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Recap / SpongeBob SquarePants S 1 E 1 "Help Wanted" / "Reef Blower" / "Tea at the Treedome"

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And thus, a legend in cartoon history is born.

Help Wanted

Original air date: 5/1/1999 (produced in 1997)

Ah, the sea. So fascinating, so wonderful. Here we see Bikini Bottom, teeming with life. Home of one of my favorite sea creatures, SpongeBob SquarePants. Yes, of course he lives in a pineapple, you silly!
The French Narrator

SpongeBob SquarePants has set off to fulfill his life's dream: A job at the Krusty Krab. He gets nervous, but with the motivation of his best friend Patrick, he goes in. But their cashier is his bitter neighbor Squidward, who tells the manager Mr. Krabs not to let him in. So Krabs sends SpongeBob out to retrieve a special spatula for him. Just as he leaves though, a cluster of buses full of anchovies arrive, attacking the Krusty Krab for their food, leaving the raw recruit as their only hope for survival.


Help Wanted contains examples of:

  • Accidental Truth: Squidward and Mr. Krabs send SpongeBob out on a Snipe Hunt for a hydrodynamic spatula to shoo him away. Turns out that said spatula was real, and the Barg-n-Mart only had one in stock.
  • An Aesop:
    • Don't put yourself down if you think you're not good enough for something. Just do whatever you can to achieve your dreams.
    • Don't dismiss someone you think isn't good enough just by first impressions. They might end up being better than you think.
  • Berserk Button: When Squidward asks the anchovies to behave themselves and form a single-file line in front of the register the anchovies go berserk and start tossing the register around with Squidward and Mr. Krabs in it!
    Squidward: One single file line was all I asked!
  • Big Damn Heroes: SpongeBob shows up in time with the hydrodynamic spatula and saves the day.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • First, SpongeBob arriving at the Krusty Krab.
      SpongeBob: There it is. The finest eating establishment ever established for eating.
    • And then, Mr. Krabs on the smell of anchovies.
      Mr. Krabs: That smell. A kind of a smelly smell. A smelly smell that smells...smelly.
  • Determinator: SpongeBob. Despite being unaware that Squidward and Mr. Krabs shooed him away with a Snipe Hunt, he stops at nothing to find the hydrodynamic spatula, and once found, he uses such to please the anchovies.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Rampant, since this is the pilot episode.
    • The art style is more crude and the colors are less vivid.
    • The character designs are more restrained and less cartoonishly exaggerated than they would become, such as the corners of SpongeBob's pants being rounded at the opposite end instead of being completely cubic.
    • SpongeBob's voice is deeper, Patrick's is more calm and Squidward's is more nasally.
    • The suction cups on the bottoms of Squidward's feet make a different sound when he runs into the Krusty Krab.
    • Gary only exists for the gag that he's a snail who meows like a cat. He wouldn't develop a personality until much later. His meow also sounds harsher than the one in the series. His eyes also didn't have his red irises, only small pupils which gave him a blank stare look.
    • The opening credits have a different water filter than every other episode of the series.
    • The opening narration sounds closer to its original purpose as an Affectionate Parody of Jacques Cousteau documentaries.
    • SpongeBob has a pet clam in a birdcage. It (or she, as revealed in a bonus feature on the Season 1 DVD) was only ever seen again for a while in the background of "Gary Takes A Bath", but has been making infrequent appearances in several other episodes.
    • The hydrodynamic spatula does not show up again in later episodes, as instead SpongeBob uses a more conventional spatula. It has been seen on display at least once, however.
    • Normally, SpongeBob's feet make a squeaking sound when he walks; in this episode, it cannot be heard.
    • Mr. Krabs and Squidward seem to get along very well. Pretty much all later episodes where they interact show a much less pleasant relationship, with Squidward disliking Krabs' greed and bossiness and Krabs disliking Squidward's laziness and egocentrism.
    • The original 1997 cut of the episode had a completely different opening. TV airings and official DVD releases would replace it with the final show's Theme Tune, however.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: SpongeBob manages to fulfill the task of Mr. Krabs and get the hydrodynamic spatula, which he uses to attend to the anchovies, and for this, he finally gets his job as a fry cook.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Mr. Krabs is first introduced sniffing some dollars behind the cash register, an early nod to his avarice.
    • The first thing we see Squidward doing is cleaning graffiti off the Krusty Krab which is a drawing of his face and the word "loser" pointing at it, indicating Squidward's in-universe unpopularity and his role as the series Butt-Monkey.
  • Exact Words: Mr. Krabs tells SpongeBob that he won't get hired until he gets a hydro-dynamic spatula. This was just to shoo SpongeBob away. When SpongeBob does get the spatula and saves Squidward and Mr. Krabs, Krabs sticks to his word and hires SpongeBob on the spot.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Squidward convinces Mr. Krabs to secretly send SpongeBob on a Snipe Hunt, SpongeBob can be seen looking completely bewildered as if he heard what they were doing and knows what he's going to face.
  • Going Commando: At the beginning of the episode, SpongeBob launches himself from his diving board and his underpants float off of him as he exclaims “Look at me, I'm NAKED!”, just as he lands into his familiar square pants.
  • Homage: The episode and SpongeBob's hypercompetence therein are largely based on a scene in the Jerry Lewis film The Bellboy, in which Stanley's boss gives him a job setting up chairs in a huge ballroom to keep him out of trouble, only to come back a minute later and see every single chair set up perfectly. Just swap out "setting up chairs" with "finding a hydrodynamic spatula" and "doing it abnormally fast" with "actually finding one". SpongeBob himself is also heavily inspired by Lewis.
  • I Want My Mommy!: Mr. Krabs says it when he's getting attacked by anchovies:
    Mr. Krabs: I want my mommy, Mr. Squidward!
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Shortly after sending SpongeBob off on a "Snipe Hunt" and laughing at his naivete, Mr. Krabs and Squidward are besieged by a horde of famished anchovies.
  • Little "No": SpongeBob insists that Squidward will vouch for him as a new employee. Mr. Krabs turns to Squidward, who replies with a deadpan "No."
  • Meaningful Echo: "Permission to come aboard, captain!"
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Squidward, when he realizes SpongeBob wants to work at the Krusty Krab.
    • This dialogue:
      Mr. Krabs: Anchovies.
      Squidward: What?
      Mr. Krabs: ANCHOVIES!
    • A surprising one done by Mr. Krabs and Squidward when they discover the hydrodynamic spatula is real.
  • Opening Narration: "Ah, the sea. So fascinating, so wonderful. Here, we see Bikini Bottom, teeming with life, home to one of my favorite creatures, SpongeBob SquarePants. Yes, of course he lives in a pineapple, you silly."
  • Overly Long Gag: When SpongeBob first steps into the Krusty Krab, he trips on a nail and flops on the floor...then he starts bouncing more erratically all over the Krusty Krab. Mr. Krabs and Squidward share an Aside Glance as they wait for him to come to a stop.
  • Pilot: The very first episode of SpongeBob.
  • Real After All: The hydrodynamic spatula turns out to exist, and the Barg'N-Mart only had one in stock. Squidward and Mr. Krabs were completely flabbergasted at this.
  • Smoking Barrel Blowout: A variation. After SpongeBob serves a Krabby Patty to the last anchovy, he blows the steam coming off his spatula.
  • Snipe Hunt: Krabs sends SpongeBob to find a "hydrodynamic spatula with port and starboard attachments and turbo drive" to send him away. Eventually, he does find one ("Can you believe they only had one in stock?") and uses it to save the day.
  • Theme Tune: The "Spongebob Action Theme", but only in the original 1997 cut of the episode.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Even after SpongeBob saves his life, Squidward tries to dissuade Mr. Krabs from hiring him.
  • Visual Pun: When SpongeBob says, "Look 'im straight in the eye," he presses his eye up against the camera so it's like he's looking at the audience.
  • Vocal Dissonance: SpongeBob's voice deepens when he says, "I've been training my whole life for the day I could join the Krusty Krew."
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Patrick’s talk with SpongeBob when he doubts getting the job.

Reef Blower

Original air date: 5/1/1999 (produced in 1998)

Another day, SpongeBob uses his reef blower to clean his lawn after Squidward kicks a clam onto it. In the end, SpongeBob drains the entire ocean.

Reef Blower contains examples of:

  • Bottle Episode: Only two characters (SpongeBob and Squidward) appear, and most of it takes place in one setting (their front lawns). It's here mainly because "Help Wanted" doesn't fill up the standard eleven minutes on its own.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Squidward kicking the clam onto SpongeBob's front yard leads to SpongeBob inadvertently making a much bigger mess trying to get rid of it. To add insult to injury, the same clam falls onto Squidward's nose at the end.
  • No-Dialogue Episode: Aside from one brief caption reading "You!". According to staff member Jay Lender, this was done to avoid needing to pay the voice actors another "session fee", since "Reef Blower" was produced later and thus counted as a separate production.
"I don't need it... I don't need it..."

Tea at the Treedome

Original air date: 5/1/1999 (produced in 1998)

The episode then goes to SpongeBob meeting a "land squirrel" named Sandy Cheeks, who maneuvers underwater with a special suit. She invites him to her underwater dome, where he slowly starts to die of dehydration. Rather than say anything about it, he decides that he doesn't need water. This doesn't end well.

Tea at the Treedome contains examples of:

  • An Aesop: If you need something, just ask.
  • Arc Symbol: Raised pinky finger.
  • Blatant Lies: SpongeBob repeatedly tells himself that he doesn't need water while he's gasping for breath.
  • Clam Trap: SpongeBob first sees Sandy fighting off a giant clam, which eventually swallows her. He tries to pry it open (and is surprised he's actually doing it), but in the end the clam is no match for Sandy.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: "If y'all needed water, you shoulda asked!"
  • Crash-Into Hello: Basically how SpongeBob's relationship with Sandy started, when he ends up being caught by the clam attacking him and Sandy.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • This is the first appearance of a jellyfish in the show, and it has some clear differences from later jellyfish such as looking somewhat transparent and lacking the spots typically seen on jellyfish.
    • In this episode, the treedome is stated to be made of plastic. In later appearances, it's made of glass.
    • Patrick is strangely knowledgeable about fancy manners and even knows some of the jargon, a trait that'll never come up from his character again.
    • It was implied that SpongeBob had a crush on Sandy in this episode, from the way he brings her flowers to the way how he was talking about her to Patrick.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The very first thing we see Sandy doing is fighting the giant clam, then rescuing SpongeBob from it, and then introducing herself in a friendly and casual manner while showing off her fighting ability.
  • Fingore: A very mild case. When Sandy takes the flowers from SpongeBob, part of his finger breaks off.
  • Fourth-Wall Portrait: SpongeBob and Patrick are turned into a real sea star and sponge when they run out of water.
  • Literal-Minded: Inverted; SpongeBob says Sandy wears air around her head, which Patrick interprets as "putting on airs" (i.e., acting pretentious). It helps that, to those unfamiliar with that phrase, it sounds like it could well be Patrick just being Patrick.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name:
    SpongeBob: "Air" is my middle name!
  • Minimalist Cast: Only SpongeBob, Patrick and Sandy appear in this episode.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Sandy shows off her strength to SpongeBob by breaking a large rock with one hand. SpongeBob shows off to her by making a dynamic pose...and then making an armpit fart.
  • Now You Tell Me: Apparently, Patrick didn't notice there wasn't any water in Sandy's treedome until he went into it himself.
  • Off-Model: There is something "off" about SpongeBob's appearance during the first few minutes.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Patrick gets a massive one once he starts to dehydrate inside the treedome:
      Patrick: WHAT KIND OF PLACE IS THIS?!? There's no water in here!
    • Sandy when she sees SpongeBob and Patrick dehydrated.
  • Poor Communication Kills: SpongeBob does ask Sandy for water, but Sandy assumes he means water for the flowers he brought.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: "You have fought well, giant clam. Prepare to be vanquished!"
  • Rescue Reversal: SpongeBob tries to save Sandy from the giant clam, but when he gets eaten by it, Sandy is the one who has to rescue him.
  • Second Episode Introduction: For Sandy.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Sandy describes the air in her treedome as the "most airiest air in the whole sea."
  • Smash Cut: When Sandy discovers that SpongeBob and Patrick have nearly dried up, there is a jarring cut to a live-action sponge and starfish.
  • Survival Mantra: SpongeBob referring to water, "I don't need it! I don't need it! I definitely don't need it." It becomes a Madness Mantra when he sees a vase of it in front of him before finally howling "I NEED IT!!!".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Patrick doesn't realize SpongeBob is dying inside the treedome until he goes in there himself and almost dies as a result.
  • The Unreveal: We never find out how or why Sandy is living at the bottom of the ocean, because SpongeBob runs off to get some water from the bird bath just as she starts to explain. We later learn that she's there For Science!, which is further explored in "Chimps Ahoy".
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: SpongeBob discovers too soon that air is not the best lifestyle for a sea creature, and begins to steadily dehydrate.
  • Wins by Doing Absolutely Nothing: Subverted. SpongeBob "defeats" the giant clam simply because Sandy was plenty capable of getting out of it herself. And immediately afterwards, she has to save him.