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Recap / The Simpsons S 9 E 13 The Joy Of Sect

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Original air date: February 8, 1998

Homer and the rest of the town (save Marge, Reverend Lovejoy, the Flanders family, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Lenny, Cletus and Groundskeeper Willie) are brainwashed into joining a cult known as the Movementarians. Meanwhile, Mr. Burns tries to start his own cult...with disastrous results.

This is the second of two episodes to be produced by David Mirkin (the showrunner for seasons 5 and 6) instead of the current (at the time) showrunner, Mike Scully.

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Tropes:

  • Army of Lawyers: More like a fire station of lawyers, that raid places like Mafia leg-breakers.
  • Arranged Marriage: As part of the "mass marriage" ceremony, Otto is chosen to marry Barney, while Comic Book Guy is chosen to marry Lurleen Lumpkin.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Comes up when Homer tells the Movementarians about his short attention span, then gets distracted by a bird as soon as they attempt to explain the point of their orientation film (which Homer thought was a thriller about police officers trying to find out if internal affairs set them up... just so we're clear: Homer imagined a whole other movie because he was distracted of the Movimentarians' brainwashing film and he got distracted of that too).
  • Batter Up!: Lovejoy tries to subdue Homer by smacking him with a baseball bat, but as he's failing, Willie steps in and tries to smack Homer himself. Eventually, Marge, Lovejoy and Willie hit him all together.
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  • Big "NO!"!: Marge lets out one big NOOO! when Homer and her own kids have been fully corrupted by the Movementarians.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Occurs in the Movementarians' orientaion film.
    Film: When you surrender yourself to the Movementarians, you are guaranteed a perfect life of serenity and love and loving serenity! Not a guarantee.
    Moe: Loving serenity. It's about damn time!
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Springfield Airport has so many crashes, there's a sign reading "No Crashes Since Tuesday".
  • Call-Back: Homer's ability to withstand the blows from Lovejoy and Willie is almost certainly a Call-Back to "The Homer They Fall".
  • Chekhov's Gag:
    • Homer fishes while singing the 60s Batman theme. The Movementarians use a chant to the same tune to get him into the fold.
    • When the kids are swayed out of the Movementarians' ways with fake hoverbikes, Ned reveals that he created the hoverbikes' humming noise with a comb and paper. Later on, when the Leader's "spaceship" falls apart, it is revealed that the ship's own humming noise was provided by a comb and paper.
  • Church of Happyology: The Movementarians are based on several cults, but Scientology sticks out as the main target, particularly their Army of Lawyers and L. Ron Hubbard-esque leader. The show probably avoided a direct parody of Scientology because Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart, among others) is a member—a rejected first draft exists where Lisa joins Scientology.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Homer gets bored of the orientation film and makes up his own movie. The first thing he says after the real movie ends is, "Wait! I'm confused about the movie. So the cops knew that internal affairs were setting them up?" much to his attempted brainwashers' annoyance.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Hans Moleman enters a bookstore whose name makes it clear they only have works by Stephen King and Michael Crichton and asks for books by Robert Ludlum.
    • Lisa expresses her annoyance that the Leader just rides in a Rolls-Royce while his subjects toil in the fields. Homer responds that it's a shame that he didn't buy an American car.
  • Day of the Jackboot: By the third act, most of Springfield has joined the Movementarians, they have a complete monopoly of the news, and can commit public acts of violence with no threat of punishment.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The episode starts off following Homer and the Movementarians trying (and failing) to brainwash him. Halfway through the episode, they succeed and the focus shifts to Marge.
  • Deprogram: Groundskeeper Willie tries to deprogram Homer, but ends up being convinced that the Movementarians are great and joining too.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Rev. Lovejoy loses faith in his own religion when the Leader's apparent spaceship is revealed.
  • Determinator:
    • The recruiters fixate on converting Homer. He resists for a really long time while other townspeople are theirs. They keep trying many a method, and eventually they succeed.
    • Marge will stop at nothing to release her family from the Movementarians' grasp.
  • The Dragon: The two most prominent members of the Movementarians, the two recruiters whom Homer and Bart first encounter at the airport, seem to be this for The Leader.
  • Epic Fail:
    • Burns' attempt to create his own religion ended up in an incredibly humiliating fiasco when some fireworks set him ablaze and he falls from his office's balcony. Overall, he was a wanna-be "messiah" for about fifteen seconds.
    • In the space of a brief conversation, Willie goes from trying to deprogram Homer to thinking the Movementarians are great.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: professor frink is seated at Homer's left during the Batman-style "leader" chant. In the mid-shot of Homer, Frink can be seen with his head on the table, murmuring the chant along with the others, his will having been eroded completely.
  • Get Out!: In the "Only Stephen King and Michael Crichton" store in the airport:
    Hans Moleman: Do you have any books by Robert Ludlum?
    Clerk: Get out.
  • The Golden Rule: One of the religious recruiters at the airport tells Homer, "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." Homer replies skeptically, "Right, that'll work."
  • Here We Go Again!: Judging from his remark when burning down the church, Reverend Lovejoy has done it for the insurance money more than once.
    Reverend Lovejoy: [pouring gasoline on the church floor] Oh, I never thought I'd have to do this again.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Turns out that the "Lil' Bastard" brand of pranking kits (which Bart uses, and having brought one for "mass hysteria" into the cult compound) also makes brainwashing kits of an astonishingly fast effectiveness, and Bart is brainwashed into loving the Leader within two seconds of leaving the Simpsons' room looking to cause mayhem.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: The Movementarians take over Kent Brockman's newscast.
    Kent: Springfield has been overrun by a strange and almost certainly evil sect calling themselves "the Movementarians". " In exchange for your home and all your money, the leader of this way-out and wrong religion claims he'll take believers away on his spaceship to the planet Blisstonia. Excuse my editorial laugh, but- (is handed a note) Ladies and gentlemen, I've just learned of a change in this station's management. Welcome, Movementarians! Continue to improve our lives! I love you, perfect Leader, and new C.E.O. of KBBL Broadcasting.
  • Humiliation Conga: The Leader's "spaceship" breaks apart in mid-air, sending him plummeting to the ground on Cletus' property, who then robs him at gunpoint.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
  • Irony: Just as Lisa comments that the family is thinking for themselves again, the family — including Marge — starts droning after the TV, "We are watching Fox..."
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: One attempt to brainwash Homer has him being subjected to harsh criticism by several people at once. After gleefully agreeing with insult after hate-filled insult, Moe finally mentions Homer's armpit smell. Homer is about to object, but he gets a whiff himself and promptly changes his tune.
  • Jerkass: This episode indirectly names the trope ("Outta my way, jerkass!"), though it isn't an example (it was an insult Homer directly other other people, which was later used as a fandom term for Homer himself).
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Cletus robs a man at gunpoint. Unbeknownst to Cletus, said man was the head of a monstrous cult and the money Cletus took the man had originally stolen from the Springfieldians.
  • Late to the Realization: Homer can't seem to grasp the free weekend that the Movementarians are hosting:
    Movementarian: We're having a free get-acquainted session at our resort this weekend.
    Homer: How much is this free resort weekend?
    Movementarian: It's free.
    Homer: And when is this weekend?
    Movementarian: It's this weekend.
    Homer: Uh-huh. And how much does it cost?
    Movementarian: Um, it's free.
    Homer: I see. And when is it?
    Movementarian: It's this weekend.
    Homer: And what are you charging for this free weekend?
    Bart: Come on, Dad. The team's arriving.
    Homer: (as he's pulled away) It's free, right?
  • Noodle Incident: Three of them:
    • Apparently, Reverend Lovejoy burned down the Springfield Church before ("I never thought I'd have to do this again").
    • Barney's liver has once tried to escape from his body.
    • Homer fell for a timeshare scam where he bought four of them before his check bounced.
  • Organ Autonomy: When Marge and the others tempt Homer with beer to break him out of his Movementarian mindset, Homer's brain and stomach fight over whether Homer would have some.
  • Off-Model: Lurleen Lumpkin from "Colonel Homer" makes a cameo as Comic Book Guy's bride during the mass wedding scene, and her hair is colored red rather than blonde.
  • Perp Sweating: Whenever anyone tries to leave the Movementarians video room, a bright spotlight shines from above and a Movementarian inquires why they're leaving. The person in question nervously sits back down.
  • The Quisling: Kent Brockman, unsurprisingly. He opens up a news report decrying the Movementarians as a cult and the Leader as a fraud, before he receives a notice that they own his station and immediately starts praising them.
  • Real After All: Homer attempts to expose the leader as the fraud he is, only to find himself face to face with a working intergalactic spaceship. The leader attempts to escape in the ship, only for it to fall apart in the air, revealing it was not a real spaceship at all.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Flanders is not pleased that the Movementarians have broken into his house and taken Homer away from his deprogramming, but he still offers them a beer.
    Flanders: But I'm so darn mad, it's gonna be mostly head!
  • Severely Specialized Store: The "Just Crichton and King" bookstore. No other authors are sold there.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Deciding that a catchy theme tune was the best way to convert Homer, the cult members chanted the one to Batman with "Leader" instead of "Batman".
    • Rover from The Prisoner shows up.
    • Mr. Burns' attempt at introducing himself as a god spoofs the music video for Michael Jackson's HIStory.
    • Mr. Burns attempts to create a symbol for his religion ended up producing Kellogg's Special K and Disney's Mickey head.
    • The way Groundskeeper Willie gets everyone's attention and offers his services spoof Quint's introduction in Jaws.
  • Shown Their Work: Many of the Movementarians' tactics and practices are taken directly from Real Life cults including Jim Jones' People's Temple, Heaven's Gate, the Church of Scientology and the Rajneesh movement.
  • Start My Own:
    • Mr. Burns attempts to create his own religion after he learns of the Movementarians' tax-exempt status.
    • Ironically, the Leader had started his own religion with the Movementarians after having previously been with the Promise Keepers.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Ned Flanders uses a comb and a paper to make the fake hoverbikes' noise. The Leader is later seen using the same trick for his fake spaceship.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: When Homer is informed beer is not allowed in the Movementarians:
    Homer: Homer no function beer well without.
  • Too Dumb to Fool:
    • The Movementarians' attempts to brainwash Homer by demoralizing him fail because he's too stupid to notice them. Then the cult recruiters realized that's what kept them from converting Homer, and succeed by using an absurdly trivial ploy (chanting "Leader" to the tune of the Batman theme song).
    • When the Leader falls into Cletus' home, Cletus (who is definitely not the smartest man in Springfield) refuses the Leader's attempt to smooth-talk his way out of it and takes all of the Leader's money at shotgun-point.
  • Touché: During the "circle of judgement" scene:
    Moe: And your stink brings tears to my eyes.
    Homer: Now wait a minute, Moe. (sniffs himself) Oh, my mistake.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In spite of robbing the Leader at gunpoint and taking the money, Cletus is still shown as being poor and living in his shack in all later appearances with no explanation as to where the money went.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Marge deprograms the kids by offering them hoverbikes. They accept, only to find that Marge and Ned faked the hovering effect with wires and a phony noise. Worse, Marge says they don't even get to keep the bikes since they are borrowed and must be returned before 6:00 p.m.

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