What is the single best episode of any TV series that you have ever seen?

“City on the Edge of Forever” in Star Trek? “The Contest” from Seinfeld? “Abyssinia Henry” from MAS*H (one of the few times I cried because of a TV show).

What is your favorite TV episode, ever? If you can’t think of a “favorite”, just tell us about one that you really, really liked.

Btw, I did a search (thread title, Cafe Society, from the beginning) of the words “episode” and “episodic” and didn’t see this topic covered. If I missed another thread of this type, my apologies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the greatest single hour of episodic television:

Once More with Feeling, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It could’ve gone soooo wrong, this one. Tragically, horribly wrong, the sort of thing that destroys careers and become legendary in its complete awfulness (My Mother the Car, anyone?) Had it just sucked, most would’ve been relieved. Had it been merely mediocre, most fans would’ve been overjoyed at having dodged the bullet. Had it been good… well, nobody was expecting that. They were pretty much expecting suckitude.

But… it was fantastic. Spellbinding. Brilliantly written, with songs that were shockingly good coming, as they did, from first time songwriter and wunderkind Joss Whedon. Even more amazing, the songs were not in the same style… pop, hard rock, jazz, and other genres were presented here.

And the greatest thing of all… it wasn’t gimmicky. It moved the season’s overarching story along, while supplying character development to all the major characters in a logical, consistent manner.

And, unlike other TV shows, BtVS has no problem going dark… there’s no rule about happy endings with this one. This one started dark, and ended darker.

It starts off with Buffy singing about how she has lost all the joy in her life:

I’ve been making shows of trading blows
Just hoping no one knows
That I’ve been
Going through the motions
Walking through the part
Nothing seems to penetrate my heart

Will I stay this way forever?
Sleepwalk through my lifes endeavor?

I don’t wanna be
Going through the motions;
Losing all my drive.
I can’t even see
If this is really me.
And I just want to be

People usually don’t sing in the Buffyverse, and while discussing the situation in the song “I’ve got a Theory” (with possibly the rockingest refrain about bunnies (yes, bunnies) you’ll ever hear in your life), they theorize that the entire town of Sunnydale is under some sort of spell that compels people to burst into song expressing their deepest feelings. Buffy, apathetic to her friends and life, closes the song with the words:

It doesn’t matter…
What can’t we face if we’re together?
What’s in this place that we can’t weather?
We’ve all been there
The same old trips
Why should we care?

The best song (bar one) in the entire episode comes a few minutes later, as the lovers Willow and Tara (yes, a lesbian couple) go for a walk. Actress Amber Benson (Tara) easily has the best voice of the cast which is highlighted in the love ballad “Under Your Spell”

I’m under your spell
Nothing I can do
You just took my soul with you
You worked your charms so well
Finally, I knew
Everything I dreamed was true
You make me complete!

The above words are VERY ironic, as the viewer (and Tara) will find out later in the episode. The song ends with Tara receiving oral sex (you thought you could just skip all this, didn’t you? :wink: ) from Willow while singing:

The moon to the tide
I can feel you inside
I’m under your spell
Surging like the sea
Drawn to you so helplessly
I break with every swell
Lost in ecstasy
Spread beneath my Willow tree
You make me complete!
You make me complete
You make me complete
You make me come…

Xander and Anya have a song and dance routine that explores their fears in regards to their upcoming marriage: both (especially Xander) have cold feet. This song strikes me as very reminiscent of the old “**** Van ****” theme, which isn’t all that hard to believe as Whedon’s father was a writer for the show. Xander has a bit of a courage problem, which is pointed out to him by Anya in perhaps my favorite moment in the entire episode:

When things get rough, he
Just hides behind his Buffy!
Now look, he’s getting huffy
Cause he knows that I know.

Because BtVS has more than it’s fair share of Soap Opera overtones ( :wink: ), and because modern song seemingly exists only for the musical exploration of love and sex, Spike gets to sing how he feels about Buffy though he has no desire to whatsoever.

Then we meet the villain, Sweet, who explains what’s going on in his jazz-tinged number:

All these melodies, they go on too long
Then that energy starts to come on way too strong
All those hearts lie open; that must sting
Plus, some customers just start combustin’
That’s the penalty when life is but a song.

He was called to Sunnydale unaware that the Slayer lived there, but once he found out (at the end of his song) his goal was (of course) to kill her.

Giles, Buffy’s “teacher”, realizes that he is no longer needed and is, in fact, hindering her development. In a scene that takes place in his business (a store devoted to magic) he sings:
The cries around you, you don’t hear at all
'Cuz you know I’m here to take that call
So you just lie there when you should be standing tall
But I…
I wish I could lay your arms down
And let you rest at last
Wish I could slay your demons
But now that time has passed
Wish I could stay your stalwart, standing fast
But I’m standing in the way
I’m just standing in the way

As he is finishing his song, the camera catches Tara running towards the book section, a small flower in her hand. Flipping through some pages, she sees an illustration of the flower, stops, and reads the caption that states that the flower is used to augment spells of mind control – her own lover is, literally, messing with her mind. In a duet with Giles, they sing how they must leave the one that they love the most – Giles for Buffy’s sake, Tara for her own:

  • I’m under your spell
    God, how can this be?
    Playing with my memory.
    You know I’ve been through hell.
    Willow, don’t you see?
    There’ll be nothing left of me
    You made me believe

    Wish I could trust that it was just this once
    But I must do what I must
    I can’t adjust to this disgust
    We’re done and I just
    Wish that I could stay*

Sweets minions burst in to the magic shop to inform the group that Sweet has Buffy’s sister. Buffy turns to go face Sweet, expecting the group (especially Giles) to follow her. Giles refuses, saying that Buffy doesn’t need him any more and that she needs to take care of this one herself. Buffy, pissed, leaves, starting my favorite song of the musical: the ensemble piece “Walk through the Fire.” I can’t really quote it as there would be no way I could do it justice. Humor, pathos, fear, apathy, irritation, and more are interwoven into the episodes centerpiece song, and while music-wise it isn’t anything to write home about (something about it definitely sounds like somebody from LA wrote it), lyrically and structurally it is a wonder.

Buffy bursts into Sweets lair a few minutes before everybody else (they decided to join her after all during the “Fire” song), kicks his minions ass while she is singing the final full song of the show, one that explains to her friends why she has been so apathetic and listless the past few months. See, Buffy died at the end of season 5 (OMWF was aired during season 6) and Willow, being a witch and Buffy’s best friend, brought her back to life. Usually in fiction this is a good thing, but BtVS pulls no punches: When she died, Buffy went to heaven and, after having come back, is distressed with how painful life is even when it is good, and her resentment at the joy and peace that has been stolen from her is finally beginning to boil over:

There was no pain
No fear, no doubt
Till they pulled me out
Of Heaven
So that’s my refrain
I live in Hell
Cause I’ve been expelled
From Heaven

So, give me something to sing about!

Of course, Buffy doesn’t die, and Sweet is (kind of) defeated. As he leaves, he crows to a very sorry-looking band of heroes in a reprise of his earlier song:

What a lot of fun
You guys have been real swell.
And there’s not a one who can say this ended well.
All those secrets you’ve been concealing:
Say you’re happy now,
Once more with feeling.
Now I’ve got to run
See you all in Hell!

Understanding that things will never be the same again, the gang sings the final (very short) song:

Where do we go from here?
The battle’s done and we kind of won
So we sound our victory cheer
Where do we go from here?
Why is the path unclear
When we know hope is near?
Understand we’ll go hand in hand, but we’ll walk alone in fear
Where do we go from here?

And by the way, I wasn’t a fan or even a regular watcher of this show when I first saw this episode. It just made me an instant fan.

You know, when I started this post I had no idea I was going to do a plot synopsis. I was just going to say something along the lines of “this episode rocked!”, but things just kept coming to mind. Sorry 'bout that. :wink:

I’m not a Buffy freak, but I enjoyed that episode. I wouldn’t say it wasn’t gimmicky, but hey, that’s not a major crime. It was fun. Alyson Hannigan can’t sing, but the sex… yeah, that made up for it. :smiley:

Anyway, for mostly sentimental reasons, I’m gonna go with The Simpsons episode She of Little Faith. It’s not just that it was a good ep, though I think it was. It was just something I needed to see and feel. The episode aired in late December of 2001, I live in New York, 'nuff said. I was in an obviously terrible state of mind, and I always relate strongly to ‘Lisa episodes’ [this is NOT a perv thing, I just see a lot of myself in the character - and if it helps my credibility, once I bring it up people tend to agree].
Lisa gets alienated from religion in this one (been there ;)) and needs to choose her own path. The fact that I called Buddhism from the beginning because it was plainly right for her notwithstanding, I guess this show helped me realize I couldn’t go on being as miserable and angry as I’d been for the last 2+ months. I sorely needed a change, and it helped me make it.

Homer’s Enemy — The Simpsons

The season finale of Survivor I. That was the most exciting TV series event…ever!

We don’t have to make our posts as long as that one, do we?

The best episode of any television series, ever:

“Jose Chung’s From Outer Space”, on “The X-Files”

Just as a comedy episode, it was brilliant, with some of the best lines ever. “You don’t play Dungeons and Dragons for as long as I have without learning a little something about courage.” and “Roswell! Roswell!” Plus the brilliant non-sequitur casting of Alex Trebek and Jesse “The Body” Ventura as Men in Black.

As a parody, it was ingenious. Nobody was spared; the series itself, conspiracy theorists, the FOX network, the creators of the show, the characters, fan-fiction writers, fanboy geeks in general, everybody was on the butt end of a joke.

And it still held up as an episode of “The X-Files” instead of just feeling like a big gag. The Rashomon story structure, the unexplained encounters, the obscure ending, all of it matched the tone of the series perfectly.

“Bill Moves On” from NewsRadio. Very funny and incredibly touching.

The first episode of MAS*H

The final episode of the second season of the Sopranos, “Funhouse.” Talking fish really do it for me.

Really? The MAS*H episode that came to my mind wasn’t the first one, but the second one. And Abysinnia, Henry, is good too.

But I don’t know if either of them is the single best episode of any TV series I’ve ever seen. I’ll have to think about it and post again.

Red Dwarf - Backwards


Also seconded.

A couple of episodes of 24 (season one) also fit, most notably the second last episode (10PM-11PM) - where we find out who the mole is.

Oops… just realised… two too many selections. I’ll probably be back when I decide :wink:

The episode of Sienfeld where Kramer gets to wear the coat from Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and ends up getting arrested for being a pimp.

I was rolling on the floor when I saw that one.

I’d probably go with “So-Called Angel” from My So-Called Life. Beautiful and heartbreaking.

“Three Men and Adena” from the first season of Homicide. The entire episode is set in the interrogation room and stars three men – Detectives Pembelton and Bayliss and their suspect – and the memory of one dead little girl. It’s very intense. By the end of the episode, the detectives have been unable to get a confession out of the old man, and they have to let him go. The very last scene is the old man waiting in the squad room for his ride, staring at a TV. He, the detectives, and you the viewer are left utterly, utterly exhausted.

I really liked that episode of Three’s Company where there was some sort of a misunderstanding…

Spin City

The episode where, that guy, I can’t remember his name, was Mike’s Navy buddy. He came to visit Mike and it turned out he was gay and at the end they did a spoof of An Officer and a Gentleman where he picked up Carter and carried him out at the end.

I was going through a tough time and that was the first thing that made me laugh in months.

“The Inner Light” on ST:TNG.

“Becoming Part 2” Buffy season 2 finale.

Lou Diamond Phillips. Whose first wife was Julie Cryer, and left him for Mellissa Etheridge.

I think “The Contest” from Seinfeld. Both in originality of the plot and how it was carried out. The original broadcast had no sponsors–all the commercials were for NBC TV. The rerun had sponsors lining up for it. Even today it stands out as a great episode.