"Das Bus" is the fourteenth episode of The Simpsons' ninth season and originally aired on the Fox network on February 15, 1998. Bart, Lisa and other children from Springfield Elementary School are stranded on an island and are forced to work together. Meanwhile, Homer founds his own Internet company. It was written by David S. Cohen and directed by Pete Michels. Guest star James Earl Jones narrates the final scene of the episode.
The Springfield Elementary School Model United Nations club is going on a field trip. On the bus, Bart, Nelson, Ralph and Milhouse are playing a game by racing fruit down the aisle. Milhouse rolls a grapefruit that gets stuck under the brakes. When bus driver Otto attempts to press down on the pedal, it squirts juice into his eyes, causing him to lose control and drive the bus off a bridge.
Otto attempts to swim for help but ends up being swept away by the current. It is later revealed Otto is picked up by Chinese fishermen, who plan to use him for slave labor. The students – Bart, Lisa, Milhouse, Nelson, Lewis, Ralph, Martin, Wendell, Sherri and Terri – swim to a nearby tropical island. Bart tries to tell the children that being stranded on an island is just like TV where life is easy and cocktails are plentiful, comparing it to The Swiss Family Robinson, only with more cursing. Reality soon sets in when the island is found to be largely barren and the children lack survival skills. With no food found on the island and no adult supervision, the children rely on snack food retrieved from the sunken bus by Bart. They awaken the next morning to find the snacks all gone. Suspecting Milhouse because of his pot-belly and nacho cheese breath, the students put him on trial and he blames the loss on a mysterious island "monster".
Back at home, Homer discovers that Ned Flanders has his own home-based Internet business, Flancrest Enterprises. Homer complains to Marge that everyone except the Simpson family are getting rich off the Internet, and he wants a piece of the action, despite knowing nothing about it. He launches his own dot-com company, Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net, which is later bought out by Bill Gates and his goons. Unfortunately, Bill Gates' "buying out" procedure is having his goons destroy Homer's office and break all of his possessions, stating he "didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks".
During the trial held by the students, there is insufficient evidence to prove Milhouse ate all the food. Because of this, Bart, acting as judge, acquits Milhouse. The other students are not happy with this verdict and attempt to kill Milhouse. Lisa tries to stop the violence, but gets pushed by Nelson. Bart, angered by this, tells everyone to leave Lisa alone. The other students end up chasing Bart, Lisa, and Milhouse into a cave, where it is revealed that Milhouse's "monster" is actually a wild boar. On one of the boar's tusks is an empty bag of chips, revealing that it was the actual culprit in eating the snacks. Nelson apologizes to Milhouse for the misunderstanding, who reveals that he only took "two sandwiches and a bag of Doritos". The kids kill the boar and eat it (except for Lisa, who adheres to her vegetarianism and licks slime from a rock instead, since the slime is what the boar is feeding on to survive on the island). The episode concludes with a comically obvious deus ex machina ending, narrated by James Earl Jones:
- So the children learned how to function as a society,
- and eventually they were rescued by, oh, let's say...Moe.
The couch gag was suggested by Dan Castellaneta's niece. The movie True Lies was the inspiration for the bus crashing against the bridge. To get the fisherman's Chinese correct, Cohen called his friend. When the Chinese actors came, the actors felt Cantonese would be more appropriate for the fisherman than Mandarin, so it was changed. Moe was picked to rescue the children, because the writers thought it was funny. A deleted scene had Homer buying anti-stress instruments. He uses them all and gets stressed. According to Mike Scully, this scene was deleted because the episode was too long.
Most of the episode's plot, namely a group of children trapped on an island, is a reference to William Golding's 1954 novel Lord of the Flies but unlike the book the children on the island are a limpidity. The title comes from the 1981 film Das Boot, although it would be "Der Bus" in German. When the children are squabbling in the classroom, Principal Skinner restores order by banging his shoe on the desk. Skinner's actions are a reference to the shoe-banging incident by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at the UN in 1960. When escaping from the other children, Bart, Lisa and Milhouse have to swing across a gap on a vine; Milhouse goes across first, but refuses to throw the vine back in a reference to the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), where the same thing happens to Indiana Jones. Ralph's painted face is similar to that of Kiss member Peter Criss.
In its original broadcast, "Das Bus" finished 17th in ratings for the week of February 9–15, 1998, with a Nielsen rating of 9.9, equivalent to approximately 9.6 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.
In a 2006 article in USA Today, "Das Bus" was highlighted among the six best episodes of The Simpsons season 9, along with others including "Trash of the Titans," "The Last Temptation of Krust," "The Cartridge Family," "Dumbbell Indemnity," and "The Joy of Sect". 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 "A fantastic episode. Ignore the Internet business side, and wallow in the cleverness of the children trapped on the island. Bart has never been cleverer, Nelson more menacing, and Milhouse more geekish. Great stuff with a delightful ending that is so witty and obvious, that it's annoying you never imagined they'd get away with it."
The episode has become study material for sociology courses at University of California, Berkeley, where it is used to "examine issues of the production and reception of cultural objects, in this case, a satirical cartoon show", and to figure out what it is "trying to tell audiences about aspects primarily of American society, and, to a lesser extent, about other societies." Some questions asked in the courses include: "What aspects of American society are being addressed in the episode? What aspects of them are used to make the points? How is the satire conveyed: through language? Drawing? Music? Is the behavior of each character consistent with his/her character as developed over the years? Can we identify elements of the historical/political context that the writers are satirizing? What is the difference between satire and parody?"
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Das Bus". BBC. Retrieved 2007-12-27.
- Gimple, Scott M. (December 1999). The Simpsons Forever!: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family ...Continued. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-098763-3.
- "Das Bus". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved 2007-12-28.
- Plot synopsis information for the episode "Das Bus" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 2006.
- Scully, Mike (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for the Deleted Scenes (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Cohen, David (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for "Das Bus" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Scully, Mike (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for "Das Bus" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Bates, James W.; Gimple, Scott M.; McCann, Jesse L., Richmond, Ray; Seghers, Christine, ed. (2010). Simpsons World The Ultimate Episode Guide: Seasons 1–20 (1st ed.). Harper Collins Publishers. p. 443. ISBN 978-0-00-738815-8.
- Associated Press (February 20, 1998). "CBS wins; olympics disappointing". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
- Clark, Mike (2006-12-22). "New on DVD". USA Today (Gannett Co. Inc.). Retrieved 2007-10-24.
- Thomas B. Gold (2008). "The Simpsons Global Mirror" (PDF). University of California Berkeley. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-04-07. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
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