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Recap / The Simpsons S 8 E 18 Homer Vs The Eighteenth Amendment

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Episode - 4F15
First Aired - 3/16/1997

Alcohol is banned from Springfield after Bart accidentally gets drunk at the St. Patrick's Day parade and the local law clerk discovers that there's apparently been a Prohibition-law for the last two centuries, but was never enforced. To combat this, Homer becomes a bootlegger — and the town fights back with a no-nonsense, Elliot Ness-style lawman who puts the incompetent Chief Wiggum out of a job.


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This episode contains examples of:

  • Accidental Pervert: When the anti-alcohol women's group catch Chief Wiggum dancing with Princess Kashmir, Wiggum decides to "give them the old Wiggum charm." Just as he struts up to the group, smiling, Helen Lovejoy screams, "PERVERT!" thinking that he was going to molest her.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The newspaper headlines "Beer Baron Beats Banner" and "Banner Bars Booze (Booze Barred By Banner)".
  • Anachronism Stew: Banner is first seen stepping out of a Treasury Department building. The Treasury doesn't handle illegal alcohol production anymore; that bureau got absorbed into the Justice Department in 1930 and became the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). It's probably just another joke referencing Eliot Ness, and in any case a modern-day American town practicing Prohibition and having jazzy speakeasies is pretty anachronistic anyway.
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  • Asshole Victim: Rex Banner gets launched by the catapult after testing it by launching a cat and saying that the only thing stopping him from becoming a spree killer is the fact that the law forbids him. The only reaction everybody has to him being flung by the catapult (under Wiggum's orders) is Quimby saying a puzzled "well, that happened."
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: On the same scene where Banner says that he's starting to suspect that a booze baron exists, Banner notices that Barney is standing by the window blackout drunk and mocking him. Banner's response is to punch right through the window to grab a hold of Barney's shirt and interrogate him.
  • Behind the Black: After returning from a Beer Baron run, Homer briefly considers checking to see if the coast is clear before taking his wheelbarrow inside ... and running into Marge, who's standing right in front of him.
  • Black and Gray Morality: There's nothing noble about Homer's bootlegging—even taking the prohibition law as unjust, he's not so much fighting it as using it for his own profit (his justification to Marge is "it made us money"), not to mention the beer he's selling was basically stolen from the trash. Homer only really remains sympathetic because the man sent after him is a complete psychopath and the town wants to execute him for a very minor crime.
  • Black Comedy Burst: During the St. Patrick's Day celebration, an English pub suddenly explodes, which is heavily implied to be an attack by Irish nationalists. Cue everyone cheering.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • After escaping Banner, Homer insists to Marge that nothing happened to the car, despite the obvious damage to it.
      Marge: What happened to you, Homer? And what have you done to the car?
      Homer: Nothin'.
      Marge: I don't think it had broken axles before.
      Homer: Before! Before! You're livin' in the past, Marge. Quit livin' in the past.
    • Subverted in the next scene when Marge asks why he has so many bowling balls. He simply does not answer.
      Homer: I'm not gonna lie to you, Marge. So long. [Leaves]
    • When the tub alcohol starts exploding like crazy, Homer keeps saying that the explosions that are rocking the house to its foundations are his farts. It takes an explosion setting him on fire and Marge calling him out for him to admit it.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: The Springfield Police pulls out a catapult from the museum at the climax to enforce the "exile by catapult" part of the 200-year-old law. A cat and Banner both end up being tossed by it.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: The plot gets kicked off by Bart accidentally ingesting a truckload of booze fired from a Duff parade float and getting drunk. In five seconds. You could justify it by the fact that he's a kid, so he doesn't have any experience with the stuff, and his dad's a noted alcoholic, but even then, he probably only would've been drunk in a few minutes, not seconds.
  • Catapult to Glory: The catapult is the method of punishment for breaking Springfield's (obviously outdated) prohibition law.
  • Chase Scene: Homer and Bart are chased by the police (with Banner himself trying to shoot them) after they unbury the Duff beer barrels, forcing Homer to drive through a graveyard to lose them.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The punishment via being flung out of a catapult is mentioned when the law is read aloud earlier in the film. By the time it's reiterated by the clerk (during the Gilligan Cut to Homer being readied to be flung out of it after being arrested), the episode spends approximately twenty minutes dealing with all of the craziness of the prohibition and Homer's booze baron antics and it's probably been forgotten by the audience.
  • The Comically Serious: Rex Banner. For example, look at him on his birthday and his inability to laugh naturally.
  • Designated Driver: Moe tells all the arriving patrons that, since it's St. Patrick's Day, it's going to be the biggest drinking day of the year. Moe then asks for the designated drivers to identify themselves, then tells them, "Beat it. I got no time for cheapskates."
  • Deus ex Machina: At the exact moment before Homer is to be exiled (or probably executed) by catapult, the clerk that discovered the ancient prohibition law finally notices it was repealed one year later, meaning Homer never broke any law.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Marge is impressed with Homer for running such a successful operation with less of his characteristic stupidity than usual.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: When Lisa objects to Homer making alcohol after running out of it from Duff's dumped barrels, Homer makes the point that the law he's fighting against is unjust. Considering the only citizens who called for it were Helen Lovejoy, Maude Flanders, and their Moral Guardian posse, the law just happened to be written on the town charter but never enforced, and those opposed to the idea never got a chance to have their say or vote on it, he's not wrong.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Rex Banner's first scenes after obtaining his telegraph show how brutal he is. He literally kicks Chief Wiggum out of his seat to take his job, and causes a major (and obviously fatal) accident on a highway for the sake of keeping alcohol out of the city.
  • Exact Words:
    • When Marge confronts Homer about the bowling balls (which are hollowed to smuggle beer), Homer's response is "I'm not gonna lie to you, Marge." He then proceeds to drive off without saying anything.
    • The dry law's penalty is "exile by catapult". Much to Homer's distress, that means that Springfield will pull out a 200-year-old catapult from the museum to enforce it.
  • Expy: Rex Banner is a clear spoof of Elliot Ness of The Untouchables (specifically the Robert Stack version, who was The Stoic).
  • Fartillery: Homer's Blatant Lies about what is causing the house-rocking explosions are that it's his farting, rather than admitting that he mixed up the bathtub brews incorrectly. Marge finally calls bullshit when the explosions continue well into the night and they're lying side by side in bed.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • Banner, and the police he's got with him, don't notice at all that the customers of Moe's are holding beer glasses filled with beer, even when they have them in full view (bear in mind, this instance mentioned as an example is the second time that Moe's speakeasy is raided during the episode — the first time, done by the Anti-Liquor League ladies, was actually successful and established Wiggum as incompetent and dirty). Later, Banner is getting a hold of random people on the street and asking them if they're the booze baron but fails to notice that Bart and Homer are on the same sidewalk wheeling a wagon full of ingredients for liquor production.
    • The clerk who unveiled the old Prohibition law didn't noticed that there was a note on the manuscript that explicitly said it had been repealed one year after it was passed because the paper was rolled.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Springfield's dry law says that people caught smuggling booze are to be exiled from town ... by being tossed with a catapult and having nothing to catch them.
  • Gasshole: When the stills for his homemade liquor start exploding, Homer tries to pass it off as him being gassy from eating beans for dinner. Marge doesn't buy it.
  • Genre Refugee: Rex Banner. He is an animated copycat of Elliot Ness as portrayed by Robert Stack in The Untouchables' TV series and an exaggeration of Ness' Hays Code-era stoicism and righteous mentality, and that alone makes him stand out in a cartoonishly corrupt nuthouse like Springfield.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • The head of Duff Brewery, under the belief his customers like beer for its flavor and not for its alcohol, announced Duff Zero. Cut to thirty minutes later, the brewery was out of business.
    • When asked what'd happen to him, Homer said he'd probably be just fined. Cut to the town ready to give him death by catapult.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Because he's the only one who can supply it, eventually Homer is overtaxed with liquor requests and after he runs out of the barrels of liquor left by Duff Brewery's closing and getting too proud of the homemade liquor he'd made, he starts experimenting with the recipies, and suddenly the house is rocked with explosions around the clock.
  • Go to Your Room!: When Marge and Lisa finds out Homer's beer smuggling, the former is very impressed that Homer is using his own intellect for once and raising money for the family. When Marge says the prohibition was a dumb law, Lisa says it's still a law and was about to provide some additional speechifying when Homer, Marge, and Bart interrupt her to send her to her room.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Implied with Banner. During his speech about the necessity to maintain law regardless of public opinion, he says that if there were no laws, he would kill anybody who "looked at [him] cock-eyed."
  • Hidden Depths: Homer manages to brew more than forty different beverages in the basement.
  • Homage: Multiple details from the episode from the moment the law is enabled and Banner arrives (such as the Walter Winchell "newsreel"-style narrator) is an obvious aping of the TV series of The Untouchables.
  • Honor Before Reason: Lisa is the only character besides Banner to support the still-on-the-books (if outdated) anti-alcohol laws, as she calls her family out on the smuggling (and supporting). She's grounded as a result.
  • I Shall Taunt You: A funny example here, when Rex vows to get the Beer Baron. Homer taunts him from a very far distance.
    Rex Banner: You're out there somewhere, Beer Baron, and I'll find you!
    Homer: No you won't!
    Rex Banner: Yes, I will.
    Homer: Won't!
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Obnoxious as they were, the anti-alcohol women's group were right that the St. Patrick's Day parade was celebrating grotesque levels of alcoholism, which got a 10-year-old drunk when someone fired alcohol into the crowd. They're also right that Wiggum was brazenly not enforcing the prohibition law (a law everyone thought at the time was in effect) by getting drunk at a speakeasy.
    • Banner is a completely absurd Rabid Cop, but he rose a quite valid point with his speech against ignoring a law just because it's not liked—then makes himself look even worse by saying that he would be killing anybody who was looking at him funny if there weren't laws in place to prevent that.
  • Karma Houdini: The police are able to catapult a cat and Rex Banner in front of a large group of people and nothing happens except the mayor saying that was unexpected.
  • Karmic Death: Rex Banner gets flung by the same catapult he'd just tested by flinging a cat.
  • Kent Brockman News: Averted. Kent Brockman is disgusted by everyone's behavior during the St. Patrick's Day parade.
  • Kick the Dog:
  • Knight Templar: As the road blockage shows, Banner is willing to kill innocent people if it means stopping alcohol from getting into Springfield.
  • Lawful Stupid:
    • Rex Banner is too inept to realize Homer is the Beer Baron he's been hunting down. He also creates fatal countermeasures against alcohol smugglers, but is totally uninterested in Fat Tony's heroin smuggling ring, presumably since he's not in Springfield to enforce the ban on that.
    • Lisa makes clear that she supports the law even when her whole family have also made it clear just seconds before that are against it, which obviously gets her sent to her room.
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: Moe fronts his speakeasy as Moe's Pet Shop. However, the fact that it plays jazz music at 1:00AM and attracts a certain partygoing clientele make its true purpose blatantly obvious. Even more stupid of Banner, he had already raided the same place earlier in the episode when he took over Wiggum and he should have at least harbored a stronger suspicion than he showed.
    Banner: What kind of pet shop is filled with rambunctious yahoos and hot jazz music at 1:00AM?
    Moe: Um, the best damn pet shop in town.
    [Crowd cheers]
  • Loony Laws: A prohibition law in and of itself isn't "loony". That the sentence for being caught breaking it is to be exiled from the town by way of being launched out of a catapult is.
  • The Lopsided Arm of the Law: Banner pursues the Beer Baron with excessively violent measures toward suspects and civilians, but doesn't care at all about other crimes—when Fat Tony says he'll stop bootlegging but keep selling heroin, Banner insists that he does.
  • Made of Explodium: Eventually Homer gets too greedy with the Baron business and starts experimenting with the tub-made boozes, making them all explode constantly. Part of the reason he agrees to the plan to let Wiggum arrest him is because Marge gets tired of all the ruckus.
  • Meaningful Name: Rex Banner, who does a slightly better job at keeping Springfield dry than Wiggum.
  • Moral Guardians: The anti-alcohol women's group, again.
  • Move Along, Nothing to See Here: A parade float honoring Irish police is escorted by several of them, all saying things along the lines of this trope.
  • Nighthawks Shot: The opening of the scene where Banner and his assistants are at the diner (on Banner's birthday) is framed like this.
  • Non-Answer: When Marge confronts Homer of bringing so many bowling balls (which are hollowed to smuggle beer) to bowling.
    Marge: Why do you have so many bowling balls?
    Homer: I'm not gonna lie to you, Marge. So long! [Gets in his car and drives off]
  • Not Hyperbole: The law is mentioned at the very beginning when it's revealed to have an "exile by catapult" penalty. As in, the people of Springfield will pull out a catapult from the museum, load people into it, and launch them with zero concern about whether they will land safely.
  • Oh, Crap!: At the beginning, Bart ridicules Lisa for wearing green, saying she looks stupid. When they enter, everyone (even the teachers) are wearing green and looking at Bart who's the only one in his usual clothes on St. Patrick's Day.
    Bart: Uh oh.
  • Only Sane Man: Kent Brockman, of all people, is appalled by the excess drinking and violence that occurs during the St. Patrick's Day parade and distances himself from it.
  • Outside-Genre Foe: Played for Laughs with Rex Banner. He probably would fit better in a Depression- or Hays Code-era gangster film (where he would be allowed to triumph just because he's a lawman) that he does on the super-corrupt and highly incompetent Crapsack World that is Springfield.
  • Police are Useless:
    • Why Wiggum is tossed off the force. We also get a gag of an officer who keeps his badge in his mouth.
    • Not that Rex Banner is much better, just better than Wiggum. He blatantly fails to notice all the obvious evidence that Homer is the Beer Baron, and does nothing to arrest Fat Tony when the man tries bribing him or mentions he's smuggling heroin.
  • Police Brutality:
    • The Irish cop float was surrounded by Irish policemen who clubbed parade viewers while saying Move Along, Nothing to See Here.
    • Rex Banner makes it clear he's running on old-school police rules by violently shaking or slapping pretty much everybody he gets his hands on and his only complaint about the use of a catapult is that it has not been used in two hundred years and thus needs to be tested to ensure it's still functional.
  • Rabid Cop: Banner. The man makes it pretty clear on his big rant at the end that he would go on a killing spree if the law allowed him to do so (and the closest we see to him being actually happy is when he causes a multiple-car pile-up for the sake of maintaining prohibition). Even then, he goes around kicking people off chairs, slapping them, shaking them hard, grabbing them by the shirt (hell, he gets the knowledge that a booze baron exists by noticing that Barney is drunk and punching right through a window to get a hold on him to interrogate him) and generally acting as violently as a cop could get away with in a movie made during The Hays Code era.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Duff Zero goes over like a concrete zeppelin because the drinkers of Springfield do like its alcohol content.
    • Prohibiting alcohol didn't make people stop wanting to drink alcohol. Homer himself scoffs at the proposal ("They tried that in the movies, and it didn't work"), so he's also Right for the Wrong Reasons about it.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Rex Banner doesn't accept bribes, to his credit.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The 200-year-old law banning alcohol in Springfield had been repealed the following year.
  • Shout-Out: Comic Book Guy references Superman.
    Banner: Are you the Beer Baron?
  • Skewed Priorities: Banner shuts down Fat Tony's operation immediately.
    Fat Tony: Okay, you win. From now on, we'll stick to smuggling heroin.
    Banner: See that you do.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Trying to evade Rex Banner had to take some serious planning for Homer and Bart. Marge actually shows pride at Homer's skill when he explains his scheme to her.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Lisa, once again, gets a big moment when she points out that even if the prohibition law is dumb (so dumb that Marge praises Homer for becoming a booze baron) it still is the law nevertheless and it needs to be obeyed ... and she is given a Big "SHUT UP!" mid-speech by her brother and parents yelling at her to go to her room.
  • Stopped Reading Too Soon: A 200-year-old law banning alcohol is discovered in the Springfield Charter. It took until the very end of the episode to discover that it was repealed 199 years ago.
  • Take That!: The head of Duff Brewery, under the belief his customers like beer for its flavor and not for its alcohol, announced a non-alcoholic Duff Zero. Cut to thirty minutes later, the brewery was out of business.
  • Think of the Children!: Since Helen Lovejoy is part of the anti-alcohol women's group, it's only natural that she say her Catchphrase at one point.
  • To Be Lawful or Good:
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Most of the episode's plot happens because a clerk unveils an old Prohibition law and never bothered to read the whole parchment and learn the law was no longer in effect. It would be a miracle if he managed to retain his job after making such a horrible blunder. Of course, this is Springfield we're talking about.
  • Versus Title: A local dry law, which Homer becomes a Beer Baron to fight, stands in for the titular amendment.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Springfield anti-alcohol women's group that forced the application of the outdated prohibition law in the first place disappears after Rex Banner is hired to head the police force. As a matter of fact, Moe's speakeasy is raided by them earlier in the episode before Banner arrives and it seems they never mentioned that it was a speakeasy to Banner — otherwise, he would have probably been more driven to check the place out).
  • Whole Plot Reference: The Prohibition Era of The Roaring '20s and The Untouchables.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Rex Banner acts like he's in 1920s Chicago rather than Springfield.
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