The Bob Next Door
"The Bob Next Door" is the twenty-second episode of The Simpsons' twenty-first season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 16, 2010. Bart becomes convinced that their new neighbor is Sideshow Bob in disguise, but after a trip to the Springfield Penitentiary they find a distressed Bob still incarcerated. Eventually Bart discovers that Bob has surgically swapped faces with their neighbor and still plans to kill him, although he is ultimately defeated.
The episode was written by John Frink and directed by Nancy Kruse. The episode guest stars Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob Terwilliger. The episode's plot is based on the film Face/Off. "The Bob Next Door" received positive reviews from critics; most agreed that it was a funny return for Sideshow Bob and an improvement over "Funeral for a Fiend" and "The Italian Bob".
A financial crisis in Springfield causes the sale of many houses and the release of all low-level criminals from Springfield Penitentiary, including a man named Walt Warren. Walt purchases a house next door to the Simpson family (where The Winfields and Ruth and Laura Powers used to live), and he immediately charms the neighborhood. However, Bart is convinced that Walt is Sideshow Bob in disguise, because they have the same voice. He tries several times to find proof, but fails. Marge convinces him otherwise by taking him to visit the penitentiary, where they see Bob locked in a padded cell, wearing a straitjacket and writing "Bart Simpson Will Die!" on the walls. A reassured Bart decides to go to a baseball game with Walt. However, Bart's initial instincts prove right when "Walt" removes his small shoes to show his long feet folded inside, revealing himself to be Sideshow Bob. Bob restrains Bart in the car and gags him with duct tape, planning to take him to Five Corners, a location where five states meet, to kill him.
Meanwhile, the real Walt Warren escapes prison while bearing Bob's hair and face and comes to the Simpsons' home. At first, everyone thinks Bob has escaped prison, but Walt's short feet (which was also used as a clue in "Krusty Gets Busted" to clear Krusty's name for robbing the Kwik-E-Mart) reveal his true identity. Walt explains that he and Bob were cellmates and, prior to Walt's release, Bob drugged him and performed a transplant to switch their faces. The transplant left Walt unable to talk properly, and his garbled speech led the guards to put him in the padded cell. He wrote his message on the wall as a warning, but it was misinterpreted as a threat. Walt and the Simpsons immediately go after Bob, knowing that Bart's life is in danger. Meanwhile, a waitress at a roadside diner becomes infatuated with Bob-as-Walt until Bob's new face peels off. Amidst a distraction outside the diner, Homer, Marge, and Lisa travel to Mexico in search of Bart while Walt gets away and continues to Five Corners to save Bart.
At Five Corners, Bob intends to kill Bart in such a way that the crime takes place in five separate states, thus making it impossible to prosecute. Bart stalls by repeatedly jumping into the same state as Bob until Walt arrives. Walt and Bob struggle over the gun, but just before Bob can fire on either Walt or Bart, Chief Wiggum and the Springfield Police Department arrive to arrest Bob, having been tipped off by Bart. Bob jumps into the other states in order to escape their jurisdiction, only to be promptly confronted by police from each state, and he is taken into custody by officers with a strong New Jersey accent. His house is bought by Ned Flanders' cousin Ted, and Homer groans at the realization that he now lives next door to two Flanders families. The Sideshow Bob leitmotif first introduced in the episode "Cape Feare" plays over the credits.
The episode was written by John Frink, his second writing of the season after "Stealing First Base". It is also his third Sideshow Bob writing credit after "The Great Louse Detective" and "The Italian Bob". The episode was directed by Nancy Kruse, her second director's credit for the season after "The Devil Wears Nada". It features the return of recurring guest voice Kelsey Grammer to voice recurring character Sideshow Bob, making it his 12th vocal appearance. The episode was originally slated to air on January 14, 2010, along with "Once Upon a Time in Springfield" and The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special – In 3-D! On Ice!.
The plot of "The Bob Next Door" is based on the movie Face/Off. The opening couch gag also features Harold from the 1955 children's book Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bart tries to tempt Walt to sing "Three Little Maids from School Are We" from The Mikado; the same song was also used in an earlier episode, "Cape Feare", which also featured Sideshow Bob. Later in the show, when Sideshow Bob reveals his true identity, he exclaims he is now "able to sing all the Gilbert & Sullivan I damn well please", followed by him pulling a Japanese fan out of the glove box and singing the opening notes of "Behold The Lord High Executioner", another number from The Mikado, to Bart's horror. Marge and Homer tell Bart that a lot of people have voices like Sideshow Bob's, such as "Frasier on Cheers, Frasier on Frasier or Lt. Cmdr. Tom Dodge in Down Periscope." Both of these characters were played by Sideshow Bob's voice, Kelsey Grammer. When Sideshow Bob steps on the rake it is a call back to the famous scene from "Cape Feare" in which he steps on multiple rakes.
In its original American broadcast on the Fox network on May 16, 2010, "The Bob Next Door" was viewed by an estimated 6.258 million households and got a 2.9 rating/9% share in the 18–49 demographic, rising 9% from "Moe Letter Blues". It came second in its time slot after the season finale of Survivor: Heroes v. Villains and became the second highest-rated show in Fox's "Animation Domination" programming block after a new episode of Family Guy, according to the Nielsen Media Research.
The episode received positive reviews. Robert Canning of IGN gave it an 8.5 rating, stating that it was "Great" and "Overall, this was a great return to form for an appearance from Sideshow Bob. The vengeful character has been let down by recent episodes, but 'The Bob Next Door' has reminded us what makes Bob so much fun." Canning later named "The Bob Next Door" the best episode of the season tied with "The Squirt and the Whale". TV Fanatic gave the episode four out of five and stated that they enjoyed the plot twists but thought the jokes were unfunny, remarking that "the episode just didn't have the same humor as say, 'Cape Feare'."
John Teti of The A.V. Club gave the episode a B+, which tied it for the best grade of "Animation Domination" after American Dad!. He stated that "The showdown at Five Corners played out just like 'Cape Feare,' complete with rake gag, which is not a bad thing. If The Simpsons intends to self-plagiarize (and it obviously does), that's a good episode to copy." Sharon Knolle of AOL TV said, "I'd say overall this ep ranks with some of the better Sideshow Bob eps, if not the very best. Certainly, it beats the heck out of 'The Italian Bob' and 'Funeral for a Fiend.'"
- Goldman, Eric (September 25, 2009). "The Simpsons Say Hello to Season 21". IGN. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
- Knolle, Sharon (May 17, 2010). "'The Simpsons' - 'The Bob Next Door' Recap". AOL TV. Archived from the original on June 3, 2012. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
- Canning, Robert (May 17, 2010). "The Simpsons: "The Bob Next Door" Review". IGN. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
- Gorman, Bill. "TV Ratings: Survivor Finale Tops ABC's Finale Sunday, Celebrity Apprentice Ties Series Low". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
- Canning, Robert (June 1, 2010). "The Simpsons: Season 21 Review". IGN. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
- Hochberger, Eric. "The Simpsons Review: "The Bob Next Door"". TV Fanatic.
- Teti, John (May 17, 2010). ""The Bob Next Door"/"Cleveland's Angels"/"The Splendid Source"/"Great Space Roaster"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
- "The Bob Next Door" at TheSimpsons.com
- "The Bob Next Door" at The Simpsons Archive
- "The Bob Next Door" at TV.com
- "The Bob Next Door" at the Internet Movie Database