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Marge in Chains

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"Marge in Chains"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no.Season 4
Episode 21
Directed byJim Reardon
Written byBill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
Production code9F20
Original air dateMay 6, 1993
Guest appearance(s)
Episode features
Chalkboard gag"I do not have diplomatic immunity"
Couch gagA miniature family climbs onto a normal-sized couch.
CommentaryMatt Groening
Al Jean
Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
Jim Reardon
Jeffrey Lynch
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Whacking Day"
Next →
"Krusty Gets Kancelled"
The Simpsons (season 4)
List of The Simpsons episodes

"Marge in Chains" is the twenty-first and penultimate episode of The Simpsons' fourth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 6, 1993. In the episode, Marge is arrested for shoplifting after forgetting to pay for an item at the Kwik-E-Mart. The family hires attorney Lionel Hutz to defend her at trial, but she is found guilty and sentenced to 30 days imprisonment. Homer and the rest of the family have trouble coping without Marge. The townspeople start a riot when an annual bake sale missing Marge fails to raise enough money for a statue of Abraham Lincoln and they have to settle for a statue of Jimmy Carter. Mayor Quimby has Marge released from jail in order to save his career and quell the riot.

The episode was written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, and directed by Jim Reardon. After its initial airing on Fox, the episode was later included as part of a 1997 video release titled The Simpsons: Crime and Punishment. It was released again on the 2005 edition of the same set. The episode is included on The Simpsons – The Complete Fourth Season DVD box set released on June 15, 2004.

"Marge in Chains" received a positive reception from television critics.

The authors of I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide commented positively on the episode, as did reviews in The Daily Mirror and The Observer.


Many of Springfield's residents purchase "Juice Looseners" through the mail, which are inefficient and loud juicers built in Osaka and shipped from there. One of the assembly line workers has the flu and coughs into the box destined for Homer, filling it with airborne germs. When the Juice Looseners arrive in Springfield, the Osaka Flu hits the town and many of the townspeople are affected by the illness. Due to exhaustion from having to look after the rest of her ill family, Marge accidentally forgets to pay for Grampa's bottle of bourbon when shopping at the Kwik-E-Mart. She is then arrested for shoplifting. Chief Wiggum tells Mayor Quimby about the arrest in confidence, and Mayor Quimby later reveals this fact to everyone in town during a public address. Marge's reputation is lowered dramatically among the townspeople, who now distrust her around their possessions. The family hires Lionel Hutz to defend Marge at her trial, but Hutz loses the case and the jury finds Marge guilty. She is sentenced to 30 days imprisonment at Springfield Women's Prison.

Marge's absence is felt at home as Homer and the rest of the family struggles to cope without her. The annual bake sale also suffers – without Marge's marshmallow squares, the Springfield Park Commission fails to raise enough money to pay for a statue of Abraham Lincoln; they instead purchase a statue of Jimmy Carter. The townspeople are enraged by this, and riot. When Marge is released from jail, the townspeople welcome her back and apologize for suspecting her. They then unveil a statue for Marge, though it is just the Carter statue with Marge's hair added to it. The last scene shows Bart and Lisa playing on the statue, which has been converted into a tether ball post.


A portrait of a man with black hair looking at the viewer
Bill Oakley (2008), one of the writers of the episode

"Marge in Chains" was written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein and was the first episode that they wrote as staff writers. The script was assigned to them after somebody else had come up with the idea. The first draft of the script was "slightly more realistic" than the final version of the episode because Oakley and Weinstein had done a lot of research about women in prison, much of which was later replaced. For Apu and Sanjay's brief lines of Indian dialogue, the writers called the Embassy of India in Washington to get them to translate. The Embassy was not "interested or happy" but still did it.[1]

In the episode, Jimmy Carter is referred to as "history's greatest monster".[2] In the 2004 Season 4 DVD commentary for this episode, show runners Mike Reiss and Al Jean reveal that they did not like Carter, although they would vote for him ahead of George W. Bush.[2] Kwik-E-Mart operator Apu testifies in a courtroom scene in the episode that he is able to recite 40,000 decimal places of the number pi.[3] He correctly notes that the 40,000th digit is the number one.[3] The episode's writers prepared for this scene by asking David H. Bailey of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (now at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) for the number of the 40,000th decimal place of pi. Bailey sent them back a printout of the first 40,000 digits.[3][4] The Troy McClure movie title P is for Psycho is Mike Reiss' favorite joke he ever wrote for The Simpsons.[5]

"Marge in Chains" originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 6, 1993.[6] The episode was selected for release in a 1997 video collection of selected episodes titled: The Simpsons: Crime and Punishment.[7] Other episodes included in the set were "Homer the Vigilante", "Bart the Fink", and "You Only Move Twice".[7] It was included again in the 2005 DVD release of the Crime and Punishment set.[8] "Marge in Chains" is also featured on The Simpsons' season 4 DVD set, The Simpsons – The Complete Fourth Season, which was released on June 15, 2004.[9]

Cultural references[edit]

David Crosby portrays himself in a cameo appearance in the episode as the 12-step sponsor for Lionel Hutz.[6] The classic Crosby, Stills, and Nash song "Teach Your Children" is referenced when Crosby tells Hutz on the phone, "and know that I love you." During Marge's trial for shoplifting, prosecutors show the Zapruder film and assert that Marge was present on the grassy knoll when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.[10] The scene where Maude Flanders peers through a hole in a wall at Marge is a reference to the 1960 film Psycho.[2] In Lionel Hutz's dream of what the world would be like without lawyers, the writers had wanted to use the song "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing", which was used in Coca-Cola advertisements, but they could not get the rights to it. Instead, they used a similar instrumental theme.[2] The episode's title is a reference to the Seattle grunge band Alice in Chains, which at the time of this episode had aired received mainstream success and popularity. Homer also complains in the episode that "[he'll] miss Sheriff Lobo".

Coronavirus "prediction"[edit]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, media outlets reported that The Simpsons had "predicted" the outbreak with this episode.[11][12][13] Episode writer Bill Oakley alleged that Internet trolls were using the episode for "nefarious purposes", including creating memes replacing "Osaka flu" with "coronavirus."[14][15] Oakley stated his reference for the "Osaka" plot device was the 1968 flu pandemic which began in British Hong Kong, stating it was "just supposed to be a quick joke about how the flu got here."[14] When speaking on "predictions" from The Simpsons in general, Oakley continued "It's mainly just coincidence because the episodes are so old that history repeats itself."[14]

Comparisons to the episode experienced a resurgence in May 2020, following advisories by Washington state regarding Asian giant hornets in the region,[16] citing a scene where an angry crowd tips over a truck they believed contained a "placebo" for Osaka flu, and accidentally unleashing a swarm of killer bees from a crate in the process.[17][18] The third prediction of 2020 in this episode is when the crowd topples a statue. This happened frequently during protests in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd.

The fourth prediction of 2020 in this episode occurs when Mayor Quimby pretends to be in his office, while actually being in the Caribbean on vacation. This was reminiscent to many of Austin, Texas Mayor Steve Adler telling residents to stay home while at a timeshare in Cabo San Lucas,[19] as well as Ted Cruz abandoning his constituents during one of the worst winter storms in Texas' history to flee to Cancún.[20]


In its original broadcast, "Marge in Chains" finished 31st in ratings for the week of May 3–9, 1993, with a Nielsen rating of 11.1, equivalent to approximately 10.3 million viewing households. It was the second highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following Beverly Hills, 90210.[21]

In a review of the episode in The Observer, Caroline Boucher wrote: "My domestic Simpsons correspondent, Simon, reports a particularly fine episode, Marge in Chains to the extent that he watched the tape twice."[22] Karl French of Financial Times characterized the plot of the episode as a "modern version" of It's a Wonderful Life.[23] Dusty Lane of The News Tribune cited a quote from Lionel Hutz in the episode among his list of "Eight Great 'Simpsons' Quotes" – "Well, he's kind of had it in for me since I kinda ran over his dog. Well, replace the word 'kinda' with the word 'repeatedly,' and the word 'dog' with 'son'."[24]

Jessica Mellor of The Daily Mirror highlighted the episode in a review of The Simpsons season four DVD release, along with "Kamp Krusty", "New Kid on the Block", and "I Love Lisa", commenting: "Springfield's finest prove once again why they are the cleverest thing on telly."[25] In a section on the episode in their book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood wrote: "We like Bart's plan to rescue Marge from prison by becoming the glamorous Bartina, and Lionel Hutz is supremely inept".[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oakley, Bill. (2004). DVD Commentary for "Marge in Chains", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  2. ^ a b c d Jean, Al. (2004). DVD Commentary for "Marge in Chains", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  3. ^ a b c Wolff, Josephine (March 14, 2008). "Have your pi and eat it too". The Daily Princetonian. Daily Princetonian Publishing Company, Inc. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  4. ^ Reiss, Mike; Klickstein, Mathew (2018). Springfield confidential: jokes, secrets, and outright lies from a lifetime writing for the Simpsons. New York City: Dey Street Books. p. 76. ISBN 978-0062748034.
  5. ^ Reiss, Mike; Klickstein, Mathew (2018). Springfield confidential: jokes, secrets, and outright lies from a lifetime writing for the Simpsons. New York City: Dey Street Books. p. 82. ISBN 978-0062748034.
  6. ^ a b Deming, Mark. "The Simpsons: Marge in Chains". Allmovie. Macrovision Corporation. Archived from the original on 2006-04-26. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  7. ^ a b Mellor, Jessica (December 28, 1997). "It's a crime not to laugh! – Video View". News of the World. p. 54.
  8. ^ Agnew, Margaret (August 3, 2005). "DVD of the Week". The Christchurch Press. p. 1.
  9. ^ The Simpsons – The Complete Fourth Season (1992). The Simpsons. 20th Century Fox. June 15, 2004.
  10. ^ Staff (November 21, 2000). "A child for our season". The Sunday Herald. Archived from the original on February 24, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  11. ^ Chilton, Louis. "Coronavirus: The Simpsons (almost) predicted the outbreak in 1993". The Independent. Retrieved 2020-03-16.
  12. ^ Carras, Christi. "Did 'The Simpsons' predict the coronavirus outbreak?". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved 2020-03-10.
  13. ^ "Partly false claim: a 1993 Simpsons episode predicted the new coronavirus outbreak". Reuters. 14 March 2020. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  14. ^ a b c Parker, Ryan. "'Simpsons' Writer Calls Perversion of Classic Episode During Coronavirus Outbreak "Gross"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2020-03-16.
  15. ^ Carras, Christi. "This 'Simpsons' writer is fed up with 'nefarious' coronavirus conspiracy theories". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020-03-16.
  16. ^ Holpuch, Amanda (2020-05-02). "'Murder hornets' in Washington state threaten bees and whip up media swarm". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  17. ^ Burton, Bonnie. "How The Simpsons predicted 'murder hornets' and the coronavirus pandemic". CNET. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  18. ^ Frishberg, Hannah (2020-05-06). "'Simpsons' episode predicted coronavirus — and murder hornets". New York Post. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  19. ^ "'Stay home,' says US mayor at Mexico beach resort". BBC News. 2020-12-03. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  20. ^ Cite news|date=2021-02-19|title=Cruz calls Cancun, Mexico, trip 'a mistake' as Texans remain without power amid historic winter storm|language=en-GB|work=CNN|url=}}
  21. ^ Associated Press (May 13, 1993). "This week, it's ABC on top". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
  22. ^ Boucher, Caroline (August 2, 1998). "Television: Thursday 6 August". The Observer. Guardian Newspapers Limited. p. 56.
  23. ^ French, Karl (August 6, 1998). "Television & Radio: Television preview". Financial Times. p. 23.
  24. ^ Lane, Dusty (July 27, 2007). "Diehard fans won't be disappointed". The News Tribune. p. E1.
  25. ^ Mellor, Jessica (August 6, 2004). "The Mirror: DVD Reviews". The Daily Mirror.
  26. ^ Martyn, Warren; Adrian Wood (February 10, 2000). I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide. Virgin Books. ISBN 0-7535-0495-2.

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