The episode: “The Day the Earth Froze,” ep. 422
The riff: Matter-of-factly noted by Tom as we see a quick and random shot of a bear dancing on its hind legs, spinning round and round.
The explanation: John Irving is a well-known American novelist and Oscar-winning screenwriter, famous for novels like “The World According to Garp” and “The Cider House Rules.” As it turns out, though, one of the most enduring images in Irving’s work is bears for whatever reason. They factor heavily into his first-ever novel, “Setting Free the Bears,” in which the characters plan a zoo outbreak, and are mentioned in almost all of his other works.
Novelty factor: I actually read an Irving novel, “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” back in high school, one of the few books I legitimately enjoyed as far as English course assigned reading is concerned. I still didn’t recognize the reference, though–I don’t remember bears being an important motif in that one.