The 10 Worst ‘Seinfeld’ Episodes That Aren’t ‘The Puerto Rican Day’
Just because Seinfeld is arguably the greatest sitcom of all time doesn’t mean it didn’t have its share of clunkers. The pilot is especially rough, and the finale is deeply divisive among fans. Then there’s “The Puerto Rican Day” which caused a controversy for being offensive and also isn’t all that great. Even David Mandel, one of the writers of the episode, criticized “The Puerto Rican Day” during a DVD commentary, saying it was disjointed.
While there’s no consensus on the absolute worst episode of Seinfeld, “The Puerto Rican Day” is about as close as you can get. But due to the backlash it caused, it’s already been examined to death, which is why we have no desire to venture back into its controversial waters. We did, however, assemble a panel of Seinfeld experts to point out 10 other weak episodes from the show. Although, in true Seinfeld super-fan fashion, they couldn’t help but mention each episode’s saving grace — because even a bad episode of Seinfeld is still pretty good.
Unless, of course, it’s “The Puerto Rican Day.”
“The Bottle Deposit,” Season 7, Episodes 21 & 22
Synopsis: Kramer and Newman plan a scheme where they’ll travel to Michigan to redeem the 10-cent bottle deposit on thousands of bottles that they only paid a five-cent deposit for.
The Airing of Grievances: “I like the idea of the Michigan bottle scam,” says Dustin Lee, the creator of Constanzagrams on Instagram, “but everything else in the episode felt kind of weak. George’s plot was about not being able to hear his boss, Mr. Wilhelm, which felt forced, and Jerry’s story of dealing with Tony the mechanic, just didn’t work for me — Jerry felt rude for no reason. Overall, the whole episode felt too wacky.”
The Saving Grace: “There’s always little nuggets that are still really fun,” Lee admits. “Like, in this one, there’s a funny scene where George gets screwed over by that guy in payroll.”
“The Statue,” Season 2, Episode 6
Synopsis: A statue Jerry inherited from his grandfather is stolen from his apartment by a cleaning guy.
The Airing of Grievances: “There are usually two factors that, for me, make for a weaker episode of Seinfeld, and that’s when there’s an annoying character or when I don’t buy the premise,” Matt Williams, co-host of Seincast: A Seinfeld Podcast, tells me. “For ‘The Statue,’ there’s a bit of both. The guest characters are very unlikable, and there really isn’t much to the premise. It’s a pretty forgettable one overall.”
The Saving Grace: “At the end of the episode, Kramer impersonates a cop and gets the statue back, which is very funny,” Williams says.
“The Smelly Car,” Season 4, Episode 21
Synopsis: Jerry gets his car back from a valet, and it reeks of body odor.
The Airing of Grievances: Adam Pacecca, co-host of The Place to Be: A Seinfeld Podcast, lists this as his least favorite episode because “it really only has one joke, and they do it over and over again to the point where it gets really frustrating. At first, it’s funny that the valet’s B.O. sticks to Jerry and Elaine and everyone else, but they just keep doing it. It’s very repetitive.”
The Saving Grace: “The love triangle with Kramer and Susan and Susan’s girlfriend Mona is great,” Pacecca says.
“The Deal,” Season 2, Episode 9
Synopsis: Jerry and Elaine try to work out a deal where they can be “friends with benefits.”
The Airing of Grievances: “This episode doesn’t feel like a typical Seinfeld episode because it has a serious tone,” Williams explains. “It feels more like Cheers or any other sitcom where they have a ‘will-they-or-won’t-they’ kind of scenario. Larry David was pushed by the network to write an episode where Jerry and Elaine might get back together, and this was the result, which feels very forced. In later seasons, the show is just joke after joke after joke, but in ‘The Deal’ there are long scenes that are very serious.”
The Saving Grace: “There is an amazing scene with Jerry and Elaine on the couch, trying to work out how they can be ‘friends with benefits,’” Williams tells me. “There’s all this talk about ‘this, that and the other.’ That is a classic Seinfeld moment.”
“The Dog,” Season 3, Episode 4
Synopsis: When Jerry is on a plane, the man next to him falls ill, and Jerry ends up caring for his dog back at his apartment until the man is better.
The Airing of Grievances: “I just don’t find the dog stuff very funny,” says Lee. “The dog is always off-screen, and when it barks, it sounds very human. I don’t buy that there’s this dog back in Jerry’s bedroom.”
The Saving Grace: “There’s some funny stuff about Elaine and George hanging out together and how awkward it is without Jerry,” Lee counters. “I feel like that story was very relatable because it can get very awkward when you’re with a ‘friend of a friend’ that you don’t really have a connection with individually.”
“The Good Samaritan,” Season 3, Episode 20
Synopsis: George says “God bless you” to a woman in front of her boyfriend, enraging him.
The Airing of Grievances: “My main complaint about ‘The Good Samaritan’ is the joke where Jerry says people should say, ‘You’re so good looking,’ after someone sneezes. It seems like they thought this would really take off, so they use it over and over again and it’s just not that funny,” say Eric Dobin, Pacecca’s co-host on The Place to Be: A Seinfeld Podcast. “The episode also has this whole story where George says ‘God bless you’ to a woman, which spirals into this story where she breaks up with her boyfriend and gets together with George. Then the guy tries to kill George. The reaction, to me, is just unrealistic. I’ve never bought it.”
The Saving Grace: “I love when Kramer is having seizures during the episode,” Dobin says. “Michael Richards’ physical comedy is brilliant.”
“The Stranded,” Season 3, Episode 10
Synopsis: Jerry, George and Elaine are stuck at a party on Long Island.
The Airing of Grievances: “This is a bold idea, and it had the potential to be a great episode like ‘The Chinese Restaurant,’ where it all takes place in one location,” explains Williams. “But for some reason, two-thirds of the way through the episode, they abandon the idea and head back to Jerry’s apartment. Then, the host of the party comes to visit Jerry, and he gets drunk and calls a prostitute. It’s all very bizarre.”
The Saving Grace: “There’s some very funny stuff with the house on Long Island and the annoying party guests,” Williams says. “It just wasn’t used to its full potential.”
“Male Unbonding,” Season 1, Episode 4
Synopsis: Jerry tries to end a friendship with Joel, who he’s known since he was a child.
The Airing of Grievances: “Joel is just too much,” argues Pacecca. “He’s crying, and he’s just way over-the-top. This is also when Jason Alexander is still doing a straight Woody Allen impression for George, and it gets pretty annoying.”
The Saving Grace: “This was the first episode filmed with Elaine, and she has a great scene where she’s in Jerry’s apartment,” Pacecca says. “They’re talking about going out, and she says, ‘I’ll go if I don’t have to talk.’ This was her first scene, and she’s perfect.”
“The Busboy,” Season 2, Episode 12
Synopsis: George tries to make things right with a busboy that he got fired.
The Airing of Grievances: “This one has an interesting premise. It’s a very ‘Larry David’ kind of idea, and you could see him using this story on Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Williams says. “It’s a funny idea, but the execution isn’t very good. There are entire scenes where the studio audience isn’t laughing at all. There’s also a cringey monologue at the end where the busboy thanks George for getting him fired. It’s very uncomfortable.”
The Saving Grace: “This episode is saved by two scenes where Julia Louis-Dreyfus is hilarious,” Williams explains. “The first is where she’s frantically trying to get her boyfriend packed for a trip. Then there’s a scene in Jerry’s apartment, where she’s in her pajamas explaining how they didn’t make the flight.”
“The Seinfeld Chronicles,” Season 1, Episode 1
Synopsis: Jerry is unsure if a woman he likes is romantically interested in him.
The Airing of Grievances: “The first episode feels like a weird dream,” says Dobin. “The apartment is different, the coffee shop is different, there’s no Elaine, Kramer’s name is ‘Kessler,’ Kramer has a dog. It’s very tough to watch, especially when you know how great the show is going to become.”
The Saving Grace: “The stand-up comedy Jerry does during this episode is great because it’s Jerry’s real stand-up comedy,” Dobin tells me. “Later on, most of it was written for the episode, but this was the real thing.”