TV Recap: “The Simpsons” Season 32, Episode 4 – “Treehouse of Horror XXXI”

Hello and welcome to Laughing Place’s regular recap of new episodes of The Simpsons on FOX. This week’s episode, delayed from October 18 due to the Major League Baseball playoffs, is the 31st installment of the show’s annual Halloween special, entitled “Treehouse of Horror XXXI.”

The episode cold-opens on election day, with Chief Wiggum (voiced by Hank Azaria) policing the local polling place. “I’m going to need to see three forms of ID. Twelve if you’re a democrat.” Of course, Homer (Dan Castellaneta) has forgotten about the election and Marge (Julie Kavner) is upset so she orders him to show up. “I know who I want for all the judges and propositions, but president… that’s a stumper.” Lisa (Yeardley Smith) enters and reminds him of all the things that have happened over the past four years, which scroll by quickly in front of him. He votes and then comments, “Who you gonna make fun of now, late night comics?” Homer then wakes up from a dream, not actually having voted. “How bad could it be?” We zoom out to reveal Springfield has become a flaming post-apocalyptic wasteland with Robocop-like robots patrolling the streets. Hans Moleman (also Castellaneta) runs by yelling, “That’s what I get for voting for Kanye!”

The first proper segment is 3D animated and called “Toy Gory,” and is a direct parody of Pixar’s Toy Story. Bart (Nancy Cartwright melts down his Green Army Men and destroys his other toys in various violent ways to a Randy Newman-esque song called “You Are a Rotten Kid.” Then Marge gifts Bart with a new Radioactive Man action figure, and when he leaves the room the action figure comes to life and interacts with the Krusty the Clown (Castellaneta) doll and other toys in the room, like a headless Malibu Stacey. Later, Bart puts Radioactive Man in the microwave, then gets distracted by Homer. Radioactive Man explodes all over Marge, who declares, “It’s wine time.” The toys in Bart’s room decide to fight back, including a gift that was never unwrapped.

At night, the toys drag Bart out of the house on a skateboard and bring him up to the treehouse, where the Luxo Jr. lamp wakes him up. Krusty and the other toys start beating up Bart, and Malibu Stacey stabs him in the head with an exacto knife. Lisa finds Bart’s body in the backyard, and discovers he has been turned into a life-size pull-string toy. At Dr. Hibbert’s office, the family grieves for the son after seeing his X-ray results. Another Randy Newman parody song called “This is the End of Bart” plays over a series of still images detailing Bart’s gory fate. Then a title card flashes on the screen declaring, “Our Message? Don’t buy toys.”

The second segment is “Into the Homer-Verse,” a parody of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in which Homer is revealed to have eaten all the Hallween candy before the big day. In the vending machine at work, he can only find Advil, and imagines that handing the pills out to kids will only result in his house being burned down. He wanders around the nuclear power plant looking for candy, and assaults a mysterious machine that explodes and summons the Yogi Bear-like Homer Barbera, Disney Princess Homer, Noir Homer, and other different pop-culture variations on Homer Simpson. A Kent Brockman (Harry Shearer) news broadcast recaps the chaos caused by so many versions of Homer running amok. At home, Marge says they need to lure the Homers back to the house, so she opens a Duff.

Lisa wonders if this phenomenon was related to the recent quantum flash of energy, then Disney Princess Homer sings an “I Want” song with her explaining the situation. Noir Homer kills Ned Flanders (Shearer again), and Anime Homer attacks bacon in a very stylized manner. Homer begins changing into other variations on himself, and Lisa says they need to get all the Homers back to the power plant in order to end the crisis, or Homer will die over and over again. The segment ends with an epic showdown between characters from the Homer-verse, Burns-verse, and the Smithers-verse (the latter two also voiced by Shearer). At home, Marge says, “Finally, I’m with the only Homer I ever wanted.” Then we pull out to reveal she’s cuddling with Noir Homer, who suddenly channel-changes into Snagglepuss Homer and exits, stage right.

The final segment is titled “Be Nine, Rewind” (a parody of Happy Death Day with a bit of Palm Springs mixed in for good measure) and opens with Lisa awaiting her ninth birthday. She gets called down to the kitchen by Marge to cut her cake, and finds a card from Bart on the floor that reads, “This is the same card I gave you when you were 6” when she turns it upside-down. Downstairs, Lisa is depressed by her birthday party and she declares, “Somebody kill me now.” Just then, a car driven by Gil (Castellaneta) drives through the front of the house and kills her. She then wakes up again at the same starting point and realizes she can change events, but ends up getting crushed by Bart’s falling treehouse, then the collapsing roof of the Simpsons house, then her own mirror.

Nelson Muntz (Cartwright) reveals he is also living in a time-loop and teams up with Lisa to try and escape, but not before tricking Ralph Wiggum (Cartwright yet again) into getting hit by Gil’s car. Another montage kills the two kids over and over again in various ways. “There’s one man in town who can help us with time and eternity,” says Lisa. She and Nelson ride their bikes past the church and visit Comic Book Guy (Azaria), who complains that time-loops are the most overused trope possible in fiction. He then explains how time-loops are broken in various media. He suggests that Lisa and Nelson use their own unique skills to help each other, but Nelson’s alternate idea is simply to kill Gil by throwing a cement block through his car windshield. This breaks the loop, and Lisa returns home to finally celebrate her birthday, only to discover that Ralph Wiggum’s head is on backwards. “Now I can see the food go in and come out!”

Next week: “The 7 Beer Itch”