At breakfast, Lisa shows the family her science fair project, a genetically engineered tomato that she hopes will cure world hunger. Bart's project is to study the effects of cigarette smoking on dogs; his "volunteer" is Santa's Little Helper. At the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Homer ducks out of work early and accompanies Barney on a tour of the Duff brewery. After the tour, Homer refuses to let the exceptionally drunk Barney drive home and unsuccessfully tries to knock him out by repeatedly slamming his head in the car door. On their way out of the parking lot, their car is pulled over by Police Chief Wiggum, along with Eddie and Lou. They administer a field sobriety test to Homer, which he passes. But Barney, tells the police officers to give Homer the breathalyzer test, which he fails. Homer is arrested. His license is revoked and he must attend traffic school and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
At school, three days before the science fair, Lisa makes the mistake of leaving her super tomato under Bart's care for a moment. Bart takes the opportunity to hurl it at Skinner, while he is bent over tying his shoe. When Lisa sees what Bart has done with her project, she is furious. Lisa appeals to Marge for help, who suggests she run a hamster through a maze. She takes the idea to heart, but instead of just testing the intelligence of a rodent, she pits a hamster against an unknowing Bart to find out who is smarter. After two simple tests, the hamster leads two to zero.
In bed, Marge gives Homer a magazine quiz about his drinking. Hearing his answers, she asks him to give up beer for a month, to which he agrees. Homer reminisces about the time he first drank beer: using a fake ID to acquire a six pack and eventually passing out listening to Queen.
Bart finds Lisa's project notes and hides them. He plans to lead her on a treasure hunt to get them back but she finds them after just a second. Homer tries not to think about beer while he rides Lisa's bike to work. After a series of severe temptations, Homer crashes the bike as hundreds of bottles of Duff parachuted down on him from the blimp. At the science fair, Lisa's project and chance for revenge are both ruined by Bart's project: "Can hamsters fly planes?". Lisa tries to reason with the ignorant viewers that his project has no scientific merit, but everyone ignores her. A cute hamster sitting in the cockpit of a miniature plane wins over Skinner. He tells Lisa that every good scientist is half B.F. Skinner and half P.T. Barnum before handing Bart the winning ribbon, much to Lisa's dismay.
At Homer's AA meeting, he is kicked out by Reverend Lovejoy after confessing that his desperation for the taste of beer led him to "sneak into the football stadium and eat the dirt underneath the bleachers". He also exhibits more positive changes such as losing weight, saving over $100 and no longer sweating while he eats. After thirty days of sobriety, Homer rushes back to Moe's, despite Marge asking him to stay home. However, after seeing how alcohol has ruined the lives of Barney and the other barflies, he turns around and goes home. Homer and Marge ride a bike into the sunset.
When Bart reaches for the cupcakes, it is a parody of the women's breasts in A Clockwork Orange The Duff clock is a parody of the "It's a Small World" clock. In the Duff TV advertisement, a group of women were leading an anti-sexism protest in front of the McMahon and Tate building, a parody of the McMann and Tate advertising agency from Bewitched. During the tour of the Duff Brewery, bottles can be seen which contain Adolf Hitler's head as well as a miniature 3-eyed "Blinky" fish (from Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish). The scene toward the end where Moe points toward individual customers declaring they'll "be back" before pointing toward and addressing the viewer (later revealed to be Barney via a cutaway) is a parody of the end of the film Reefer Madness. The final scene, where Homer and Marge cycle into the distance while "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" plays is a reference to the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Homer also listens to the music of Queen. Homer's driver's license gives Springfield's zip code as 49007, the zip code for Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood said, "A superb episode with a sincere message. Homer is excellent throughout, but it is the cameos by Principal Skinner and Edna Krabappel that steal the show, especially the latter's reaction to Milhouse's Slinky." Entertainment Weekly ranked the episode as number eleven on their list of the top twenty-five The Simpson's episodes.
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