20 Moments from ‘Last Exit to Springfield’ That Prove It’s the Greatest ‘Simpsons’ Episode Ever
On March 11, 1993, The Simpsons unveiled one of the finest pieces of scripted comedy in television history: “Last Exit to Springfield.” Written by Jay Kogen and Wally Wolodarsky and directed by Mark Kirkland, the episode featured Homer Simpson as president of his union — the International Brotherhood of Pastry Chefs, Jazz Dancers and Nuclear Technicians — battling it out with Mr. Burns over a much-needed dental plan for the power plant’s rank-and-file.
Packed with crazy premises, jokes and parodies, the episode has topped many notable lists of the show’s best episodes (including those from the BBC, Entertainment Weekly and USA Today). In celebration of its 30th anniversary, here are 20 irrefutably great moments from “Last Exit to Springfield” that indeed prove it’s the greatest episode of The Simpsons ever…
‘Ice to See You’
“Last Exit to Springfield” opens with one of the more memorable McBain moments. Somehow, the action film star hides inside a small ice sculpture, surprising his nemesis Mendoza with the phrase, “Ice to see you!” (It’s so perfect that the catchphrase is sometimes misattributed to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze from the 1997 flop Batman & Robin.) McBain completely obliterates Mendoza’s entire party with over-the-top violence, only to be subdued with a salmon puff.
‘It Didn’t Used to Be This Way at All’
It’s always a treat to see a flashback to Young Mr. Burns, and here we get our first of the series — in 1909, he accompanies his grandfather to the family power plant, where underage workers smash atoms by hand (but of course). After he fires a young worker for trying to steal atoms, the squeaky-voiced teen laborer predicts the rise of unions — as well as their subsequent corruption and the shift to Japanese labor.
‘Why Must You Turn My Office into a House of Lies?’
Among the most amazing one-off characters in Simpsons history, the aggressive Dr. Wolfe was originally written for Clint Eastwood, who turned it down, as did Anthony Hopkins. Hollywood legend Anthony Perkins accepted the role, but sadly fell ill and died before he could record the part. Cast regular Hank Azaria filled in nicely, although it would’ve been amazing to hear Perkins call his patients liars and scare them into brushing by showing them imagery from the stomach-turning Big Book of British Smiles.
‘Where’s My Burrito?’
Homer flashes back to the power plant strike of 1988, where he passionately demands a burrito from a food truck until a piece of its roof falls on his head. He then starts talking about another scar on his head, hinting at the damage to his brain these accidents have caused.
‘Dental Plan!’ ‘Lisa Needs Braces!’
When the workers gladly accept a keg of beer at each meeting in exchange for giving up their dental plan, only Homer senses something amiss. That said, it takes 30 seconds of repeated dialogue looping in his head before he realizes that he will have to pay for Lisa’s braces if this happens. Mike Reiss, who was co-showrunner of The Simpsons when the episode premiered, told The Wrap in 2018, “It went on for a page and a half!” He and writing partner Al Jean entrusted Kogen with the bit, however, and it’s since become a legendary scene.
‘Mmmm… Organized Crime’
Homer has a fantasy about being a Godfather-type union boss and having “lifelong connections to the world of organized crime,” but instead of money, he’s rewarded with donuts. This is one of many excellent film parodies in the episode.
‘Negotiations Make Strange Bedfellows’
Mr. Burns tries to bribe Homer, but thanks to Kogen and Wolodarsky’s brilliant wordplay, Harry Shearer’s vocal performance as Mr. Burns and Kirkland’s flirtatious animation choices, Homer misinterprets it as Mr. Burns trying to seduce him, turning down his “backdoor shenanigans,” much to Mr. Burns’ chagrin.
‘Look, Fellas! It’s Lisa in the Sky!’
When Lisa is anesthetized for her dental procedure, she has a psychedelic dream, with visuals inspired by the Beatles’ feature film Yellow Submarine. The direction and attention to detail here is beyond reproach.
A quick but quotable bit where Mr. Burns’ sends in literal goons to force Homer back to the negotiating table. Better yet, Mr. Burns’ grandfather has the same hired goons in the aforementioned flashback. Perhaps they’re the grandfathers of these goons or time-travelers.
‘The BLURST of Times?’
While giving Homer a tour of his mansion, Mr. Burns shows him a room full of monkeys at typewriters being used to test the (real-life) “infinite monkey theorem.” Funnier still, Mr. Burns completely loses his mind at one monkey who’s typed, “It was the best of times / It was the blurst of times.”
‘Find the Bathroom All Right?’
As Mr. Burns attempts to iron out another deal, Homer is preoccupied with needing to relieve himself: “Why did I have all that beer and coffee and watermelon?” It takes layers of hilarious dialogue and audio and visual gags to finally get Homer to ask where the bathroom is. Of course, it’s as far away as possible (“23rd door on the left”), and the scene ends perfectly when Homer returns, with Mr. Burns asking if he found the bathroom all right, to which Homer responds, “Uhhhhhh… yeah.”
‘First Thing Tomorrow, I’m Going to Punch Lenny in the Back of the Head!’
Homer tells Marge how much his co-workers love him, but Marge points out how it sounds like they don’t like him at all. Homer gets upset after realizing his co-workers are making fun of him (watch Marge’s subtle response to this), and declares his revenge upon Lenny of all people, with a quick cutaway to said revenge:
‘All in Favor?’ ‘Aye!’ ‘All Opposed?’ ‘Nay’
This is a running Simpsons gag — where there’s always one naysayer (with a droopy voice) during vital union votes. In this particular case, when Homer asks who it is, the obviously guilty party points to a muscular man, cueing the union mob to beat him up.
‘So I Tied an Onion to My Belt, Which Was the Style at the Time’
Likely Grampa’s best rambling moment, Mr. Burns hires him and other strikebreakers (“the kind they had in the ‘30s”). Grampa tells him that they can’t “bust heads” like they used to, but they can “tell them stories that don’t go anywhere.” Some of this memorable rant was possibly improvised by Dan Castellaneta, as the original script only contains half of Grampa’s final dialogue.
‘Now Do ‘Classical Gas’’!
Lisa sings a (mostly) poignant union strike folk song to support the striking power plant workers. Written by Kogen and Wolodarsky with music by fellow scribe Jeff Martin, the tune was translated and used in real protests in Argentina in 2017. Lenny flippantly requests Lisa to play the Mason Williams’ instrumental “Classical Gas” after she finishes.
‘Crush, Kill, Destroy’
During the strike, Mr. Burns insists that he and Smithers can run the plant by themselves, segueing into a great montage (accompanied by an equally great instrumental by Simpsons music impresario Alf Clausen) of the pair carelessly operating major devices, creating a two-headed dog and being chased by giant robot workers.
‘I Brought My Own Mic’
Mr. Burns and Homer are guests on the talk show Smartline, along with Dr. Joyce Brothers, which may constitute the show’s biggest waste of a guest star (in a good way), limiting Brothers to one random line after she’s introduced (“I brought my own mic.”). The part was originally written for O.J. Simpson, but he declined — much to the writers’ subsequent relief following his murder trial. Brothers had more lines in an earlier version of the script, but they were subsequently cut.
‘From Hell’s Heart, I Stab at Thee’
Mr. Burns declares revenge on Springfield — “No one will be spared! No one!” — and he and Smithers retreat to what is seemingly a highly secure underground bunker. This is another montage with an excellent soundtrack from Clausen, building to the hilarious reveal that the bunker is actually a rickety back room with an open door to the street.
‘They Sing Without Flunjers, Capdabblers and Smendlers!’
After Mr. Burns shuts down Springfield’s power, the episode transitions into another brilliantly executed parody — this time lampooning the final moments of the beloved 1965 Christmas special How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.
‘Whoop Whoop Whoop Whoop Whoop Whoop!’
In the end, Homer gets everything he wants, as Mr. Burns declares that the power plant workers can have the dental plan as long as Homer resigns as union president, causing Homer to celebrate a la Curly Howard from the Three Stooges by chanting, “Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop!”
“I’m beginning to think Homer Simpson is not the brilliant tactician I thought he was,” Mr. Burns laments.