Multiple Identity IDs: The Simpson children were already starting to get suspicious about Mona because of her odd behavior when there's cops around but what really sets them off is when they check her purse and find multiple fake identity cards, which make them believe that she's a con artist trying to exploit the family's generosity. They then confront her with these cards and she tells the whole story.
    Marge: Mother Simpson, we'd like to ask you a few questions about your past.
    Mona: Can't reminisce. Sleeping. [feigns snoring]
    Bart: Spill it, Muddy Mae, or we're calling the cops!
    Mona: Please don't.
    Lisa: Then we'll call your husband, Grampa!
  • Mythology Gag: "Penelope Olson" is the name of Homer's mother on the family tree in Bart Simpson's Guide to Life, although much in this source is most likely non-canonical.
  • Neverending Terror: It's made clear in this (and most other) episodes where Mona appears that Burns is still out to put her in jail for what she did, even after several decades have passed, forcing Mona to stay on the move.
  • Never My Fault: Lenny complains about picking up bottles on the freeway because half of them aren't even his.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: When Burns asks Smithers who just died (Homer faking his death), Smithers (who has always pointed out that Homer is a bad employee) immediately answers that it was a "very brave man".
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The FBI agents assigned to find Mona are Joe Friday and Bill Gannon. Harry Morgan reprised his role as Gannon.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Mona took part in the destruction of Burns' germ lab, then went back to help him when he was knocked down by the fleeing hippies. He labelled her a fugitive, forcing her to spend the next several decades on the run. Though in her defense, she didn't know it was Burns until she helped him up.
  • Not Helping Your Case: As Homer gets excited about Mona being around, Marge gently reminds him that she abandoned him for 25 years. Homer retorts it was 27 years and that he has no idea why she left in the first place. He immediately becomes depressed and feels it was his fault.
  • Nothing Personal: The man from the electric company who cuts the power to the Simpsons' house because it was registered in Homer's name still takes the time to offer Marge his condolences.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • For once, Wiggum was doing this. Mona's original sabotage indirectly led to him being able to enter the Police Academy when he was unable to do so before, and he felt he owed her one. He worked behind the scenes to make sure she could escape, no one being the wiser.
    • In the deleted scene where he's eating all the contents of Mona's care packages, Homer tells her his terrible work ethic at the power plant is because he's deliberately sabotaging the place from the inside.
    • Abe might be doing this when he distracts the FBI by claiming to be the Lindbergh Baby. It might also be genuine senility.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws:
    • Patty and Selma purchased a burial plot for Homer complete with tombstone that delivered some Last Disrespects ("we are richer for having lost him") with money they were saving for this specific purpose from the day of the Simpsons' wedding and that they gleefully try to supply to Marge when they think Homer has died (this is one of the few times in the show where Marge calls them out on their awfulness to her husband). They also are the ones who tell the police where Mona is hiding... and they do so by showing them that the "coffee table" they were using the whole scene is that same tombstone.
    • Marge's first reaction upon learning she had a mother-in-law was commenting she couldn't live vicariously through her friends who do have in-laws, though this is averted, as Mona is actually nice to Marge and the kids. Though she was concerned about Homer spending time with someone who walked out on him when he was a kid. When she learned about Mona's past, Marge understood why Mona had to leave and apologized for misjudging her.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Defied. Homer thinks the bureaucrat will give him trouble, but the guy is actually perfectly helpful and friendly despite Homer's obnoxious attitude.
  • Oh, Crap!: Mona, four times. First, when she spotted a police car. Second, when the family threatens to call the police if she doesn't spill. Third, when they threaten to call Abe, forcing her to confess. Lastly, when she sees the person she helped get up was Mr. Burns in the flashback.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Homer insists his government file is all screwed up because "Margaret Simpson" is listed as one of his children and ignores the bureaucrat pointing out that's his youngest daughter. On the other hand, Homer wasn't perplexed by "Marjorie" being listed as his wife.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Mona Simpson once used "Mona Stevens" as an alias. Make of that what you will.
  • Pet the Dog: Abe is not the best father to Homer but when Mona left he told his son that she had died so he wouldn't think she abandoned him.
    • The typically corrupt Chief Wiggum is implied to not only have misdirected the police attempting to arrest Mona, but also directly tips Homer off so that she can escape, all to repay her past actions that enabled him to join the force.
  • Prematurely Marked Grave: After Homer is believed dead, Patty and Selma visit Marge to present her a gravestone with Homer's name on it for which (they say) they have been saving since Marge's wedding day. As Homer does not actually need it, they use it as a coffee table.
  • Punctuated Pounding: "I! Hate! You! Walt! Freakin'! Whitman! Leaves of Grass, my ass!"
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: The first thing Mona does when she hears about Homer's death is visit the cemetery where he is to be buried. After she realizes that he faked his death, she and Homer have this exchange.
    Homer: I thought you were dead!
    Mona: I thought you were dead!
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Homer doesn't understand them. This example is even used at the top of the trope's page.
    Mona: (singing) How many roads must a man walk down / Before you can call him a man?
    Homer: Seven!
    Lisa: No, dad, it's a rhetorical question.
    Homer: Rhetorical, eh? ... Eight!
    Lisa: Dad, do you even know what "rhetorical" means?
    Homer: Do I know what "rhetorical" means?
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Mr. Burns figured out Mona's identity by using phrenology.
  • Say My Name: "DAMN YOU, WALT WHITMAN!"
  • The Scapegoat: Burns immediately blames Smithers when his "Ride Of The Valkyries" tape is replaced with "Waterloo". Subverted in that he's actually correct and Smithers sheepishly admits it.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Wiggum is usually in Burns' pocket, but he turns against Burns this time and helps Mona escape, because he owes her.
  • Shared Family Quirks: Proving her point that she'll always be a part of Homer no matter where she goes, Mona then hits her head and says "D'oh!"
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Gannon’s son is said to have gone crazy in Vietnam.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Silver Fox: Subverted. Mona has aged a lot better compared to Abe, not just physically but mentally. Abe attributes this to being a single parent.
  • The '60s: Mona's rebelliousness is encouraged when she notices Joe Namath's long hair and the spirit of the 1960s falls upon her.
  • Smart Ball:
    • In a quick little gag, it's revealed that Homer is familiar with the works of Walt Whitman.
    • Chief Wiggum outwitting Mr. Burns and the FBI.
  • Solemn Ending Theme: In place of the usual Simpsons credits theme is a sad orchestral piece as Homer stares at the stars.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Parodied. Before the raid on the house, Burns puts in a tape of "Ride of the Valkyries" to mark this occasion. However, it quickly cuts to "Waterloo" by ABBA because Smithers used the tape, so the agents are bursting into the house to that instead. Burns is not happy.
  • Special Guest: Glenn Close as Mona Simpson, who was previously voiced by series regular Maggie Roswell for her minor speaking roles. In this case, Glenn Close would reprise her role for many Mona appearances in the future.
  • Stargazing Scene: When Homer's long-lost mother is forced to flee Springfield after a brief reunion, Homer tearfully waves her goodbye as she drives into the sunset, then sits and watches the stars as the credits roll.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: According to Gannon, Friday hasn't been the same since his son went crazy in Vietnam. Friday says in complete monotone that it's a pain that never ends.
  • This Explains So Much: A positive example. Lisa has always felt like an outsider among the rest of the family, but remarks that after meeting Mona she finally makes sense.
  • Title Drop: "Mother Simpson, we'd like to ask you a few questions about your past."
  • Two Decades Behind: At the post office, Mr. Burns asks to send a letter to the Prussian consulate in Siam by autogyro. The Squeaky-Voiced Teen goes to check the manual and thinks that it must be out-of-date.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: This trope was the whole reason Mona Simpson was always on the run from the law. After saving Mr. Burns when a hippie demonstration she was participating in went wrong, Mr. Burns was able to identify Mona, forcing her to abandon Homer at such a young age. Luckily, the demonstration had also cured a young Clancy Wiggum, who was working as a security guard, of his asthma. Unlike Mr. Burns, Wiggum was, in fact, grateful because it finally allowed him to join the police force, and he anonymously helped Mona escape from Springfield to avoid getting arrested.
  • We Should Get Another Tape: Mr. Burns plays Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries while raiding the Simpson's house... but it changes to Waterloo by ABBA. Burns shoots a Death Glare at Smithers, who admits to taping over it.
  • Wham Line: After Homer fails into his own open grave.
    Mona: You awful, awful man! Get out of my son's grave!
  • Wham Shot: Abe has this reaction upon seeing his ex-wife, Mona, for the first time in 27 years.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • When Abe meets Mona for the first time in years, Abe calls Mona out on abandoning the family while Mona calls Abe out on telling Homer she died.
      Mona: Oh Abe, you've aged terribly.
      Abe: Well what'd you expect?! You left me to raise the boy on my own!
      Mona: I had to leave! But you didn't have to tell Homer I was dead!
      Abe: It was either that or tell him his mother was a wanted criminal! You were a rotten wife and I'll never, ever forgive you! ...Can we have sex, please?
      Mona: (disgusted): Oh Abe...
      Abe: Well I tried. What's for dinner?
    • Marge is furious at her sisters for celebrating Homer's supposed death.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Of all people, it's Chief Wiggum who comes to Mona Simpson's aid in the climax. He willingly stalls the police investigation to buy Mona time to escape, because he was grateful that she cured his asthma and thus allowed him to join the force.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Homer discovers the tombstone he thought belonged to Mona actually belongs to Walt Whitman. In real life, Whitman was buried in Camden, New Jersey, which is approximately a half-hour's drive away from both Springfield, NJ as well as Springfield, Pennsylvania.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Homer's (faked) death feels like an afterthought according to the Springfield news sources, considering a Spinning Newspaper reveals the story as "Local Man Loses Pants, Life," which comes with the subtitle "Beaver Rescue Falls Short."
  • Wrong Song Gag: Mr. Burns tries to play "Ride of the Valkyries" as the authorities raid the Simpson house to "set the mood". However, it quickly cuts to "Waterloo" by ABBA due to Smithers recording over part of the tape.


Video Example(s):


Ride of the... ABBA?

As FBI agents prepare to storm the Simpson house to arrest Mona, Mr. Burns decides to set the mood with "Ride of the Valkyries". However, because Smithers taped over part of the track, it quickly cuts to "Waterloo" by ABBA.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / WrongSongGag

Media sources: