The episode: “Jr. Rodeo Daredevils,” the short in front of “The Killer Shrews,” ep. 407
The riff: Asked by Crow as the town sheriff aprehends two mischievious young boys who are up to tomfoolery with a rancher’s horses.
The explanation: “The Ox-Bow Incident” is a famous Western novel from 1940. It’s about the dangers of crowd justice and lynch mobs, which are out to catch an kill a couple of suspected rustlers. The book was adapted into a classic film of the same name in 1943, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Crow is basically just making a typically macabre MST3k joke that the boys are about to be hanged for their “crimes.”
Novelty factor: I didn’t know the reference, but oddly I was kind of aware of its meaning. For whatever reason, hearing “The Ox-Bow Incident” immediately reminded me of the title “An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge,” a short story by Ambrose Bierce that is also about hanging. I have no idea why my mind connected the two.