Lisa is originally enthusiastic about her new environment, but gradually her presence stirs discontent among the other students, as she is the first female student and gets her own barracks to herself. Bart and Lisa are both subject to harsh hazing, but while Bart is eventually accepted by the other students, and thus distances himself from his sister, Lisa remains an outcast. Lisa grapples with her isolation and even considers calling Marge and asking to be brought home, but decides to stay.
As the school year comes to a close, the Commandant reveals the final test for the students: a hand-over-hand crawl across a rope suspended 40 feet above a patch of thorn bushes, referred to as the "Eliminator". Lisa fears that she will not be able to complete the task, but Bart secretly helps her train for the challenge. The next day, all of the students cross the Eliminator, including Bart. Lisa is the last to go, and while she struggles and nearly falls at first, she manages to cross safely after being cheered on by Bart. As a result, the other students vow to make the rest of the semester a living hell for him, but this backfires when the students find out that the semester ends with graduation three hours later, so they leave him alone. As a result of her efforts, Lisa is awarded by the Commandant with a medal, "For Satisfactory Completion of the Second Grade."
During the scene where the Commandant is talking, there is a brief shot of Lisa blinking. As there had been an error in the final print of the episode, the shot was animated, painted and shot the Friday before the episode's airdate. The spiky blond-haired kid, who runs towards the Eliminator while screaming, is a caricature of director Mike B. Anderson.
The episode was one of four in 1999 released on a VHS (Re-released on DVD in 2005) called Bart Wars focused on crosses between The Simpsons and Star Wars. However, one critic wrote that with this episode and "Marge Be Not Proud" and "Dog of Death," both of which are also on the DVD, the "Star Wars connection" is "tangential at best." The other episode was "Mayored to the Mob."
Journalist Raju Mudhar also wrote that in this episode, "The Simpsons have succinctly laid out our eventual future." This referred to the rise of robots in the real world and the quote from this episode:
"The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots.