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Under Construction Gets a Bright Idea Shows and Tells

Gets a Bright Idea is the fifth episode of the third season of The Magic School Bus. It is about light.


Arnold's cousin, Janet, was disappointed by the all-school field trip to a light show, as she wanted to see a magic show. She tells the class she could do a magic trick, but she can't because of the ghost that haunts the theater. When they leave, they find Arnold missing. When they enter again, they see his "ghost". Keesha, the skeptic, is convinced that it is really a trick done by Janet to scare them.


At the theatre, the class is watching a light show, which Janet finds boring, describing it as a "Yawn burger with a side of snores.". It turns out she is disappointed that the PTA chose Keesha's idea for a light show, not the magic show that Janet would rather see. After the show, Janet dismisses the show and claims to make real magic with light. When asked by Keesha to do so, Janet claims that she can't due to the ghosts in the theatre. She tells the class that the ghost would get them once all of the lights turn out. But Keesha scoffs at this, stating that ghosts don't exist. Janet tells her ghosts don't like when anyone says that and puts the blame on Keesha if anything terrible happens to any one of the kids.

The class run out of the theatre on fear and notice that Arnold and Janet are still inside the theatre. Ms. Frizzle then arrives in The Magic School Bus while wearing a light-up dress. When the class inform Ms. Frizzle of Arnold's absence, she guides the class back inside the movie theatre and they go on an exhaustive search around. In the dark, Ms. Frizzle turns on her light-up earrings and the class go inside the main theatre where they find a source of light on the stage, which Ms. Frizzle calls a ghost light, something the last person who leaves the theatre turns on (which Dorothy Ann reads in her book). The class continues to search for Arnold and someone pulls the plug, turning off the ghost light. The class then become shocked once they view what appears to be Arnold's ghost hovering over them.

The class becomes convinced that the ghost really did get Arnold and Arnold's "ghost" dissipates gradually once the light comes back on. When Ms. Frizzle turns out the light of her earrings, Keesha learns that it's hard to see anything without the light. Ms. Frizzle turns the light of her earring back on and Keesha tries to garner the facts after the light show. The last time Arnold was seen was when he was with Janet and Janet became annoyed that the class didn't attend the magic show she wanted to go to. So Keesha surmises that the whole illusion was implemented by no other than Janet herself just to scare the rest of the class, but the rest of her class (except Phoebe, sort of) disagrees with her. Ms. Frizzle reminds Keesha that it may sound reasonable, but because the theater is so dark, it makes it hard to believe. This makes Keesha realize that there needs to be more light around the theatre to see through the dark corners to prove her theory that it's only an illusion. So Liz brings The Magic School Bus with a giant light bulb on top inside the stage and adds a light tube. Keesha hops inside, travels inside the light, and ejects out of it. The other class follow suit and eject out of the bulb in different directions. Ms. Frizzle explains to the class that light from different source all do the same thing as well. Keesha also learns that the light travels in straight lines away from its source and that the class should aim the light in one direction to get it into the dark corners on top to find Arnold. Ms. Frizzle brings out a mirror and Liz hops into the bulb and ejects out of it, bouncing off the mirror in the process. She lands on one of the levers below her and she, Tim and Dorothy Ann take a ride through a trapdoor. Keesha comes across an old footlight with a candle inside that Ms. Frizzle lights up. Wanda notices that the metal bowl around the candle keeps the light from spreading out, bounces the light back, and aims it at only one direction, similar to how the mirror did to Liz. So Carlos decides to use an even bigger footlight and the class light it and put in on top of The Magic School Bus to shine it on the direction they want it. The class then notices Liz, Tim and Dorothy Ann's absence.

The three are inside a basement and find a bunch of junk and Dorothy Ann shines a flashlight (given to her by Liz) to a tree. When she notices its shadow, Dorothy Ann learns that light travels in straight lines and doesn't go around any objects, but rather bounces off them, thus creating a shadow.

Meanwhile, the class continues to search for Arnold and finally gets a glimpse of his glasses floating in midair. When Ms. Frizzle shines the light to the floating glasses, Keesha discovers that the light gets even brighter and clearer than ever when shone through Arnold's glasses. She then learns that real things get brighter when there is more light on them, and finally comes to the conclusion that it is a trick. When the big footlight burns out, Ms. Frizzle replaces the bulb with a spare bulb.

Back down the basement, Tim and Dorothy Ann come across a mysterious figure coming their way, only to learn that it was really their reflection through a mirror. Liz finds a way out and Dorothy Ann and Tim follow her.

Arnold's ghost is seen once again over the stage and Keesha surmises that Arnold is lit up because there is a source of light up where he is at. She goes up the catwalk using the bulb and finally spots Arnold on top, as well as Janet.

Janet turns on the light and coerces Arnold to hop on one foot. Keesha then discovers that Janet has used the light to shine on Arnold, bounce off of him, and off the glass to show his reflection where the class has been watching him from. Keesha runs to the class to get them to leave. Once the coast is clear, Arnold and Janet attempt to leave the theater, only to notice that the light has turned out (as it was unplugged by Liz), and the two come across what appears to be a ghost hovering above them. The "ghost" chides Janet for not telling the truth, and Janet dismisses this as a trick, only to discover that Arnold is missing (as Carlos had grabbed Arnold).

When the "ghost" tells Janet that she is next, Janet runs out of the theater in fear and screams out for help saying that the ghost is after her and encounters the rest of the class, who tell her that they had tricked her in order to give her a taste of her own medicine. The class also adds that Janet has helped them learn how light works, and Tim tells her, "With you around, there's never a dull moment." As the class hop onto The Magic School Bus, Ms. Frizzle also adds, "It isn't how bright you are that makes you shine, but if you know about light, you can be pretty flashy" right before entering The Magic School Bus and driving away.


  • The relatives Ms. Frizzle mentioned are named after the inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Alva Edison.
  • This is the first time The Magic School Bus is in the form of a limousine; the second time is in "Meets Molly Cule". (however, in that episode, the Bus resembles a bus, similar to its other forms.)
  • Ms. Frizzle was revealed to be a Shakespearean actress.
  • Janet is revealed to know Pepper's Ghost, as mentioned by the Producer.
  • This episode came after the Nickelodeon's TV show "Kablam!" which premiered on October 11, 1996.
  • This is the third episode with Janet in the original series, the first in Season 3, and the third overall.
  • Gil Filar ("Fox" in Franklin), the brother of Phoebe's voiceover, Maia Filar, is listed on the end credits as the caller of the Producer Segment.
  • Despite this being a Season 3 episode, corporate sponsor Microsoft is once again credited as Microsoft Home making this the last episode to refer to the original sponsor.
  • According to Keesha, Janet is a fan of magic.


  • The master VHS tape shows a still from the episode instead of the closing credits and logos. This is why the credits are hardly visible in modern versions, such as DVDs and streaming platforms.
    • This goof is also seen in other episodes of the third season.
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