Talk about an amazing way to end the week. This project has really gotten me irritated with my younger self, who kept saying he couldn’t stand Lisa episodes, because they’re seriously amazing. It keeps blowing my mind just how wonderful these Lisa ones have been, especially the last couple seasons. And this one is another crowning achievement.
Things start off with the kids at the Elementary School watching a ridiculous film about the history of Jebediah Springfield, where he’s played by the always spectacular Troy McClure. It’s incredibly cheesy, and it shows the settlers being terrified of a “land-cow,” now known as a buffalo, as an obvious stunt-double jumps on the buffalo before he becomes Troy McClure on a robot. McClure then delivers Springfield’s historic quote, “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man,” which leads to the great moment between Miss Hoover and Mrs. Krabappel when they debate if embiggnes is a real word, deciding that it’s perfectly cromulent. But enough linguistics, we learn that the reason the kids are having to watch the video is because it’s almost time for Springfield’s bicentennial, and the town is getting ready for a big celebration, since Kearney is the only kid who was alive for the national bicentennial.
And the plot gets going when Miss Hoover tells the second-graders that they’re getting a special project to write about the Jebediah, and the best ones get to be in the library. So Lisa starts to research, while Homer is getting in the spirit by trying to sign up for the parade. They apparently need people to dress up as old-timey characters, and Homer of course is perfect as the town crier. Unfortunately when he gets there Ned has already become the crier, since he has the bell and hat already, but Homer still gives an audition that blows everyone’s mind, especially Chief Wiggum, since he’s just too damn good.
But while all of this is going on, Lisa is visiting the Historical Society to learn more about Jebediah, and while there she meets the head of the society, Hollace Hurlbut. He’s super psyched to have anyone show an interest in Springfield’s history, even letting her hold some of Jebediah’s artificers, like his ax, his fife, his coonskin hat, and his chamber pot. But when Hollace goes off to get some food, Lisa tries to blow on the old fife, and a rolled up piece of paper comes flying out. Lisa opens the scroll to find that it’s a secret confession from Jebediah. Turns out he was actually a pirate named Hans Sprungfeld who was screwing over all of the townsfolk. And this obviously puts a wrinkle in Lisa’s research. And right as Lisa starts to freak out, she hides the confession as Hollace comes back. He can tell she’s hiding something, but after confusing him with an arthritis joke.
So Lisa goes home and starts researching Hans Sprungfeld, which is actually shockingly easy, to the point that it’s ridiculous that no one else has ever figured this out. There’s even pictures of Sprungfeld, which helps. She even finds out that had a fake tongue made of silver, which she tells Homer, since he gets super interested in. Turns out there’s even records that show Sprungfeld once tried to rob George Washington while he was getting his portrait done, which led to a crazy fist-fight between the two. So Lisa writes up her essay called “Jebediah Springfield: Super Fraud,” which doesn’t go over well with Miss Hoover, who gives her an F, and calls her a PC thug. So Lisa heads home, weeping, and Homer gets really upset, since he’s been called a greasy thug too. Homer gets really mad that people don’t believe Lisa, and that Miss Hoover called her a liar, so he decides to help her go get the confession to prove to people that she’s right.
So Homer and Lisa storm into the Historical Society, and make Hollace give them the fife. They get the confession out, and show it to Hollace, who pretty much instantly calls it a fake, like the Hitler diaries, or the Emancipation Retraction. Lisa and Hollace end up arguing, and he banishes her from the Society for three months. But Lisa won’t give up, so she and Homer head to a copy shop and make a whole bunch of fliers that deride Jebediah Springfield as a pirate, and start trying to plaster it around town, much to everyone’s irritation. And when no one will let her hang the signs, Homer decides to take matters into his own hands and begins going around with his crier bell and getting people to listen to Lisa’s story. Which pisses people off even more.
And when Homer uses his powers to get Lisa to talk to the people in Moe’s, Moe ends up ratting Homer out to the town jubilation committee. He’s then called before them, where they threaten to shut Lisa down, since her claims are ridiculous. But she comes up with a way to help her honor by convincing the group to go dig up Jebediah’s body to see if he has a silver tongue, and everyone is instantly on board with that idea, so they head off to the cemetery. But when they dig the body up and the dust settles, they find that there’s no silver tongue. So as punishment they strip Homer of his crier duties, and tell Lisa to not keep spreading her theory.
But we all know Lisa can’t give this up, and later that night she has a dream where Hans Sprungfeld breaks into her room to threaten her, before George Washington busts in and fights him off. Washington tells Lisa not to give up, and threatens to make Janey president if she doesn’t help him, which leads to her saying she wants to help him, before Bart overhears her. “I want to help you, George Washington? Even your dreams are square.” So Lisa goes to class, desperate to find some way to convince everyone, and as she’s staring at a portrait of George Washington that’s missing the bottom, she finally realizes something that had been staring her in the face the whole time.
So Lisa peaces out of class and runs to the Historical Society where she confronts Hollace again. She heads right for the trash where the confession was thrown away, and shows Hollace that it matches up perfectly with this portrait of George Washington, because it was a piece he accidentally stole when he beat Washington up. Which proves that she’s right. And after yelling at Hollace for a while, she gets him to give a tell and show where he hid the silver tongue. Apparently Hollace found the tongue before the dust settled, and hid it because he knew it would ruin his lifelong obsession. But Lisa convinces Hollace that the right thing to do is tell the town, so they head outside, where the parade has begun, which is weird that Hollace wasn’t there. So she and Hollace run onto the bandstand, and Lisa gets everyone’s attention, getting ready to tell them all the truth. But when she starts talking, she notices that everyone is so happy with their love for Jebediah, that she can’t bring herself to ruining all of their days. So Lisa keeps her secret, knowing that the lie has value to people too. And the episode ends with the great moment of Homer stealing the crier stuff from Ned and taking over, and Wiggum doesn’t care since he’s just too damn good.
This is such a cute episode, even though it breaks the traditional “Lisa Episode” structure of having Lisa and Homer going through issues because they have a difference in opinion. I’ve talked before that I love episodes when Homer and Bart are buddies and work on plans together, but I think this episode proves that Homer and Lisa being buddies is even better. I absolutely adore that Homer trusted her unconditionally, and did everything he could to help her and get her message out. He doesn’t even consider the fact that she may be wrong, and trusts her wholeheartedly. Plus there’s a lot of spectacular Jebediah Springfield stuff in this episode, especially the introduction of embiggen and cromulent into my lexicon. But I think the best part of the episode is that ending, the knowledge that yeah, she may be right, but she doesn’t have to break everyone’s hearts by telling them. That’s a huge part of life to learn, and I think this episode did it wonderfully.
Take Away: You don’t need to always be right, and prove people wrong.
“Lisa the Iconoclast” was written by Jonathan Collier and directed by Mike B Anderson, 1996.