Bart is shipped off to military school after a particularly destructive prank (lining up 15 police bullhorns and unleashing a soundwave that shatters all the glass in town) — and Lisa tags along (despite that the military school is boys-only and the other cadets don't take kindly to change) after finding public school education has become a grind.
Tropes of this episode:
- Actually Pretty Funny: Homer and Marge laugh when they take Bart and Lisa to the dentist instead of Disneyland.
- Ambiguously Gay: Franklyn, the "girliest cadet" before Lisa joins.
- Artistic License Physics: 15 megaphones working in tandem couldn't even crack a glass of water, much less create a massive glass shattering shockwave of sound. More likely, they'll all just cancel one another out.
- Badass Bookworm: Despite the other cadets hating her because she's not a boy, Lisa loves the military school because it has rigid structure and teachings.
- Homer and Marge manage to swindle their kids into coming with them to places they don't want to go (military school and the dentist) by saying that they are going to go to Disneyland. They even snicker that they fell for it twice at the end.
- After Lisa makes it through the Eliminator, the rest of the cadets swear to make what remains of her time at school a living hell... and then they say that they all must get ready for graduation, which is in three hours.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Lisa comes to the school looking for a challenge but nearly gives up when confronted with The Eliminator. Bart lampshades this: "I thought you wanted a challenge".
- Big Brother Instinct: When Lisa is in danger of falling off the Eliminator, Bart steps forward and shouts encouragement to Lisa, which inspires her to carry on. Another cadet tries to cover Bart's mouth, but Bart's encouragement is what causes Lisa to finish The Eliminator.
- Big "YES!": Lisa does one when, thanks to Bart's encouragement, she manages to complete The Eliminator.
- Condescending Compassion: After Lisa showcases herself to be unable to handle a firearm, the instructor just gives her a whistle and tells her in a condescendingly sweet fashion to blow it if a war breaks out. Lisa obviously isn't thrilled.
- Deadly Graduation: On the third act, the Commandant mentions that the academy used to have its students fight to the death to see who would graduate. The way he phrases it makes him sound like that is what Lisa is going to face, which makes her nervous, but it turns out to be a Bait-and-Switch, though — the Supreme Court ordered the academy to stop doing that, so the final test tradition was changed to having students trying to climb the Eliminator.
- Determinator: Lisa didnt let the other students, all male, get the best of her. They tried to get rid of Lisa on grounds of her sex and she proved that she can be just as tough as they are.
- Everyone Has Standards: After Homer throws rocks at the cadet and expresses his disappointment that they 'not so disciplined' because they recoiled in pain, the Commandant points out to him that they're only just children, not experienced soldiers.
- Exactly What I Aimed At: Bart hits the first four targets with the grenade launcher at the firing range, and the fifth shot spirals over the horizon out of sight. The instructor points out that Bart missed his last target, but Bart smiles and says, "Did I?" Cut to Principal Skinner back in Springfield standing next to the smoking crater where his car used to be. Made all the funnier by a "Ha-ha!" from Nelson in the background.
- False Reassurance: The Commander makes two regarding the graduation exercise: that they won't have to fight each other to the death (they will have to pass the Eliminator instead) and that the Supreme Court has ordered the academy to get rid of the Eliminator (so they will be the last class to face it).
- Glass-Shattering Sound: Bart creates a shockwave of this that breaks almost all of the glass in Springfield by using 15 megaphones at once.
- Gone Horribly Right: Homer and Marge wonder at the end whether or not it's a good thing that Bart now has much more confidence and is trained in several forms of unarmed combat.
- Go to Your Room!: Inverted. Bart anticipates this from Homer and Marge when they're punishing him, but because Bart's room is full of toys, Homer sends him to the garage instead. Bart is later seen escaping on a ride-on lawnmower, proving what little good this did.
- The Hedge of Thorns: The Eliminator. It consists in a rope with a high blistering factor suspended several feet over a thick bush of thorn-filled brambles, and all cadets must go through it as a final test.
- Hope Spot: When the class is ready to tackle the Eliminator:Commandant: Gentlemen, I regret to inform you that the state supreme court has determined that forcing cadets to cross the Eliminator is a barbaric and malicious practice.
Commandant: Hence, you will be the last class to be subjected to it.
- Hypocritical Humour: Following Be Careful What You Wish For above.Bart: I thought you wanted a challenge?Lisa: Duh! A challenge I could do.
- I'm a Humanitarian: A mannequin of a woman preparing to eating a baby is shown at the police station:Wiggum: That's right: She's got the "munchies" for a California cheeseburger!
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Bart manages to hit Skinner's car with a grenade launcher from a distance implied to be several dozen (if not hundred) miles.
- Instantly Proven Wrong: One of the reasons Lisa decides to stay is because of the academy having poetry class...Cadet (talking to instructor while the Simpsons are watching): Truth is beauty and beauty is truth, sir!.
Lisa (swooning at this discovery): Oh, that's beautiful! They have poetry class!
Teacher (talking to cadet): But the truth can be harsh and disturbing. How can that be considered "beautiful"?
Marge: Oh, he ruined the poem.
- Jackie Robinson Story / You Go, Girl!: Possibly attempted by Lisa but ultimately subverted. She gets through the semester but the cadets don't change their opinion of her and she doesn't prove better than them at any of the subjects.
- Jerkass: The cadets act like this towards Lisa on account of her being a girl. They also do this to Bart at first. The worst part is when Lisa nearly falls off the Eliminator and they chant "Drop! Drop! Drop!", as if they want her to fall to her death. Damn...
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Showcase of bully cruelty by ignoring Lisa or not, cadets that don't think of ducking for cover when they notice a fellow cadet is shooting an assault rifle full-auto and is unable to control the gun is just potential Darwin Awards material. Good thing Lisa doesn't hit them.
- Kids Are Cruel: The cadets' treatment of Lisa and initially Bart falls into this territory.
- Morton's Fork: As Bart and Lisa are forced to do pushups, Lisa is asked "Don't girls like doing pushups in the mud?". Lisa, in turn, asks "Is there any answer I can give that won't result in more push-ups?", to which, after much deliberation by the other cadets, is "No."
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Averted Trope. Just when the other cadets are about to beat up Bart for cheering on Lisa, they realize they have to go dress up for graduation.
- Noodle Incident: It's never said what were the circumstances for setting up a field trip to the police station.
- Parental Favoritism: Marge and Homer send Lisa a cassette intended to comfort her yet they don't send Bart anything, not even considering his feelings about how he is at the school. Possibly justified by the fact that Lisa is there by choice, while Bart is there as punishment for causing large amounts of property damage.
- Police are Useless: Before leading the Springfield Elementary student tour around the station, Wiggum checks the police station's answering machine. He sees that there's seventy-five recorded messages and deletes them all with an annoyed "doesn't anybody take the law into their own hands in this town?"
- Reality Ensues:
- When the cadets are introduced as being highly disciplined, Homer throws rocks at them thinking they won't move. The boys recoil in pain as a response, because even though they might be disciplined, they are still just children.
- The Military School used to have a Deadly Graduation (students fighting each other to the death) and now has The Eliminator (an incredibly grueling and potentially life-threatening physical course) as final tests. Both were ordered to be removed by the Supreme Court, being blatant acts of child cruelty.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The episode was based on the events around Shannon Faulkner, the first girl to attend The Citadel in 1995. Due to harassment, she dropped out after a week, but she paved the way for other girls to enroll.
- Shout-Out: The firing range scene, with Bart's quip "Did I?" in response to being told he missed, is a reference to a scene in Moonraker.
- Smarter Than You Look: Thanks to his years with a slingshot (and the assumption that because he's a public school student, he knows how to handle guns and other weapons), Bart knows how to use a rocket-launcher. In fact, Bart is such a master, he gets Skinner's car from a far distance away.
- Special Guest: Willem Dafoe as the military school's commandant.
- Stay in the Kitchen: The commandant is initially perplexed by the idea of Lisa wanting to enroll and become Rommelwood's first female student.
- Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics: A rare Western example has Lisa's classmates pretending not to hear her when she asks for help with an out-of-control firearm.
- Ultimate Final Exam: The final test before graduation is "The Eliminator", a 150-ft horizontal rope climb suspended over a field of thorn bushes. The Supreme Court eventually rules that getting students to complete it is a barbaric and malicious practice, and it gets scrapped shortly after Bart and Lisa graduate.
- Verbal Backspace: The Commandant gives the academy class a rousing speech about how they are now potential future soldiers before backspacing that the wars of the future will probably be done with robots (in space, or maybe a very tall mountain) and that the children's jobs will be to take care of those robots.