Yet another episode that I remembered very differently. When I saw it come up next on the list I kind of groaned to myself, not really remembering what this one was. I completely forgot about all the cat burglar stuff, and only really could think of the vigilante stuff, which used to fall short for me, so I wasn’t too thrilled about this one. But almost immediately I realized what this one actually was, and man is it fun.
The episode starts right off with a fun POV shot of the cat burglar as he’s creeping up to the Simpsons house. He gets out his box of tools and is about to start picking the lock of the front door, when he finds Homer has left his keys in the lock. Which is the dumbest thing in the world. I’ve totally locked myself out of houses before, which feels stupid, but I can’t understand people leaving their keys in the door. Anyway, he gets into the house and starts skulking around after taking care of Santa’s Little Helper and a sleepy Homer with links of sausage, and gets to stealing. He takes Lisa’s saxophone that she’s sleeping with, a little TV Bart’s sleeping with, and Marge’s necklace, which pops off of her in a wonderfully gross way. And the next morning they way up to find that all of their prized possessions have been stolen! They start to panic, even though Marge apparently just has a drawer full of necklaces, and we also learn that the burglar stole Bart’s secret stamp collection, which earns mocking laughter from the family, and Nelson who calls the house.
But things start to escalate when Flanders pops over to say that they got robbed too, and they discuss the fact that the cat burglar was cocky enough to leave a calling card. Turns out he’s on a bit of a crime spree, and the whole town starts to find their possessions missing. And as usual in Springfield, the police are no help since Chief Wiggum is spending his time rearranging tacks on a map of Springfield to make an arrow pointing to the police station. An, once again since this is Springfield, the town goes crazy. Kent Brockman reports on the thefts with some random professor, and announces that “When cat burglaries start, can mass murders be far behind?” And then compares the burglar to a wolf-man, which brings up a wonderful picture of a werewolf, because Springfield has the best news in the country. People are also taking advantage of Springfield’s new fear of robbery by selling expensive security systems, and Professor Frink even gets in on the game with a robotic house that grows legs and runs to freedom if it’s broken into, only to fall down and burst into flames. And this whole scene leads to one of my favorite Jasper moments of all time, when he’s walking down the street and a house’s laser security system zaps him in the eyes, leading him to announce “my cataracts, they’re gone! I can see again! All the beauty of nat-” before getting zapped again and informing us that “I’m blind. Oh well, easy come easy go.” Oh Jasper. You’re the best.
Anyway, things really start to get moving when we see the town continue to deal with the loss of their things, and they throw in a random scene of Grandpa being defensive about his stuff when some new old guy named Molloy shows up. But surely that doesn’t have anything to do with the plot, so we’ll move right along. Lisa is very distraught about the loss of her saxophone, even though Homer replaced it with a jug. And after a thoughtful ho-down, Homer ends up attending a meeting of a neighborhood watch sponsored by Ned Flanders. Flanders gets everyone to his rumpus room and they decide that they essentially need to take the law into their own hands, and after he’s too modest to run the group himself Homer is elected as head of the posse, because of course Homer Simpson is the person you want in charge of a group like this. So the vigilante group begins! And all the weirdos in town join up, except Grandpa since Homer won’t allow it. They even get guns, as we learn when they’re admiring their new shotguns and accidentally shooting up the Simpsons’ house.
But it’s pretty clear that the neighborhood watch actually is having more fun goofing off than stopping crime. They come up with a complicated handshake, give each other code-names, and end up shopping at Herman’s for weapons. Although that does lead to a pretty wonderful scene where Herman shows Homer a miniature A-bomb he has for sale that was apparently made by the government to kill beatniks in the 50’s, leading Homer to have a crazy Dr. Stranglove fantasy where he rides the atomic bomb down to the ground. But that’s a common occurrence, and Herman stops his fantasy and shows him that he has a sign telling people not to ride the bomb. They also start wearing some wonderfully bizarre outfits. The watch kind of ends up boiling down to: Homer wearing some weird safari outfit, Apu wearing some Imperial Indian military outfit with a turban, Principal Skinner in his Green Beret uniform, Barney in a fast food workers outfit, and Moe wearing what appears to be a Webelo costume and a WWI German helmet. They also get Jimbo, who is spray painting Carpe Diem on a wall, to be their…intern?
And, of course, the neighborhood watch is now becoming a little corrupt, leading to wonderful interaction where Lisa asks Homer who will police the police, and he responds with “I dunno, Coat Guard?” Homer is then invited onto Smartline, where Kent Brockman flat out asks him if his gang is committing crimes, and Homer says that he would be lying if he said his men weren’t. And man do I love Kent Brockman’s pause before saying “touche” to that response. But as the interview is going on they get a call from the cat burglar, who taunts Homer by saying that this next score will be to steal the world’s largest cubuc zarconium from the Springfield Museum. So Homer gets the group together, and they begin watching the museum. Unfortunately while Homer goes to get drunk with some under-aged kids drinking without a permit, the zirconium is stolen, and after the wonderful newspaper headline of “Zirconium Ztolen!” the whole town turns on him, and begins pelting him with fruit.
Then the episode gets crazy and wonderful. Because as Homer is trapped in his house as a pariah, Grandpa shows up and announces he knows who the cat burglar is. It’s Molloy, the weird new old man! Grandpa figured this out because Molloy wears sneakers, fired a grappling hook onto the museum and climbed it’s side, and has the zirconium in his room. So as is customary in Springfield, an angry mob forms and heads to the Retirement Castle to arrest Molloy. He gives everyone their stuff back in his room, and for a moment everyone forgives him, before Chief Wiggum arrests him. But when they get to the jail, he casually mentions that he has buried the millions of dollars he’s accrued over his years to burglary in Springfield, under a big T. And after the town goes crazy trying to find the T, he gives them specific directions, and the episode becomes It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World all of the sudden. The whole town races to the big T in a variety of wacky scenarios, before all getting to the same T shaped palm tree. They start digging, and quickly find a briefcase that only has a note in it. Turns out there’s no treasure, and Molloy has spent the time they wasted looking for the treasure escaping. But Springfield is too stubborn for that, and start digging anyway, figuring they’ll find something eventually. They don’t and just end up trapped in a giant hole and the episode ends on the immortal advice from Chief Wiggum, “no, dig up, stupid.”
This is a really fun and wacky episode that kind of took a while to get going. The stuff with the vigilante is definitely more fun than I remember as a kid, especially the Dr. Strangelove parody, but it still feels like the weakest part of the episode to me. The beginning with everyone scared, and the incredibly wacky and bonkers ending are what really cement this one as a great episode. And man should no one ever let Homer run a vigilante justice group.
Take Away: Don’t trust old people, and vigilante justice doesn’t work.
“Homer the Vigilante” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Jim Reardon, 1994.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons