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"The Chips are Down"
Season/Series: 3
Number in season: 5A
Original Airdate: United States November 20, 1998[1]
Canada September 10, 1999[2]
Germany February 27, 2002[3]
Written by: Joe Fallon
Storyboard by: Stéphanie Gignac
"And Now Let's Talk to Some Kids"
"Revenge of the Chip"
Read transcript

"The Chips are Down" is the first half of the fifth episode in the third season of Arthur.


D.W. eats a gigantic green potato chip, then hears a rumor that the green ones are poisonous. She spreads this rumor to Binky, who also ate a green potato chip himself recently. Fearing that they have little time to live, D.W. and Binky spend time together to make their lives more meaningful, leaving everyone bewildered.


At the Sugar Bowl, D.W. decides to poll Arthur and Francine, telling them that "children should seek out the opinions of elders they respect." She asks each of them to name something that they have always wanted to do: Arthur says he wants to play a real piano concert. Leaving D.W. unimpressed, Arthur tells her that it's more exciting when you do it while skydiving. Francine says that she would like to practice hockey in orbit around Saturn (on its rings in her fantasy), where there is no friction or gravity. Binky strolls in and D.W. spots him, calling him "Big-Head Kid" before asking him the same question. He thinks for a while, and comes up with something he always wanted to do: Binky tells Arthur and Francine to look outside, then drinks their milkshakes whole while they are not looking. Binky then walks off proudly.

The Chips are Down

On a rainy day at the Read house, as part of the Potato Chip Club, Arthur and Buster sort out a bag of potato chips based on their traits, such as size, burnt ones, ones that look like ducks, and ones that look like familiar people. D.W. sneaks in on them to try to interrupt this club meeting to get a potato chip, but they refuse to give her any until they're done in 5 minutes. As D.W. goes on parading off to tell Jane that the boys won't share, Arthur and Buster find a big green potato chip in the bag. They put it down on the board they are organizing all the potato chips on before Jane calls them to ask them to share with D.W. While they are talking with Jane, D.W. sneaks into the dining room where their potato chips are. She is amazed to see the big green potato chip, steals it, eats it, and rushes upstairs before Arthur and Buster see her. Shocked, and deducing under an assumption that D.W. ate the big green chip, they decide to retaliate by trying to scare her into coming down by faking that green potato chips are poisoned, and that there is no cure. Believing as well that green potato chips are poisoned, Nadine advises D.W. to tell Jane about what she did. D.W. refuses since she was told not to eat any of Arthur and Buster's potato chips, and instead, decides to find out for sure if green potato chips really are poisoned.

At the playground, D.W. asks the Tibble Twins, and surprisingly, they mention green potato chips being poisoned. Binky, at the swings trying to ride up over the bar, is also shocked to hear this, declaring that he ate a green chip two days before. D.W. convinces Binky, who refers to her as "Arthur's sister", that they should start living out the last days of their lives before they die from having eaten green potato chips. Binky and D.W. start doing a series of activities within one day: fly a kite using five rolls of string, sail toy boats on a pond, go swimming in a lake, watch a fireworks show, make jack-o'-lanterns, play and jump in a pile of leaves, and make a unicorn and castle entirely out of snow.

Even on their own, D.W. and Binky start making a big deal out of the activities they do over the next few days. Despite it being May, D.W. watches Christmas videos, hoping to see all of them before her life is over. At school, Binky asks Brain about completing a short bucket list he made of his three biggest goals in life. When Mr. Ratburn asks Binky for his homework, Binky blatantly questions Mr. Ratburn on the point of doing homework, shocking everybody in the class as well as Mr. Ratburn. At kindergarten, Ms. Morgan talks to her class about careers they can have when they grow up. D.W. asks if there is a career that she can have "by my next birthday", mentioning that she does not want to just sit around and watch the Tibbles eat paper paste. Binky is turned in to Mr. Haney for refusing to do homework, but motivates the principal to not let the gift of a beautiful life pass them by. Shockingly to Mr. Ratburn, Mr. Haney thanks Binky, showing his support on such ideas of life. He then goes off, inspired to climb Mount Everest. At lunch, Brain discusses Binky's life goals with him: Binky's first goal is to "take a bite out of the Sun", but Brain tells him not to do it since it is simply way too hot to handle; he also advises against Binky's second goal - to drink a whole ocean, saying that saltwater makes people sick. Left with one last goal, Binky goes off, nervously but proudly, into a ballet school.

At the tree house, Arthur brings a board game to play with Buster and Francine. He tells them that D.W. had the game last, and neatly put everything back, and even kissed him good-night last night. Buster brings up his invitation to Binky's upcoming ballet recital, to which Arthur and Francine were also invited to. They all acknowledge these two events as "eerie". They also spot D.W. and Binky discussing how amazing it is to closely examine leaves. Binky personally invites D.W. to his ballet recital to thank her for inspiring him to follow his dreams. Arthur, Buster and Francine are left stunned about D.W. inspiring Binky. Back at the Read house, D.W. shows Jane her outfit to Binky's recital, disappointed that she may not wear it again. Meanwhile, Arthur is about to eat another green potato chip, and surely enough out of caution, D.W. swipes the chip from Arthur's hands. Arthur laughs and finally tells D.W. that green chips being poisonous is simply not true. It's from D.W.'s efforts to save his life that Arthur finds out D.W. did eat the first big green chip, and that D.W. was only being nice to Arthur because she spent all that time thinking she will die from poison. This leaves D.W. embarrassed, and Nadine to tells D.W. that she should've told Jane right away when she thought she was poisoned.

At Binky's ballet recital, Arthur and his friends watch him dance. Off stage, D.W. whispers to Binky that green potato chips really aren't poisoned. Shocked, and nervous to be performing ballet without a sure reason anymore, Binky runs off stage and sits down with the audience. Arthur and his friends, as well as Binky's friends, the Tough Customers, admit that they enjoyed his performance, calling him "the best part". Encouraged, Binky quickly gets back on stage to finish the recital, catching fellow ballerina Rubella at the end of her grand jeté. After the recital, Jane tells D.W. that she "does not have to worry alone." Binky also thanks D.W. for inspiring him to do ballet, saying that he really likes it, and that he would not have gotten into it otherwise. D.W. proudly says that it was all thanks to green potato chips. Binky and D.W. give each other formal introductions, telling each other their real names, and walk off with Binky hoping to start working on his own ballet. Arthur, Buster and Francine are still left surprised that all of this has happened, as well as Binky and D.W. becoming friends, while Buster whispers to Francine that it's because of space aliens. The episode ends while to nobody's attention, a UFO appears outside a window, where two aliens claim they had nothing to do with it, insisting that they are simply "ballet fans".







  • At the end of the 2000 rerun intro on PBS Kids before this episode, Arthur’s crashing sound changes to the Season 5 version.
  • In the end, there is a male poodle walking with Prunella's mother Wanda as they all leave, although it is unknown as to whether or not he is Prunella and Rubella's father and Wanda's husband. He is seen with Wanda again in "Wish You Were Here".
  • Two chips that Arthur and Buster find are shaped like Mr. Ratburn and Francine.
  • Usually the playground is shown outside of Mr. Haney's office, and not a woodland (which is shown in this episode).
  • Green potato chips are technically poisonous, but only if consumed in huge quantities. Potatoes turn green due to the toxin solanine, which is produced from exposure to sunlight, but high temperatures due to the deep frying process largely reduce the risk.
  • James, Edwin, Sarah, and Maryann are with Mary Moo Cow in the "Magic Christmas Special".
  • D.W. and Binky refer to each other as "Arthur's sister" and "Big Head Kid" until the end of the episode when they introduce themselves with their real (nick) names.
  • Francine's fantasy in which she practices hockey in orbit around Saturn has her doing it on its rings, as they are made of ice and Saturn itself has no solid surface. But while the dream sequence depicts the rings as solid bands, which is how they appear when viewed from a distance, in reality, they are actually made up of billions of floating ice chunks kept in orbit around the planet by its strong gravity.
  • The title of this episode shares its name with the French idiom, the 1947 French movie, and The Raccoons episode.
  • When Binky refers to Mr. Haney by his first name he calls him Herb, as he was called in Arthur's Mystery Envelope. Mr. Haney's first name in the series is later changed to Francis.

Episode connections[]

  • D.W. eats the green chip in this episode, and she eats it again during a fairy tale fantasy sequence in "Just Desserts".
  • Arthur commenting on D.W. watching Christmas videos in May is a reference in "The Big Blow-Up", where she also attempts to write a letter to Santa in May.
  • "Revenge of the Chip" deals with the aftermath of the events of this episode.

Cultural references[]

  • Mr. Haney compares Binky to Walt Whitman, a famous American poet ("O Captain! My Captain!").
  • Mr. Haney reveals that his lifelong dream is to climb Mount Everest.
  • The spacecraft Francine uses to visit Saturn in her dream sequence bears some resemblance to the U.S. Space Shuttles.
  • This episode's title is a play on the phrase "when the chips are down", meaning "when a situation is urgent or critical".
  • D.W. thinking she ate something poisonous is similar to the Gilligan's Island episode "The Postman Cometh", where Mary Ann Summers thinks she ate poisoned mushrooms.


  • When Binky asked D.W. what she was talking about, the former jumped off of the swing. It is not possible for the swing to stay up for more than 7 seconds.
  • Emily Leduc and Amanda Hulser are seen dancing in the ballet recital, and they look seemingly taller.
  • Arthur tells Pal that he's lucky he doesn't have a sister, but in the episode "Arthur's Pet Business", Pal's mother Perky had three puppies including Pal, though it's possible the other two puppies were boys also or one of them was a girl, and Arthur forgot that Pal had a sister.
    • Arthur may simply be referring to Pal not having a sister living in the same house with him.

Behind the scenes[]

  • The idea for this episode was inspired by Kathy Waugh (creative producer and writer for Arthur) who, as a child, ate something and feared death because of it.[4]

Home video[]






  4. "That had actually happened to me. It wasn't a potato chip, but I ate something and I thought I was going to die. I thought it was going to kill me, and I worried about it in secret for days and days and days..." - Kathy Waugh on Finding D.W. podcast