The Telltale Head

The Telltale Head
                    Written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Sam Simon and Matt Groening
                                                         Directed by Rich Moore

TV Guide synopsis

Bart pulls a stunt that shocks the entire town, including the
questionable new friends he was trying to impress.

Title sequence


    {I did not see Elvis.}
    {I did |} at cutoff.


    Homer yells ``Augh!'' when the car closes in on him.


    Bart pops upwards out of frame, and doesn't come down.
    During the shot of the TV set, Bart falls past.  (*thud*)

Didja notice...

    ... this episode explicitly showed the title on screen?
    ... Homer has an eight-track player in his car?  And it said `Hi-fi'
        on it, at that?
    ... the football announcer says, ``And Wolodarsky takes it at the five...
        Whoa!  He fumbles!''  Wallace Wolodarsky is a member of the
        writing team.
    ... Jimbo, Kerny and Dolph were reclining in front of a ``Keep off the
        grass'' sign?

Gabor Kiss:

    ... while there are very few peoples in the movie theater
        there is a loooong queue for tickets at the desk?=


Yours Truly {rjc}:  Another strong showing.

Movie (and other) References

    * The Tell-Tale Heart (Poe)
        - Bart, overcome with guilt, hears the head talking.
    * The Whole Earth Catalog
        - The Bowl Earth Catalog
    . Your favorite ninja movie
        - Bart's nighttime undertaking

Freeze Frame Fun

The angry mob

    * Burns and Smithers
    * Krusty
    * Principal Skinner
    * Ms. Krabappel
    * Grampa Simpson
    * Otto
    * Dr. Marvin Monroe
    * Moe
    * Rev. Lovejoy
    * Barney
    * Placard:  [picture of head]  HAVE YOU SEEN ME?

Sunday best

    * Marge:  Green dress, white pearls, white gloves, triangle earrings,
              lipstick, hat.
    * Homer:  Brown tie, white shirt, navy jacket, and matching slacks.
    * Maggie: Blue hat, and her baggie.
    * Lisa:   Pink outfit with matching hat.
    * Bart:   Brown tie, white shirt, blue jacket, and matching shorts [NB].

The congregation

    * Jasper
    * Ms. Krabappel

Sunday School

    * Janey
    * Milhouse
    * Bart
    * Lisa
    * Nelson
    * Lewis

Church activities

    * Monte Carlo Night - WEDNESDAY
    * Reno Retreat - SATURDAY
    | [Note that the sermon was on the evils of gambling.]

Movie theater

    * Space Mutants 4 -- The Trilogy Continues!

Kwik-E-Mart shoplifting items

    * Playdude magazine (an alcohol ad on the back cover)
    * Assorted candy bars

Downtown Springfield

    * Candy Most Dandy

Comments and other observations

Bart's blackboard punishment

Many note that the unfinished `N' in Bart's cutoff could be interpreted
as an exclamation point, leaving, ``I did!''

But if you look reeeeeeal carefully, the penultimate sentence in the
first column reads...

        I did see Elvis.

You hafta freeze-frame it.  It flashes by real fast.

Animation bizarrity

Note Bart's contorted face when he says `ro' in `robot'.
This is actually a regular feature of Bart's animation.
Look for it as a mark of quality.

Other stuff

For those who didn't know, SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics.

Quotes and scene summary


 At night, Bart and Homer walk down the streets of downtown Springfield.
 Bart carries the head of a statue.  Homer reassures Bart, ``You know, Bart,
 when I was your age, I pulled a few boners.  But I think you'll find that
 people are pretty decent if you give them half a---''  They turn the
 corner and find an angry, torch-wielding mob.   Running out of places
 to run, Homer and Bart run onto the town square, which sports a headless
 statue.  Each tells the other to go, but both refuse to leave the other
 to die.  ``We'll die together, like a father and son should.''

 The mob closes in, and Bart climbs to the top of the statue.
   Bart:   Murderous mob, I beg you to spare our lives, at least until you've
           heard the story of how we ended up with the head of our belov\'ed
           town founder.
   Barney: How long will this story take?
   Bart:   Uh... About twenty-three minutes and five seconds.
   -- Does that include commercials?  ``The Telltale Head''
 They agree. It all started Sunday morning.  Marge calls the kids downstairs.
 The three kids come down, all dressed adorably.  (Bart uses the banister
 express.)  Marge gives them a quick inspection.
   Marge: Bart, assume the position.
   Bart:  [turns and leans against the wall, legs spread]
   Marge: [frisks Bart]
   -- Leaving for church, ``The Telltale Head''
 Marge finds a slingshot and a Radioactive Man comic.  Meanwhile, Homer
 hops nervously on the couch, watching football.  His team fumbles,
 and the opponents recover it for a touchdown.  Marge is upset that Homer
 wagered $50 on the game, but Homer insists it's not gambling.  The
 win is guaranteed.  (His team fumbles again, recovered for a touchdown.)

 In the car, Marge politely complains/scolds that she always has to drag
 everyone to church.  Homer tunes the football game on the car radio.
 When his team scores, he honks the horn and flashes his headlights.
 In the back seat, Bart also grins widely, listening to his Walkman.
   Announcer: This could be the most remarkable comeback since Lazarus rose
              from the dead!
   Homer:     Laza-who?
   -- Driving to church, ``The Telltale Head''
 They arrive at the First Church of Springfield.  Bart dances silently
 to the music.
   Marge: [confiscates Bart's personal stereo]
          Were you going to listen to rock music in Sunday School?
   Bart:  Maybe.
   Marge: Can you believe this, Homer? ... Homer?  Homer?
   Homer: [in the car, bashes his head on the steering wheel in frustration]
   Marge: [goes to the car]  Homer, were you planning on sitting in the
          car until the [football] game is over?
   Homer: Maybe.
   -- Great minds think alike, ``The Telltale Head''
 Marge tosses the radio into the car, and Homer pockets it.

 In Sunday School, Miss Allbright tries to explain to the kids that
 animals don't go to heaven.  Heaven is for people.
   Milhouse:  Will there be cavemen in heaven?
   Sunday School Teacher:  Certainly not!
   Bart: Uh, ma'am?  What if you're a really good person, but
         you get into a really, really bad fight and your leg gets
         gangrene and it has to be amputated.  Will it be waiting for
         you in heaven?
   Sunday School Teacher: For the last time, Bart, yes!
   -- Playing by the rules, ``The Telltale Head''
 Meanwhile, Reverend Lovejoy gives his sermon, titled, ``Gambling:  The
 Eighth Deadly Sin.''  Slowly push in on Homer in the congregation, wearing
 Bart's headphones and listening to the football game.  The audio changes
 to the play-by-play.  Reverend Lovejoy's arm motions serve to illustrate
 the football action.  Homer's team sets up for a game-winning field goal.
 Homer and the congregation pray.  The kick is good, and Homer stands up,
 yelling, ``It's good!  It's good!''  All eyes turn to him.  ``It's good...
 to see you all in church.''

 Meanwhile, Miss Allbright is completely exasperated.
   Sunday School Teacher:  [very tired]  The ventriloquist goes to heaven,
         but the dummy doesn't.
   Bart: [raises his hand]  Ooh-ooh-ooh!  Me!
   Sunday School Teacher:  Bart?
   Bart: What about a robot with a human brain?
   Sunday School Teacher:
         [at the breaking point] I don't know!  All these questions!
         Is a little blind faith too much to ask!?!
   -- ``The Telltale Head''
 The service has ended.  In the car, Marge scolds Homer, then...
   Marge: Lisa, Bart, what did you two learn in Sunday School today?
   Lisa:  The answers to deep theological questions.
   Bart:  Yeah, among other things, apes can't get into heaven.
   Homer: What?  Those cute little monkeys?  That's terrible.
          Who told you that?
   Bart:  Our teacher.
   Homer: I can understand how they wouldn't let in those wild jungle apes, but
          what about those really smart ones who live among us?
          Who roller-skate and smoke cigars?
   -- And work in nuclear power plants, ``The Telltale Head''
 The car stops for a traffic light in front of a movie theater.
   Bart:  Cool, man, Space Mutants 4.  Let me off!  Let me off!
   Marge: No way, Jose.
   Homer: Marge, they're only space mutants.
   Marge: Uh uh.  I know what those movies are like.
          Killing innocent people, eating human flesh.
          You'll just get a lot of bad ideas.
   -- ``The Telltale Head''
 At home, Bart approaches Homer, who is resting on the couch.  Bart asks
 for $5, and Homer winkingly hopes Bart doesn't spend it on a certain
 movie.  (``Perish the thought!'')  Bart goes upstairs, undresses in the
 hallway, enter his room
 naked, puts on his shirt and shorts, grabs his skateboard, and swings
 out the window, without once breaking stride.

 Bart skateboards cheerily to the theater, where he is greeted by Jimbo
 and Kerny, the worst kids in town.  Momentarily distracted, Bart
 crashes into a lamppost.  ``Didn't hurt.''  Dolph pops his head out
 the side door of the theater.  ``The coast is clear.''
   Bart:  You guys are sneaking in?
   Kerny: Yeah, only saps pay to see movies.
   Jimbo: Hey, Bart, come on!
   Bart:  But sneaking into movies is practically stealing, man.
   Kerny: Practically?
   Jimbo: It <is> stealing.
   Bart:  Well, okay.  I just wanted to make sure we aren't deluding ourselves.
   -- An irrefutable argument, ``The Telltale Head''
 [End of Act One.  Time: 8:04]

 The movie plays to a nearly empty theater.  The Space Mutant makes its
 surprise appearance.  At the same time, the usher grabs our
 quartet and tosses them out.  Says Dolph, ``We'll take our
 business elsewhere.''

 The quartet go into the Kwik-E-Mart, where Bart buys some Squishees with
 the $5 Homer gave him.  While Apu fills the order, the others shoplift
 like mad.  Bart pays for the drinks, and finds that the guys have left.
 He finds them in the parking lot, enjoying their booty.  They thank him
 for covering for them while they used the ``five finger discount''.

 They go into the town square, where Dolph, Kerny, and Jimbo throw rocks
 at the statue of Jebediah Springfield, town founder.  Jimbo hands Bart
 a rock, and he throws it.  A local shopkeeper chases them away.

 The gang lie on their backs, admiring the clouds.  Various shapes seen
 include a cherry bomb, a guy with a switchblade stuck in his back,
 a schoolbus going over a cliff with kids screaming, and a headless
 statue of Jebediah Springfield.  Jimbo, Kerny, and Dolph think it'd
 be cool if someone cut his head off.  When Bart leaps to Jebediah's
 defense, the other razz him.  ``Man, I thought you were cool.''  Bart
 trudges off.

 Bart pays another visit to the statue, and gets an idea.

 Back at home...
   Homer: [reading The Bowl Earth Catalog]
          Wow, look at these bowling balls, Maggie!
          Can you think of a better way for Daddy to spend his
          hard-won fifty bucks?
          [turns the page]
          Gasp!  Now I've seen everything.
          Black, marbleized with a liquid center.  The Stealth Bowler.
          The pins don't know what hit 'em.
   -- ``The Telltale Head''
 Bart comes home.
   Bart:  I was wondering.  How important is it to be popular?
   Homer: I'm glad you asked, son.  Being popular is the most important thing
          in the world!
   Bart:  Like, sometimes, you could do stuff that you think is pretty bad,
          so other kids will like you better?
   Homer: You're not talking about killing anyone, are you?
   Bart:  No.
   Homer: Are you!
   Bart:  No!
   Homer: Then run along, you little scamp!  [musses Bart's hair]
          A boy without mischief is like a bowling ball without a liquid center.
   -- ``The Telltale Head''
   A boy without mischief is like a bowling ball without a liquid center.
   -- Homer, ``The Telltale Head''
 At 3am, Bart, clad in black ninja garb, sneaks out of his room.  He
 accidentally steps on the cat, but grabs it and covers its mouth before
 it can scream out.  He release the cat outside and climbs out the window.
 Bart reaches the town square and unsheathes...  A hacksaw!  He climbs
 the statue and saws off the head.  We pull back from the town square
 as the sawing continues.  (*clunk*)  ``What have I done?''

 [End of Act Two.  Time: 13:33]

 In bed, Bart wakes up and is startled by the head next to him.  Marge
 calls him down to breakfast, where Homer and Lisa enjoy their morning
   Homer: Ooh, look at this one!  The Hammer of Thor!
          It will sends your pins to... Valhalla?  Lisa?
   Lisa:  Valhalla is where Vikings go when they die.
   Homer: Ooh, that's some ball!
   -- Reading The Bowl Earth Catalog, ``The Telltale Head''
 Bart arrives, carrying a large knapsack containing something heavy and
   We interrupt Mambo in the Morning for this special new bulletin.
   -- Radio report, ``The Telltale Head''
 The radio reports the ``act of senseless vandalism'', and
 all are shocked.
   We have no witnesses, no suspects, no leads.
   If anyone has any information, please dial `O' and ask for the police.
   That number again:  `O'.
   -- Chief Wiggum's press conference, ``The Telltale Head''
 Even the reporter is unable to hold back his tears.
 Bart asks why everyone's so excited.  It's just a statue.
   Just a statue?  Is the Statue of Liberty just a statue?
   Is the Leaning Tower of Pizza [sic] just a statue?
   -- Homer, ``The Telltale Head''
 Bart hears the school bus and says, ``Come on, Lis.''  Lisa sadly
 leave for school.

 In the tavern, Moe tries to get everyone to cheer up.  Barney asks
 for a beer, ``And make sure there's a head on it.''  Moe thinks this
 is funny.  No one else does.

 At the Springfield Retirement Home, Grampa Simpson joins the outrage.

 Bart pays a visit to Jimbo, Kerny and Dolph, who say they wish they could
 see the guy who cut off the head.  Bart unzips his knapsack.  Kerny
 continues, ``We'd break every bone in his stupid little body!''  Bart
 quickly zips the knapsack shut.  Bart reminds them of their wish from the
 previous day, but Kerny explains, ``That was just cloud talk.''
 Jimbo asks what's in the bag.  Bart hears a voice.  ``It's the head
 of Jebediah Springfield...'' Bart dashes off, past a crowd which has
 formed around the now headless statue.  Bart tries to convince himself
 that the voice is just his imagination.  In the crowd is Monty Burns,
 who breaks down in tears.  Smithers, as always, is by his side.  He holds
 a hanky to Burns' nose.  ``Blow, sir.''  (*honk*)

 Bart returns home, and Lisa invites him to watch Krusty the Clown.
   There is someone out there in Krusty-Land who has committed an atrocity!
   If you know who cut off Jebediah's head, I don't care if it's your brother,
   your sister, your daddy, or your mommy, turn him in!
   [brightly]  Krusty will send you a free slide whistle,
   just like Sideshow Bob's!
   -- Communists need not apply, ``The Telltale Head''
 Bart digs a hole in the backyard and carries on a conversation with the
 head.  The head suggests that a hero can be a young boy who admits his
 mistake.  Bart tosses the head into the hole. ``Yeah, well, I'm a little
 short on courage right now.''  The head asks Bart to think about it.

 The rest of the family watch a documentary.
   [Caption:  SPRINGFIELD: A CITY HELD HOSTAGE.  DAY ONE  (dramatization)] \\
   Jebediah Obadiah Zachariah Jedediah Springfield, he was.                \\
   [A cheesy documentary.  Jebediah chops wood.]                           \\
   In 1838, along the way, he met a ferocious bear.                        \\
   [What is obviously a man in a bear costume appears.
    Jebediah discards his axe and wrestles the bear.
    The caption `dramatization' reappears.]                                \\
   And killed him with his bare hands.  That's B-A-R-E hands.              \\
   [Jebediah wins.]                                                        \\
   We've recently uncovered evidence that the bear, in fact, probably
   killed <him>.
   -- ``The Telltale Head''
 Bart appears, with the head.  Homer approaches Bart menacingly.  ``Why?
 You little...''  Bart explains, ``Somehow I got the idea that being
 popular was the most important thing in the world.'' Homer reacts.
 Marge asks, ``Where did you get a ridiculous idea like that!?''  Homer
 nervously asks Marge to take it easy on the boy.  Marge concludes that
 that Homer was more than a little responsible.  Homer leaves with Bart
 to return the ``head thing'' to the authorities.

 At night, Bart and Homer walk down the streets of downtown Springfield.
 Bart carries the head of a statue.  Homer reassures Bart, ``You know, Bart,
 when I was your age, I pulled a few boners.  But I think you'll find that
 people are pretty decent if you give them half a---''  They turn the
 corner and find an angry, torch-wielding mob.   Running out of places
 to run, Homer and Bart run onto the town square...

 Various mob voices exclaim, ``All right!''  ``We know this part!''

 Dissolve back to the present.  Bart concludes, ``If you still want to tear
 apart this young Sunday School student as he stands on the brink of
 salvation, I await your wrath.  But I'd like to add one thing.  It wasn't
 until after I'd removed the head that we realized we were taking our
 heritage for granted.  That's a crime, too.  One I think we are all guilty
 of.''  The crowd is won over.  Says Krusty, ``Somehow, I don't feel like
 killing any more.''  Neither does Ms. Krabappel.

 Homer tosses Bart the head, and with a quiet ``Forgive me, sir'', Bart
 replaces it.  The head replies, ``No problem, Bart.''  All are touched.
   Burns:    [overcome with emotion]  I love you, Smithers.
   Smithers: The feeling is more than mutual, sir.
   -- ``The Telltale Head''
 Church bells peal, and there was much rejoicing.

 [End of Act Three.  Time: 20:16]

Boring distribution restrictions

Episode summaries Copyright 1991--1992 by Raymond Chen.  Updated 2000
Andrew A. Gill.  Unattributed discrepancies between this and the previous
revisions are mine.  C'mon, everybody do the Bart Twitch.  Not to be
redistributed in a public forum without permission.  (The quotes
themselves, of course, remain the property of The Simpsons, and the
reproduced articles remain the property of the original authors.  I'm just
taking credit for the compilation.)

HTML conversion by
Howard Jones( on Sat 10 Sept 1994