Homer the Vigilante
"Homer the Vigilante" is the eleventh episode of The Simpsons' fifth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 6, 1994. In the episode, a crime wave caused by an elusive cat burglar plagues Springfield. Lisa is distraught to find her saxophone has been stolen, and Homer promises to get it back. The police are ineffective, so Homer takes charge of a neighborhood watch. However, under his leadership it becomes more like a vigilante group, and fails to catch the burglar. With the help of Grampa, Homer discovers that the burglar is a charming senior named Molloy. Molloy is arrested, but he outwits the citizens of Springfield and escapes.
The episode was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Jim Reardon. Sam Neill guest starred in the episode as Molloy. "Homer the Vigilante" was selected for release in a 1997 video collection of selected episodes titled: The Simpsons: Crime and Punishment. It features cultural references to films such as It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Dr. Strangelove. Since airing, the episode has received positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 12.2, and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.
A number of burglaries by a cat burglar take place in Springfield, even striking the Simpsons' house. Among the stolen items include Lisa's saxophone, Marge's pearl necklace, Bart's stamp collection, and the handheld television. In response, the residents of Springfield arm themselves and install security devices. A neighborhood watch group is formed, and the members elect Homer as their leader. The group patrols the streets, but its members only end up violating laws further than catching criminals, turning into vigilantes. When Homer is interviewed on news anchor Kent Brockman's Smartline, the cat burglar calls the show and informs Homer that he will steal the world's largest cubic zirconia from the Springfield museum.
Homer and his group begin guarding the museum. Grampa and his friends from the retirement home volunteer to help, but Homer tells them to leave because they are too old. A few minutes later, Homer sees a group of teenagers drinking beer. He leaves his post to intervene and catch them, but immediately ends up getting drunk with them instead. While Homer's guard is down, the cat burglar sneaks past and steals the zirconia. Homer is blamed and pelted with vegetables by the unforgiving townspeople. Later that day, Grampa stops by the Simpsons' house and tells everybody that he knows who the cat burglar is: a resident in the local retirement home named Molloy.
Homer captures Molloy at the retirement home, and the surprisingly amiable cat burglar returns the objects he stole. Chief Wiggum arrests him and he is imprisoned. While in his cell at the police station, Molloy casually mentions that he assumes Homer and the cops probably want to know where he hid all of his loot. This piques their interest, and Molloy tells them the stash is hidden under a giant "T" somewhere in Springfield. They all rush out of the station hoping to get the treasure for themselves. In a matter of minutes the entire town hears of the existence of Molloy's stash and almost everybody in Springfield is racing to get there first. After the residents get to the site and dig, they finally discover a box with a note inside. The note tells them that there is no treasure and that while they have been searching, Molloy has escaped from his cell. However, several citizens continue to dig, convinced that a real treasure must be buried deeper.
The episode was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Jim Reardon. New Zealand actor Sam Neill guest starred in the episode as Molloy, the cat burglar. Executive producer David Mirkin thought Neill, a big The Simpsons fan, was "lovely" to direct. Mirkin also said Neill was "really game" and did "a terrific job" on the episode. Neill considers recording this episode to be a "high-point" of his career. One scene of the episode features Kent Brockman reporting on the burglaries. Mirkin said this was a joke the staff enjoyed doing because it pointed out how negative and mean-spirited news broadcasts can be, and how they are seemingly "always trying to scare everybody" by creating panic and depression.
"Homer the Vigilante" originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 6, 1994. The episode was selected for release in a 1997 video collection of selected episodes titled: The Simpsons: Crime and Punishment. Other episodes included in the collection set were "Marge in Chains", "Bart the Fink", and "You Only Move Twice". It was included in The Simpsons season five DVD set, The Simpsons - The Complete Fifth Season, which was released on December 21, 2004. Creator Matt Groening, supervising director David Silverman, and Mirkin appeared in the episode's audio commentary on the season five DVD. The episode was again included in the 2005 DVD release of the Crime and Punishment set.
The Molloy character is based on actor David Niven's performance as the character A. J. Raffles, a gentleman thief, in the 1939 film Raffles. The music heard at the beginning of the episode during the burglaries is taken from the film The Pink Panther, in which Niven played The Phantom, a similar character. Flanders tells Homer that his Shroud of Turin beach towels were stolen during one of the burglaries. Homer's dream of riding a nuclear bomb into oblivion is a reference to the famous scene from the film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Homer's line "So I said, Look buddy, your car was upside-down when I got here. And as for your grandmother, she shouldn't have mouthed off like that!" is a reference to Flannery O'Connor's short story A Good Man Is Hard to Find. The scene of Homer and Principal Skinner talking in front of the museum is a reference to a scene from the television series Dragnet. In a reference to the plot of the 1963 film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Molloy sends the residents of Springfield on a hunt for a treasure that is buried under a big letter. The ending sequence of the episode also references the film by using the same music and camera angles. In another scene that references It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Bart tricks American actor Phil Silvers into driving his car into a river, just like Silvers's character did in the film.
In its original broadcast, "Homer the Vigilante" finished 41st in the ratings for the week of January 3–9, 1994, with a Nielsen rating of 12.2, equivalent to approximately 11.5 million viewing households. It 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, thought it was "a bit lacking in focus", but it contained "a number of satisfying set-pieces — we like Professor Frink's walking house security system — and displays Wiggum at his all-time most useless." DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson wrote: "After the many plots of the prior show, 'Vigilante' maintains a much tighter focus. It’s not quite as wonderful an episode as its immediate predecessor, but it’s strong nonetheless. Much of the humor comes from Homer’s newfound power and abuse of it. If nothing else, it’s a great program due to Homer’s reaction to Lisa’s jug playing." Les Winan of Box Office Prophets named "Homer the Vigilante", "Cape Feare", "Homer Goes to College", "$pringfield", and "Deep Space Homer" his favorite episodes of season five. It was also the Liverpool Daily Post's Mike Chapple's favorite episode of the season together with "Bart Gets an Elephant" and "Burns' Heir". Patrick Bromley of DVD Verdict gave the episode a grade of B, and Bill Gibron of DVD Talk gave it a score of 4 out of 5.
- Mirkin, David (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer the Vigilante" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- "'Poetic Justice' premiere blocked". The Cincinnati Post. July 24, 1993. p. 2C.
- Mirkin, David (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer Loves Flanders" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Homer the Vigilante". BBC. Retrieved 2008-08-17.
- Mellor, Jessica (December 28, 1997). "It's a crime not to laugh! - Video View". News of the World. p. 54.
- "The Simpsons - The Complete 5th Season". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2008-11-30.
- Agnew, Margaret (August 3, 2005). "DVD Of The Week". The Christchurch Press. p. 1.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
- "Nielsen Ratings /January 3–9". Long Beach Press-Telegram. January 12, 1994. p. C5.
- Jacobson, Colin (December 21, 2004). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season (1993)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
- Winan, Les (December 28, 2004). "How to Spend $20". Box Office Prophets. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
- Chapple, Mike (April 1, 2005). "DVD view". Liverpool Daily Post. pp. B4.
- Bromley, Patrick (February 23, 2005). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
- Gibron, Bill (December 23, 2004). "The Simpsons - The Complete Fifth Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
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