Love Is a Many Strangled Thing
After saving Mr. Burns' life, Homer wins tickets to a NFL game between the Springfield Atoms and the Miami Dolphins, and takes the whole family. The billion-dollar stadium includes a Loews multiplex and a Museum of Tolerance, impressing even previous anti-stadium activist Lisa, and prompting Homer to tell his kids they will be paying taxes on the place long after the Atoms have left for another city. During the game, everybody starts to dance in front of the screen, but Bart doesn't want to dance, saying that "Everybody Dance Now" is 'a little bossy' for his liking. Homer tries to make him dance by tickling him, but he inadvertently humiliates Bart in front of the stadium crowd when he tickles Bart until he wets himself. To make matters worse, the stadium owners take pity on Bart and try to dry his shorts off by opening the roof, but Russian spy satellites capture the image of Bart with wet shorts, leading to widespread humiliation on the Internet, and an invasion by Russia, who see his urine-soaked shorts as a sign of American weakness.
Later that night, Marge scolds Homer for hurting Bart's feelings, and encourages him to enroll in a fathering enrichment class taught by therapist Dr. Zander. During the class, Homer casually mentions that he often strangles Bart for his mischievous behaviour. Shocked to learn of Homer's violence towards Bart, Dr. Zander conducts a series of treatments in the next session. With the help of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he teaches Homer what it feels like to be young, small, and helpless by strangling him mercilessly all the time, even going as far as letting Kareem's friends strangle Homer as well.
Unfortunately, the therapy works too well and Homer can no longer strangle Bart, even when "needed", because he is traumatized by the therapeutic session (in one instance, imagining himself as children from other abusive parental relationships, like Michael Jackson, Ben from The Great Santini, and Precious from the movie and novel of the same name). Realizing that the sessions have turned Homer into a pushover, Bart takes advantage of Homer and becomes a school bully, as the school can no longer count on Homer's aggressiveness to protect them from Bart's pranks. Seeing Bart's abuse towards Homer, Marge decides to take Bart to Dr. Zander to changes his ways, but to her shock, she finds out that Zander has become homeless due to the current economic downturn. Marge begs Dr. Zander to fix Bart and Homer for $23 and a can of beans, and Zander accepts.
Dr. Zander takes Bart and Homer on a trip while Marge and Lisa spend their time watching sad horse movies. During their trip, Zander tries several exercises to encourage Homer to have confidence in Bart but, unfortunately, Bart often abuses Homer's ignorance and enjoys when he gets hurt, much to Zander's frustration. The ultimate test for Bart's and Homer's relationship is that Bart must save his father from being hanged in a tree, but Bart is more focused on text-pranking Moe than looking out for Homer's welfare. Dr. Zander, realizing just how annoying and sociopathic Bart is, gets fed up and decides to kill Bart, but he manages to free Homer, who saves him. In revenge for Zander's behaviour, Homer (realizing that Zander is no better than him or Bart) and Bart sue the doctor, and are awarded his sole remaining possession: a hole in the large tree he lives in, a place where Homer and Bart finally reconcile and bond.
The opening sequence of the episode begins with the opening notes of the Futurama theme in place of usual theme, with the Planet Express ship flying across the screen. Futurama is another animated series created by Matt Groening, and was officially renewed for a seventh season the same week the episode aired.
At the closing of the credits, there is a dedication "To the Memory of Elizabeth Taylor" beneath a picture of Maggie Simpson. Taylor voiced Maggie's first word, "Daddy", in the fourth season episode "Lisa's First Word".
Homer has a dream with three pop culture references to parental abuse in the media, but Homer is the abused victim and Bart is the abuser:
- Homer is a young Michael Jackson in the Jackson Five, and Bart is Joe Jackson, Michael's father.
- A scene from The Great Santini where Bart is Wilbur Meechum and Homer is his son.
- A parody of the film Precious with Bart as Mary and Homer as Precious.
In the Springfield Atoms game the stadium makes a reference to the Cowboys Stadium. Before Homer tries to shoot Mr Burns, he makes reference to the rituals performed by Private Jackson from Saving Private Ryan before he takes a shot. The Alice Cooper song "No More, Mr. Nice Guy" is playing as Homer first starts to get strangled. When the screen shows the words, "Got urine?", it makes a reference to "got milk?".
In its original American broadcast, "Love is a Many Strangled Thing" was viewed by an estimated 6.14 million households, with a 2.8 Nielsen rating and 8% share of the audience between the ages of 18 and 49. This marked a slight rise in the ratings from the previous episode, "A Midsummer's Nice Dream".
The A.V. Club writer Rowan Kaiser called the episode "solid" commenting that "There was just a consistent stream of amusing lines, steadily increasing in frequency, until I realized that I'd been chuckling essentially from the start of the second act until the end of the fourth". He ultimately gave the episode a B+, the lowest grade of the night after American Dad! and Bob's Burgers.
- "Schedule (March 20 - March 26)". FoxFlash. Retrieved 2011-03-21.
- Kaiser, Rowan (2011-03-28). ""Love Is A Many-Strangled Thing"/"Spaghetti Western And Meatballs"/"I Am The Walrus" | Fox animation | TV Club | TV". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2011-04-03.
- Hibberd, James (2011-03-24). "'Futurama' renewed for two more years!". Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- "COMEDY CENTRAL® RENEWS "FUTURAMA" FOR 26 NEW EPISODES". March 29, 2011. Retrieved March 30, 2011.
- Gorman, Bill (2011-03-28). "TV Ratings Sunday: Most Original Episodes Rise; ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ Hits A Season High". Tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com. Retrieved 2011-04-03.
- Gorman, Bill (2011-03-14). "TV Ratings Sunday: ‘CSI:Miami’ Surge Leads CBS Win; ‘Secret Millionaire’ Falls; ‘Simpsons,’ ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Hit Lows". Tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com. Retrieved 2011-03-19.