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Stark Raving Dad
Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington
When Flanders Failed

"I'd like to give you a logging permit, I would. But this isn't like burying toxic waste. People are going to notice those trees are gone."
―Congressman Bob Arnold

"Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington" is the second episode of Season 3, and the show's 37th episode overall. It was the first episode of that season to enter and finish production, and was going to air as the first, but ended up airing as the second.


Thanks to Lisa's patriotic winning essay in a contest sponsored by Reading Digest magazine, the Simpsons win a trip to Washington, D.C. However, Lisa's faith in democracy is shaken when she sees her local representative taking a bribe for a permit to cut down the Springfield National Forest.

Full Story[]


Homer goes through the mail and discovers a check for one million dollars from a Publishers Clearinghouse type company. He quickly rushes over to the bank and tries to cash the check, but the bank teller explains to him that the check isn't real. Back at home, Marge tries to cheer Homer up by telling him that they got a free sample of the magazine Reading Digest out of the ordeal. Homer takes a shine to the magazine after reading one of its cartoons, and starts reading it at work, at home, in bed, and even at the dinner table. Homer notices an ad for an essay contest where the winner receives an all expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., but when he reads that entrants to the contest must be children, he quickly tosses the magazine aside. However, an interested Lisa retrieves the magazine and reads more about the contest, which is for children under twelve and must be pro-American, and she plans to write her own essay and enter the contest.

Bald eagle

Up in her room, Lisa skims through her history book and tries to come up with some inspiration for her essay. After a few unsuccessful tries at an opening, Marge suggests that Lisa takes a bike ride to try and help her clear her mind. Lisa grabs her pad of paper, and rides her bike to the Springfield National Forest. She picks a giant tree to sit under and asks nature to help inspire her. A bald eagle perches on a branch directly in front of her and spreads its wings. Lisa becomes instantly inspired by the majestic sight and begins writing.

A few days later, after Lisa writes her essay, Homer brings her to the regional finals for the essay contest at the Veterans of Popular Wars building in Springfield. When the two walk inside, Nelson Muntz is midway through his fiercely patriotic speech about the evils of burning the American flag, which sends the crowd into applause and cheers. After several children from different parts of the country read their essays at their respective regional finals, Lisa's essay is met with high marks from the judges. However, one of the judges thinks that her essay was too good, and that she might have gotten help from her parents. The judge confronts Homer, and after a brief conversation with him, she realizes that Homer couldn't have helped Lisa, and she gives Lisa extra points for having a less-than-intelligent father. The judge informs the two that Lisa has won for her region and that they will be going to Washington, D.C. for the national finals of the contest.

On a plane at 30,000 feet, the Simpson family makes their way to Washington, D.C. On the way, Bart, after constantly bothering the passenger behind him, is sent up to the cockpit to be kept busy. Inside the cockpit, a bored Bart listens to the pilot ramble on about airplane technical jargon, and out of boredom, Bart presses the button that causes all the oxygen masks in the cabin to drop down. Upon seeing the masks drop down in the cabin, Homer promptly screams, "We're all gonna die!" This sends the rest of the passengers into a screaming frenzy as the plane descends.

Regardless, the plane lands at Dulles International Airport in D.C., and the family takes a cab to the Watergate Hotel. While their cab is stuck in traffic while in transit, Marge points out the IRS to Homer, who immediately takes the opportunity to loudly boo them in displeasure, with an IRS accountant then looking out the window and demanding he "boo" himself. Upon arrival, Bart pulls a prank where he has the elevator go up and down every single floor and leaves just as the next occupant to the elevator boards, much to the occupant's chagrin. Up in their room, Marge and Homer marvel at all the amenities provided; Marge is impressed with the welcoming mints, while Homer falls in love with the shoe horn. Meanwhile, Bart and Lisa hang out in their room, and at 2:00 in the morning, Bart prank calls Homer in the next room by giving him a wake up call.

The next day, Lisa and all the other contestants and their families gather for a welcoming luncheon, as Faith Crowley, patriotism editor at Reading Digest, introduces herself. She gives the family their VIP passes, and they explore Washington, D.C. for a day. On their tour of the White House, they visit the historical one lane bowling alley, where Richard Nixon is bowling back to back 300 games, and they invade Barbara Bush's privacy by touring the White House bathroom as she takes a bath. Their VIP tour continues at the U.S. Mint, where Homer drools over the large amounts of money; the National Air and Space Museum, where Bart plays around in the Spirit of St. Louis; and the Washington Monument, where Marge makes an adult joke to Homer regarding the monument.

The tour concludes on Capitol Hill at the office of Bob Arnold, a Congressman from Springfield. The family waits for Arnold as he is in a meeting with a lobbyist, who is trying to get him to support the demolition of the Springfield National Forest. The lobbyist offers Arnold a bribe, and Arnold chuckles as he tells him he has a place to meet for the exchange. Their meeting concludes as Arnold's secretary buzzes him and lets him know that Lisa Simpson is waiting for a photo op. Arnold puts a pleasant face on and hams it up with Lisa for the camera. In an aside to the lobbyist, Congressman Arnold whispers to him, "Tot shot always plays in the sticks." Quick cut to Moe, who is reading the next day's newspaper with a picture of the Congressman and Lisa on the cover; Moe comments to Barney about how great Congressman Arnold is.

In Washington

The next morning with everyone still asleep, Lisa gets up and pays a visit to the Winifred Beecher Howe memorial to find inspiration for the essay finals that day. As Lisa admires the monument, Arnold and the lobbyist from the day before meet together, believing they are alone. Lisa watches in horror as Arnold accepts a suitcase full of money from the lobbyist in exchange for logging permits for the Springfield National Forest. An angry Lisa rips up her essay and runs away, with tears welling in her eyes.

Lisa wanders around Washington, D.C. alone, and is torn about what to do with her essay, as she no longer believes in what she has written. She gazes up at the Lincoln Memorial in the distance, and decides to pay a visit to the statue for some advice. As Lisa tries to address Lincoln, her questions are drowned out by other visitors also expressing their troubles to the statue. She heads over to the much less crowded Jefferson Memorial and asks President Jefferson for some advice. However, Jefferson is upset that Lisa only came to see him because the Lincoln Memorial was too crowded. As he begins ranting and complaining about how nobody remembers his contributions to the United States, Lisa walks away to look for advice and new inspiration elsewhere. On the steps of Capitol Hill, Lisa watches the politicians mill about and laugh in conversation, imagining them as cats scratching each others backs and as pigs wallowing in money or eating it and wiping their mouth with the American flag. She suddenly comes up with an idea for a new essay, saying, "The truth must be told."

Back at the hotel, Bart's room is full of empty food trays, and a bellman brings him some fresh laundry as he relaxes while receiving a massage. Homer peeks his head in, and when he sees the expensive things Bart has ordered, he becomes angered and attempts to choke Bart, who quickly reminds him that the trip is all expenses paid. Soon after, Homer smokes a cigar while receiving a massage.

The finals for the essay contest are held at the Kennedy Center, where a musician plays a corny little song and dance solo on the piano about the National Deficit to warm up the audience. Faith Crowley introduces the panel of judges to the audience, and she introduces Lisa as the first contestant. Lisa is nowhere to be found and the audience begins to murmur, when suddenly, a scowling Lisa stomps in from outside and makes her way to the podium. She requests to read a different essay she has prepared and Faith grants her permission. Lisa reads her newly written essay that is filled with anger and rage towards the American government claiming that the city was built on a swamp and how it still stinks today. She then calls out the government for its corruption, and divulges the information she's learned about Congressman Arnold and his bribe taking. The audience gasps, murmurs, and boos as Lisa finishes her essay; one of the judges happens to be a Senate page, and rushes to a phone to inform his superior Senator that a little girl is losing faith in democracy. The Senator is shocked at this news, and a plan is quickly put into place to restore Lisa's faith and nab Congressman Arnold.

Rushmore plan

Bribing Arnold to destroy Mount Rushmore.

In Congressman Arnold's office at the capitol building, a lobbyist proposes drilling for oil inside Theodore Roosevelt's head in Mount Rushmore and offers Arnold a bribe. When Arnold accepts the bribe and goes along with the idea, F.B.I agents storm his office and place him under arrest; the lobbyist reveals himself as another agent and the proposition was a sting operation. A short time later in the House of Representatives, a vote is taken on House Bill 1022, regarding Arnold's expulsion (during which another Congressman suggests they tack on a pay raise for themselves, only to be immediately shot down). Shortly after the vote, an intern at the White House delivers Bill 1022 to President Bush for him to sign, with him saying passing the resolution should make his "bosses" very happy (referring to the voters of the United States). All of this takes place as the last of the finalists at the essay contest reads his essay. At the contest, a brief recess is called so the judges can tabulate their votes, and the Simpson family waits outside the Kennedy Center. Homer purchases a newspaper from a newsy that touts the headline about the expulsion of Congressman Arnold as well as his becoming a born-again Christian, and when Lisa sees the headline, her faith in democracy is restored.

Back inside the Kennedy Center, the musician is back on stage, this time with a corny song and dance about the Trading Gap. As he finishes his number, Faith steps to the podium to announce the results that have been tabulated. Lisa, with her faith restored, sheepishly stands up on stage with the other finalists. Not surprisingly, Lisa does not win the contest, but she does teach the audience an important lesson, and the winner of the contest gives honorable mention to Lisa for reminding the public that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance to stand against corruption. Homer, however, loudly demands that the winner give Lisa the check, glumly stating he is serious about the request when everyone proceeds to laugh at him. As the musician plays a final corny song and dance number, Bart pulls out his slingshot and pelts the musician on stage, causing him to stop mid-song. Lisa is angry as she was enjoying it, to which Bart replies, "Lis, you taught me to stand up for what I believe in."

Behind the Laughter[]

This episode was met with controversy from the timber industry due to a major part of the plotline involving a timber lobbyist trying to bribe a corrupt congressman to cut down the entirety of Springfield Forest.


Season 2 Season 3 Episodes Season 4
Stark Raving DadMr. Lisa Goes to WashingtonWhen Flanders FailedBart the MurdererHomer DefinedLike Father, Like ClownTreehouse of Horror IILisa's PonySaturdays of ThunderFlaming Moe'sBurns Verkaufen der KraftwerkI Married MargeRadio BartLisa the GreekHomer AloneBart the LoverHomer at the BatSeparate VocationsDog of DeathColonel HomerBlack WidowerThe Otto ShowBart's Friend Falls in LoveBrother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?