In Marge We Trust
"In Marge We Trust" is the twenty-second episode of The Simpsons' eighth season, which originally aired April 27, 1997. It was written by Donick Cary and directed by Steven Dean Moore. The episode guest stars Sab Shimono as Mr. Sparkle, Gedde Watanabe as the factory worker, Denice Kumagai and Karen Maruyama as dancers, and Frank Welker as the baboons. In the episode, Marge replaces Reverend Lovejoy as the town's moral adviser while Homer explores the mystery of why his face appears on a Japanese-language box.
Reverend Lovejoy's sermon on "constancy" almost sends the entire congregation to sleep. After church Homer takes Bart and Lisa to the Springfield dump to dispose of their old Christmas tree, where they find a box of Japanese dishwasher detergent known as Mr. Sparkle. The face of the character on the box of the detergent strongly resembles Homer. Meanwhile, Marge becomes concerned with Lovejoy's lack of enthusiasm about helping people. He explains to Marge that he was enthusiastic about the ministry and helping his fellow man when he first arrived in Springfield. However, his passion for helping people gradually degraded as he dealt with Ned Flanders and his constant complaints over trivial and common issues. She begins working for the Church as "The Listen Lady", listening to people's problems and helping solve them. Reverend Lovejoy soon realizes his inadequacy and begins to feel depressed. While he is alone in the church the stained glass images of saints appear and chastise him for doing little to inspire his congregation.
Homer, disturbed by the box of Mr. Sparkle, contacts the manufacturer in Hokkaidō, Japan for information. He is sent a promotional video for Mr. Sparkle, which consists of a TV commercial. At the end of the video, the mascot is shown to be a result of a joint venture between two large Japanese conglomerates, Matsumura Fishworks and Tamaribuchi Heavy Manufacturing Concern. Their mascots, a smiling anime fish and light bulb, merge to form Mr. Sparkle. Thus, Homer discovers the similarity was a mere coincidence.
Ned Flanders calls Marge for help. Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney are hanging around outside the Leftorium, making Ned worried that they will start causing trouble. Marge suggests that he shoo them away. The trio are about to leave, but when he goes and asks them to, they decide to harass him instead. Ned calls Marge again, whilst he is standing on a chair with the three boys circling him on their minibikes. She suggests that he "lay down the law", and when one of the boys snips the phone cord, Marge assumes that Ned has hung up and that everything is fine.
The next morning, Maude informs Marge that Ned is missing, having been chased around by the boys throughout the night. Marge realizes that she may be partially responsible for his disappearance. Marge goes to Reverend Lovejoy for help, and the two of them track Ned to the zoo, where Japanese tourists think Homer is Mr. Sparkle. Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney have abandoned their pursuit, but now Ned is trapped in the baboon exhibit. While the Simpson family looks on, Reverend Lovejoy rescues Ned in the baboons' food train. Now that he feels useful again, Reverend Lovejoy rediscovers his passion for his job, regaling his congregation with the tale of Ned's rescue.
By season 8, the show had begun to explore episodes revolving around secondary characters. Reverend Lovejoy was selected for this episode because, aside from being noted as "the priest who didn't care", he had not had much character development. This was the first episode that Donick Cary wrote for The Simpsons. He was disappointed that his first story was about "Marge's crisis with faith." The trip to the dump was inspired by Donick Cary's youth, in which he would often go "dump picking". This led to the writers deciding to have Homer's face on a discarded box, which became the Mr. Sparkle subplot. To help create the advertisement, the writers watched videos of many Japanese commercials. An original scene from Lovejoy's flashback showed that Jasper Beardley preceded him as minister of the First Church of Springfield. The solution for how Mr. Sparkle resembles Homer was written by George Meyer, after hours of time had been spent trying to come up with a realistic ending. Matsumura Fishworks was named after Ichiro Matsumura, a friend of David X. Cohen.
In its original broadcast, "In Marge We Trust" finished 25th in ratings for the week of April 21–27, 1997, with a Nielsen rating of 10.1, equivalent to approximately 9.8 million viewing households. It was the third highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following The X-Files and King of the Hill. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, said: "A rare case of both storylines being worthy of full episodes in their own right, this is a cracking episode which highlights the unduly neglected Rev. Lovejoy and makes you realize Homer isn't the only one ready to kill Ned Flanders! Great stuff." In a 2000 Entertainment Weekly article, Matt Groening ranked it as his fifth favorite in the history of the show. Josh Weinstein described it as one of the best of the season, as well as being one of the most underrated episodes of all time. He also described the Mr. Sparkle commercial as his all time favorite sequence. The fake Fruity Oaty Bar commercial from the film Serenity was partially inspired by the Mr. Sparkle advertisement.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "In Marge We Trust". BBC. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. Created by Matt Groening; edited by Ray Richmond and Antonia Coffman. (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ASIN 0060952520. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M. ISBN 0-06-095252-0, 978-0-06-095252-5. p. 235.
- Smith, Yeardley (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "In Marge We Trust" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Weinstein, Josh (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "In Marge We Trust" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Cary, Donick (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "In Marge We Trust" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "In Marge We Trust" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Dean Moore, Steven (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "In Marge We Trust" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Cohen, David (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "In Marge We Trust" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Associated Press (May 1, 1997). "NBC holds onto lead as sweeps start". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
- "Springfield of Dreams". Entertainment Weekly. 2000-01-14. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
- Whedon, Joss (2005). "Serenity: Making of Fruity Oaty Bar" in Serenity (DVD). Universal Pictures Video.
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- "In Marge We Trust" at the Internet Movie Database