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The Star of the Backstage
Bart's In Jail!
Treehouse of Horror XXXII


Bart's in Jail! is the second episode of Season 33, originally produced for Season 32.[1]

Synopsis

When Grampa falls victim to a phone scammer, the Simpsons set out on a mission of vengeance to get his money back.[2]

Full story

Abe Simpson receives an urgent phone call telling him that Bart is in jail and that he needs to get $10,000 to the "authorities" or Bart will face a massive prison sentence. Because Grandpa not-unreasonably finds the notion of Bart being in jail to be plausible and also because he wants to help his grandson, he does wire the money, only to realize that he was the victim of a scam. Everyone but Homer feels bad for Abe and consoles him with their own stories of being scammed.

When Homer learns that Abe lost his $10,000 and that the money was planned as an inheritance for himself, he gets so angry that he keeps mocking and yelling at Abe at length. Marge, Lisa and Bart finally get him to stop treating Abe so badly over an honest mistake after Homer gets scammed himself and they all go over to the retirement home so Homer can apologize—and they're all there when ANOTHER scammer calls in to try the same "(Person) In Jail" scam by using Lisa's name.

Lisa then gets an idea that involves Abe using his talent of having the world's longest and most aimless conversations to keep the scammers talking until Lisa can use advanced computer software to pinpoint their location to a building in Shelbyville. The family heads there and finds out the place is a troll farm whose callers are not criminal masterminds but simply very downtrodden people working a bad job for minimum-wage (Moe Szyslak works there, for one thing). Chief Wiggum and his fellow police officers break up the ring, but Marge wonders if they really did any good considering how corrupt the entire world is.

Homer and even Lisa then decide to take a huge stack of gift cards for their own usage, and Marge briefly succumbs to her dismay when she partakes of some ill-gotten free items at 'Zerz restaurant (spurred on by a nasty dream visit from Loki alongside other tricksters Anansi, Sun Wukong the Monkey King, Jesus Christ, Huēhuecoyōtl, and Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls).

Later on, Marge decides she won't let herself become that cynical, and gives a woman asking for $20 to buy gas (her "credit card isn't working") the money and her address to send it back. Some time later, Marge does get the money back in the post, and her faith in humanity is restored—as it's revealed that Abe actually sent her the letter and the money, because he didn't want to see Marge's spirit be ruined by the evil of scams around the world.

Behind the Laughter

Production

Originally, at the end of the episode, it was revealed that Grampa had been cheating at cribbage for years to get the money that was taken by the scammer. The producers reached out to Neil Gaiman for visual inspiration of Loki. Gaiman suggested they use Arthur Rackham's "Rhinemaidens" picture for inspiration.

Casting

Bill Cipher is once again voiced by Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch, Cipher yells, "Buy crypto, suckers!" The unexpected cameo surprised both fans of The Simpsons and Gravity Falls, who flocked to social media to discuss the crossover. Bill's reference to cryptocurrency is believed to be a homage to the character's most iconic lines in Gravity Falls. "Remember: reality is an illusion. The universe is a hologram. Buy gold. Bye!" The chaotic, universe hopping monster is one of the show's more notable villains, tormenting protagonists Dipper Pines, Mabel Pines and Grunkle Stan.

Addressing the crossover on Twitter, Alex Hirsch wrote, "From age 8-18 I didn’t miss a single Simpsons premiere. I read the guide until the pages fell out, memorized every line, knew the writer of each ep & could tell you the season by the size of the characters pupils. I’m in total disbelief that tonight I just did a cameo on the show." Hirsch continued on to say, "If tonight I get hit by 3 busses then lightning then fall out of a window into a truckload of mousetraps I’ll die happy. Thank you @TheSimpsons for inspiring me to get into animation in the first place & for this surreal honor."

Reception

Viewing figures

The episode was wached by 1.48 million viewers.

Critical response

Marcus Gibson of Bubbleblabber gave “Bart’s in Jail!” an eight out of ten stating “Overall, ‘Bart’s in Jail’ is not a scam. It’s an enjoyable and reflective perspective on the perils of phone scams and their effects on people. Episodes like this continue to be one of the main reasons this show still has legs, and I hope they make more of them in the future.“

Tony Sokol of Den of Geek gave the episode 2.5 out of 5 stars, stating “‘Bart’s in Jail!’ feels like an allegory but is too specific. It is a timely issue, one which impacts quite a lot of people, and isn’t constrained to online or phone scams, steak knives or waxy yellow buildup. But the episode is too sanitized for effective satire. Moe’s reading of the closing is the high point of the episode. The overriding idea that everything is a scam, and even Grandpa thinks his family are suckers for believing him when he tries to restore Marge’s faith, is vaguely subversive, but too judgmental."

References

Season 32 Season 33 Episodes 33
The Star of the BackstageBart's In Jail!Treehouse of Horror XXXIIThe Wayz We WereLisa's BellyA Serious Flanders: Part OneA Serious Flanders: Part TwoPortait of a Lackey on FireMothers and Other StrangersA Made MaggieThe Longest MargePixelated and AfraidBoyz N the HighlandsYou Won't Believe What This Episode is About - Act Three Will Shock You!Bart the Cool KidPretty Whittle LiarThe Sound of Bleeding GumsMy Octopus and a TeacherGirls Just Shauna Have FunMarge the MeanieMeat Is MurderPoorhouse Rock
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