The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star
"The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star" is the last episode of The Simpsons' sixteenth season. The episode aired on May 15, 2005 in the United States. Originally supposed to air April 10, the episode was dropped from the week's schedule due to the death of Pope John Paul II, since this episode revolved around Catholicism. This episode is also the 350th episode in production order (in broadcast order, "Future-Drama" is the 350th episode).
Springfield Elementary School is holding its medieval festival. All the students are given roles: Lisa is queen, Martin is king, and Bart is the cooper. Bart is mad about his role and is treated terribly by everyone, especially Lisa. Against his will, Groundskeeper Willie is chosen to play the village idiot, and seeking revenge for his cruel treatment, Willie unleashes a pie with hundreds of rats inside. Bart is blamed for this prank and is expelled from school. After looking through other schools, Marge decides to enroll Bart in St. Jerome's Catholic School. There, Bart's hip, rebel attitude is frowned upon.
While holding out two dictionaries as a punishment, Bart meets Father Sean (voiced by Liam Neeson), who converted to Catholicism after he was beaten by his father and St. Peter told him to repent. He is sympathetic to Bart and gives him a comic book about the saints and he is drawn into it. At home, Marge becomes concerned over Bart's interest in the Catholic Church, mainly due to the Catholic ban on birth control. Lisa incorrectly calls Latin 'the language of Plutarch (who actually wrote in Greek). Homer goes to the school to confront Father Sean, but reconsiders after having a pancake dinner and playing Bingo. After an expansive confession session (with Homer concluding that he has been "masturbating eight billion times" and "has no intention of stopping", which was a first for the series, since no character prior to this episode ever discussed such subject matter, due to fear of censorship). Homer decides to convert to Catholicism as well to be absolved of his sins (and that becoming a Catholic involves more than just wailing on Unitarians). With Bart and Homer both considering joining the Church, Marge (worried she might be alone in Protestant Heaven while Bart and Homer are in Catholic Heaven and Lisa possibly in Nirvana) seeks help from Rev. Lovejoy and Ned Flanders, who agree to get them back. While they are learning about First Communion, Marge, Lovejoy, and Ned capture Bart.
On the road, Marge, Ned and Lovejoy try bring Bart back to the "one true faith": The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism. Back at the house, Lisa agrees with Homer and Bart's desire to join a new faith. Even after getting laughed at for being Buddhist by Fr. Sean, she says that Marge is taking Bart to a Protestant Youth Festival. Homer and Fr. Sean then leave in hot pursuit. At the Festival, Marge fails to bribe Bart with the Christian rock of Quiet Riot (Pious Riot after their conversion). However, he agrees after he plays some paintball. Homer and Fr. Sean arrive with a motorcycle, shoot Marge's hair with some paintball bullets and engage in a Mexican standoff with Ned and Lovejoy. Bart says it is stupid that all the different forms of Christianity are feuding, explaining that the few stupid things they disagree on are nothing compared to the many stupid things they agree on. The two groups agree to both fight monogamist gays and stem cells and to take Bart's idea to heart. The episode then jumps 1,000 years into the future, when Bart is believed to be the last Prophet of God. In this age, mankind is waging war over whether Bart's teachings were about love and tolerance, or understanding and peace (and whether he was betrayed by his minion Milhouse and ripped apart by snowmobiles until he died). Unable to come to an agreement, one side cries Bart's catchphrase "Eat my shorts", the other cries "Cowabunga" and both sides engage in a bloody battle.
Robert Canning, Eric Goldman, Dan Iverson, and Brain Zormski of IGN called this episode the best episode of the sixteenth season. They thought of it as a great episode that dealt with the sensitive topic of religious tolerance, stating that "with a daring story, we can't help but remember when The Simpsons was an edgy hip show that would frequently shed a light on cultural complexes". They thought it would be ideal if there were more episodes like this one.
- While discussing Bart's future education prospects at the dinner table, Homer remarks that Bart will join the Army if he continues to get expelled from school. At which point Homer follows up by saying "... where you'll be sent to America's next military quagmire. Where will it be? North Korea? Iran? Anything's possible with commander coo coo bananas in charge". Homer both implicitly references the Bush Doctrine on preemptive strike and the Axis of Evil – a term used by President Bush to denote the nation-states of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. At the time of the episode was being aired, US forces were still fighting in Iraq. Commander Coo Coo Bananas was a reference to the media's depiction of the supposed intelligence of President Bush.
- When Rev. Lovejoy and Ned arrive at St. Jerome's to pick up Bart, Lovejoy refers to Sean as "Popey le Pew", a reference to cartoon character Pepe le Pew.
- Rev. Lovejoy is seen driving a van called the "Ministry Machine", a parody of the Mystery Machine from the Scooby-Doo franchise and painted in a similar psychedelic colour scheme.
- During the "Catholic Heaven" sequence, Catholic Heaven's inhabitants all spontaneously break into a rendition of Riverdance, led by a Michael Flatley lookalike.
- At one point Father Sean remarks that "if I let Bart go I'll be the worst Catholic priest ever...well, apart from...you know..." followed by an awkward silence, a thinly-veiled reference to the ongoing allegations of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.
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