After getting into trouble in West Philadelphia, Will's mother sends him to live with his Aunt Vivian and Uncle Phil in Bel-Air, California because she feels that Will would be safer there and learn some good American values. Upon his arrival, Will Smith brings with him part of West Philly - his rap style and his behavior. The episode starts with Will banging on the door and singing, "Back to Life" by Soul II Soul. The Banks' butler, Geoffrey opens the door, and Will, thinking it is his Uncle Phil, hugs him before Geoffrey tells him who he really is. Geoffrey then leads Will into the living room, where he meets his Aunt Vivian and Uncle Phil, who are amazed by his growth over the many years. However, when Will begins describing his plane ride, Phillip becomes disgusted hearing his slang language, but this language is pretty typical to Vivian, who reminds Philip of how they used to talk slang when they were young.
Afterwards, Ashley appears and meets her cousin Will. After hearing about the tennis court and pool they have in the house, Will begins to feel comfortable, thinking he is living in the lap of luxury, but Philip reminds him that he is here to work hard and stay out of trouble.
Later, Will is in his room stapling his Malcolm X poster to the wall. Geoffrey walks in and hands him his tuxedo for the formal dinner his Philip is hosting later on. Ashley also comes in and hands Will a painting of a flower pot she made for him. Seeing this, Will compliments Ashley on her artistic talent, which she is grateful for. However, she begins explaining to Will how she did not make the audition for the school chorus. Will believes that she should try to rap like him, as she would not have to worry much about messing up. The two begin making a short rap about Ashley's music teacher, Ms. Berkley, which she begins to enjoy.
Shortly after, Phillip and Carlton enter the room. After greeting Will, Carlton takes a look at his poster of Malcolm X, who Will considers to be his hero. While Carlton agrees Malcolm X was a great man, he looks up to his father as a hero. Seeing that Will has his suit prepared for the formal dinner, Phillip gives Will some advice, telling him to just be himself and when in doubt, act as Carlton. Later at night, everyone is gathered in the living room. It is here that Will's flare for trouble begins to wreak havoc on the Banks' household. Everyone at the dinner table is quite surprised to find Ashley doing a rap song that Will had taught her when saying grace. This does not help Philip's image with his bank associates, and Will and the Banks get off to a rocky start.
After the party, Will is sitting down at the piano playing a tune, shortly before his uncle Phillip comes in and begins berate him for his shenanigans. Will explains to his uncle that he does not appreciate being changed into something he does not want to be, as he intends to be a joker and have fun all the time. Phillip reasons with him that joking around is what gets him into trouble. Will then tries to twist things around on his uncle, claiming that he is the one with the problem, that he is become soft and forgot all about his origin. Phillip then tries to set Will straight, reassuring him that he most definitely knows where he comes from, saying that he heard Malcolm speak and read every word he wrote, rather than just hang a nice poster of him on his wall. Before leaving, Philip tells Will to learn more about somebody before he starts throwing criticism around. Tired and not interested in hearing what Will has to say, Philip leaves to bed, but not before hearing Will play Beethoven on the piano, changing his perception of Will.
Later that night, Ashley is in her room dancing to Will's walkman. Will enters and begins dancing behind her until she turns around and spots him. After she hands him back his walkman, the two head out to look for a bathroom. Ashley tells Will that she is very happy that he is living here, and says he is like the big brother she never had. Will, however, tries to remind her of her brother Carlton, but quickly brushes it aside, saying she has a point.
Searching for a bathroom, they knock on the bathroom door on the left and hear Carlton singing, forcing them go to the bathroom on the right with Hilary inside. Will asks her how long she is going to be in there. Hilary tells them to go away because she is trying to remove her makeup. Will says good night to her, but instead, he and Ashley quietly sneak around the corners until Hilary comes out. When they see what she was really doing, Will busts her, shouting "I knew it!"
- 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
Geoffrey: Come with me, Master William.
Will: Yo yo, G, G, G, let me rap to you for a second man. All this "Master William" stuff, I'm not down with that, make it sound like we back on the plantation or something, we like "Massa William, Massa William!"
Vivian [to Will]: Did you enjoy the trip?
Will: Oh, yo, the plane ride was stupid. I was looking for first class...
Philip: Excuse me?
Will: No, I was sayin' the plane was dope. So, I was lookin' for...
Philip: Excuse me?
Will: No. Stupid. Dope. Oh. No, that doesn't mean what you... Um... How would he say it? Oh, the flight was really neat, yeah.
Carlton: Wait till we come downstairs in those tuxes. People may not think we're twins, but I'll bet they'll think we're brothers.
Will: You know, I don't think you'll have to worry about anybody mistaking you for a brother.
Philip: Will, this is Furth, Wynn, and Meyer.
Will: Yo, Earth, Wind, and Fire. When's your next record coming out?
Ashley's rap: Hey there Lord, my name is Ashley Banks. My family and friends want to give you some thanks, so before this dinner's all swallowed and chewed, thank you, God for this stupid food.
Philip [to Will]: I want to talk to you.
Will: About what?
Philip: You know. From the minute you walked in that door, you've been a one-man wrecking crew, trying to tear down what's taken a lot of hard work to build up, skewering everything with your flippant shenanigans!
Will: I was with you up until "skewering".
Philip: You know what I'm talking about. You deliberately tried to embarrass me tonight, and I don't get it. Your aunt an I went through a lot of trouble to bring you out here, and this is the thanks we get?
Will: Man, I ain't ask to come here. Everybody's talking about shipping me off and changing me into something I don't wanna be.
Philip: Nobody wants to change you.
Will: You told me yourself I need to straighten out, and "When in doubt, act like Carlton." Man, I don't wanna be like Carlton. I'm a joker, I play around, I have fun.
Philip: Being a joker is what's gotten you into trouble. Now you may think it's cool to be on the streets when you're 17, but when you're my age, it's a waste!
Will: I can't think that far ahead.
Philip: That's your problem... you can't take anything seriously.
Will: Look, man, I don't have the problem, alright? You have the problem. I remind you of who you are and what you used to be, and I don't know, somewhere between Princeton or the office, you got soft. You forgot who you are and where you came from.
Philip: You think you're so wise... Look at me when I'm talking to you. Let me tell you something, son. I grew up on the streets just like you. I encountered bigotry you could not imagine. Now, you got a nice poster of Malcolm X on your wall. I heard the brother speak. I read every word he wrote. Believe me, I know where I come from!
Will: You actually heard Malcolm speak, man?
Philip: That's right. So before you criticize somebody, you find out what he's all about.
For more, see: The Fresh Prince Project/Transcript
- The cab driver in the opening sequence is unknown.
- After the opening credits, the pilot episode picks up where it left off after Will knocks on his uncle and aunt's door. Thus, Will wears the exact same outfit he wears in the show's opening credits.
- Will was 17 years old when he first moved in with his aunt and uncle, but Will Smith was actually 22 years old when he taped this pilot episode.
- According to the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" retrospective, included as an extra feature on the first season DVD boxset, Vivian Banks' name was originally Wendy Banks, but Director Debbie Allen felt Vivian would be a better name, and the producers loved it right away.
- In the scene where Will sees himself looking like Carlton, the mirror was actually covered by a rectangle with another scene in which Will wears clothing just like Carlton's.
- The song Will played on the piano after the party is "Fur Elise" by Beethoven. At the end of the episode, Carlton is singing "Silly Love Songs" by Paul McCartney & Wings in the shower.
- This is the only episode in the series to not feature an exterior shot of the Banks' house.
- In this episode, Will is 17 years old and Ashley is 9 years old. However, early into Season 2, Will is still 17, but Ashley is 13.
- In the pilot episode, the back of the living room set has two windows. For the rest of Season 1, there are doors leading out of the house.
- Also, there is no stairwell at the back of the front hallway like there is in the rest of the season.
- Geoffrey introduces himself to Will verbally as Geoffrey (but never tells him how it is spelled). A short time later, Will refers to him as "G," even though the common U.S. spelling would seem to call for the letter "J."Additionally, the left side of the living room has an arched opening leading into the dining room. For the rest of the season, there are doors in that spot.
- In the scene were Will is stapling his Malcolm X poster on the wall, the walls are shaking. Also, when Will moves away from the poster, it shows a little bit from outside the set in the top left corner of the screen, and the camera moves down quickly to cover it up.
- Alfonso Ribeiro's last name is incorrectly spelled as "Ribiero" in the opening credits.
- When Ashley hands Will her drawing, it can easily be seen that she incorrectly spelled Will's name as "Wil."
- In the opening scene where Will is doing his mockery of Geoffrey, if one looks into the mirror over his right shoulder, crew equipment is seen moving.
- back to life | SOUL II SOUL
- will puts up posters in his room
- DVD description