The Way We Was is the twelfth episode of Season 2 and 25th overall. It was first broadcast on January 31, 1991 and was written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss and Sam Simon, while David Silverman directed. It was the first ever flashback episode of The Simpsons. The episode contains cultural references to songs such as "The Joker" and "(They Long to Be) Close to You", and the television series "Siskel and Ebert and the Movies".
When the TV malfunctions, Marge and Homer plan to tell their children a story. After refusing to tell the story of how Bart was born (which would later be seen exactly 1 season later in season 3's "I Married Marge"), they choose to tell the story of how Homer and Marge met in high school—and how Marge almost went out with a nerd named Artie Ziff.
When the TV shorts out, Marge tells the kids the story of how she and Homer first met. The setting is flashback to 1974, when they were in their senior year of high school. Homer was barely a responsible student, contrary to Marge, but when she attends a feminist rally and burns a bra on the school grounds, she is sent to detention for a day. Homer and Barney are sent there for three days for smoking in the boys' restroom. Upon seeing Marge enter the detention room, Homer is smitten and wants to ask her to the Prom and gets bullied by Artie and the teacher.
To get to be around her more, Homer joins the debate team that Marge is on. However, Marge is more interested in the smart and articulated Artie Ziff. As a next strategy, Homer pretends to be a French student so that he can be tutored by Marge. It appears to be working, and when Homer asks Marge to the senior prom, she agrees. However, when Homer reveals he doesn't really take French, Marge grows furious, slaps him and storms out of the house. Despite this, Homer still thinks he's taking her to the prom. The next day, due to her lack of sleep, Marge is unprepared for her role on the debate team. Afterwards, Artie asks Marge to the Prom, whom she gladly accepts.
On prom night, Homer shows up at the Bouvier residence to pick up Marge much to the horror of her family. After being insulted by Marge's sisters, Homer realizes his mistake when Artie shows up to pick up Marge. Homer still plans to go to the Prom, since he has already rented his tuxedo, a limousine, and paid for the two dinners at the event. At the Prom, Homer has a terrible time from having a Prom photo taken only of himself without a date, and watching as Marge and Artie are crowned Prom King and Queen and have their first dance. Heartbroken, Homer leaves during the dance and cries outside. When Marge appears to ask Homer why he's putting himself through such misery, he tells her its because he's certain they're meant to be together. Marge now feels some sympathy, but firmly tells him he's wrong. Later, Marge and Artie leave the prom and go off to have an intimate moment. Marge is rather unsure about this, and grows angry when Artie tries to force himself upon her. Upon her demand, Artie drives her home, wishing her good night, and asking that she does not tell anyone about his 'busy hands.' Meanwhile, Homer's limo time runs out leaving him to walk home from the other side of town. Marge is about to enter her house when she hears her parents arguing through the door, saying how uncouth Homer was, and how lucky Marge was for going to the Prom with Artie. Marge then gets in her car, and finds Homer walking along the side of the road. Marge gives him a ride, telling him once she got home she realized she should have gone to the prom with him instead. At these words, Homer mentions that he's a little afraid, because "Once you stop this car, I'm going to hug you, and kiss you, and then I'll never be able to let you go."
The story finishes with Homer telling the kids that he never did let go, and he happily embraces with Marge. While Lisa is touched by the story, Bart (as expected) is grossed out.