- It may be like the average episode, but seeing the other four kids (Gus wasn't in the episode) going through drastic measures to get T.J. out of detention shows how much they care for him, and it kinda warms your heart a little.T.J.: You've done something never done before. You guys are the best friend a kid could ever ask for.
The New Kid
- Right after T.J. and the gang finish their tour of the school to Gus, he begins crying because he's been to twelve schools in the past six years, yet no one has ever been so nice to him before.
- The gang getting Gus's name back (After having to be called "New Kid" due to the constitution of the playground) by getting all the kids to call him by his name and just making him feel welcome in general, after days of being ignored.
- Even though T.J. and Spinelli were grossed out after their Practice Kiss, their kiss was still an adorable scene (And it's also implied that they really did enjoy it).
The Great Jungle Gym Standoff
- "The Great Jungle Gym Standoff". Come on, "We shall not, we shall not be moved..."
- And the reason why Old Rusty was so important to T.J.: That's where he met the other four kids in kindergarten on the first day of school.
Big Brother Chad
- The ending, where Vince accepts the fact that Chad is a geek.Chad: Hey, just because I'm a geek doesn't mean I'm not a cool geek!
- And there's also the fact that Chad went to the elementary school to stop a bully's older brother from hurting Vince. Despite being the nerdy kid at his school, he's not gonna let some jerk pick on his little brother.
Speedy, We Hardly Knew Ye
- After Speedy the class hamster dies, T.J. makes sure that they give him a proper sendoff by giving him a funeral during recess. Doubles as a Tear Jerker.
- It's even better than that. It's revealed that ever since its foundation, Third Street School has had a hamster class pet for the fourth graders, and that the teachers had quietly been replacing the hamsters as they died of old age throughout the decades. While the assembled mourners, including many adults and even the town's mayor, are at first distressed with the realization that the Speedy they knew and loved had died decades ago, T.J points out to everyone that all of them had had a Speedy, whom they all loved. In the end, they bury the current Speedy with full honors, and King Bob decrees the grave site as The Tomb Of the Unknown Speedy. The episode ends with a small montage of the various Speedys that have been at Third Street, from the 50's to present day.
I Will Kick No More Forever
- T.J. helping Vince snap out of his Heroic BSoD.
- T.J. defending Spinelli when everyone accuses her of throwing a rock at Randall during a dirt clod war.
- Mikey's description of Spinelli's part in the war.Mikey: Madness! MADNESS!!!Mikey!Narration: But then I saw Spinelli, and my heart felt hope for mankind. *cut to Spinelli helping kids who's been hurt during the dirt fighting, like an elementary school Nightingale*
- And then there was the truth of the matter; Spinelli did have Randall at her mercy during the whole situation, but didn't have a rock; it was just a dirt clot. However, she noticed Miss Finster, the mean teacher of the school, having trouble with her cat. So Spinelli actually helped the long-time pain in the gang's side. Shows that under her tough girl side, she's really nice.
- King Bob's anger that Spinelli got attacked during a time out is pretty touching, especially since she called said timeout because one of his subjects was hurt. Proof that a good king is also the playground's big brother.
- Randall just got used to being in T.J.'s pack when he finds out that Miss Finster has a new snitch, Douglas. Because of this, Randall is jealous and sad, and goes over onto a swing to cry. T.J. finds him upset, and ells him that he should go back to being Finster's snitch.T.J.: You only get a few good friends in your life, friends who like you for who you are, friends you like for who they are, and being popular is no reason to give up a friend like that, even if that friend is a 200-pound gargoyle in orthopedic shoes.
- The sweetest part? T.J.'s being a sweetheart to kids who he would consider his enemies.
The Great Can Drive
- The ending: After an entire episode of competing against each other for the can drive, the kids in Miss Grotke's class (The Recess Gang and the other kids in the episode) and Miss Furley's class (The Ashleys are the main concern in the episode) decide to work together to help Mikey with the can drive
- The episode straddles the line between Tearjerker and CMOH. One one hand, Mikey's relationship with Ms. Salimony (the music teacher who teaches him to believe in himself so that he can discover his repressed singing talent) is one big Heartwarming Moment. But then we see Mikey convinced that he's genuinely in love with his 25 year-old teacher and that she loves him back, only to walk in on her accepting her boyfriend's marriage proposal. Even though Mikey's romantic fantasy is impossibly naive, it's still heartbreaking to see him run off crying and then hide in the bathroom in a Heroic BSoD. The final scene, where he sings "Nobody Knows the Troubles I've Seen" while gazing longingly at Salimony and saying farewell to her, hits both ends.
- Ms Salimony whispers "see you in middle school" at the end, which means she's likely to become a Cool Teacher to him by the time he gets there.
- The fact that Ms. Salimony really cared about Mikey despite being only a temporary teacher for him. Not only did she help him discover his talent, but when he was depressed and hiding out in the bathroom she refused to force him to sing and even told Prickly and Finster that she refuses to let them force him either.
- At the end of Mikey's song, the entire auditorium erupts into applause, including Principal Prickly and Ms. Finster. Keep in mind that Prickly previously couldn't care less about Mikey's feelings and merely wanted him to sing to impress the superintendent, however in the end he completely forgets about that and is one of the loudest to applaud Mikey.
Swing on Thru to the Other Side
- Spinelli deciding to join Swinger Girl on the swingset at the end.
- T.J.'s "best friend" essay:T.J.: "My Best Friend": By T.J. Detweiler. People say a best friend is the most important friend a kid could have. That a best friend is someone who makes you laugh. Someone you go to for advice. Someone who can come to you for advice. Well, that's great for people who have a best friend, but I don't. I have no best friend. But there are some friends I do have. One's a great athlete. The most popular kid in school. He can hang out with anybody, but instead, he hangs out with me. Another friend of mine is the smartest kid I've ever met. She could probably build an atom bomb. But instead, she uses her brains to help me when I'm down. And then I got a friend who's so tough, she can take down a guy twice her size. But instead, she stands up for kids who can't defend themselves. Another one of my pals is a big guy. Real big. To a lot of kids, he looks scary. But he wouldn't hurt a fly. In fact, he's got a heart of gold. And then there's my newest friend. Some guys say he's a scaredy-cat, but I know deep down that he's a hero. When I see him swallow his fear and do what needs to be done, it reminds me of why things are worth standing up for. Yeah, some people say a best friend is the most important friend a kid could have. But I say, 'Why pick one?'. All my friends are the most important friends I have. So don't feel sorry for me, I'm the luckiest kid in the world! I don't have a best friend- I have five!
- And the reason why he had trouble writing it in the beginning of the episode (which caused his friends to leave him): he can't choose which one is his "best" friend, he loves them all the same.
- Also, the ending when the gang all apologize to each other after calling each other names, and re-affirm their status as being best friends.
- The beginning gives us a really sweet and adorable bonding moment between Spinelli and Miss Grotke that definitely qualifies for this trope.
- In fact, the whole reason why Spinelli called Miss Grotke "mama" is pretty heartwarming itself. Spinelli feels really close to her, like she's her mom (since Spinelli's real mom usually embarrasses her and forces her into girly activities). Cue awws.
- T.J. being the first to stand up for Spinelli by calling Miss Grotke "Mama". He eventually gets the rest of the class to join in, making her feel a lot better. Cut to the end of the day, and he's got his arm wrapped around her shoulder, looking into her eyes.
- There's also the fact that when Miss Grotke sees the drawing of Spinelli on the blackboard, she immediately gives a speech to the whole class about how kids needn't be so cruel to each other. It shows that she won't take a 'kids will be kids' attitude; she'll do her best to stop bullying because she cares about her class that much.
- And after everyone in the class has stood up for Spinelli, Miss Grotke shoots the girl a little wink.
- They might be jerks, but the flashback to how the Ashleys met and became friends as preschoolers was adorable. It starts when Ashley A.'s hat is blown off by the wind while at the playground, causing her to chase after it, and bumping into the other girls all chasing after their hats, too.Ashley A.: I'm Ashley. What's your name?Ashley B.: Like, I'm Ashley, too!Ashley Q.: No way! That's my name! I totally can't believe this!(The group does a Team Hand-Stack)
- And because they all wore purple the day they met, they made it a tradition to wear purple every anniversary of that day.
- Ashley A also seems to sincerely have fun hanging out with Gretchen, once again showing her softer side.
Gus's Last Stand
- The ending: "I think little Belgium has earned himself an ice-cream cone"
Gus: (dejected) I guess I lost the battle, sir.
- Preceded by this:
Colonel Griswald: (proudly) Yes, but it looks like you won the war.
- Earlier in the episode- Gelman is beating Gus to a pulp, when T.J. steps in and stands up for Gus, saying that Gelman will have to beat him and the gang up too if he attacks Gus. And then the entire student body joins in. Doubles as a Moment of Awesome. Gelman finally gives up when his physical strength isn't enough anymore
- Gus goes to Ms. Finster because of Gelman's bullying and she chews Gelman out and threatens to bring him to the Principle is she catches him bullying any student on her playground, sure it doesn't work to stop him but it is nice to see she has zero tolerance for any bullying in her school, and takes students complaints seriously.
- The opening, where Gelmans previous victim Georgie leaves him behind forever after a year of bullying as his family moves away.Gelman: Come back here you worm!!Georgie: Forget it Gelman, I'm moving and nobody knows where! I'm free, FREEEE!!! *moving truck drives away*Gelman: *rages impotently* RAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
Gretchen and the Secret of Yo
- TJ and the gang show up at the yoyo expo to support Gretchen, despite previously complaining about her constant practicing.TJ: Look guys, Gretchen's our friend, and if yoyoing is that important to her, then you know what we gotta do.Gus: Cheer our brains out?TJ: Like our lives depended on it.
Weekend at Muriel's
- After overhearing Spinelli calling her boring, Miss Finster decides to have a luau for them to prove that she's not so boring after all. When it cuts to Miss Finster driving Spinelli to school a few days later, they both talk about how fun their weekend was together.
- One of the main reasons why the episode is such a fan favorite is due to Miss Finster showing her nice side, and it shows. She wasn't always a cranky old woman, she was young once too.
- Even at her most boring, Miss Finster is surprisingly nice to Spinelli from the start of their weekend together. It shows that her normal Stern Teacher persona is just part of her job and that she really does have a heart of gold.
- And when it's recapped in the "Miracle on 3rd Street" movie, Miss Grotke is moved to tears at it.
- Spinelli decides not to appear in the recital because the rest of the kids made fun of the recital, not knowing she was going to be in it. After noticing that this meant that Mikey would be left without a dancing partner, and not going to be able to perform, she comes back for him.
Spinelli: Mom, dad, what are you doing here?Flo: Your dance instructor called us and told us to come down.Spinelli: But mademoiselle, how did you know I'd dance?Madame: Remember "little girl from old country"? Little girl was me. I too had to learn that, how you say 'rep', isn't as important as friends I love.
- The use of a highly cliched trope still manages to be a heartwarming moment. As Spinelli improves in her dancing, the tutor keeps mentioning a "little girl from old country" that Spinelli reminds her of. After the recital...
- And of course, the rest of the school LOVING the performance, which, in their defense, is extremely high quality, especially for a kids recital.
The Beauty Contest
- When Spinelli is announced as a finalist, Ashley A comes into her dressing room in secret to congratulate her. She even hugs her. While it is a little back-handed, Ashley A is sincerely pleased for Spinelli and views her as a Worthy Opponent.
"Me? A finalist?"
- Right before this, Spinelli is looking in the mirror, in disbelief that she has gotten so far.
- The entire episode, non-stop. Gus' family has moved a lot so he finally gets a chance to get a school picture, and wants to make his family proud by staying clean. T.J. and the others work together to keep him clean and give him closure, Randall surprisingly (and unintentionally) calms him down with his harmonica music, and by the end of the episode, he sacrifices his clean self for T.J., not to mention the letter T.J. wrote to his dad about picture day, and how he's proud to be his friend. It's an Affectionate Parody of Saving Private Ryan and it works.Gus' Dad: That's my son, right there in the middle with his first class picture ever. If you asked me, soldier, well... I'd say he's never looked better.
- The ending of the episode is narrated by an adult Hector, reminiscing the day Gus defended him.Adult Hector: They say you can't judge a book by its cover. I guess the same is true of a kid. Even I didn't think Safety Man had it in him, but boy did he. Eventually I stopped calling him "Safety Man" and started calling him Gus... But in my heart, he'll always be El Diablo. My hero.
- The ending, for anyone who's ever been the "fat kid" in his/her class.
- Tubby winning the race for Mikey, the kid he immediately looked up to as a big brother and insisted on him being his trainer so he could prove how strong they really are.
- The ending, when it turns out that the kids who buried the "treasure", actually being old toys that made them happy as kids, were Principal Prickly and his friends when they were in fourth grade. Prickly is so excited that the treasure was found that he immediately calls one of his friends, who is implied to be serving on the Supreme Court, to tell him.
- What's more is that when you see the kids playing outside at the end, the Ashleys are seen in the background. That means they too were moved enough by the gesture.
The Library Kid
- The Ashleys of all characters playing jump rope with the shy, bookish Library Kid.
- There's also Gretchen's speech to the Library Kid at the end of the episode, where she promises her that it's possible to enjoy both learning and recess, and find a balance of both.
- Throughout the episode, Gretchen shows a big-sister like attitude toward the Library Kid, and works like mad to save her when she goes "recess crazy."
- A smaller moment—everyone but Gretchen slowly becoming entranced by the books they randomly grab to try to calm the Library Kid down. It turns into a Brick Joke when none other than Spinelli ends up giving an insanely long report on Dr Zhivago.
The Ratings Game
- The main gang giving out tens to EVERYONE, showing that everyone is equal and that they have every right to hang out with their friends. Special mention, however, goes to one scene in particular:
- Randall: *After Mikey has just given him a ten while he was depressed* But...how? Why?Mikey: Because you're really good at being you!
- What's really good is that he IS! Randall IS good as being who he is, a sneaky little bastard. It might not win any favors on the playground, but it's going to serve him well in life.
- The end, when TJ endures public humiliation at the hands of King Bob in order to save the playground. He essentially sacrifices himself for all the kids who mock him, and to top it all refuses to tell anyone what he did.
- As shady as they all are it is nice to know Randall actually comes from a happy family and both his parents, though they are as weaselly as he is, are loving and only want the best for him.
The Biggest Trouble Ever
- The fact that Miss Finster is actually concerned at all about the Recess Gang being split apart by force, which is a rather extreme punishment for the statue's destruction, despite the fact that she has been the main antagonist to the group. She worriedly asks T.J., "Any chance you have a plan for this one, Detweiler?"
- After the Mayor ignores T.J.'s heartfelt apology during the hearing and is about to sentence them, Principal Prickly furiously yells at him that the six are good kids who don't deserve this kind of punishment. Though he was bullied into backing off, it was still awesome of him to show such care toward the kids.
- Just when it seems like the punishment will go through, none other than Thaddeus T. Third the Fifth shows up at the courthouse to defend the kids, pointing out that the statue is meant to be played on and enjoyed by children. To prove it, he shows slides of all of the adults in the room—including Miss Finster, Principal Prickly, and even the judge himself, doing just what the Recess Gang did in their own school days.
- He also gets a Papa Wolf moment where during said slideshow, he subtly calls out one of the adults for actively trying to break the statue, in contrast to TJ and the gang who did so completely by accident.
- The context of it. Thanks to Thaddeus T. Third the Fifth, after every mean-spirited punishment the kids have been put through, they are rightfully forgiven for they accidentally did.
- He also gets a Papa Wolf moment where during said slideshow, he subtly calls out one of the adults for actively trying to break the statue, in contrast to TJ and the gang who did so completely by accident.
- The ending, when Gus's parents find him alone and scared in the playground after he ran away and set up his own home inside Old Rusty, due to him believing that they were moving away again. They explain to him that they were just moving him into a bigger bedroom, and walk home together. The final lines are the sweetest part:Gus: But dad, there's still one thing I don't get. How did you know where I was?Gus's Dad: Well, let's put it this way: Gus, you've got one heck of a platoon leader.(Camera pans to the left; T.J. is shown on his bicycle, smiling at them as they walk off)
- In an effort to calm her notorious temper, Spinelli starts drawing on the blacktop with colored chalk, and ends up creating an elaborate piece of art. The rest of the gang fight to prevent anyone from destroying the drawing, inviting all the kids to the top of the jungle gym where they can get the best view of her creation. By the end of the episode, even Mrs. Finster and Principal Prickly are suitably impressed. Spinelli caps off her work with a portrait of herself with her friends. Although the drawing was a labor of love for her, at the end of the episode Spinelli declares, "It's just a stupid chalk drawing."
- Spinelli helping Cornchip Girl with her drawing of a cat. It's pretty minor, but Spinelli acting like a big sister figure to her was adorable.
- The episode is especially poignant for artists, as a commentary on the transience of art. Yes, the physical piece has some importance, but in the end, once it has done its job in portraying its message, it is, in the end, "just a stupid drawing". Art's true value lies in its impact on its audience, and Spinelli certainly accomplished that.
A Great State Fair
- Gus nearly misses out on his first chance to go to a state fair because his dad forgot to hand back his permission form for the field trip, but T.J. vows that he'll find some way to get him there. Despite being on one of the funnest field trips of his life, and despite being told repeatedly that all of his zany schemes to rescue Gus from the school (including, but not limited to, tying a message to a dove's leg and trying to get to the interstate in a bumper car) are completely ridiculous, T.J. refuses to enjoy himself until he can do it with Gus at his side—which, against all odds, he finally does.
- Also, Gus ensuring that his old bully nemesis Gelman (who was in detention with him) also goes to the fair, since he's learned from his dad that "no man gets left behind". This even prompts Gelman to actually befriend Gus.
The Fuss Over Finster
- After seeing her completely overwhelmed by the kids in her dilapidated state, the gang unites the kids of the playground unanimously to behave better for Finster until her leg is fully healed.
The A.V. Kid
- T.J. and Vince making up at the end after competing for the position of A.V. kid for the entire episode.
- Mikey cradling T.J. in his arms after the latter gets a black eye as a result of the Dodgeball Wall.
- The moment prior to this, when T.J is sentenced to the Dodgeball Wall is equally heartwarming: Instead of begging for help his last words to his friends are: "Find King Bob!" Inches from the worst punishment on the playground, all he's worried about is saving the other kids from Randall and putting the rightful ruler back on the throne.
- King Bob appreciates the Gang's loyalty to him and trusts them enough that he's willing to show them what Randall has been blackmailing him with.
- The ending counts as well. It turns out that Randall has been blackmailing King Bob with a photo of the older boy being forced by his older sister to model some dresses for her at the mall. TJ devises a plan to help, and a little while later, King Bob's servants pass out copies of the photo to everyone on the playground. Bob tells the story of what happened, and the kids open the photos, which initially leads to mocking laughter—and that's when TJ steps up to talk about the humiliation his own older sister puts him through. Vince and Spinelli share their own stories, and soon, all of the kids are united behind the idea of siblings who tease them (or cousins in Gus's case). Without his bargaining chip, Randall is stripped of his powers, a grateful King Bob undoes all of his harsh rules, and recess is restored to normal.
Old Folks' Home
- The episode's overall plot is one big CMOH. Mikey volunteers the Gang to spend a Saturday afternoon at a retirement home, but they're reluctant as it's the same day as the "Senor Fusion Fest" at the mall, and only agree when they find out that they can do both. But as the day goes on, each kid finds a resident that matches up with them perfectly, and the resulting relationships are extremely sweet. Gretchen talks to a now-declassified scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project, who tells her that she "seems possessed of a mind" and is thus smart enough to understand him; Vince befriends a former baseball star who played "back when Birmingham had a team"—that is, the Birmingham Black Barons, a wonderful example of the writers putting in effort to be accurate (the old man references Satchel Paige and Willie Mays, who both actually played for the Black Barons); Spinelli meets a woman interested with knitting, which turns out to be a method of keeping her fingers strong for boxing, a skill she picked up in the U.S. Merchant Marines; Gus connects with an enormous but friendly man who recognizes himself in the boy and helps calm his fears about being small by promising that he'll grow up to be big and strong someday; and T.J. chats with a man who served in World War II and played pranks on his superiors, just as T.J. does on his principal and Miss Finster—and in a bonus surprise, the man turns out to be the creator of Senor Fusion! Mikey, meanwhile, has a miserable time when his singing doesn't go over well, and tries to get the gang to leave, only for them to point out that he didn't bother to listen to what the audience wanted to hear, and that if he tries, he just might learn something. Mikey gives it another shot and brings the house down, and the episode ends with all of the residents, including the kids and their new friends, joining the audience to cheer him on. Anyone who has a close relationship with their grandparents, or the elderly in general, will be warm and fuzzy by the time the show's over.
Prickly Is Leaving
- When TJ asks Miss Finster why she hasn't tried to stop Principal Prickly leaving, when she's clearly upset about it, she explains that she's kept silent because Prickly has wanted to be a middle school principal for a long time, and when you care about someone, you have to think about their happiness before your own.
- And at the end of the episode, Prickly returns to Third Street School, ostensibly because Superintendent Skinner made a poor pay offer. Yet, in spite of what Prickly tells them, you can infer that Prickly decided to stay to prevent Slicer from making life at Third Street School miserable.
- It is revealed that TJ and Menlo used to be good friends when they were four years old. Even though their friendship has long since ended, TJ still attends Menlo's birthday party every year.
- While four of the gang get trapped in the Ashleys' clubhouse due to their paranoia, it is nice to see Mikey and Gus bringing Miss Finster and three of their kindergartener friends with them to the wrestling match.
The Army/Navy Game
- Everything involving Gus and Cornchip Girl's friendship.
Lawson and His Crew
- The moment where Skeens breaks off from Lawson's crew after Lawson insults Lazy Kid, simply for what he says when doing so:"Leader, schmeader. I'm camping out with my bud. Them other kids were right about that friend stuff."
- Before this, the Gang finds themselves without a sense of direction—Lawson and his new crew have taken over their position of helping other kids, playing pranks, and standing up to unfair faculty decisions, and the "original" six feel like they no longer have a purpose on the playground. TJ, Vince, and Spinelli admit that they liked the praise that came with their old roles, and Gretchen fears that they may have only been doing nice things to get attention and glory. That's when Mikey steps in with his most inspirational, poetic speech ever, pointing out that the most important "role" they serve is to be each other's best friends; furthermore, they always did nice things regardless of rewards and recognition. This rallies the other five, and they all start happily playing with each other, making jokes and pretending to be monsters. It's sweet to see that even without a Zany Scheme or common enemy, the Recess Gang really does love each other.
- When Lawson and his new group inevitably break up (largely because they never bothered to befriend each other), the Gang sincerely congratulates Lawson on the good work that they did.
- The Fifth and Sixth Graders Club. Seeing antagonists like Gelman, Lawson, and the Ashleys getting along with the gang puts a smile on your face.
- Former-King Bob returning to his old school after graduating at the start of School's Out to snap Mikey & Gus out of their Acquired Situational Narcissism.