The One Wife Swap Episode That Got Pulled From TV

The TV series "Wife Swap" follows two families as they switch wives and mothers for two weeks. As presumed based on premise alone, the show comes with its fair share of drama, as families battle to acclimate to life with a new matriarch. The show first aired in 2004 on ABC and moved to the Paramount Network in 2019. In September 2020, the show was canceled, per Variety, as part of a network-wide shift away from unscripted reality shows and towards movies and scripted series. 

Switching networks wasn't the only bump in the road for the series. In 2009, an incident took place that had one family's episode pulled with "no plans" to re-air, according to a spokeswoman for the show, per The Wrap. According to CNN, the episode was slated to air on Lifetime on October 29, 2009, and was even "on the schedule long before the incident." But what was that incident? What did the drama center on, and what did the family have to say about it? 

Balloon Boy never hit the air

In 2009, CNN reported that the "Wife Swap" episode featuring Richard and Mayumi Heene would not air on TV after what has come to be known as the "balloon boy" incident. For those who need a refresher on this decade-old stunt, a homemade balloon that was set loose in the air was rumored to have contained the Heene's six-year-old son, Falcon Heene. In an effort to retrieve the child safely, the National Guard sent helicopters and the Denver International Airport was temporarily shut down, according to NPR. The incident was broadcast live on television across the United States, but later on, police learned that Falcon was not stuck in the balloon, but rather, was hiding away in a box in the family's attic. 

The subsequent controversy revolved around whether or not the Heene family purposefully led the police on a hunt for their child for media attention. In an on-air interview with CNN, Falcon was asked why he didn't make himself known when his family was searching for him. He replied, "You guys said we did it for a show." Because of the son's statement, police began investigating whether the entire debacle was a hoax. Richard and Mayumi Heene faced a number of local charges as a result, along with an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration. A spokesperson told CNN of the "Wife Swap" episode, "Once we found out, we decided to pull it off the air. At this time, we don't have any plans to air it in the near future."

Richard and Mayumi Heene were recently pardoned by a Colorado governor

Although their episode of "Wife Swap" — which was completed before the "balloon boy" scandal — never made it to air, the Heene family's saga wasn't over just yet. In December 2020, according to NPR, Richard and Mayumi Heene were pardoned after pleading guilty to a "few crimes" surrounding the balloon boy incident. In an official statement, Governor Jared Polis stated, "In the case of Richard and Mayumi Heene, the 'balloon boy' parents, we are all ready to move past the spectacle from a decade ago that wasted the precious time and resources of law enforcement officials and the general public." Polis added that the couple had "paid the price" after receiving years of public backlash. 

Because they were pardoned, the crime was removed from both Richard and Mayumi's records, and the couple has held that they are innocent since 2009. Richard was forced to spend 90 days in jail and his wife was ordered to work community service hours, according to NPR. They were also forced to pay $36,000 in restitution to authorities, and the judge also prohibited them from monetizing their experience, meaning no books, no movies, and, from the looks of it, no more episodes of "Wife Swap."