- "Wait a minute! I remember falling in the mud, but I don't think that's why I've been screaming."
- ―Homer Simpson
| "The Blunder Years"
| Episode Information
"The Blunder Years" is the fifth episode of season 13 of The Simpsons and the two-hundred and seventy-fourth episode overall. It originally aired on December 9, 2001. The episode was written by Ian Maxtone-Graham and directed by Steven Dean Moore. It guest stars Paul Newman as himself, Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony and Judith Owen as herself.
- "A restaurant hypnotist causes Homer to relive a traumatic childhood experience where, upon swimming in a quarry, he found a dead body. That dead body turned out to be Waylon Smithers, Jr.' father, Waylon Smithers, Sr., who had disappeared twenty-five years earlier under suspicious circumstances. Meanwhile, Marge fancies Chad Sexington, the man who appears on the packaging of Burly paper towels."
Marge accidentally bought Burley paper towels and was going to return them when she "falls in love" with the lumberjack on them and finds that they're super absorbent. Homer becomes jealous and goes to Ned Flanders house to call her. He says "Hello, I'm Chad Sexington, the lumberjack from Burley paper towels." He also says he's going to come for dinner, so Marge prepares the house for his arrival, only to find out that "Chad" is actually Barney in disguise. Marge is humiliated once she realizes it is just a prank, but Lisa encourages Homer and Bart to make it up to her with Homer taking them all to a posh restaurant.
At the restaurant, a famous Indian hypnotist performs various acts of hynposis, including making Professor Frink a makeout master, and when the hypnotist approaches Waylon Smithers, Jr. and tells him that he'll do something about his father, Smithers mysteriously replies he has no father; he died years ago. Dauntless, the hypnotist approaches Homer, and hynpotises Homer into "turning into" various people. However, when the hynpotist turns Homer into his twelve-year-old self on summer vacation, he begins screaming hysterically, and still is screaming all the way home and even screams when he is asleep. The next day Lenny and Carl bring him home from work because his screaming continued. Lisa says he is screaming because of a repressed memory. Marge makes Homer some Yaqui tea to unlock his suppressed memory. After he drinks it, he remembers Lenny, Carl, Moe, and himself going to the quarry swimming hole, but along the way they're terorrized by a young Fat Tony and his cronies, who menace them but are scared off by Moe, who after the story's ended reveals himself to be in the living room with Carl, Lenny, and the Simpsons. When Lisa asks why he's there, Moe tells her he has more clues as to what happened, so, having drunk the tea, he remembers that when they reached a swimming hole near the power plant, Homer was the only one dumb enough to jump in and found it was now a mud puddle. Wondering why the water was not coming out he loosened the blockage and the water came out along with a decaying corpse that ended up in his lap.
In the present, the Simpsons visit the quarry, leaving the others behind. They find Chief Wiggum there and when Marge throws the Burley paper towels in, it absorbs the water where they find the corpse is now a skeleton. They go into the drainpipe and discover a hatch to Mr. Burns' office. Chief Wiggum accuses him of murder, but then Mr. Burns shows a movie proving his innocence. It shows that the body was Waylon Smithers, Sr., who died in a nuclear accident to save the town and his son. When Waylon Smithers, Jr. Jr. sees the movie, he finds out the truth of how his father died, a hero. When the Simpsons get back to their house, the next day Moe Szyslak comes over with clues, and relates them to Homer and Marge all the way through the end credits, which end with Homer screaming over the Fox logo.
The episode has received mixed-to-positive reviews from TV critics and fans. It has been called "a comedy gem" and a "highlight of Season 13". On the other hand, the episode has been called a "bad parody of Stand By Me" and "annoying". Since the release of Season 13 on DVD, the episode has received mainly positive reviews.