Mountain of Madness
"Mountain of Madness" is the twelfth episode of The Simpsons' eighth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 2, 1997. In the episode, Mr. Burns tries to encourage more cooperation among his employees and forces the workers of Springfield Nuclear Power Plant to go for a team-building hike in the mountains. Burns and Homer are paired together and trapped in a cabin that gets buried by multiple avalanches.
"Mountain of Madness" was directed by Mark Kirkland and written by John Swartzwelder. The script underwent many rewrites and the story was completely rewritten. Several new designs and backgrounds had to be created for the wilderness scenes. The episode received mostly positive reviews.
Mr. Burns decides to hold a good old-fashioned fire drill in order to excite things up around the plant. Upon hearing the bells ring, the employees panic and fail to clear the plant within 15 minutes. Outraged, Burns declares that everyone will be subjected to a teamwork competition at Mt. Useful. Homer brings his family to the mountain, not realizing it was only for employees, so he leaves them in the visitor center. Homer ends up being partnered with Burns while Smithers has to journey on his own, fuming that he was not paired with his boss. The object of this competition is to reach a cabin at the top of the mountain; the last team to arrive will be fired.
Along the way, Burns talks Homer into cheating and they use a snowmobile (which Burns refers to as a "horseless sleigh") to reach the cabin. Arriving several hours early, they settle down in the comfortable surroundings. Burns and Homer quickly become friends. However, while clinking their champagne glasses, they inadvertently cause an avalanche that buries the entire cabin. Despite Burns's attempt to operate a telegraph machine or Homer's attempt to dig a tunnel through the snow, the pair remain trapped. The pair attempt further tunneling escapes, but each time they speak, they cause more avalanches that place even more snow between them and freedom. Meanwhile, Bart and Lisa meet Smithers and agree to help him proceed to the cabin, though they cause more stalling than helping.
Back in the cabin, Burns and Homer are beset by cabin fever. They build snowmen to pass the time (though Burns insists they build real men out of snow) and clothe them at the expense of their own warmth. The other employees reach what appears to be their destination; however, it is actually a ranger station and they begin to realize that something bad has happened to their colleagues. In the cabin, Homer and Burns stare at each other's eyes, filling their minds with paranoia. They are both driven mad and attempt to kill each other. After a vicious struggle, Burns ignites the cabin's propane tank, launching the building out of the snow and propelling it toward the horrified onlookers. Once it comes to a halt, Mr. Burns reminds everyone of the contest, and all the workers hurry inside.
Lenny is the last person in the cabin, and is told he is fired. Burns is informed the completion time of the competition has set a new record, and then decides that no one will be fired after all (although Lenny, who is outside and falls into a crevasse, does not know that). The episode ends with Mr. Burns and Homer alternately laughing and glaring at each other.
"Mountain of Madness" was written by John Swartzwelder, although the script underwent many rewrites. According to Josh Weinstein, "a Swartzwelder script is like a finely tooled crazy German machine and if you have the wrong engineers try to fix it, it blows up. And that's the thing, 'cause it had great jokes but we sort of changed the story and went through a bunch of drafts." The story was completely rewritten and as a result, the plot became odder and quirkier with the scenes of paranoia deriving from this. The original script was "really crazy" but a lot of the more insane material was cut. However, most of the rewrites were done during the script-writing and did not require any major animation changes. One change was the ending, which was added after the animatic. The episode features several pairings of established characters who had previously interacted little, such as Smithers with Bart and Lisa. Weinstein feels that this was one of the first episodes to really feature the duo of Lenny Leonard and Carl Carlson and developed them more.
The episode was directed by Mark Kirkland and a lot of new designs and backgrounds had to be created for the wilderness scenes. The backgrounds were designed by animator Debbie Silver. The design of the forest ranger was based on then-Vice President Al Gore. In the episode, Marge watches an old film which includes a comment from naturalist John Muir. The impression of Muir was done by Dan Castellaneta, who originally based the voice on an impersonator he met at Yosemite National Park. However, the producers asked him to make the voice older and crazier.
In its original broadcast, "Mountain of Madness" finished thirty-eight in ratings for the week of February 2–9, 1997, with a Nielsen rating of 8.8, equivalent to approximately 8.5 million viewing households. It was the second highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following King of the Hill. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, called it "an inventive episode, with several memorable moments". Tim Raynor of DVDTown.com said there are some "good, sidesplitting moments to say the least for this witty episode". DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson called the episode "a good show" and praised it for the "snowy setting [that] allows the other characters to expand as well".
- "Mountain of Madness". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved 2011-09-21.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Mountain of Madness". BBC. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- 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. 236.
- Weinstein, Josh (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "Mountain of Madness" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Silverman, David (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "Mountain of Madness" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Kirkland, Mark (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "Mountain of Madness" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Castellaneta, Dan (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "Mountain of Madness" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- "NBC Leads Nielsen Race". The Orlando Sentinel. February 12, 1997. p. A2.
- Raynor, Tim (August 21, 2006). "Simpsons, The: The Complete 8th Season (DVD)". DVDTown.com. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
- Jacobson, Colin (2006-01-05). "The Simpsons: The Complete Eighth Season (1995)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
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- "Mountain of Madness" at The Simpsons.com
- "Mountain of Madness" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- Mountain of Madness at the Internet Movie Database
- "Mountain of Madness" at TV.com