Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

Nerves of Steal

Episode #502

"Kids are from Earth, Parents are from Pluto" / "Nerves of Steal"

Synopsis by Dave, comments by Dave and Sarah.
Synopsis

We're in the kitchen at Arthur's house. At the table, Arthur is reading a comic book, and drinking a glass of water. There's a plate full of brownies on the table nearby.

How do we know it's water? Yes, it's white, like the ubiquitous milk in "Arthur's Perfect Christmas", but there's a straw in it, which we can see through the liquid.

Arthur: Taking something that isn't yours always leads to trouble.

Always? Why do you mention that, Arthur? Well, it might be because D.W. is dolled up as Sherlock Holmes with a deerstalker hat and a magnifying glass. She's making a nuisance of herself. Why? D.W. claims that last night she and Grandma made 20 brownies. But now there are only 19.

She believes that Arthur's a suspect. Arthur says he isn't, as he just got back from the dentist, and he isn't eating any more sweets.

He reconsiders.

Arthur: Today, anyway.

D.W.'s eyes narrow.

* * *

D.W. keeps looking for clues as to where the brownie went.

Back in the house, D.W. hits paydirt. Pal is licking at something brown on the floor.

D.W. How could you!?

Dad's nearby, sitting on the couch, reading a newspaper, and eating a brownie. That means Pal's not the culprit, Dad is! D.W. calls him to task for stealing it.

Dad: I didn't steal it, I ate it.

Dad thinks nothing of it, and goes about reading the newspaper. D.W. is outraged, and rushes out of the living room, yelling that she found the brownie thief, surprising Arthur as he walks into the living room.

D.W. wouldn't have mouthed off at Dad if she'd been brought up in my family -- Good thing Dad is as docile as they come, or has given up on trying to discipline D.W. completely.

The background when D.W. storms out of the living room past Arthur very pastelly -- all the color is washed out of the floor and the walls. Sarah/arthur_and_friends thought it looked like it wasn't painted properly. It does look weird...

Arthur: Relax D.W., it's just a brownie...

He turns to look at us.

Arthur: Isn't it?

* * * Nerves of Steal * * *

It's a nice day out, and Brain is flying his remote control plane near some houses.

The red model biplane from #40901 - "What is That Thing?" -- Brain must have rebuilt it after it was totally destroyed. It now has a full compliment of wheels.

Buster is inside, staring out of an open window, looking downright sad. He's watching Brain having fun. Brain sees Buster, and asks him why he's inside on such a "superlative Sunday afternoon". Buster sighs.

Buster: Blame it on Cybertoys.

Brain asks if Buster finally got one.

Not exactly...
Here we go. Buster recounts his tale of woe.


Muffy and Francine are going to have a picnic in the park. Muffy is spreading out a blanket. The picnic basket is placed on the blanket by Francine, and it immediately starts shaking about.

Muffy squeals.

A small toy robot (about a foot tall) with a vaguely rhino-like face peeks its head out of the basket.

Muffy squeals again.

From behind a bush, Binky and Buster have been watching this unfold. Binky comments that Buster can see what he's missing by not having one of these... Cybertoys are great!

Muffy, clutching the offending Cybertoy, confronts the two boys. She drops the Cybertoy, and tells Binky he'll be sorry. She starts chasing him around the park, Binky laughing all the while.

Buster picks up the Cybertoy and smiles.

* * *

Another variety of Cybertoy, this one looking like an elephant-person is walking along, (making servo noises as it does so) along pushing along ball of wool. Nemo the cat is skampering alongside, keeping pace with the robot, watching it intently.

Francine and Arthur are watching this activity from across the room: We're in Francine's bedroom. Francine thinks Nemo interacting with the robot is cute, and says that Arthur and Pal should get a Cybertoy.

Arthur sighs.

Why does he sigh? Peer pressure. Arthur knows that this can only lead to trouble, as this sorta thing has been done before -- See the Trendspotting page.

* * *

Another Cybertoy, this one looking like more robot-like (perhaps "Transformer"-like is more appropriate) walks through a barricade of upturned plastic cups in one of the booths at The Sugar Bowl. This Cybertoy belongs to Brain. Arthur and Buster are with him.

Brain asks when they're getting Cybertoys.

No time soon, apparently.

Fairly typical of Read fiscal policy -- I'm surprised it's insurmountable to Arthur though.

#10802 - "Arthur Bounces Back"
Arthur's parents say no to the Moon Shoes. Arthur gets them himself.
#21702 - "Arthur the Loser"
Arthur sees a commercial for a new board game. The next thing he does is empty his money bank, and then procedes to go buy said game.

Francine and Binky walk in. We see there's a load of plastic cups all over the floor. Francine says the toy store just got a load of Cybertoy action sets in.

Brain perks up...

Brain: You mean "Creepy Castle"?

Binky: ...and the "Galactic Garage"!

Brain grabs his stuff and rushes off with Francine and Binky.

Arthur and Buster watch them leave. Buster comments that everyone on Earth has a Cybertoy apart from them. Arthur trys to comfort Buster by saying not everyone has one. Just at that moment, Tommy and Timmy Tibble walk past the window, each clutching a Cybertoy and laughing.

Buster rests his case.

If this wasn't season five, I might say something about it being odd that Timmy and Tommy are roaming the streets on their own.

* * *

We're in the toy section at a store. There's a display of Cybertoys, next to a display of Bionic Bunny toys. Buster is inspecting one particular model of Cybertoy closely.

Buster: Wow! Doctor Zongtar! Look at the craftsmanship!

Arthur walks up to Buster, and sees Buster looking at it. Arthur asks if Buster's Mom is going to get him one.

Buster admits he's just looking, and puts the good Doctor back on the shelf. Arthur walks off.

Buster imagines:


He imagines Brain, Francine, Binky, and Muffy playing with their Cybertoys at a booth at The Sugar Bowl. Suddenly a giant version of the Doctor Zongtar Cybertoy enters with a burst of smoke. He announces the arrival of Buster Baxter, who walks in after him. Doctor Zongtar then jumps around, shooting lasers.

Buster sits down at the booth adjacent to his friends, and slurps a milkshake. Brain says that Buster's Cybertoy is the coolest one ever.

Buster knows that -- because it's his!

Doctor Zongtar presses the Z shaped button on his chest and shrinks to regular Cybertoy size, leaping up onto Buster's table, and gives Buster a high five.

Buster snaps out of it. Arthur is looking at the Bionic Bunny display now, and his backpack is on the ground. Buster has Doctor Zongtar Cybertoy in his hand again. Arthur doesn't see Buster place the Cybertoy into Arthur's backpack.

Arthur wheels around, commenting that the Bionic Bunny puzzle only has 100 pieces, so it's "too easy". Buster nervously agrees.

Buster walks off. Arthur, not suspecting anything, picks up the backpack and follows.

D.W.'s voice freaks Buster out.

D.W.: Hey, I saw that!

Buster squeals.

D.W. is pointing to a nearby display of Bionic Bunny merchandise -- she is pointing to a lunchbox, saying she saw one like that at school!

Buster sighs. False alarm. D.W. greets Arthur, and tells him to come on, as it's time to go.

Mom is at the checkout with a loaded shopping cart. Baby Kate is in the shopping cart seat, and the cashier, a dog person, is at the cash register. Mom sees Buster, and says hi to him, and asks if he needs a ride home.

Buster nervously says he'll walk home, and then asks if Arthur would like to walk home with him. Arthur says he can't -- he has to get home now and do his homework.

The Reads walk out of the store. Before she leaves, D.W. says something peculiar. She says to Kate to smile, and D.W. waves, as they're "on TV". There is a surveillance camera above the cashier.

Buster sees it, gulps, and leaves the store.

* * *

Buster walks home past a chain link fence. In the distance, a siren wails. Buster nervously picks at his teeth with a finger.

Buster: What have I done?! I'm a criminal!

He imagines.


Night has fallen, and police cars are parked around the Read's house. Arthur is being led away by police officers. Arthur is protesting, telling them that Buster did it, not him. There's a small crowd gathered around Arthur's front door, and Buster happens to be in the thick of it. They all turn on Buster, and they don't look friendly.

Buster runs off.

* * *

Buster is pursued through a park by a police helicopter with a searchlight. Buster seeks refuge from the sweeping searchlight beam by ducking under the masonary bridge for a moment (the riverbank beside this bridge is where Binky's "father training" took place -- see #40801 - "1001 Dads".) The searchlight sweeps past, not spotting him. After it passes, Buster runs off.

* * *

Buster walks past a Wanted poster with his face on it. The posters are plastered all over everything, everywhere, including the display window of a candy store, The Sugar Bowl, and even newspaper boxes.

Buster looks into a puddle, and sees his reflection. He says that he's never stolen anything before... does this make him a real crook? He backs away, and his back is against a wall.

Suddenly Buster is in a courtroom, and he has his back up against the judge's podium.

Mr. Ratburn is the judge, and he calls for order. He then asks members of the jury how they spent their weekend. The jury is Buster's class.

  • Brain stands on his chair. He studied "motion detecting security systems"
  • Francine read "Crime and Punishment".
  • Binky says he went on a field trip to the police station.

Binky likes field trips -- See the Trendspotting Page.

Buster looks up at Judge Ratburn and says that he stole a Cybertoy.

Francine, Binky and Muffy gasp.

Judge Ratburn points down at him.

Judge Ratburn: Well Buster Baxter, that definitely makes you a REAL CROOK!

He bangs his gavel.

Buster's clothes change in a puff of smoke into a black and white striped prisoner's outfit.

Buster covers his eyes and screams NOOOOOOOOOOO!

Buster shakes his head rapidly. He looks around a tree to see the a fire truck, with its siren blaring race past. That was what the siren was. It wasn't the police.

Buster looks down at his clothes, to confirm that it was just a dream.

There are horizontal stripes on his clothes...

Oh, it's just the shadow from the iron slats on a fence.

The thing is though, from the way Buster is positioned, the shadow wouldn't be cast the way it appears on Buster's clothing. Artistic licence? :)

Buster runs off through the park, in a panic.

Binky and Francine are watching a baseball game. They call out for a player to steal third base after he successfully steals second. Buster runs past, yelling:

Buster: No! Put it back! it's not worth it!

Baseball players turn to look at Buster, as you'd expect. Buster slinks off...

* * *

The Read residence. Arthur opens the front door, and greets Buster. Arthur thinks Buster doesn't look ok. Buster says he has to see Arthur in his cell, and corrects himself, he means room, about something NOW. It's urgent.

* * *

The two of them are in Arthur's room. Arthur's backpack is on the bed.

Arthur wants to know why Buster's acting weird.

Buster says he'll show him, and unpacks Arthur's backpack. He takes out the Doctor Zongtar Cybertoy. Arthur wonders how that got there, and how Buster knew it was there.

The fact that Arthur is surprised to see it most likely means that Arthur hadn't opened his backpack after getting home. So much for being in a rush to get home and do homework. :D

Buster says it is because he put it there!

Arthur is surprised,
...but not as surprised as one would expect.

Buster says he knew it was wrong... but everyone had one except them, and he couldn't help it!

Arthur gets mad at Buster for the fact that the stolen Cybertoy is in his room, right now. Arthur stands puts the Cybertoy down on the floor, and sits on the bed beside Buster.

Buster says he's sorry for almost getting Arthur in trouble, and then asks what they are going to do now. Buster says he doesn't even want the Cybertoy now.

Buster: ...and that's the truth!

Rational old Arthur asks Buster what he usually does when he gets something he doesn't want.

Buster: Ask for a refund?

Arthur: No, you return it!

Arthur has a plan. They will take it to the drugstore tomorrow morning before it opens, and leave it outside the door with a note saying they're sorry they took it. Buster cheers up at the thought of this.

Buster says that this is the only thing to do, as in it is the moral thing to do.

Arthur agrees. He says it is the right thing to do.

Suddenly, on the floor, the Cybertoy comes to life, and starts walking with the noises. It walks into Arthur's wastepaper basket and falls over. (This is a different wastepaper basket to the rocket-ship-bedecked one in #20202 - "Arthur's Lucky Pencil" -- this one's wicker, with a garbage bag in it.)

Arthur tells Buster to get it out of here. Buster asks how.

Arthur smiles, having had another brilliant idea.

* * *

Arthur quickly escorts Buster to the door and ushers him out.

Mom happens to be vacuuming, sees the two boys, and says goodbye to Buster. Buster happens to be nervously clutching Arthur's wastepaper basket. Arthur says goodbye, and thanks Buster for taking out his trash as well...

Buster is almost clear... But then the Cybertoy makes a servo noise from inside the basket. Buster says it's his stomach making noises again...

Mom has her look on, but goes back to vacuuming. Buster walks off with the basket, and Arthur closes the front door, leans against it, and sighs with relief.

No wonder Arthur has a new wastepaper basket from that in #20202 if he's giving them away as parting gifts everytime someone comes over. :)

You'd have thought Mom might have stopped things right there.

* * *

6:45? 7:45? according to Arthur's Bionic Bunny wristwatch. Arthur's waiting on the corner by the park. It's already daylight. Buster comes running up to him carting a schoolbag in his hand. Buster is breathless.

Arthur admonishes Buster for not being there sooner.

Buster says he was writing the note. Arthur wants to know what it says. Buster takes it out. The Cybertoy has the note clutched in its hand.

Buster reads it.

Dear Drug Store,

We didn't mean to take this 
Cybertoy, Somehow it just 
showed up in Arthur's 
bookbag.  Signed, 

Unanimous

Arthur says it should be "Anonymous", not "Unanimous", and that his name shouldn't be in the note, as then he'll be in trouble.

Arthur takes out a pencil, and starts to edit the letter, using the pavement as a writing surface.

Buster says that just goes to show that he isn't a criminal.

* * *

The pair run down the street to "Jim's Drugstore", which is on a corner. Buster starts to take Doctor Zongtar out of his bag, but then has second thoughts as they stop at the entrance; they can't just leave it on the ground -- what if someone steals it!?

Just at that moment, a friendly voice says "Morning, boys". Buster quickly puts Doctor Zongtar back in his bag. It's the doggy man, who must be Jim, the owner of the drugstore, opening up for the day. He says he's in the middle of doing inventory, but tells them to come on in. He thinks they want to do some shopping!

Buster and Arthur make worried faces at each other.

* * *

Buster and Arthur walk towards the aisles, and Jim walks over to the cash register.

Buster tries to conceal his identity from the surveillance camera by holding the schoolbag up to block his face. Arthur whispers to Buster that he will keep the man busy in the candy aisle while Buster goes and returns the Cybertoy.

Buster walks down the aisle to the Cybertoy display, but there is a problem. He gets Arthur to have a look for himself. The Cybertoy display is empty. It will be well nigh impossible to try and get away with just sticking the Cybertoy onto the display, and the two of them realize this.

Arthur: Oh no!

Jim notes them looking at the display. He comments that they sold out of them last night!

Jim: ...everyone and his friend wants a Cybertoy! But don't worry, I'll have more soon.

Jim walks off down the aisle, leaving Arthur and Buster alone again. Buster says that the man will know for sure that they took it if they leave it here now.

Arthur tells Buster to give the Cybertoy to him, and go look at the candy. Buster does this. Arthur takes the Cybertoy, still with the note attached, and stands it on the floor beside the Bionic Bunny lunchbox display that D.W. had been interested in the previous day.

What Arthur doesn't notice as he walks back towards Buster is that the Cybertoy has come on again, the way it did in Arthur's room. It starts walking along.

Arthur turns the corner, and quickly wants Buster to hurry along and get out of the store with him. Arthur claims that they don't want to be late for... lunch... They walk past Jim. He turns to look at them, and good-naturedly asks them if they wanted anything...

Buster grabs some candy.

Buster: Oh, just these... lawbreakers... I mean jawbreakers!

Jim goes to the cash register. Buster's candy costs 65 cents.

Buster stares at the survelliance camera and freezes.

(Watership Down fans will recognize this as Buster going "tharn")

Arthur is getting anxious. He tells Buster to pay the man. Buster does. Jim thanks him, and says bye to them. The two boys say bye as well, and then are shocked to see Doctor Zongtar walking towards the front of the store clutching the note in his hand!

Jim sees the Cybertoy walking along, and walks over to it. He picks it up. Jim is surprised to see the Cybertoy. He takes the note from the toy and begins to read.

Arthur and Buster haven't left the store. Which might not have been prudent.

Jim: Oh.

He turns to Arthur and Buster. He doesn't look so friendly now... or sound it, either.

Jim: Whose idea is this?

Buster and Arthur begin to talk at once, babbling incoherently. Jim says he's waiting. Buster stares at the camera again. He breaks down and confesses. Buster points to the camera and tells Jim to check the camera footage -- he'll see it was him.

Jim looks at the camera and says that that camera isn't working! Jim goes to a nearby telephone and says he has to make some calls...

Jim: Boys, I know you meant well by returning the toy. But stealing it in the first place, wellll.... that's where you went wrong.

Buster and Arthur's shoulders droop, and they look at the floor. In addition, Buster's ears lose pressure and droop.

* * *

Bitzi is at the checkout with Buster.

Arthur's parents escort him from the store.

Arthur: I know it was a dumb thing to do. I'm sorry.

Mom: You should have come to us when you found out what Buster did.

Dad: Yes. Even if you didn't take the toy, can't you see how covering it up made it worse?

Dad holds the door of the store open as Mom and Arthur exit, and he follows them. He continues to be lectured.

Mom: We're disappointed in you, Arthur. You and Buster.

Arthur: I'm disappointed in us, too.

Arthur thinks to himself no doubt: Yeah... disappointed at the fact that I got caught!

* * *

Buster and his Mom leave the store. Bitzi and Buster walk along the sidewalk. Bitzi tells her son that he will have a long time to think about what he did to the store and himself.

Buster: (sadly) I will...


Buster: ...and that's why I'm inside on a perfect Sunday afternoon, all because of a toy I just had to have.

Brain says he's glad he got his for his birthday. He says he'll see Buster in school tomorrow, and nonchalantly walks off with his model airplane.

Buster turns around in his room, as his Mom is at the door to his room. She says it's time for dinner, so he should wash up, but reminds him that he's not getting dessert, and closes the door.

Buster says she really knows how to hurt a guy.

Talk about a joke falling flat there!

Buster looks at his Dark Bunny calendar. It's March, The weekend days all have red circles around them, the first Saturday of the month, the 7th has an X through it. He puts an X through the 8th with a red felt tip pen.

Buster: One weekend down, four more to go.

Buster takes one last glance out the window.

Brain's plane, a symbol of freedom, flys past in the foreground.

END

Comments

*Dave rolls eyes*

Sarah, a.k.a. arthur_and_friends pointed out that this episode is quite unusual in that it ends on a low note. I agree.

For some reason, Buster's house has changed from being a unit in a row of condos to a detached wooden detached house. Quite a large house too, for a two person family.

I wonder if Buster's "crime" will make the pages of Mom's newspaper? It's probably the big news of the day, other than that fire.

That's nice weather for March. Almost too nice for the U.S. Northeast?

Trends and the like.

If Cybertoys are the sort of trend common in Elwood City, Buster shouldn't have worried, as they would be no longer a trend in a weeks time. (Note that Brain wasn't playing with his when he started playing with his plane in Buster's yard.) That or Buster could do what Arthur did in #30702 - "Arthur Rides the Bandwagon" i.e. grab a piece of garbage, start playing with it, and start a new trend. Plastic stacking cups anyone? :)

Elwood City Suburban Decay

This episode further continues the season five trend of showcasing the slow decline of Elwood City. I always thought of Elwood City as a nice place with perhaps only two problems --

  1. An overabundance of parades.
  2. A second-rate sanitation department.

Crime must be a problem if security cameras are installed in the drugstore -- even if they're broken ones. Jim should consider a shoplifting alarm system. I didn't think Elwood City had shoplifters...

Bad behavior

I know I should have learned something from Buster and Arthur's escapade, but I'm going to be cocky and glib. I guess this sordid affair shows that Arthur and Buster make lousy criminals -- I guess no "Sopranos" crossover is in the cards at this point, at least not from PBS anyway.

If you ask me, the problem is that Arthur and the gang have been so good for so long that now they have no idea how to act badly -- they can't skip school properly, and now, they can't steal properly either. Except that Arthur already sort of knows how to do it -- see #11702 - "Arthur, World's Greatest Gleeper". Arthur can go back to eating with the "Tough Customers" now. Like in #50102 - "Double Dare", their downfall came in the execution of the plan -- Buster and Arthur were very close to getting away with it.

But then, yes, that's not the point, is it? Shame on me. :)

Here's something to think about -- Arthur and Buster have been raised in, while not perfect, at the very least, better than average homes -- you'd expect them to be paragons of virtue, and yet they continue to disappoint time after time!

Jim needs to put in a security system to alert him of shoplifting. He probably has to do inventory all the time...

Odd behavior

Brain making a big mess with cups in The Sugar Bowl just emphasizes the fact that Brain's losing it. The fact he doesn't stop to clean them up before he dashes out is nice too.

One of the strangest things in this episode is the way everyone is so restrained. In real life, I'd have expected someone to lose it somewhere. But no! Everyone just keeps so darned level-headed -- almost unrealistically so in this episode.

I hope Arthur doesn't hold this against Buster. :) Arthur had better be wary when he goes shopping in future, he might have his picture posted at checkouts around town: "Keep a lookout for this boy, as he is a known shoplifter".

Note Brain's nonchalant reaction at the end of Buster's story -- zero sympathy.

Who does Jim phone first when he says he has calls to make? I guess he must just know Arthur or Buster's phone number.

Pick, pick, pick...

Buster must have recounted the two imagination sequences he dreamed to Brain -- that seems ever-so-slightly like a waste of effort to me. :)

Also, how would Buster know about Arthur being at Francine's and seeing the Cybertoy & Nemo event when he wasn't there? Or for that matter where Arthur placed the Cybertoy when he put it back? Or what Arthur did after he shut the door on Buster when Buster came over? :)

Final thoughts

Who knows what kind of trouble Buster will get into in future episodes, seeing as he apparently can't keep his impulses in check... That's a can of worms indeed.

The Christmas episode of "The Simpsons" where Bart stole the "Bonestorm" videogame handled the thorny issue of stealing in a superior fashion, IMHO.

One thing both episodes have in common is that it's a good bet that Arthur won't be visiting Jim's in the near future. Also, while I'm drawing parallels, if anyone's familiar with the CBC cartoon "The Raccoons", and remembers the episode late in the series when Bert stole the comic book, well... by that point, that series was in a downward spiral IMHO... an eerie parallel is that both stories featured a hereto unknown drug store...


Return to the Season 5 Index
50202.htm / Last Updated: 8:45 PM 1/22/01