Mistaken Identity
Airdate 15 October 1990
Written by Susan Borowitz
Andy Borowitz
Directed by Jeff Melman
Homeboy, Sweet Homeboy
Def Poet's Society
"Any time you see a white guy in jail you know he did something bad!"
―Will to Carlton

Mistaken Identity is the 6th episode of Season 1 of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.


Will and Carlton wind up behind bars when they drive a borrowed Mercedes to Palm Springs.


While Philip and Vivian go on a trip to Palm Springs in Mr. Furth's helicopter, Carlton offers to drive Mr. Furth's Mercedes there as well, with Will stowing aboard for the journey. While trying to find the way, Carlton gets lost, and without a map, has the car slow down to 2 MPH attracting the attention of the police. The pair are then pulled over and (in no small part due to Carlton's innocent blunders) are arrested for "stealing" the car. They are taken to the police station and interrogated. Street-wise Will realizes immediately what is going on and tries to stick to the minimum facts, where as the inexperienced Carlton fails to grasp the severity of the situation. Whilst he is fully cooperative, his actions only anger the police who become more and more convinced that the pair are car thieves.

In a bid to clear the matter up, Carlton and Will phone Palm Springs and the Bel-Air residence respectfully. However, their calls for help fail, because the Furths have the TV on too loud and Geoffrey hangs up on them since it was his day off and he thought they were being lazy again. The two cousins are subsequently incarcerated. Luckily, as they contemplate the severity of their situation, a stray comment from Carlton gives Will an idea. He is subsequently able to get his Uncle Phil's attention by making a phony confession on live TV, alongside a weeping Carlton. A horrified Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian rush down to the jail alongside Henry Furth to straighten everything out.

As Furth parks the car, Phil and Vivian run ahead but are treated poorly by the blatantly racist officers, angering the two Bel-Air residents. Things get so bad that Vivian prepares to assault the officers, and an enraged Philip ends up shouting in the lead officers face. When Mr Furth enters he, in contrast, is treated warmly by the police who happily inform him (no doubt expecting some sort of reward) that they have retrieved his car and caught "the perpetrators". Their glee fades, however, when Furth tells them that Will and Carlton aren't thieves and that they are actually 'my partner's son and nephew' (thus confirming Carlton's earlier statement). Visibly stunned, the lead officer turns to face a provoked Uncle Phil, who is glaring at him coldly. In one of the shows most iconic scenes, Uncle Phil then proceeds to verbally beat down the two racist officers, first by informing them of his status as a lawyer, expanding upon Furth's earlier statement, revealing it to mean legal partner! He then uses that knowledge to point out that he knows that the investigating officers didn't follow standard procedure and attempt to contact either of the boy's lawyers or parents (of which he is both in this case).

Legally, this means that the confession is inadmissible (perhaps being argued as forced) and the cops don't have any legal grounds to hold either Will or Carlton. Now struggling to control his temper and keep his voice level, Uncle Phil makes it very clear that he will not tolerate the pairs racist attitude any longer. He angrily implies that unless the two officers let Will and Carlton go right now, he will have them investigated, guarantees that they will be found guilty of racial profiling and buried "in so much litigation that your GRANDCHILDREN are gonna need lawyers!" The cops can't let Will and Carlton out quickly enough. Will and Carlton end up spending the rest of the weekend at Palm Springs, with Uncle Phil and Vivian but when the Banks get back home, it is clear that their mood is still soured by the unjustified arrest. Much to Will's irritation, Carlton is still trying to make excuses as to why the police pulled them over as he has done since being arrested. He thinks that the whole incident could have been avoided if he had brought a map, which meant they wouldn't have got lost and therefore attracted the polices attention.

Will, however, who is disgusted by Carlton's assertions that the police were just doing their jobs, angrily informs his cousin that the cops arrested them because they thought they stole it because they were two black men "driving something other than a beat up old Pinto". Carlton scoffs at the idea and considers this absurd, causing Will to leave the room in a huff. Carlton then turns to his father asking him to confirm his belief, only for Phil to say he was just like Carlton is right now when he was first pulled over. This was the privileged Carlton's first experience with racial profiling and he is left visibly stunned as his father and street-wise cousin leave him with much to ponder when they clue him in on the realities of the system. Meanwhile, Hilary babysits Ashley throughout the episode and proves to be an unhealthy influence on the young girl who ends up drinking espresso at a cafe and becomes hyperactive once Carlton, Will, Phil and Viv arrive back home.


Will Smith as Will Smith
James Avery as Philip Banks
Janet Hubert as Vivian Banks
Alfonso Ribeiro as Carlton Banks
Karyn Parsons as Hilary Banks
Tatyana Ali as Ashley Banks
Joseph Marcell as Geoffrey Butler

Guest starring

John Petlock as Henry Furth
Helen Page Camp as Margaret Furth


"Arrested? By who, the fashion police?"
Carlton(recording on a tape recorder) Plans for Palm Springs. One, work on golf swing. Two, review SAT practice book. Three, ask Mr. Firth about a summer internship
Will(pops up from behind his chair wearing a Freddy Krueger mask): Four, get the stick out of your butt!
―En route to Palm Springs
Geoffrey (on the phone): Lazy house.
Will: Yo, G., what up, yo? This is Will. I need a big favor.
Geoffrey: I am tired of doing favors for you spoiled children. I'm off duty. I am not an animal! (hangs up)
Will: Yo! I need another phone call. My butler hung up on me.

TV Reporter: The ringleader agreed to confess only if a camera crew were present to broadcast live. What you're about to see is a Minuteman-21 News exclusive. (camera shows Will)
Will: Yeah, we've done it! Word to Big Bird. We flicked 8 Benzitos, 15 Jags, and a Maserati, but I didn't like the upholstery, so I took it back, Jack!
Reporter: Do you have anything to say? (camera shows Carlton)
Carlton (whining): Daaad!

Aunt Viv: You have made a big mistake.Now, I don't know how you got that bogus confession out of them but those two boys haven't stolen a thing from anyone. This has got to be the biggest amateur operation I've seen since Mayberry RFD! (Will and Carlton high-five)
Deputy: (Talking to Phillip) Could you ask your wife to calm down?
Aunt Viv: Calm yourself, Barney Fife!

Philip (to the police officer): I've got a few questions for you. When you got this alleged confession from these two young men, did they have a lawyer present? No, because I'm their lawyer. Did you notify their parents? No, because we're their parents. So officer, don't tell us to wait and don't tell us to sit down. Just open that damn cell and let those two boys outta there or I'm gonna tie this place up in so much litigation (lividly) that your grandchildren are gonna need lawyers!!

Will: Yo, Carlton.
Carlton: Yeah?
Will: Those cops were just doing their jobs?
Carlton: Will, don't get all bent out of shape.
Will: Man, you ain't learn nothing this weekend, did you?
Carlton: I most certainly did. Always bring a map.
Will: What?!
Carlton: If we would have a map, we wouldn't have had to drive 2 miles an hour trying to find a freeway entrance, and we wouldn't have been stopped.
Will: Oh, ok, ok. I get it now. We were stopped because we were driving too slow. Yeah, we were breaking the slowness limit. Oh, ok, well you see, I've never heard of that law before, but I did hear this other law. It's called the "if you see a black guy driving anything but a burnt-out Pinto, you better stop him because he stole it" law. Yeah, I've heard that one. Oh, but see, I thought it was the black guy law, when in actuality, it was the slowness limit law. Oh, thank you for sharing that with me, Carlton. Good night.

Carlton (to Will): What's your complaint here? We were detained for a few hours, Dad cleared things up, and we were released. The system works.
Will: I hope you like that system because you'll be seeing a whole lot of it in your lifetime.
Carlton: Not if I bring a map.
Will: You just don't get it, do you? No map is going to save you and neither is your glee club, or your fancy Bel-Air address or who your daddy is. Because when you're driving in a nice car in a strange neighborhood, none of that matters. They only see one thing. (taps Carlton on his face, referring to the color of his skin)
Carlton: Well, maybe growing up where you did has made you a little touchy, but I think you've blown this whole thing out of proportion. If you look at the facts...
(Will walks away disgusted)

Carlton: Dad, if you were a police man, and you saw a car driving at two miles an hour, wouldn't you stop it?
Philip: I asked myself that question the first time I was stopped. Good night, son. (he goes upstairs)
Carlton: I would stop it.


  • Carlton plans to go to Harvard Law School
  • Henry Furth's alma mater is Yale
  • Will was wearing a Freddy Krueger costume when he appears in the back seat scaring Carlton.
  • Syndication cuts the segment of Bob singing I Write The Songs, the scene where Hilary forces Ashley to answer the phone and some, the entire scene in which Will starts singing with Carlton in the cell
  • When TBS and ABC Family acquired the show, they skipped the part where cop #2 tells Vivian to calm down


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