Honorable Mention - Gnomes
Again, mostly just because I saw it too many times and it got stale, this one didn't quite make the list. It is one of the better episodes of the season to be sure, and full of good laugh, but it just wasn't quite enough to make it.
In order to save Mr. Garrison's job, the boys are made to write a paper on current events. They are teamed up with Tweek (introduced here), and Tweek's father develops a grand scheme to use the kids to his advantage.
Tweek's father tells the boys they should write the paper on how big corporations come in and take over small businesses. Eventually, they are taught about business by a small race of Underpants Gnomes that only Tweek can seem to see as everyone else is ignorant to them. It's a great episode - check it out regardless of it not making the list.
Honorable Mention - Chickenlover
The episode that sparked the phrase "RESPECT MY AUTHORITA!" is, to me, only half-awesome. The main story is centered on Officer Barbrady and his illiteracy. He is sent back to South Park Elementary to learn how to read so he can capture a wanted criminal; a man going around South Park molesting chickens.
Though the episode doesn't have a whole lot going on other than Officer Barbrady showing off how dumb he is, it's not without it's greatness either. Things take off when Barbrady allows the kids to help by making them honorable deputies. Stan, Kyle and Kenny help Barbrady try to learn how to read so he can catch the perpetrator. But of course, as we all know, Cartman takes his "authorita" to the next level, and can't get enough of whacking people in the shins with his nightstick.
Again, a great episode overall for some, but for me it was only half-way there, and other episodes were just better overall.
#05 - Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls
For some reason, this was always one episode I've held close to my heart. It's likely being a fan of film, and all the jabs South Park takes at what a film festival is actually like. But there's even more going on here, and it actually has very little to do with Chef's balls.
A film festival comes to South Park in an attempt to seek out a small mountain town to move to. The main plot-line involves the boys finding Mr. Hankey coping with a polluted environment due to all the festival food. When Kyle tries to talk some of the festival attendees into going home because they're slowly killing Mr. Hankey, and the idea is twisted into another movie to make and show at the festival.
The best parts of the episode, I think, come from the movies themselves. They consist of quite a few stereotypes when it comes to independent film, including over the top artsiness, sexuality, and of course... gay cowboys eating pudding.
#04 - Ike's Wee Wee
'Ike's Wee Wee' consists of two parts... Take that how you may, but what I mean are the two stories happening within the episode.
First off, we have the boys trying to rescue Kyle's baby brother Ike from his circumcision. According to a panicked Stan, a circumcision means that Kyle's parents are gonna chop off Ike's penis. It's also here that we find out Ike's an adopted Canadian. I believe it's also the first indication that in the South Park Universe, Canadians have the flappy heads.
But what really and truly makes the episode is the side plot, involving Mr. Mackey. This is the one with the famous "drugs are bad" line in which Mackey loses his job after passing a sample of weed around the class room and someone pockets it. The whole drug subplot is hilarious, and balances out the circumcision plot to such a degree the episode could have just as easily been called "Drugs Are Bad, M'Kay"
#03 - Prehistoric Ice Man
It's kinda funny looking back on this episode in particular, as the big joke in it is that the "prehistoric ice man" is from 1996. At the time, he had only been frozen for just over two years. But now it's been almost twenty since the episode aired. The jokes referencing 1996 were a bit funnier at the time due to the fact that everything was still relatively recent. But I digress.
The episode features Stan and Kyle stumbling on a man who got frozen inside an ice cave. They bring him to the town's attention in hopes of some sort of reward, but they only get to name the "creature". Stan wants to call him Gorak, but Kyle wants to go with Steve, and it eventually culminates into a rivalry between two best friends.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mophesto takes the ice man in, thaws him, and discovers as mentioned before that he's been frozen since '96. The real treat comes when Steve/Gorak escapes and Cartman tries to help hunt him down with the aid of the Crocodile Hunter.
#02 - Merry Christmas, Charlie Manson
In 'South Park's second Christmas episode, the boys head to Cartman's grandmother's house for Christmas; Stan only able to tag along due to running away after being denied in the first place.
After being there for a little while (and getting introduced to the overall hilarity of Cartman's family), the boys come across Cartman's uncle Howard breaking in after escaping prison. Accompanying him, of course, is notorious mass murderer, Charlie Manson.
Howard and Manson end up taking the boys to the mall to meet Mr. Hankey, and Kyle ends up seeing the mall Hankey for the fraud that he is. Meanwhile, we see Manson's softer side come out as he obsessively watches whatever holiday special he can. This of course makes for an uncomfortably light ending of the episode involving a fully reformed Manson, teaching us about the importance of family. But of course the real reason to love this episode has nothing to do with Manson, himself. It's that Cartman, including little Elvin, whom Eric manages to render comatose by hitting him with a stick. It's family dysfunction at it's best.
#01 - Clubhouses
Call me crazy, but I have to give this one a lot of credit for providing us with a couple of firsts. Although that statement is, I think, highly debatable, I ask you to bear with me on this.
The plot involves Stan wanting to build a clubhouse with Kyle so they can play Truth or Dare with Wendy and Bebe. Cartman and Kenny end up competing with some pretty damn funny results. With this, I sort of claim this to be the first time we see "kids doing kid things" without something really crazy going on in the background. The only real subplot to this involves Stan's parents getting a divorce, and Stan's new stepfather doing that typical asshole stepfather thing.
With the divorce, however, I boldly claim this episode to be the first real "Randy" episode. Sure, he's a big deal now and everyone loves him, but he was still just Stan's dad back in the day; a straight man for the most part. Things are subtle here, but I think it's the first time we see Randy go to some sort of unnecessary extreme just because it's in his head that he should. But regardless of whether anyone agrees with me on these "firsts" or not, it's still a great episode, and one of the funniest of the season.