Breaking down the best Seinfeld episode in each season


Photo from IMDB

“The Chinese Restaurant,” Season 2

Here is the best episode from each of the nine seasons, according to IMDB ratings and critic reviews:

“The Stakeout,” Season 1

In this episode, the second episode of the series and the first featuring Elaine, Elaine drags Jerry to a birthday dinner for one of her friends, where he meets an attractive woman. He forgets her name and refuses to ask Elaine who she is because Jerry and Elaine used to date but are now just friends. Jerry’s dad suggests he stake out the lobby where the woman works. George tags along with Jerry and pretends to be Art Vandelay, an architect who works in the building, and an alias that George will continue to use throughout the series. The plot of this episode is based on a real-life experience of “Seinfeld” creator Larry David. The names of the people in the law firm that the woman works at are named after friends David met in college.

“The Chinese Restaurant,” Season 2

The entire episode takes place at a Chinese restaurant, where Elaine, George and Jerry have been told it’ll be about five or 10 minutes for a table. They observe that people arriving after them are being seated ahead of them and get confused. Jerry also sees someone who he can’t remember where from or her name and uses Elaine to introduce herself to figure out her name. George, meanwhile, is desperate to call his girlfriend and gets upset when others in the restaurant lobby hog the payphone. The whole episode plays out in real time and on one set. NBC executives were against this idea, but the episode went ahead and became a fan and critical favorite.

“The Boyfriend,” Season 3

In the first hour-long episode of the series, Jerry meets Keith Hernandez (a famous New York Mets baseball player at the time) at the gym and the two become friends. Keith eventually meets Elaine and becomes attracted to her, and Jerry becomes jealous of both Elaine and Keith. George tries to keep his unemployment money coming in when he tells the unemployment officer that he got a job with “Vandelay Industries,” a company that manufactures latex. Kramer and Newman recall an incident in which Keith allegedly spit on them after they heckled him for having a bad game. In 1997, the TV Guide ranked this episode No. 4 on its “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time” list.

Honorable mentions: “The Parking Garage,” Season 3,  and “The Subway,” Season 3

“The Contest,” Season 4

In arguably the most famous and iconic episode of the series, Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer stage a contest to see who can last the longest without any sexual gratification. Temptation quickly sets in for everyone. Kramer can’t keep his eyes off a naked neighbor across the way. George visits his mother in the hospital and notices her attractive roommate through the curtain getting a bath from an attractive nurse. Elaine signs up for a fitness class that John F. Kennedy, Jr. is enrolled in, who she finds attractive. Lastly, Jerry’s new girlfriend, Marla, decides it’s time to lose her virginity, but Jerry must explain the contest to her. This episode was based on a real-life “contest” that Larry David won against his friends, which lasted several months.

Honorable mentions: “The Bubble Boy,” Season 4,  and “The Junior Mint,” Season 4

“The Opposite,” Season 5

One of the best seasons of the entire series featuring a handful of memorable episodes, including “The Opposite,” which is considered one of the best of the series. In this episode, George realizes his every instinct is wrong and decides to try the opposite, which lands him a girlfriend, a job offer with the New York Yankees and an apartment. At the same time, Elaine finds her life turning upside down when she gets kicked out of her apartment, breaks up with her boyfriend and eventually gets fired from her job. This is the first episode in which Larry David voices the character George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees and George’s boss. Lee Bear provided the body of Steinbrenner while David did the voice.

Honorable mentions: “The Marine Biologist,” Season 5, and “The Hamptons,” Season 5

“The Switch,” Season 6

In this episode, Jerry’s girlfriend never smiles or laughs at his jokes, but her roommate laughs at everything he says, so he contemplates the switch, meaning dating the other roommate. George says it’s never successfully been done and comes up with an idea as to how he might get away with it. George’s girlfriend, a model, eats like a horse but never puts on weight, so Kramer suggests she might be bulimic, which turns out to not be true. The gang also learns Kramer’s first name, which is Cosmo, thanks to his mom. The idea of Kramer’s first name came from Larry David, who had a neighbor named Cosmo while living in New York. The original title of this episode was “The Bulimic” but was changed to focus more on Jerry’s switch storyline.

Honorable mentions: “The Race,” Season 6, and “The Fusilli Jerry,” Season 6

“The Soup Nazi,” Season 7

One of the most iconic characters came from this episode and just so happens to be based on a real-life soup vendor. In this episode, the gang hears about this new soup stand that’s the best in the city – so good it makes your knees buckle. Unfortunately, the owner of the soup stand wants his customers to order in a very particular manner and if you don’t, you get yelled at and thrown out. The Soup Nazi is based on the actual owner, Al Yeganeh, of a take-out soup business in Manhattan on West 55th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue. Just like in the show, his soups were known for their excellent quality, but Yeganeh was also famous for the unusual way he treated his customers.

Honorable mention: “The Rye,” Season 7

“The Bizarro Jerry,” Season 8

Arguably the second-strongest season of the series features some of the funniest episodes, including “The Bizarro Jerry.” In this episode, Elaine has a new friend named Kevin, whom she used to date, but is now just friends with, like with Jerry. She meets his friends, Gene and Feldman, who are eerily similar to George and Kramer in looks but opposite in behavior. She jokes and feels like she’s in the bizarro world where everything is the same yet different. Just as Jerry has a statue of Superman in his apartment, Kevin, the bizarro Jerry, has a statue of Bizarro Superman in his apartment.

Honorable mentions: “The Summer of George,” Season 8, and “The Little Kicks,” Season 8

“The Merv Griffin Show,” Season 9

In this episode, Kramer rescues the set of the old Merv Griffin show from a dumpster and sets it up in his apartment, where he interviews anyone who happens to drop by. Also, Jerry has a new girlfriend who inherited a huge, rare collection of classic toys, but won’t let Jerry touch them or play with them, but he soon finds a way around that. Jerry Seinfeld actually appeared on The Merv Griffin Show in 1986 in an episode dated Jan. 4. When Kramer says, “We have to reformat” in the episode, this is a reference to The Jerry Springer Show, which needed to reformat for higher ratings in 1991.

Honorable mentions: “The Serenity Now,” Season 9, and “The Betrayal,” Season 9.