Trilogy of Error
"Trilogy of Error" is the eighteenth episode of The Simpsons’ twelfth season, and the 266th episode overall. It originally aired on the Fox Network in the United States on April 29, 2001. In the episode, Homer's rush to the hospital to re-attach his severed thumb, Lisa's rush to school to win the science fair, and Bart's run-in with an illegal fireworks scheme are interconnected as each act tells the events of the same day, but from a different point of view.
"Trilogy of Error" was directed by Mike B. Anderson and written by Matt Selman. The episode, initially titled "Go, Simpson Go", was initially pitched by Selman who figured the whole plot out before pitching it. The episode features a guest appearance from Frankie Muniz as Thelonious, while Joe Mantegna reprises his role as recurring character Fat Tony. "Trilogy of Error" serves as a parody of thriller movies, Go and Run Lola Run. The episode has received positive reviews since its original airing and Selman named it the best episode he has ever written. The episode is structured similar to the Treehouse of Horror episodes.
At 7:03 A.M, while Homer is applying deodorant, Marge shouts out that breakfast is ready. Homer runs downstairs, but is surprised that Marge is serving a gooey cereal called "Mueslix." Lisa gets Homer out of the mess by showing him her school science project, a robot named Linguo, who corrects grammar. Homer breaks it by pouring beer down its throat, and Lisa runs upstairs frustrated. Meanwhile, Homer tries to get a brownie from Marge, who will not let him. Whilst cutting them, Marge accidentally severs Homer's thumb. As Homer retrieves his thumb from Santa's Little Helper who escapes to the Flanders' house, Marge calls 911. Chief Wiggum picks up, and mistakes the incident for attempted murder. He asks for the address so he can arrest Marge, making her lie, claiming it is 123 Fake Street, which Chief Wiggum believes. They drive off to the hospital, but on the way, they crush Rainier Wolfcastle's Ferrari. While he is trying to break the Simpsons' car, they sneak into the Ferrari. Once at the hospital, Dr. Hibbert claims that the insurance will not cover the cost, so they drive towards Dr. Nick's clinic. Since Homer's thumb is starting to shrivel up, he stops by Moe's, where he gets a pickle brine solution. He gets distracted by drinking a beer, and because of his major blood loss, he passes out, saying random words. Barney Gumble wakes him up with coffee, and just as Homer rushes out the door, he sees that the Ferrari is gone. So, he hitchhikes (which at first does not work, because he has no right thumb), but Cletus' pickup truck eventually stops by. He drives Homer to Dr. Nick's, but when they leave the truck, they discover that the clinic is on fire. Just as Homer asks Cletus to drive him to Shelbyville Hospital, the truck gets stolen and Homer trudges along the roadside, and sees that he still has twenty miles to go. Since his thumb is fading again, he is just about to throw it away, but gets distracted when he sees Linguo's severed head next to him after shooting from town.
After fixing Linguo, Lisa misses the school bus. Finding her bike gone and seeing her parents leaving for the hospital, she runs to school but on the way gets a ride from Krusty. However, Krusty and Mr. Teeny mistakenly take her to the West Springfield Elementary School. While there, Lisa meets a boy named Thelonious, who is similar to her. After spending time with him, Lisa leaves the school and, needing a ride, stops at Moe's Tavern looking for her dad. Homer is not there, but she finds Chief Wiggum listening to a conversation between a wired up snitch and some gangsters over the radio. She identifies a voice as Fat Tony's. This causes Wiggum to speak into the receiver "Fat Tony, is that you?" and on the radio Louie, one of Fat Tony's henchmen says "This guy is wearing a wire" following what sounds like gunshots. As she leaves the tavern Homer comes in. Outside, Lisa finds Marge, who takes her to school, however the car runs out of gas as Marge does not understand how to read the Italian gas meter. Marge and Lisa see Cletus' truck and hitch a ride, but when he exits his truck they steal it and drive to the school themselves. They never arrive because Bart emerges from the manhole in front of them.
The doorbell rings, and Bart answers it. It is Milhouse, who has found something in the woods. To get there, they ride Bart and Lisa's bicycles to the woods and find a cave full of fireworks. Bart tests some, only to blow up Dr. Nick's clinic. Bart and Milhouse hide in a building which is addressed 123 Fake Street, the address that Marge gave to the police. They are caught by the police and asked to help find the person selling the fireworks. Bart and Milhouse find Fat Tony but a voice comes out of the speaker hidden in Bart's clothes, saying "Fat Tony, is that you?". Fat Tony realizes that Bart has a wire and Bart lights the fireworks in Tony's hand to escape. Fat Tony chases the boys through the sewers until they emerge where Marge and Lisa are. Having been chased down the street, Bart and Milhouse get cornered. To save the boys, Marge throws Linguo at the gangsters and due to the mobster's bad grammar, the sparks from Linguo's body caused by the overload ignited the fireworks causing Linguo to explode, which also takes down the mobsters.
Fat Tony gets arrested, and Homer expresses gratitude that no one was hurt, but Marge points out his severed thumb and Lisa's destroyed science project. Fat Tony offers a solution to their problems. Lisa brings the mobsters to the science fair, and Legs (one of Fat Tony's henchmen) successfully reattaches Homer's thumb while Lisa narrates the presentation for her class. Lisa gets an A for her presentation.
"Trilogy of Error" was written by Matt Selman and was directed by Mike B. Anderson as part of the twelfth season of The Simpsons (2000–2001). Selman was inspired by the 1999 comedy thriller film Go. Before pitching it, he devised the whole plot in order to prove that it could be done. The episode was originally called "Go, Simpson Go" in an allusion to the 1998 German crime thriller film Run Lola Run. Due to the non-linear structure of the episode, the writing staff found it difficult to write jokes for the episode, because "every thing would affect the story". In the original draft, the second act would have portrayed Lisa travelling on the short school bus and meeting children with amusing disabilities, but it was deemed "too radical" at the time. The production team also wanted to create a segment focusing on Marge, but they decided she was already prominent in the first two segments. During production, the staff found it difficult to choose which jokes to start each act since they had previously seen this. There was also a debate on the appearance of Homer's truncated thumb. The staff decided to add a thumbnail, although characters in The Simpsons do not have nails on their fingers and toes. The cost of "Trilogy of Error" was above average, despite the several replays of the same animation and the expectations of the production staff. During production of the third act of the episode, Selman went on vacation and the staff had to finish the act without him.
The title of the episode is a reference to the 1975 made-for-television horror film Trilogy of Terror. The episode makes a number of allusions to the 1999 film Go, an example of which is Homer and Marge's theft of Rainier Wolfcastle's car after Wolfcastle smashes up their car. The episode also parodies the 1992 film Reservoir Dogs by showing the same events occurring from different points of view, while also featuring music similar to that featured in Run Lola Run during the "Lisa's Day" segment.
Release and reception
The episode originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on April 29, 2001. On August 18, 2009, it was released on DVD as part of the box set The Simpsons – The Complete Twelfth Season. Staff members Matt Groening, Mike Scully, Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Rob Lazebnik, Matt Selman, Tim Long, Max Pross, David Mirkin, and Mike B. Anderson participated in the DVD audio commentary for the episode. Deleted scenes from the episode were featured on the box set as well.
Since airing, "Trilogy of Error" has received positive reviews from critics. Matt Selman considers this episode "the best [he] has ever written". In a 2008 Flashback Review, Robert Canning of IGN called the episode "outstanding" for its several sight gags and pop culture references. He concluded it was an amazing episode and that it proved the series could still deliver "[its] share of quality episodes" despite its overall drop in quality. He ultimately gave the episode a 9.0/10. Several members of the IGN staff later named it the best episode of the twelfth season. AOL named "Trilogy of Error" the 20th best episode of the series. Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide positively compared the episode to the Treehouse of Horror episodes and called the episode "clever program that consistently entertains". DVD Verdict's Mac MacEntire called the episode "one of my all-time favorites" and she called Dr. Nick Riviera's line "Inflammable means flammable" the best moment of the episode.
- Selman, Matt (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for "Trilogy of Error" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Scully, Mike (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for "Trilogy of Error" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Maxtone-Graham, Ian (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for "Trilogy of Error" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for "Trilogy of Error" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Anderson B., Mike (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for "Trilogy of Error" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Robinson, Benjamin (May 1, 2004). ""Trilogy of Error" Capsule". Simpsons Archive. Retrieved June 28, 2010.
- Jacobson, Colin (2009-09-02). "The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season (1999)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
- Alberti, John (2004). Leaving Springfield: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Oppositional Culture. Wayne State University Press. p. 324. ISBN 978-0-8143-2849-1.
- Lambert, David (2009-05-20). "The Simpsons - Season 12 Street Date, Detailed Contents & 'Comic Book Guy Head' Box". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
- Haller, Scott. "The 105th Funniest Man | 34th Street Magazine". 34th Street Magazine. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
- Canning, Robert (August 11, 2008). "The Simpsons Flashback: "Trilogy of Error" Review". IGN Entertainment. Retrieved July 19, 2011.
- "The Simpsons: 20 Seasons, 20 Episodes - TV Feature at IGN". IGN Entertainment. 2011-09-14. Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- Potts, Kimberly (2006). "'The Simpsons' Best Episodes: No. 20 - 16". AOL. Archived from the original on January 1, 2009. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
- Jacobson, Colin (September 2, 2009). "The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season (2000)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
- MacEntire, Mac (September 9, 2009). "DVD Verdict Review - The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
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- "Trilogy of Error" at The Simpsons.com
- "Trilogy of Error" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Trilogy of Error" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Trilogy of Error" at TV.com