Last week, we took a look at what I consider the very best episode of Seinfeld of all time, The Contest. It did not, nor did our interview with Jerry Seinfeld, satiate my Seinfeld nostalgia, nor my yearning for more useless Seinfeld trivia. So, I put together a quick list below of the 20 best episodes of the series, pulling a neat fact about each episode (where neat facts were available). Because it would otherwise be impossible to rank them myself, I used an objective metric: IMDB user ratings. The rankings did not turn out the way I expected them to, although it’s hard to argue the placement when comparing the best 20 episodes of one of the best sitcoms of all time. They’re all so good (except “The Finale,” because, screw “The Finale.”)
Here were the results. Yadda Yadda Yadda.
20. The Jimmy
Plot Summary: The gang has various encounters with a man named Jimmy, who talks about himself in the 3rd person. Elaine asks Jimmy to go to the benefit for the Able Mentally Challenged Adults organization starring Mel Torme. Thanks to Jimmy’s shoes and getting too much Novocaine at Whatley’s office, Kramer is mistaken for a mentally challenged man when he encounters the head of the AMCA.
Fun Fact: The training shoes that Jimmy wore, which “improved vertical leap,” actually existed. They were sold through Otomix fitness equipment in the 80s and 90.
19. The Betrayal
Plot Summary: The infamous “backwards episode.” Elaine decides to spite her old college roommate Sue Ellen Mischkie by taking her, Jerry and George to India to attend Sue Ellen’s wedding. Elaine repeatedly reveals secrets about her past when Jerry discovers the combination to Elaine’s “vault.” Jerry runs in to an ex-flame – Nina, who is a “great conversationalist.” George wears boots that alter his height to impress Nina and doesn’t use the bathroom the entire time they are in India. Meanwhile, Kramer has a nasty encounter with a man named Franklin Delano Romanowski who tells him to drop dead.
Fun Fact: “The Betrayal” is based on a Harold Pinter play of the same name, which also uses the same backwards gimmick. In fact, Sue-Ellen Mishkie’s fiancé in the episode is named Pinter in tribute to the playwright.
18. The Marine Biologist
Plot Summary: George starts dating a woman who (told by Jerry) thinks George is a marine biologist. Elaine’s electronic organizer injures a person after being launched from a limo by a Russian novelist. Kramer decides to golf on the beach.
Fun Fact: The audience response to the end of George’s story is regarded by many as one of the longest sustained laughs by the Seinfeld studio audience in the show’s history, rivaled only by the response to Kramer’s line “I’m out” from The Contest. It’s also Jerry Seinfeld’s personal favorite moment from the show.
17. The Hamptons
Plot Summary: Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George go the Hamptons with George’s girlfriend Jane to see the newborn baby of some old friends. While there, Jerry, Elaine and Kramer see Jane topless while George gets caught with his pants down – and suffering from shrinkage.
Fun Fact: Seinfeld writer Peter Mehlman took credit for introducing the word “shrinkage,” which gained a whole new meaning after the episode.
16. The Fusilli Jerry
Plot Summary: Kramer gets new license plates, but a DMV screw-up gives him a new vanity license plate – “ASS MAN”. George’s mom gets plastic surgery. Kramer makes pasta sculptures of his friends, and makes one out of Jerry using Fusilli pasta. Jerry tells Puddy about his “move,” which he proceeds to use on Elaine. He also tells George, but George screws it up, and his girlfriend gets freaked out when he uses crib notes. Kramer finally tracks down the Ass Man when Frank falls on the Fusilli Jerry and they have to take him to a proctologist.
Fun Fact: This was the episode that introduced Patrick Warburton’s David Puddy, Elaine’s on-and-off boyfriend.
15. The Bizarro Jerry
Plot Summary: Elaine meets her new boyfriend’s friends, and realizes the group of them are the exact opposites of Jerry and his friends. Jerry goes out with one of Elaine’s friends who is extremely beautiful, but has off-putting “man hands.” However, George uses a picture of her to get into the “forbidden city” where lots of beautiful women hang out. Kramer gets a new job when he uses a toilet in an office building.
Fun Fact: The infamous man hands episode was written by David Mandel in response to the fact that his then-girlfriend/now-wife was self-conscious about her “farm hands.”
14. The Puffy Shirt
Plot Summary: Kramer and his soft-spoken friend Leslie start a new line of clothing and Jerry accidentally agrees to wear it on the Today show.
Fun Fact: The puffy shirt from this episode is now part of the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
13. The Yada Yada
Plot Summary: George’s new girlfriend Marcy is fond of the expression “yada yada yada.” Jerry feels uncomfortable when his dentist converts to Judiasm. Kramer and Mickey have trouble deciding which girl they each prefer when they double date,and Elaine is used as a character reference by some friends planning to adopt but manages to mess things up.
Fun Fact: Writer Peter Mehlman thought that the catchphrase that would become popular in this episode would be “anti-dentite,” when in fact it was “Yada yada” as a term for sex, which was named by the Paley Center as No. 1 funniest phrase on “TV’s 50 Funniest Phrases.”
12. The Junior Mint
Plot Summary: Elaine’s ex-boyfriend is recovering in the hospital and has surgery. The gang goes to visit. Kramer gets the idea to paint his apartment to simulate the feel of a ski lodge. While at the hospital, Kramer’s concern about the operation gets him and Jerry in to watch. But when Kramer sneaks in candy and forces it on Jerry, Jerry starts a chain reaction that causes the Junior Mints to land in Elaine’s ex-boyfriend. Jerry thinks he may have killed the guy while George, who learns that he has recently come into some money, decides to invest in the ex-boyfriend’s artwork.
Fun Fact: After the episode aired, a Milwaukee man was fired for sexual harassment for discussing it with his secretary. He sued, and was awarded $26 million. The verdict, however, was overturned on appeal.
11. The Merv Griffin Show
Plot Summary: Kramer happens to find the old set of the Merv Griffin Show in a dumpster, and promptly fixes it all up in his apartment, where he starts to treat his life like an interview show. Elaine get’s ticked off by the new guy at her office who keeps sidling up beside her without her noticing. George’s girlfriend forces him to take care of a squirrel he runs over, whilst Jerry’s girlfriend has a fantastic toy collection but won’t let him play with it.
Fun Fact: Jerry’s apartment is never shown in this episode.
10. The Outing
Plot Summary: When Elaine notices that two young women in the next booth are eavesdropping she decides to have a bit of fun and tells George and Jerry that they should come out and tell everyone they are a couple. They play along but unbeknownst to anyone, one of the women is a student journalist from NYU who later interviews Jerry. When he finally makes the connection, he tries to convince her that he and George are not gay – not that there’s anything wrong with that! – but the more he tries, the more he convinces her otherwise. The story goes viral and George decides to put their new found notoriety to use in his own relationship.
Fun Fact: Interestingly, the writers were worried that the originally script for this episode would offend the gay community. When Larry David used the phrase “not that there’s anything wrong with that” in conversations about salvaging the episode, Jerry Seinfeld added the line to make the episode socially acceptable.
9. The Pilot
Plot Summary: In the fourth season finale, Jerry and George’s pilot is finally a go. But before the taping, Elaine desperately tries to avoid NBC president Russell Dalrymple after an awkward date, while Kramer comes face to face with his TV show counterpart. Before the pilot airs, Crazy Joe Davola (see episode “The Opera”) shows up to put a damper in the gang’s plans. As the pilot is finally finished and ready for airtime, the executives at NBC aren’t impressed with the result.
Fun Fact: Rosie O’Donnell, Patricia Heaton, Mariska Hargitay, Jessica Lundy, Amy Yasbeck and Megan Mullally all auditioned for the role of Elaine. Mariska Hargitay would return playing a TV executive here in The Pilot.
8. The Parking Garage
Plot Summary: The four get stuck in a parking garage for hours when they forget where they parked.
Fun Fact: The original ending was supposed to have the foursome driving around without finding the exit, but it revised in the end when, during shooting, the car actually would not start.
7. The Limo
Plot Summary: Jerry and George lie their way into a limo heading for Madison Square Garden to, or so they think, a Knicks/Bulls basketball game. Along the way they pick up Elaine and Kramer but soon become fearful of two Neo-Nazis and discover the event they’re really headed to.
Fun Fact: Suzanne Snyder, who plays Eva, would return as Poppie’s daughter, Audrey, in “The Pie.” (Sorry, that was the best fact I could find.)
6. The Boyfriend: Part I
Plot Summary: This first hour long episode details a very extensive story line. For one Jerry develops a man crush on Mets first baseman, Keith Hernandez. While Keith on the other hand yearns for Elaine. Also, George struggles to keep his unemployment money coming. And during all this commotion Kramer and Newman accuse Keith of perpetrating a JFK style spitting assassination on Kramer.
Fun Fact: According to Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry was originally supposed to play the “Second Spitter,” but due to Strawberry’s drug problems, he was replaced.
5. The Contest
Plot Summary: After George is caught masturbating by his mother, the four main characters devise a contest to see who can go the longest without pleasuring him/herself. Marla, Jerry’s girlfriend, with whom he has yet to have sex, learns of the contest and is disgusted.
Fun Fact: The episode was based on an actual contest that Larry David held with friends. It lasted several months, and David eventually won it.
4. The Soup Nazi
Plot Summary: A soup stand owner obsesses about his customers’ ordering procedure, but his soup is so good that people line up down the block for it anyway.
Fun Fact: Larry Thomas based the Soup Nazi’s accent on Omar Sharif’s in Lawrence of Arabia.
3. The Stall
Plot Summary: Jerry’s new girlfriend and Elaine have an argument at the toilet, unaware of each other’s identities. Jerry finds himself in an awkward position, as both parties claim their right on the matter, as well as trying to avoid confrontation between the two.
Fun Fact: Only one of two episodes in which Jerry actually uses the computer in his apartment.
2. The Bubble Boy
Plot Summary: Jerry agrees to visit a boy who lives in a plastic bubble on the way to Susan’s parents’ cabin. Jerry and Elaine, however, get lost; George and Susan visit the bubble boy instead, which later results in a fight after a misprint in Trivial Pursuit.
Fun Fact: In 1999, a computer virus “Bubbleboy,” named after this episode was the first of its kind: Malware that would activate itself when the recipient opened the email, as opposed to opening the attachment.
1. The Invitations:
Plot Summary: It’s finally time for George and Susan’s wedding. George doesn’t think he can go through with the wedding. But when Susan puts George in charge of the wedding invitations, George gets the cheapest ones in the lot, knowing that the glue for the envelopes is cheap. Unfortunately for Susan, the glue is also toxic and licking the envelopes has fatal consequences. Meanwhile, Jerry courts a woman just like him named Janeanne Steinberg and holds up his end of George’s “pact.”
Fun Fact: Elaine tells George that the best way to get his wedding called off is to ask Susan to sign a prenup. This is an inside joke. Jerry Seinfeld’s girlfriend Shoshanna Lonstein called off their engagement after being asked to sign a prenup.