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

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Original air date: 5/4/1997

Production code: 4F19

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:

  • Accidental Suicide: Frank ends his rampage by touching high-voltage wires without safety gloves, and in doing so accidentally kills himself.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Ralph just brings in a Malibu Stacey dollhouse as his entry to the "Design your own Power Plant" contest. Smithers, an avid collector of Malibu Stacey, chuckles and playfully compliments the entry.
    • Everyone laughs after Homer falls asleep at Frank's funeral, while the latter's casket is lowered into his grave.
  • 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 vertically 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.
  • 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).
  • Advertisement:
  • Boring, but Practical: Zig-zagged: Homer winds up winning the power plant design contest because his model involved making the least amount of alterations. Using the Plant as it currently stands, all he did was add fins to the cooling towers for lower wind resistance, and a "pretty sharp" racing stripe.
  • 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.
    • 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 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, but again, they might've been worried that a completely unhinged Grimes' could've tried to attack them). It might be justified as the same electrical 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 William "D-Fens" Foster, Michael Douglas' character from Falling Down. Reportedly, the show's staff even wanted Douglas to voice him at first.
  • 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.
      • Grimes riles at Homer for having a son that owns a factory without considering the absurdity of a 10-year old boy owning a factory in the first place. Alternatively, it's because of said absurdity, but what he doesn't know is that the factory was already old and abandoned anyway.
    • In one scene, Grimes notices that Homer's console is giving off a warning and he tells Homer the code (a "5-13"). First Homer thinks that Grimes is telling him the time and he checks his own wristwatch and once Grimes tells him it's an emergency, rather than check out what's the emergency, Homer deals with the alarm by shorting out the control console with some water. Frank, who is witnessing this, is utterly horrified as a result.
    • One of the final nails in the coffin in terms of Grimes' aminosity for Homer is him rescuing Homer by throwing away a vat of acid he was about to swallow....and then Homer obliviously tattling him to Burns over the mess.
    Homer: He likes you. *thumbs up*
    • Burns takes Ralph's entry for the contest (a literal Malibu Stacey dollhouse with the word "Nuclear" written on it) completely sincerely, though questions the direction and utilities:
      Mr Burns: Hot tub? Media room? It's supposed to be a power plant, not Aunt Beulah's Bordello! Thank you, get out. NEXT.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Frank Grimes was modeled on Michael Douglas in Falling Down.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Cosmic Plaything: Deconstructed; while Grimes' criticisms of Homer do have merit and Grimes was indeed dealt a crappy hand in the game of life, his misery in the episode was largely his own fault. Grimes was so blinded by envy and self-pity that he refused to learn anything about Homer's life and never built relationships like Homer did at work. What Grimes perceived as life dealing him another injustice was actually Homer being rewarded for his kindness. Homer was applauded for entering a children's competition because he had friends in the audience while Grimes didn't.
  • Couch Gag: The family sits down, but Bart is green. Homer fiddles with the TV antenna and Bart changes to red. Homer then returns to the couch, and smacks Bart in the back of the head, which returns him to his normal color.
  • Create Your Own Villain: An accidental example, as Homer inadvertently antagonizes Grimes by having a much better life despite being a dull and irresponsible slacker, whereas Grimes has had to fight for what little he has through hard work. He ends up trying to prove Homer's idiocy, losing his sanity, and his life, in the process.
  • 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).
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Grimes tries to explain to Carl and Lenny that Homer is an idiot menace to the power plant, only for them to brush his arguments off and say that Homer's a good guy. This convinces Grimes that he needs to prove to everyone that Homer is a 6-year old child unfit for his job, never catching on that his co-workers and even his boss do not operate in his world of logic.
  • 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 Rage-Breaking Point for Grimes, was one he actually earned through hard work ("Homer's Barbershop Quartet"). Of course, there is also the fact that one of the series' Running Gags is how everybody thinks the Grammys are worthless crap.
    • Grimes believes that he's the only one who sees that Homer is an idiot and thinks that if he can expose his lack of intelligence through a children's contest, the power plant staff would see the light and fire Homer. He fails to notice that everyone else are also idiots like Homer, especially Mr. Burns who is in charge of the power plant and had just put a dog in the chair of executive vice president over Grimes in the first place. His failure to see this leads to his downfall.
  • Driven by Envy: Frank's hatred towards Homer increases even after the latter attempts to reconcile with him, due to Homer showing his achievements like going into space, winning a Grammy, going on tour with The Smashing Pumpkins, and befriending Gerald Ford. Frank is of course upset that someone like Homer could do all those things when he himself got nothing from his hard work.
  • Driven to Suicide: The ending is just ambiguous enough about whether Grimes went completely off the rails enough not to realize 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.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Deep down, Frank Grimes just wants his hard work to be validated by the people around him, but he can't comprehend why Homer, of all people, would be better than him. His treatment of the other workers has shades of this, Grimes expected everyone to mock Homer and immediately take his side in the rivalry despite them knowing Homer for years and only knowing Grimes for a short period of time.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Homer nicknames Frank Grimes "Grimey", which the latter hates.
  • Enemies List: Moe has an enemies list - actually, it's the same list as Richard Nixon's but with Nixon's name crossed off and Moe's written in. Moe puts Barney on the list for pointing that out.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Well 'one-sided' enemy. Franks second interaction with Homer has him find the man-eating his special dietetic lunch from a bag clearly marked with his name. When he catches him and throws the food out he notices Homer trying to take it from the trash.
  • 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 ironically 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. Played with however, since Smithers does approve of the design, and Burns fails to even notice the plagiarism, only eliminating it because of misguided design and utility. Also, Ralph has to wait for his father to tell him to get off the stage before he does so.
    • Frank Grimes attempted to invoke this trope on Homer by having him join a nuclear power plant model-creating contest (intended for children) with the intention of having him lose, thus exposing him as a fraud. Homer actually won. But for "Grimey" (as Homer refers to him throughout the episode), the trope is played straight. When his contest scheme fails, Grimes snaps and runs amok through the plant, eventually touching live high-voltage wires that fatally electrocute him on contact.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Spoofed when after Martin shows off his "Power Plant of the Future Today" model, Mr. Burns is not impressed with how "cold and sterile" it is.
    Mr. Burns: Where's the heart?
  • "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.
  • Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: Lisa greets Frank with a curtsy when he comes to the Simpson house.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: While Homer tries his best to make peace with Grimes and possibly befriend him, Grimes rejects him each time and walks out on him out of sheer spite and envy after seeing his accomplishments. He also thought everyone would join in on humiliating Homer for entering a children's competition but is driven into a fit of madness after seeing everyone cheer for him instead.
  • 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. First it started falling over, then it fell over.
  • Expy: Frank Grimes is based on Michael Douglas' character, Bill Foster, from Falling Down, in both his design and his character arc as a miserable "everyman" who snaps after a Trauma Conga Line and dies as a result of his own vices.
  • 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.
  • Fatal Flaw: Frank Grimes' flaw is his envy. Frank can't accept that in life there is always going to be someone better than you or have better accomplishments. When he meets Homer, he can't believe that a man so lazy and ignorant has a better life than he does and thus tries to shame and humiliate Homer instead of learning how to be as happy as he is.
  • Flanderization: Deliberately invoked, according to Bill Oakley. Homer's ignorance and obnoxiousness were intentionally amplified by the writers in order to make the contrast between him and Frank Grimes funnier and more obvious.
  • 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:
    • Mr. Burns wanting a dog he saw on TV to be his executive vice president over Grimes, despite Grimes having a master degree in nuclear physics, foreshadows how Grimes' plan to humiliate Homer with a children's contest is doomed to fail as Burns is the judge and is biased towards loyalty and ego-stroking, something that Homer excels well at.
    • 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.
  • Freak Out: After Homer wins the children's model power plant contest, Frank flies completely off the deep end and begins acting like a deranged caricature of Homer's worst traits. This leads him to grab a set of dangerous electrical cables without safety gloves, bringing a swift end to his life.
  • Freudian Excuse: Frank is so abrasive in part because he has had an utterly miserable life that he had to overcome through hard work and self-discipline.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Frank is stunned when he sees how large the Simpson house is, especially compared to his own crappy apartment, and wonders how they could possibly afford the place.
    Homer: I dunno. Don't ask me how the economy works.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Frank is killed after touching live electrical wires, and at the funeral, Homer falls asleep and mutters "Change the channel, Marge!" The other funeral-goers and even Rev. Lovejoy burst out laughing, and inspires Lenny to remark "That's our Homer!" Lovejoy also refers to Grimes as "Grimey", Homer's nickname for Grimes which he himself despised, as though he accepted the name with affection.
  • Giving Up on Logic: Played for Drama: Grimes doesn't just give 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: The whole conflict between Homer and Grimes can be traced back to Mr. Burns being the capricious multi-billionaire Mean Boss that he is.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Grimes turns into one after meeting Homer's family.
  • Hard Truth Aesop:
    • Hard work won't always be rewarded or even appreciated, and people far less qualified than you can do better than you through sheer dumb luck. You can either ignore it and move on with your life or let it consume you.
    • Sometimes, good intentions can be completely misinterpreted. Even though Grimes saved Homer's life by hurling the acid out of his hand and inadvertently damaging the wall, Burns assumed this was intentional and docked his pay, without hearing his side of the story.
  • 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, revealing that he has no qualifications to work there 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 in 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.
  • Hidden Depths: Just to show you that not everybody working at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant has no idea what they're doing, Lenny tells Frank that both he and Carl have a master's in nuclear physics.
  • High-Voltage Death: Frank Grimes is outraged at how Homer is constantly rewarded for his stupidity, goes insane, and starts mockingly mimicking risky things Homer would do and saying he's “Homer Simpson”. While doing this he grabs a high voltage cable without safety gloves in Homer's office and unintentionally electrocutes himself to death.
  • Hollywood Acid: The greenish sulfuric acid that Homer almost drink and which destroys a wall in seconds.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Burns' initial criticism of Martin's model power plant; he, of all people, found it "too cold and sterile" and lacking heart.
  • 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 he 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. However, 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.
    • This episode wants us to believe that Homer is successful, popular, and Born Lucky. Except that in most episodes, he's a bad luck magnet (though granted, he's also frequently shown to be Unluckily Lucky to an extent) and a total loser who is treated like a joke by everyone, had a horrible childhood as well (abused by his father, abandoned by his mother), and even some of his accomplishments mentioned here (like becoming an astronaut) ended up with a Yank the Dog's Chain.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Homer comes off as rude and inconsiderate towards Grimes (taking all of and 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 or he wants to show how attentive and polite he is to Grimes to the expense of everything else). Grimes just rolls his eyes and mocks Homer's attempt during lunch hour.
  • Intended Audience Reaction:
  • Internal Deconstruction: The episode introduces a "realistic" character into the show who is so frustrated by Homer's status in Springfield that it (accidentally) kills him. The resulting Broken Base and discussion about what this says about Homer, Springfield and even Frank Grimes himself was the actual objective of the writers (who said in the episode commentary that it's "an exercise in frustration").
  • Irony:
    • Grimes' unpleasant lifestyle involves living between two bowling alleys. Running a bowling alley is Homer's dream job ("And Maggie Makes Three").
    • For all of Grimes' talk of hard work, both matters of how Homer and Frank got their jobs at the power plant are complete opposites. Homer frequently had to work his ass off, and prove to Mr. Burns that he deserved his job at the plant at least three times ("Homer's Odyssey", "I Married Marge", and "And Maggie Makes Three"). Grimes on the other hand got his job by pure pity and chance through Mr. Burns seeing a sympathetic persons of interest feature on the local news and being inspired to hire him.
  • 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.". When Grimes leave and Homer looks to his family for comfort all they can do is look uncomfortable since they can't disagree that Homer should not be as successful as he is.
    • 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 of 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 to him that the best way to think about it is not at all. In turn, they may have been right about this idea, since Grimes' refusal to so doesn't work out for him 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: Frank eventually goes crazy, rampaging through the plant when he realizes he will never be able to prove Homer is the epitome of a bad employee. Eventually, Frank comes across extremely high voltage wires, and reaches out to grab them. "I don't need safety gloves because I'm Homer Simp—" Zap. End of Frank Grimes.
  • Kindness Ball: Despite his Flanderization, Homer is ironically much nicer than he usually is for most of the episode, genuinely trying to be nice to Grimes and being comically oblivious to the other man's hatred. Heck, he even invites Grimes over for a nice dinner (though that unfortunately blew up in his face).
  • 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. In two scenes, Homer's station gives off dire warnings; Homer simply ignores the first ones, and solves the second one by shorting out the console with a bucket of water. Once Homer wins the "Design Your Own Power Plant" contest, Grimes himself becomes this, with fatal consequences.
  • Logical Latecomer: invoked Frank Grimes is an ordinary guy who gets a job at the nuclear plant and is confounded that Homer is Too Dumb to Live and that everyone else simply accepts it. He is, however, a Deconstructed Character Archetype because of two details: 1) He becomes so angry about this fact that he becomes obsessed with proving how stupid Homer is and it results in him losing his mind and getting himself killed and 2) what gives him the "logical" perspective is not really (Word of God notwithstanding) being "a real person", but having suffered such a hard-core life-long barrage of the Diabolus ex Machina that he's as absurdist a character as any Simpsons regular, only aiming for angst rather than laughs.
  • Mandatory Line: Lisa's entire dialogue in the episode:
    "Can I go downstairs and see what Dad's doing?"
  • Mathematician's Answer: When Burns sees the hole burned in the wall by the bottle of Hollywood Acid that Grimes knocked away before Homer could drink it, he angrily demands to know who spilled the acid. Homer points to Grimes without adding that he did so in order to save Homer's life, which brings down the full wrath of Burns (and a pay cut) on Grimes, who in turn mistakes Homer for an Ungrateful Bastard and openly declares him to be his enemy.
  • Mirror Character: In a twist of Dramatic Irony, for all of Grimes' resentment towards Homer, they have pretty similar lives to each other. Both of them have troubled childhoods suffering from Parental Abandonment, struggle to make a living in their adulthood, and harbor an intense jealousy towards someone for being more successful in life than they could (i.e. Flanders for Homer, Homer for Grimes).
  • Misplaced Retribution: While Frank Grimes has every right to be angry at Homer's incompetence, his speech about Homer being lucky to live in "luxury" while decent hard-working folks like himself don't conveniently ignores the very power that put Homer in that position in the first place, Mr. Burns. This ignorance plus his single-minded obsession to prove Homer to be a fraud ends up being his downfall, as Burns turns what is supposed to be Homer's humiliating defeat in a children's contest into Homer's best standing ovation for unintentionally stroking Burns' ego and cheapness.
  • 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.
    • Frank's shocking and sudden death quickly switches the episode from wacky slapstick in a dark Black Comedy.
  • MST3K Mantra: invoked When Frank balks at the idea of Homer of all people being the plant's safety inspector, Carl ruefully notes that "It's best not to think about it."
  • The Münchausen: Frank clearly believes Homer is lying about his exploits, such as being in outer space or winning a Grammy. Of course, it's subverted in that all those things really did happen.
  • 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.
  • Never My Fault: Sure, Grimes absolutely right that his horrible life has disproportionately punished him compared to lazy slackers like Homer. However, his tendency to martyrize himself and his obsession with humiliating Homer over bettering himself (possibly because of how much he already did the latter) leads to him finally snapping.
  • 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.
  • Noodle Incident: The episode opens with Kent Brockman saying "Which, if true, means death for us all." It is never known what news Kent was reporting on is that led to that closing statement.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • A beaker of sulfuric acid that was caustic enough to destroy a wall in seconds was placed on a science lab windowsill next to a break room. Frank accidently throwing to a wall to save Homer's life and getting chided for it marks the point of no return for him.
    • At the end of the episode. Frank electrocutes 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. If so, Justified when you consider that Homer, as the plant's safety inspector, would be responsible for rectifying these hazards.
  • Not So Above It All: Frank Grimes has a breakdown and starts impersonating Homer, whose consequence-free stupidity drove him to this point. This ends when he has a moment of genuine stupidity and electrocutes himself. Unfortunately, the same rules don't apply to Grimes and this mistake costs him his life.
  • Oblivious to Hatred: Homer is utterly oblivious to how much Frank Grimes resents him until he gets told directly.
    Homer: Hey, Grimey, old buddy.
    Grimes: I'm not your buddy, Simpson. I don't like you. In fact, I hate you. Stay the hell away from me, because from now on, we're enemies.
    Homer: Okay. Do I have to do anything?
  • 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).
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Marge can be seen laughing at Homer's sleep talking in "Everybody Laughs" Ending, disrespecting Frank's funeral like the others. Besides that she normally played a Straight Man at this time of the series, she showed sympathy to Frank's situation in this episode when Homer is confused about Frank's hostility against him after the disastrous dinner, making the moment more stand out.
  • Out of Focus: invoked Lisa only has three lines in the episode, for a total of eleven words, and only one single line in the next episode. This is because Yeardley Smith had gotten the flu after recording all of her lines in the previous episode "In Marge We Trust".
  • Outside-Genre Foe: invoked Frank Grimes arrives in Springfield for a job at the power plant, and quickly proves himself to be the Only Sane Man, until it finally causes him to suffer a psychotic break that leads to him accidentally electrocuting himself.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Despite Grimes' animosity towards Homer, he has no grudges towards his family. Before leaving, he even stops for a moment to politely 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.
    • Mr. Burns is abnormally affable while hosting the children's contest. Past episodes have depicted him as a cheapskate and a Child Hater so him using company time to host the contest is pretty out of character for him. While he did act rude to Ralph and Martin, he was kind to Homer and awarded him first prize. Amusingly, since Burns never seems to remember who Homer is, there's a possibility that he assumed Homer was another child.
    • Furthermore, Homer (ironically enough) is the only person to show concern for Grimes during his Sanity Slippage in the climax. Granted, not enough to stop him from accidentally electrocuting himself, but he still showed some genuine concern.
  • 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."
      • It's entirely possible that Frank changed his living arrangements after getting the power plant job, either to be closer to work (it's not explicitly stated he lived in Springfield) or if the small apartment of his own represented an upgrade from being a boarder. He also could have had to move after Burns cut his salary, as we don't know how much time passed in between scenes.
    • 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.)
    • After going insane and imitating Homer, Grimes says, "D'oh! D'oh! D'oh!" However, Homer never actually said "D'oh!" in the entire episode. The episode's setting does span through several days so it's possible Frank heard some of Homer's "annoyed grunts" off-camera.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Grimes getting his pay cut to cover the cost of the wall he unwittingly damaged with the acid marks the point of no return in his grudge with Homer, eventually leading to Grimes' death. Had Homer pointed out to Burns that Grimes was saving his life when he knocked the acid onto the wall, there's a (admittedly slim) chance things might not have escalated in the way they did.
    • Grimes' one-sided rivalry with Homer was based on the fact that Frank never bothered to learn anything about Homer and Homer not explaining himself well enough. If Homer had just been straightforward with Grimes, he would have explained how he doesn't want to be enemies with him and explain how the achievements weren't as glamorous as Grimes thinks they are.
  • Rage-Breaking Point: The design contest winds up being this for Grimes: not only does his attempts at pointing out the absurdity of an idiot like Homer taking part in a children's context fall on deaf ears (he's actually outright told to shut up twice), but the moment Homer wins and everyone sincerely cheers for him, that is when Frank out and out snaps at everyone (including Mr. Burns and Mr. Smithers) in the plant, declaring them all insane for overlooking Homer's idiotic nature.
    Frank: But this was a contest for children!
    Lenny: Yeah, and Homer beat their brains out!
    (everyone but Frank cheers and applauds for Homer, even Mr. Burns applauds for him)
    Frank: (maniacally) Oh, I can't stand it any longer! This whole plant is insane!!! INSANE, I TELL YOU!!!
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Grimes gives a pretty brutal 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: [splutters] 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: [chuckles bitterly] 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!
    Bart: He's got you there, Dad.
    Frank: [deadpan] You're a fraud. A-a total fraud. [leaves, then doubles back, to the rest of family] It was nice meeting you.
  • 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.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Frank is absolutely hellbent on humiliating Homer for his sloth and ignorance, yet this only ends up driving him insane and ultimately kills him.
  • Rule of Cool: Homer outright admits the racing stripe he added to his power plant model was only done because he "[felt it was] pretty sharp".
  • Sanity Ball: Homer, amazingly, gets this in the climax, as he seems to be the only person who is actually concerned about Grimes' Sanity Slippage.
  • 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.
  • Selective Enforcement: A darker comedic version is played out when Frank Grimes tries to live and work like Homer does, he quickly discovers that only Homer can grab high-voltage wires without safety gloves and live.
  • Self-Made Man: Frank Grimes is a ridiculously exaggerated example. He was abandoned by his parents, worked delivering toys for rich kids which he would never get himself while studying in his free time, then was caught in a silo explosion, after which he had to rehabilitate himself, teaching himself to feel pain and hear again. His story touched Mr. Burns (another "self-made man"), who summoned him to work as Executive Vice President, only to give the job to a heroic dog at the last minute and send Grimes to sector 7G. Having to work with Homer (who, to put it mildly, doesn't share his work ethic) unhinges him, particularly once he learns of all the amazing things Homer had accomplished despite his laziness (having a big house, hanging out with Presidents, going on tour with The Smashing Pumpkins, going into outer space— would you like to see his Grammy? And the episode only begins to cover it.)
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: Martin's power plant model resembles the terraforming colony in Aliens.
  • Silence, You Fool!: Mr. Burns shouts "Silence!" at Frank when the latter tries to explain the accident with the melted wall.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Deconstructed very darkly. The Black Comedy stemming from Frank Grimes becoming Homer's self-proclaimed enemy eventually takes a toll on his sanity and costs him his life.
  • Smash Cut: From Frank touching high-voltage wires to his funeral.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Part of Frank Grimes' ridiculously miserable backstory involved being abandoned by his parents at age four and thus never having the money to go to school; instead having to spend his childhood working by delivering toys he never got to play with to rich children. In real life, children are mandated by law to go to school and child labor laws would prevent a four year old from being made to work.
  • 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.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the The Simpsons: Tapped Out continuity, Grimes survived the events of the episode; the electrocution merely put him into a coma and he was simply buried alive. He eventually woke up and dug himself out. Homer still tries to befriend him at the plant.
  • Special Guest: Frank Welker returns once again, this time to voice the Vice Executive Dog. Grimes was to follow suit, with William H. Macy, Nicolas Cage and the character's inspiration Michael Douglas all considered, but ultimately didn't work out.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Frank tricks Homer into entering a power plant designing contest for kids as an attempt to show the world what an idiot Homer is. Homer ends up winning, and Frank's sanity utterly disappears after this.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Homer is not the main character in this episode. We only see a few scenes from Homer's point of view (particularly when he realizes Grimes hates him) but for the most part, Grimes is the main point of view character.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • 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.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Grimes believes himself to be the smartest person in the Power Plant and thinks he's owed everything because he works hard and does his job.
  • 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. Further demonstrated when Homer's winning model turns out to be just the existing power plant with racing stripes and fins, indicating that Burns was looking for something that stroked his ego, rather than anything that would have made a good power plant.
  • That's Gotta Hurt: When Grimes electrocutes himself off-screen, everyone gasps in horror and cringes away in sympathy.
  • This Loser Is You: Grimes is said to be a representation of what a realistic person, who was a hard-working, working-class employee, would be like if they got the misfortune of working with Homer or living in Springfield.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When Grimes snaps and starts acting like Homer, he grabs some "extremely high voltage" wires and unwittingly demonstrates what happens when you have Homer's intelligence but not his luck.
  • Too Gruesome for Cartoon Physics: Frank Grimes goes so insane at Homer winning the Nuclear Plant design contest that his final act is to grab a pair of live high-voltage power terminals, which immediately electrocutes and fries him. Homer and the rest of the plant staff can only cringe in horror and disgust at whatever the results are. And this is considering Homer has fallen down Springfield Gorge, gotten hit by lightning, hit by baseball bats, etc.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Frank Grimes' life story is this up till the bitter end.
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode: The episode focuses on Frank Grimes (a "realistic" character, by Word of God) being forced into the Played for Laughs Crapsack World of Springfield and getting so fed up with Homer's Idiot Houdini luck that he becomes the titular "enemy" of Homer... and then when Homer's luck saves him from being humiliated by a plan of Grimes, he undergoes a Villainous Breakdown which ends with him accidentally (or not, depending on your view) electrocuting himself while trying to mock Homer's scot-free stupidity. The Black Comedy Burst was so strong that some people believe marked the moment when the show became the same brand of insensitively offensive Kafka Comedy as other shows like Family Guy.
  • Unknown Rival: Grimes to Homer, until the end of the first act when the former declares himself Homer's enemy.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • Burns' whims are the direct cause of Grimes' eventual insanity and death, by placing him in the vicinity of Homer.
    • Had Kent Brockman not made the documentary on Grimes, Grimes wouldn't have attracted the attention of Mr. Burns, would never step foot in the Springfield Nuclear Plant, and never have met Homer.
  • 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.
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: Grimes' nosedive into insanity is based on the fact that he believes that he's owed better opportunities than Homer for simply doing his job.
  • Weirdness Censor: The entire theme of the episode was to plop a regular person (in the form of Frank Grimes) into the Springfield universe and have them react to just how bizarre that world really was. Frank was thunderstruck how a moron like Homer could have two cars, win a Grammy, tour with rock stars, be friends with Gerald Ford and been to space on the space shuttle.
    Frank Grimes: 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.
  • 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 early to work on it.
  • X-Ray Sparks: We briefly see Frank's skeleton when he touches high-voltage wires and electrocutes himself.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Mr. Burns sees a documentary about how Grimes went through a hard life and had recently earned a diploma in nuclear physics. Impressed, he tells Mr. Smithers to find him so he can make him his executive vice president. By the time Smithers returns with Grimes, however, Burns had seen a heroic dog on TV and now wants to make him executive vice president.
    Smithers: In the meantime, here's Frank Grimes.
    (Burns does not recognize Grimes)
    Smithers: The, the self-made man?
    Burns: What? Oh, yes, that fellow. Mmmm, put him somewhere out of the way, and find that dog!
    Smithers: Yes sir.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: In the DVD Commentary, the writers note that if you're trying to convince people you're not crazy, it's not a good idea to end any sentences with "I tell you." Or worse, "I tells you."


Video Example(s):


The death of Frank Grimes

When Frank Grimes goes insane and starts mimicking the risky things that Homer does and claiming that he's Homer Simpson, he sees the high voltage cables and stating that he doesn't need safety gloves, he unintentionally electrocutes himself to his demise once he grabs holds of the cables.

How well does it match the trope?

4.94 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / XRaySparks

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