Lisa's Substitute

Lisa's Substitute                                          Written by Jon Vitti
                                                         Directed by Rich Moore
I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me.

Didja notice ...

   ... the `Give a hoot! Read a book!' Krusty poster in the classroom?
   ... a very sick Wendell during Bart's show-and-tell, and that his cheeks
       puffed out when Bart runs the tape backwards? [Mark Walsh]
   ... when the twins nominate Bart, he was about to shoot a triangular paper
       `football' across the room?
   ... the cracks in the wall of the Simpsons basement?  (And I have a
       sneaking suspicion that the look of the staircase contradicts
       `Itchy & Scratchy & Marge'.)
   ... when Lisa and Homer play with the static electricity exhibit, their
       hair stands on end when they touch it?
   ... Lisa's adorable bow in her hair when she rehearses asking
       Mr. Bergstrom to dinner?
   ... the family are eating the same purple goo (fish pork-a-roni a la
       Simpson) that Homer invented in `Bart & Dad Eat Dinner'? [David Tamkin]
       (We also see the purple goo in `Eating Dinner'.)
   ... Lisa's ergonomic chair is gone?
   ... Maggie finally made a sound different from sucking on her pacifier?
       []  (And notice that Yeardley provided the voice.)

Movie References

  ~ Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Dead Poets Society
        - A teacher inspires his students.
  ~ Teachers
        - A substitute teacher dresses as historical figures. {rc}
  + The Graduate
        - Dustin Hoffman's voice.
        - `Mrs. Krabappel, you're trying to seduce me.'
            - Camera angle through Mrs. K's legs just like in the movie.
  + The Thing (Howard Hawks, 1951 SF, James Arness)
        - `Keep watching the skies!' cf the conclusion of the movie. {gh, abw}
  ~ Little Big Man
        - Dustin Hoffman as a cowboy. {gh}
  + Chicago Tribune
        - Martin's photo in the paper holding another newspaper whose
          headline reads, ``Simpson Defeats Prince''.
          (cf. 1948 pres. election, `Dewey Defeats Truman'.)
  ~ A Streetcar Named Desire
        - Lisa yells `Mr. Bergstrom!' [cf `Stella!'] under his window. {pk}
    The Fugitive
        - Mr Bergstrom's parting speech. ``the life of a substitute teacher
          is a lonely one.'' {jdl}
  ~ The Graduate; Since You Went Away; lots of old movies
        - Chasing the train as it leaves.
        - The Graduate: cf. chasing the bus Mrs. R's daughter is on. {dg}
        - Since You Went Away: `Shot-for-shot mimic' claims {jf}
    Ronald Reagan
        - The Gipper once said, "They say there are no easy answers to the
          complex problems we face today.  But I say there *are* easy answers."
    Prince, yes, Martin Prince
        - {mc} claims this is a reference to something, though he
          can't quite place his finger on what it is.

Freeze Frame Fun

At the Springfield Museum... [courtesy of J. D. Baldwin]

    CHILDRARIUM         (where Lisa played with the static electricity gizmo)

    AGE OF HEROES       (where Homer and Mr. Bergstrom had their chat)
    sandwich shop

The tenant directory of ``The Happy Gypsy'' (where ``you pay by the day'')

[courtesy of Steve VanDevender]

    @ Hogan, P.
    @ Vitti, J.
    @ Bergstrom
    @ Kamerman

Animation details

Watch Lisa's mouth when she says the word `have' during her final scene
with Mr. Bergstrom.  She curls her lower lip into her mouth, and you can
see her teeth poking out from under her top lip.  This happens also when
Mr. Bergstrom says a word with the letter `v' in it, but it's more
noticeable with Lisa.

Who was Sam Etic?

From the 29 Apr 91 USA TODAY:

    If you saw Fox's `The Simpsons' Thursday, you may have noticed a new voice
    in the credits---Sam Enid [sic].  Enid's voice sure sounded familiar,
    almost like Dustin Hoffman.  And gee, there sure were a lot of references
    in `The Simpsons' to Hoffman's first hit, `The Graduate', thrown into a
    story about Lisa falling into love with her substitute teacher.  Shazam!
    It turns out Enid is none other than Hoffman, whose contract with `The
    Simpsons' stated that his real name could not be used on the credits or in

Was this a `feel good' episode?

Marc Colten (

* Lisa found a truly good and wise teacher---and he left.

* She called her father a baboon and Bart agreed ("... I never thought _she'd_
  be the one to say it").

* Homer then goes "3 for 3".  How?
  - He acts like a baboon in front of his daughter.  She loves him, but she'll
    never respect him.  His attitude was that "Yeah, I'm a baboon, learn to
    live with it."
  - He then went to Bart and convinced him to aim low and be a jerk the rest
    of his life.  What an accomplishment.
  - Then he gives his baby daughter her pacifier.  Wow, what a father!

I don't think there's much to "feel good" about this episode.  As Lisa
observed in another episode [Dead Putting Society], she'll be telling all this
to a psychiatrist some day.

Paul Kornreich (

One of the important themes of this show was to respect people as they are and
not try to mold them into the ideal images that we want them to be.  The main
example is of course Lisa's need for understanding throughout the episode.
However, just as important, except slightly more hidden, is the fact that she
must accept her parents and brother as they are. This is evidenced by the
following additional scenes.

* Lisa notices Bart's classmates cheering him and makes some remark that you'll
  never fail by appealing to the lowest common denominator.  Mr. Bergstrom
  then, as well as assuring Lisa that she will one day be successful warns her
  that she will miss her brother.

* In my favorite scene in the laundry room, Lisa gushes about her crush on Mr.
  Bergstrom. She then tries to tell Marge that her love for Mr. Bergstrom is
  "different" (=> more real) than Marge's love for Homer.  Marge finally snaps
  at Lisa and tells her that if she expects Marge to understand her crush, she
  is going to have to accept the fact that Marge loves Homer.

* [re Homer's visit to Bart]  Assuming that Bart, like MG, is not stupid, but
  instead has an artistic bent Homer correctly surmised that Bart would not be
  happy with the responsibilities that class presidency brings.  His campaign
  was somewhat of a joke anyway.

* [re Homer's visit to Maggie]  If babies don't see something right in front of
  them, they sometimes think the object is gone. Maggie finds the pacifier
  necessary as she goes through teething.  On top of all this the room was
  dark, and she was probably groping for it.  The simple act (to us) of this
  restoration was a great relief to Maggie.

  In short (cliche and pun aside), the little things DO mean a lot.

Animation and continuity goofs

When Lisa plays her sax, notice that the baseball diamond is pointing away

from the school building.  (A good idea.)  Unfortunately, there is no backstop
and there is a tree in left-center field.

When Homer is in Lisa's room trying to cheer her up, Lisa's vanity has a

mirror with three photos taped to it (an elf, etc).  In most of the scenes,
the photos eclipse Homer when he is seen in the mirror, but at one point,
Homer is eclipsing the photos, as if the photos are not on the mirror but
on the wall behind him.

Mary Claire Pugh ( and Merlyn LeRoy (
were the first to point this out.

The Springfield Museum of Natural History had burnt down in `Moaning

Lisa' [7[FG]06]. {cjb}

Quotes and scene summary

 At 9:15am, while Lisa reads a book, her classmates are throwing things
 around the classroom.
   1: Did you hear about Miss Hoover?
      She drank a bottle of drain cleaner by mistake.
   2: Oh, I heard she fell down a well.
      [Principal Skinner comes in with Miss Hoover, who is crying]
   Lisa:  My God, she's been dumped again...
   -- ``Lisa's Substitute''
   Miss Hoover: [shakily] Children, I won't be staying long.
                I just came from the doctor, and I have lyme disease.
                Principal Skinner will run the class until a substitute arrives.
   Ralph:       What's lyme disease?
   Pr. Skinner: I'll field that one.  [goes to blackboard]  Lyme disease
                is spread by small parasites called `ticks'.  [writes `TICKS'
                on blackboard]  When a diseased tick attaches itself to
                you, it begins sucking your blood...
   Miss Hoover: [not calmed] Oh...
   Pr. Skinner: Malignant spirochetes infect your bloodstream, eventually
                spreading to your spinal fluid and on into the brain.
   Miss Hoover: The brain!?  Oh, dear God...
   Class:       Wow!
   -- ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Until the substitute teacher arrives, Principal Skinner teaches the class.
      [a scream is heard from the room above]
   Skinner:  Bart Simpson!  I know it's you!
   -- Principal Skinner fills in for Miss Hoover, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 For Show-and-Tell, Bart shows a videotape, titled, `How kittens are born:
 The UGLY story'.
   Oh look, this is really cool.  When I hit reverse, I can make them go back in!
   -- Bart shows a videotape of kittens being born, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Back downstairs, Principal Skinner teaches the class about the schwa.
   Bergstrom: [enters the classroom, guns ablazin']
   Skinner:   Are you the substitute?
   Bergstrom: Yessir, yes I aim.
   Skinner:   Are you insane?
   -- Principal Skinner doesn't quite get Bergstrom's unorthodox teaching
      technique, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Mr. Bergstrom takes over and asks the class to find three things wrong
 with his costume.  Lisa raises her hand and lists them.  Her third point
 was that Mr. Bergstrom appears Jewish, but there were no Jewish cowboys.
 Mr. Bergstrom rewards her with his hat, though he intended the third
 point to be that he is wearing a digital watch.
   And, for the record, there were a few Jewish cowboys, ladies and gentlemen.
   Big guys who were great shots and spent money freely.
   -- Mr. Bergstrom's lesson on the American West, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Mr. Bergstrom introduces himself and suggests ways the class could make
 fun of his name.  Ms. Krabappel begins the process of electing a class
 president, and she endorses Martin, who gives his nomination speech.
   Martin: As your president, I would demand a science-fiction library,
           featuring an ABC of the over[something] genre.  Asimov,
           Bester, Clarke!
   Student: What abouy Ray Bradbury?
   Martin: [dismissing]  I'm aware of his work...
           [orating] Thank you, and... Keep watching the skies...
   -- Martin's campaign speech for class president, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 During the cookie break, Mr. Bergstrom sings `Home on the Range'
 (with editorial commentary) to the class, and the kids pass to Lisa a
 picture of `the singing dork'.  Mr. Bergstrom catches Lisa with it.  She
 insists she didn't draw it, though that doesn't seem to bother him.  The
 kids then pass to her a picture of `the singing dorkette'.

 Sherri and Terri nominate Bart to run against Martin, and Ms. Krabappel
 sends Bart out of the room.  Bart does the blowfish on the door window.
 Downstairs, Mr. Bergstrom finishes reading <Charlotte's Web> to the class.
 Later, he asks the students in turn to demonstrate their special talent.
 When it's Lisa's turn, he asks about her saxophone, but she refuses to
 play it.  After school, Lisa eavesdrops on a conversation and sees
 Mr. Bergstrom spurn Ms. Krabappel's advances.  Lisa sighs admiringly.
 Outside on the playground, Lisa plays her sax for Mr. Bergstrom,
 who watches from the classroom window.

 [End of Act One.  Time: 6:52]

 While helping Marge fold the laundry, Lisa gushes about her crush on
 Mr. Bergstrom and has trouble believing that Marge feels the same way
 about Homer.  Homer and Bart make fun of the fact that Mr. Bergstrom
 cried when he read the end of <Charlotte's Web>.

 At school, Lisa's class is dismissed for lunch, and Mr. Bergstrom calls
 Lisa aside.
   Mr. Bergstrom: Lisa, your homework is always so neat.
         How can I put this?  Does your father help you with it.
   Lisa: No.  Homework's not my father's specialty.
   -- ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Lisa is not very flattering in her description of Homer.  Meanwhile,
 the campaign for class president continues.
   Martin: [campaign speech]  In a sample taken in this very classroom,
           a state inspector found 1.74 parts per million of asbestos!
   Bart:   That's not enough!  We demand MORE asbestos!
           [leads the class in a chant of `MORE ASBESTOS']
   -- Martin and Bart run for class president, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 The campaign confrontation makes the front page of `The Daily Fourth Grader',
 headlined, ``Bart to Martin:  Eat my shorts!''
   Homer: Wow!  You made the front page!
   Bart:  Aw, Dad, it's just a popularity contest?
   Homer: JUST a popularity contest?
          Excuse me.  What's more important than popularity?
   -- Bart runs for class president, ``Lisa's Substitute''
   I always knew you had personality.
   The doctor said it was hyperactivity, but I knew better.
   -- Homer is pleased that Bart's running for class president,
      ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Homer inspires Bart to ``Go get 'im!''  The campaign continues...
   He says there aren't any easy answers.
   I say, he's not looking hard enough!
   -- Bart's campaign speech against Martin, ``Lisa's Substitute''
   Martin's Poster:  A Vote for Bart is a Vote for Anarchy!
     Bart's Poster:  A Vote for Bart is a Vote for Anarchy! [scrawled]
   -- The campaign for class president, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Homer helps Bart make a campaign poster:  ``Sex!  Now that I've got your
 attention, vote for Bart!''  And on the playground, Bart hold up one
 of Martin's campaign flyers and wipes the seat of his pants with it.
 Lisa and Mr. Bergstrom watch from the classroom window.
   You'll never go broke appealing to the lowest common denominator.
   -- Lisa comments on Bart's campaign antics, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Mr. Bergstrom tells Lisa that she'll miss her brother when she goes on to
 better things.  Lisa says she believes everything he says.

 The class write get-well letters to Miss Hoover, and when class is
 dismissed, Mr. Bergstrom mentions that the Springfield Museum of Natural
 History is closing due to lack of interest, and urges that they go see it
 while they can.  At home...
   Marge: Lisa needs to go to the museum tomorrow,
          and I think you should take her.
   Homer: Museum?  Tomorrow?  Oh, oh, Marge, I'd love to, but I was planning
          on... [thinks to himself] Sleeping?  Eating a big sandwich?  Watching
          TV?  Spending time with the boy! [speaks up]  Spending time with the
          boy!  The boy needs attention, Marge.
   Marge: Homer, I've been talking to Lisa, and I'm concerned about your
          relationship with her.
   Bart:  Me too, Mom.  I think you're drifting apart.
   Homer: Shut up, boy.
   Marge: Homer, please.
   Homer: Marge, you don't understand.  I can't do it because...
          [thinking to himself] You're trapped.  If you were smarter, you
          might think of something.  But you're not, so you just might as
          well... [speaks up]  All right, all right, I'll take her.
          [sotto voce]  Lousy brain.
   -- ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Homer takes Lisa to the museum and sees the sign,
 `Suggested donation: $4.50'.
   Homer: Eh, what do you mean by `suggested donation'?
   Clerk: Pay any amount you wish, sir.
   Homer: And uh, what if I wish to pay ... zero?
   Clerk: That is up to you.
   Homer: Ooh, so it's up to me, is it?
   Clerk: Yes.
   Homer: I see.  And you think that people are going to pay
          you $4.50 even though they don't have to?
          Just out of the goodness of their... [laughs]
          Well, anything you say!  Good luck, lady, you're gonna need it!
   -- Homer sees the sign `Suggested donation: $4.50' at the museum entrance,
      ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Mr. Bergstrom coincidentally arrives, and he joins Homer and Lisa.
 Mr. Bergstrom lectures on dinosaurs and mummification...
   Ooh, pretty creepy.  Still, I'd rather have him chasing me than the Wolf Man.
   -- Homer admires the mummy at the museum, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 While Homer admires, Lisa leaves with Mr. Bergstrom.

 At the museum snack bar, while Lisa entertains herself with a static
 electricity demonstration, Mr. Bergstrom tells Homer that Lisa needs
 a strong male role model.
   She looks around and sees everybody else's dad with a good education,
   youthful looks, and a clean credit record, and thinks, ``Why me?  What
   did I do to deserve this fat old piece of...'' [cries]
   -- Homer talks to Mr. Bergstrom on Lisa's need for a strong male role model,
      ``Lisa's Substitute''
   Mr. B: There is a wonderful girl's future at stake.
   Homer: Well, if she's so wonderful, give her an A!
   Mr. B: I <am> giving her an A.
   Homer: Great, but don't tell her it was a favor to me.  Tell her she earned it.
   Mr. B: Mr. Simpson, she <did> earn it.
   Homer: You are smooth, I'll give you that.
   -- On Lisa's education, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Homer joins Lisa at the static electricity exhibit.

 At home, Lisa tells Marge that Homer ruined her one chance to get to
 know Mr. Bergstrom outside of school.
   Marge: Why don't we invite Mr. Bergstrom to dinner?
   Lisa:  Oh, Mom!  That's wonderful!
          Can I find out his favorite dish and help you make it?
   Marge: Sure.
   Lisa:  Can I wear your jewelry?
   Marge: Sure.
   Lisa:  Can I get my ears pierced?
   Marge: No.
   Lisa:  Can I dye my shoes pink?
   Marge: Yes.
   Lisa:  Can I paint my nails?
   Marge: No.
   Lisa:  Can we have wine?
   Marge: Yes.
   Lisa:  Can I have wine?
   Marge: No.
   Lisa:  Does Bart have to be there?
   Marge: Yes.
   Lisa:  Can we do it this week?
   -- Setting the ground rules, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Outside the classroom door, Lisa rehearses inviting Mr. Bergstrom to dinner.
 But when she comes in, she sees Miss Hoover erasing Mr. Bergstrom's name
 from the blackboard...  ``Good morning, Lisa.  I'm back.''

 [End of Act Two.  Time: 13:22]
   Miss Hoover: You see, class, my lyme disease turned out to be
                [spells it on the board] psychosomatic.
   Ralph:       Does that mean you're crazy?
   Student 2:   No, that means she was faking it.
   Miss Hoover: No, actually, it was a little of both.
   -- Miss Hoover returns to teaching, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Miss Hoover is miffed that Mr. Bergstrom didn't touch her lesson plan
 and asks what he taught the class.  Lisa says, ``That life is worth
 living,'' and rushes out of the classroom in tears.  Ms. Krabappel
 announces that the polls will be open until the end of recess.  The
 candidates are invited to make their final statements.  Martin is too
 shaky to say much of anything.  Bart announces, ``Victory party under
 the slide!''

 Lisa arrives at Mr. Bergstrom's apartment, but he moved out, having
 gotten an assignment in Capital City.

 At recess, Bart hands out cupcakes, but learns that nobody actually
 voted.  Not even Milhouse or Lewis.  When the bell rings, Bart realizes
 that <he> forgot to vote.

 In the classroom, Martin and Wendell jump for joy.
   Bart:  I demand a recount!
   Ms. K: [counts the votes] One for Martin.  Two for Martin.
          Would you like another recount?
   Bart:  [realizing he's beat] No.
   Ms. K: [enjoying it]  Well, I just want to make sure.
          One for Martin.  Two for Martin.  [chuckles]
   -- The Apathy Party loses again, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 At the train station, Lisa catches Mr. Bergstrom as he's about to board
 the train to Capital City.  Lisa begs him not to leave.
   That's the problem with being middle-class.
   Anybody who really cares will abandon you for those who need it more.
   -- Mr. Bergstrom's parting remarks, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Lisa tearfully understands.  He tells her, ``Whenever you feel that you're
 alone and there's nobody you can rely on, this is all you need to know,''
 and hands her a note.  Lisa chases the train as it pulls away, then looks
 at the note.  It reads, ``You are Lisa Simpson.''

 At the dinner table ...
   Bart didn't get one vote?
   Oh, this is the worst thing that could ever happen to us!
   -- Homer, on Bart failing to be elected class president, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Lisa is upset about Mr. Bergstrom's leaving.
   Hey, just because I don't care doesn't mean I don't understand!
   -- Homer tries to understand Lisa, ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Lisa finally snaps...
   Lisa:  You, sir, are a baboon!
   Homer: [gasp] Me?
   Lisa:  Yes, you!  Baboon!  Baboon!  Baboon!  Baboon!
   Homer: I don't think you realize what you're saying...
   Lisa:  BABOON! [leaves in tears]
   Bart:  Whoa.  Somebody was bound to say it someday, I just can't believe
          it was her.
   -- ``Lisa's Substitute''
 Marge tells Homer to talk to Lisa.  Ignoring the `Go Away' sign on her door,
 Homer tries to cheer Lisa up, with no success.  He makes a `monkey' joke and
 dances around the room like a gorilla.  This works.  Homer goes to Bart,
 who is upset at having lost the election.  But Homer points out that the
 class president has to do extra work and doesn't get to do anything neat.
 This works.  He then goes to Maggie's room and giver her her pacifier.
 He comes downstairs to the kitchen, and stops Marge from talking.
 ``Let's just go to bed.  I'm on the biggest roll of my life.''

 [End of Act Three.  Time: 21:04]
   Episode summaries Copyright 1991 by Raymond Chen.  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

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