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In Marge We Trust
Homer's Enemy
The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase
I'm not your buddy, Simpson! I don't like you! In fact, I hate you! Stay the hell away from me, because from now on, we're enemies!
Frank Grimes declaring himself Homer's enemy

"Homer's Enemy" is the twenty-third episode of Season 8.

Synopsis

Frank Grimes, the new employee at the power plant, is displeased with Homer's incompetence and work ethic, and becomes further provoked with the laziness. He eventually declares himself an enemy of Homer. Meanwhile, Bart buys a factory for $1 and operates it along with Milhouse, although they end up smashing it down and earn no money.

Full Story

The episode opens with a news report about Frank Grimes, an orphan who experienced many hard times in his life, and finally self-educated himself to enter the workplace. Mr. Burns sees the newscast and orders Smithers to hire him at the nuclear plant as Executive Vice President. The next day, Burns forgets this decision and gives the job to a courageous dog, and assigns Grimes to a low-level position. Shortly thereafter, Grimes crosses paths with Homer and doubts him. It may have something to do with the fact that Homer is lazy and thoroughly unqualified for the job he has, yet he is so well off in life.

Meanwhile, while on a trip to a local government building, Bart wanders away from Marge and ends up buying an abandoned warehouse at a tax auction for a single dollar. He moves right in, and then hires Milhouse to act as a security guard.

Back at the plant, Grimes' dislike for Homer heats up as he furthers witness Homer's ineptitude. When he brings this up to Lenny and Carl, they see his point but say not to think about it is best. When Homer accidentally almost drinks sulfuric acid, Grimes knocks the beaker out of his hand and ends up damaging the cafeteria wall, for which he then gets blamed by Mr. Burns after Homer, without mentioning Grimes saving him or his own carelessness with the beaker, instantly points him out as responsible and is given a second chance at his job, although at a decreased salary. Grimes approaches to Homer, confessing his hatred of him and declaring that they are enemies.

Getting advice from Moe, Homer plans to invite Grimes to dinner at his house to try and be friends. He has Marge prepare a lobster dinner and the family dresses in their usual church clothes. However, when Grimes arrives he gets more crabby; this wasn't the life he believes someone like Homer should have; he sees the house (which he describes as a palace), the two cars, Bart owning a factory (he is not thoroughly informed), Lisa having a high Intelligence level, his beautiful wife, Lobster for dinner and learns of Homer's unlikely accomplishments (like becoming an astronaut, winning a Grammy, being on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins and being friends with former president Gerald Ford). Grimes rants that it is inconceivable that such a screw-up could achieve so much, when he worked hard for everything and the only thing he has to show for it is his briefcase, haircut and a single room apartment between two bowling alleys (which impresses Homer). Grimes says to Homer that people like him are what's wrong with America and that if he lived anywhere else in the world he would have starved long ago. 

The next day Marge comforts Homer telling him that Frank doesn't hate him, Grimes is just frustrated that life has always been hard to him while it was so easy for Homer and tells him if he cleaned up his act a little maybe Frank would be less hostile. After hearing this, Homer decides to clean up his act (in his own way), and appear more professional on the job but still neglects his workstation. At break, Grimes once more tries to convince Lenny and Carl that Homer is an idiot once more by pointing out that the number of accidents and meltdowns have doubled every year since Homer got his job; Lenny and Carl clearly understand but say that it is best not to think about it, insisting that despite all of his faults, Homer is essentially a decent person.

Frustrated, Grimes declares that he would die a happy man if he could just convince them that Homer has the intelligence of a six year-old. To do so, He tricks Homer into entering a children's "Design Your Own Power Plant" contest through a flyer by removing areas that show its juvenile theme. Homer decides to participate, unaware that it is for kids. Meanwhile, the warehouse Bart owns collapses in the middle of the night, leaving the rats to swarm Moe's tavern.

At the contest, Homer's diorama is a crudely-created representation of the current plant, but with fins to lower wind resistance and a racing stripe. To Grimes' horror Mr. Burns, impressed by his effort, awards Homer first prize, beating out Ralph Wiggum (whose 'model' was in fact a Malibu Stacy Dream House) and Martin Prince (whose futuristic model was actually generating the power for the auditorium). To rub more salt into the wound, Homer also receives a standing ovation from everyone present, except Grimes of course.

His plan backfired, a horrified and outraged Grimes ends up declaring the entire plant insane before suffering a nervous breakdown. He begins to rampage through the plant, imitating Homer as he loses his sanity and goes around saying he is Homer Simpson, both mimicking and mocking his actions such as peeing on the toilet seat, eating like a slob, saying he is lazy and how these actions should be rewarded instead of punished because he is Homer Simpson. Grimes rushes into Homer's office, there he sees an extremely high voltage cable. Claiming that he doesn't need safety gloves because he is Homer Simpson, Grimes grabs the cable but ends up electrocuting himself.

At the funeral, Reverend Lovejoy says that Frank liked to be called 'Grimey' and that even though he had many hardships, he would be looking down at the mourners with a smile. Homer unknowingly and unintentionally gets the last laugh as he falls asleep during the funeral, drooling and muttering, "Change the channel, Marge". All the mourners and Lovejoy then laugh while the body of Grimes is lowered down into the Earth.

Behind the Laughter

Production

"Homer's Enemy" was written by John Swartzwelder, directed by Jim Reardon and executive produced by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein. One of the goals of Oakley and Weinstein was to create several episodes in each season which would "push the envelope conceptually." The idea for the episode was first conceived by Bill Oakley who thought that Homer should have an enemy. The thought evolved into the concept of a "real world" co-worker who would either love or hate Homer. The writers chose the latter as they thought it would have funnier results. The result was the character of Grimes, a man who had to work hard all his life with nothing to show for it and is dismayed and embittered by Homer's success and comfort in spite of his inherent laziness and ignorance.

"Homer's Enemy" explores the comic possibilities of a realistic character with a strong work ethic placed alongside Homer in a work environment. In an essay for the book Leaving Springfield, Robert Sloane describes the episode as "an incisive consideration of The Simpsons's world. Although The Simpsons is known for its self-reflectivity, the show had never looked at (or critiqued) itself as directly as it does in ['Homer's Enemy']." In the episode, Homer is portrayed as an everyman and the embodiment of the American spirit; however, in some scenes his negative characteristics and silliness are prominently highlighted. By the close of the episode, Grimes, a hard-working and persevering "real American hero," is relegated to the role of antagonist; the viewer is intended to be pleased that Homer has emerged victorious.[5] In an interview with Simpsons fan site NoHomers.net, Josh Weinstein said:

We wanted to do an episode where the thinking was "What if a real life, normal person had to enter Homer's universe and deal with him?" I know this episode is controversial and divisive, but I just love it. It really feels like what would happen if a real, somewhat humorless human had to deal with Homer. There was some talk [on NoHomers.net] about the ending—we just did that because it's really funny and shocking, we like the lesson of "sometimes, you just can't win"—the whole Frank Grimes episode is a study in frustration and hence Homer has the last laugh and we wanted to show that in real life, being Homer Simpson could be really dangerous and life threatening, as Frank Grimes sadly learned.

The animators and character designers had a lot of discussion about what Frank Grimes should look like. He was originally designed as a "burly ex-marine guy with a crew cut", but would later be modeled after Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down and director Jim Reardon's college roommate. Hank Azaria provided the voice of Frank Grimes, even though such a role would normally have been performed by a guest star. The producers decided Azaria was more suitable because the role involved a great deal of frustration and required extensive knowledge of the show. Azaria felt that the role should instead go to William H. Macy. According to Azaria, "I based the character on William Macy. I can't really copy him vocally, but I tried to get as close as I could and copy his rhythms and the way he has that sort of seething passion underneath that total calm exterior." The producers worked a lot with Azaria to help him perfect the role, and gave him more guidance than they normally would. Azaria felt that it was the role he worked hardest on, adding "I think it's the one we did the most takes on, the most emotional, it felt like the one I worked on the hardest from a performance point of view, in preparation and in execution."

Josh Weinstein has expressed regret about killing off Grimes after only one episode, describing him as "such an amazing character." In an interview with The Believer, producer George Meyer said, "Grimes's cardinal sin was that he shined a light on Springfield. He pointed out everything that was wrongheaded and idiotic about that world. And the people who do that tend to become martyrs. He said things that needed to be said, but once they were said, we needed to destroy that person. I'll admit, we took a certain sadistic glee in his downfall. He was such a righteous person, and that somehow made his demise more satisfying."

The subplot, where Bart buys a factory, was added so that there would be some lighter scenes to split up the main plot. According to Weinstein, "We wanted to have a Bart or Lisa kids story to contrast the heaviness and reality of Frank Grimes."

Reception

Critical opinion of the episode is mixed. Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, authors of I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, described the episode as "one of the series' darkest episodes that ends on a real downer but is nevertheless also one of the wittiest and cleverest in ages." In 2007, Vanity Fair called "Homer's Enemy" the seventh best episode of The Simpsons. John Orvted said it was, "the darkest Simpsons episode ever... To see Grimes fail, and ultimately be destroyed, once he enters Homer's world is hilarious and satisfying." Comedian Rick Mercer called it a "great episode, and one of the darkest ever produced."

Jon Bonné of MSNBC used "Homer's Enemy" as an example of a bad episode of the eighth season and wrote "even now in 2000, when subsequent episodes have debased Homer in new and innovative ways, the Grimes episode stands out as painful to watch." In April 2007, former Simpsons executive producer Mike Reiss listed "Homer's Enemy" as one of his two least favorite episodes, stating, "I just think the episode was in bad taste."

Several members of the staff have included the episode among their favorites. In a 2000 Entertainment Weekly article, creator Matt Groening ranked it as his sixth favorite Simpsons episode. It is a favorite of Josh Weinstein, who cites the scene when Grimes visits the Simpson home as one of his favorite scenes, while The Office creator Ricky Gervais has called it "the most complete episode." In her autobiography My Life as a 10-Year-Old Boy, Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart, praises Azaria's performance as Grimes, and uses it as an example of how "Accent, pitch, pacing, range and intention" can allow an actor to voice many characters. She writes: "Sometimes in voice acting, it isn't even a big change from your regular voice, but the attitude behind it makes all the difference. We were going to have a guest star play Frank Grimes. Hank, at the table-read, just filling in, created such a beautifully crafted character, beautifully psychotic, that no one was used to replace him."

In October 2006, IGN.com released a list of "The Top 25 Simpsons Peripheral characters", in which they ranked Frank Grimes at number 17, making him the least frequently-shown character to appear in that list.

As time went on, reviews on the episode got more and more positive. Although Grimes is never shown alive after this episode, he was later named one of the "Top 25 Simpsons Peripheral characters" by IGN. He has since been referenced many times in the show, most notably in the season fourteen episode "The Great Louse Detective", in which his vengeful son plots to kill Homer.

Citations

Season 7 Season 8 Episodes Season 9
Treehouse of Horror VIIYou Only Move TwiceThe Homer They FallBurns, Baby BurnsBart After DarkA Milhouse DividedLisa's Date with DensityHurricane NeddyEl Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)The Springfield FilesThe Twisted World of Marge SimpsonMountain of MadnessSimpsoncalifragilisticexpiala-D'oh-ciousThe Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie ShowHomer's PhobiaBrother from Another SeriesMy Sister, My SitterHomer vs. the Eighteenth AmendmentGrade School ConfidentialThe Canine MutinyThe Old Man and the LisaIn Marge We TrustHomer's EnemyThe Simpsons Spin-Off ShowcaseThe Secret War of Lisa Simpson