"Bart on the Road
" is the twentieth episode of The Simpsons
' seventh season
After the airline lets Skinner
change his ticket to Hong Kong
from Friday to Saturday, from aisle seat to center seat and without the kosher meal only with a fee of 7,830 $ (which he couldn't afford), he thinks that he can't close the school one day early just to suit his vacation, he decides to promote a go to work with your parents day
on the Friday before spring break
very reluctantly goes to the DMV
with Patty and Selma
because he wanted to see women at work (his first choice was staying at home with Marge
, until Marge reads the "Go to Work with Your Parents Day" form that notes that students can't list their parent's occupation as "homemaker" because "...it is not real work. That's why you don't get paid for it!"), Lisa
goes to the nuclear power plant with Homer
discovers the exciting world of crackers
, and Martin
makes money in the futures market
, though he immediately loses most of the money on the market as well.
At the DMV, Bart makes himself a fake driver's license after Selma leaves the license-making machine on following her session with Cletus. He, Nelson, and Milhouse look for a way to use it, so they decide to use Martin's money to rent a car and go on a road trip. As a cover story, Bart, Milhouse and Martin tell their parents that they have been selected by their school to attend the "National Grammar Rodeo" in Canada, although Lisa is not fooled by Bart's flimsy story. Nelson just flat out tells his mother that he's leaving for the week as he leaves his broken-down shack.
Instead, they go out joyriding, but soon stop to determine their destination after losing their way through a cornfield. Finding an old brochure they decide to go to the World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. But first Nelson makes them stop in Branson, Missouri (Bart: "My dad says it's like Vegas... if it were run by Ned Flanders"), where he can see his hero, Andy Williams.
Back in Springfield, Homer asks if Lisa would like to come spend her spring break at work with him, and she enjoys herself there. Meanwhile, Marge becomes bored at home. Finding out that the World's Fair has ended many years earlier (the Knoxville World's Fair was held in 1982, nearly 14 years before the episode originally aired), and the aging Sunsphere has been turned into a wig shop, Bart and company do not find Knoxville that exciting, especially when Nelson throws a rock, toppling the Sunsphere, which then wrecks the car. They are stranded with no money and no car, nobody knows where they are, and they cannot tell their parents.
Bart calls Lisa and tells her the truth, confirming her earlier suspicions, and she tells him to become a courier. He does and is able to travel free of charge, such as to Hong Kong to deliver eyeballs (and where he is seen by Skinner), while his friends remain in Tennessee. Bart tells Lisa that she needs to have somebody ship something large to Springfield. Lisa tells Homer, who is very upset and expresses his displeasure by excusing himself before donning one of the plant's safety helmets and letting loose a stream of muffled curses that fog up the visor. After venting his fury, Homer says that as soon as Bart comes home, he will murder him, but Lisa talks him out of it. He then orders the plant a new nuclear console from the Oak Ridge Nuclear Facility in a crate. Bart forces Nelson, Milhouse, and Martin to get in the crate while flying home, and everyone knows about the trip except Marge.
At night in her bed Marge receives a call from Skinner asking if Bart traveled to Hong Kong, a call asking whether her son's car was abandoned in Knoxville, and a call inquiring about Bart's availability to deliver a human kidney in Amsterdam.
- The episode is likely an ironic reference to the failed expectations of the 1982 World's Fair, pointing out how structures like the Sunsphere are largely forgotten today. The boys also clearly fail to do proper research, as they see a brochure for the World's Fair in the rental car's glove compartment and believe it is up to date. When they learn the 1982 World's Fair ended many years ago, Milhouse desperately asks "But there is another World's Fair coming soon right? Before Friday?"
- The hitchhiker that Bart picks up (and gets ice cream for) looks and sounds like the one from the film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the scene where the boys stop for ice cream, weigh the car, and pick up the hitchhiker is usually cut in syndicated reruns, along with the scene before it where Bart drives up next to a station wagon driven by a man who threatens to cancel the family's trip to Cape Canaveral if the kids didn't stop roughhousing in the backseat. Nelson then slaps the man upside the head and the man yells, "That's it! Back to Winnipeg!" and turns the station wagon around).
- The David Cronenberg film Naked Lunch (based on the works of William S. Burroughs) is referenced when Bart, Milhouse and Nelson sneak into it and are disappointed at how misleading the title is.
- When Bart arrives in Hong Kong, he apparently gets off the plane that is labeled "中華航空公司" (China Airlines), which is based in Taipei, Taiwan.
- The marquee at the theatre at which Andy Williams is performing proclaims "He's Still Got It!", according to Look magazine (even though Look stopped publishing in 1971).
- This is one of two times the song "Radar Love" by Golden Earring is heard on the show. Fat Tony also requests it to be played on a radio station in "Papa's Got a Brand New Badge".
- Apparently, one of the acts in Branson pairs Waylon Jennings and Madame (although the marquee reads "Madam").
- Skinner tries to curtail his swearing by exclaiming, "GMChrysler!", a minced oath for Jesus Christ.
- Martin buys an Al Gore doll in Knoxville, which is appropriate for their locale since the former Vice President was raised in and served as senator from Tennessee.
- The episode's title derives from the beat novel On the Road by Jack Kerouac.
- A clip of the boys' chant, "Knoxville! Knoxville! Knoxville!" was used by the local Fox station in ads to promote downtown Knoxville.