When South Park citizens start randomly exploding, the mayor enlists the town's only geologist Randy Marsh to find the cause and solution. Stan, Kyle and Cartman reenact the Stations of the Cross.
Kyle's dad can't perform sexually and things around the house are pretty grim. Kyle, misunderstanding the nature of the problem, visits various stores in an attempt to purchase a "nerection" for his father. During this fruitless search Kenny spontaneously combusts. Soon other townspeople catch fire too.
The terrified survivors flock to church where Stan, Kyle and Cartman agree to perform the Stations of the Cross. Cartman does it because he wants to play Jesus, and Kyle participates because he confuses the finale of the "resurrection" with the "nerection" he wants for his dad. After the service Stan and Kyle take Cartman, still bound to the cross, the top of a deserted hill and leave him to die so that he will get the desired "nerection."
Meanwhile, Stan's dad Randy is told by Mayor McDaniels to find a solution to the people-bursting-into-flames issue. Even though he's a geologist and thus clearly unqualified, he gets the job because he's the only scientist in town. He theorizes that Kenny died because he had a new girlfriend (who he meets in "Rainforest, Schmainforest") and was holding in his gas in her presence. This caused his body's methane levels to rise dangerously, triggering an explosion...
Randy believes that South Park will be safe if everyone farts freely which everyone promptly does. Randy wins the Nobel Prize for his Break Wind Theory of Spontaneous Combustion. But the town starts heating up because of all the methane released into the atmosphere. Randy is stoned and ridiculed by the populace.
However he saves the day when he realizes that spontaneous combustion and global warming can be avoided if people fart in moderation. Also, Kyle's dad finally manages to get a "nerection" when three beautiful women visit his law office and strip to show him possible skin cancer lesions for which they want to sue Randy.
Much later, the boys remember that they left Cartman tied to the cross. They return to find him emaciated but still alive, having survived for three weeks on his Walrus-like stores of fat.
What I Learned Today
"I learned something from the Stations of the Cross. At first Jesus was all like, 'Why me?' And he was all pissed off and stuff. Then he saw that what mattered most was everybody else. So he stopped thinking about his own misery and did what had to be done."
- "You're too fat to be Jesus!" (Kyle Broflovski)
- "Lord, is it so much to ask that you not let us suddenly burst into flame for no apparent reason? I mean, come on. Amen." (Father Maxi)
- "Have you boys been sure to pass gas regularly so you don't spontaneously combust?" (Mr. Mackey)
- "You die on that cross and get resurrected before I kick your ass!" (Kyle Broflovski)
- "As soon as I get my superpowers, I'm gonna smote you two assholes off the planet!" (Eric Cartman)
- "I just want a nerection so I can go give it to my mom!" (Kyle Broflovski)
- "You're not too Jewish to worship Jesus are you?" (Father Maxi)
- "On this blessed Friday, let us give thanks for stuff and things." (Father Maxi)
- "Dude! I think you pulled mud!" (Kyle Broflovski)
Kenny and Helen, plus various other South Park residents who also spontaneously combust.
The seventies style, happy-go-lucky song "You and Me Girl" plays while Randy daydreams at the end of the episode.
Behind The Scenes
Where Did The Idea Come From
The episode is inspired by reenactments of the Stations of the Cross (the depiction of the Passion of Jesus Christ) Trey saw as a child. He and Matt thought it was funny that young children at church watched and reenacted these events, especially the crucifixion of Jesus. Also, crucifying Cartman was a concept Matt and Trey long wanted to do. It was an idea they dreamed up even before South Park debuted.
The plot element involving flatulence comes from Trey's serious belief that holding in farts can cause humans to spontaneously combust. He has seen people light their farts and create enormous fireballs, so he wouldn't be surprised if spontaneous combustion from pent up gas turned out possible.
Pop Culture References
Stan says that Jesus told his followers that "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." Spock said this to Kirk in the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.
Stan's dad lapses into a bizarre dream sequence during which he and the boys are chased by someone in a mask and incongruously wind up playing in a pop band. The music and montage is a parody of musical numbers seen on the comedy show The Monkees. How the person in the mask chases them through various doors is similar to the illogical scenes found in the Scooby Doo cartoons.
Priest Maxi's entire sermon at Kenny's funeral is about the Denver Broncos football team. He starts with "Lord though we have lost Neil Smith to free agency and Steve Atwater to the Jets." Neil Smith was the defensive end for Broncos until 1999 when he became a free agent. Steve Atwater left the team to join the New York Jets. The prayer is finished with the church saying the Bronco's cheer "Let's go Broncos".
The scene in which Stan's dad is forced to drag a statue of himself through town is a recreation of the Stations of the Cross. The statue is modeled after Michelangelo's David but has Randy's face.
There is a radio commercial where former presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bob Dole brags about how he can get an erection. In 1999, Bob Dole became a spokesperson for Pfizer, the pharmaceutical that produces Viagra. He spoke in support of combating erectile dysfunction.
The Nobel Prize awards in this episode is a parody of the Academy Awards, the annual award show for films. Actress Whoopie Goldberg, who in real life has hosted a number of Academy Awards including the year this episode was made, presents a speech of repeatedly saying "Republicans are so stupid". Actor Nick Nolte also presents at the award show, giving a belabored boring speech.
In Randy's speech about the disastrous effect of spontaneous combustion, he closes with a picture of Jocelyn Wildenstein, a Swiss-American socialite best known for her hideous amounts of plastic surgery.
- Kenny's dad and Mayor McDaniels are both seen reading a porn mag called Guzunga's.
- Before Kenny explodes, Cartman nags Kenny for spending so much time with his "little girlfriend". This is a continuation of the storyline from "Rainforest Shmainforest" where Kenny gets a girlfriend named Kelly.
- Although he loses the Nobel Prize to Randy, Dr. Mephesto finally creates a seven-assed turtle.
- Stan mentions that Jesus had superpowers. According to Biblical legend Jesus had healing powers, was able to turn water into wine, walk on water etc., all due to his holy lineage. In the South Park universe, it is later revealed in "Super Best Friends" that Jesus and a number of other religious figures have conventional superpowers and formed their own team, the Super Best Friends.
- Too much flatulence in South Park apparently caused global warming. It is commonly argued that methane from cow farts in industrial farms has intensified the greenhouse effect, causing climate change.
- There is a Hidden Visitor on the face of the moon when it pans out and Cartman is covered by a shadow. A Visitor's head is spotted in various episodes after this point on a poster in the school cafeteria.
- e1 Rainforest Shmainforest
- e2 Spontaneous Combustion
- e3 The Succubus
- e4 Tweek Vs. Craig
- e5 Jakovasaurs
- e6 Sexual Harassment Panda
- e7 Cat Orgy
- e8 Two Guys Naked in a Hot Tub
- e9 Jewbilee
- e10 Chinpokomon
- e11 Starvin' Marvin in Space
- e12 Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery
- e13 Hooked on Monkey Fonics
- e14 The Red Badge of Gayness
- e15 Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics
- e16 Are You There, God? It's Me, Jesus
- e17 World Wide Recorder Concert