I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really care for boating school episodes in general. I think I’ve also mentioned before that No Free Rides is pretty much the only one I love and will actually watch voluntarily.
In case I haven’t, No Free Rides is pretty much the only boating school episode I love and will actually watch voluntarily.
It begins the way every boating school episode does, with SpongeBob taking his driving test and failing it.
One thing I’d like to point out is that Mrs. Puff is deducting points for every mistake SpongeBob makes, and at one point tells him that his score is negative 224. Despite being told that the test is over, SpongeBob tries to make up for his lost points anyway and winds up crashing seconds later. That’s when we get this exchanged.
SpongeBob: OK, Mrs. Puff, what’s my final score?
Mrs. Puff: 6.
SpongeBob: Whoo! And how many do I need to pass?
Mrs. Puff: Six.
SpongeBob:[raising arms slowly] Whoo.
Mrs. Puff: Hundred. [SpongeBob stops]
Mrs. Puff: 600. You need 600 to pass. You got 6.
My question is, how exactly did SpongeBob go from -224 to 6 so quickly?? In the ten seconds it took him to crash the boat, he somehow got 230 points??? How???
Well, anyway, Mrs. Puff desperately wants to avoid teaching SpongeBob again next semester, so she gives him a bullshit extra credit assignment. All he has to do is write a ten word essay about what he learned in boating school, and Mrs. Puff even provides the first seven words: “What I learned in boating school is”. It’s pretty hilarious how quickly things take a completely chaotic turn, and SpongeBob doesn’t even manage to finish the essay, really, but Mrs. Puff passes him anyway, and SpongeBob finally gets his license.
Though Mrs. Puff feels guilty that she’s unleashed SpongeBob’s driving on the rest of the world, she reasons that since he doesn’t even own a boat, he can’t really do any damage. Except that his parents give him a boat that night. Knowing that she can’t allow him to drive it, Mrs. Puff steals the boat, unaware that SpongeBob has fallen asleep inside it. They fight over the boat before SpongeBob realizes that the boat thief is Mrs. Puff, the police get involved and Mrs. Puff is arrested. SpongeBob realizes that he didn’t actually earn his license, but he forgives Mrs. Puff and is willing to wait for her to be released from jail so he can take her class again.
So, the reason why I like this episode so much more than I like most boating school episodes is quite simply that I think it’s a lot funnier than most boating school episodes.
This episode is so energetic, half the time you’re just laughing at how chaotic and weird it is. The extra credit scene and the car chase are the highlights, but the whole episode is full of really quick humor. I’ve found most boating school episodes to be kind of slow, but I can’t say that about this episode. Pretty much every moment is throwing some kind of joke at you, and the majority of them hit. It’s just such a fun episode.
I’ve seen/heard a lot of people say that they like this episode but then I’ve also seen/heard a lot of people say they dislike it. Funny how I don’t know a lot of people who either love or hate it. People’s opinions about this episode seem to be mild for the most part, but still pretty firmly on one side or the other.
I’m on the side of liking it, but I also understand where the other side is coming from.
The episode begins with SpongeBob meeting one of his heroes: Kevin the sea cucumber, a famous jellyfisher who leads a group called the Jellyspotters. SpongeBob is completely enamored and willing to do absolutely anything to get Kevin’s attention and approval, including but not limited to jumping off a building. Kevin finds it funny to see SpongeBob hurt himself, so he invites SpongeBob to come jellyfishing with the Jellyspotters, just so that they can watch SpongeBob get stung and hurt.
So, okay, pretty obvious that this is all leading to a moral about the dangers of hero worship. Kevin is an asshole from the start, but SpongeBob is so obsessed with getting Kevin to like him that he doesn’t notice or care.
The reason most people cite for disliking this episode is the way Kevin treats SpongeBob. I can get that, it is really mean. Kevin is a pretty one-note character, which is fine because this is his only appearance, and really all he does is make fun of SpongeBob and try to humiliate him. I can see why that would be hard to watch. I think it’s forgivable in this episode, because Kevin’s behavior has an actual purpose in the plot and moral, unlike, say, Patrick in Dumped. The narrative constantly punishes Kevin for being an asshole . The majority of the episode is Kevin trying to set SpongeBob up get stung only to be stung himself.
Which is another reason people cite for disliking this episode: it’s repetitive. I can also get that, and I can’t really defend it. It is repetitive, and it can get old pretty fast, and there’s not really anything else to say about that. So, moving on.
The one time SpongeBob does actually get hurt is when Kevin and his buddies trick him into being bait for the queen jellyfish, and it turns out to be a robot controlled by Kevin. SpongeBob is hurt by the robot’s stingers and it’s also at this point that he sees Kevin’s true colors and realizes that his idol is an asshole who never actually cared for him at all. It is sad, but the episode doesn’t dwell on this part too much, and in the end Kevin is still punished for this. A real king jellyfish turns up and attacks the group, but SpongeBob saves them after it’s revealed that Kevin has little to no jellyfishing knowledge and is only in it for the fashion.
Even after being saved by him, Kevin still doesn’t want to let SpongeBob be a Jellyspotter, but Kevin’s friends turn on him and give SpongeBob’s Kevin’s crown. Which, by the way, is an actual part of Kevin’s head. Ouch. However, SpongeBob decides he doesn’t care to be a Jellyspotter anymore.
This episode’s moral is essentially “sometimes the people we idolize are actually Bad People, don’t let yourself be blind to it just because you like or admire them”, which is a good moral. It can be hard to admit that celebrities we like can be assholes, it’s natural to want to see only the best in people we like, but in the end that does more harm than good.
Basically, SpongeBob is forced to realize that his Fave is Problematic, and it’s not a nice revelation. It never is. But, it’s still important to know and accept it.
Of course, most don’t learn that their Fave is Problematic the same way that SpongeBob does. Usually it’s because they watch an interview where their fave said something ignorant and bigoted, or their fave takes a role that is distasteful in some way (such as a whitewashed role), or somebody on Tumblr makes a post about every bad thing that their fave has done since 2004 complete with sources. It’s usually not because they spent the day with their fave and their fave ruthlessly bullied them.
Kevin is… intensely unlikable. That’s the point. And I can definitely get why a character like that would make this episode not very fun to watch, but I do think it’s silly to consider this “character abuse” to SpongeBob. The whole episode is about punishing Kevin for what he does or tries to do to SpongeBob. Up until the bit with the queen jellyfish, SpongeBob isn’t even hurt by anything (I won’t count the stuff like punching himself in the face and jumping off a building because technically SpongeBob did those to himself, Kevin just didn’t stop him). Honestly, I like this episode in part because of how satisfying it is to watch Kevin get instant karma again and again.
Oh yeah, and one more thing I forgot about. After revealing to SpongeBob that he never planned to let him join the Jellyspotters, Kevin points out a pit where a bunch of his other “biggest fans” have been left, apparently waiting for Kevin to come back for them. So this suggests that not only is this the first time Kevin has taken a fan jellyfishing with him just to torment them, he’s also left all of them in pits to fend for themselves and never told anyone where they were?? One of them is just lying there like their legs are broken?? It’s such a weirdly dark joke to put in the episode. What the fuck is wrong with Kevin??