“The Bottle Deposit” (Season 7). This two-parter is a spiritual predecessor to “The Muffin Tops” in that its zany concept — driving across state lines to cash in recycled bottles for more money — goes so off the rails that by the end of the episode, you barely know what you’re watching. Saving this from a lower ranking is George attempting to please his boss, Mr. Wilhem, by accomplishing a task without ever actually understanding what the task is. (He pulls it off, too.)
“The Race” (Season 6). Elaine’s battle is with a Chinese-food deliveryman who’s blacklisted her from ordering from his restaurant. What redeems the episode is Elaine’s quest to get her Communist boyfriend to dress snappier. (“Can’t you at least look like a successful Communist?”) Jerry’s attempt to play Superman to a black-haired girlfriend named Lois (get it?) is medium-funny at best.
“The Boyfriend” (Season 3). George going to ridiculous lengths to extend his unemployment benefits, and a conspiracy-heavy JFK spoof that digs deeper into Kramer and Newman’s incessant scheming.
“The Marine Biologist” (Season 5). George has told a lot of lies — a lot of lies — throughout Seinfeld, but his pretending to be a marine biologist to impress a former classmate-cum-love-interest is one of his greatest and most flimsy. And yet, he almost pulls it off. More physical-comedy genius from Richards, too, as he shakes sand out of his pockets following a disastrous golfing day at the beach.
“The Bookstore” (Season 9). “Sir, it’s been flagged.” There are plenty of Seinfeld episodes that perhaps unfairly prey on the ridiculous tendencies and policies of retail and service-industry employees, but you really can’t blame the Brentano’s employees for “flagging” the book that George brings into the bathroom. Truly a “Swarm!”-worthy offense.
“The Junior Mint” (Season 4). Jerry failing to remember his girlfriend’s name is legendary (“MULVA?!?”), but when it comes to this otherwise minor episode, you might be better off playing the video game.
“The Merv Griffin Show” (Season 9). An episode where everything goes completely off the rails for each of the characters: George’s “social contract” with pigeons disintegrates and he ends up caring for a wounded squirrel, Kramer turns his apartment into the set of a TV talk-show, Elaine almost loses her job because of a box of Tic Tacs, and Jerry drugs his girlfriend so he can play with her collection of vintage toys. Still, nothing tops Jerry, Elaine, and George watching home movies from George’s childhood and finding out that George was having his diaper changed until he was 8 years old.
“The Summer of George” (Season 8). There’s an argument among Seinfeld crowds that the show should have ended after season eight. While that would have been a shame — there are more than a few solid episodes in season nine — the last episode of season eight would have made a much better series finale than “The Finale.” Think about the cosmic perfection of Seinfeld ending with George almost relaxing himself to death.
“The Hamptons” (Season 5). A brilliantly constructed episode in which George is the victim of a series of misfortunes, then seems to get the satisfying revenge he seeks — before getting a tomato slammed in his face. At least it’s a Hampton tomato! You can eat them like an apple!
“The Opposite” (Season 5). What if doing the exact opposite of what you would typically do in a given situation could improve your life? The season-five finale mines this question in what is possibly Seinfeld’s most effective attempt at magical realism. “The Opposite” takes a hard look at the show’s power dynamic and treats George and Elaine like elevators: One goes up and the other goes down, while Jerry remains neutral (or, as Kramer refers to him, “Even Steven”). Elaine’s realization at the end of the episode that she’s “become George” is one of the show’s funniest moments. (Also, the Kramer-meets–Regis and Kathie Lee scene is truly inspired.)