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The Trouble with Trillions

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"The Trouble with Trillions"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no. 198
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham
Showrunner(s) Mike Scully
Production code 5F14
Original air date April 5, 1998
Chalkboard gag "I will not demand what I'm worth."
Couch gag The family is unable to sit in the living room, as a sauna has replaced the couch and has three men in it.[1]
Guest actors Paul Winfield as Lucius Sweet
Commentary Matt Groening
Mike Scully
George Meyer
Ian Maxtone-Graham
Swinton O. Scott III
Matt Selman

"The Trouble with Trillions" is the twentieth episode of the ninth season of the animated television series The Simpsons, which originally aired April 5, 1998.[2] It was written by Ian Maxtone-Graham and directed by Swinton O. Scott III.[2] The episode sees Homer being sent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to try to obtain a trillion dollar bill that Mr. Burns failed to deliver to Europe during the post-war era.


On January 1, right after New Year's Eve, Ned Flanders completes his yearly taxes.

Later that year, just before midnight on April 15, Homer realizes he did not file his tax return. He rushes and provides false information before driving to the post office. When the tax returns are sent to the IRS, Homer's oddly-packaged return fatefully bounces into the "Severe Audit" bin. The IRS discovers Homer's fraud and he is arrested. Held by the government, Homer says he will do anything to stay out of prison. Agent Johnson of the FBI decides that Homer can be useful. With a hidden microphone under his shirt, Homer uncovers that his coworker Charlie leads a group planning to assault all government officials, but is arrested by the FBI for conspiracy.

With his superiors impressed, Johnson sends Homer on a secret mission. They reveal that in 1945, President Harry S. Truman printed a one trillion-dollar bill (with his picture engraved on it) to help reconstruct post-war Europe. He handed the bill over to Montgomery Burns to transport to the Europeans, assuming that the richest man in America would be the best person to trust the bill with. However, the money never arrived and the FBI suspects Burns still has the money with him. As satellite photography can only confirm that the trillion-dollar bill is not on the roof of Burns' home, Homer is sent in to investigate. Arriving at the Burns estate, Homer searches for the money before Burns, who believes Homer is a reporter from Collier's magazine, reveals that he kept the money on his person. Johnson and Agent Miller burst in and arrest Burns for "grand-grand-grand-grand-larceny". Burns shouts how the US government oppresses the average American and tells Homer to write, "Don't let the government push you around!" in his article. Moved by Burns's speech, Homer knocks out the FBI agents and frees Burns. The two men hurry to obtain Smithers for help, who suggests they leave the country. Burns takes Smithers and Homer in his old plane, setting off to find an island and start a new country. Over the Caribbean, Burns finds a fine island, although it already has a name and is in fact the country, Cuba. Going before Fidel Castro (after learning, much to the surprise of both Burns and Simpson, that Batista is no longer leader of Cuba), Burns fails to buy the island when Fidel asks to see the trillion-dollar bill, and is handed the bill. When Burns asks for it back, Castro responds: "Give what back?" Then, the episode immediately cuts to a scene where Burns, Smithers, and Homer are on a makeshift raft. Burns announces he will merely bribe the jury when he, Smithers and Homer are put on trial, prompting Homer to exclaim "God bless America!" and salute.[2][3]


The episode was written by Ian Maxtone-Graham, though the original draft of the plot was much different. Originally, Homer was to learn that he was a Native American, and would try to exploit it to not have to pay taxes. The idea had been going well for a few days, but the staff did not actually know whether Native Americans had to pay taxes. When the writers found out that they did, the whole plot had to be discarded.[4] Executive producer Mike Scully's brother Brian pitched the idea of the trillion-dollar bill, which they accepted, as they were out of ideas.[5]

Cultural references[edit]

The title of this episode refers to the Star Trek episode "The Trouble With Tribbles". The scene where the FBI agent sits near Homer is a reference to the film JFK.[1] While Homer, Mr. Burns, and Smithers are in Cuba, a billboard can be seen with a picture of Che Guevara being used to advertise Duff Beer.[1] Contrary to a line in the episode, the Castro District is not named for Fidel Castro, but rather for José Castro.


In its original broadcast, "The Trouble with Trillions" finished 51st in ratings for the week of March 30 - April 5, 1998, with a Nielsen rating of 7.5, equivalent to approximately 7.4 million viewing households. It was the third highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following World's Wildest Police Videos and Melrose Place.[6]

Since airing, the episode has received mixed 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, did not enjoy the episode, calling it, "Rather dull and unfunny," and, "A mediocre episode at best that makes Burns out to be altruistic (which he's not) and very stupid in letting Castro have his money (which he so wouldn't)." [1] The Daily Telegraph characterized the episode as one of "The 10 Best Simpsons TV Episodes."[7] The article noted the episode contained "one of the few gags in comedy history about relying too heavily on surveillance photography in spying."[7]

Ian Jones and Steve Williams of Off the Telly criticized all of season 9 for lacking an episode that centered on Burns, as they consider Burns to be the crux of many good episodes, though they noted that "The Trouble with Trillions" came the closest, with Burns having a supporting role.[8] In a review of the ninth season of The Simpsons, Isaac Mitchell-Frey of the Herald Sun described the episode as "brilliant", and highlighted it along with episodes "Bart Carny" and "The Joy of Sect".[9]

In the United Kingdom, the episode was screened on BBC Two in January 1999, before any other episode from season six or later were seen by viewers, as part of a night of Cuba-themed programming.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "The Trouble with Trillions". BBC. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  2. ^ a b c Gimple, Scott (1999). The Simpsons Forever!: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family ...Continued. Harper Collins Publishers. p. 36. ISBN 0-06-098763-4. 
  3. ^ "The Trouble with Trillions" The Retrieved on November 3, 2007
  4. ^ Scully, Mike (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "The Trouble with Trillions" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  5. ^ Maxtone-Graham, Ian (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "The Trouble with Trillions" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  6. ^ Associated Press (April 9, 1998). "Ball bounces to CBS in ratings race". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E. 
  7. ^ a b Walton, James (July 21, 2007). "The 10 Best Simpsons TV Episodes (In Chronological Order)". The Daily Telegraph. pp. Page 3. 
  8. ^ Ian Jones, Steve Williams. "Now let us never speak of it again". Off The Telly. Archived from the original on October 9, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  9. ^ Mitchell-Frey, Isaac (February 11, 2007). "Comedy - The Simpsons, Series 9". Herald Sun. p. E12. 
  10. ^ Ian Jones, Steve Williams. "That is so 1991!". Off The Telly. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 

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