Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade

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"Bart vs. Lisa vs. The Third Grade"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no. 294
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Written by Tim Long
Showrunner(s) Al Jean
Production code DABF20
Original air date November 17, 2002
Chalkboard gag "Fish do not like coffee."
Couch gag In a parody of the opening of the 1960s sitcom, Get Smart, Homer goes through many futuristic doors and passageways until he reaches the phone booth, falls through the floor, and lands on the couch (with the rest of the family already seated).
Guest star(s) Tony Bennett (archival audio)
Commentary Al Jean
Tim Long
Ian Maxtone-Graham
John Frink
Kevin Curran
Steven Dean Moore
Mike B. Anderson
Michael Price

"Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade" is the third episode of the fourteenth season of the American animated television sitcom The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 17, 2002. In the episode, the Simpsons buy a satellite television, which Bart spends so much time watching that he does not study for an important achievement test. He scores so low that Principal Skinner demotes him to third grade, while Lisa does so well that she is moved up to third grade. The two are placed in the same class and become rivals. During a trip to Capital City, they get separated from their class and are forced to help each other in order to find their classmates.


Homer buys a satellite system with over 500 channels. He and Bart get addicted to it, and Bart does not study at all for an important upcoming achievement test, even as Lisa is spending all her time preparing. Once the test is done, Principal Skinner announces the results at a school assembly. Not only does Bart fail the test and is demoted to the third grade, but Lisa aces the test and gets promoted to the third grade, where they meet their new teacher, Audrey McConnell. In class, Bart performs well on tests (having memorized the answers from his previous experience in the third grade), while Lisa has a hard time adjusting to the class. Audrey decides to clamp their desks together after Bart answers a trick question he had seen the previous year, as the teacher thinks Lisa needs Bart's help. Later, Bart gets an A on a map test while Lisa only gets an A–. Bart says that the test was easy and recites all of the answers to Lisa, which he had memorized from last year in third grade (because he claims that the answer key never changes). Lisa proclaims that Bart cheated but the teacher did not hear Bart's recitation and tells Lisa to stop being jealous.

Bart and Lisa are made field trip partners as part of the buddy system on a field trip to Capital City. When they are there, they hear that the flag for the state Springfield is an embarrassment (it contains a Confederate flag, despite the state being from the North), and their teacher assigns for homework an assignment to design a new flag. Lisa calls Marge as she designs her flag, which says "To Fraternal Love". On the phone, she complains about and makes fun of Bart, unmindful of the fact that Bart is overhearing the conversation on another phone and getting very angry about her comments. The next day, Bart, Lisa and the other third-graders hand over their flag designs to the Governor. When the Governor sees Lisa's design, she starts to cry and displays the flag which now reads "Learn to Fart". This appalls Lisa, as Bart innocently admonishes her for making the Governor cry.

Later, Bart again teases Lisa and they get in a fight and miss the bus heading back to Springfield. The fight brings them out of the parking lot and into the forest. As a result, the two wind up getting lost. Lisa tells Bart she is hurt by his behavior and Bart sounds somewhat apologetic, though he also adds in the interest of full disclosure that he wants to say he is sorry for using Homer's steamroller a while back to crush Lisa's bike, which he then blamed on Gypsies. Back in Springfield, Principal Skinner informs Homer and Marge that Bart and Lisa are missing. They go to Capital City to find them. Meanwhile, Bart and Lisa have been confronted by a family of hillbillies, who save them by driving them back to Capital City. Marge is ecstatic on seeing her children safe and sound. Principal Skinner, worried about the effects of placing Bart and Lisa in the same class, suggests that they return to the "status quo ante" – both Simpson kids go back to their proper grades.


"Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade" was written by Tim Long and directed by Steven Dean Moore as part of the fourteenth season of The Simpsons (2002–03).[1] American singer Tony Bennett is credited as guest starring in the episode, though his lines were taken from archival audio.[1]


The episode originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 17, 2002.[1] It was viewed in approximately 7.47 million households that night. With a Nielsen rating of 7.0, the episode finished 44th in the ratings for the week of November 11–17, 2002 (tied with new episodes of Becker and Boomtown). It was the highest-rated broadcast on Fox that week, beating shows such as King of the Hill, 24, and Malcolm in the Middle.[2] On December 6, 2011, "Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade" was released on Blu-ray and DVD as part of the box set The Simpsons – The Complete Fourteenth Season.[3] Staff members Al Jean, Tim Long, Ian Maxtone-Graham, John Frink, Kevin Curran, Steven Dean Moore, Mike B. Anderson, and Michael Price participated in the DVD audio commentary for the episode.[4]

DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson wrote that the episode "opens with a TV-based segment awfully reminiscent of Season Two's 'Homer Vs. Lisa and the Eighth Commandment' and doesn’t get much better from there. As usual, we discover a few laughs along the way – particularly when Bart tries to teach mnemonics – but these are less plentiful than I’d like. This ends up as a wholly mediocre episode."[4] Aaron Peck of High-Def Digest called the episode "memorable".[5]

Cultural references[edit]

  • In Bart's vision in class, Bender from Matt Groening's other show Futurama, Pikachu of Pokémon fame, robots from BattleBots and Japanese-style Friends appear. He also turns Ms. Krabappel into Tom Brokaw barfing. The Japanese Friends, Tom Brokaw, and BattleBots were all things Bart saw on the satellite TV, and Robot Rumble reoccurs in "I, D'oh-Bot".
  • When Bart is lifted up in his vision by the TV characters he conjured up with his remote, the song that they sing is Hava Nagila, a famous Hebrew folk song.
  • M.C. Safety's rap about safety has a similar sound to "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang, a song that is widely considered the first breakout hit rap song.
  • When he learns that Bart and Lisa got lost on their trip to Capital City, Skinner orders Willy to engrave their names on the memorial to the kids who got lost on a school trip on the black wall (a clear parody of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial); one can see the name of members of punk band NOFX such as El Hefe (misspelled as El Jefe) and Fat Mike.
  • Lisa can be seen reading a book titled "Love in the Time of Coloring Books", a reference to Love in the Time of Cholera.
  • When Lisa says "Hyperbolic? Do you even know what that means, Bart?" the orchestral strike that occurs during the word "means" is sampled directly from Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings.
  • Bart says he will make Lisa's flag a "Bart-Mangled Banner," a play on the US national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner. That name would become the title of a later episode.
  • When the Capital City Goofball points to the state flag, it is similar in appearance to the state flag of Arizona.
  • The hillbillies are heading into town to get the new issue of "SPY" magazine. Lisa is correct that the magazine stopped publishing by 2002, as it ceased publication in 1998.
  • At the end of the episode, Principal Skinner breaks the fourth wall by talking about "what this episode has taught us", although by 'episode' he may simply be referring to the series of events rather than the actual TV episode.
  • When Bart is listing mnemonics, one he uses is "Quiet nerds burp only near school," to remember the original four Canadian provinces Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.
  • Another mnemonic Bart uses is for the Canadian Governors General, "Clowns love haircuts, so should Lee Marvin's valet" (Adrienne Clarkson, Roméo LeBlanc, Ray Hnatyshyn, Jeanne Sauvé, Edward Schreyer, Jules Léger, Roland Michener, and Georges Vanier)
  • When the bus honks, it sounds very similar to the bus from the PBS version of The Magic School Bus.
  • Bart suggests to Lisa to walk in circles like in the movie The Blair Witch Project, Bart walks off and returns seconds later from the other side of the screen and sees Lisa, he says 'We must be close... I recognize that girl.'.
  • When the kids in Grade Three (with Bart & Lisa) are on the bus, they play Punch buggy, a game where you ever see a Volkswagen Beetle, you punch someone in the arm next to you and yell out the colour.


  1. ^ a b c Simpsons World The Ultimate Episode Guide: Seasons 1–20. HarperCollins. 2010. pp. 672–673. ISBN 9780594045052. 
  2. ^ Associated Press (2002-11-21). "Nielsen ratings". Saint Paul Pioneer Press. p. E9. 
  3. ^ Lambert, David (2011-09-28). "The Simpsons - Finalized Box Art, Details and Extras for 'The Complete 14th Season' DVDs, Blu-rays". Retrieved 2012-08-19. 
  4. ^ a b Jacobson, Colin (2011-12-16). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth Season [Blu-Ray] (2002)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  5. ^ Peck, Aaron (2011-12-14). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth Season (Blu-ray)". High-Def Digest (Internet Brands). Retrieved 2012-08-19. 

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