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"The Fight Before Christmas" is the eighth episode of The Simpsons' twenty-second season and aired on December 5, 2010. The episode consists of a series of short Christmas segments: Bart sets out to get even with Santa Claus, Lisa dreams of an Inglourious Basterds-style Christmas, Marge meets an omnipotent holiday spirit who shows her the true meaning of Christmas, and Katy Perry appears with puppet versions of The Simpsons, Moe Szyslak, and Mr. Burns. Perry was offered the role after being cut out of an episode of Sesame Street. Al Jean, the series' executive producer commented, "In the wake of Elmo's terrible betrayal, the Simpsons puppets wish to announce they stand felt-shoulder-to-shoulder with Katy Perry."

Plot

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Springfield, but while Marge Simpson gets in the holiday spirit, the rest of the Simpson family are not feeling cheerful.

Bart, angry that he did not receive the dirt bike that he wanted last Christmas, stays up late to shoot Santa. While waiting, he falls asleep and dreams that The Polar Express, with Otto as conductor, lands in front of the Simpsons' house. It takes Bart to the North Pole, where after working his way up the corporate ladder, Bart is able to meet with Santa. Santa (Krusty) tells Bart that he is broke, and feeling pity, Bart decides not to shoot Santa and leaves. It is revealed that Santa was lying, saying that children are dumb, afterward throwing a party.

Lisa, who objects to Christmas trees on ecological grounds, dreams that it is December 1944 and that Marge - not Homer - is away at war. Due to Marge being taken suddenly for overseas deployment (by MPs Patty and Selma) while buying a Christmas tree last year, Lisa has sworn to never see another Christmas tree until Marge returns safe and sound. Homer tries to comfort the girl, but they soon after get a telegram saying that Marge is missing in action. After hearing the news, Lisa runs away to the place where she had last seen her mother, the Christmas Tree Farm. The owner of the place says that last year Marge had paid for a tree but never took it home, and then trims the tree to make it look like Marge. Lisa takes the tree home and the family decorate it together, believing it to be a symbol that Marge is okay. Marge is then seen assassinating Adolf Hitler in a movie theatre in France (a reference to Inglourious Basterds) as he watches a propaganda film of an evil Dumbo bombing London; she walks away from the scene before the theatre explodes. As Lisa wakes up, she declares that she will never take her stuffed elephant toy and the book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich together to bed again.

Meanwhile, disappointed that she is alone spreading the holiday cheer, Marge dreams that she has sent a letter to Martha Stewart, asking for her help in saving the family's Christmas. Martha promptly arrives and turns the house into the North Pole chalet Marge has always dreamed of, but the other family members end up as part of the scenery instead of being able to enjoy it with her. As Marge realizes that Homer and the kids make the holidays special for her, she wakes up to find that they have brought her the ingredients for breakfast in bed. Their attempts to cook it go awry, so the family goes out for breakfast instead.

Finally, Maggie dozes off with a "Fluppet" Christmas video in hand and dreams that the entire family has become Muppet-style puppets, with Grampa and Jasper Beardly heckling them from a box seat in the manner of Statler and Waldorf. As the Simpsons prepare for a trip to Hawaii and ask Moe to house-sit for them, Mr. Burns pays a surprise visit. He says he was visited by three ghosts the night before and wants to be happy and cheerful during the holiday season. He soon learns that Homer has feigned a neck injury to get time off work for the trip, so he calls his attack hounds. However, only one arrives (represented by a crude sock puppet), since the show has spent its budget on Katy Perry (appearing as herself in real life), who is Moe's girlfriend. This does not startle Mr. Burns, and everyone sings a rendition of "39 Days of Christmas". Moe attempts to kiss Katy but is not tall enough to reach her mouth, so he opts to "kiss her bellybutton" instead. Perry retorts that he is not kissing her bellybutton, but also tells him not to stop (implying that he is performing oral sex on her).

Cultural references

The first dream segment references the film The Polar Express. After Otto feeds the train marijuana, the train goes to a dream featuring several references to Yellow Submarine, and incorporating The Doors' song "Strange Days". The second segment features a reference to Inglourious Basterds. The fourth puppet segment parodies The Muppet Show and Sesame Street. For example, Moe is seen eating cookies much like Cookie Monster.

Critical reception

In its original American broadcast, the episode was watched in approximately 9.56 million homes, and received a 4.2 Nielsen rating and 11% share of the audience rising 2% from the previous episode that aired becoming the highest rated program on "Animation Domination" that night. The episode later became the fifth highest rated episode among adults 18-49 of the original week it aired. In Canada, 1.195 million viewers watch the episode, ranking 28th the original week it aired.

Brad Trechak of TV Squad gave the episode an overwhelmingly positive review saying "This episode started good and got progressively better[...] It showed a level of imagination that the recent Halloween episodes have been lacking." He mainly praised the last segment due to the Jim Henson references like "Moe stuffing down cookies like the Cookie Monster (and having similar trouble with swallowing) and Abe "Grampa" Simpson and Jasper Beardly playing Statler and Waldorf." Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club gave the episode a mixed review saying "Tonight's episode wasn't awful, and it did have some solid laughs, but the quality of the segments was decidedly hit and miss.". He mostly criticized the last two segments calling Marge's dream with Martha Stewart "one joke streched(sic) too far" and the puppet segment was "far too stilted". He eventually rated the episode with a B- the second highest rating of "Animation Domination" receiving a lower grade than American Dad, but ahead of both episodes of The Cleveland Show

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