The Magic School Bus All Dried Up
Inside of Ms. Frizzle's classroom, Liz walks through a model desert and narrowly avoid a cardboard cactus falling on her. As Tim picks the cactus up, he states that he thinks that something is missing in their diorama. Dorothy Ann and Wanda disagree; after all, they have sand, gravel, and desert plans such as cacti and creosote bush. Additionally, Carlos says that they have the desert's harsh conditions, such as the hot, blazing sun and the dry, blinding dust storms, and to stress each, he turns on a bright lamp and a fan that both blinds Liz and then blows her away.
Phoebe catches Liz before she can be sent flying earlier, and agrees with Tim that something is missing. They are interrupted by Ms. Frizzle singing about "dem dry bones" and filling canteens with water, with Arnold helping her.
Going back to their conversation, Phoebe realizes what is missing from their diorama: desert animals. She goes to Ms. Frizzle about this, who gives her a bucket full of stuffed animals, which she places into the diorama. D.A. and Phoebe lists off each of the animals the latter places into it; a kangaroo rat, a gila monster, a tortoise, a beetle, a scorpion, a jackrabbit, a roadrunner and a baby coyote (no, not those).
Carlos asks Phoebe if she is sure that all of those animals actually live in the desert. After all, as he explains through Chewing the Scenery, the desert is very hot, with the sun beating down all day long and there being nowhere for the animals to escape the heat. Not only that, but there is barely any food in the desert, so animals could wind up getting eaten by a bigger one. Worst of all, there is almost no water in the desert, which shocks the rest of the class, and gets Phoebe very worried. Carlos then tells her that with no shelter, food, or water, all of her "cute little animals are buzzard bait".
Ms. Frizzle confirms what Carlos told her and the class, and at this point, Phoebe decides that the class has to do something about it. At her old school, Phoebe said that they would take a stand and form a committee. Arnold adds something to that: "Go on a field trip?" ...Wait, what?
Yep. Arnold is all packed and ready to go, dressed for the desert and carrying a huge backpack. The class can't believe it (neither can the viewers, most likely). Phoebe, however, is delighted that Arnold is willing to go to the desert, and declares "S.A.D.S. to the rescue!" What's S.A.D.S.? Students Against Desert Scarcity. Arnold goes to Ms. Frizzle and tells her that, for once, he is prepared, and tells her to do her worst. She tells him that she's do her best. With that, the class is off to the desert.
While on the bus Arnold, Ralphie, and Carlos get into a conversation about the contents of Arnold's backpack, but Phoebe tells Carlos especially that they are not going to the desert to have fun. "We're not?" Ms. Frizzle said, before adding that the desert is full of surprises. Phoebe has another concern; the bus is going too slow. She wants to know if they can get to the desert any faster, because every second they waste is a second that the desert animals are suffering. With this, Ms. Frizzle transforms the bus into a plane and flies the rest of the way to the desert.
As the class flies over come mountains, Keesha and Phoebe are concerned that they're going the wrong way. After all, the mountains have plenty of shelter, food, and water for animals. However, Ms. Frizzle tells Phoebe that without the mountains, there would not be a desert. D.A. asks what mountains have to do with the desert, to which Carlos explains what a rainshadow isnote . Phoebe does not like this at all; "Why should the mountains get all of the water?" she asks. Ms. Frizzle tells her that if she keeps asking questions, she'll find an answer.
The class reaches the desert, and Ms. Frizzle then takes the bus plane into a nosedive.
Right before crashing onto the surface, the bus reorients itself and lands onto the ground, before transforming into a Jeep-like vehicle.
They have finally arrived at the desert, which Keesha measures its temperature at 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Tim wonders how anything can live in the desert, while Ralphie is spooked out by a vulture watching the class intently. Ms. Frizzle hands the class water canteens, while Phoebe stresses that they have a lot of work to do as Students Against Desert Scarcity. Or Dessert Scarcity, as Ralphie says, because he has worked himself up an appetite. He goes to Arnold for some mallow-blasters, but as Liz displays, they have melted in the extreme heat. Phoebe scolds the two for thinking about food when the desert animals are starving.
Phoebe then spots a collared lizard crawling onto a slab of rock. It then encounters a roadrunner, which starts to chase it. Phoebe tries to go protect the lizard, but it quickly shows that it doesn't need its help; it stands up on its hind legs, which allows it to run faster and outrun the roadrunner. Phoebe orders everyone back on the bus.
Ms. Frizzle then transforms the bus into a gila monster and shrinks the bus. The roadrunner spots them and gives chase. The class is worried, because the road runner is catching up to them.
Taking a look inside of his field trip guide, Arnold finds that to avoid being eaten, they have to become inedible. Right as the roadrunner catches the bus in its beak, the bus transforms into a horned lizard, which causes the roadrunner to completely lose interest and walk away. The bus transforms back into the jeep and back to its regular size, and resumes driving through the desert.
After that experience, Phoebe notes that the smaller animals have ways to avoid being eaten, such as running fast or being prickly. Carlos tells her that because of that, they do not need her help. Phoebe does not completely buy that; after all, life is tough in the desert. Carlos agrees, because it's too hot to chase after animals. Phoebe then decides that there is an animal out there that is also hot from the heat, and declares that they have to find it and help it. She orders the bus stopped, and Ms. Frizzle complies and in turn orders the class out of the bus.
Beneath the beating sun, the class walks through the desert, complaining about being hot, tired, and hungry. Oh, and being prepared, in Arnold's case. However, they are not able to find any animals in need, and tell Phoebe this fact and that they're hot. Phoebe snaps at them for a brief second, before pulling back. She then spots a jackrabbit sitting nearby, and observes that not only is the sun beating down on it, but it's covered with a fur coat.
Arnold looks in his guide book and read out loud that a hat is great for keeping one's head cool. Good thing that he's wearing one. ...Or was, as Phoebe snatches the hat off of his head and tries to give it to the jackrabbit. It runs off before she can put it onto its head, and Arnold angrily takes his hat back from her. She is miffed about this, asking him how the jackrabbit will stay cool. Ms. Frizzle gives her the answer: "ear conditioning". Carlos congratulates Ms. Frizzle for what he thinks is a joke, which Phoebe tells him that this is no time for jokes. D.A. then tells her that it is in fact not a jokenote .
It is now sunset, and Carlos tries to get a grumpy Phoebe to admit that none of the animals need her help. Phoebe accepts that the jackrabbit doesn't need help, but then spots a desert tortoise walking on the ground below them. Ms. Frizzle notes that they usually do not come outside in the heat, and Phoebe decides that they have to help it.
Ms. Frizzle turns the bus into a tortoise—shrinking it in the process—and follows the live tortoise into its burrow. Keesha measures the temperature inside and finds that it is much cooler there than it was outside. Phoebe is unamused, and Carlos rubs in that the tortoise can keep cool without her help. Phoebe then has a thought; perhaps the reason they did not see any animals is because they all burned up before they got to the desert. They were too late, she concludes.
The bus is suddenly stopped and pushed out of the burrow by another tortoise. Back outside, they find that night has fallen and that the desert is now much more lively. Carlos states that they were not too late; the animals were just waiting for the sun to go down. Keesha measures the temperature as 50 degrees Fahrenheit; so chilly compared to the daytime that she asks Arnold for a sweater.
Carlos tells Phoebe that this is yet another way that animals help themselves. Phoebe is a bit down about this, while Keesha tells her that there is nothing wrong with being wrong. Ms. Frizzle agrees, because making mistakes is the best way of learning something. As a result of all that they have seen so far, Carlos brings up another thing: S.A.D.S. is a complete bust, which Phoebe is unhappy about. She may have made mistakes about the lizard, the jackrabbit, and the tortoise, but there is one thing that she knows she is not wrong aboutnote : everything in the desert needs water, which it is lacking in.
Back in the bus, Phoebe takes all of the class' water canteens and decides to help give the animals water by herself. Carlos goes with her and tries to talk her out of it; the animals did not need her help from being eaten or from the sun's heat, so they don't need her water, either. She disagrees, because as he said himself, there is no water in the desert due to the rainshadow effect. As this is going on, dark clouds start to gather above...
As Phoebe pours the water into some pans, Carlos tells her that animals can't live without water, but they are definitely alive, which means that they have a way of getting water. She then challenges Carlos to tell her where they get the water from. In fact, she gets quite a sinister look on her face when telling him to "take chances, get messy, make mistakes". Carlos however does not have an answer. "Exactly," Phoebe says; perhaps people like her come out to the desert regularly to give the animals water. At that point, a giant raindrop falls on Carlos' head, and the duo realizes that it has started to rain.
The class rushes back into the bus, stunned that it can even rain in the desert. Ms. Frizzle tells them that while it does not rain in the desert very often, "not very often is a long way from never". Phoebe realizes that the desert does not need her water, before she is pulled by Keesha to run back to the bus. Phoebe is amazed that the desert went from no water to rai- wait, no... that's a flood! The rest of the class get inside of the bus, and after the door is closed, the floodwater carries the bus away in its flow.
The next morning, the class, having gotten out of the flood predicament from before the break, are fast asleep in their tents, only to be woken up by Ms. Frizzle. Phoebe and the class cannot believe that they are in the same desert as before; after a rainstorm, the desert becomes a much different place, with plants and flowers in full bloom and animals wandering out and about freely. Wanda speculates that the plants were waiting for enough water to bloom, while Arnold finds shrimp swimming in a puddle. D.A. finds two pigs—or rather, peccaries—eating on a cactus filled with water. D.A. finds that the cactus is juicy on the inside and waxy on the outside, and Tim muses that the waxy outside keeps the water inside.
Carlos goes to Phoebe and says that she was right, because the desert needs water and the animals need protection from being eaten and from the heat. Phoebe says that he was right as well, in that the animals do not need the help of humans to survive because they are already equipped to live there. Ms. Frizzle adds that everything that lives in the desert has adaptations that help them cope with living in the desert. As she orders the class back on the bus, they ask her of the nature of some of the adaptations; D.A. with soaking up water as quickly as possible, Carlos and Ralphie with spikes on animals to prevent being eaten, and Tim and Wanda with burrowing under the sand and having big ears to stay cool. Ms. Frizzle confirms all of this, before taking the class back to the school.
Back in the classroom, Arnold says that he found the field trip guide very helpful, despite that they were almost eaten, almost burned up in the sun, and almost drowned in the flood. He gives it back to Ms. Frizzle, who is glad that he enjoyed it (this combined with tip #999 implies that she wrote the book herself). Now that Phoebe knows that plants and animals have adaptations to help cope in the desert, she has time to save something else. Keesha senses that Phoebe is still in her animal-saving mindset and tries to talk her out of it before Phoebe gets onto a chair and says that there really is an animal in need, and this declares the formation of S.A.S.H.: Students Assisting Sleepy Heads; she turns their attention to the bus, where Carlos is sound asleep inside. Phoebe determines that he has no adaptations to cope with desert field trips, though D.A. tells her that according to her research, hibernation is an adaptation. The class laughs as they leave the class, and Arnold leaves his hat on Ms. Frizzle's desk, before she puts it on herself, sits back in her chair, and kicks her feet up on her desk.
Nonetheless, she takes the call and tries to tell the caller that she's not the producer. However, before she can, the kid cuts her off and tells her that he is starting up a new group called "Save Our Kangaroo Rats", and he wants Phoebe to be president. Phoebe is flattered, but tells him that the kangaroo rats do not need any saving.
- Kangaroo rats also have adaptations to cope with the desert. For example, they may not take a drink for their entire lives. They get all of the water they need from the seeds and plants that they eat.
- The kid then wonders if they have adaptations for the short nights, because the show made night look like it lasted for "five seconds"; Phoebe says that they were short on time. That said, they wanted to show how animals come out at night, which itself is an adaptation.
- Speaking of adaptations, the kid mentions that he does not know of any seeds that grow after a night of rain. Phoebe Hand Waves this by saying that when you have a lot of information to cover in a half hour, you don't have time to wait for seeds to grow into plants. (Perhaps Ms. Frizzle used magic, as seen a bit later on.) That said, they do grow quickly in the desert.
- Cactus needles are actually leaves, which is also an adaptation, because unlike leaves, needles do not lose any water.
- Not all deserts are hot; even very cold places can be called deserts if they do not get enough rain.
Phoebe tries to hang up on the kid, but before she can do so, he says that he has one more question. He asks her if she knows Phoebe. She says that she does; in fact, it sounds like she wants to tell him that he is speaking with her, but he cuts her off again by giving her a message to tell Phoebe: he thinks that she is "the greatest". Hearing this makes her happy, and she decides that perhaps she should answer the phone more often.
- All Deserts Have Cacti: In this case, they're in an American desert, so this trope is justified.
- Animated Actor: Phoebe in the Producers Segment. Though she is still in-character to an extent.
- Chewing the Scenery: Carlos at the beginning of the episode when he is telling Phoebe how harsh it is in the desert.
- Everybody Laughs Ending: Sort of; the class laughs as they are exiting the classroom, but the episode itself ends with Ms. Frizzle's last line after they have left.
- Facepalm: Arnold does this right before Phoebe unknowingly convinces Ms. Frizzle to turn the bus into a tortoise.
- Friend to All Living Things: Phoebe, to the point where she feels compelled to help desert animals that don't actually need her help.
- Fun with Acronyms: Phoebe's class organization S.A.D.S. stands for Students Against Desert Scarcity. And at the end of the episode, there's S.A.S.H: Students Assisting Sleepy Heads.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Arnold is actually eager to go on a field trip this time. Of course, he is also perfectly prepared for it.Class: Arnold, are you serious?!
- Oh, Crap!: Keesha, when the roadrunner starts chasing them.Keesha: Bad! Oh, bad! Oh, bad, bad, bad!
- Out-of-Character Moment: Carlos is the only one of the class to know what a rainshadow is and explains it to them, something that's normally DA's department which makes this a shared moment with her.
- Phrase Catcher: The usual reaction Carlos gets for his bad puns happens in a different situation than normal at the end: this time, when Phoebe points out he's still asleep on the bus.
- Seldom-Seen Species: Roadrunners, collared lizards, horned lizards, kangaroo rats, desert shrimp, and peccaries.
- A Storm Is Coming: At the episode's climax.
- Wrong Parachute Gag: When the bus plane is nosediving onto the desert.Arnold: Field trip tip #63: In the event of a rapid loss of altitude, you may want to put on a parachute. Liz, my parachute?(Liz pulls out two shoes)Arnold: That's not a parachute! That's a pair of shoes!