Sideshow Bob steals a 10-megaton nuclear weapon and threatens to detonate it at an air show unless Springfield gives in to his demand to shut down all television broadcasts.
- Accidental Hero: Krusty's selfish, and with no regard to the town's safety, ignorance of Sideshow Bob's ban on TV is what exposed his bomb to be a dud and ultimately foiled his plan.
- Actor Allusion: Col. Leslie "Hap" Hapablap gives Bob the liner "What is your major malfunction?"
- Affably Evil: The guy who "eats people and takes their faces" politely waves and smiles at Chief Wiggum as he boards the bus.
- Anal Probing: Although unrelated to the plot, whilst searching an Air Force base for Bob, an airman opens the door to Hangar 18 before quickly closing it again after seeing an alien with a glowstick. The airman proclaims, "Watch out! He's got his probe!"
- Answer Cut:Wiggum: Shut your word-hole! We gotta get this place clean for the air show!
Sideshow Bob: Air show? Buzz-cut Alabamians spewing colored smoke from their whizz jets to the strains of "Rock You Like a Hurricane"? What kind of country-fried rube is still impressed by that?
(cut to the Simpsons; Homer, Bart, and Lisa are ecstatic about it)
- Anti-Climax: Sideshow Bob tries to destroy the shack with the Wright Brothers plane... only to harmlessly bounce off of it and get the plane run over by a tank.
- Artistic License History: Grandpa Simpson's history of the Wright Brothers' plane.Bart: What a piece of junk.
Grandpa: Junk?! That's the Wright Brothers' plane! At Kitty Hawk in 1902, Charles Lindbergh flew that on a thimble-full of corn oil. Single-handedly won us the Civil War, it did!
Bart: How do you know so much about history?
Grandpa: I pieced it together, mostly from sugar packets.
- Artistic License Military: Lisa wants to meet the first female stealth bomber pilot (also named Lisa) who apparently bombed seventy mosques in Operation: Desert Storm. While women are allowed to serve in the U.S. military, they weren't allowed to participate in combat until 2019.
- Ax-Crazy: Krusty managing to get around Bob's threats to stay on the air sends Bob into a homicidal fury and leads him on an attempted kamikaze run on the shack where Krusty is broadcasting, screaming for Krusty to die. The small and ridiculously underpowered aircraft he tries to use for said kamikaze run ends up bouncing harmlessly off the shack's wall.
- Bait-and-Switch: The episode opens up with Krusty thanking everyone who participated in his show's canned food drive...the contents of which he's used to create "our slipperiest, slimiest slop-stacle course ever!"
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: At the meeting Mayor Quimby declares, "Our city won't negotiate with terrorists...Can you point me towards a city that will?"
- Big Red Button: Lying neatly right on top of the atomic bomb.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: Considering the episode is one long parody of/jab at television, there's a fair number of jokes as FOX's expense.
- Break Out the Museum Piece: At the climax of the episode, Bob steals the Wright Brothers' plane (lent to the air show from the Smithsonian) with the intent of using it to kamikaze the civil defense shack and kill Krusty (and himself, and Bart). Also, it turns out that the nuke Bob stole was a literal museum piece, having long since become inactive.
- Brick Joke:
- Bob scoffs at the idea of the Springfield Air Show, disbelieving that people still enjoy "buzz-cut Alabamians spewing colored smoke from their whizz-jets to the strains of 'Rock You Like a Hurricane.'" Guess which song is played at the air show later in the episode.
- Also, earlier in the episode, Bob hears a Cool Old Lady on television saying she's "gonna haul ass to Lollapalooza", causing Bob to despair that "TV's bottomless chum bucket has claimed Vanessa Redgrave." At the end of the episode, Grandpa drives up on a motorcycle saying that he's "gonna haul ass to Lollapalooza", prompting a Here We Go Again! from the rest of the family.
- The Cameo: It seems like Steve Urkel and the Fourth Doctor are esteemed representations of television.
- Cardboard Prison: Sideshow Bob is held in Springwood's Minimum Security Prison. The Establishing Shot shows the front gate wide open.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Both the Duff blimp and the Wright Brothers' plane wind up factoring into Sideshow Bob's plan and backup plan, respectively.
- The Harrier Jet winds up being a subversion since, after Bob (with Bart as a hostage) tries escaping in it, he instantly crashes.
- Comically Missing the Point: A guard at the Air Force base misunderstands Marge's words when Bart and Lisa are accidentally left behind in the evacuation.Marge: My children are in there!
Airman: You must be very proud, ma'am.
- Cool Old Lady: Alluded to in the crappy sitcom that Bob's cellmate is watching:Woman: Grandma, this is my friend, Craig. (laugh track)
Grandma: "Friend"? You mean you two aren't knockin' boots? (laugh track) Ever do the "back seat mambo", Craigy? (laugh track) Now, I'm gonna haul ass to Lollapalooza! (revs her motorcycle)
- Danger Deadpan: Two fighter jets are scrambled to intercept Sideshow Bob's escape in the Wright Brothers' plane. It does not go well, as the pilot comments Yeagerly: "Bogey's air speed not sufficient for intercept. Suggest we get out and walk."
- Darker and Edgier: After his Lighter and Softer appearance, ol' Bob is getting back into the swing of things. And this time, he means business, going to much more extreme measures to get exactly what he wants. In the climax however, all his resources prove faulty and Hilarity Ensues.
- Determinator: After finding out that the only TV broadcast still going on is an old Civil Defense signal coming out of a shack deep in the desert, Krusty drives to the shack like a complete maniac with the intent of keeping on going for days on end doing improv comedy for the sake of milking the potential ratings.
- Did Not See That Coming: Bob is looking through the local channels and feeling proud of his achievement when they all go off-line... and then all of a sudden, Krusty shows up on the Civil Defense broadcast, boasting of being the only entertainment there is and swearing he will keep on going for days on end. Bob laments that even threatening nuclear annihilation isn't enough to stop Krusty's fame-seeking ways.
- Did Not Think This Through:
- Krusty's plan to milk the potential ratings of being the only uninterrupted entertainment on the city didn't really go past the part of driving to the shack and standing in front of the camera. Having forgot to bring any gear, Krusty tries to make do with improv and whatever is lying around the shack (which isn't much, being in the middle of the desert and not re-stocked since the Fifties). By the time Bob and Bart arrive in the Wright Brothers' plane, Krusty is just shifting in front of the camera, completely out of ideas.
- Bob had multiple nuclear bombs to choose from but went for the one that looked cool to him purely because it was made in The '50s. Which was a dud. Oops.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Sideshow Bob tries to nuke Springfield because he doesn't like the way television is dominating people's lives. (One of his reasons is, he used to be an actor on a kids show, and claimed that his "foolish capering destroyed more young minds then syphilis and pinball combined." Still, it's a rather poor excuse.)
- Do Not Adjust Your Set:
- As the cameras show jets flying rainbow colors, all of a sudden Sideshow Bob's head appears on TV screen, hijacking the broadcast.
- Krusty barging in front of the Civil Defense emergency broadcast's test pattern with his regular "hey-hey-hey!", ready to do improv for as long as he could for the sake of ratings. It actually makes Bob do a Double Take and lament that not even a freaking nuke is enough intimidation to keep Krusty off the air.
- Empty Quiver: Sideshow Bob steals a 10-megaton nuclear bomb and uses to hold Springfield hostage, forcing it to shut down all television broadcasts. When he detonates it, it turns out the bomb had decayed beyond use due to Bob picking a nuke constructed during the 1950s.
- Epic Fail:
- Bob threatening the town with a nuke from The '50s that falls apart the second he pushes the button.
- Bob trying to escape in a jet only for it to crash in a ditch, forcing him to take the much slower Wright Brothers plane.
- Homer breaks down the gate to the air base with his car trying to save Bart and Lisa, as soon as he does, Bob and Bart fly over him and he declares "Don't worry Bart! Daddy's coming to save you!" only to run over a road spike taking out all four tires.
- Bob attempts to kamikaze Krusty in the comically slow Wright Brothers plane which not only gives Krusty plenty of time to escape but falls to the ground after hitting the shack wall, leaving the plane more damaged than the shack.
- Everything Makes a Mushroom: Sideshow Bob takes Bart and Lisa hostage next to a '50s A-bomb. His demands are refused, he pushes the detonator, and a mushroom cloud explodes... before the camera pans out to reveal the cloud is, at most, two inches tall. Sideshow Bob then comments that "he HAD to go for the retro charm". The nuclear bomb had a very explicit expiration date written on it: "Best Used Before 1959."
- Evil Laugh: Bob gets started on a good one while carrying the nuke in a wheelbarrow, but he loses his enthusiasm after hitting a pothole.
- Failed Attempt at Drama:
- Bob's attempt at Evil Gloating has its effect ruined by the presence of helium, which turns his otherwise Badass Baritone into a high-pitched squeak.
- Bob's bomb, with which he had been threatening all of Springfield, gets a nice commercial break cliffhanger when Bob sets it off, only for it to fall to pieces, toss out a tiny puff of smoke, and release some rats it had inside. Lisa even lampshades it on the message she writes on the blimp's board to attract the police.
- Bob's attempted kamikaze run is rendered laughably harmless when the Wright Brothers' plane bounces off the shack, knocking Bob to the ground.Bob: DIE, KRUSTY! DIE— (plane hits shack and immediately falls to the ground) Oh.
- Fainting: Homer fakes this to get out of paying $48 for alcohol-free Duff.
- Fall of the House of Cards: Sideshow Bob builds a miniature model of Westminster Abbey, which collapses from the sound of people laughing at the Krusty the Klown Show.
- Fanservice: "We have searched every square inch of this base, and found nothing but porno, porno, PORNO!"
- Fate Worse than Death: In the war room, Quimby makes the decision to shut down television in order to save the lives of the citizens. Krusty is vehemently opposed:Krusty: Let's not go nuts! Would it really be worth living in a world without television? I think the survivors would envy the dead!
- Feedback Rule: The airshow is kicked off by a harsh ringing sound from the Colonel's microphone much to Marge's chagrin as she was having a headache.
- Flat Joy: Marge's reaction to the air show at the start and reaction to the Here We Go Again! moment at the end.
- Notice how, when Bob issues his ultimatum over the Tyranno-Vision, his voice sounds higher pitched than normal? That's because he's hiding in a blimp.
- As the episode creators point out in on the Season 7 DVD's director commentary for the episode, Milhouse's scene inside the Harrier jet is the first sign of there being trouble in the Van Houten household that would eventually come to a head in the following season's "A Mihouse Divided":Milhouse: (mimicking a machine gun while pressing buttons on the Harrier console) Take that, Mom and Dad! Send me to a psychiatrist, will you? Take that, Dr. Sally Waxler! (accidentally activates the ejector seat)
- Going Commando: Bart is "going commando" when he and Lisa get trapped in the Air Force base.Bart: Ahhh! Free and easy, Lis'! There's nothing like an unfurnished basement for pure comfort.
- Helium Speech: "Blasted helium! Shoo, shoo!"
- Here We Go Again!: Subverted and parodied. After Bart and Lisa thwart Bob, Grandpa rides up on a motorcycle and says that he's going to "haul ass to Lollapalooza!" (a Call-Back to earlier in the episode, where a parody of Roseanne used the exact same dialog). The rest of the Simpsons exclaim "Here we go again!", with Marge lagging a little behind and obviously less than enthusiastic just like she'd been about going to the air show earlier in the episode.
- Hidden in Plain Sight: Sideshow Bob manages to pull this off twice:
- He manages to slip away from the other inmates by hiding behind a statue that was behind the prison bus.
- After taking the nuclear bomb, he proceeds to hole up in the Duff blimp.
- Hypocrisy Nod: "By the way, I'm aware of the irony of appearing on TV in order to decry it, so don't bother pointing that out."
- Hypocritical Humor:
Lisa: Mom, mooom, you're stepping on my heels and knocking off my shoes!Marge: (panicked) We can always get more shoes, move move move!
- As Marge tells her kids not to panic while fleeing the base...
- As the kids are stuck with Bob in the Duff blimp, Bart tries stalling for time by flattering Bob, who is initially undeterred as he knows better by now. Bart then laments he should have known Bob was too smart to fall for that; whereupon Bob does fall for the compliment, giving the police ample time to find them.
- I'm a Humanitarian: One of the prisoners eats people, then steals their faces.
- Incredibly Lame Fun: Col. Hapablap hinks box-kites are interesting. The audience disagrees.
- Irony: It's Sideshow Bob's very preference for the Good Old Ways that causes his Evil Plan to fail.Bob: (reading the inside of the dud bomb) "Best before November 1959." Damn it, Bob! There were plenty of brand new bombs, but oh no. You had to go for that retro '50s charm!
- It's All About Me: Krusty is perfectly willing to risk the town being nuked by a man he knows perfectly well is crazy enough to do it just for the sake of keeping his ratings high, be it by being the only man trying to convince the mayor to keep the TV stations on the air or by taking over a civil defense broadcast to be the only entertainment around.
- Large Ham:
- R. Lee Ermey, true to form, plays his role as a Southern-accented Air Force colonel to the hilt.Hapablap: Sweet Enola Gay, son! I'm gonna come in there and corpse you up! Corpse you up... and mail you to Mama!
- Sideshow Bob, as usual, brings a healthy dose of Evil Is Hammy to his dialogue. His attempted Evil Gloating even has him Milking the Giant Cow. He also does an impressive impression of Colonel Hapablap's strong Southern accent and ridiculous dialogue.
- R. Lee Ermey, true to form, plays his role as a Southern-accented Air Force colonel to the hilt.
- The Last Title: The name of the episode.
- Literary Allusion Title: Taken from The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America. It's also a reference to the film Twilight's Last Gleaming, which has a similar premise regarding stolen nuclear weapons.
- Logo Joke: The 20th Century Fox logo appears before the Executive Producers credit, a Call-Back to earlier in the episode when Bob's cellmate was watching a crappy sitcom and the 20th Century Fox logo is heard.
- Low-Speed Chase: Bob trying to make an escape in the Wright Brothers' plane, while police cars drove slowly behind him trying to catch him with nets.
- Mayor Pain: Subverted. Mayor Quimby was the one who was willing to sacrifice television to prevent Springfield from being nuked.
- Near-Villain Victory: Bob actually comes the closest to achieving his schemes, with the Simpson family doing little to actually foil Bob's plans. It's only Bob's sense of melodrama and dumb luck that does him in.
- No-Nonsense Nemesis: When Bob's demands aren't met and is preparing to detonate the bomb.Bart: Bob, no!
Lisa: Don't you see? That would be taking the easy way out!
Bob: I agree. (pushes the detonator)
- Not Helping Your Case: Bart attempting to talk Sideshow Bob out of his murderous revenge.Bart: You can't kill Krusty; he made you who you are. Without him, you wouldn't even be called "Sideshow."
(Bob just gets angrier)
- Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Bob claimed that he was doing a good deed by ridding Springfield of TV, but all it really did was make him the top dog in the manger. Also, when Bob sees Springfield give into his demands, he exclaims "Blast! I should have made more demands!"
- Oh, Crap!: Bob when his wheelbarrow hits a pothole as he's carting around a nuclear bomb, everyone at the air show when Bob reveals the nuke, and Bart when Bob announces his intent to kill himself, Bart, and Krusty in a kamikaze run.
- Older Is Better: Subverted, Bob never took into consideration that maybe the military would have deactivated an obsolete drop-type atomic bomb from the '50s.
- Only One Finds It Fun: Inverted. Marge consistently shows throughout the episode that she's the only Simpson family member who doesn't wants to be at the air show.
- Pet the Dog: Quimby is willing to sacrifice television to stop Sideshow Bob from detonating a nuke.
- Police Are Useless: Chief Wiggum decides to completely ignore and cover up Sideshow Bob's disappearance out of sheer laziness. On top of that, both Bob (a multiple attempted murderer) and "that guy who eats people and takes their faces" are kept in a minimum security prison.
- Reality Ensues:
- An Air Force officer proclaims that the Harrier jet is so simple to operate that even a child could fly it. When Lisa asks if she can fly it, the officer replies "of course you cannot".
- Although you can chalk it up to Sanity Slippage, you really have to question Bob's decision to use the Wright Brothers' plane to try and kamikaze Krusty since it winds up bouncing off of the shack Krusty was broadcasting from.
- Similarly, once Krusty sees the incoming plane, he jumps to the ground in defense... only to realize that it's moving very slowly.Krusty: (gets up and lights a cigarette) ... (annoyed) What is the freakin' hold up?!
- Similarly, once Krusty sees the incoming plane, he jumps to the ground in defense... only to realize that it's moving very slowly.
- Bob realizes too late that the 1950's bomb he stole from the military had long since decayed into inertness since 1959.
- Bob's attempt at hijacking a Harrier jet fails because it wasn't on a runway and falls into a ditch before it can get the necessary thrust for take-off.
- The two jets attempting to intercept Bob on the Wright Brothers' plane, only to zoom right past it due to their difference in speed.
- Tanks (even if more simple to drive nowadays) need some specialized training to be driven with the necessary precision, and Air Force training doesn't provide it. An Air Force pilot crushes the Wright Brothers' plane as a result.
- Sanity Slippage: Compared to prior schemes, which were about obtaining money or power (or payback on Bart), Sideshow Bob has gone much more around the bend by this episode, threatening (and it's not a bluff) to blow up Springfield out of a petty distaste for television. He fully loses it after seeing Krusty defied his TV blackout and goes on a screaming kamikaze mission.
- Selective Enforcement: Bob lampshades his apathy towards getting any revenge on Lisa. Indeed, after finding out she exposed him, he angrily takes out his knife... and cuts through the blimp to escape with Bart and only Bart.
- Self-Deprecation: Bob laments, "My crusade against television has come to an end so formulaic it could have spewed from the power-book of the laziest Hollywood hack!"
- The underground bunker and table (topped with green felt) is reminiscent of The War Room from Dr. Strangelove. Krusty's suggestion that the survivors will envy the dead is one of the president's questions about the mineshaft survival solution.
- Professor Frink can be seen sitting in a wheelchair, as did Dr. Strangelove himself.
- At the beginning of the third act of the episode, we see scenes of everyday life across Springfield, and one by one, with a "zooming" sound effect, they all freeze-frame in anticipation of the (supposedly) imminent nuclear blast; such was the ending of Fail Safe.
- One of the scenes, showing Maggie picking flowers in a field with the camera zooming into her eye, is an homage of the infamous and controversial Daisy ad used by Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 United States presidential election.
- The beginning of the episode has Krusty putting Sideshow Mel through a "slop-stacle course," an obvious parody of the similar concept used in Double Dare.
- The alien is being kept in Hangar 18, referring to the film Hangar 18.
- The episode's title is also a reference to the 1977 film Twilight's Last Gleaming, which has a similar premise involving a madman holding the world hostage with nuclear weapons.
- The "esteemed representatives of television" include the Fourth Doctor and Steve Urkel.
- As with numerous Disney and Pixar films, CalArts Room "A113" is referenced, being the ID of Sideshow Bob's prison uniform.
- The guy who eats people and wears their faces is an obvious nod to Hannibal Lecter.
- The underground bunker and table (topped with green felt) is reminiscent of The War Room from Dr. Strangelove. Krusty's suggestion that the survivors will envy the dead is one of the president's questions about the mineshaft survival solution.
- Skewed Priorities: Krusty places the town at risk of being nuked by continuing to broadcast in spite of Bob's threat, believing that as the only program on air, he'll get a ratings windfall.
- Staggered Zoom: Combined with Scare Chord when showcasing that Bart left his underwear at home.
- Suicide Mission: After making off with Bart in the Wright Brothers' plane, when it seems like the police are going to stop his escape, we learn what Bob's actual intentions are:Bart: You can't escape, Bob! If the tennis rackets don't get you, the pool skimmers will!Sideshow Bob: (slightly crazed) Escape?! Ooh, huh, I- I never planned to escape. You see, this is a—a kamikaze mission... You and I are going to kill Krusty the Clown! (banks hard right towards Alkali Flats)
- Superweapon Suspense Subversion: Unbeknownst to Bob, the nuclear material in his bomb has long since past its useful half-life, so when he tries to detonate it, it doesn't actually destroy anything.
- Tank Goodness: One of the vehicles the military sends out to pursue Bob when he makes his getaway on the Wright plane is a tank. Subverted eventually when the tank accidentally crushes the Wright Brothers' plane before stopping (because for some reason the guy driving the tank is an Air Force pilot instead of an Army tanker. The pilot even mentions that the tank is not a vehicle he's trained to drive).
- Tempting Fate: Sideshow Bob's attempt to hijack the Harrier jet.Bob: God bless the idiot-proof Air force. (hits "fly" button, only for the jet to fall into a nearby ravine as it tries to take off)
- They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Lampshaded: One of the inmates who (according to Chief Wiggum) eats people and wears their faces is a normal, Affably Evil guy who is compliant not to escape from prison.
- Toilet Humour: As the soldiers search the entire base for Sideshow Bob, they find Grandpa hiding in one of the toilets:Grandpa: This elevator only goes to the basement. And someone made an awful mess down there...
- Truth in Television: Even ignoring that the bomb had clearly been disarmed long ago, an atomic weapon built in the 1950s would have basically gone inert and incapable of an atomic explosion by now, as nuclear warheads have a specific half-life. Not too long after this episode aired, the US military raised concerns to Congress that eventually we're going to have to start building new nuclear warheads or the ones we have won't work anymore.
- Unknown Rival: Bob goes on his usual psychotic rampage against Bart and Krusty. Ironically, despite pretty much single-handedly ruining his initial plan and being the one who ended up exposing his election fraud last time, he doesn't target Lisa, even lampshading he couldn't care less about her.
- Unusual Euphemism: Colonel Leslie "Hap" Hapablap is full of these. Not surprising, given his voice actor:What in the World According to Garp?!
If you don't open that door, I'll tear you up like a Kleenex at a snot party!
Sweet Enola Gay, son! I'm gonna come in there and corpse you up! Corpse you up, and mail you to mama!
We'll find that headcase faster than Garfield finds lasagna. (nobody laughs) Oh. Sorry, my wife thought that was gangbusters.
You know what really frosts my Kelvinator?
- Villainous Breakdown: A combination of frustration at television and the failure of his plans drive Bob over the edge near the end of the episode, set off specifically by Krusty managing to stay on the air despite Bob's threats. Bob then tries to nuke Springfield and when that doesn't work, hijacks the Wright Brothers' plane and tries to make a kamikaze run on Krusty.
- Where's the Kaboom?: Bob attempts to detonate a nuclear bomb, only for it to go off with a disappointing fizzle and fall apart, revealing a family of mice and a 'best before' date of 1959.Bob: Damn it, Bob! There were plenty of brand-new bombs, but you had to go for that retro 50s charm!
- Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: Early on, Sideshow Bob wonders who would be watching Air Shows. Cut to the Simpsons family cheering at the prospect of it.
- Who Writes This Crap?!: Sideshow Bob said the way his evil plans ended is "so formulaic, it could have spewed from the powerbook of the laziest Hollywood hack!"
- With Cat Like Tread: After stealing his bomb, he walks off with it in wheelbarrow, laughing evilly, only for it to almost topple and detonate. Bob begins walking again, laughing much more meekly this time round.
- Writer's Block: Behind-the-scenes example. Showrunners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein insisted that the name of the colonel be funny. The writing staff stayed in the office until the early morning hours before finally coming up with "Hap" Hapablap.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Marge has a headache at the air show; she thinks she'll feel better once the show starts. Cue microphone feedback.