Homer's Triple Bypass

"Homer's Triple Bypass" is the eleventh episode in the fourth season of The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on December 17, 1992.[1] In this episode, Homer gets a heart attack due to his very poor health. Dr. Hibbert tells Homer that he needs a triple bypass, but the Simpson family resorts to a discount surgeon after learning how expensive the operation would be in a regular hospital. The episode was written by Gary Apple and Michael Carrington and directed by David Silverman.[2]

"Homer's Triple Bypass"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no.Season 4
Episode 11
Directed byDavid Silverman
Written byGary Apple
Michael Carrington
Production code9F09
Original air dateDecember 17, 1992
Episode features
Chalkboard gag"Coffee is not for kids" (as he writes, each line becomes more and more scrawled).
Couch gagA very small Simpson family sits on a giant couch.
CommentaryMatt Groening
Al Jean
Mike Reiss
Michael Carrington
David Silverman


After Marge warns him about eating too much fatty foods, Homer starts to feel chest pains in the next morning. He chooses breakfast from bacon and eggs, instead of oatmeal for breakfast. During his travel to work, he feels his heart thumping, but he believes that is a malfunction in the gearbox. He stops at a gas station, where the mechanic tells him that is probably his heart. At work, Mr. Burns yells at Homer for poor performance and threatens him with dismissal. Homer has a heart attack, but regains consciousness after Burns tells Smithers to send the ham to the widow. Upon learning that he is alive, Burns cancels the package, to the chagrin of Homer.

Homer is sent to the hospital, Dr. Hibbert informs him and Marge that he needs a coronary artery bypass surgery, which will cost him $30,000. Hearing this, Homer has a heart attack, increasing the price to $40,000. Without any health insurance from work, Homer figures out a way to pay for the operation. Homer goes to The Merry Widow Insurance Company, but is denied when he has another heart attack before signing the policy. Marge and Homer then see a commercial for Dr. Nick Riviera, an incompetent surgeon who will perform any operation for $129.95. With no other options, Homer goes for the cheaper service.

Dr. Nick, unfamiliar with the procedure, rents an instructional video, but the important steps of the procedure have been taped over. During Homer's operation, he realizes he does not know what to do. Lisa, watching the operation in the amphitheatre, uses her knowledge of cardiology to guide Dr. Nick. The surgery is successful and Homer makes a full recovery.


The idea for "Homer's Triple Bypass" came from James L. Brooks, who pitched the idea of Homer having a heart attack. However, the writers disagreed with such a heavy topic as this.[3] The episode was not written by a member of the show's regular staff, but was instead scripted by freelance writers Gary Apple and Michael Carrington, who were hired by Brooks due to the show suffering from a depleted writing team after the third season ended, and because the remaining members did not bother to do the episode. Carrington would provide voice work for later episodes, such as "I Love Lisa" (as Sideshow Raheem), "Homer and Apu" (as a comedian), and "Simpson Tide" (as Homer's drill instructor).[4] Apple and Carrington decided to have a scene where Lisa and Bart visit Homer before his surgery and were unsure of how to do it, so they approached Brooks, who made up the entire scene on the spot.[5] Originally, the surgery was supposed to be performed by Dr. Hibbert, but it was later changed to Dr. Nick.[4] In the original airing of the episode, Dr. Nick's phone number was the number of a real legal clinic, whose lawyers made them change it to 1-600-DOCTORB.[4]

The episode's production staff decided that David Silverman would be able to make the episode funny, so he was selected to direct it.[3] He went "all out" and did his best to make Homer's grimaces as humorous as possible, to keep the episode at least somewhat lighter in tone. Silverman added some special touches: for example, when Homer has an out of body experience, his foot was still touching his body to signify that he was not dead. A doctor acted as a medical consultant for the episode.[6]

The episode was to have concluded with Homer eating a pizza in his hospital bed following the operation, and with Marge asking a nurse where the pizza had come from. This reflects the earlier flashback scene where Grampa Simpson watches Homer as an infant, chewing on a slice of pizza in the hospital. The scene was replaced with the family cheering Homer on while he is in intensive care.[5]

Cultural references

The opening sequence of the episode is a parody of American television show COPS; it was not in the original animatic and added later because the episode was too short to fit in its required 22-minute length.[6] When Homer is performing a sock-puppet show to Lisa and Bart, he uses Akbar and Jeff, both of whom are characters from Matt Groening's weekly comic strip Life in Hell.[2][3] Homer follows behind the house that was the birthplace of Edgar Allan Poe, which was placed in the episode by David Silverman. During this scene Homer starts to hear a heartbeat, a reference to Poe's "The Telltale Heart".[6] The scene where Homer sings in a church as a boy is based on the film Empire of the Sun.[5] When Homer tries to allay his children's concern over his forthcoming heart operation by telling them only bad people die, Bart then asks about Abraham Lincoln, to which Homer incorrectly tells him that he sold poisoned milk to schoolchildren, which is a reference to Abraham Lincoln's mother Nancy who died of milk sickness, an illness that is caused by drinking the milk of cows that have eaten the poisonous herb white snakeroot.


In its original broadcast, "Homer's Triple Bypass" finished 16th in ratings for the week of December 14–20, 1992, with a Nielsen rating of 14.3, equivalent to approximately 13.2 million viewing households. It was the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, beating Married... with Children.[7]

Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, authors of I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, called it "a cautionary tale that gives Dr Nick his biggest chance to shine." They also praised the "cloud goes up, cloud goes down" line.[2] IGN noted that the episode "introduced fans to one of the show's more endearing background players, Dr. Nick."[8] Krusty's line "this ain't make-up" is one of Matt Groening's favorite lines from the show.[9]


  1. "Homer's Triple Bypass". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
  2. "Homer's Triple Bypass". BBC. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
  3. Jean, Al (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Homer's Triple Bypass" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  4. Carrington, Michael (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Homer's Triple Bypass" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  5. Reiss, Mike (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Homer's Triple Bypass" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  6. Silverman, David (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Homer's Triple Bypass" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  7. The Associated Press (December 24, 1992). "ABC's Arnolds rate high, but CBS is still no. 1". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
  8. Pirrello, Phil (November 30, 2007). "OCD: The Simpsons' Mr. McGreg". IGN. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
  9. Groening, Matt (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Homer's Triple Bypass" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
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