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- 1Episode: Season 6's "Fear of Flying"
Original airdate: December 18, 1994
Who is he... really? A guy actually named Guy Incognito, who is Homer's exact double.
The one-time-only appearance of Guy Incognito at Moe's Tavern remains one of the greatest gags and most frequently repeated gags in Simpsons history. Here's the setup: Homer has been banned from Moe's after a prank war went one step too far. Suddenly, a man looking just like Homer, but wearing a silly mustache and speaking in a fake-sounding British accent, arrives at the bar, introducing himself as "Guy Incognito."
Obviously, Moe believes this to be Homer pulling a cheap stunt in order to get back into the bar, and he and the other regulars beat him up and throw him out. (Yeah, it's a little violent.)
This is one of only two mentions of Guy in the entire Simpsons canon. He appears briefly on an altered 'Wanted' poster in Springfield after the city has been covered by an impenetrable dome in The Simpsons Movie. Presumably, once more, Homer was in trouble and used the presence of his exact double to escape justice.
- 2Episode: Season 5's "Cape Feare"
Original air date: October 7, 1993
Who are they... really? The Simpsons
"Cape Feare," in my humble estimation, may be the single best episode of The Simpsons ever made. There, I said it. Certainly, it's a top drawer Sideshow Bob episode by any standards, expanding the Sideshow Bob mythology massively in his second appearance on the show. This is the first time we see his obsession with killing Bart Simpson, and we're introduced to a number of the character's trademarks, including his lifelong love affair with Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas. Plus, it's a full-blown parody of the Scorsese remake of Cape Fear. Not bad for 22 minutes.
After Sideshow Bob is released from prison and the Simpsons have started receiving death threats, they relocate to the wisely-chosen Terror Lake under the assumed name of "The Thompsons." This was chosen most likely due to the similarities with their previous name, making it easier for some members of the family to remember. Unfortunately, it still didn't work.
The whole "Homer Thompson" ruse ends up being a big waste of time, as Bob follows the family to Terror Lake by hanging on the underside of their own car. In fact, "wasting time" ended up being kind of a theme for the entire episode, as it came in short and had to be artificially expanded later. Most infamously, this involved extending the bit where Sideshow Bob accidentally steps on a rake. It was intended to just happen once... it ends up being nine individual rake hits in the final episode:
- 3vEpisode: Season 4's "Krusty Gets Kancelled"
Original air date: May 13, 1993
Who are they... really? Рабочий И Паразит
We only get brief glimpses of the Krusty the Clown Show, and it's typically up to the audience to fill in the considerable gaps with their own imagination. Aside from the occasional bit where Krusty, say, creams a French person with pies for 10 minutes, and pauses to show Itchy and Scratchy cartoons... what actually happens during a standard Krusty episode? How much time can really be wasted throwing things at Sideshow Mel?
We get some answers in the Season 4 finale, when Krusty's ratings get crushed by a new competitor, the sentient ventriloquist's dummy Gabbo. With Itchy and Scratchy moving to the newer, more popular show, Krusty is left with cartoons from Eastern Europe's favorite cat and mouse team, Worker and Parasite.
Their nonsensical Communist Bloc hijinks were apparently made in 1959, if the opening credits are to be believed. Those credits, by the by, are made to look Cyrillic, but don't actually mean anything. Much like everything else in the cartoon.
- 4Episode: Season 9's "The Principal and the Pauper"
Original air date: September 28, 1997
Who is he... really? Principal Seymour Skinner
"The Principal and the Pauper" is one of the most discussed and debated episodes in Simpsons history, cited by critics as one of the first visible signs of the show's creative decline, which most agree occurred some time around the 9th and 10th seasons.
It's controversial mainly because of the presence of Armin Tamzarian, which apparently, is the real name of the man we've come to know as Seymour Skinner. Apparently, Tamzarian went to war and, after what he presumed was the death of his superior officer – Sergeant Seymour Skinner – he assumed the man's life and identity, even returning to his hometown of Springfield, moving in with his mother Agnes, and becoming the local high school principal.
(If the basic story sounds familiar, that's either because it's based on a real case from 16th Century France or because it's also how Dick Whitman became Don Draper on "Mad Men.")
The jig is up for Tamzarian when the real Seymour Skinner (voiced by Martin Sheen) returns to town and tries to re-enter his life. The episode ends with everything being set right, of course, and also with a clever, self-aware nod to the fact that the discovery of Tamzarian's real identity won't come up in future episodes. (Judge Snyder decrees that no one ever mention the events of the episode ever again.)
In the world of The Simpsons, audiences accept that Bart, Lisa, and Maggie have remained the same age for decades, and that a relatively small town contains every single type of building, institution, and attraction known to man. But for some reason, fans have always had a hard time with this particular reset. Maybe it's the fact that Tamzarian is living with a woman he's pretending is his mother but who actually didn't meet him until she was an old lady... That's just kind of unsettling, reset schtick or no.
[BONUS TRIVIA: Writer Ken Keeler got the name "Armin Tamzarian" from an insurance claims adjuster who helped him following a car accident. He didn't bother to tell the guy he was using his name in a Simpsons episode.]
- 5Episode: Season 7's "Bart the Fink"
Original air date: February 11, 1996
Who is he... really? Krusty the Clown
"Bart the Fink" opens with the Simpson family learning of the passing of Great Aunt Hortense, after which each family member receives $100. Bart uses it to open a bank account, then tricks Krusty into giving him an autograph by slipping a check into his pocket. Unfortunately, it turns out that Krusty passes the check to his illegal offshore banking account, gets caught (with help from Bart), and is soon arrested for tax fraud.
In order to escape the long arm of the law, Krusty fakes his own death and reappears in Springfield as surly longshoreman Rory B. Bellows.
This begs a few questions... Why go to the trouble of elaborately faking his own death if Krusty could simply have run away and disguised himself as Rory Bellows to begin with? Why even come back to Springfield at all? Certainly, "Rory Bellows" could have passed through, say, any South American nation undetected.
And what's the connection to Handsome Pete, that rapscallion who also hangs out at the docks, dancing for nickels, and who also bears an eerie resemblance to Krusty?
No matter... because as it turns out, the end of the episode informs us that the life of Rory Bellows was insured for a considerable amount. And therefore Krusty will be just fine. Somehow. Just go with it.
- 6Episode: Season 7's "The Day the Violence Died"
Original air date: March 17, 1996
Who are they... really? Just two kids from the neighborhood
Like "Bart the Fink," this is another episode where Bart's pluck and inventiveness ends up causing huge problems he has to help fix.
In this case, it's the discovery of a tramp named Chester Lampwick who may have just invented Itchy and Scratchy. Unfortunately, in trying to help Lampwick get what's coming to him, Bart accidentally brings about the end of Itchy and Scratchy Studios, which has to shut down in bankruptcy to pay back damages.
Bart and Lisa do manage to hatch a scheme that might save Itchy and Scratchy, but before they get a chance to tell everyone the good news... Lester and Eliza show up with the solution.
Drawn to resemble Bart and Lisa from the old-school Tracy Ullman Show days, Lester and Eliza at first seemed to be bonafide rivals to the Simpsons kids dominance of the Springfield kid mystery-solving field. There's even a chilling final shot in which Bart sees Lester glaring at him outside his window.
But the duo disappeared after this one appearance, never to be seen again. Isn't that convenient? I guess everything's wrapped up in a neat little PACKAGE, now isn't it? No, seriously. I hope that didn't seem sarcastic.
- 7Episode: Season 21's "The Bob Next Door"
Original air date: May 16, 2010
Who is he... really? Aaaah! It's Sideshow Bob!
Yes, that's right, a rare late episode of The Simpsons getting references, from only last year.
A play on both Face/Off and any number of prison escape movies, Bart's long-time nemesis Sideshow Bob hatches a fiendish scheme to swap identities with his cell mate, Walt Warren.
Performing late-night plastic surgery to switch faces with the soon-to-be-paroled Warren, Bob ends up skipping out on the rest of his sentence while his hapless victim remains in the Springfield Penitentiary in his stead.
The episode has all the trappings of a classic Sideshow Bob escapade, including references to Bob's love of Gilbert & Sullivan and self-aware mockery of voice actor Kelsey Grammar's most famous roles in TV and film. (Yes, there's a Down Periscope reference.) The voice of Walt Warren himself is provided by Simpsons regular Hank Azaria, doing a riff on his Jimmy Stewart impression.
- 8Episode: Season 10's "Homer to the Max"
Original air date: February 7, 1999
Who is he... really? Homer. To the Max.
Max Power is not just some pseudonym Homer started using after America fell in love with a TV oaf named "Homer Simpson." It's also one of the top three or four best fake names Homer has ever made up, coming in just behind Rembrandt Q. Einstein, Handsome B. Wonderful, and Hercules Rockefeller. (It's also the only one of those he was able to spell correctly, probably because he was reading it off of a hair dryer.) Plus he legally changed his name to Max Power in a court of law, so this was not just some crazy whim.
Also, Max Power has his own theme song (sung to the tune of "Goldfinger"):
Max Power, that's the man whose name you'd love to touch,
but you mustn't touch!
That name sounds good in your ear, but when you say it,
you mustn't fear.
'Cause that name could be said by anyone!
By the by, I'd love to play you a clip of Homer singing the Max Power theme song, but Fox has wisely made it unavailable in any embeddable form around the Internet.
[TRIVIA TIME! What were the names Homer suggested that Marge switch to while he was at the courthouse changing his name back to Homer Simpson? If you guessed Chesty La Rue, Busty St. Claire, or Hootie McBoob, congratulations. You know how to read one sentence ahead in a standard paragraph.