Original air date: 3/22/1998 (produced in 1997)
Production code: 5F13
While on a day trip to a hands-on science museum, Marge feels sorry for Ralph Wiggum being bullied and suggests to Chief Wiggum that Ralph and Bart be play buddies, which Bart objects to — until he realizes that Ralph is the son of an incompetent police chief and has police equipment at his disposal (including a master key that opens up every lock in town — including one to an abandoned prison's electric chair).
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Apparently, Robby the Automatons default setting is to Kill All Humans, as he demonstrates with Skinner.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Marge insists on using the word "playdate."
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When the bullies find out about the master key:Kearney: Let's use this thing to rob the school.Jimbo: Let's go to the zoo and tease the dingo.Dolph: Let's use it to key some cars. (Jimbo glares at him)
- Bait-and-Switch: During the science expo, there is a scene on an alien planet with "ARS" written◊ in the Star Wars font. Turns out it's an exhibit for "Mars"◊.
- Bigger Is Better in Bed: When Mr. Burns says "There's a rocket in my pocket!", Smithers says "You don't have to tell me, sir."
- Brick Joke:
- Ralph mentions that he's friends with a leprechaun that tells him to burn things. In the end, when everyone is cheering for him, the leprechaun tells Ralph to burn down The Simpsons' house.
- When they first enter the Knowledgeum, The Simpsons are introduced to the place by Troy McClure who warns them that their car might be subjected to repeated break-ins. Homer was the only one worried about that. After leaving we clearly see their car has broken windows.
- The Body Parts That Must Not Be Named: An in-universe example. Marge attempts to teach Ralph about sexual misconduct, but avoids explicitly naming which areas of the body people aren't supposed to touch, instead describing them as "special areas." This backfires when Ralph interprets this as the shoulder and starts calling for help when Marge lays a hand on his.
- Chekhov's Gun: Bart's rocket that Ralph touches turns out to be vital in saving Mayor Quimby.
- Circling Saw: Homer saws a hole into the floor of Bart's home for some reason. He pops his head up, sees Marge and Bart, then says, "Uh-oh" and departs.
- Clueless Aesop: Referenced when Ralph was apparently taught to let authorities know when people are touching his "special area", with nobody defining what that actually is to him. Ralph then thinks this special area is one of his shoulders and becomes very upset if anyone ever comes in contact with it. Don't forget that Ralph's father is Springfield's police chief...
- Couch Gag: Bart peeks from around the TV, and runs in and spray-paints the family onto the couch, tagging it with an "El Barto" signature before running off.
- A Day in the Limelight: For Ralph and Bart mostly, meaning that Nancy Cartwright gets to talk to herself through 90% of the episode, as she also voices Nelson Muntz and Kearney.
- Exact Words: Bart tries to exploit this to trick Ralph into giving him access to Clancy Wiggum's secret closet that he forbids his son from entering. Turns out because of Ralph's Pronoun Trouble, Bart assumes the chief had this covered just in case and he goes in anyway.Bart: C'mon, Ralph, your dad's a cop. There's gotta be some cool stuff around here. Bullets, dead body photos, what have you.
Ralph: He keeps that stuff in his closet, but he says I'm not allowed in there.
Bart: Did he say I'm not allowed in there?
- Exposition Already Covered: When Principal Skinner is about to surprise Bart's class by introducing a special visitor, Bart cuts him off telling him that the visitor is a robot and they already saw him before coming into class. Skinner thanks Bart in an irritated tone.Skinner: We have a very special visitor today. But he's no ordinary visitor. In fact, uh, you might say-
Bart: He's a robot. We saw him on the way in.
Skinner: (irritated) Thank you, Bart. (to the robot) All right. Come in. They know.
- Hates Being Touched: Ralph, when Marge puts a hand on his shoulder while empathizing with him about his loneliness. He turns away from her hand with an uncomfortable expression and says, "Help! She's touching my special area!"
- Imaginary Friend: Ralph has one he calls "Wiggle Puppy" who according to Chief Wiggum, is his only friend.
- Inadvertent Entrance Cue: When Marge realizes Bart has tricked Ralph into playing hide and seek to get rid of him, she urges him to take his new "friend" outside.Bart: But people will see me paired up with a doofus. You have no idea what that's like.Homer: Uh-oh.Bart: I'm going.
- Insistent Terminology: Marge invites Ralph over without telling Bart and insists on calling it a "playdate," even when Bart keeps calling it "hanging out."
- Ironic Echo: Lampshaded. Bart takes the police master key from Ralph, who laments, "I thought we were friends!" Moments later, Nelson grabs the key from Bart and plays keep-away. Bart says the same thing: "I thought we were friends."Nelson: Yeah? Well, I hope the irony's not lost on you, Simpson.
- Karma Houdini: The bullies, as usual, suffer no repercussions for turning on Bart and throwing away Ralph's master key, last seen walking off to find huckleberries.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Soon as Bart regrets betraying Ralph to impress the bullies, they immediately turn on him and give him a taste of his own medicine.
- Loser Friend Puzzles Outsiders:Nelson: I don't get you, Simpson. Sometimes you seem kind of righteous, but then we see you fraternizing with lameoids.
- Nose Nuggets: "I found a moon rock in my nose!"Bart: Houston, we have a booger.
- Odd Friendship: Bart initially spends time with Ralph because Marge forces him to, and later because he realizes Ralph can get him access to Wiggum's Skeleton Key. But the two actually have fun together breaking in and out of stores and Bart develops a soft spot for him much as Lisa did in "I Love Lisa."
- Ridiculous Future Sequelisation: The Wiggums were watching The Return Of The Pink Panther Returns when Bart and Ralph sneak in and take the skeleton key.
- Sarcasm-Blind: When Mrs. Krabappel asked the students seven times eight, Milhouse answered "low battery" (they were using calculators) and didn't understand her reaction to his answer was sarcastic.
- The Scrooge: Mr. Burns saved Mayor Quimby by cutting off the electricity supply to the electric chair, but his motives were less than noble. Burns simply wouldn't supply electricity to anyone who wasn't paying for it (though why would a prison still have electricity and a security guard if no one's been using it for years?)
- The guns in the "Let's Make a Baby" game resemble the Millennium Falcon guns in Star Wars.
- Among Ralph's toys is Binky the Rabbit from Matt Groening's Life in Hell.
- When the model rocket lands at Mr. Burns' pocket, he says "Smithers, there's a rocket in my pocket!", paraphrasing the Dr. Seuss story There's a Wocket in My Pocket!, as well as the song "Cool" from West Side Story.
- Skeleton Key: Chief Wiggum has one, which is shaped like a skull, which opens every door in Springfield. Bart and Ralph steal it and get up to mayhem.
- Slapstick Knows no Gender: Marge getting hit by the pendulum.
- Three Stooges Shout-Out: Nelson has an Imagine Spot where he measures the Stooges' brains (with their hairdos attached on top for some reason) to see which of theirs is the heaviest and he then comically slaps all three of them.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Lisa was the one to come up with a plan to save Mayor Quimby but the one congratulated was Ralph for suggesting to ask for her help. Lisa gives in out of pity.
- Too Dumb to Live: Quimby seems to be actively trying to get himself killed with the electric chair.
- Unnecessary Combat Roll: When he sees that someone broke into his closet and assuming it's a burglar, Chief Wiggum arms himself and performs one. He ends up throwing his back out upon doing so.
- What Does This Button Do?: Bart presses the keyboard buttons on the visible computer despite Frink telling him to stop. It's done to the point the computer crashes and catches fire.