|Episode no. 552|
Showrunner(s) Al Jean
|Directed by Timothy Bailey|
Production code SABF18
|Written by Billy Kimball
Original air date May 18, 2014 (2014-05-18)
"The Yellow Badge of Cowardge" is the twenty-second episode and season finale of the 25th season of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons, and the 552nd episode of the series. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 18, 2014. It was written by Billy Kimball and Ian Maxtone-Graham and directed by Timothy Bailey. In the episode, Bart feels guilty after he wins the annual "last day of school" race around Springfield Elementary School, with help from Nelson, who beats up the frontrunner, Milhouse. Meanwhile, Homer tries to bring back 4 July fireworks after they are canceled due to budget cuts.
In celebration of the last day of school, Bart wakes up the family by banging pots and pans together. Even though Homer initially says that he has a plan of making Bart go to summer camp, Marge points out it is a prison road crew in the picture. Bart interjects that he did that last summer, and he is not allowed back. The family convenes in the kitchen, where Homer discovers, while reading the local newspaper, that the Fourth of July fireworks has been cancelled, due to the fact that the city is broke. Meanwhile, Springfield Elementary has their annual Field Day festivities, where kids learn to balance eggs on spatulas and have their ankles tied to someone who does not care two cents about them. The race around the school prompts everyone to do their best, including Milhouse, who has been practising for this race. Milhouse reveals to Bart he has been training, but Martin overhears this secret. Martin then wagers his money on Milhouse to win, potentially bankrupting the bullies because of the tremendously long odds against Milhouse.
As each student runs during the race, Milhouse leads the pack before Nelson and the bullies plan to knock some sense out of him. When Nelson awaits for Milhouse at the pivotal turn of the race, he hands Milhouse a cup of water before hitting him. Bart sees this, but runs ahead of the race to win first place. After Bart receives a blue ribbon for first place, Milhouse emerges from the bushes, conveniently with amnesia. Although Bart has several chances to disclose to Milhouse what happened during the race, Bart lets the opportunities slip, even at a town ceremony honoring his victory. However, when one of the bullies slingshots at Milhouse's forehead, the memories come rushing back, with Milhouse remembering how Bart just stood idly by as Milhouse suffered beating after beating.
The outraged townspeople chase Bart from the ceremony. Bart runs to the retirement home, to seek help from Grandpa, without much luck. Meanwhile, elsewhere, Homer finds a man from the past to execute a spectacular fireworks display (set to "Sometimes When We Touch") for the town, but a fight breaks out between them. The fireworks go awry, yet Bart quickly thinks on his feet to get the town to believe that Milhouse is the modest hero.
Dennis Perkins of The A.V. Club gave the episode a C+, saying "After two straight episodes suggesting the enduring potential of The Simpsons, 'The Yellow Badge Of Cowardge' is a return to late-career form right in time for the end of the show's 25th season. Which is to say, it's a middling episode, indifferently constructed, whose chief pleasures come from familiarity and a few decent lines. It's not bad, it's not good—it's an acceptable half hour of television whose very adequacy damns it." Tony Sokol of Den of Geek gave the episode four out of five stars, saying "The Simpsons 'The Yellow Badge of Cowardge' was a good Springfield episode. The fourth of July is a good time to bring out the town and put them in stupid outfits and working muskets. The episode was funny, it taught a lesson. Probably the wrong lesson, but why quibble? And only Millhouse got hurt, which is probably the point. I also always like when the Simpsons lets Dan Castellaneta improv through songs in the fadeout. Pure unfettered Castellenata[sic]."
The episode received a 1.6 rating and was watched by a total of 3.28 million people, making it the second most watched show on Animation Domination that night, beating Bob's Burgers and American Dad! but losing to Family Guy with 3.88 million.