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Recap / The Simpsons S8E9 "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)"

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Original air date: 1/5/1997 (produced in 1996)

Production code: 3F24

Marge reluctantly takes Homer to the town's chili cook-off, on the grounds that Homer doesn't drink and make an ass of himself like he did the previous year. This year, however, Chief Wiggum has a secret ingredient to defeat Homer's discerning taste buds during the chili contest: Guatemalan insanity peppers, which cause Homer to lose his mind... and end up on a spirit quest (led by a space coyote voiced by guest star Johnny Cash) to find his soulmate.

This episode would be recreated as a level in LEGO Dimensions 18 years later, albeit heavily modified.

Tropes Are:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The butterfly in Homer's hallucination was created with 3D computer animation.
  • Acid-Trip Dimension: Homer is sent to one of these in a hallucination after consuming a nasty chili pepper.
  • Adventures in Comaland: It is implied that Homer hallucinated everything while lying unconscious outside the whole night long.
  • A.I.-cronym: E.A.R.L., short for "Electronic Automatic Robotic Lighthouse".
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: In a flashback scene, Homer, after drinking too much beer at a chili cook-off, decides to take off all his clothes and climb into a cotton-candy machine and pretend he's a "puffy pink cloud."
  • Alpha Bitch: Helen Lovejoy. She mocks Marge's trust in Homer, and later gossips about his behavior at the festival to Marge, not knowing or caring that he was under the influence of strong peppers, causing Marge to believe he broke his promise to her, and ended up being embarrassingly drunk at the festival causing friction between the two of them.
  • Ambiguously Bi: While searching for his soulmate (after thinking Marge wasn't his, due to an argument) Homer doesn't seem to care what gender his soulmate is, even searching among his male friends (who only regard him as a friend).
  • Animation Bump: Some of the hallucination scenes are more fluidly animated than the show was at the time. This is likely because David Silverman personally oversaw their animation rather than sending them to the South Korean studios that usually handled the series, as he wanted to ensure that they looked exactly as he imagined them.
  • Apple of Discord: Marge spends the episode angry at Homer because Helen Lovejoy made her think he deliberately got drunk rather than trip out on peppers.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: After the Coyote explains to Homer that a soulmate is someone he shares an unspoken and profound bond with.
    Homer: Well, that's Marge. Big deal. Great spiritual quest, wolfie! My soulmate is Marge!
    Coyote: Is it?
  • Art Shift: One of the most famous in Simpsons history, when Homer hallucinates in being in some fantasy world. Reportedly, David Silverman did that sequence's animation himself rather than outsource it to Korea as usual, in order to get the precise look he wanted.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Homer and Marge make up in the end.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Homer is lying on a couch, lamenting that he thought Marge was his soulmate, but now he doesn't know if he even has a soulmate, much less if it's Marge. We are led to assume he's talking to a psychiatrist... until the view widens to reveal that he's lying on a couch in a furniture store, talking to a salesman.
  • Batman Parody: Homer's silhouette is projected in the light of a lighthouse, causing Bart and Lisa to see it as something the resembles the Bat signal. Which of course leads to...
  • Bat Signal:
    • Spoofed when Homer stands in front of the lighthouse.
      [Bart and Lisa are at the bathroom sink, brushing their teeth, when Bart sees Homer's silhouette through the window]
      Bart: Hey look! Is that dad?
      Lisa: [looks] Either that or Batman has really let himself go.
    • Later, a silhouette of Marge and Homer kissing appears in the final shot of the episode.
  • Birds of a Feather: Homer comes to believe that he and Marge are not destined to be after he realizes they don't have much in common. Marge, however, proves him wrong when she finds him at the lighthouse due to knowing him so well.
  • The Blank: On top of the pyramid, Homer sees what he thinks is Marge from behind and runs to her, but as he walks around the figure it's revealed that it has no face, just her backside all around.
  • Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce: The Merciless Hot Pepper of Quetzalsacatenango, also known as the Guatemalan Insanity Pepper. They're "grown deep in the jungle primeval by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum." Homer has to lacquer his mouth and esophagus in order to eat one, then eats more, and is still driven temporarily insane by their spiciness.
  • The Bore: Marge is confused by an eight spice rack and by oregano.
  • Continuity Nod: The coyote would reappear in the episode "Blazed And Confused", during one of Marge's hallucinations.
  • Couch Gag: Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie parachute onto the couch. Homer comes down screaming and lands on his face from an unopened parachute.
  • Dance Party Ending: At the end, the town gathers to dance as they loot the lost shipment of short shorts, as the song "Who Wears Short Shorts?" plays.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The contrived acronym Electronic Automatic Robotic Lighthouse — all robots are automatic, and non-electronic robots, while technically possible, are hopelessly obsolete.
  • Deranged Animation: Homer's hallucinatory Dream Sequence due to the effects of eating chili and candle wax offers the animators many opportunities to show off surreal animation sequences. David Silverman insisted on animating this sequence in-house instead of normally outsourcing it to Korea to ensure it came out exactly how he wanted.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Homer's hallucination.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Parodied when Homer wakes up, finds himself in a golf course, and starts identifying elements of his vision with mundane objects there.
    Homer: Maybe the desert was just this sand trap. Oh, and I bet that crazy pyramid was just the pro shop. And that talking coyote was just a talking dog.
    Talking Dog: Hi, Homer. Find your soul mate.
    Homer: Hey, wait a minute! There's no such thing as a talking dog!
    [dog barks]
    Homer: Damn straight!
  • The Dreaded: At the chili festival, Homer's tongue is unmatched in its ability to sample spicy chilies. The Insanity Pepper is itself a dreaded among spices:
    Chief Wiggum: The merciless peppers of Quetzlzacatenengo, grown deep in the jungles primeval by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum.
  • Dream Sequence: At first, Homer's hallucination is close to a nightmare, with a lot of scary imagery going on. After a while, he starts to get used to it and it becomes more of a normal dream.
  • Ennio Morricone Pastiche: A brief musical quote of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly's soundtrack is heard when Homer approaches the chili stand in a badass pose.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Ralph Wiggum, of all people, warns Homer that he's about to accidentally drink hot wax from a candle. Also, even Reverend Lovejoy seems fed up with his wife's bitchy nature in this episode.
  • False Soulmate: Homer assumes Marge is not his true soulmate, but in the end he is proven wrong.
  • Fire-Breathing Diner: One touch of the pepper of Quetzlzacatenego causes Homer's tongue to give out smoke. Later invoked as the crowd watches Homer gulp down the chili.
    Dr. Hibbert: By all medical logic, steam should be shooting out of his ears.
    Krusty: His ears, if we're lucky!
  • Foregone Conclusion: Homer's soulmate is Marge. Try to contain your surprise. The writers admitted that it was obvious what the conclusion would be, but that the purpose of this story is to see Homer struggle and realize it instead of just taking it for granted.
  • Freudian Couch: Parodied when Homer is talking about his problems, lying on the couch... which turns out to be in a furniture store.
    Salesman: This... really goes beyond my training as a furniture salesman, sir. Now, if you don't want the couch, I'm going to have to ask you to leave.
  • Friendly Enemy: Even though on his good days Homer doesn't like interacting with Ned if he can avoid it, Ned was the first one Homer turned to for help when the ultra-spicy peppers started making his brain go haywire. Ned himself looked quite concerned when Homer ran off screaming after the first hallucination.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Earl, who Homer believes is the lonely lighthouse keeper, actually is a lighthouse system called E.A.R.L., short for Electronic Automatic Robotic Lighthouse.
  • Furry Reminder: Homer encounters his spirit guide, a talking "Space Coyote", who explains to Homer that he must go on a quest to find his soul mate. After about a minute, when the conversation begins to get serious and intellectual, the coyote unexpectedly begins aggressively gnawing on Homer's ankle. Homer kicks him off and says "Hey! Knock it off!" to which the coyote responds "Sorry, I am a coyote".
  • G-Rated Drug: The Guatemalan insanity peppers, which gave Homer an experience akin to a peyote trip. This actually is Truth in Television, as sufficiently spicy foods can really cause hallucinations.
  • Gay Cowboy: Smithers shows up at the chilli festival wearing a pink and white cowboy outfit with a neon sign on the back saying "Hot Nashville Nights".
  • Gratuitous Spanish: The episode title. Oddly, the parenthetical English translation ignores the affectionate use of "nuestro" ("our") before Homer's name. His name is also rendered incorrectly — in Spanish Homer (the writer) is called "Homero", with a silent "H". The Latin American Spanish dub of The Simpsons uses that version of the name, and although his name is pronounced in a similar fashion to how it's written in the title in the European Spanish translation, it's still spelled the same as in English.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Homer tries to find a soul mate in his drinking buddies, but they tell him otherwise:
    Homer: Hey, Barney! Soul mate! Let me buy you a beer.
    Barney: Okay, but I'm not your soul mate. I'm really more of a chum.
    Homer: Well, what about you, Lenny?
    Lenny: I'm a crony.
    Homer: Carl?
    Carl: I'd say acquaintance.
    [the camera pans to other patrons]
    Larry: Colleague.
    Sam: Sympathizer.
    Bumblebee Man: Compadre.
    Kearney: Associate.
    Dr. Hibbert: Contemporary.
    Moe: I'm a well-wisher, in that I don't wish you any specific harm.
  • Hope Spot: Homer was going to give up searching for his soul mate until he sees the lighthouse run by "Earl". Homer goes inside, thinking "Earl" must be lonely, but discovers "Earl" is really "E.A.R.L.", the "Electronic Automatic Robotic Lighthouse".
  • Hypocrite: Chief Wiggum and everyone else at the cookoff laugh at Homer after Wiggum's chili is too much for him, despite that by this logic none of them would be able to eat the chili either if someone as sturdy as Homer couldn't handle it.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Marge walks into the Lovejoys and asks if they've seen Homer, Helen states "Marge, better you hear it from me then some gossipy neighbor. Homer made a total jackass of himself."
  • Idiot Ball: Marge, for believing a word that Helen Lovejoy says about Homer. Not only has it been well established that Helen's a gossip who will say anything about anyone regardless of the facts, but she has done this to Marge herself, ruining the Simpson family for a month in the process. Marge, of all people, should know Helen cannot be trusted and should believe her husband over the town gossip.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The chili peppers Chief Wiggum provides to Homer are too hot for even him to eat. He decides to coat his tongue with candle wax and proves effective. Unfortunately, the sheer spiciness of the peppers, and some wax ingested, throws Homer into a Mushroom Samba.
  • Irony: The one who helps Homer get around to eating Wiggum's Chili Peppers is none other than his own son Ralph.
  • It's All About Me: Marge tries to stop Homer from going to the chili festival because she feels he humiliates her by drinking.
  • Karma Houdini: Chief Wiggum. He mocks Homer for finding the chili (that was made from insanity peppers) too spicy, leading to Homer forcing himself to eat them, which triggers his hallucination and kick-starts the main plot. However, in the comics, Wiggum does eventually get some comeuppance, see Sequel Episode.
  • Laughing Mad: After taking out the light in the lighthouse, Homer briefly giggles insanely to himself.
  • Lopsided Dichotomy: When Bart and Lisa see Homer's silhouette from the lighthouse.
    Bart: Hey, look! Is that dad?
    Lisa: Either that or Batman has really let himself go.
  • Loving Details: When Homer fears that Marge may not be his soulmate, he is reassured when she manages to track him down using everything she knows about him:
    "Well, I was sure you'd be on foot because you always say public transportation is for losers. And I was sure you'd head west because Springfield slopes down that way. And then I saw the lighthouse and I remembered how you love blinking lights, like the one on the waffle iron."
  • Magical Native American: Though devoid of actual Native American people, the dreamland has a distinct Oasisamerican feel.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Subverted. Not only does Homer find rational counterparts after he comes back from the dream (briefly talking dog aside), but the one time he hears the Space Coyote again, it concludes with "This is just your memory. I can't give you any new information."
  • Mayincatec: The Merciless Peppers are grown in an Aztec-sounding place of Guatemala (rather than Mayan-sounding), and the spirit world features a Mayan pyramid despite being otherwise based on the Mexican-American frontier.
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Mentioned in reverse order towards the end.
    Homer: Wow, Marge, you really do understand me. See, I thought we weren't soulmates because...
    Marge: ...we had a fight?
    Homer: Right, and we don't like the same things. It's like you're from Venus...
    Marge: ...and you're from Mars.
    Homer: Oh, sure, give me the one with all the monsters.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Invoked. Homer thinks the lonely lighthouse operator could be his soul mate, but discovers that it is an automated lighthouse system.
  • Mushroom Samba: After eating some of "the Merciless Peppers of Quetzalacatenango" at a chili cookoff, Homer starts hallucinating wildly (which Marge mistakes for Homer breaking his promise about getting drunk) and goes on a journey to find his soulmate.
    Homer: Man, this is crazy. I hope I didn't brain my damage.
  • My Instincts Are Showing: The Coyote starts biting Homer's leg, after just giving him some wise insight. Homer kicks him away, then the coyote apologizes, claiming that he is a coyote.
  • Nightmare Face: There are quite a few in this episode, all caused by Homer's hallucination.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Homer's hallucinatory Dream Sequence — due to the effects of eating Guatemalan insanity peppers and candle wax — provides many opportunities for surreal animated sequences. It starts off as a nightmare, but after a while Homer gets more used to it and it becomes a dream.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Homer is able to tell that Flanders' five alarm chili is only two alarm chili; Flanders then confesses that he just wanted to impress his kids.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: To emphasize his otherworldly nature, the Coyote was deliberately given an angular and boxy appearance so unlike everyone else in The Simpsons.
  • Noodle Incident: What did Bart say to Mable?
  • Not Helping Your Case: When Marge believes Homer got drunk the night before, Homer tries to claim he wasn't drunk but simply went to "a strange fantasy world".
  • Not What It Looks Like: Homer really wasn't going to drink. He only grabbed a beer in front of Marge because his tongue was burning from the peppers, and his antics were the result of his hallucinations. Marge, however, believes he broke his promise, and is not happy with him, which only enforces Homer's need to find a soul mate.
  • Of Course I Smoke: Marge (a nonsmoker) claims she "just felt like filling the house with the rich, satisfying smell of tobacco." She's trying to overwhelm the smell of the chili cook-off so Homer won't go to it. Later we get this exchange:
    Homer: Geez, why don't you have a cigarette or something?
    Marge: Mm, I suppose I could.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Marge is furious when she believes Homer got drunk, even yelling at him. Rather ironic, considering Homer is surprisingly innocent this time.
  • Out of Character: Ralph Wiggum is surprisingly intelligent in this one, trying to caution Homer against drinking hot wax, then showing concern when the chili causes him to hallucinate. Then again, compared to Homer, who actually drinks said wax... It may just be relative.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Homer could've saved himself a lot of bother if he'd just said he'd eaten some chilli peppers that had made him hallucinate, or better yet just said he'd never touched a drop of beer. Instead, he tells Marge he went to a strange fantasy world, which she obviously isn't going to believe.
  • Prized Possession Giveaway: Defied. When told that clarity of mind is the path to inner peace, Homer wonders if this means adopting a more ascetic lifestyle and giving his possessions away, at which the Coyote immediately scoffs.
    "Are you KIDDIN'? [chuckles] If anything you should get more possessions! You don't even own a computer."
  • Product Placement: Near of the end of the episode, when the lighthouse's bulb burns out and Homer has to change it, the replacement bulb is taken from a box with Sylvania written on it — Sylvania is a Real Life lamp manufacturer.
  • Pyramid Power: Homer has to climb a Mayan pyramid in his hallucination. It first started off as a small platform a few feet high, but quickly sprouts up into a massive pyramid, mostly because he kept rushing and shoving the tortoise that was leading him to it.
  • Random Smoking Scene: Marge smokes a cigarette to distract Homer from the chili festival in town. Her plan backfires because Homer knows "she doesn't smoke". Later, Homer dismisses her with the words: "Sheesh, why don't you have a cigarette or something?" whereupon Marge concludes: "Mm, I suppose I could."
  • Riding into the Sunset: Parodied with a concerned Ralph and reassuring Otto watching as Homer runs from the chili contest.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Kind of. Some of the clouds in Homer's dream are live-action footage.
  • Sanity Ball: Ralph Wiggum of all people tries to warn Homer not to drink a melting candle ("You don't wanna get hot wax in your mouth, do you?!") The line was intentionally inserted to remind impressionable viewers that none of Homer's actions are advisable.
  • Sequel Episode: Gets one in the comic book "The Simpsons Summer Shindig #2" (having first been mentioned in the The Simpsons/Futurama Infinitely Secret Crossover Crisis) with the story "Chili Chili Bang Bang". It takes place immediately after Homer storms out of the Chili Cook-off Festival and due to a incident involving Snake, Wiggum is humiliated, accidentally eats his own chili, and goes through a spirit quest with Wiggle Puppy. This could also count as Karma Houdini Warranty seeing as Wiggum gets a comeuppance for the way he treated Homer in this episode that kicked off the plot. Also, the comic reveals the Coyote's name is "Johnny".
  • Shout-Out:
    • The story was inspired by the novels of author Carlos Castaneda, which often tell tales of spiritual journeys through peyote.
    • When Homer arrives with a chilli spoon in hand, the music quotes Ennio Morricone's soundtrack for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
    • When Homer starts hallucinating, Mrs. Krabappel's voice sounds like the trombone sounds used when adults talk in the Peanuts animated specials; Jasper sounds like "Goo-Goo-Ga-Joob", similar to the refrain of The Beatles' song "I Am The Walrus" from Magical Mystery Tour, while Flanders' "Gabba Gabba Hey" references The Ramones' catchphrase.
    • As Homer plays with the sun during his hallucination, he chants "Sunrise, Sunset", referencing a song from Fiddler on the Roof.
    • The scene near the end of Homer's hallucination, when the train heads towards him, references the opening titles of Soul Train.
    • Bart's conversation with Lisa, "So I says to Mabel, I says", references F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
    • When Homer walks through the town, "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian plays on the soundtrack.
    • The shot of Homer walking aimlessly at night against black with signs fading in and out over the top is a reference to The Lost Weekend.
    • The projection of Homer's silhouette in the lighthouse looks like the Bat signal.
    • The lighthouse keeper who is actually a computer is a reference to the The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Old Man in the Cave".
    • Captain McCallister says: "Jonathan Livingston Seagull! We're on a collision course!", in reference to Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
    • The "Pyramid" that actually turns out to be a pro shop is a reference to the Memphis Pyramid (which would ironically get turned into a Bass Pro Shop many years later)
    • Everybody dances to "Short Shorts" by The Royal Teens near the end.
  • Spirit Advisor: Spoofed. Homer hallucinates after eating "the Merciless Peppers of Quetzalacatenango". His Spirit Advisor is a coyote, the trickster spirit of a number of Amerindian tribes. The distinctive voice of Homer's spirit guide is provided by Johnny Cash. This sequence eventually leads to the infamous line "In your face, space coyote!"
  • Stunned Silence: Chief Wiggum finds it hilarious when Homer tries his chili again, only for that to turn into mute horror and a Thousand-Yard Stare when Homer manages to eat several of the insanity peppers whole.
  • Talking Animal: The Coyote in Homer's hallucination. When he wakes up, he assumes it was all a dream, and thinks he mistook a normal dog for the talking coyote. The dog then tells Homer to find his soulmate, which surprises him, but then the animal just barks and Homer's suspicion disappears.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: A very bizarre version, when Homer starts hallucinating and runs off. Ralph calls after him, only to be stopped by Otto.
    Otto: Let him go, Ralph. He knows what he's doing.
  • Those Wily Coyotes: Homer's spirit animal, voiced by Johnny Cash.
  • Truth in Television: People who handle exceptionally piquant peppers really do have to wear gloves and eye protection just like Chief Wiggum does.
  • Vision Quest: The Coyote in Homer's dream tells him to search for his soul mate.
  • Weird Sun: As Homer walks towards the horizon in his hallucination, he notices the sun rises when he walks towards it and sets when he walks away from it. He goes back and forth saying "Sunrise, sunset" to amuse himself, until the sun crashes into the horizon and shatters.
    Homer: Note to Self: Stop doing anything.
  • Weird West: Homer's experience at the chili contest parodies The Western genre, down to Homer playing the dreadful outsider to the local sheriff and riding into the sunset. The followup hallucination is based off the North American southwest landscape and wildlife.
  • Woman Scorned: Marge doesn't look Homer in the eye after the festival, reminding Homer of how she looked in his hallucination, which drives Homer to find his soul mate.
  • Writers Suck: Marge tells Homer that the reason she doesn't want him to go to the chili cook-off is because, as she puts it, he gets "drunk as a poet on payday."
  • Written Sound Effect: When Homer says "D'oh!" in his hallucination after the tortoise spells out "Follow the Tortoise", the dust around him forms the word.