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Recap / The Simpsons S9 E10 "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace"

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Original air date: 12/21/1997

Production code: 5F07

In this Christmas Episode, Bart accidentally destroys the family's Christmas presents and blames the disaster on a burglar, resulting in the rest of the town opening its hearts and wallets for them, but when Santa's Little Helper finds the melted wreckage and Bart confesses that he lied, the town turns on the Simpsons and shuns them.


  • Advanced Tech 2000: Bart's fire truck is called the "Inferno Buster 3000".
  • As Himself: Alex Trebek, who doesn't take kindly to Marge's -$5,200 loss, and later joins Springfieldians in repossessing the Simpsons' possessions.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment:
    • When Marge and Lisa decorate their family's Christmas tree, Lisa comments that she's glad about not using a tree made of aluminum like in the past, suggesting they're using a real tree this time. Marge then reveals that they're using a plastic tree.
    • As Lisa starts strangling Bart, Homer yells "Lisa, no!", then adds "Your hands are too weak!", and Homer starts strangling Bart himself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Of the very bitter kind. The rest of Springfield forgives the Simpsons and call it taking their money's worth of stuff from their house. The episode ends with the family (somehow successfully) making the best of their holiday with what old washcloth.
  • Blatant Burglar: The phony description of the burglar who robbed the Simpsons given to the police by Bart matches this trope, as he mentions the burglar wearing a striped convict shirt and holding a big sack with a dollar sign on it. Lou quips "Classic burglar".
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: When Bart confesses that he's the one who ruined Christmas, Lisa strangles him, complete with a "Why you little—!"
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The full extent of Bart's misdeeds that cause him and his entire family to be dragged through the Humiliation Conga throughout the episode: he goes against Marge's orders by waking up early to open presents, and he improvises a cover story after the tree burns down as a result. It's implied that he intended to fess up but couldn't bring himself to look his family in the eyes and tell them.
  • Cassandra Truth: Homer tries to warn his coworkers of an actual poison leak, but they think he's lying to steal their snacks. Even when the leak comes by and everyone starts to cough, they still refuse to oblige Homer's orders to leave.
  • Christmas Episode: Probably the most depressing one in the series, alongside "Marge Be Not Proud".
  • Comically Missing the Point: After Marge reads Moe's letter (wherein he curses and denounces the family), Homer expresses disappointment... because he thinks it obligates them to send him a Christmas card back.
  • Continuity Nod: Barney is shown plowing the roads in the "Plow King" truck.
  • Couch Gag: The Simpsons sit on the couch, and the camera zooms out, revealing that the living room is part of a snow globe that two hands shake to make the snow fall.
  • Crappy Holidays: The Simpsons rarely have a Christmas that goes smoothly, but this is without a doubt their worst one ever. First Bart accidentally sets the tree on fire, destroys it and all the presents, and buries it under the snow to hide what he did from the rest of the family. Then he spins a lie that a robber stole everything. The story gets out on the news, prompting the whole town to come forward to their aid, gifting the family $15,000. They blow it all on a new car that they lose immediately to a frozen lake. Then word gets out that the whole thing was a lie, and Springfield as a whole starts to treat the Simpsons as pariahs. By the end of the episode, the family are forced to give away all of their possessions to pay their debt, save for a single washcloth that they fight over.
  • Creator In-Joke:
    • When Krusty says "15,000 Missoulians" it is a reference to writer Ron Hauge having lived in Missoula, Montana.
    • When the Simpsons' car says "I'll Keell you", this is a reference to a Wiffleball bat in the writer's office that said that.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Just when it seems the town has forgiven the Simpsons, we see the actual reason why the Springfieldians are at their house: they're repossessing the Simpsons' belongings in order to settle their debt.
  • Deconstruction: Of probably "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" and the melodramatic Christmas special episodes as a whole. The episode goes to show what would happen if the ever petulant and incorrigible population of Springfield outside of The Simpson family engaged in the spirit of Christmas, but never meant it, while much like the first episode of the series, the family's Christmas gets worse as they try to salvage what they can, but escalates it up to eleven, as every one of Springfield's populace begins to harbor materialistic priorities by putting them in personal debt to pay back out of selfish gain, and claims them as thieves and liars when they don't.
  • Defeat Equals Friendship: Of the more cynical kind. The rest of Springfield can't take being mad at the Simpsons anymore, so just loot their money's worth of stuff from their house and call it even, merrily greeting the mortified Simpsons as they leave.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Bart buries the melted tree/presents in the snow next to the house. It was going to be discovered sooner or later, even if the snow wouldn't melt for a while.
  • Dirty Cop: Chief Wiggum, unsurprisingly, is shown looting the Simpson household in the end.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Unprovoked, Springfield happily collects $15,000 for the Simpsons under the impression that they tragically lost their tree and all their presents on Christmas morning...which they really did, though in an accidental fire and not in a burglary as had been reported. Furthermore, the donors repeatedly encourage the family to splurge the money in an Awesome, but Impractical way when Marge's first impulse is simply to replace the lost items and presumably save the rest, resulting in Homer sinking all of it in a car that explodes on contact with ice water. The town residents that donated are furious when they discover what really became of the tree (at roughly the same time most of the family itself does, Bart having made up the burglary to cover up starting the fire) and, believing themselves the victims of a scam, proceed to loot the Simpsons' house top to bottom to right the balance, taking everything from family pictures to family pets. In other words, the Simpsons suffer an actual loss, are treated to charity they never asked for as a result, and wind up far worse off than they were before when the givers turn on them en masse, simply because they didn't lose their presents and their tree in an acceptable fashion.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Homer pulling Lisa away from strangling he can do a better job.
    Homer: Lisa, no! Your hands are too weak!
  • Epic Fail: Marge losing so bad on Jeopardy! that she now owes $5,200 to Alex Trebek.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The car the family buys with the $15,000 from the townspeople blows up from just sinking into icy water.
  • "Everybody Helps Out" Denouement: Played straight at the midpoint of the episode with all of Springfield putting together $15,000 in cash to donate to the Simpsons. Inverted in the actual denouement of the episode, where the entirety of the town loots the Simpson home to get back their money's worth.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Homer doesn't notice the $12,000 price tag on a car he plans on buying with the $15,000 in donations. The salesman is all too happy to take advantage.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: After the townspeople donate $15,000 to the Simpsons, Homer immediately blows it all on a new car (that costs $12,000), and on the way home from the dealership, due to Homer's reckless driving, the car blows up.
  • From Bad to Worse: Bart accidentally destroying the family's Christmas, but his attempt to cover it up ultimately leads to the entire family being shunned by the townspeople, and then eventually robbed for real when the citizens reposes all of their belongings to pay of their debt.
  • Game Show Appearance: Marge goes on Jeopardy! to try to repay Springfield, but ends up with -$5,200 instead.
  • Gift Shake: By shaking Lisa's gift, Bart is not only able to tell that she's getting a sweater, but also that it's hand-knitted and yellow.
  • Honest John's Dealership: The Simpsons blow the $15,000 on a $12,000 car, and Homer failed to notice that the salesman was blatantly ripping him off.
  • Idiot Ball: When the truth about the burned tree and presents come out, the family makes it sound like they've known for a while, which causes the entire town to hate them. Nobody specifies that they only found out seconds before Kent Brockman did, which might have garnered them a touch more sympathy.
  • I'll Kill You!: "No, I'm killing him first! You wait your turn!"
  • Irony: Bart sets fire to the Christmas tree with a toy fire truck.
  • Ironic Episode Title: By the end of the episode, the only "miracle" the Simpsons probably have been recipient of is the fact they're still alive.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: The scene where the Springfielders give the Simpsons money is a parody of the same scene in It's a Wonderful Life. In fact, the episode was pitched as "It's a Wonderful Life in reverse".
  • It's All About Me: Bart really wanted to open his presents before everybody else, which kicks off the rest of the story.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Subverted. On one hand, it's understandable why the Springfield residents feel angry at the entire Simpsons family, since they feel they were ripped off by them (even though they didn't rip them off in reality). On the other hand, the way they treat the Simpsons family makes it impossible to sympathize with them.
  • Lead In: Homer and Marge going to Try-n-Save, where Homer tricks the crowd by pretending to be a cashier and stealing gifts from other shoppers.
  • Logo Joke: The Gracie Films jingle is redone in a Christmas style. It's notably the only Simpsons Christmas episode to do this.
  • Misplaced Retribution: The town blames the entire Simpson family for "scamming" them when only Bart destroyed the presents and tree. Never mind that Bart confessed to acting alone on live TV.
  • Mood Whiplash: "Wow, this really restores your faith in—LISA, DO YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE THAT STUPID SONG NOW?!"
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Bart feels horribly guilty about what he did throughout the whole episode.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Bart accidentally burns down the Christmas tree and presents.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Bart has a water-based one when he engineers a Potty Emergency in order to wake up earlier than the rest of the family.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: With Springfield pouring out its heart—and wallet—to the Simpsons after Bart's lie about the burglary becomes local news, Bart's on the receiving end of a lot of this.
    Lisa: (introducing a Heartwarming Orphan duo) Bart, this is Patches and—what was your name?
    Girl: Poor Violet.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Bart calls the house's outdoor decoration display "craptacular".
  • Potty Emergency: Invoked; Bart drinks a dozen glasses of water in order to wake himself up early for Christmas. It works...after he's subjected to a dream involving rivers, garden hoses, various other forms of water imagery, gigantic letter "P"s, and a cheerleader and a crowd saying pee-related puns.
  • Present Peeking: Bart intentionally drinks lots of water to wake up early (but not before going to the bathroom). He goes peeking at the presents before everybody else, and he ends up destroying the tree and the gifts in a fire.
  • Produce Pelting: After the Springfieldians realize they've been scammed, they bombard the Simpsons' house with fruits and vegetables.
    Lisa: They're running out of tomatoes.
    (loud smash)
    Bart: But they still got plenty of pumpkins.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: The episode ends with the Simpsons owning only the clothes on their backs and the roof over their heads after the whole town looted everything else to get back the money they gave the family after an apparent theft. But at least the town has (in its own way) forgiven the family, and they are still together (and find happiness in playing keep-away with a rag Homer had in his pocket). The fact the show runs on Negative Continuity also helps.
  • Ridiculous Repossession: An example that stands out because of its sheer viciousness: the people of Springfield (and Alex Trebek) repossess all (and that is all) of the Simpsons' possessions (including pets and the medicines in their bathroom cabinets) to pay back the money the family owed them. The episode ends with the Simpsons owning only their (empty) home, the clothes on their backs, and a cloth that Homer had in his pocket.
  • Same Content, Different Rating: This episode aired with a G-rating, but it features Bart calling Homer's Christmas display craptacular, the seniors on pharmaceutical drugs, the Simpsons' prescriptions being looted, and Lisa giving Bart a Groin Attack.
  • The Scrooge: When the townsfolk were donating money to the Simpsons, Mr. Burns asked if somebody had change for a button.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The scene of the Simpsons getting the money donated to them as well as Homer yelling at Lisa for playing the piano is a reference to It's a Wonderful Life.
    • Maggie has a Binky the Rabbit doll.
  • Spiteful Spit: As the family heads inside, two Krusty Burger clerks are shown spitting into customer food just because they can, not because of the Simpsons (who they don't even care about).
  • Stealing the Handicapped Spot: Homer parks his car across three handicapped spaces on his way to the Try N' Save to do his Christmas shopping. He even has the gall to fake a limp the moment he exits the car.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: After wasting the donations of the town on a car that gets destroyed in an accident, Marge suggests that they try to pay them back by getting the money from going on Jeopardy!, to which she ends up with -$5,200. While she's certainly smarter than every other core family member save for Lisa, she still isn't Jeopardy smart.
  • Tiny Tim Template: Lisa introduces a pair of sickly orphans in ragged clothing named Patches and Poor Violet to Bart, who give him a ragged one dollar bill they had been saving when everyone at their orphanage heard what had happened, which unfortunately does not help his extreme guilt over the truth. When the truth does get out, the orphan duo are just as furious as the rest of the townsfolk, as the dollar they gave Bart was their vitamin money.
  • Toilet Humour: Bart's dream sequence where a cheerleader tells the crowd to give them a 'P' then chants "Go Go Go! P P P!"
  • Unnervingly Heartwarming: The episode ends with the rest of Springfield sincerely forgiving the Simpsons and happily wishing them Merry Christmas... due to having robbed their house of their money's worth to call it even. The horrified family find their house completely empty.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • Bart accidentally setting the Christmas tree on fire and then lying about it is what sets the whole disaster in motion.
    • The damage might have stopped at a white lie about the burned-down tree if Kent Brockman hadn't seen fit to turn the "burglary" into a human interest story that deliberately guilted the viewer for enjoying Christmas in light of the Simpson family's plight.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: This episode is not kind to the Simpsons family. First the town gives them a generous donation of $15,000 to make up for the presents the family lost. It becomes All for Nothing when the family blows it all on a new car and loses it immediately. Then the truth behind the missing presents comes out, Springfield as a whole turns against the Simpsons, and Marge makes an enemy of the Jeopardy crew. And just when it seems like the city has finally forgiven them, it's because they've decided to just rob the family of everything they're worth.


Video Example(s):


Homer's Parking

Homer takes this Up To Eleven when he goes last-minute Christmas shopping by not only stealing THREE handicapped spots at once, but walking away with a horrendously-unconvincing limp.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / StealingTheHandicappedSpot

Media sources: