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He Thought He Could is the first episode and season premiere of Season 3 of the FOX sitcom Married... with Children, as well as the 36th overall episode in the series. Written by Ron Leavitt and Michael G. Moye, the episode was directed by Gerry Cohen and premiered on FOX on November 8, 1988.


Al discovers a library book that was due in 1957. He must return it to the library and face up to his worst childhood fear: the librarian.


To be added.


Regular Cast[]

Guest Stars[]


  • [A young Al Bundy is at the Oakwood Library in 1957 and presents several books to the librarian, Miss DeGroot]
  • Miss DeGroot: Well, young Mr. Bundy. [becomes upset] "The Devil Boy". You'd like to check these out, would you? Well, I'm afraid you can't! Do you know why?
  • Young Al: 'Cause I didn't bring you French fries like the other boys do?
  • Miss DeGroot: You're a bad seed, Bundy. You can't have these books because you are consistently overdue, you never have the money to pay... and looking at you now I doubt you ever will.
  • Young Al: I'll bring 'em back, I promise.
  • Miss DeGroot: You always promise, but you don't follow through. And that, in a nutshell, is your problem. "Make a promise, keep a promise".
  • Young Al: [mockingly] Yeah, yeah, "Bake a pie, eat a pie".

  • Al: Wait a sec! You're charging me two thousand dollars for an overdue library book?!
  • Miss DeGroot: [sighs] Perhaps if you didn't ignore the overdue notices we sent you for first ten years, you wouldn't be in this pickle. SIT DOWN!
  • [Miss DeGroot moves a child size chair to the front of her desk. Al eventually sits down awkwardly as she takes her seat.]
  • Miss DeGroot: You made me a promise and you didn't keep it! So now you must pay the piper, for you see, even the road to ruin has its toll gate. Now... will you be paying in cash or food stamps?
  • Al: Can't we make a little deal, here? Now, I'll tell you what,...[slyly] Suppose I, uh, tape a doughnut to my license and slip it to 'ya [gestures sliding a card towards her] You give it back and the doughnut just... mysteriously [winks and grins]... disappears?

  • [Al visits the library and sees Miss DeGroot carrying a box with her belongings]
  • Miss DeGroot: You know, Mr. Bundy, I've worked at this library for 44 years. I was eligible for retirement 3 years ago. Do you know why I stayed?
  • Al: You learned to eat books?
  • Miss DeGroot: [angry] You're a horrible little boy! [walks over to a reading table and picks up a notebook] I kept this job for one reason: I knew that I'd nail you and I did! [turns back to Al and begins gleaming with pride] Pat Garrett... got Billy the Kid and I finally got you! [smiles with satisfaction] My job is over! Today is my last day. You know, its funny; I could have given you amnesty on the book. I would have for anyone else... [bitterly] but I've always hated you! Is it wrong to hate a 9 year old boy? [pauses] ...No! Not when that boy is you! [walks across the room back to her desk] Its the joy of my life to see you grow up like I always knew you would; [turns to face Al] A total and complete loser! Today, when I get my car, and leave this place for the last time, I will be whole! [puts box down and looks at Al] Your shame is my gold watch!

  • [Al confronts Miss DeGroot one last time]
  • Al: So you think I'm a loser? Just because I have a stinking job that I hate, a family that doesn't respect me, a whole city that curses the day I was born? Well, that may mean loser to you, but let me tell you something. Every morning when I wake up, I know it's not going to get any better until I go back to sleep again. So I get up, have my watered-down Tang and still-frozen Pop Tart, get in my car with no upholstery, no gas, and six more payments to fight traffic just for the privilege of putting cheap shoes on the cloven hooves of people like you. I'll never play football like I thought I would. I'll never know the touch of a beautiful woman. And I'll never again know the joy of driving without a bag on my head. But I'm not a loser. 'Cause, despite it all, me and every other guy who'll never be what he wanted to be are still out there being what we don't want to be forty hours a week for life. And the fact that I haven't put a gun in my mouth, you pudding of a woman, makes me a winner!



  • The title of this episode is a play on the line "I think I can" of the children's book, The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper, which appears in the episode.


  • This is the first episode to show footage of the actors when their name is shown in the opening, instead of a black background that was used during the first two seasons. The footage includes:
    • Ed O'Neill - A still frame of Al sitting on the couch with his hand down his pants and a remote control in the other
    • Katey Sagal - Tossing a salad in the kitchen while smoking
    • David Garrison - Standing at the Bundys' front door holding an ice pack over his head before bringing up a baseball.
    • Amanda Bearse - Eating a salad at the Bundy residence and laughing before finding Peggy's cigarette at the end of her fork.
    • Christina Applegate - Sneaking in through the front door at night. She then stops as she notices the camera and smiles.
    • David Faustino - Sitting at the staircase with headphones on, looking at a magazine called Boudoir and then becomes excited when he sees the centerfold.
    • The couch gag was also revised, with the Bundys wearing new clothing and a slightly older Bud and Kelly.
  • Edan Gross, the actor who plays young Al Bundy in this episode, previously appeared on MWC as neighborhood kid Carl in the season 2 episode You Better Watch Out
  • This episode features one of the extremely rare incidents in which Peggy refuses sex offered by Al. The only other times in which this occurs are "The Great Escape" (season 2) and "Requiem for a Dead Barber" (season 3).
  • Starting with this episode, Bud has a noticeably deeper voice and also has a mullet haircut, which he kept for all of season 3.
  • Starting with this episode, Marcy's hair is noticeably lighter than compared to Season 1 and 2.
  • Marcy reveals that Steve's parents gave them fine china and instructions on melon balls for him, as it is the only way he'll eat melons. He then complains that Marcy doesn't know how to make them properly. This would become a recurring joke during seasons 3 and 4.
  • Among the trophies that Al mentions, he has:
    • MVP - Pop Warner Football
    • All Star Little League - Short Stop
    • All City Football
    • Co-ed Softball - Participant Award
    • Rookie Shoe Salesman of the Year - 1968
  • As indicated by the production number, this was the second episode to be filmed, but the first to air.
  • During the credits, it reads "'The Little Engine That Could' Used by Permission of Grosset & Dunlap".
    • Grosset & Dunlap is a U.S. Publishing House that published The Little Engine That Could. As of 1996, it is now part of Peguin Random House.
  • Peggy mentions that the popcorn was a wedding gift from Al's parents. Based on the "Best Before" date of May 11 1972 that Marcy points out, and considering the life of prepacked popcorn is about a year (assuming that his parents didn't give it to them when it was already past that date) it would mean that Al and Peg married sometime between 1971-1972.

Cultural References[]

  • When Al shows his trophies to Bud and Steve, he mentions that one of them was earned in Pop Warner Football, a non profit organization that offers football to kids between 5 and 16 years old.
  • Ms. DeGroot calls Al the "Freddy Krueger" of the library system.
  • Peggy asks Al if they will appear on America's Most Wanted, a reality crime show that ran on FOX from 1988 until 2011. It typically featured profiles of wanted criminals and reenactments of their crimes.
  • Peg mentions Al being profiled by Paul Harvey on his radio show after being caught on camera at the library. Al also mentions that he had been a fan of his show until that point.
  • Ms. DeGroot compares working all those years at the library just to see Al's failure as an adult to Sheriff Pat Garrett killing the outlaw Billy the Kid.
  • In all of the scenes involving an adult Al and Miss DeGroot at the library, a portrait of then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan can be prominently seen in the background.
    • At the time this episode originally aired, Reagan was finishing up his second and final term in office. Two days after this episode aired, the 1988 United States presidential election were held, with Reagan's vice president, George H.W. Bush eventually winning.
  • Al suggest that Miss DeGroot's chair is being held up with nails from Krypton, referring to the fictional home planet of comic book character, Superman.
  • Al asks the family if they want to play the tabletop game, Yahtzee.
  • During Al's speech, he mentions that every morning he has "watered down Tang and still frozen Pop Tart", referring to the orange flavored drink mix and toaster pastry.



  • Bundy Living Room/Kitchen
  • Oakwood Library Entrance/ Bookcase / Mrs. DeGroot's desk


  • When Peg is making popcorn on the stove, it's making a sizzling sound like she's really popping it but the burner isn't on.
  • When young Al reaches forward with his left arm to take the book that Miss DeGroot wants to give to him, she quickly pulls back but young Al still has his arm raised. In the next shot, his hand his down by his side.
  • When Al and the family are watching the news and the security camera footage of Al putting the book back is shown, his shirt and pants are not the same as the ones he actually went in with. It's obvious this was filmed at the end of the episode because the final time he goes back to the library he is wearing the same clothes as shown in the footage.
  • When Marcy tells Al "that the hand of justice will triumph...", there is a shadow from the boom mic moving back and forth on the door frame.

External Links[]

◄ Season 2 Season 3 Episodes Season 4 ►
He Thought He CouldI'm Going to SweatlandPoke HighThe Camping Show
A Dump of My OwnHer Cups Runneth OverThe Bald and the BeautifulThe Gypsy Cried
Requiem for a Dead BarberI'll See You in CourtEatin' OutMy Mom, the Mom
Can't Dance, Don't Ask MeA Three Job, No Income FamilyThe Harder They Fall
The House That Peg LostMarried... with Queen (Part 1)Married... with Queen: The Sequel (Part 2)
The Dateless AmigoThe Computer ShowLife's a BeachHere's Lookin' at You, Kid