TV Recap: “The Simpsons” Season 33, Episode 3 – “Treehouse of Horror XXXII” Parodies “Bambi,” More

Hello and welcome to Laughing Place’s regular recap of new episodes of The Simpsons on FOX. This week’s installment, entitled “Treehouse of Horror XXXII,” continues the long-running animated sitcom’s annual Halloween tradition.

Cold Open:

“Treehouse of Horror XXXII” begins in a very Disney-esque enchanted forest filled with pumpkins, where cute animals taunt and eat each other and a melodious voice sings a song about how “in Disney cartoons a parent dies” and “life will be full of pain.” From behind a tree comes Barty the deer– an obvious parody of Walt Disney’s animated classic Bambi– and his Milhouse-esque rabbit pal. Barty’s Marge-voiced mother deer enters and tells them a hunter has entered the forest. “What’s a hunter?” asks Milhouse just before his head and thumping leg explode from shotgun blasts. Marge tells Barty to run, and a Professor Frink owl gets shot out of a tree, even though “Owl season starts next week!” Barty and his mother run through the woods and Barty hides in a thicket, but his “Momma” is nowhere to be seen.

The hunter (AKA Mr. Burns) emerges from the forest and Barty starts to panic: “Where’s my Momma?” But Marge reveals she is fine and frolics back to her son. “Your father took care of the bad man.” We see a Homer deer and pull back to reveal that he has skewered Mr. Burns on his giant antlers. “Time for a little stag party!” he yells as he and a Lenny deer toss Burns back and forth, impaling his body with each throw. “Thank God you’re herbivores,” the still-living Burns says. “That’s right… and today your name is Herb.” Homer and Lenny then chow down on Burns’s corpse, and we pan up to Maggie as Tinker Bell, who uses her magic wand to make the “Treehouse of Horror” title appear in the famous Disney font.

Segment 1 – “Bong Joon-Hoo’s This Side of Parasite”:

In a flooded basement apartment straight out of the Oscar-winning 2019 South Korean film Parasite, Marge accuses Homer of being a bad provider. “I put a roof over your head,” he defends himself just before the ceiling collapses, complete with their upstairs neighbor Hans Moleman. Bart enters and says he got a job as a tutor in a rich home. “How deep is the water in their living room?” Homer asks, then does a spit-take using the floodwater after Bart gives his shocking answer: they don’t have any. We dissolve to a few days later, as Bart tutors a young girl with his questionable math skills, though he would prefer to watch Itchy & Scratchy’s characteristically bloody parody of Snowpiercer on this family’s big-screen TV. The girl’s father, Rainier Wolfcastle, fires his butler Kirk Van Houten, and Bart sees it as an opportunity to bring Homer into his cushy situation.

Marge is also hired as a maid as Lisa as the art teacher, though Homer swears to Wolfcastle that he’s never met any of them before. Rainier says he and his family are leaving on a long vacation, so he gives Homer the keys to the house, including access to “the beer garden, the saxophone room, and my armory of stinkbombs.” Lisa swears they can be trusted, “especially the new groundskeeper,” gesturing to Maggie driving a lawnmower on the lawn outside. One week later, the Simpsons have taken over the Wolfcastle home, making a mess of the place, eating all their food, and breaking “their complicated toilet.” At night during a thunderstorm, Kirk Van Houten returns to the house and moves the refrigerator out of the way to reveal a secret passageway into an underground chamber. The Simpsons follow him (though Homer gets winded going down the stairs) and find Luann and Milhouse living in squalor.

“That’s right: I hid my family in this cramped, windowless basement,” says Kirk. “This is nicer than our house,” replies Lisa. Luann calls the Simpsons parasites for taking the Van Houten’s jobs, and Kirk tries to explain the greater meaning of the word “parasite” in this context, until Luann knocks out Homer with a frying pan. At that point many of the other residents of Springfield emerge from the walls and vents and accuse both the Simpsons and Van Houtens of being parasites as well. Sideshow Mel explains that “people of all incomes” live in this basement and that “this house is an allegory… emphasis on ‘gory,’” just before Kirk stabs him in the chest. Chaos breaks out as all the freeloaders begin fighting each other, but Lisa prods them to work together to “change everything for the better.” “That sounds great!” says Moe. “Uh… unless it’s socialism.” “Well, certain aspects are similar to–” “Kill her!”

The in-fighting spreads throughout the house, and we pan up to Mr. Burns and Smithers in the top level looking down. “Seeing all that horror and poverty makes me think we should lower the corporate tax rate even further,” says Burns. A bullet ricochets off the window and Smithers collapses on the ground, stabbed in the back. A group of rioters overtake Burns, and the next day piles of dead bodies litter the house and yard. “Well Marge, I finally got you a house with no leaks,” says Homer as Maggie climbs over an indoor playground made of corpses.

Segment 2 – “Nightmare on Elm Tree”:

In what I initially thought would be yet another parody of the A Nightmare On Elm Street film series (“Treehouse of Horror VI” did this back in 1995), Bart is telling a scary story about a murdered squirrel to Lisa, Maggie, and Milhouse in his treehouse. Inside the house, Homer tries seducing Marge by telling her he did a chore today. They begin kissing in the bedroom, but Lisa and Maggie interrupt them, scared from Bart’s story. As they hide under the covers, Homer complains, “Lousy treehouse. Every year, three scary stories– two of them good and a lame one in the middle. I’ll put an end to that!” He goes outside to chop down the titular treehouse, only to get immediately sleepy after two swings and pass out. Then lightning hits the tree and makes it come to life. Homer starts chopping again but is swatted away by one of the limbs.

The tree removes itself from the ground and stomps through the neighborhood, kicking away a dog that tries to pee on it. At a drive-through movie theater, the tree comes across a group of people laughing at Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy. “Laughing at a brain-damaged tree?” The tree starts picking up cars and hurling them at the movie screen. Next the tree visits a Christmas tree farm and exclaims, “This holiday is worse than Dutch Elm disease!” which offends a Dutch Elm standing nearby. The tree starts bringing all the Christmas trees to life, and they are joined by Ent-like creatures, plus “The Giving Tree” and the tree you can drive through from Northern California. Even famous basketball player Tree Rollins says he will “never forget my tree roots.” Kirk Van Houten picks an apple from a tree and then gets his arm ripped off in retaliation, following up on a threat from The Wizard of Oz.

The trees find Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, who claims to be a trans-plant: “I identify as a tree.” On a news broadcast, Kent Brockman complains of “Forest Grumps” just before getting impaled through the chest by a limb. The trees replace the Jebediah Springfield statue in Town Square with a tree evolution chart, and an angry mob of humans threatens them with chainsaws, torches, and pickaxes. “No tree is a match for a human with a wooden bat,” declares Homer. Even Groundskeeper Willie declares his revenge, but the trees just shake their canopies, releasing pollen into the air and causing everyone to break out in allergic reactions. Homer’s bat comes to life and attacks him, and the trees continue their murderous rampage. We zoom out to see Comic Book Guy watching the incident on TV: “Oh, the trees won? Another crass play for an environmental award.”

A tree breaks through the window of the Android’s Dungeon and tells Comic Book Guy he will “make a fine bean bag chair.” “That’s very difficult to dispute,” admits CBG. In the Town Square, the trees have erected a Christmas tree-shaped pile of dead human bodies and clasp hands in a circle around it as they sway to music. Homer lifts his head up to complain, “Halloween isn’t over and they’re already starting with Christmas.” Hit bat knocks him out again and we cut to black.

Poetic Interlude:

Vincent Price sits by Maggie’s crib in the Simpsons’ home, reading a book called The Telltale Bart. We cut to a stylistically-animated sequence of vignettes divided by month: “In January, Bart was awful. He put earthworms in his father’s waffle.” It goes on like that through all twelve months, ending with: “Worst of all, in cold December–” and Price gets cut off by Maggie strangling him with her toy telephone cord. She presses the letters “RIP” on the frog’s belly.

Segment 3 – “Dead Ringer”:

In a two-decades-late parody of the 2002 horror film The Ring (and the Japanese movie Ringu that inspired it), Lisa is eating lunch in the school playground when Sherri and Terri approach and tell her about a party they had that she wasn’t invited to. They say at the party they watched a TikTok that makes anyone die after seven days, and then they’re both immediately decapitated by Ralph Wiggum playing on the swings behind them. “I killed Jerry and Larry,” Ralph says. Lisa tells Bart and Milhouse about the TikTok, but Milhouse reveals he already watched it eight times at the party. He collapses over, having been stabbed in the back with eight knives. Bart says he hasn’t watched the TikTok yet, so Lisa says they should figure out what’s in the video and stop it. “We just have to find someone who isn’t afraid of death and likes to watch TV.” Cut to Grampa Simpson.

Abe says “I’m your man!” and agrees to watch the TikTok even though Bart tells him he’ll die in seven days. “That’s three more than the doctor gave me!” We watch the TikTok video through Grampa’s eyes, and it’s very similar to the video seen in the movie: a series of seemingly unrelated but eerie images, and Abe describes them to Lisa and Bart: “More maggots, more maggots… oh wait, that’s an ad for Chipotle.” The cell phone rings and a voice says, “Seven days,” though Grampa repeatedly can’t hear or understand it: “I don’t know who you are or what you want, but let me give you my credit card number.” Bart and Lisa go to Principal Skinner with their concerns about the TikTok, but he’s preoccupied with other problems like steroid allegations on the school’s kickball team. Groundskeeper WIllie enters and whispers to the Simpson children to follow him.

In his shed, Willie tells Lisa and Bart about a sad second-grade girl named “Mopey Mary,” who received a poop from the class rabbit for Valentine’s Day. Mary threw her down the old school well. “She was down there for seven days before anyone bothered to look.” We see a flashback of Willie covering the well with a lid and whistling as he walks away. Bart says they don’t have a school well, and Willie tells him he covered it “so no one would ever go near it again,” but the spirit of Mopey Mary haunts the video “shared by popular children.” At home, Lisa decides it’s up to her to save all the children, and Milhouse’s ghost appears to warn her to be careful. Lisa watches the TikTok on her iPad and receives a phone call on the house line. She calls the voice on the other end a “coward” and says she doesn’t want to wait seven days. “Come and get me now.”

Lisa gets put on hold until the voice comes back on the line and asks, “How’s Wednesday?” “Kill me now or kill me never,” replies a defiant Lisa. “Fine,” the voice replies, and on the television set Mopey Mary emerges from the well and crawls out of the screen. “Hello, Mary. I’m not scared,” says Lisa, though she freaks out when what she thought were Mary’s black boots are actually her feet. Mary spins her hair-covered head around and makes some freaky noises, but Lisa says she wants to give her something “that will change the way you look at the world.” She pulls out a Valentine’s Day card that reads “You’re Boo-tiful!” with a ghost on the cover. Mary takes the card and accepts Lisa’s friendship, though Lisa is again repulsed when she sees the dead girl’s bony face. At recess the next day, Lisa and Mary sit on a bench eating lunch together.

But when Lisa calls Mary her best friend, the dead girls says she’s already suffocated and that she needs some space. Lisa starts playing a song called “Well Bottom Blues” on her saxophone, which causes Mary to jump back down the well. The Disney-esque singing voice returns: “We’ll see you next Halloween, with tales of horror and pain. Treehouse XXXIII, take a trip down dismembering lane.” The aliens Kang and Kodos squirm their way through the schoolyard singing, “Where were Kang and Kodos this time? Crammed into the final frame.” The episode concludes with Maggie-as-Tinker-Bell conjuring up the end credits.

New episodes of The Simpsons air Sunday nights on FOX.