It’s been pretty clear on this site that I love flashback episodes. Learning about the family in the past is really fun and pretty much always leads to really emotional and wonderful episodes. And while I may change my mind later, I’m pretty sure this one is my favorite. This episode is pretty high up on my list of favorite episodes period. I really forgot that the flashback episodes were kind of like the Treehouse of Horror episodes, and show up once a season, and it’s always a welcome addition.
The episode starts right off with the family trying their best to get Maggie to say her first word. Homer is voting for daddy, Marge for mommy, and Bart for “shove it” or “get bent.” Maggie doesn’t take the bait though, and just burps, leading Marge to start worrying if Maggie is behind developmentally. Bart asks what his first word was, and Homer and Marge look at each other awkwardly and remember it was “Ay Caruma!” from when little Bart wandered in on them having sex. They deflect that story, and decide instead to tell the story of Lisa’s first word, saying it was a cute story. And they’re right. It’s adorable.
We cut over to 1983, where Homer and Marge are living in a small apartment in Springfield’s ethnic district where they have Irish and Italian stereotypes for neighbors, and Depression-era street urchins play an arcade game of Stickball. But the family is pretty happy. Homer is making enough money for them, and Bart’s being pretty shitty, especially to Homer. He doesn’t even call him dad, just Homer. We see a montage of bad Bart, like him smashing into Homer’s stomach, making a mess with spaghetti, and just swinging around on a clothesline naked for hours. But as Home is scolding Bart for flushing his wallet down the toilet, Marge comes in and tells them that she’s pregnant, and there’s going to be another member of the family. Homer is initially excited, but then sees Bart flushing his keys, and gets kind of worried. Bart is pretty psyched for a little sibling though, and has a series of idea of what to do with it, like blaming the baby for drawing on the wall, using it to prop up a board to ramp his tricycle, and wiping up spilled milk with it’s diaper.
Homer and Marge begin looking for a bigger house, and leave Bart with Patty and Selma, who apparently bribe him with dollars to sing cute little kid songs. And Homer and Marge aren’t off to a good start. My wife and I got our house a year ago, and man can I say that looking for a house sucks. We came from an apartment like Homer and Marge, which seems infinity easier than trying to simultaneously find a new house and sell you old one, which seems impossible to me. It’s so hard finding houses that aren’t terrible, and that’s just what Homer and Marge run into. They find a house that just had a murder in it, a nice house that’s next to a rendering plant, and a little place that’s full of cats who apparently own the house and would be renting it to Homer and Marge. Finally they come across the house we know they buy, but it’s way out of their price range. So Homer goes and asks Abe for money. Unfortunately Abe doesn’t have any money, just the house he won on a crooked 50’s gameshow. So Abe decides to sell the house, and give the money to Homer and his family in exchange for a room in the house. The two embrace for a sweet moment, and we cut to the present where Homer admits he shipped Grandpa off to the old folks home about three weeks after that.
So they get the house and while they’re moving in Flanders and Rod show up and are instantly annoying, even though Ned is wearing a shirt that says “I ❤ Webster,” which is hilarious. The Flanders sing a quick song, and welcome the Simpsons to the neighborhood, offering to lend anything they need, so Homer takes the TV tray Flanders just bought, and never gives it back. The family starts settling in, as Marge deals with her pregnancy and Bart going through the terrible two’s, which leads to one of my favorite Simpsons scenes of all time, where Bart marches around the house banging pots and pans singing “I am so great! I am so great! Everybody loves me because I am so great!” I’m not going to lie, when I want to annoy my wife I sing that song all the time.
We’re then introduced to a weird B-plot, which I’m pretty sure is based on something that actually happened to McDonalds in the 80’s where Krusty is offering free burgers at Krusty Burger whenever the Americans win gold medals in Olympic events. But the trick was they only picked events the Soviets win, however we’re now in 1984 and the Soviets of course boycott the Olympics, so Krusty loses millions of dollars. It’s just kind of a weird little aspect of the story to throw in. Anyway, Marge’s pregnancy is moving along, so they decide to get Bart out of the crib and into a real bed, but Bart isn’t really happy about that, and fights his parents over keeping his crib. Homer decides to fix the problem by making him a new bed shaped like a clown, since Bart loves Krusty, and he accidentally makes a horrible nightmare of a bed, that scares Bart so bad he has a fantasy of it cackling at him and he can’t sleep anymore. “Can’t sleep, clown will eat me.”
Marge then goes into labor, so she and Homer head off to the hospital and leave poor Bart with the Flanders. They play some sort of weird Christian board game, eat liver for dinner, and make Bart sleep in the same bed as Rod and Todd as they sing to each other. God Rod and Todd are weird. Bart can’t sleep so he wanders around the Flanders house, running into a crazy old grandma, who just yells “Hello Joe!” at Ned. But the next day Homer and Marge come home with little Lisa, and as they prepare her in her new room, Bart sits outside the door, thinking. I’m not quite sure how to describe the type of scene we get next, the Simpsons use them a lot, but it’s hard to describe. Bart sits there in though as memories flash over him, but for some reason the memories are Marge saying “from now on the baby sleeps in the crib,” Rod saying “iron helps us play!” the evil clown bed laughing, and the old lady shouting “Hello Joe!” But after Bart’s freak out, Homer invites him in to meet his sister, and they animate a beautiful scene of Marge holding the baby in a sunny room on a rocking chair. Bart stomps up to the chair, and simply tells Lisa that he hates her.
The family starts becoming obsessed with Lisa, ignoring poor Bart. Patty and Selma come over to see the baby, and when Bart tries to get their attention by singing, they ignore him and even say the horrible line “the older they get, the cuter they ain’t.” We then start skipping through time, seeing Lisa get everything while Bart get’s ignored and treated poorly. They see Dr. Hibbert with his beaded cornrows and he gives Lisa a lollypop and Bart a shot. Bart then starts trying to mess with Lisa, first by sneaking into her crib and cutting all her hair off. We then get a montage of Bart doing bad things to Lisa before smash-cutting to him sitting facing the corner, which makes me laugh so hard. I love him covering her in stamps and sticking her down a mail-box and then cutting to him in the corner mumbling “lousy mailman. Squealing on me.” Bart finally decides that he’s had enough, and is going to run away, assembling a little hobo bindle and everything. Little Lisa waddles into the room as Bart is packing, and he starts telling her that it’s all her fault, and that everything was great before she showed up. But right as he’s walking out the door Lisa says her first word. Bart. Bart freaks out, and brings Lisa down to Homer and Marge, showing them that he’s her first word. Marge isn’t even shocked, because apparently despite Bart hating her, she loves Bart. Bart then tries to get Lisa to say other words, and she says mommy, David Hasslehoff, and Homer, refusing to say daddy just like Bart. The two siblings embrace in a super adorable shot that cuts back to the present where they’re pushing each other and fighting. Homer gets frustrated with the two, and takes Maggie up to bed, telling her “The sooner kids learn to talk, the sooner they learn to talk back.” He then tells her he’s fine if she never learns to talk, and puts her to bed. He slips out and as soon as he’s gone Maggie takes out her pacifier, and says her first word (spoken by Elizabeth Taylor for some reason) “daddy,” and I legit tear up.
This episode is so spectacular. It’s just so perfect. I love seeing little Bart being a terrible child, and his jealousy of the arrival of Lisa. The episode has so many classic jokes, like the evil clown bed and Bart’s “I am so great,” song. The the weird stuff with Krusty and the goofy Olympic games stuff is kind of needless, but super funny. But despite the episode being so funny, the real draw here is the emotionality of the ending. This was the first episode of the Simpsons that I convinced my wife, who isn’t into the Simpsons, to watch, and even she got hit hard with the ending. The one-two punch of Lisa’s first word being Bart, and Maggie’s first word being “daddy,” the only kid to call Homer daddy, is so incredibly sweet and cute. I’m seriously getting choked up just writing this. It’s so wonderful. God I love this show.
Take Away: Don’t make people beds. Don’t be jealous of your siblings. And don’t fret too much about kids talking or not talking.
“Lisa’s First Word” was written by Jeff Martin and directed by Mark Kirkland, 1992