At last, folks, this is the big one. Most people in my age range, that being the late teens to early 20s, were enraptured by Spongebob. I’d be willing to bet that in any high school classroom or on any college campus, if you uttered a Spongebob quote, people would rapidly utter subsequent quotes, ultimately reaching the point of a chain reaction of references to our childhoods. And this chain reaction would quickly reach critical mass.
What I’m trying to say here is this: Spongebob is something held nearly and dearly to our hearts. Many of us can recite episodes essentially from start to finish without a second thought, and many of the hilarious moments peppered throughout the series are burned into our brains and will probably never escape. What does this all mean? Well, it means that ranking 20 episodes is going to be incredibly difficult. Will legendary episodes be left off? Probably. Will some episodes you weren’t too big on show up? Maybe. But, one thing is for certain: if you grew up watching Spongebob, some of your favorite cartoon moments will be highlighted in this list. Be forewarned: I’m personally partial to Season 1, so early episodes are gonna be abound. So, are ya ready kids? Here are my top 20-11 Spongebob episodes.
#20: Pre-Hibernation Week
Now the last thing I wanna do is sit here and explain to you why these episodes are funny, because that’d be no fun, right? Instead I’ll try to explain what makes the episode worthy of being on the list. For one thing, Pantera did some of the music on this episode, so that alone warrants a spot. But the main reason this episode works so well is how Sandy is portrayed. Whether or not you think the newer episodes of the show are as good or worse than the older ones, you have to admit that most of the characters underwent some pretty significant shifts in personality. This resulted in a bunch of newer Sandy episodes just focusing on science endeavors gone wrong. Earlier episodes, however, took the ironic “fish out of water” (or, I guess, “squirrel into water”) scenario and played around with it. This resulted in “Pre-Hibernation Week” being a very creative episode which toys around with the fact that this show has a land creature living underwater.
They capitalize on Spongebob’s naïveté very well in this episode, including a funny subtle moment in which Spongebob looks into the camera and blatantly mispronounces hibernation. Also, the physical gags in this episode are outstanding, such as when Spongebob crashes into the ground and liquefies, or when he gets knocked off the Sea Needle and lands on a fire hydrant.
Another Sandy-centric episode, Texas works really well due to it’s simple, emotionally driven story. While I’m sure no one expected that a main character would just leave, this episode does result in a few sadder-than-usual Spongebob moments. However, the highlight is Spongebob and Patrick making fun of Texas and getting chased down by a crazed Sandy. Patrick getting lassoed and exploding is a particularly great moment. But, the episode resolves as you’d expect it would: with Spongebob and the crew throwing a Texas (or, what they think is Texas, like giant barb-y Q’s) party for her. Texas is one of the most feel-good episodes, as well as one of the funniest.
#18: Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy III
I almost hesitated to put this one on the list because it may be the episode I’ve seen the most, but I just had to put at least one Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy episode on here. Ironically, I went with the one in which the titular characters are in it the least, but what makes this episode is the interplay between Man Ray and Spongebob/Patrick. Man Ray has got to be one of the wackiest villains ever, and him just trying to reason with Patrick and ultimately failing is one of the most recognizable moments in the series. Man Ray trying to rob a bank but ultimately opening up a checking account is another great moment.
This episode is full of slapstick goodness: Spongebob and Patrick sliding down the ropes only to get rope burn, Squidward crashing off a cliff and exploding, “firmly grasp it,” Patrick blowing hot soup into Squidward’s face, Spongebob moistening his lips for what seems like minutes, Squidward getting struck down by the massive jellyfish (not just once, but twice), the list goes on. This is what makes the episode so marvelous: creative physical comedy that capitalizes on the characters’ personalities perfectly. Also, this picture Spongebob has from the episode always cracked me up:
#16: Tea at the Treedome
Season 1 just had this perfect chilled-out vibe that was never quite matched again throughout the series. This episode, which was one of the first ones to be aired, featured Sandy’s debut, as well as the first appearance of jellyfishing. This episode features some unsettling, but hilarious imagery: such as Spongebob and Patrick drying out. Also, they captured Patrick perfectly in this episode – not blindingly stupid, but just dull and naïve. He thinks he’s helping Spongebob, but he’s really just making things worse. Chase was against me including it on the list for this reason: if Sandy is supposed to be among the smartest in Bikini Bottom, wouldn’t she know that Spongebob needed water? I guess that’s true, but I don’t think it’s a big enough deal to justify leaving it off. This is one of the best episodes in the entire series, in my opinion.
Another Season 1 episode, another perfect portrayal of a character. In this case, I’m referring to Plankton, who is just as funny and over the top as always, although the episode succeeds in making him sympathetic. This episode gave us the FUN song, which I’m sure we’re all familiar with, as well as the Jolly Good Rookie song that always made me laugh. No one thought that Spongebob would succeed in making Plankton turn a new leaf, however, and the reveal that Plankton took the Krabby Patty is a really creative one: with the patty just turning into a cardboard cutout and toppling over. Also, Bubble Bass returns in this episode, and Plankton gets him comeuppance by being confused for a jellybean.
#14: Rock Bottom
This episode succeeds in the creative front. Some of these creature designs are so creepy and unique that they almost steal the show, but the slapstick is what makes this episode so special. The stuff with the bus driver and Spongebob’s balloon, Spongebob always being late for the bus, and Spongebob at the bus station are all great moments. Also, I’m pretty sure we’ve all spoken in that Rock Bottom accent before. The ending is great too: with the red angler fish blowing Spongebob’s balloon, allowing him to float home, only to find Patrick on the bus going towards Rock Bottom.
ANOTHER Season 1 episode, and another debut, this time for the titular character. Plankton is so delightfully evil and menacing, while still being a complete goofball. Plankton certainly has a way with words, including his tirade against Squidward, which is one of the best moments in the entire series. Also, the lab/laboratory bit always got a laugh, Plankton with the record player playing the alphabet is a funny bit, and Plankton being analyzed by Karen is a fitting ending.
#12: Wet Painters
The plot to this episode is super simple: Mr. Krabs wants Spongebob and Patrick to paint his house for them and not get paint on any of his nic-nacs. With a synopsis that brief, you’d expect this to be a boring episode, but they really play around with the environments in Mr. Krabs’s house, as well as some paint gags. There really isn’t much else to say; this is just a really solid episode packed to the brim with jokes. Highlights include: Patrick with the timecards, Patrick drawing on Mr. Krabs’s first dollar, and Mr. Krabs’ spray-laugh ruining the paint job.
#11: The Smoking Peanut
I love the idea of this underwater zoo in Bikini Bottom. I don’t know why, but I always found that funny. Anyway, this episode features Spongebob and Patrick going to see Clamu, a giant oyster (yeah, I know) who can launch pearls 100 FEET IN THE AIR. Spongebob throws a peanut at it, which causes Clamu to freak out and disturb people across the world, which results in some funny live-action stills. We get some brief appearances from Squidward and Sandy, both of which get laughs and fit their characters perfectly. But, in the end, we find that Mr. Krabs is the true criminal because he stole the oyster’s pearl, which then hatches. Highlights include: Clamu attacking Joe, Patrick getting pelted with peanuts but trying to catch them in his mouth, Patrick licking the Spongebob-esque popsicle, and the live action shots. One thing that doesn’t really add up, though, is that Spongebob is obviously still guilty, but doesn’t really get any punishment. I mean, Krabs did steal the pearl, but Spongebob’s peanut was still the obvious catalyst of Clamu’s freakout. Although it could be argued that the peanut just woke Clamu up, which allowed Clamu to realize that the pearl was gone. Maybe I’m reading too deep into this…
I’d like to extend a thank you to the Encyclopedia Spongebobia, the Spongebob wiki, for loads and loads of great information. Seriously, folks, check them out if you’re a Spongebob fan! Thank you all so much for reading, and make sure you keep an eye out for part 2, which is coming next week. In the meantime, you should check out our other articles on Mid-American Culture. Disagree? Let me know in the comments! See y’all next time!