The 100 Best Episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants
80. Neptune’s Spatula (April 1st, 2000)
Fun fact: the first real guest star to appear on the show, outside of Ernest Borgnine as Mermaid Man, was King Neptune! He is brilliantly portrayed by John O’Hurley, or Peterman from Seinfeld, and brings a gravitas to the role that counterbalances how ridiculous his character is. “Neptune’s Spatula” is a classic episode, in every sense of the word, and can not only be quoted by casual fans, is a seminal episode in the show’s history. There are actual stakes in the competition between SpongeBob and King Neptune, which is very hard to do in a cartoon show’s story, along with the patented live action jokes (Tom Kenny in the shower) and moral lessons about self-worth and friendship. The dichotomy between the godlike nature of Neptune and the delicate lovable style of SpongeBob clash, and brings up an interesting point about quality versus quantity when it comes to fast food. No I’m being serious; this is a thing that matters. Their cook-off is an epic and lively sequence that made me want to eat a Krabby Patty, and while I’ve never been able to, I can’t get the image of Neptune spitting one out and eating it again out of my head. So we can always thank “Neptune’s Spatula” for that.
You may remember this particular segment from:
79. Hall Monitor (August 28th, 1999)
Many aspects of SpongeBob’s life are examined on this show, but the one touched on often are his escapades at Boating School. SpongeBob takes a lot of things seriously, maybe to a fault at times, but what makes “Hall Monitor” so funny is that he’s terrible at being the hall monitor. Usually he’s great at what he does: being optimistic, friendly, funny, and making delicious burgers. But driving and having to monitor halls? Not a clue. But we take pity on him, just like Mrs. Puff, because of his enthusiasm and panache, but even that backfires into a horrible display of destruction and violence. And what is the ultimate outcome of him wearing the suit outside of class? Does he misuse his power, responsibility, and authority? Not really; it just leads to classic comedy shtick with some horror film inspiration thrown in for good measure. This is also the second time “My leg!” is uttered on the show, and the last time we see the Open Window Maniac in action. It’s a shame, because I’d love to see a copycat Maniac pop up again sometime.
You may remember this particular segment from:
78. Just One Bite (October 5th, 2001)
Whenever Squidward can get out of his shell, and be a lot less like his usual cynical self, all episodes automatically gets better by proxy. Forcing the most prudent and stubborn character on the show to change can be a thrilling thing to watch unfold, especially when temptation and danger are driving his motivations. I love the premise of “Just One Bite”, but the execution of the plot and the subsequent jokes really solidify it for me. The tension builds throughout the episode, and the intrigue mounts as to his newfound obsession. The ‘will he won’t he’ can be great the first time around, and still holds up on repeat viewings. It’s also one of the darker episodes, with a shocking (and ill timed) deleted scene you can catch below, and a well-timed reference to Squidward having no soul and going to hell. But the joy is in watching Squidward lie to everyone, especially about the job he hates, about something he shouldn’t like, and then end up going crazy to get what he wants. Like, he at one point dreams about marrying a hamburger. And of course, the ending is terrific if you haven’t already seen it. Or, should I say, it’s rather explosive. Tee hee.
This scene got deleted, which is infamous now, because of 9/11 I think:
77. As Seen On TV (March 8th, 2002)
While not the first piece of media made about The Krusty Krab in canon, the commercial central to the plot of “As Seen On TV” is a hilarious opening to a great episode about ego, skill, showmanship, Hollywood, celebrity, and popularity. Mistaken for a box of Bran Flakes, SpongeBob goes on a tirade of hubris and self-discovery, with humorous reprocussions. A number of miscommunications and an identity crisis lead to a whole end sequence that ramps up in its ridiculousness and ultimately ends with SpongeBob doing his job but with a funnier new context. Whether or not he learned his lesson from the angry mob doesn’t matter, as the fun lies in watching him almost self-implode, but then figure it out by the climax. This was the “Striped Sweater Song” episode, if you didn’t know, and it’ll be remembered for that forever, even though the rest of it is still well above average. But that god damn song has such staying power, and I think it’s funny but it took a life of its own at a certain point. Just sing it to someone. Watch their eyes light up. It’s like a Siren’s Song, it just attracts SpongeBob fans instead of sailors.
You may remember singing this song way too often:
76. Can You Spare A Dime? (March 8th, 2002)
“Can You Spare A Dime?” aired on my 11th birthday, and in the same block as “As Seen On TV”, and I remember it fondly. Because it is heavy. Really, really heavy, and it had an impression on me since I grew up very poor. The story of Squidward’s unemployment and mooching cuts pretty deep, especially for anyone put in a similar situation. It can hit too close to home for some, if you watch it under the wrong circumstances or caught it right around the 2008 economic collapse. I have no idea why kids would enjoy it, since it’s raw and unrelenting, but somehow the show dances the graceful line-stepping of being too drab or being too light. Lying, denial, charity, hatred, neediness, accusations, depression, homelessness, dignity, and one baroque reference to suicide are all brought up and examined at one point or another, and yet underneath it all it offers a good moral nugget: don’t overstay your welcome. Telling kids that they can grow up to be anything they want, and then smash cutting to Squidward living out of a cardboard box in an alley is sobering, and yet I’m still able to laugh at it. Until I can’t pay my bills, then Squidward won’t be the only struggling artist out in an alley.
75. The Smoking Peanut (March 8th, 2001)
What is it about these shows and airing my birthday every year? Anyways, I’m always fascinated by what creatures on the show are considered animals or pets and which are considered to be bipedal people. Oysters are animals in the SpongeBob universe, and with “The Smoking Peanut” the main attraction ‘Clamu’ becomes enraged and emotionally disturbed once Mr. Krabs steals its pearl. The whole town goes into disarray, and it’s up to SpongeBob and Patrick to solve the case, noir style. The investigation is filled with (misplaced) guilt, suspects, evidence, clues, and a bunch of other mystery clichés that become idiosyncratic when introduced into the show’s insane formula. I love how SpongeBob thinks he’s the one everyone is looking for, and a lot of the comedic situations come from events he puts himself in. The wailing cries of the Oyster give the background a much needed sense of urgency and ambience, and I think this is a forgotten about episode people should revisit. Patrick does his best Sherlock impersonation and Mr. Krabs is the villain, it’s just fantastic all around.
You may have been creeped out by this moment:
74. Squirrel Jokes (November 27th, 2000)
What is it about staged performances and the Krusty Krab? Why is it that half the time the restaurant is packed and everyone loves Krabby Patties, but then half the time no one’s there? In any case, “Squirrel Jokes” is literally all about telling jokes, and concerned about telling them and showcasing the power of them. The audience interaction is something to behold, with lots of loud obscenities and heckles throughout the performances. Making fun of the characters is something the show falls back on from time to time, but this episode aggressively takes that on, and really examines what makes everyone tick. Low brow slapstick, highbrow marine biology references, stand-up routines, they all manage to work in the context of the story. Plus, Patrick talking down to Sandy is ingenious, and I can watch Pat laugh at things that aren’t funny all day. Humor is a part of SpongeBob, but here it’s the main attraction, and I like the self-reflective properties of the episode. I’m sure the writers liked doing a story on stand-up comedians, because they get to take jabs at the repetitive nature of a TV show, and how people crave hearing the same thing over and over. Quick tangent: there’s no catch line on this show, no “D’oh” or “Did I do that?” or “What you talking about Willis?”, and I’m thankful for that. That’s a bad crutch that most shows get wrong.
You may remember laughing at and quoting this from time to time:
73. Gary Takes A Bath (July 26th, 2003)
This is the first, but not last, time I get to bring up Gary, a terrific character who makes me giddy every time I see him in an episode. Although he talks like a Pokemon, and only repeats his name, his importance to the cast cannot be understated. He’s more than simply SpongeBob’s pet; he’s a very wise and mischievous fellow under that pink shell. “Gary Takes A Bath” is a very slimmed down and simplistic story; it’s just various attempts of SpongeBob to clean Gary strung together. But when you strip away as much plot from an episode, down to its bare minimum, you only get pure comedy, and that can work wonders if done correctly. Cleaning Gary is like trying to clean any toddler: impossible. Gary is stubborn, clever, and despite not hearing what he’s saying you know exactly what he’s talking about the whole time. I love how reduced in quantity this episode is of characters and locations, yet it’s filled to the brim with quality, and good puns to boot.
72. Hooky (April 8th, 2000)
Talk about high stakes. Literally high. Coming at the tail end of season one, “Hooky” encapsulates what I love about SpongeBob; its willingness to just go for it. There are no limits or boundaries to the show, and this episode proves that, and the danger presented in “Hooky” leads to some good laughs. The live action material, the impending death around every corner, the innocence of underwater creatures to the fishing habits of human beings, the stupidity on display by Patrick, and the memorable lines (“We’re going to the Carnival”, “THE HOOKS!”, My sandwich is a fried boot”, “Mother of pearl, fire on the poop deck”) makes this an early favorite of mine. The narrative is finely tuned to teach about playing with fire and the consequences of not listening to your superiors, because then you’ll end up in a can of tuna, or worse, in a gift shop. Temptation is something brought up a lot on this show, and it’s wonderful to watch naïve characters get their comeuppance. Embarrassment might be what SpongeBob walks away with, but it could have been so much worse. Just look at Mrs. Puff’s husband! He’s dead!
71. Someone’s In The Kitchen With Sandy (July 19th, 2009)
Another later season episode you may have missed, this episode features the single funniest dialogue ever uttered by Plankton, and the creepiest ten seconds in SpongeBob history. “Someone’s In The Kitchen With Sandy” revolves around another scheme by Plankton to steal the secret formula, but this time he steals Sandy’s fur suit, and becomes a hollowed out imitation of her. It’s frightening, and hilarious, especially with his southern drawl accent, and if you haven’t done yourself the honor go seek out this episode (it’s the first half of an episode paired with “The Inside Job”, also on this list) and the less you know about it the better. Super funny, super weird, and features a lot of people calling Sandy a ‘naked chipmunk’ amongst other things. I don’t think Plankton and Sandy have shared much screen time before, and this is a fun way to link the two smartest characters on the show into confronting each other, and battling intellects. Also, any episode with Karen the computer wife in it is automatically a great episode, I don’t care what anybody says.