Sideshow Bob episode! These are so great. I forgot just how wonderful Sideshow Bob episodes are, everything from the weird mystery elements that they put in to the great music that they make for him (which started in this episode). Plus this one is essentially a whole episode parody of two truly bonkers movies, both versions of Cape Fear. Let’s go!
The episode starts off with the family watching a talk show hosted by Ranier Wolfcastle called “Up Late with McBain,” which I guess means he’s in character the whole time. And boy is it crazy. The announcer is clearly a Nazi officer and the crowd quickly turns on McBain when he starts calling his band leader a “homosexual.” But after watching that for a while we cut out and see the family sitting around watching the TV while Marge passes out the mail…which came during a late night talk show? Whatever. We get a great gag of Lisa reading a letter from her pen-pal that starts off talking about the horrible new regime in her country, then begins being editing by the wonderful General Krull, which made me laugh super hard. But then the plot really gets going when Bart opens his letter, which is just a piece of paper with “I’m Going to Kill You,” written in blood. It then cuts right to the Springfield Penitentiary where I was surprised to see they keep the reveal that it’s Sideshow Bob a secret for a little bit. Uh…spoiler warning I guess.
We then get a series of scenes where Bart is freaking out, since someone is threatening to kill him. He doesn’t find the murderous antics of Itchy and Scratchy as funny anymore, and he just keeps getting letters threatening his death. I love that he assumes it’s someone at school, and has Milhouse check things out. However Milhouse finds that no one wants him dead, but Nelson is planning on pantsing him and the girls are calling him “fatty fat fat fat.” Oh kids. And man do I laugh hard when they have Bart wake up to his radio going off with a special dedication to him, saying that they’ll kill him, and then playing “Wipeout.” So funny. Bart then starts to go a little crazy, and assumes everyone in town is trying to kill him, and everything people says starts to get sinister. Marge even goes to the police station to try to get them to help, and after confirming that it’s illegal to put squirrels down your pants for the purposes of gambling, Chief Wiggum starts to help them. But they have no leads, and the only person who even has an idea is Lisa, which is a pretty good one, thinking that it’s Moe. Unfortunately it’s not Moe, and all that gets accomplished when Lisa calls him to scare him is getting him to release the pandas he has trapped in his back room. And right as the kids start to give up thinking who is after him, we finally learn who it is, and shocker, its Sideshow Bob, who is sitting in his jail cell writing all kinds of letters with his blood.
Turns out Sideshow Bob is up for parole, and even the testimony of Selma, who he tried to murder, isn’t enough to keep him from the outside, because Bob is just that smooth. He even explains his tattoo saying “Die Bart Die” away by saying it’s just German, and as the parole lady says, “no one who speaks German can be an evil man.” So Sideshow Bob gets released, and immediately starts his revenge on Bart. He heads right over to a screening of “Ernest Goes Somewhere Cheap,” while smoking a cigar and laughing uproariously to annoy the Simpsons. He then threatens them, and accidently says that he’ll stay away forever before awkwardly leaving to plot his evil deeds. The family understandably freak out about Bob and get some precautions. They have Chief Wiggum set up a crazy burglar alarm system of strings around their house and even hire a private eye to convince Bob to leave, but that dude just pleads and cries.
So left with no other options, the Simpsons go to the FBI and get put in Witness Relocation. And man is that scene great. Homer assumes he gets to pick his new identity, and wants to be John Elway, leading to a wonderful fantasy where he scores a touchdown that still leads the Broncos to lose 7 to 56, because even in his fantasy the Broncos suck. I’ve lived in Denver my whole life, and I can tell you that John Elway is essentially a demi-god here, and as someone who actively can’t stand football, and doesn’t give a crap about the Broncos, it’s hilarious that the Simpsons made fun of him. But the Witness Relocation guys tell Homer he can’t pick a person who already exists, and try to get him to be Homer Thompson, but Homer is an idiot and just can’t figure it out. But they finally give up on that and just send the family off to their new life at Terror Lake. They even give them some cassette tapes (oh the 90’s) of the FBI performing Gilbert and Sullivan, which is shockingly foreshadowing. The family heads off, not knowing that Sideshow Bob is belted to the bottom of their car, stowing away to Cape Fear. And man is it hilarious that Homer drives through a cactus patch while Bob gets annihilated under the car, and that Homer doesn’t notice that a third voice said “no” to his idea of driving through the patch.
They finally get to Lake Terror and we get a hilarious parody of the opening, but this time with “The Thompsons.” It’s pretty great. So the family show up at their new houseboat and start getting settled. And man does it make me laugh that Homer is decked out in Witness Relocation gear, which is such a wonderfully stupid joke. But once they’re in their houseboat and no one is looking, Sideshow Bob gets out from under the car, covered in cactus spines and in terrible pain. He then starts stepping on rakes, which is such a weird joke, but it made me laugh so damn hard. The family starts to get used to Terror Lake, forgetting that they didn’t tell Grandpa, leading to a great joke of him trying to get into their house to get his pills and get away from wolves that are following him.
But things escalate when Bart is wandering around the town, and runs across Bob, who is hiding under some old ladies car. He threatens Bart, but then gets trampled by a parade, featuring elephants, that’s going on to celebrate Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps, which is super weird but wonderful. So of course Bart is freaked out again, because the killer who is after him has found him again, and Homer doesn’t help. He keeps barging in on Bart, scaring him by waving a knife around and offering brownies, and coming in with a chainsaw and hockey mask. But that night, when everyone is asleep, Bob gets aboard the boat and sets it drifting down the river. He ties the family up and comes to stab Bart. Bart gets away, and starts running around the boat, looking for a way to escape, but he’s trapped. And just as Bob is about to gut him, he makes one final request. After noticing that they’re relatively close to Springfield, Bart knows he has to stall, so he asks Bob to sing all of the H.M.S. Pinafore. Bob agrees and starts singing the show in its entirety, complete with costumes and props. It’s pretty great. But as it ends with fanfare, and Bob is about to kill Bart, the boat runs aground next to a brothel. And with a pretty big coincidence Wiggum, Eddie, and Lou are visiting that brothel, and arrest Bob before he can kill Bart. The family then head back home, happy that they defeated this crazy convict a third time, and we end on the crazy button of Grandpa waiting at home for them, but without his pills he’s turned to a woman. But Jasper is all about that apparently and the episode ends with him trying to hit on lady-Grandpa.
This is a great episode. Not one of my favorite Sideshow Bob episodes, mainly because this one wasn’t much a mystery. Other than the beginning where we don’t know who is sending the letters there’s not really a mystery going on, and half of the fun of a Sideshow Bob episode is Bart solving the crime. But it still has some great stuff, especially the Witness Relocation stuff. It’s a great episode and a really good parody of Cape Fear and just really funny for a story about a grown man trying to disembowel a ten year old boy.
Take Away: Witness Relocation isn’t that effective, and stalling is an effective way to get away from a killer.
“Cape Feare” was written by Jon Vitti and directed by Rich Moore, 1993.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons