Oh man. Here we are folks. One of the most famous episodes of them all. “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” These two episodes are some of the funniest and craziest episodes in the history of the show, and a crowning achievement of the series. Let’s dive on in!
The episode starts off normally enough with Principal Skinner arriving at the Elementary School, wandering the halls to prepare for the day. But as he’s walking around he notices a foul odor, and figures out that it’s the dead body of the fourth grade gerbil Superdude, who was crushed by his own water bottle. So Skinner grabs the stinky little corpse and finds Willie, ordering him to bury it. Willie lets us know that his own father didn’t get a proper burial, and begins digging a grave for Superdude right in the janitorial closet, which has a dirt floor apparently. But as he’s digging, something crazy happens. He strikes oil! And it ends up exploding up, blowing up some of the school and presumably launching Ralph Wiggum into the sky.
And after Homer’s shaming we jump back to the Elementary School, when Superintendent Chalmers shows up to yell at Skinner since “when I heard the word school and the word exploded I immediately thought of the work SKINNER?!” Skinner freaks out about Chalmers’ wrath at first, but then a guy shows up to explain that Willie struck oil, and the school is now the richest in the state. And news travels quickly, because right away we see Mr. Burns reading the newspaper to learn that the Elementary School has discovered the oil, and thus poses a challenge to his energy monopoly. I also love that Burns apparently makes Skinner ride on a stationary bike to give Burns exercise.
We then leave Mr. Burns for a while to see what the Elementary School is going to do now that the Awful School is Awful Rich. Chalmers and Skinner joke about giving all the students college scholarships, and then do the standard Springfield method of getting ideas, letting anyone wander in and pitch their insane thoughts. Willie wants a crystal slop bucket and a new filthy blanket, Lunchlady Doris wants new staff that won’t complain about the vermin in the kitchen, Lisa wants a Jazz department headed up by Tito Puente, Ralph wants chocolate microscopes, Otto needs some double guitars, and Skinner requests new rubber stamps. But after the slew of crazy ideas, Mr. Burns sneaks in, dressed like Jimbo, and tries to trick Skinner into giving him the money. Skinner points out how ridiculous this request is, but I think the most ridiculous part is that Mr. Burns either scoped out the school to get Jimbo’s outfit, or stole it from him.
Later that night, during dinner at the Simpson’s house Bart is complaining that Skinner shot down his idea to resurrect the Three Stooges, and Homer is sad that Mr. Burns can’t remember his name. But Marge has a good idea and tells Homer to send a box of chocolates with his picture in it, so that Mr. Burns will have a positive association with him. So we cut over to Burns’ office, where he’s plotting his revenge on the Elementary School. He’s basically going to pull a There Will Be Blood, and get to the oil before the Elementary School can with a Slant-Drilling setup. But while Mr. Burns is plotting his oil theft, Smithers is starting to get a little wary of Burns’ villainy, especially when he legitimately wants to steal candy from a baby. But Smithers steers him away from that thought and gets him to eat the candy Homer sent. So they two sit down and eat chocolate while reminiscing about every member of the Simpsons family they like, except Homer, since they didn’t want the candy that was over his face.
And now things start to get crazy. The Elementary School is having a ceremony to turn on their oil derrick, but when they do they find it doesn’t work, because Burns’ has drank their milkshake. His rig gets going, and ends up firing oil out across the town, smashing into Bart’s treehouse, since he was there with Santa’s Little Helper instead of at that ceremony? Bart’s okay, but Santa’s Little Helper has to go to the vet, and ends up breaking his poor little legs so he has to scoot around in a little wheelchair. Things are also not going well in the school, since now that they don’t have any oil the school can’t give the fancy things people requested, and actually has to end up cutting Tito Puente and Willie. It also turns out that Burn’s drill is right next to Moe’s, which is causing an ecological disaster in the bar, which is full of dangerous toxins. And after a quick little Easter Egg where Moe’s TV sets up the time for Pardon My Zinger before showing an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, some EPA people come in and announce Moe’s has to be closed. And finally we see that the geological side-effects of Burns’ drilling has created a sinkhole under the Retirement Castle, causing all the old-folks to lose their home.
But ruining so many people in town’s lives isn’t enough for Mr. Burns. He has a new, even crazier plan to control the energy market in Springfield. He’s basically gone full Bond villain, and has devised a machine to block out the sun in the city, causing Springfield to constantly need their lights on, doubling his profits. And this is the last straw for Smithers, who says he won’t go along with it. This causes Mr. Burns to fire Smithers, and then gleefully step on his model of Springfield like Godzilla. Burns does get a slight issue though when Homer shows up, having been driven crazy by Burns’ inability to remember his name, and ends up spray painting his name all over Burns’ office before grabbing Burns by his lapels and shaking him while screaming his name. Homer is then dragged out of the office, and sent home.
We briefly see that Grandpa has had to move in with the family, and we see that he’s brought a pistol into the house, but surely that won’t come back. We then do what Springfield always does when there’s an issue at hand, have a Town Hall meeting! Everyone shows up to yell about Mr. Burns’ sun-blocker plot, and several people have come equipped with guns to give Burns the payback he deserves. We see that Smithers has become a drunken wreck who watches Comedy Central and Pardon My Zinger all the time, and that pretty much everyone in town has a grudge with Burns now.
And just like that, Burns show up, pretty much just to mock the town. He prances around, telling everyone that no one has the guts to stop him, calling their bluffs. And after ensuring that no one will stand up to him, he launches his plan and the machine raises up, blocking the sun from the whole town. Burns then wanders out of the meeting, laughing maniacally while Krusty shows up late, not knowing what’s going on. The whole town is mad and bitter, and we see that a lot of different suspects are suspiciously missing. Burns begins wandering around the area outside City Hall, loving that the electric lights are on. But then he wanders down an alley, which we don’t see, and we hear him have an altercation with someone, before hearing a gunshot. Burns then staggers out into the courtyard, and collapses on the sundial, possibly dead. The town gathers around him, and Marge points out that everyone in town had a motive, and that they may never solve the case. Dr. Hibbert then appears to ask the audience if they can solve the murder, but it turns out he’s actually talking to Chief Wiggum. Cliff hanger!
This episode is wonderful. I probably like Part 2 better, but this one is still great, especially when you go through with a fine-comb and look for all the foreshadowing and clues, especially since this was a time before the episodes would have been readily available on home video. It’s pretty clear that Mr. Burns is right up there with Dr. Doom when it comes to obsessions of mine, so of course I’m psyched to have an episode where his villainy is fully embraced. He becomes a supervillain in this episode, and man does it pay off. Part 2 ends up being a mystery, but this one is like a superhero story without a superhero, just an evil villain doing something that Batman should show up to fix. It’s wonderful. So put your thinking caps on and figure out who shot Mr. Burns, because we’re going to get into it tomorrow!
Take Away: Slant-Drilling is a lucrative business, as is supervillainy sun-blocking machines. Oh, and if you do either, you should probably wear a bullet-proof vest.
“Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part One)” was written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein and directed by Jeffrey Lynch, 1995.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons