Classic TV Review – SpongeBob SquarePants: “Jellyfishing/Plankton”

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Firmly grasp it in your hand.

(Note: Adding a new wrinkle to these reviews after the mismatched quality of last Wednesday’s episode; each segment in the episode will be graded separately and referenced as their own episodes within the review. But I’ll still be doing two at a time per review.)

“Jellyfishing” is a well-remembered episode that I didn’t love upon rewatching tonight. It’s not unfunny by any means, it just fell flat for me.

The episode begins with the return of the French narrator, not heard from since the beginning of “Help Wanted.” He establishes that jellyfish are not like other fish in the SpongeBob universe–they are wild animals, things hunted for sport.

Cue the action movie music as SpongeBob and Patrick gear up to go jellyfishing. This whole sequence is pretty memorable. I laughed when, after sliding down ropes to get into their jellyfishing chamber, SpongeBob and Patrick cry out from the severe rope burn they just received on their palms. They assemble their jellyfish nets like a hunter assemble assembling a rifle, which is also comical.

All of this badass buildup is meant to pay off with a silly punchline: ready to hunt their prey, SpongeBob and Patrick begin prancing around, singing. It’s a cheap but effective joke.

That’s when Squidward the asshole appears and mocks the whole jellyfishing thing. The funniest part of this exchange is when he forgets Patrick name. He rides off on a bicycle, the first we’ve glimpsed on the show. It’s actually fairly cool–the bike sort of hovers off the road, and there are no wheels, just paddles, the idea being the bike is just swimming through the water. It’s a fun, unique animation choice, one of those quirks that makes SpongeBob so special.

Soon, Squidward is injured and placed in a wheelchair and body cast. SpongeBob and Patrick resolve to cheer him up and give him the best day ever. The two biggest laughs both result from Patrick’s treatment of Squidward while he’s immobile and unable to speak.

The first of these moments arrives when Patrick tries to feed Squidward soup. Thinking the soup is too hot, he blows on it. The soup keeps flying off the spoon and hitting Squidward, burning him. Patrick doesn’t understand where the soup went and gets another spoonful to blow on, burning Squidward again. And so it goes, on and on, until SpongeBob steps in.

The second of these comes when Patrick attempts to give Squidward a jellyfishing net. “Firmly grasp it in your hand,” he commands, but Squidward can’t grip anything. The net falls. “Firmly grasp it!” Patrick yells. Again it falls. “FIRMLY GRASP IT!” Patrick roars, and impales the net through Squidward’s hand.

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The rest of the episode is kind of a snore. I don’t know why it was exactly that this episode didn’t really do it for me, but I couldn’t get into it.

Grade: C

The second episode, “Plankton,” is better in just about every way. It’s the series first introduction to the episode’s eponymous villain, and it’s the funniest episode of SpongeBob SquarePants yet this season. Seriously, this episode has joke after joke.

“Plankton” kicks off with some sponge humor as we see SpongeBob use his anatomy to create a Krabby Patty, tossing all the ingredients into the holes in his body and shaking himself up. It’s silly, and it’s one of those things only animation can do. Anytime the show uses SpongeBob’s anatomy for a fun visual effect is a win in my book.

Soon, Plankton, owner of the rival Chum Bucket across the street, is on scene, trying to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula. It is Plankton who delivers all of the best lines in the episode.

The writing deserves a great deal of credit, but it’s also true that the jokes wouldn’t be half as funny without Mr. Lawrence’s excellent voice acting. Kudos to the man; he really makes Plankton a comedy gold mine. Lines like, “You blasted barnaclehead! I mean…. hiiiii,” and “A booster seat, hot dog!” could have fallen flat without Mr. Lawrence’s enthusiasm and maniacal annunciation.

Plankton plots to win the Krabby Patty formula using his “very elaborate and college-educated plan.” After he says as much he unfolds his blueprints:

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It’s a simple joke but it managed to make me laugh very hard. The visual gag of seeing SpongeBob’s tiny brain rolling around inside his head was brilliant, too.

And then the episode unleashes my ultimate comedic Achilles’ heel, puns. I fucking live for puns.

“Time for a well balanced breakfast!” SpongeBob declares before bursting through his fridge, balancing several breakfast items atop his head. “Not what I had in mind,” he laments as I laugh hysterically.

“This is my lab!” Plankton cries ominously, and then we are shown a video of a live action Labrador running in a backyard. I cackled. “And this is my laboratory!” Genius. Truly. This is SpongeBob firing on all cylinders.

“Plankton” ends with me wanting a lot more Plankton in my life, a feeling I don’t think I had as a kid watching this show. I wonder if the humor of Plankton is more adult than we realize–not in an inappropriate way, but in a context way. Regardless, his introduction to the series marks the season’s best episode yet.

Grade: A


Notes:

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    The big cartoony eyes are great.
  • “You’re killing me SpongeBob! You really are.” Great delivery by Rodger Bumpass.
  • Plankton’s mini record player was a great recurring gag. Does it show up in the series again? I hope so.
  • Sorry for skipping Sunday!
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