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Recap / The Simpsons S8 E23 "Homer's Enemy"

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Episode - 4F19
First Aired - 5/4/1997
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A "normal" man named Frank Grimes who has had to work hard every day of his life with little reward gets a job at the nuclear plant and takes an instant dislike to Homer and his Achievements in Ignorance. Meanwhile, Bart buys an abandoned factory at an auction and uses it as his own personal playground.


This episode contains examples of:

  • The Alleged House:
    • The abandoned factory that Bart gets from the auction turns out to be this (although he enjoys it because he gets to play with all the unsafe gizmos). The subplot ends with the building falling apart literally overnight all by itself.
    • Frank's home (when he rants later in the episode) is a one-room apartment sandwiched in between two bowling alleys.
  • Analogy Backfire: While watching Homer stuff his face, Frank claims that the man eats like a pig. Lenny corrects him however, as pigs bother to chew their food, and Homer eats more like a duck. The scene then changes to show Homer is indeed swallowing his food whole without chewing it. Grimes claims that at least he is correct that Homer still eats like a farm animal.
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  • Black Comedy Burst: A highly unusual example for the show. Everything regarding Grimes (from his backstory up until his funeral) is a long Humiliation Conga that nobody In-Universe can sympathize with (except for Homer, and Grimes hates his guts).
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: When Grimes goes crazy at the end and starts imitating Homer, he screams "D'oh! D'oh! D'oh!" Made funnier by the fact that Homer never said this Catchphrase in his presence (or in this episode).
  • Brick Joke:
    • Early in the episode, Mr. Burns orders Smithers to find a dog he saw on the news and to make him his executive vice president instead of Grimes. A few scenes later, when Grimes knocked acid out of Homer's hand and the acid burned a hole in the wall, Mr. Burns is walking by with the dog that Smithers was ordered to find. It's also next to Burns at Frank's funeral.
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    • Homer casually mentions that Bart owns a factory downtown during Grimes' visit, uniting what had been two completely separated plotlines up to that point, and Grimes includes it in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    • When Frank and Homer first meet, Homer becomes enthralled with Frank's custom-made pencils that have Frank's name on them. Frank says they are not expensive and was going to give Homer the contact information, but Homer was more obsessed with borrowing the ones at hand. One later scene shows that Homer took all of the pencils in Frank's office and uses them to as a toy.
  • Broken Record: When Frank Grimes rings the doorbell, Homer panics: "It's him! It'shimit'shimit'shimit'shimit'shimit'shim...", and Marge has to snap him out of it.
  • Butt-Monkey: Frank Grimes, and it isn't Played for Laughs, or at least it's not supposed to be since his entire purpose in life is to suffer.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Everyone just stands there staring when any of them could have stopped Grimes from touching the wires. Although, considering how completely unhinged he had gotten by that point, it's possible that he was past the point of being reasoned with (not that there was anything stopping someone from physically restraining him, of course). It might be justified as the same shock might not have killed Homer or any other Springfielder, but as Grimes' character represents the real world (to a point), he incurs real-life consequences.
  • Caligula's Horse: Grimes loses the plant's executive vice presidency, for which Burns intended to hire him, to a dog.
  • Captain Ersatz: Grimes was based on the Michael Douglas character, D-Fenz from Falling Down.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The poster advertising the children's power plant design contest can be seen on the wall early in the episode, long before Grimes catches notice of it and alters it to trick Homer into joining the contest.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Homer shares his trick about turning the security camera away and taking a nap, Frank points out that they are not paid to sleep, which Homer mistakes as a critical commentary about being exploited by management, with which he agrees wholeheartedly.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Grimes deconstructs the Logical Latecomer, starting with the fact that what makes him (theoretically) the Only Sane Man and "everyman" is as absurd as anything else in the show (only aiming for angst, not laughs), and continuing with while normally the "logical latecomer" gets to rant angrily at the weird crap going on, he eventually either lets it go or just walks away. Instead, Grimes stridently refuses to do either, and his grievance eventually destroys him.
  • Determinator: Whatever you may think of him, Frank is undeniably this given how he managed to overcome nearly dying and gained a degree in nuclear physics.
  • Downer Ending: Played for incredibly dark laughs. Grimes has died, neither Homer nor anybody else has learned anything from it, and at his funeral Homer does something stupid and people take much greater interest in that than in trying to maintain respect. And even though he went through the entire episode saying that he hated being called "Grimey" (even pretty much roaring it to Homer's face in one scene), he's still called that in his eulogy (and Reverend Lovejoy specifically says he liked to be called that).
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • A lot of Grimes' frustration with Homer is caused by errors in communication. Most prominently when Homer attempts to befriend him and invites him to his home, dolling up the family and the house. Grimes mistakes the formal occasion for their usual lavish lifestyle and is even more infuriated.
    • Most of Homer's brilliant achievements Grimes fumes over were extremely bittersweet and only cemented him as a No Respect Guy. The Grammy Award, which acts as the Rant-Inducing Slight for Grimes, was one he actually earned through hard work, and in one of the series' most touching episodes to boot. (This comment tends to make a lot of viewers turn against Grimes, because on that point he's just plain wrong.)
    • One of the reasons Grimes is so angry throughout the episode is that he thinks nobody else hates Homer for the stupid things he's done at all, which is why he believes he's the Only Sane Man in Springfield. A scene in Moe's Bar has Moe flat-out mention that there are other people out there that hate Homer too (with the implication that it's because they hate his stupidity just like Frank), but Homer doesn't want to hear it and Frank never finds this out.
  • Driven to Suicide: The ending is just ambiguous enough about whether Grimes went completely off the rails enough not to realise what he was doing, or whether this trope applies and he was just fed up with living in a world that seemed eternally to reward stupidity and dumb luck over genuine merit.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Homer nicknames Frank Grimes "Grimey", which the latter hates.
  • Entitled Bastard: Frank Grimes has shades of this during his worst moments; adopting a self-righteous, borderline narcissistic attitude born out of resentment and petty jealousy. This ultimately overshadows his merit as a determinator and makes many viewers turn against him in favor of Homer, who comes off as being the better person despite his stupidity and irresponsibility.
  • Epic Fail: Ralph's model is not only not of a power plant (it is a Malibu Stacy dollhouse that had the word "nuclear" glued to it), but Ralph doesn't even know what a power plant is. Smithers does approve of the design, however.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: A highly unpleasant example. For the ones laughing, it's The "Fun" in "Funeral". For everybody else, it's more evidence that Grimes was right (for both Homer and the rest of the townsfolk).
  • The Everyman: Ultimately subverted. Frank Grimes may seem to be this, but his excessively miserable life prevents him from being this. Normally, the show depicts Homer as this, but this episode shows just how extraordinary his life really is.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • All of the plot happens because Burns decides to hire a man on a whim, then decides not to hire that man for the position he wanted him for (and orders Smithers to make him work just anywhere) and order Smithers to get a dog for that position instead on another whim.
    • Frank when he enacts his plan to humiliate Homer simply out of pure spite.
  • Evil Laugh: Frank gives one when Homer falls for the "design your own power plant" contest ruse.
  • Exact Words: Bart tells Milhouse to be the night watchman at the factory. When he returns in the morning and finds the factory has fallen apart, he chides Milhouse in this exchange:
    Bart: Oh, jeez! Milhouse, how could you let this happen? You were supposed to be the night watchman!
    Milhouse: I was watching. I saw the whole thing.
  • Expy: Frank Grimes is based on Michael Douglas' character, Bill Foster, from Falling Down.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The kid's contest ad is a very visible part of the background in every scene that happens in the cafeteria (you can see it right above on the picture—Homer's face is even inches away from it on various scenes) until Grimes takes it for his scheme. Homer not only never notices it at all until Grimes places it on his workstation's chair (and it's easy to notice that pieces of it were cut out and off), but doesn't notice that it says the plant is having a contest (meant for kids) until he reads it because it's on said chair.
  • Fiction Isn't Fair: The episode revolves around how someone from "real life" might react to Homer Simpson's life.
  • Foil: Frank Grimes is clearly meant to be the exact opposite of Homer in every way, even down to their character designs.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Milhouse points out the warning signs in the factory, one of which reads "Building Unsound". Bart throws the signs away. The building has collapsed by the end of the episode.
    • During one of his tirades at the power plant, Grimes claims he would die a happy man if he could prove how incompetent Homer is. He fails in this endeavor, and he's in the middle of a mental breakdown by the time he kills himself at the end.
  • Freudian Excuse: Frank is so abrasive in part because he has had an utterly miserable life.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Frank's funeral at the end is played for dark comedy.
  • Giving Up on Logic: Played for Drama: Grimes doesn't just gives up, he goes insane, and in his temporary bout of insanity he disobeys his common sense and does something that kills him, merely because he decides to believe it's something Homer would do.
  • Greater-Scope Villain/Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The whole conflict between Homer and Grimes can be traced back to Mr. Burns being the capricious multi-billionaire boss that he is. As Frank points out, Homer is never disciplined for his incompetence at work, which is hinted to be intentional as a cost-cutting measure in other episodes. And then there's the whole thing about Burns immediately demoting Grimes from a more powerful position in his company to one that's highly implied to be lesser than Homer's itself (thus making Grimes powerless towards Homer), all because he wanted a dog to take over as his vice president.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Grimes turns into one after meeting Homer's family.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Played straight, and Grimes pointing this out exposes how little of an "everyman" Homer truly is.
  • Hate at First Sight: Grimes dislikes Homer from the second he meets him. That said meeting was Homer barging into his office and pestering him with questions and trying to take his pencils just because Grimes got them custom-made with his name (which Grimes explicitly said isn't expensive and was even going to tell Homer where he could get them, but Homer was more interested on the pencils already at hand) didn't help matters.
  • Heroic Dog: Mr. Burns makes a dog his executive vice president, due to the dog pushing a baby from in front of a moving vehicle and pushing a criminal in front of it.
  • High-Voltage Death: How Frank Grimes ultimately meets his demise. It's even the page image.
  • Hollywood Acid: The greenish sulfuric acid that Homer almost drink and which destroys a wall in seconds.
  • Idiot Houdini: The fact that Homer can evade severe reprimand (and even attain success) from his boneheaded (and, Grimes dares claim, incredibly lethal) stupidity is what makes him hate Homer. That everyone else at the plant acclaims Homer and wins a contest explicitly meant for kids (that Homer — even if being a plant employee — didn't know about, and because Burns just happened to like Homer's minor and absurd modifications to a carbon-copy model of the plant) is what completely drives him over the edge.
  • Informed Attribute: Frank Grimes is described as a "normal" man. He isn't exactly normal. If anything, his life is a barrage of Diabolus ex Machina moments that are as absurd as anything else in the show.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Homer comes off as rude and inconsiderate towards Grimes (chewing on his pencils, stealing his lunch, etc.) but he doesn't mean it. He genuinely wants to be his friend and even tries to make peace with him, after realizing Grimes doesn't like his behavior. It doesn't work.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: In order to attempt to appease Frank Grimes after listening to his angry "The Reason You Suck" Speech, Homer tries to act like a model employee. Except that even as he talks to Frank more verbosely and eats doughnuts with utensils, he misses a meltdown warning blaring in the same room (either that, or he's ignoring it so he doesn't have to address it since he doesn't know how to). Grimes just rolls his eyes and mocks Homer's attempt during lunch hour.
  • Irony:
    • Grimes' unpleasant lifestyle involves living between two bowling alleys, Homer's ideal job.
    • Grimes' mental breakdown ends up making him dumber than Homer. Even if Homer is a total idiot, not even someone as stupid as he would unhesitatingly touch something marked "extremely high voltage" without wearing safety gloves.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: When Grimes says that if Homer lived in any other country in the world he'd have starved to death a long time ago. To which Bart says, "He's got you there, Dad."
    • Grimes' entire rant is arguably this, since he has been given absolutely no reason to see Homer as anything other than exceptionally lucky and exceptionally dumb ... which (for this episode at least) sums Homer up.
    • Carl and Lenny seem to agree with some Grimes' opinions about Homer, like his disgusting way of eating (Lenny even points out that he eats "like a duck") or the fact that putting him as the safety inspector of the plant is a bad idea, to say the least. But at the end they suggest him that the best way to think about it is not at all.
  • Just Ignore It: Carl and Lenny explicitly tell Grimes to do this when he starts getting angry at Homer's incompetence. Frank ignores this advice, to this eventual peril.
  • Kafka Komedy: Grimes tries his hardest to expose Homer as a fraud, liar, cheat, and incompetent employee — only for fate to foil him at every turn. The coup de grace comes when Grimes tricks Homer into thinking a "Design Your Own Power Plant" contest is open to anyone, when it's really for elementary school students only. When Homer wins and is praised and lauded for his efforts, Grimes reveals the truth. And when he is ignored and told to "lighten up", Frank goes berserk -- and it kills him.
  • Kick the Dog: Frank's vicious rant towards Homer when he sees just how comfortable the latter's life is. While Jerkass Has a Point is on full display (and Grimes had every reason to be angry at Homer up to that point), it's still exceptionally mean-spirited.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: "I don't need safety gloves because I'm Homer Simp—" ZAP! End of Frank Grimes.note 
  • Last Disrespects: Frank's funeral has him being referred to as "Grimey" in his eulogy and on his tombstone (a nickname he hated, though Lovejoy stated he liked to be called it), and when a sleeping Homer snores and says "Change the channel, Marge", everyone starts laughing as the coffin is lowered into the grave.
  • Lethally Stupid: Grimes points out during one of his rants that ever since Homer took over as the nuclear plant's safety inspector, accidents in general have tripled and near-meltdowns have doubled. He even points to a graphic that shows a pretty frightening upturn in these figures. Once Homer wins the "Design Your Own Power Plant" contest, Grimes himself becomes this, with fatal consequences.
  • Logical Latecomer: Frank Grimes is this, to the point of deconstruction. While this type of character usually gets angry about the dumb and weird things going on in the status quo, Grimes instead gets militant and eventually self-destructive about it.
  • Mistakes Are Not the End of the World: Frank Grimes at one point observes that Homer is an incompetent worker at the power plant, but Lenny shrugs it off by saying that everyone makes mistakes, which is why pencils have erasers. (He misses the point that Grimes is trying to bring up, which is that multiple near-meltdowns are not the kind of "mistake" that should just be allowed to slide, but that's Springfield for you.)
  • Mood Whiplash: The Bart/Milhouse subplot seemed inserted precisely to be an infrequent breather from the Black Comedy of the main plot.
  • Mundane Luxury: Grimes is dumbfounded that Homer lives in a modest two-story home, which is downright palatial compared to his own apartment, which was located over a bowling alley and below another bowling alley. He is also shocked that they're dining on lobster, which Homer was only serving to impress Grimes.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Both Grimes and Homer. Grimes saved Homer from drinking sulfuric acid, damaging a wall and getting himself in trouble with Burns. Homer, upset about having made an enemy, tried to make it up to him by inviting him to his house for dinner, only for Grimes to castigate him for being lazy and living comfortably.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Frank manages to electrocute himself on a high-voltage station that is completely unprotected even from accidental touching. One would think that it would be far behind a cage or separate room entirely. And from the context of his rant, it seems to be in Homer's workstation.
    • Not to mention wondering why a beaker of sulfuric acid that was caustic enough to destroy a wall in seconds was placed on a science lab window sill next to a break room.
  • Only Sane Man: Grimes and Marge, the latter of whom is about the one person to understand why Grimes hates Homer, and empathetically convinces her husband to show his point of view and that he is worthy (albeit haplessly).
  • Outside-Genre Foe: Frank Grimes is a Logical Latecomer who has endured pain that fits better in a primetime drama and eventually goes nuts when he figures out he's the Only Sane Man in a colossal (well, for him) Idiot Plot.
  • Pet the Dog: Despite Grimes' animosity towards Homer, he has no grudges towards his family. Before leaving, he even stops for a moment to say, "It was nice meeting you." Even before that, when Homer was about to drink acid, Grimes rapidly throws the glass away from him. He may hate Homer, but at least he doesn't wish to see him dead. He also seems to get along with Carl and Lenny quite well, despite their different opinions about Homer.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: Some time ago, Moe took Richard Nixon's Enemies List for himself, and he shows it to Homer to prove that he has enemies too. When Barney points out that it's Nixon's list, Moe adds him to the end.
  • Plot Hole:
    • Kent Brockman's report at the beginning of the episode show Grimes living in a normal house, yet later in the episode the latter claims to live between in a tiny apartment — "above a bowling alley ... and below another bowling alley." Then again, knowing his luck, Frank could well have lost his house somehow, forcing him to move into that one-room apartment.
    • Another minor one at the Create-a-Power-Plant Contest. After Burns disqualifies Ralph, Chief Wiggum tells him from offscreen to get off the stage. Minutes later, when we see a shot of Grimes heckling Homer's entry in the audience, Mrs. Wiggum is shown sitting nearby with her husband nowhere in sight. (Thought it's certainly possible for her to have gotten there late and not been able to get a seat with her family, especially as the auditorium seems completely full.)
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Grimes touches some high-voltage wires without wearing safety gloves, and is electrocuted to death.
    • Sadly, the dynamic between Homer and Frank is steeped in Truth in Television. Working hard your whole life does not mean you will be rewarded for it in the end.
      • Related to that, being seen to get ahead in work purely through good luck rather than qualifications and hard work (and flaunting it) will cause deep resentment in some of your coworkers, no matter how hard you try to be friends with them.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Grimes gives one to Homer.
    Frank: God, I've had to work hard every day of my life, and what do I have to show for it? This briefcase, and this haircut! And what do you have to show for your lifetime of sloth and ignorance?
    Homer: ...What?
    Frank: Everything! A dream house! Two cars! A beautiful wife! A son who owns a factory! Fancy clothes and [Sniffs air] lobsters for dinner! And do you deserve any of it? No!
    Homer: [Gasps] What are you saying?
    Frank: I'm saying you're what's wrong with America, Simpson. You coast through life, you do as little as possible, and you leech off of decent, hardworking people like me. Heh, if you lived in any other country in the world, you'd have starved to death long ago.
  • Recycled Premise: To Season 7's "Two Bad Neighbors", as a "normal" man (George H. W. Bush/Frank Grimes) is put into the absurd world of Springfield, where he eventually comes into conflict with Homer, becoming declared enemies. However, the difference is that, in this one, Homer doesn't feel any enmity towards Grimes.
  • Sanity Slippage: Frank gets progressively more unhinged as his anger and annoyance toward Homer grows, until he finally snaps and runs amok through the plant imitating Homer.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Burns decides he's going to make Grimes the executive vice president because this hard-working, Self-Made Man with a lifetime of adversity reminded Burns of himself, a Spoiled Brat who inherited his grandfather's plant. Smithers even lampshades it in a deleted scene.
  • Silence, You Fool!: Mr. Burns shouts "Silence!" at Frank when the latter tries to explain the accident with the melted wall.
  • Smash Cut: From Frank touching high-voltage wires to his funeral.
  • Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: Homer is upset that Frank Grimes hates him. Later, Moe tries to comfort Homer by saying that there are people who don't like him, too. Homer refuses to accept this. Grimes in turn becomes upset that nobody else (that Grimes knows of) hates him.
  • Swivel-Chair Antics: Bart combines a swivel chair and a fire extinguisher for some real fun.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: Why Martin's model (which was not only more advanced than the models of the rest of the competition, but was so fully functional it was providing power to the lights of the plant's auditorium) lost: Burns flat-out hated being "outshone" by it.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Frank Grimes as he foolishly grabs the high voltage storage without safety gloves and gets electrocuted to death. And this is after he spent the entire episode relentlessly pointing out how Homer is the poster boy for this trope.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Frank Grimes' life story is this up till the bitter end.
  • Unknown Rival: Homer to Grimes, until the end of the first act when the latter declares himself Homer's enemy.
  • Vanity License Plate: Marge tries to get one with her name on it, but "Marge", "Marjorie", and "Mitzi" are all taken. But "Nitzi" is available.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Frank Grimes' Evil Laugh at Homer falling for the power plant contest abruptly stops when Homer reverses into Frank's car while leaving the plant.

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