|Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part One)||
For the second part of this episode, see Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part Two).
- “Since the beginning of time, man has yearned to destroy the sun. I will do the next best thing: block it out.”
- ―Mr. Burns
Mr. Burns, being more evil than usual, brings untold misery to many of Springfield's citizens and is later found shot outside the city hall with the main suspects being every citizen in the town of Springfield.
At the beginning of the normal ordinary school week, Principal Skinner opens up the school to find that Superdude, the fourth grade gerbil, has died, being crushed by his own water-bottle. He gives Groundskeeper Willie the task of burying the gerbil, and in the process Willie strikes oil, causing the school to explode.
Up on the roof, Principal Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers are inspecting what caused the explosion when a worker comes up and tells them they struck oil. He also holds up the corpse of Superdude. After thanking Superdude, Skinner tosses the gerbil off the roof. Everyone in the school rejoices, as now they have all the money they could ever want. While several teachers want new equipment, other requests are more exorbitant - and are just as quickly approved.
Lunchlady Doris wants more staff and a better kitchen. Willie wants a crystal slop bucket, and a brand new filthy blanket. Otto Mann wants a double guitar. Lisa wants to hire Tito Puente to teach jazz at the school.
However, Charles Montgomery Burns has his eyes on the well, and wants to steal the oil. First he tries to fool Skinner into giving the money to the Nuclear Plant by poorly disguising himself as Jimbo Jones, but to no avail. After that fails, he uses a "slant drilling" operation to tap the well before the school can, thereby stealing the oil. After launching the oil, it causes mayhem in the town.
The initial jet of oil smashes into Bart's treehouse, leaving it in a wreck, injuring him and breaking Santa's Little Helper's hind legs. The drill also causes a huge sink-hole in the ground under Grampa's retirement home causing it to collapse and forcing all the occupants to vacate the building until further notice, meaning Abe has to move back in with his family along with his few remaining possessions, including a loaded Smith & Wesson. Along with the physical destruction, the fumes from the oil force Moe's Tavern to close until the oil drilling stops, and Moe grabs a shotgun from under the bar. The alcoholic Barney Gumble has now lost his best beer supply, and after having to leave, he pulls out a derringer. Similarly the barflies Larry and Sam also have nowhere to go. And of course, all the faculty and Lisa don't get their special equipment (or Tito Puente) because the school is now bankrupt from building the oil well. Groundskeeper Willie, Tito, and Dewey Largo the music teacher, are all laid off as a result. Willie vows revenge on Burns right there, before running out of the office.
The only person whose hatred towards Burns is not directly caused by the oil well is Homer. Instead, the cause of his anger is that despite working for Burns for the last 10 years, meeting with him many times and even introducing him to his family, Burns still doesn't remember Homer's name. Adding insult to injury, he refers to Homer using various dehumanizing epithets, even when Homer is present, in place of his actual identity. This mistreatment adds Homer to the many people who swear revenge on the old man.
Not even Smithers can stand the acts his beloved employer has undertaken. He dryly points out that Mr Burns has crushed all his enemies - even though none of those people posed a threat to him. Burns just tells him that he hasn't taken out his biggest enemy: the sun. He plans to block out the sun, thereby forcing the town to use his electricity forever. Smithers is shocked and points out that all plant life would die, owls would hoot constantly and the sundial (foreshadowing) would become useless. But, Mr. Burns refuses to listen to him. Smithers then says that he's stood by many of Burns' schemes but this one is too much and he will have no part of it. For questioning his methods and his refusal to take part, Burns fires Smithers.
Mayor Quimby calls an emergency town meeting, after noticing that many in the audience are stroking guns, he opens the floor, and a number of people complain.
Mr. Burns then shows up, and Bart charges at him in rage. Mr. Burns brandishes a gun hidden in his blazer, stating that he has decided to protect himself ever since he was attacked in his office by an unidentified assailant (Homer, of course). He taunts the townspeople for trying to intimidate him but not having the guts to follow through with their threats.
Finally, Burns moves the sun-blocker into place, leaving the town aghast, and walks away, laughing. Even as he leaves, Krusty returns from Reno, although he quickly leaves when he sees the townspeople glaring angrily (having missed out on Mr. Burns' vile behaviour).
As Burns relishes in everyone's misery, the residents leave the town hall. Amid an eerie silence, Burns walks down the street whistling and humming merrily, as several residents notice a number of strange phenomena:
- Carl discovers that Mr Smithers left his jacket at the town hall.
- Otto finds that Principal Skinner left his mother Agnes at the same hall.
- Back at the Simpsons residence, the cigar box containing Grampa's gun has been dug up and, barring a stray bullet, is now empty.
- Marge places Maggie and Santa's Little Helper into the family car before noticing that the rest of her family are absent. She wanders away from the car to search for them.
Stating that he feels like celebrating, Burns walks behind a pillar and is obscured from view. He then spots something, which makes him pause casting a long shadow on the wall. He walks forward and completely disappears, saying: "Oh it's you, what are you so happy about? (Gasps) I see. I think you'd better drop it. I said drop it!" He is then heard struggling with someone.
Marge notices that many townspeople are missing when a gunshot is heard from behind the town hall. Mr. Burns staggers out into the open, clutching at a gunshot wound to his chest and completely ignoring an unhelpful Jimbo collapses onto the sundial. Marge then comments that they may never know who did this, since everyone in town had a reason to hate him. After a long period of silence, Dr. Hibbert asks "Well I couldn't possibly solve this mystery. Can YOU?" pointing at the screen, at what is thought to be the viewer. The camera zooms out to show that he is pointing to Chief Wiggum, who says that yes, he will give it a shot, since it is his job. An ominous tune plays after this and the words "To Be Continued" appear onscreen concluding the episode and the season with a cliffhanger.
Marge states that every person in town could be a suspect and it is true that Burns blocked out the sun. However there are certain suspects whose motives are focused on, and the public was assured that the contest was winnable, so there could only be a limited number of suspects - presumably a character present at the Town Meeting who has been seen before. The most obvious suspects at the meeting were...
- Homer Simpson - lost it after Burns kept forgetting his name.
- Waylon Smithers - lost his job
- Seymour Skinner - lost his oil well.
- Moe Syzlak - lost his bar
- Barney Gumble - lost Moe's bar
- Abraham Simpson - lost his home
- Bart Simpson - his dog's legs were broken
- Tito Puente - lost his job
- Groundskeeper Willie - lost his job and his dream of a crystal slop bucket.
- Lisa Simpson - lost her music program.
However as well as the primary suspects who draw the most attention to themselves at the Town Hall, there are other, less significant characters in the general area and at the Town Hall with potential motives...
- Dewey Largo - like Tito, he too lost his job at the school.
- Lunchlady Doris - she lost her potential canteen staff.
- Otto Mann - Lost his double guitar.
- Edna Krabappel - the school lost all extra equipment.
- Miss Hoover - the school lost all extra equipment.
- Jimbo Jones - Burns used his clothes to try to dupe Skinner
- Old Jewish Man - lost his retirement home and his sunbathing magazines
- Jasper Beardley - lost his retirement home,
- Sideshow Mel - offers to deal with Burns
- The Sea Captain - threatens Burns
- Apu Nahasapasapeemapetilon - states that somebody should have dealt with Burns
- Snake - apologises to Apu for not dealing with Burns
- The barflies Carl, Lenny, Larry and Sam, who like Barney, lose Moe's Tavern.
- Clancy Wiggum - it's his job to find the shooter and he could pin it on anybody and look like a hero. Wiggum is always carrying a gun and is well known to be corrupt.
- Agnes Skinner, whose son lost his oil well; by extension she lost her own opportunity to be fantastically wealthy.
- And of course... any other person who had connections to the suspects and wanted to gain revenge on their behalf...
There are many clues in this episode that rule out many of the suspects.
- Burns recognizes his shooter. He is an elderly man carrying a gun, and yet he talks to and then struggles with his attacker physically rather than shooting them straight away.
- Smithers says that he never misses an episode of "Pardon My Zinger" Earlier in the episode, we see that that show airs at 3 PM, the same time as the shooting.
- When everyone is seen stroking their guns, Moe is shown to have a shotgun, which would do much more damage on Burns' body than shown.
- Skinner's gun has a suppressor in it, yet a gunshot is heard clearly.
Also, the shooting was a 3:00 PM, and when Burns' collapses on the sundial after getting shot, his arms - which, if you look at the sundial at a certain angle, resembles clock hands at 3:00 PM - land on the W and the S, hinting at the shooter's initials.
Behind the Laughter
The episode (and the second part) received positive reviews from critics and the writers of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, called it "A superb end to the season - and what's more, it's a genuine whodunnit. There's no cheating - all the clues are there." "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" ranked 25th in Entertainment Weekly's Top 25 Simpsons episodes' list, in 2003.