The Principal and the Pauper (2024)

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The Principal and the Pauper
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The Principal and the Pauper (4)"The Principal and the Pauper, your actions have brought devastation upon this town. And all because of your selfish desire to be accepted by others."

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The reason given is: Principal Skinner is revealed to be an imposter, but Agnes Skinner was pregnant with him. The episode has been declared non-canon by its creator.

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"I'm... (sighs) I'm... an impostor. That man is the real Seymour Skinner."
―Armin Tamzarian (Fake Skinner)'s confession

"The Principal and the Pauper" is the second episode of Season 9 (originally going to be the last episode of Season 8).


  • 1 Synopsis
  • 2 Full Story
  • 3 Behind the Laughter
    • 3.1 Production
    • 3.2 Reception
  • 4 Citations
  • 5 Navigation


Principal Skinner's 20th anniversary as school principal is interrupted by a Vietnam vet who reveals that his name is Seymour Skinner and that the man posing as him is a reformed street punk named Armin Tamzarian.

Full Story

The Principal and the Pauper (6)

Seymour Skinner is about to celebrate his 20th anniversary as school principal, and it goes smoothly until a man who claims he is the real Seymour Skinner comes in, pointing out that Agnes Skinner is his mother. Principal Skinner admits he is not the real Seymour Skinner, and is only an impostor. He tells his story, in a parody of the life of Martin Guerre, and admits that his real name is Armin Tamzarian. He was similar to Bart growing up in Capital City, but he soon ended up running into a judge. As a result of this and his crimes Armin was given a choice: he could either do time in prison or join the military and fight in the war. Armin chose to join the crew going to Vietnam. While he was still wanting to go back to his old life, he grew out of it when he met Skinner, who instilled principles and helped him find new meaning in life. However, when he went missing, Armin went to Agnes' house to tell her about the entire thing. However, she mistook him for Seymour and Armin couldn't break the news to her that he assumed the identity of Sergeant Skinner. Feeling like no one needs him anymore, Armin quits his job and plans to return to Capital City for a new life.

Soon, the sergeant becomes the school's new principal, because he says he had intentions to be the principal of Springfield Elementary School. He takes the job, but the real Skinner finds himself isolated by the townspeople after rudely berating Bart for insulting the Pledge of Allegiance with his antics (he felt that Bart was disrespecting everything he fought for). He gets into a brief argument with Agnes after he comes home late and drunk on a night she set up an activity with him. When Skinner insults her for trying to over-mother him, Agnes begins to miss Armin more since he lived with her for 26 years and had never once talked back to her.

The Principal and the Pauper (7)

At the supermarket, Agnes fumes to Marge about Sergeant Skinner and the way he behaves around her. Even Edna admits that Armin may have been a weenie, but he was more likable than Sergeant Skinner. The Simpsons devise a plan to get Armin back to Springfield, by coming to Capital City to get him. At his apartment, Armin refuses to come back home, stating they have the real Skinner and that having him return will be a big mistake. However, Agnes turns down the opportunity to hear it, stating that she depended on Armin for 26 years and she was the only one he ever called mother. She admits she actually loves him more than Sgt. Skinner, who was extremely disrespectful and doesn't believe he needs her more than Armin.

The Principal and the Pauper (8)

After returning to Springfield, Armin is met with resistance by both Superintendent Chalmers and Mayor Quimby, both of whom don't want him to return. However, Homer persuades them to forgive Armin and let him resume his identity as Principal Skinner pointing out that he, Agnes or the others who got Armin back don't care that he lied. After asking if anyone cares either, they all talk in whisper. The real Skinner attempts to fight back by reminding everyone that he is the real Skinner and he sacrificed himself for them and his country. He refuses to give up his job and his dignity just because the people of Springfield prefer Armin to him. Having enough of Sgt. Skinner, the townspeople force him to leave on a train (actually tied to a chair on a freight train car), and Agnes bids him farewell. Armin returns to being Principal Skinner through an order by Judge Snyder, saying that he will regain Skinner's name, past, and job and ends by saying no one will mention "Tamzarian" again under penalty of torture (this reset button technique being a meta-reference to their maintaining of the status quo).

Behind the Laughter


The episode was the last one of the show written by Ken Keeler. Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein with Mike Scully were very excited about the episode because Principal Skinner was their favorite character. The pair had already written the season five episode "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song", which was an in-depth study of the character. Keeler used the name Armin Tamzarian from a claims adjuster who had assisted him after a car accident when he moved to Los Angeles. However, the real Tamzarian was unaware that his name was being used until after the episode aired.


The episode is one of the most controversial episodes of the series. Many critics and fans have named it has the moment where the show "jumps the shark". Most critics and fans did not like that Principal Seymour Skinner, a character who had gone through a lot of character development since Season 1, had in fact turned out to be an impostor.

In The Guardian, Ian Jones argues that the "show became stupid" in 1997, pointing to "The Principal and the Pauper" as the culprit. "Come again? A major character in a long-running series gets unmasked as a fraud? It was cheap, idle storytelling." Many fans deemed the episode the ending of the show's Golden era and many have deemed the show non-canon. However, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, praised the episode, calling it "one of the series' all-time best episodes, mainly because it shows us a human side, not just of Principal Skinner, but of his hectorish Mom as well." They add that "Martin Sheen steals the show in a brief but important slice of Simpsons history." Total Film named Martin Sheen's performance in the episode the 20th best guest appearance on the show.

In The Simpsons Season 9 DVD commentary for the episode, Matt Groening mentioned this was one of his least favorite episodes. Despite this, writer Ken Keeler has called it "the best work he's ever done". Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein with Mike Scully also have openly defended the episode.

In an interview in 2001, Harry Shearer, the voice actor of Seymour Skinner, also criticized this episode. Shearer recalled that after reading the script, he told the writers, "That's so wrong. You're taking something that an audience has built eight years or nine years of investment in and just tossed it in the trash can for no good reason, for a story we've done before with other characters. It's so arbitrary and gratuitous, and it's disrespectful to the audience."



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