Two decades after Homer revealed himself to be Mr. X — and to be the spreader of some crazy internet conspiracy theories — the Simpson patriarch is at it again. This time, though, it involves a community of like-minded, out-of-their minds Springfieldians. And a missing 150-year-old turtle.

In the season 34 premiere of the animated Fox comedy The Simpsons, which airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT, Homer is ridiculed for a ridiculous comment that he makes at a town meeting. Angry/sad/worried/hungry that everyone thinks he's dumb, Homer finds solace — and self-worth — in an online "specific interest group" and becomes obsessed with the whereabouts of Leonard the turtle, who is nowhere to be seen in his zoo habitat. Did someone kidnap Leonard? Is this all part of a larger, insidious plot? Homer has a few ideas — none of them necessarily founded in reality — and he bonds with other Springfield residents in a missing tortoise group to try to solve the mystery. Or maybe someone doesn't want the mystery to be solved? In any case, things devolve into chemtrails and 5G theories, and Homer's family starts to worry about him (while recognizing that he seems to have, well, come out of his shell). "The truth is different these days," Homer explains at one point. "It's more of a hunch you're willing to die for."

The exclusive clip (above) from the premiere reveals an earlier part of Homer's journey right down the rabbit hole, and you can see the outlandish and increasingly dangerous theories spewing forth from the little Leonard cabal. "What if the turtle was taken by a billionaire to transfuse his blood for longevity?'" asks Comic Book Guy, and the group shouts in approval to put that idea on their corkboard of kookiness.

"Conspiracies used to be entertaining, and now some of the conspiracy-hunting communities have become so detached from demonstrable reality that what used to be kind of funny mental exercises are helping to unravel civilization," executive producer Matt Selman tells EW, noting the difference in the world since the show's 2000 episode "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes." "We were inspired by the [2019] documentary Don't F--- with Cats, which was about how people come together through social media on these small causes and become very fervent about them. This episode is about how dangerous it is that people believe so strongly in a conspiracy that they cannot accept the rational truth, no matter how obvious and indisputable that truth is. That's a scary thing."

"Habeas Tortoise" wasn't designed to simply mock or shame conspiracy movements such as QAnon and Flat Earthers (though the former seems to be looking to the series for fodder)' it's to explore what motivates someone to dive down these holes with so many holes in them. Selman says the creators wanted to have "empathy for why people feel so connected to these groups."

"Ultimately people just want to feel like they're part of a community of people that respect each other," he continues, "and people feel like they've been talked down to and they feel like they've been told they're dumb, so they formed these very intense communities with very intense specific belief systems.... We're trying to explore the emotional dynamic of how conspiracy cults become so fervent. Obviously we're making fun of conspiracy-theory social-media fervor. But at the same time, we wanted to have a relatable [episode] about the human element of it all, the dynamic of how people go so deep."

Oh, and here's something that certain people don't want you to know: The ending of "Habeas Tortoise" takes a different kind of conspiratorial turn. "People see conspiracies everywhere now," hints Selman, "but maybe the real conspiracy is people are getting rich off selling conspiracies online." In addition, the episode winks at the show's perceived ability to foretell the future. "We confront that notion head-on," he teases.

In other Simpsons news this fall, Melissa McCarthy plays Homer's stepbrother and becomes a rival for Grampa's love, Marge gets a job on Krusty's Ellen-esque daytime show, future Lisa is involved in a love triangle with Nelson and a character played by Simu Liu, and you'll get not one but two "Treehouse of Horror" episodes come Halloween.

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