"Pilot" is the first episode of the first season premiere of One Tree Hill and the 1st produced episode of the series. It was broadcast on September 23, 2003. Aside from a love for hoops, it would seem that Lucas and Nathan are two young men with little in common, but they are bound by the dark secret that they share the same father. Nathan is the star of the high school basketball team and local town hero, while Lucas is the only child of a single working mom. Now the two boys' lives collide when a twist of fate puts Lucas on Nathan's team and the half-brothers compete, not only for control of the court, but also for the heart of Nathan's beautiful girlfriend Peyton.
In the small town of Tree Hill, North Carolina, two brothers lead very different lives. Nathan Scott is about to begin playing a high school basketball game and is feeling the pressure of his father Dan who tells him he has to make at least 20 shots. Elsewhere, Lucas Scott is playing a game of basketball with his friends Skills, Junk and Fergie with Mouth and Jimmy commentating from a bench at the edge of the River Court at which they are playing. During the high school game, Nathan begins taunting other players and because of his ego and his belief that the Tree Hill Ravens is his team, coach Whitey Durham is forced to bench him. When the team starts to lose the game without Nathan, Whitey is forced to send Nathan back in. As the two games progress both Nathan and Lucas display natural talent at the game - but are playing in very different arenas.
After both games have ended, Nathan's girlfriend Peyton Sawyer drives home and struggles to choose a song to listen to from her alternative CD collection whilst Lucas walks home from the River Court dribbling his ball. The two remain in their own worlds, causing Peyton to not see Lucas step out onto the road causing her to brake quickly to stop from hitting him. Lucas gives Peyton a deep and meaningful look, hinting at some feelings towards her, but Peyton simply motions for Lucas to move and drives on. Elsewhere, Nathan and many other Tree Hill High Students steal the school bus and take a joy ride with Nathan at the wheel. During the drinking and the partying, a cheerleader starts flirting with him, suggestively noting that his girlfriend Peyton isn't there, and as she kisses him he loses concentration and fails to notice a train line ahead. The bus narrowly misses a crash, but the police car on the other side predicts trouble ahead. The following day, Principal Turner and Whitey are forced to suspend the vast majority of the team but they outline that Jake Jagielski, Tim Smith and Nathan were not involved in the theft and therefore will not be reprimanded, although it becomes apparent that Dan had a hand in ensuring that Nathan's name wasn't on the list. Dan later approaches Whitey and their age old feud comes to the forefront over Whitey not putting Nathan's best interest first in Dan's eyes.
Back at the River Court, Lucas and his friends see Peyton driving by on a nearby road, stirring up conversation between the boys. Mouth and Jimmy tell Lucas about the webcam she has in her room, on which she apparently 'is naked all the time.' Lucas watches the car pass showing an obvious attraction to and interest in Peyton. That night he returns to Karen's Cafe where his mother Karen and best friend Haley are waiting. Karen invites Haley to join them for dinner and asks Lucas how his day was, though Haley interjects in the conversation. Karen reveals she has a surprise for Lucas, but Haley ruins the surprise by revealing that it is the book Julius Caesar.
Meanwhile, while hanging out in Peyton's room, Nathan claims he has come to spend time with her - by inviting her to hang out with the guys. The two get into an argument where he insults her music taste and tells her that if she doesn't want to be with him he has other options. He apologizes to Peyton, who reluctantly forgives him, showing cracks in their romance.
Later, Keith Scott visits Coach Durham to talk about Lucas (who Whitey refers to as "Dan's other son"). Keith believes that now there are openings on the Raven's team after the suspensions. Although Whitey is hesitant to go and see this new boy play basketball, he agrees to out of trust in Keith. At the River Court he is clearly impressed by Lucas, who displays natural talent for the game. Whitey also questions what is happening between Keith and Karen, but Keith regretfully tells him they are just friends. The next day, Whitey calls Lucas into the gym and offers him a spot on the team but Lucas refuses. Lucas brushes off the invitation, not wanting to be like "those guys" and wanting to believe that he belongs at the River Court but Skills demands that Lucas is too good to turn it down. Arriving home, Lucas finds a Ravens top at the door and he decides to try it on showing a secret desire to join the team. As he is trying on the shirt, his mom walks in and tells him to take it off immediately. Later, Lucas approached Karen who tells him to join the team because she doesn't want him sitting out his life on account of her.
At Dan's behest, in an attempt to stop Lucas from the joining team, Nathan and Tim pay a visit to the River Court where Nathan offers Lucas a deal - a play off. If Lucas wins, he can join the team and if Nathan wins he doesn't. Nathan challenges him to set a time and a place. Later, when confiding in Haley, Lucas tells her that he wants to do it for his mother. At the garage, Lucas is encouraged once more by his Uncle Keith. When the phone rings, Keith sends Lucas to pick up a broken down car, belonging to Peyton. Initially, Peyton rings her boyfriend but he tries to get out of picking her up resulting in an argument. During an awkward conversation, Lucas offers Peyton a lift back but she refuses and so he offers to wait with her. Lucas then asks Peyton why she's a cheerleader, given that she's the "least cheery person he knows." When it becomes apparent that Nathan isn't arriving, Peyton asks Lucas why guys are jerks - so he replies "guys or Nathan?". When Lucas brings up Dan being his father, Peyton asks if it sucks being around him. Lucas then tells her about when he and Nathan played on the same Little League team and he was teased about Dan being his father, so he quit the team because he didn't want his mother to have to deal with Dan.Now feeling awkward after Lucas' confession, she asked him why he told her that, seeing as they don't know each other. Lucas replies with "Maybe that's the point." After his encounter with Peyton, Lucas goes to find Nathan to arrange a time to play and Nathan agrees. Meanwhile Karen finds Dan and threatens him, wanting him to stay away from Lucas and let him play on the team. When Dan asks why she is humiliating her child, Karen responds that Dan has humiliated him enough. Elsewhere, Lucas and Haley are on their makeshift mini-golf course on the top of the Cafe, where Haley tells him that Karen is worrying over the game, and also that she's glad they're friends because Lucas is one of the good guys. On the night of the play off, Lucas arrives at the River Court with no sign of Nathan. Mouth and Jimmy are commentating as they event begins, Nathan eventually arrives to a cheering crowd which Tim has gathered in support of the team star player. Nathan then tells Peyton that if he loses, Lucas doesn't only get a spot on the team but he also gets her.
The game begins and Lucas shoots two baskets from the half court line. Nathan follows by beginning the game. The game sees a tense battle between the half brothers as they both continue to score as their equal talents are pitted against each other, and the score ends up at 14-12. Lucas ties the game and it comes down to the final point. In a bid to win, Nathan tries to distract Lucas by taunting him about Dan but Lucas remains focused and tells him that this is for his mother and scores the basket. Lucas wins the game and Nathan storms off, ignoring Peyton as he passes. Lucas approaches Peyton, saying that part of the bet was that Nathan and Lucas are both on the team because it's the last thing Nathan wants. Peyton is called away by her boyfriend and Lucas watches her leave.
On his return home, Nathan tells his Dad his dream is safe before storming upstairs, whereas Lucas returns home to see his Mom, who greets him with a hug. Lucas then goes upstairs and begins to watch Peyton's webcam broadcast. A connection is beginning to develop between them. The next day, Lucas goes to practice, much to Nathan's disdain and takes his place among the Tree Hill Ravens.
- Actually he's 138 and 3. Lucas.
Jeez Edwards you can remember that but you can't remember to run a bar of soap under your pits.
- Oh, the magazine pages are sticky again little perv. Oh, hey Luke. Have you been reading this? Lucas: don't know Haley. Is this the "Why Do I Hang Out with These People? issue because you're on the cover of that, right? No actually, it's the "My Best Friend is an Idiot issue and there you are!
- ―Haley James and Lucas Scott
- There's a tide in the affairs of men, or something like that.
- ―Karen Roe
- Hey, can I ask you something?
It's a free country. Why are you a cheerleader? I mean, no offense or anything but you're about the least cheery person I know."
- If I'd of wanted a girl, I'd have adopted one."
"What, so you can abandon her too?
- There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune but omitted, and the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat and we must take the current when it serves or lose the ventures before us.
- ―Lucas Scott (closing voice-over)
- "Drift" - Forty Foot Echo
- "24's" - T.I.
- "Hands Down" - Dashboard Confessional
- "Farewell Transmission" - Songs: Ohia
- "Never Enough" - Bosshouse
- "Your Boyfriend Sucks" - The Ataris
- "Money Bags" - Runaway Cab
- "Aftertaste" - Ben Lee
- "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" - Jet
- "Lapdance" - N.E.R.D.
- "What It Is To Burn" - Finch
- "Rest In Pieces" - Saliva
- "EZ" - Pete Yorn
This episode's title Pilot is the only episode title thus far that is not named after the song. Instead, it adopted the name most first episodes of television series’ take as it was the show's pilot.
- In the first version of the Pilot, the character of Haley was not present. Instead, Lucas' best friend was a more tomboyish girl by the name of Reagan, portrated by Samantha Shelton but the character was scrapped and replaced with Haley. All of the key scenes featuring Shelton as Reagan were re-shot with Bethany Joy Lenz taking her place but scenes in which Shelton appeared without lines are still featured into the pilot, such as the scene depicted to the right and the scene in which Nathan and Lucas face off, and Reagan offers Lucas a celebratory pat on the back after his win.
- One can see a comparison of Shelton and Lenz' performances in certain scenes in the Pilot through this youtube.com link.
- Shelton is credited as a guest star in the episode, despite not having any speaking lines.
- As stated in the audio commentary for the season finale, when the initial meeting between Lucas and Peyton was being filmed at the lake, there was a crocodile in the water behind them for the entirety of the shoot.
- The first appearances of Lucas, Nathan, Peyton, Whitey, Dan, Mouth, Skills, Karen, Haley and Keith
- Brooke does not appear in this episode. Sophia Bush wasn't credited for the episode when it first aired but is credited for the episode in re-runs and on the DVD releases despite not appearing at any stage.
- When Haley gets attacked by a load of crows, Lucas tells her it is a murder of crows. Haley continues by asking what a group of ravens is called, and Lucas replies with "an unkindness of ravens", linking the final voiceover of season one.
- While Nathan appears in this episode with a nipple ring, the piercing disappears in a later episode.
- Haley passes reference to a "hideous Joey-loves-Dawson scenario" references another teen drama, Dawson's Creek.
- This is the only episode to not feature Brooke Davis.