Marge decides to throw a dinner party after realizing how lazy and slovenly her family has become, but the party turns awkward when Kirk and Luann van Houten (Milhouse's parents) begin bickering and Luann announces that she wants to divorce Kirk, who is happy to oblige. While Milhouse is taking the divorce (and the fact that Luann has a new boyfriend who used to be an American Gladiator) well, Homer begins to worry when he sees Kirk's life circle the drain now that his wife is gone and fears that Homer will suffer the same fate with Marge.
"A Milhouse Divided" contains examples of:
- Actor Allusion: At dinner, Marge asks "Has anybody seen the new Woodsy Allen movie?", with Woodsy being an obvious parallel to Woody Allen. Julie Kavner has appeared in several of his movies in minor or secondary roles.
- Aluminium Christmas Trees: A number of people thought that Love Is... was something Homer made up
- Bait-and-Switch: The start of the episode seems to be setting up Homer acting boorish and ruining another party, much akin to the same plot in "War of the Simpsons". Instead Homer cleans himself up quickly enough, and the party starts off amicably until the tension between Kirk and Luann rises. The final act of the episode does return to the formula of Marge and Homer's relationship in tension however.
- Nelson comes over and asks if it's true Milhouse's parents divorced. Milhouse automatically assumes Nelson wants it as another way to make fun of him; however Nelson had no such intention and tries to console Milhouse with his own experiences of his parents' marriage ending.
- Bowdlerization: When aired in the United Kingdom, the part where Luann packs away Kirk's shirts, douses them with lighter fluid, and burns the box (along with her line "Presto, change-o, KABOOM! Sweet Fanny Adams, bye-bye!") was cut.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Marge wished to have a fancy dinner party for all her friends, and it ended with everyone getting a front row sit to Kirk and Luann humiliating each other before deciding to divorce.
- Broken Aesop: Kirk and Luann Van Houten's divorce in was all just one big Aesop about Homer needing to respect his wife, which is what Kirk tells Homer after losing his home, his job, and his car. But the way losing Luann caused those was utterly contrived: he lost his home because he apparently got absolutely nothing in the divorce settlement, he was fired for being single (which is actually discrimination and grounds for Kirk to sue), an earlier comment from Luann also heavily implies his employer was her father, and his car was stolen by a woman he met on the rebound who claims to be in the music business (which was his fault, but was more general incompetence as he was dumb enough to hand over his keys to someone he just met while waiting in a bar).
- Call-Back: The flashback of Homer and Marge's quickie wedding at Shotgun Pete's from season three's "I Married Marge", along with a new scene where Homer buys Marge a Carvel ice cream cake shaped like a whale.
- Chairman of the Brawl: Luann's new boyfriend is a stunt double who proves his skill by having Bart break a chair over him and not reacting at all. We next see Homer taking a bath as Bart approaches him from behind with a chair...Homer: [screams in pain] What the hell is wrong with you?
Bart: Jeez, sorry. Pretty standard stunt, Homer.
- Comically Missing the Point: "Did anyone see that new Woodsy Allen movie? You know, I like his films, except for that nervous fella's always in 'em."
- Didn't See That Coming: Kirk never saw the divorce coming.
- Downer Ending: Even after Kirk's heartfelt song, Luann still rejects him and has her boyfriend kick him out of the Simpson house. In this case, the downer ending was invoked by the writers because they didn't want to do the hokey, cliched ending where the divorced couple get back together. On the other hand, the ending for Marge and Homer is incredibly sweet.
- Dramatic Irony: Despite that it looked like Homer's boorish attitude would probably ruin Marge's party given who we're talking about, Kirk and Luann are the ones to spoil the fun by unloading their problems in front of everyone.
- Exact Words: When Kirk is fired:Kirk: So that's it? After twenty years, "so long, good luck"?
Boss: I don't recall saying "good luck".
- G-Rated Drug: Nelson recalls his mom getting severely addicted to cough drops, to the point that, as he put it, "her breath was so fresh, she wasn't my mother anymore."
- Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Part of the reason Kirk's attempt to win back Luanne fails is that "Can I Borrow a Feeling?" is... not great.
- Jerkass Realization: Kirk realized what a jerk he's been to Luanne and should have respected her more.
- Lethal Chef: According to Kirk, Luanne is such a bad chef that the last time Kirk ate well (before Marge's dinner party) was when he was in the Army and when Luanne tells everyone about the time some punks egged Kirk's Bonneville, he snarks, "They should have hurled some bacon too. Then I could have a decent breakfast for once."
- Let the Past Burn: Invoked by Luanne, who collects all of Kirk's stuff in a box and gleefully sets it ablaze while celebrating her post-divorce reinvention.
- Literal-Minded: Homer decides to redo their wedding to give Marge the wedding she deserves instead of the one she had. Rather than a simple vow renewal, it is important to Homer that the second wedding be real, so he files for divorce first.
- Metaphorgotten: When Reverend Lovejoy reads Homer's vows:Lovejoy: "Do you, Marge, take Homer in richness and in poorness..." Poorness is underlined... "...in impotence and in potence, in quiet solitude or blasting across the alkali flats in a jet-powered, monkey navigated..." ...And it goes on like this.
- Mood Dissonance: Homer cheerfully says goodbye to everyone leaving the party, who are all downbeat due to Kirk and Luann splitting up in front of everyone.(Homer and Marge are in bed after the dinner party.)
Marge: I feel terrible. The Van Houtens split up at our party.
Homer: Marge, please. That was twenty minutes ago.
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: While Homer and Marge are buying items for the dinner party, Marge learns the nations each item came from and refuses to buy the one made in America.
- Never My Fault: Luanne is more than happy to act like Kirk is the only reason why their marriage was a miserable one despite some complaints Kirk himself had when they finally split up.
- Non-Indicative Name: The title refers to Milhouse's parents breaking up, but Milhouse isn't really focused upon throughout the episode.
- No Sympathy:Homer: I'd like to file for... divorce.
Clerk: These things happen. Eight dollars.
- Oh, Crap!: Kirk explains to Homer the signs of a potential divorce depends on the food you eat. One minute you are eating a delicious meal, the next you are thawing hot dogs in a sink. When Homer goes home he finds hot dogs thawing on the kitchen sink, so he obviously freaks out. Marge actually left them for Homer after he called to tell her he won't be with her that night like he promised.
- Off-Model: Kirk's eyebrows briefly go from blue to yellow◊ when giving Starla his keys.
- Playing Pictionary: The Simpson family hosts a dinner party with a game of Pictionary. Maude guesses "cornstarch" from three dots drawn by Ned, while Kirk is unable to draw "dignity," though Luanne is. Homer thinks that Kirk is also unable to draw "a door".
- Pet the Dog: Nelson and Kearney both try to cheer up Milhouse and comfort him and tell him he'll be alright.
- Reality Ensues: After witnessing Homer and Marge's brief divorce and second marriage (both of which were really only the result of Homer severely overthinking the situation), Kirk proposes to Luanne again after a heartfelt but horrifically bad song. She flat-out refuses, because one song isn't going to fix years of problems.
- Status Quo Is God: Averted. The Van Houten's don't get back together. At least 'til season 19's "Little Orphan Millie".
- Sting: One plays after Homer files for divorce.
- Take Our Word for It: We don't see how Luanne drew "dignity", but everyone agrees that it was a very, very good drawing.
- Take That!:Neighbor: "A possum drowned in the pool. You have any garbage bags?"
Kirk van Houten: "Just throw it over the fence and let Arby's deal with it."
- Talking to Themself: Marge does this when she goes into the other room for an adult conversation and says that anyone is welcome to join her.Marge: "Hello, Marge, how's the family?" I don't wanna talk about it. Mind your own business!
Homer: Keep it down in there, everybody!
- Tempting Fate: Kirk tells Homer about his high position at the cracker factory. The next scene shows him being fired.
- Terrible Artist: Kirk. He can't draw "dignity" well, and gets angry at Luanne for not being able to guess, which sets off the argument (see Toilet Seat Divorce). Later:Kirk: (surprised) I... I... a divorce? Sure. Divorce. Hey, you got it, toots! And here's a picture even you can figure out! (draws a circle in a rectangle) It's a door! Use it!
Homer: That's a door!?
- That Man Is Dead:Luann: Forget everything you thought you knew about Luann Van Houten!Marge: Actually, Luann, I don't really know anything about you...Luann: Forget it! She's gone! Presto-change-o!
- Toilet Seat Divorce: Kirk and Luanne divorce over a game of Pictionary...or so it seemed. In actuality, they were fighting all night before the game started, and the game just unleashed years of frustration on Luanne's part.
- Unusual Eyebrows: In a one-off gag, when the Van Houtens first arrive at the party, Luanne is glancing away◊ as Kirk explains that they were late because she was busy with her makeup, saying she didn't want anyone to know that she had no eyebrows. Luanne turns to glare at him, revealing a bizarre quizical look◊.Kirk: What? You don't!