Is it Mermaid Man or Mermaidman? And is it Barnacle Boy or Barnacleboy? I’ve seen both and this title card makes it look like it’s the latter, but the wiki spells it the former. Fuck it, I’ll just spell it Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy and if I’m wrong too bad.
Have you noticed that no one talks about Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy episodes, like, ever? The one that gets talked about most is the fifth one, where Barnacle Boy becomes evil, which to be fair is probably the best one (it’s definitely my favorite of them anyway), and even that one gets overlooked a lot compared to other episodes. Well, okay, I guess people do talk about the third and fourth ones sometimes, but I don’t know if I’d count that because people only seem to talk about specific gags that have little to nothing to do with MM and BB themselves, like the wallet bit from the third one and the “wumbology” bit from the fourth. The point is, in general, people don’t seem to talk about Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy very much from what I’ve seen.
Admittedly, I usually sort of forget that MM and BB are part of the show unless I’m watching an episode about them. Oops.
I do like MM and BB as characters, but it’s in sort of a detached I-could-take-them-or-leave-them way. Like, they’re funny and endearing but I’m not particularly attached to them and I wouldn’t miss them too much if they weren’t around. (I feel kind of bad saying that because Mermaid Man’s voice actor, Ernest Borgnine, died in 2012 and it’s unclear whether we’ll be having any more MM & BB episodes now, and of course I was sad to hear about Ernest Borgnine passing away but, well, I have to be honest, I’d be okay if there weren’t any more MM & BB episodes. Besides, would anyone really want Ernest Borgnine to be replaced?)
Anyway, let’s just get to the episode. Who are Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy? They’re superheroes, seemingly a parody of Aquaman as well as Batman and Robin, and I guess they’re also humans. They’re no bigger than the characters around them, who must be small if they’re approximately the same size as Sandy the squirrel (and we do see in later episodes that the characters are in fact tiny compared to the world of humans). So are Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy just really tiny humans? How did they get to be that tiny?
Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are also very old and are now retired, to the dismay of SpongeBob and Patrick who are huge fans of the two. Mermaid Man appears to have gone senile in his old age. He’s forgetful and confused most of the time, and he goes into a panic if anyone so much as says the word “evil”. Barnacle Boy has a more sound mind and is mostly just very grouchy. So they’re both pretty typical elderly tropes in different ways. Also, it’s kind of odd that they still go by their superhero names and wear their old costumes despite being retired, isn’t it?
The episode is basically SpongeBob and Patrick trying to get Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy out of retirement, and they finally do at the end… to fight SpongeBob and Patrick. But hey, at least it worked.
Honestly, I always found this episode really boring. Rewatching it now, I still find it boring, but less so. There are actually some pretty good jokes that I’d forgotten in this episode, as well as an interesting take on hero worship.
SpongeBob loves and admires Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, and his fan boy enthusiasm is sweet. But his image of what Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are doesn’t exist anymore, and he seems unwilling to face the reality of what they are now. They’re old. They’re in no shape to be fighting crime anymore. Those days are over and MM and BB themselves seem perfectly okay with this, but SpongeBob can’t accept the fact that his heroes only exist in memory now. He does succeed in getting them out of retirement in the end, but it’s still made clear that they’re not the same heroes they once were when their new TV show ends up being about them in the retirement home.
This is up there with Pizza Delivery in terms of episodes people seem to remember most. Although they mostly seem to remember it for Bubble Bass.
Bubble Bass is this episode’s antagonist. We don’t see him much after this episode, and when we do it’s not much more than a cameo, but somehow he’s a character that everyone remembers anyway. I’m not sure why. He is a pretty fun antagonist in Pickles, but I don’t know if I can explain why he’s as memorable as he is. He just… is.
The beginning of the episode establishes two things, one is how making Krabby Patties has become second nature to SpongeBob, and the other is that Bubble Bass is an extremely picky eater. It also features one of Squidward’s best lines.
“We serve food here, sir” is just such a fantastic line and Roger Bumpass (Squidward’s voice actor) delivers it perfectly. It’s dripping with sarcasm in a way that only Squidward could pull off and it’s hilarious.
Also, wanna know what Bubble Bass’order means (assuming you don’t already know)?
I swear seeing the explanation shocked me the first time, I had no idea his order actually meant anything let alone that anyone could decode it. Also, 24 patties and 24 slices of cheese. WHAT.
So, SpongeBob makes Bubble Bass a patty (that looks nothing like the monstrosity he ordered but whatever) and everyone watches as Bubble Bass takes a bite, waiting to see what he thinks. Bubble Bass tells SpongeBob that he forgot to put pickles on the patty. SpongeBob confidence is broken by this, to the point where he can’t remember how to do anything. He can’t make patties, he can’t figure out how to lie down on his bed to sleep, he can’t get words in the right order when he speaks, he’s a complete wreck.
This goes on for some time before Mr. Krabs helps SpongeBob get out of this funk and learn to make a Krabby Patty again. His confidence restored, SpongeBob returns to the Krusty Krab, as does Bubble Bass for a rematch. Once again, SpongeBob is told that he forgot the pickles, but it’s discovered that Bubble Bass was hiding the pickles under his tongue the entire time. The pickles from last time are still there too, which… why? Why would he just keep them there?
Here we have another episode that’s more focused on telling a story, one that’s more entertaining than the other story-based episodes we’ve seen so far. For me, what makes Pickles more entertaining is the fact that it’s about something that feels a bit more personal to me. Something that I can relate to.
This show is obviously silly and cartoony and weird, but what makes it work is that there’s still an element of humanity and, dare I say, realism to it. The stories and characters and situations are all exaggerated, but for the most part, they’re based on things we can relate to. Maybe I’ve never had my confidence broken to the point that I’ve found myself nailing toast to a wall, but I have had problems with low confidence and insecurity affecting my abilities and even making it harder to do basic things like string words together. SpongeBob’s predicament, though silly on the surface, is something that I can empathize with.
Pickles is an important episode for Mr. Krabs too. Up until now he hasn’t gotten a lot of focus. He’s mostly had small roles and the only aspects of his character that we’ve been shown are his greed and cheapness and his obsession with money. Pickles is the first time we really see him acting like a mentor and a paternal figure to SpongeBob. He is still partially being motivated by greed, as he wants SpongeBob to be able to come back to work so that the Krusty Krab can start making more money again, but he also seems to genuinely care about SpongeBob. He’s the one who sends SpongeBob home to begin with when it’s clear that SpongeBob isn’t fit to be working, and he’s the one who sits with SpongeBob for days while SpongeBob tries to make a Krabby Patty.
I’ve always thought Mr. Krabs was an interesting character, because he’s such a conflicting one. He’s prone to selfishness and greed and he has a very warped morality, which sometimes can make him downright despicable. But he’s also a mentor and paternal figure to SpongeBob, and he can be wise and kind and protective and very likable. He can switch between these two sides so easily, and he can even somehow be both at the same time, and yet he always feels consistent. I’ve always liked that about him.
So, overall Pickles is a pretty damn good episode. Bubble Bass is an amusing antagonist (although I’ve never quite understood why he gets as much attention as he does), the story is fun and relatable, and Mr. Krabs’ character gets a bit more development.
You know, I’m really having fun with this project so far. I don’t why I ever thought reviewing the pre-movie seasons wouldn’t be interesting for me. It’s been ages since I’ve gone back and watched all of the season 1 episodes in order (actually… I’m not sure I ever have watched them all in order?), and it’s actually pretty fun to see how the show slowly evolves, how different aspects of different characters are first shown, how different locations and concepts are introduced, how the writing and characterizations compare to the way they are in later seasons. I’m getting a much clearer picture of all of that through this project and it’s only making me appreciate the show more. I’m glad I’m doing this.