The 100 Best Episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants
20. The Secret Box (September 7th, 2001)
One thing you can always rely on when predicting human behavior: we love secrets. A good secret is the best thing in the world to some people, because then you can sell it, keep it, reveal it, use it to your advantage, savor it, cherish it, or bury it. Secrets are the best pieces of information we carry around with us, and can be very dangerous when at the disposal of storytellers. SpongeBob says early on in this episode “It’s not a secret that the best thing about a secret is secretly telling someone your secret, thereby secretly adding another secret to their secret collection of secrets. Secretly.” So in one block of dialogue, SpongeBob has not only laid out exactly why we are interested in secrets, but also explains inherently why this episode is so great. If it didn’t carefully build the tantalizing intrigue, and then execute on the final twist, I don’t think it would be as excellent as it is. It really does make you wonder what the hell Patrick has in that box, and why it’s so funny to him.
The whole time SpongeBob gets into comical schemes and shticks to pry the box away from Pat, and this is strenuous on their friendship. Not being able to share with one another is a big deal, and their relationship is on the verge of breaking the entire time. I think the reason most people watch the show is the dynamic SpongeBob and Patrick have, and the history of their relationship is examined underneath all of the secret box stuff. The big mystery, though, is hinted at, and it’s a great reveal. We don’t get to see the embarrassing photos of SpongeBob at the Christmas party, but I don’t think that’s necessary we do so. These are all mandatory viewing for everyone ages three and up. The sound effects alone, when SpongeBob is sneaking into Patrick’s house, are worth it. Incredibly funny stuff, those sound effects. I am a huge sucker for good audio.
This is the greatest clip of SpongeBob Squarepants out of context ever:
19. Krab Borg (March 29th, 2002)
Much has been written on the vast amount of ‘50s and ‘60s pop culture that’s stuffed into SpongeBob Squarepants. The art design is that of a Hawaiian Elvis movie, the music is all vintage, the technology everyone owns is rather outdated (radios and antenna televisions are the most advanced things, even computers are so big they fit in entire rooms), and the live action footage is universally pre-1970’s. So the thought that one of the writers, as a child, stayed up too late and watched a movie about robots taking over the world and then turned that into the plot of “Krab Borg”? That seems very plausible, and I’m sure they kept that childhood fear around and rolled it into the plot of this episode. SpongeBob lets his imagination run amok, and it becomes so wild that he starts to connect dots that aren’t there. The paranoia becomes so rampant that he starts hallucinating, and after some ill-timed coincidences, Mr. Krabs becomes the target of a robot conspiracy. That’s fucking awesome, as a storyline.
What makes this episode so much fun though is how perfect the coincidences are with Krabs, and that Squidward becomes wrapped up in it too. Much like “Graveyard Shift”, the straight man (Squidward) has to ridicule and bounce ideas off of the crazy one (SpongeBob), and once the two get on the same page about something, like say the Hash Slinging Slasher or Robot Krabs, all hell breaks loose and the story becomes much more interesting and zany. What helps more is the astounding music and sound effects that can make a well-timed zoom-in funnier, make a scene tenser, make Squidward’s jokes funnier, and make Mr. Krabs dance on top of his desk. This is a completely well rounded and beautifully structured episode with a great script and some very memorable moments and images. Just look at this conversation, below. Why is that so iconic, still to this day? It’s just noises, yet with the proper context it’s hilarious.
Beep boo boo bop?
18. Patty Hype (February 17th, 2001)
Sometimes revenge can be the best fuel, and your best work can come out of it. SpongeBob gets his good idea shot down, and laughed at, and soon his stick-to-itiveness and passion transform his Pretty Patties into a booming industry. The newest culinary sensation in Bikini Bottom becomes a mob scene, and this classic role reversal then shifts into a Faustian deal for Mr. Krabs that backfires and blows up right in his face. “Patty Hype” is not only gut busting and witty, it’s filled with a lot of irony and satire. Be careful what you ask for, because it could end up ruining you financially, and then the whole city will come to hate you the very next day. Strangely enough, this episode feels a little slim, and it flew by when I rewatched it for this list. It has a wealth of great jokes, like the squeaky pickles and the inflatable pants, but I can’t help but think what more we could have got from “Patty Hype” if it were just a tad longer. But, if you try and make any of these 11 minute episodes longer, they might just feel bloated and unwieldy, so I appreciate how little fat there is to the story here. Any time the entire town is showcased as one singular character, you usually get some great lines. And every time Bikini Bottom shows up in a story the number of residents changes, which I think is pretty funny that the writers don’t keep track of that stuff.
Who is number 46,853?
17. Snowball Effect (February 22nd, 2002)
Despite the fact that the opening of this episode seems like it’s going to take on global warming and climate change, “Snowball Effect” has absolutely no agenda to push onto anyone. There isn’t a single preachy line uttered, and is rather concerned with childish wonder more than anything else. Snow very rarely hits Bikini Bottom, and there are only a handful of Christmas themed episodes (I don’t think any of them are good) except for this one. This is the only really consistently funny and engaging episode to deal with snow in a meaningful capacity. Most of the story revolves around snowball fights, and who gets into them, and how they can escalate quickly, and that mostly incorporates a lot of physical comedy. But what I adore about this show is that it can be more than just a collection of tiny bits strung together; it really goes out of its way to throw in the necessary SpongeBob idiosyncrasies to make it more than just empty slapstick. The patented heightened sound effects are added to menial tasks like making snowballs or walking in the snow, there’s a good amount of word play in the script at all times, and as all cartoons do, physics are manipulated to make the action…well, overly cartoony. “Snowball Effect” has a wide comedy tool belt it utilizes: slow-mo, repeated shots, swift editing, smart puns, and of course Squidward becoming too enamored with Patrick and SpongeBob’s shenanigans. It’s always engrossing, and channels our inner child to make a merely okay premise into an amazing display of comedy.
Some guy put together a montage for me, so my work here is done:
16. My Pretty Seahorse (July 12th, 2002)
Whenever this show introduces a new character, it’s a crapshoot on whether they’re good or bad. It likes sticking to its main cast a lot, and even if someone new turns out to be great they basically get rid of them by the next episode (you remember Bubble Bass or Flats or the robot bartender from Weenie Hut Jr.’s? They ever come back?). Mystery the Seahorse is a fabulous addition, and I really like the dynamic SpongeBob and her have throughout the episode. The story follows the same format as the classic western Shane and the family tragedy Old Yeller, and the original Air Bud, and the ending steals from Harry and the Hendersons, where SpongeBob has to release his pet in an emotional scene. It’s sort of scripted, but “My Pretty Seahorse” is probably the episode that has the most amount of heart in it.
The story never misses a beat to keep Mystery central to the plot, and it gives the events a soul. It’s heartbreaking to have Mr. Krabs basically tell SpongeBob that it’s either his job or the horse, and the entire time you just know it’s going to rip the two apart. I don’t care how trite it is, they really build up Mystery to be a loveable character, and it would have been great to have her around for more episodes. But every time I watch, I know that ending is coming, and I’ve never cried while watching a cartoon but I would imagine it’s the episodes like these that’ll get me one of these days. This show may be a little too energetic and capricious to ever consider being actually emotional or melodramatic, but the story beats are all there and the ending is really sad. This one tugs at the right heart strings. Bonus points: the bowl of onions that appears all the time. One of the all-time best running gags you’ll ever see.
This is my favorite joke from the show, period:
15. One Krab’s Trash (February 22nd, 2002)
Typically these episodes boil down to one of a few things: either the writers are trying to go for something thematically, they’re just doing genre exercises with homages to other classical stories, or are purely making comedy routines with a story written around the jokes. And I can usually pinpoint what an episode is, and break it down into smaller components, and then analyze and talk about each one. But I have no idea what in the hell “One Krab’s Trash” is. Honestly, other than the title alluding to the old saying ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, there is just a series of misfortunate events here on display. Krabs is a cheapskate, and tries to hustle everyone into thinking garbage are antiques, and then he goes on a wild goose chase only to be no richer than he started. and karma is the culprit for all of it. Just a big slap in the face at the end, and it’s ingenious.
It’s a very discombobulated episode too, since the opening and the closing come full circle but everything in the middle is just plain odd. It turns into a heist mission, then a horror film, then a supernatural thriller, then a swashbuckling adventure movie, and it all is centered around a cynical core of irony, wrapped up in some Woody Allen jazz. But no matter the way it’s structured, or how it’s presented, this is absolutely one of the greatest episodes of the show. Period. It may be all over the place, but I think there’s a method to the madness here. Just a flurry of in-jokes and ridiculous writing from start to finish; for example: “Licking door knobs is illegal on other planets.” Like, what in the hell is that? That’s preposterous dialouge. It’s also sheer brilliance since it makes me chuckle every time I see it. You don’t need to understand why the plot of this episode happens or what is going on to enjoy it, and I’m usually against cartoons that do that, but I love SpongeBob so I don’t know what to tell you. Bonus points: the name of the graveyard is “Floaters Cemetary”. I see what you did there, writers.
You may fondly remember this segment from:
14. Doing Time (January 21st, 2002)
The main conceit of this episode is a very Twilight Zone-esque narrative device: SpongeBob and Mrs. Puff drive off a cliff, and as they careen into their impending doom Mrs. Puff wakes up from a dream, and this repeats indefinitely. Now, the show has always been in an exaggerated world, but this is downright nihilistic and terrifying, and at times dizzying. The fantastical elements only add to how funny/sad “Doing Time” is, considering most of it is just aping prison break-out storylines, except Mrs. Puff wants to be in jail and SpongeBob wants to break her out. That kind of reversal is fine and all, but I think it works incredibly well because that’s exactly what those characters would do. It doesn’t alter their main motivations or character types, it uses them to their advantage when busting jailbreak genre conventions. Add to that some devastating jokes, primarily from the striking use of editing.
A lot of the humor comes from one line of dialogue being juxtaposed to a different image, and there is a great use of cuts throughout the episode. For instance, there’s a montage that’s there to convey the monotony of life, and it’s really clever punchline, and only takes up like ten seconds of screen time. The events in this episode are so bizarre, and the whole story is essentially Mrs. Puff’s paranoid psychosis over SpongeBob, and somehow THAT’S not the weirdest part of it. And the accompanying sight gags are so classic: the red ink memoir that’s destroyed, the constant cutting to a new dream, SpongeBob robbing a bank with a sock over his face, it all just comes together to form this haywire and frantic episode that is so brooding and dripping with existential dread, that it almost lands in our top ten. I understand some people may be thrown off by the last third change-up, but I like it quite a bit.
You may remember this particular segment from:
13. Wet Painters (May 10th, 2002)
At one point or another, I had this episode in the top ten, and I waivered a lot with it, until finally settling on thirteenth. “Wet Painters” is absolutely one of my all-time favorites, but I had to examine what being the best was, in proportion to what I liked the most personally, since having a taste in comedy and having opinions on what is good or bad is totally subjective. The plot is so: Mr. Krabs needs SpongeBob and Patrick to paint his walls, and he gives them permanent paint. Hilarity ensues. It’s very similar to a few Mr. Bean sketches, and the entire story is just a series of jokes, escalating in intensity. The stakes are set at the outset, ‘do the job or Mr. Krabs will kill them’, and the suspense/humor doesn’t necessarily come from their attempts to paint the house, but from the crazy antics in doing so. Patrick seems to love amping up the misery, and whenever something can go wrong, he just makes it so much worse.
The second act comes when they finish painting the whole house, but get a tiny drop on Mr. Krabs’ first dollar he ever earned. Not trying to screw up is one thing, but failing to fix a screw-up is even funnier. The storytelling and the comedy go hand in hand here, and this is one of the tightest scripts you’ll come across with this show. Like, obviously no one would own a vending machine in their house, and the only reason it’s there is to make a great joke. But who cares! This is SpongeBob Squarepants, there is no room for realism here. But what makes this episode exceptional is the final act, when Mr. Krabs comes home. I could not stop laughing at the Doll-o-rama pun, even though I’ve seen that a million times. That’s when you know you have something really funny, when it becomes timeless. “Wet Painters” is as an enduring episode of this show as you can find, even those it maybe isn’t as ambitious as the episodes ranked above it. Or below it. I don’t know how numbers work, I’m sorry.
This isn’t the best clip from the episode, but it’s the only one I found online:
12. Chocolate With Nuts (June 1st, 2002)
“Chocolate With Nuts” is pure anarchy. There is no real organization to any of it, it’s strung together in a loose stream of consciousness comprised of running gags, and it’s utterly batshit insane. SpongeBob and Patrick want to become entrepreneurs, so they become traveling chocolate bar salesman. This goes south immediately, and they spend the entire episode getting bamboozled, scammed, shut down, insulted, and demeaned. And it could not be any funnier. This is a fan favorite, and one of the most popular episodes, especially with the “CHOCOLATE” guy who yells and chases them around a lot. The real MVP is the con artist, who came straight out of the The Sting, and sets up some lovely scenes. What’s also great is how shameless and immoral this episode is, since SpongeBob and Patrick are horrible salesman who knowingly lie to their customers, and still end up making a profit.
That con artist guy does not get his comeuppance. What are children supposed to learn from that? It’s okay to stretch the truth and exaggerate just until you make enough money? In any case, the best thing about this episode is the rapid fire nature to their journey, and the multitude of people they run into. The townspeople aren’t throwaway characters, they make the best of limited screen time, either by being memorable in appearance or through the dialogue. I love when everyone in Bikini Bottom is used in an episode, since they’re the most fascinating cast of a fictional city I’ve ever seen. I mean, they get swindled by amateur grifters, and buy more chocolate than they can eat. Some of them are extremely savvy, and some of them are total suckers; I could watch the escapades of Bikini Bottom forever, if they remain as hysterical and eccentric as they do in “Chocolate With Nuts”.
You may remember this particular segment from:
11. Arrgh! (March 15th, 2000)
“Arrgh!” is one of the single greatest adventures in the show’s history. It’s a thrilling, entertaining, often times perilous yet always amusing journey that never gets tired no matter how many times I’ve seen it. I think it’s because we’ve all been really into a game at some point in our lives, whether it be a board game or a video game or a sport or what have you, and just wanted to enjoy it with as many people as we can for as long as we have fun with it. ‘The Flying Dutchman’s Treasure Hunt’ leads to a twisted obsession which consumes Mr. Krabs, and turns into a lighthearted escapade that dissolves into madness and mutiny. Although the secret of what map Mr. Krabs is using is incredibly easy to figure out, and the suspense there is rather thin, that only manages to barely dent an otherwise perfect episode.
I remember when this show took on lots of underwater related topics, and stuck to stories that concerned underwater creatures. Like pirates, and the dangers of breathing air. Later seasons tackled all sorts of subjects, like crumbling marriages and being institutionalized and bullying and whatnot, but I like the simplicity here with “Arrgh!”. The entire narrative, every scene, every bit of dialogue, pushes the story forward and reveals character, and it all pertains to the plot at hand. Even the jokes stick close to the treasure hunt and being a pirate, and it doesn’t rely on non-sequiturs or shock humor or anything else that’s not central to the plot. It’s pure storytelling and it’s always captivating, right down to the last line. If it wasn’t for the next episode on our list, this would be the #1 greatest episode from Season 1. This is an early classic, a fan favorite, and I still hear this everywhere I go. Literally everywhere.
THE MAP THE MAP THE MAP GOTTA LOOK AT IT: