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What An Idiot / Hey Arnold!

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Helga: Oh criminy, I'm surrounded!

The characters of Hey Arnold! have a tendency to make a lot of stupid choices.


General
  • Helga Pataki has had a crush on Arnold since she first met him in preschool, but due to her fearing both rejection from Arnold and mockery from others, she keeps her feelings a secret and bullies him to cover them up. Though her behavior is inexcusable, it is somewhat understandable. However on occasions such as in "Arnold's Valentine", "Helga's Masquerade" and a few other episodes, she decides to be nice to Arnold for a change and he seems to enjoy her company when she does.
    You'd Expect: Helga to realize that she might have a better chance with Arnold if she started being nicer to him and make an effort to actually do it.
    Instead: She always goes back to teasing him.
    As a result: Their relationship never goes anywhere. At least not until the two movies come along.
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Specific

  • "Stinky Goes Hollywood": Country bumpkin Stinky decides to turn down a lucrative soda ad contract, even though his family is poor, and he is doing so right in front of his dad, and many of his classmates, because he overhears the heads of the company saying what he believes to be insulting to him and that he has no skill.
    You'd expect: That Stinky would explain why he wasn't going to sign the contract, especially since his dad might be able to accept his reason instead of repeatedly crying, "Why???" He had just overheard a conversation at the advertising studio that Stinky was perfect to ridicule, and that's why he was picked to film the ads.
    Instead: Stinky says "I ain't signing it, you can find yourself another fool," without explaining anything. While Sid does say "What an idiot", this is because he is likely thinking "It's a million dollar contract, of course you sign it."
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  • "Arnold Betrays Iggy": While taking homework to the "Cool Kid of the School" Iggy who was sick that day, Arnold finds out that Iggy has an embarrassing secret- he wears full-on bunny pajamas: cotton tail, bunny feet, and even big floppy ears. Iggy begs Arnold not to tell, and Arnold gives his word; however, Sid and Stinky find out due to really accurate conclusion-jumping and now Iggy is a laughing stock. Arnold feels guilty because Iggy thinks that he told and will never forgive him, even after Arnold profusely apologized and told him that he didn't spill.
    You'd expect: That after apologizing and telling Iggy that he had no part in exposing his secret, Arnold would've then just moved on; the ball is now in Iggy's court, if he doesn't want to accept his honest, sincere apology, then too bad.
    Instead: Arnold completely throws himself at Iggy's feet, doing anything he can to insure that Iggy completely forgives him, including doing all of his chores and homework for an entire week. However, Iggy either can't forgive easily or just likes to see people squirm, because he still doesn't forgive Arnold. Arnold, at the end of his rope, asks what can make Iggy forgive him. It turns out in order for Iggy's forgiveness, Arnold walks out of his house in the same bunny pajamas that Iggy wore, out in front of everybody in the urban public area, and grovel at Iggy's feet. While Arnold is doing this Walk of Shame, kids and grownups are laughing, some kids douse him with water balloons, and the entire Walk of Shame is taped live on public access TV! It's only then when Iggy realizes he's gone overboard; however, Arnold doesn't forgive him...
    You'd also expect: That Iggy would forgive Arnold early on or at least call off Arnold's public humiliation.
    Instead: He didn't and leads to the mess above.
    Even worse: The things that make this so bad though are, for one, Iggy doesn't realize he went overboard at all, he only overhears the spreaders of his secret mention that Arnold never told them and they wormed an answer out, the same explanation Arnold gave that he wouldn't accept. And ignoring that, Arnold accepts this massive humiliation and then begrudged Iggy for it. He is only doing this to sooth his own obsessive guilt but upon doing this he resents the guy he was trying to please for something he accepted doing. It's not like Iggy stole all of Arnold's clothes from the school locker room and only left the pajamas and then invited the entire school to see, they both arranged this to happen, so why is Arnold suddenly mad at him over something he couldn't let it go and that Iggy misunderstood?
    The result: A widely-detested episode, which, alongside its similarly-disliked partner episode "Helga and the Nanny", was pulled from reruns for many years.
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  • In "Tour de Pond" Arnold, Gerald, and Grandpa huddle up to strategize after tying with the Smythe-Higgins in the first race.
    You'd expect: That Arnold would take the remote for his boat with them knowing that Rex I is known to sabotage and cheat.
    Instead: Arnold leaves the controller on the ground and pays no attention to the Smythe-Higgins as they proceed to tinker with the device.
    You'd also expect: That Arnold would after leaving his controller alone at least make certain that it works, maybe give the boat a quick test run before the next race.
    Instead: He just picks up the remote with a goofy smile on his face.
    The result: He almost loses the race.
  • "Stuck in a Tree": Eugene climbs a tree and gets stuck, as does Arnold when he tries to help bring him down. The two attract the attention of Harold who "borrows" a ladder and sets it against the limb.
    You'd expect: That Harold would simply hold the ladder for Eugene and Arnold so they can get back to the ground safely.
    Instead: Harold climbs the ladder because Arnold and Eugene each promised to give him a nickel. When he gets to the top, he accidentally kicks it off the branch, leaving the three of them stuck.
    Also: They mentioned that they're starting to get hungry.
    You'd expect: That they would eat the cherries since they were stuck on a cherry tree.
    Instead: They never thought about it!
  • "The New Teacher": This episode features Mr. Simmons' first appearance as the class's new teacher but the children make his life impossible, forcing him to quit.
    You'd expect: Arnold to at least convince Mr. Simmons to be a better teacher and give him advice, so the next day, all is forgiven.
    Instead: Arnold imitates his fellows which does not sit well, because of his personality.
  • In "Biosquare", Helga and Arnold are locked in a small greenhouse for a science project. Animosity between Helga and Arnold rises exponentially, and it leads up to a damaged faucet starting to flood the house. The kids frantically try to get the attention of Grandpa Phil and Oskar, who have been watching them.
    You'd Expect: That they would notice the rapidly rising water in the greenhouse and try to get the kids out.
    Instead: Grandpa thinks that they need MORE water and turns the water up. Fortunately, the walls of the greenhouse burst and Arnold and Helga are okay, but seriously...
  • "Bag Of Money" involves Arnold, Sid, and Gerald stumbling upon a sack of several thousand dollars. Arnold goes to take it to the police, only for a bag mix-up to occur when a pink-haired lady with a peg-leg takes the money and Arnold takes one of hers. When Arnold tells Sid and Gerald what happened, Sid not only doesn't believe Arnold, but thinks Arnold went and spent it all on himself in various ways. Sid decides to tell the other kids this.
    You'd expect: Given that Sid is a paranoid nutcase that has pulled out wild theories like this before, and Arnold isn't the type of kid who would pull something like this, the kids either wouldn't take Sid seriously or, at the very least, try to get Arnold's side of the story.
    Instead: They actually believe Sid's story and begin shaming Arnold; even getting talked by Sid into tying him to a tetherball pole.
  • "Dinner for Four": Helga wins a coupon for four people to dine at a French restaurant, inviting Arnold, Gerald and Phoebe to dinner. When she receives the bill, she realizes they just ate at another restaurant with a similar sounding name.
    You'd Expect: Helga to, as Phoebe suggests, explain the mistake to the wrong restaurant's management. Since the two restaurants' logos and names are similar in appearance, they can have the owner try to clear up the misunderstanding with the other restaurant.
    Instead: She forces her party to order more food, making the management suspicious. Then, she then lies to the staff, saying she is an heiress to a wealthy ambassador and demands to be treated with respect. When the restaurant finds holes in her logic, she calls in Nadine to release cockroaches into the restaurant. The police are called, the restaurant gets shut down and the four kids are forced to wash dishes until they cover their bill. Way to go, Helga.
  • "Arnold's Valentine": Helga decides to ask Arnold out on Valentine's Day. This being Helga, she can't go through with it. That is until Arnold's pen pal, Cecile writes him a letter. She opens up the letter and adds that "she" will be coming to town on Valentine's Day and wants to meet up with Arnold at Chez Paris. Helga changes up her look by getting a haircut, putting on a new outfit (that's still in a pink color scheme and includes a bow in her hair) and wearing makeup and is ready to finally show Arnold what he's been missing.
    Arnold shows up at the restaurant and notices that something is off about "Cecile". She has an American accent despite being born and raised in France, she mispronounces French words, she looks nothing like the picture he received in the letter, and contradicts everything that was written. He even says that he feels like he knows her already.
    You'd Expect: Arnold to figure out that "Cecile" is really Helga, considering how instantly recognizable Helga is and how bad her disguise is. She even starts yelling at him in the end, which should have tipped him off even if the disguise fooled him.
    Instead: Nope. He buys it. And when the jig is up, he still has to ask who she is. She of course refuses to tell him, leaving him forever wondering who this mystery girl was.
    Bonus Idiocy: At the end of the episode, the real Cecile coincidentally decided to visit Arnold on Valentine's Day and ends up arriving at the restaurant. He asks who she is, and when she tells him, he says "But you're not Cecile, she's Cecile." This is despite the fact that A) she actually has a French accent and B) It's the same girl as the one in the picture! Come on, Arnold.
  • "The Aptitude Test": Mr. Simmons' class are assigned to take the eponymous test. First idiot action was asking Eugene to collect the test folders. He drops them, causing the tests to scatter everywhere. Harold and Helga's tests end up getting switched when Eugene tries to clean them up.
    You'd Expect: Mr. Simmons to realize that something was up while he was grading the tests, given that he's familiar with both of their work and that Helga always writes in purple ink. Harold didn't even try and ended up filling in the bubbles to resemble an "H".
    Instead: It doesn't occur to him that there may have been a mistake until after he notices the drastic changes in Helga and Harold's personalities as noted below.
    As a Result: When the results come back, it is revealed that Harold had the highest score since Olga Pataki, being touted as a kid genius, while Helga didn't try at all and would be best suited as a woodsperson. Both of them take the scores to heart, causing Harold to become an actual genius and Helga to give up on her academics and start behaving like a stereotypical hillbilly. Helga is robbed of what little confidence she has left for most of the episode and Harold is crushed when he finds out about the mistake, even though he actually did do a lot of very smart things while under the placebo, and by the next episode, is back to being a slacker. Mr. Simmons pins it all on fatigue from grading so many tests in one sitting, but that's not really a good excuse for a mistake this blatant.
  • "April Fool's Day": Helga plays pranks on Arnold all day. He finally gets fed up and uses Grandpa Phil's gag gift box, presenting it as a belated birthday present to Helga (coincidentally her birthday was the previous week)
    You'd Expect: Helga not to fall for it.
    Instead: Despite briefly doubting its sincerity, love made her stupid and she opens the box.
    As a result: Helga is temporarily blinded by a super bright flash triggered from opening the gift box.
    You'd Also Expect: Arnold to realize what "blinding flash" means.
    Instead: He's surprised that he blinded Helga. Grandpa Phil even points this out.
    Phil: So, how’d the prank go, Arnold? Was it a big hit?
    Arnold: No, Grandpa, it was terrible! Helga went blind!
    Phil: So? What’s so terrible about that? Sounds like a total success. Heck, I nearly wet my pants when the same thing happened to Jimmy Kafka.
    Arnold: What?! Grandpa, why didn’t you tell me?
    Phil: What? That I wet my pants? Well that’s no big news.
    Arnold: No, that the prank could cause blindness?
    Phil: Arnold, I did. I said it had a “blin...ding flash”.
  • "Arnold & Lila": The plot kicks off when Helga writes "Arnold loves Helga" on a wall.
    You'd Expect: Helga to pick a remote corner to write her message, perhaps deeper within the alley, where anyone else would be unlikely to come across it.
    Instead: She writes her message in plain view and very big so that anyone who passes by can easily see it. Then she hears Rhonda and the other girls walking by, making her erase her name.
    You'd Now Expect: That she'd erase the whole message so no one would see it.
    Instead: She replaces Helga with Lila instead of doing that.
    As a Result: The girls see it, thinking that Arnold wrote it. Worse, Lila is with them, she thinks Arnold really does love her, and she develops a crush on him, although Arnold really doesn't like her-like her.
    Even worse: By the end of the episode, Arnold really DOES begin to have a crush on Lila, which continues for many more episodes. Fortunately for Helga, though, Lila now prefers to just be friends.
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