Homer the Great
"Homer the Great" is the twelfth episode of The Simpsons' sixth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 8, 1995. In the episode, Homer joins an ancient secret society known as the Stonecutters.
The episode was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Jim Reardon. Patrick Stewart guest stars as "Number One", the leader of the Springfield chapter of the Stonecutters. It features cultural references to Freemasonry and films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Emperor. Since airing, the episode has received many positive reviews from fans and television critics and has been called "one of the better episodes of the series" by Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood in their book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide. The song "We Do" was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Music And Lyrics".
Homer notices that his colleagues Lenny and Carl are enjoying inexplicable privileges at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. He discovers they are part of an ancient secret society known as the Stonecutters. To join, one must either be the son of a Stonecutter or save the life of a Stonecutter. While extolling the Stonecutters at the dinner table, Homer discovers that his father is a member and is admitted.
After the initiations, Homer takes great pleasure in the society's secret privileges. However, during a celebratory dinner with his fellow Stonecutters, he unwittingly destroys their Hallowed Sacred Parchment. He is stripped of his Stonecutter robes and is sentenced to walk home naked. Before he leaves, however, it is discovered that Homer has a birthmark in the shape of the Stonecutter emblem, identifying him as the Chosen One who would lead the Stonecutters to greatness.
Homer is crowned the new leader of the Stonecutters. Initially enjoying himself, Homer soon feels isolated by his power when the other members treat him differently due to his new position, and asks Lisa for advice. She suggests that he ask the Stonecutters to do volunteer work to help the community. Unfortunately, the other Stonecutters take this the wrong way and form a new society, the Ancient Mystic Society of No Homers.
Homer becomes despondent about losing his secret club. Marge consoles him by telling him he is a member of a very selective club: the Simpson family.
Although "Homer the Great" was written by John Swartzwelder, the story was suggested by executive producer David Mirkin. Mirkin did not have enough time to write the episode and asked Swartzwelder to do it. Mirkin came up with the idea while driving home from a rewrite early in the morning and listened to a religious radio station where they were talking about Freemasonry. Mirkin decided it would make a great episode, where everyone in Springfield was a member of a Masonic society and Homer was left on the outside and felt neglected.
The song "We Do" was not included in the original script and was suggested by Matt Groening. It was written by the writer's room, who threw in as many things that annoyed them as they possibly could. It was described as "one of the series’ best musical numbers" by Colin Jacobson at DVD Movie Guide, and was later included in the clip show "All Singing, All Dancing".
The episode guest stars Patrick Stewart as Number One. Stewart said, "I think my appearance in The Simpsons and an appearance that I did on Sesame Street—in praise of the letter B—were perhaps the two most distinguished bits of work that I've done in the US." Mirkin has said that Patrick Stewart is "one of the best guest performances" because "he was so committed to [the] character".
The term "Stonecutters" and the organization's symbol are references to Freemasonry. The Stonecutters are in possession of the Ark of the Covenant and when they burn Homer's underwear in it, souls escape, which is a reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark. When crowned "The Chosen One", Homer, dressed in finery, enters through some curtains, a reference to the 1987 film The Last Emperor.
In its original broadcast, "Homer the Great" finished 38th in the ratings for the week of January 2 to January 8, 1995. The episode was the highest rated show on the Fox network that week. 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 "a brilliant crack at freemasonry, with all the secret signs, one-upmanship, rituals and unusual membership rules. Add to this Patrick Stewart's amazing voice and you have one of the better episodes of the series." Patrick Enwright of MSNBC listed "Homer the Great" as his third favorite episode, saying, "as a whole [it] is (almost) unsurpassable". Dave Petruska of the Tucson Citizen listed "Homer the Great" as his favorite episode "because it is such a wonderful satire on fraternal organizations and because of Patrick Stewart's hilarious guest-starring role as "Number One"." Total Film's Nathan Ditum ranked Stewart's performance as the ninth best guest appearance in the show's history. TV Squad's Adam Finley said the episode "does a great job of satirizing Freemasons". Colin Jacobson at DVD Movie Guide said in a review of the sixth season DVD: "I think it peters out a bit as it progresses; the best moments show the influence of the Stonecutters, and the show drags a little toward the end. Nonetheless, it still offers a solid piece of work." In 2010, Michael Moran of The Times ranked the episode as the fifth best in the show's history.
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- Martyn, Warren; Adrian Wood (2000). I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide. Virgin Books. Section: "All Singing, All Dancing: The Simpsons go musical for one episode only". Retrieved 2014-04-20.
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- Moran, Michael (January 14, 2010). "The 10 best Simpsons episodes ever". The Times. Retrieved 2010-01-14.
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