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Master of Their Domain: 10 Great ‘Seinfeld’ Episodes

From ‘The Comeback’ to ‘The Contest,’ these are the ‘Seinfelds’ we can’t get enough of

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George Lange/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Seinfeld was the Beatles of sitcoms, at once groundbreaking and genre-defining — the kind of show where even the bad episodes are still pretty good. (Which we suppose means it was also the pizza of sitcoms.) 

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the series' pilot, "The Seinfeld Chronicles," which debuted on July 5th, 1989, we've selected some of the most important episodes from Seinfeld's nine-season run: 10 perfect episodes (presented in chronological order), 10 obscure gems and five episodes it would be fair to call "Sein-Fails." By Jenny Eliscu

See Also:

• Not That There's Anything Wrong With These: 5 'Sein-Fail' Episodes
Stopping Short: 10 'Seinfeld' Episodes You Forgot You Loved
• Close Talkers and Double Dippers: 15 Phrases 'Seinfeld' Spawned

NBC

‘The Chinese Restaurant’

Aired: May 23, 1991
Season: 2
Jerry, Elaine and George are frustrated by the long wait for a table at a Chinese restaurant, where they have stopped for dinner en route to see the movie Plan 9 from Outer Space. The maître d' tells them it will only be "five, 10 minutes," but they are never seated. While they wait, Jerry recognizes a woman at one of the tables and tries to figure out how he knows her. George worries that his girlfriend Tatiana is mad at him for leaving in the middle of sex, and spends most of the episode trying to use the restaurant's pay phone to call her. Jerry offers Elaine $50 to eat an egg roll from someone's plate. This was the first "real time" episode of the show, with no scene breaks, and one of very few episodes in which Kramer does not appear.

NBC

‘The Alternate Side’

Aired: Dec. 4 1991
Season: 3
Kramer gets a job as an extra on a new Woody Allen film and is eventually given one line of dialogue: "These pretzels are making me thirsty." Elaine wants to break up with her elderly boyfriend, author Owen March, but he suffers a stroke before she gets to talk to him. George offers to fill in for Sid, who gets paid to move his neighbors' cars to avoid parking tickets. He is terrible at it. Jerry's car is stolen and he has to rent one. George crashes Jerry's rental car and creates a traffic disaster that interferes with shooting on the Woody Allen film. 

NBC

‘The Bubble Boy’

Aired: Oct. 7 1992
Season: 4
Jerry attempts to visit Donald Sanger, a young fan with an illness that forces him to live in a plastic bubble. George and Susan arrive at the house first, only to discover that the so-called "bubble boy" is a grown man with an attitude problem, living in his parents' house behind "a thin layer of plastic separating the room." George provokes a fight with Donald during a game of Trivial Pursuit ("Moops!") and Susan accidentally pops the "bubble" trying to intervene. Kramer's discarded Cuban cigar burns down Susan's father's cabin. It is later discovered that the only thing that survived the fire was a box of love letters to Mr. Ross from the author John Cheever.

NBC

‘The Contest’

Aired: Nov. 18, 1992
Season: 4
George's mother walks in on him masturbating while leafing through her issue of Glamour magazine. The shock causes her to fall and hurt her back, landing her in the hospital. When George vows to never jerk off again, the rest of the gang joins him in a wager to see who can hold out the longest. Each encounters a challenge to their ability to remain "master of [their] domain": Kramer caves after he's aroused by an exhibitionist across the street who strolls around her apartment nude. Jerry is already frustrated because he's dating a virgin ("Marla," played by Jane Leeves). Elaine meets her dream man, John F. Kennedy Jr, at her gym. It's later revealed, in 'The Puffy Shirt," when George becomes a hand model and is cautioned against the perils of ruining his hands, that he "won a contest once."

NBC

‘The Hamptons’

Aired: May 12, 1995
Season: 5
At their friend Carol's imploring that "you have to see the bayyybeee," the gang heads to visit Carol and her husband Mike in the Hamptons. George brings along Jane, whom he's dating but hasn't slept with yet. Jerry has reconciled with Rachel, the woman he was caught making out with during Schindler's List in a prior episode. Rachel walks in on George with his pants down, just after he was in the swimming pool. He worries she will tell Jane what she saw, without factoring in the "significant shrinkage" caused by the cold water. Elaine is excited when the handsome pediatrician, Dr. Ben Pfeffer, calls her "breathtaking," until he uses the same word to describe Adam, "the ugliest baby you've ever seen." Kramer steals a commercial lobster trap.
Notable: This episode was the second appearance by Carol (Lisa Mende), who appears in two subsequent episodes: "The Soul Mate" and "The English Patient"

Courtesy Everett Collection

‘The Soup Nazi’

Aired: Nov. 2 1995
Season: 7
The gang patronizes a wildly popular new soup stand, where the temperamental owner's strict procedure for ordering has earned him the nickname "Soup Nazi" — irritate him and he yells, "No soup for you!" Elaine flouts the rules, banging on the counter and telling the Soup Nazi that he looks like Al Pacino in Scent Of A Woman, and he bans her from the store for one year. When the armoire Elaine bought from a sidewalk vendor is stolen by "street toughs" before she can get it up to her apartment, Kramer procures her an armoire from the Soup Nazi himself. She later discovers he left his prized recipes in one of the drawers and threatens to put him out of business. George is irritated by the constant PDA and baby-talk between Jerry and his new girlfriend, Sheila, who call each other "Schmoopie."
Notable: Jerry and George run into Kenny Bania in line at the soup stand, and he is later seen inside the shop, ordering correctly.

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

‘The Comeback’

Aired: Jan. 30, 1997
Season: 8
One of George's Yankees coworkers, Reilly, mocks him for eating all the shrimp at a meeting by remarking, "Hey George, the ocean called; they're running out of shrimp." George doesn't come up with a retort until later — "Well, the Jerk Store called, and they're running out of you" — and obsesses about finding a way to deliver it after Reilly takes a job in Akron. Jerry is dismayed to discover that Milos, the tennis pro who convinced him to buy an expensive racket, actually sucks at the sport. Elaine develops a crush on a video store employee named Vincent, based on his artsy and romantic "staff picks." Vincent feels betrayed after Kramer convinces Elaine to try a "Gene pick" — Weekend at Bernie's II — and sends her the play button from his VCR in the mail. He later convinces her to bring him vodka, cigarettes and fireworks, and she arrives to discover that Vincent is a 15 year-old boy. Kramer decides to write a living will and has trouble choosing whether to make Jerry or Elaine the executor.

NBC

‘The Yada Yada’

Aired: Apr. 24 1997
Season: 8
George is initially excited to be dating a woman who glosses over the details in her stories, until he suspects she "yada yada yada-ed" sex with her ex and petty larceny. Jerry's dentist, Dr. Tim Whatley (played by Bryan Cranston, reprising his role from Season Six), converts to Judaism and Jerry is convinced he did it "for the jokes." ("Those aren't matzoh balls!") Kramer accuses Jerry of being an "anti-dentite." Kramer and Mickey try to double-date, but can't decide how to pair off. Elaine screws up her character reference for her friends Arnie and Beth (Debra Messing, also reprising her earlier role), who are trying to adopt a baby. Robert Wagner reprises his role as Mickey's father, Dr. Abbott, revealing that he is also a dentist and that Whatley was one of his students.

NBC

The Betrayal (“The Backwards Episode”)

Aired: Nov. 20, 1997
Season: 9
In an episode whose scenes are arranged in backwards order, Jerry, George and Elaine travel to India for the wedding of Sue Ellen Mischke, introduced two seasons prior as the braless heiress to the O'Henry candy-bar fortune. George attempts to woo Nina, an old friend of Jerry's whom he swears he never slept with. Jerry and George both ply Elaine with Peach Schnapps to get her to "open the vault" and tell what she knows. ("He Schnapped me!") Kramer tries to persuade his friend Franklin Delano Romanowski to rescind his birthday wish that Kramer "drop dead."

NBC

‘The Strike’

Aired: Dec. 18, 1997
Season: 9
Jerry tells Kramer and Elaine about Festivus, the alternative holiday invented by Frank Costanza to avoid the commercial and religious aspects of Christmas. The traditional celebration involves the "airing of grievances" and "feats of strength," as well as an aluminum pole in place of a tree. Meanwhile: Inspired by his annoyance at getting a similar "gift" from Tim Whatley, George makes up a fake charity called "The Human Fund," in lieu of giving out gifts to his coworkers at Kruger Industrial Smoothing. Jerry discovers that Gwen, woman he's dating, is "a two-face" — she looks attractive in certain situations and ghastly in others. Elaine is approached at Whatley's Hannukah party by a dorky suitor in a denim vest, played by the Kids In the Hall's Kevin McDonald. She gives him her standard fake number (which spells out "no Elaine — the extra e is for ‘ech'"), then has to track him down when she realizes she wrote the number on her Subway sandwich punchcard. Kramer reveals that he has been on strike from his job at H&H Bagels for the past 12 years, and briefly returns to work there.

See Also:

• Not That There's Anything Wrong With These: 5 'Sein-Fail' Episodes
Stopping Short: 10 'Seinfeld' Episodes You Forgot You Loved
• Close Talkers and Double Dippers: 15 Phrases 'Seinfeld' Spawned

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