|Number in season:||10|
|Original Airdate:|| November 29, 2002|
February 5, 2003
|Written by:||Peter K. Hirsch|
|Storyboard by:||Gerry Capelle|
"Return of the Snowball"
A fire destroys the teacher's lounge caused by some faulty wiring and forces Lakewood Elementary to close, prompting a range of reactions from the kids:
- Sue Ellen is heartbroken that her journal was destroyed.
- Binky tries to behave in a calm manner even though the flames terrified him.
- Buster feels totally left out because he slept through the entire thing.
- Mr. Read, at the school on a catering job, escapes safely, but now Arthur finds himself constantly worrying about his father's safety.
It all begins on April 9th, a beautiful normal spring day in Elwood City, as the kids prepare to head off to school. Sue Ellen places her new postcard she got from a friend in Bolivia in her precious journal; Arthur learns his dad will be catering a breakfast at his school and asks if he can get a ride with him; Muffy and Binky are also on their way to school. However, Buster overslept as he didn't hear his alarm going off.
In class at Lakewood Elementary School, Mr. Ratburn starts the day passing out graded test papers, but things begin to go wrong the moment he smells smoke. The fire alarm then goes off and they begin to evacuate the building. Sue Ellen realizes she left her backpack behind and has no time to retrieve her journal. Binky catches a glimpse of the fire, making him very nervous. He also sees the school janitor, Mr. Morris, closing the door on the flames. Mr. Ratburn then tells Binky to move along.
Once outside, the parents all show up. The kids learn that Mr. Morris had injured his leg in the fire, and he is taken to the hospital. Arthur is worried about his dad, but the fire chief refuses to let him inside the burning school, as it's too dangerous. Sue Ellen starts crying at the loss of her journal as a fireman sprays water on some burning objects, including her backpack, causing the pages of her journal to fly in the air. Arthur is relieved to see David make it out okay thanks to the firefighters. After everything's cleared up and the firefighters leave, Buster finally arrives, and Francine explains what happened. Buster feels dismayed that he actually slept through what was pretty much the biggest event of the year.
While hanging out at their treehouse, the gang talks about the fire. Francine struggles to comprehend that their school is destroyed when they were just there yesterday. Also, it turns out that until Lakewood's done being rebuilt/renovated, the students will now be attending Mighty Mountain Elementary School. Binky continues to try and cover up his fear of the fire. He leaves after taking Buster's ice cream out of annoyance when Buster tries to vividly describe the scene. Arthur, Buster, Francine, Muffy and Brain then look up and hear Sue Ellen in the treehouse, still crying over her journal being destroyed. Muffy initially doesn't understand Sue Ellen's feelings and claims she can just buy a new journal but Francine explains that Sue Ellen had that journal ever since she was in first grade. Buster then plots that he kept his cupcakes since first grade.
Things don't seem to improve when Binky panics after watching a Bionic Bunny episode featuring the fiery villain Hothead and Muffy fails to cheer up Sue Ellen with a brand new journal. Buster still feels left out since he was not actually at the fire, so he begins exaggerating his "eyewitness" story to the Mighty Mountain students about how dramatic and scary the incident was. Arthur gets annoyed with Buster since his dad could've been really hurt in the fire. Buster discusses his conflicted feelings with his mom, who gets an idea for him to do something the next day.
That night, Arthur learns that his dad's next catering job will be at the aquarium for a deep-sea fishermen convention and is relieved that it's not at another school. David assures him that schools are safe and reveals that the fire was caused by faulty wiring, which could happen anywhere. Arthur goes to sleep but has a nightmare about his dad being attacked by a giant squid at the convention.
The next day, Buster goes to the hospital to visit Mr. Morris, and when he discovers that they both have asthma and love chocolate, it looks like a new friendship has started.
The day after that, in their temporary classroom at Mighty Mountain, the students prepare to take a test. Buster talks to his friends about Mr. Morris while Sue Ellen finally accepts a new journal Muffy bought for her (complete with a personalized cover and pen), saying she feels much better now.
A mysterious yellow gloved hand in the hallway is seen pulling the fire alarm. The alarm causes the students to gasp in fear.
After the school is evacuated, Francine reveals to Arthur and Buster that she overheard it was just a false alarm and someone had apparently pulled the fire alarm as a prank. Buster is disappointed again that he is the only who hasn’t been through a fire, though Arthur points out that’s actually good luck. Binky then comes up to them, laughing at how scared the Mighty Mountain students were. However, it turns out Binky was the one who pulled the fire alarm and accidentally gives himself away to the others when he reveals that he timed how long it took for the firefighters to get to the school. Binky then realizes he's in big trouble when this earns him looks from Buster, Arthur and Francine; the fire chief and the Mighty Mountain Principal then approach with his backpack they found near the alarm's pull station that he activated.
Binky writes a confession/apology to the Mighty Mountain principal and Mr. Haney, but refuses to reveal the true reason why he pulled the fire alarm. Mr. Haney punishes Binky by making him do community service with Mr. Frensky supervising him picking up litter in the park. While working, a group of firefighters drive by and it turns out that they know Mr. Frensky - he used to be a volunteer firefighter. Mr. Frensky admits that being around fires (like the one that happened at Lakewood) can be pretty scary, distracting Binky for a moment.
Buster comes to visit Mr. Morris, who tells him about the time he worked as a dog groomer. One time, all the dogs ran into a perfect circle made in a cornfield and surprisingly, Mr. Morris thinks it was caused by aliens, just like Buster. When Buster offers to get more soda for them both, Mr. Morris insists on getting it himself since he needs to get used to being on his crutches. Buster figures that it won't take long for Mr. Morris to heal because he knew a kid with a broken leg who had his cast off in a few weeks. However, Mr. Morris points out that his condition is more serious because of his old age; even once his leg heals up completely, it'll probably never be the same.
On the morning David is preparing to go to the aquarium, Arthur tries pretending to be sick in order to get his dad to stay home. However, David realizes that Arthur isn't sick and realizes that his son is concerned about him because of the fire. David reveals that when he was around Arthur's age, Grandma Thora was in a car accident. Although she wasn't hurt, David feared for a long time that whenever his mother got into a car after that, she'd have another accident. To help himself feel better, David would crumple up pieces of paper and throw them into a wastebasket, deciding that if he successfully made more shots than he missed, Thora would come home safely. One day when David forgot to do it, Thora ended up being gone for three hours, but ultimately returned home fine. David then explains it's his job to worry about Arthur, not the other way around.
By April 18th, Sue Ellen is still struggling to meaningfully write in her new journal at a park. While watching some painters work on a mural, she then gets an idea that the students and teachers should work together to paint a mural outside Lakewood Elementary School while it’s being repaired. Once the administration approves, Sue Ellen shares her idea with her friends and with everyone working together, the mural is completed. It depicts the fire, Lakewood's thanks to Mighty Mountain and the school reopening.
When Lakewood Elementary is reopened, Francine interviews various students for the school paper. Busters wants the bathrooms to be kept clean for Mr. Morris while he recovers. Sue Ellen happily shows that she managed to find a portion of the Bolivia postcard she lost from her old journal. However, Binky refuses to talk to Francine, as he still can't stop remembering the fire. After hallucinating smoke in the new principal's office, Binky runs out of the school in terror as a worried Mr. Haney calls out to him.
Binky is crying while walking on the sidewalk when Mr. Frensky finds him. Binky finally confesses his recurring fear of the fire, and how he's too scared to go back to school because he keeps seeing flames and smoke. Mr. Frensky understands Binky's feelings, revealing he had similar problems when he saw his first fire close up. Mr. Frensky explains that talking about it made him feel better. Binky agrees that he feels a little better after admitting his fear, but still doesn't want to go back to school. Mr. Frensky then calls Mr. Haney to let him know where Binky is, and invites Binky to do some of the garbage collection rounds with him, which the latter agrees to.
In Mr. Ratburn's new classroom, they have cake in the middle of class in honor of the reopening. Buster asks for an extra slice for Mr. Morris, only to find out that he’s retiring. After school, Buster goes to Mr. Morris' house, where the (now ex) janitor explains that he's moving in with his daughter, who lives on a ranch down in New Mexico. Buster offers to let Mr. Morris live with him and his mom, but Mr. Morris, though certainly touched by the offer, feels that it would be best for him to live with his family. Before leaving, Mr. Morris gives Buster his old accordion as a present to remember him by, also assuring Buster he can visit any time.
That night, Arthur and Buster talk via walkie-talkies about the changes the fire has caused, including Mr. Morris' retirement and his friendship with Buster. Arthur finds that David has returned home from catering Mr. Crosswire's birthday party, safe and sound. Buster then plays "Clementine" on his new accordion over the walkie-talkie.
The episode finishes with Sue Ellen writing in her new journal that it is nearing one month since April 9th. Although she doesn't want to experience another fire, Sue Ellen is glad that she and her friends made it through the situation and feels happy knowing that if they stick together, they can get through just about anything. Sue Ellen then turns off her light and goes to bed.
- Arthur Read
- Buster Baxter
- Binky Barnes
- David Read
- Mr. Morris
- Muffy Crosswire
- Oliver Frensky
- Sue Ellen Armstrong
- Bionic Bunny
- Bitzi Baxter
- Mrs. Barnes
- D.W. Read
- Firefighter No.3
- Francine Frensky
- George Lundgren
- Francis Haney
- The Brain
- Mr. Morris's paramedic
- Nigel Ratburn
- Mighty Mountain Player
- Sam Scarborough
- 3rd Grade Male Rabbit (Number 3)
- 3rd Grade Male Aardvark
- 3rd Grade Female Bear (Number 3)
- Mr. Armstrong
- Mrs. Armstrong
- Mighty Mountain principal
- Mighty Mountain teacher
- Ed Crosswire (does not speak)
- Bruno's Music worker
- Ed Billings
- Fern Walters
- Jane Read
- Jenna Morgan
- Kate Read
- Leah MacGrady
- Mrs. Lundgren
- Maria Pappas
- Martin Spivak
- Millicent Crosswire
- Mr. Powers
- Prunella Deegan
- Ursa Merkle
- Mrs. Lancaster
- 3rd Grade Male Dog
- 3rd Grade Male Dog (Number 3)
- Beulah McInnerny
- 3rd Grade Male Rat (Number 2)
- 3rd Grade Female Aardvark (Number 5)
- 3rd Grade Female Aardvark (Number 2)
- 3rd Grade Male Cat
- This is the first time the fire department plays a major role.
- The name of the moving company is Tolon's Moving, a nod to the fact that Marc Brown's son's name and Marc Brown's own middle name is "Tolon."
- Buster and Mr. Morris remain friends following this episode. They talk to each other on the phone in "Buster Isn't Buying It," and they reunite in the Postcards from Buster episode "Alien Adventure."
- It is revealed that Mr. Morris is allergic to pollen, dander and peanuts.
- This is a rare example of a date being explicitly stated in a episode, since Sue Ellen dates her diary entry "April 16, 2002" suggesting this episode canonically takes place in 2003. However, this is a continuity error, because Sue Ellen was not living in Elwood City one year ago.
- This episode shows the second and third times a fire alarm goes off in a school. The first time was in "D.W. All Fired Up," when D.W.'s preschool had their first fire drill, and in this episode, one goes off in Lakewood and the other goes off in Mighty Mountain (as a false alarm).
- Despite the title saying April 9th, the episode actually aired on November 29, 2002 in the U.S. and February 5, 2003 in Canada.
- In 2015, the episode was made available freely on the official PBS Kids Arthur website as part of the resilience section of a feature titled Arthur Family Health. The episode can be watched here. It is also available on the PBS KIDS Video app and website.
- The pirate in Arthur's dream telling him to not go in the water tank is a reference to Betsy not allowing Arthur to go in the burning school.
- Despite it being referred to as a journal in this episode, Sue Ellen's diary is shown to be exactly the same titular book seen earlier in "Sue Ellen's Lost Diary."
- Buster remembers having asthma since "Buster's Breathless."
- This episode is the second time Mr. Morris injures his leg; the other was "The Half-Baked Sale."
- There are several references to "D.W. All Fired Up" in this episode — most notably the enforcement of fire safety.
- Arthur and Buster try lying to Binky in "Binky Barnes, Art Expert" that the school burned down so he doesn't have to come to school. Binky knows it's not true because he can see the school from his window, and doesn't buy their explanation that the school only "burned on the inside." But this is exactly what happens to the school in this episode, and it traumatizes Binky.
- In season 7, a villain named Kodo is a rabbit who tricks Bionic Bunny to save her kitten, which occurs again in this episode.
- This is the second time a sibling in the Read family dreams about a cephalopod eating a member of the Read family. Arthur dreams that his dad is eaten by a squid. D.W. dreams about an octopus eating Arthur in "D.W. All Wet."
- This episode is a response to the September 11 attacks. The story was designed to show how people deal with tragedies in different ways.
- When Buster goes to deliver the flowers to Mr. Morris, there is an announcement over the intercom which calls 'Doctor Davis' and 'Doctor Blair.' The audio was taken from the Queensrÿche song 'I Remember Now' from their 1988 album, 'Operation: Mindcrime.'
- Mr. Morris mentions Zydeco records. Zydeco music prominently features accordions.
- Mr. Morris also mentions Roswell, the "capital of alien sightings".
- Buster plays "Oh My Darling, Clementine".
- There is a poster of Simon & Garfunkel in David's childhood bedroom.
- Almost a month goes by during this episode, meaning several episodes that aired before and after April 9th occurred during this time frame, such as "Arthur the Wrecker," which could have taken place either right before the fire, or in the weeks after it, as Lakewood Elementary did not appear in that episode. In addition, the events of "The Great MacGrady" would take place immediately after Lakewood Elementary reopened, as referenced by the calendar shown in that episode. The events of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" would also happen at the tail end of the time frame.
- Right before the title card, Mr. Ratburn's class is walking out of the building, but Francine and Brain are not with them.
- In one shot of the scene with the firetrucks outside Lakewood Elementary, Buster is in the crowd.
- Ms. Morgan can be seen in the crowd of people outside Lakewood when Arthur is talking to the firefighter.
- Her hair went from red in one shot to blonde in the next.
- When Mr. Morris was in the hospital, his cast was on his left leg, but for the rest of the episode, his cast is on his right leg.
- Francine mentions that Mr. Ratburn's classroom was badly damaged in the fire, but as the alarm went off, there were no flames anywhere in the room. Sue Ellen's backpack and journal also burned, so it is possible that the fire spread to their classroom after they evacuated.
- Arthur says that Buster only met Mr. Morris and became friends with him because of the fire, despite the events of "Arthur Accused!" and "Binky Rules." However, Arthur is correct about his second point.
- When the kids start walking into Mighty Mountain, Hothead can be see among them.
- Hothead's hand is layered on top of Fireball for a split second before her arm is there too.
- In the "And Now a Word from Us Kids" segment, a third grade class discusses fire safety and put information on the Arthur PBS website. This page has since been deleted from the website, but is still referenced on current reruns.
- This is the last episode in which Mark Lague is the background design supervisor.
- This is the last episode in which Robert Waldren is the assistant director.
- This is the last episode in which Travis Williams is the script coordinator.
- This is the last episode in which Marc Léveillé is the sound effects editor.
- This is the last episode in which Julie Pelletier is the post-production supervisor.
- This is the last episode in which Kelly Kincaid is the dialogue editor.
- This is the last episode in which Katherine Poirier is the assistant engineer.
- This is the last episode in which Lise Wedlock is the foley artist.
- This is the last episode where Luc Béliveau and Martin Celestino are video editors.
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- Main article: April 9th/Gallery