Honorable Mention - Freak Strike
This really does manage to be not only a great Butters episode, but also a great Cartman episode. It all begins when the boys are sitting around the TV, watching an episode of Maury Povich. As they see a variety of "freaks" come on the show, they learn that they get a prize at the end of the show.
In an effort to get their own prize from Maury, the boys get the Trekkie geeks from the 'Fourth Grade' episode to help. They make a fake scrotum to attach to Butters' chin, send him on the show, and Butters wins the prize for himself. Cartman, still wanting his, calls in with his own "fake freak" idea. They tell him they are looking for "out of control teens" instead.
Of course, this leads to the now famous teen trash Cartman, know for his line of "Whatever! I do what I want!" It's a very funny episode overall, and Cartman is probably the best part about it. But without him, the episode is almost forgettable, despite it's humor. I think it's just one of those episodes people love, but I just think Cartman has a few better moments.
Honorable Mention - Professor Chaos / Simpsons Already Did It
In previous episodes, Butters had become the replacement Kenny through a process of elimination done by Stan, Kyle and Cartman. In 'Professor Chaos', he is fired, goes home, and creates his evil alter-ego of the same name. His goal is to spread disarray and chaos around the world, but he does so as only a kid would think to. Things like swapping orders at a local resaurant, or attempting to flood the Earth with a garden hose.
Meanwhile, Stan, Kyle and Cartman seek out a new fourth friend in the style of a reality TV show. The decision, along with a few other major questions from the episode, is presented in a cliffhanger which is answered immediately. I always took this as Trey and Matt making up for messing with us about who Cartman's father was back between Seasons 1-2.
In 'Simpsons Already Did It', the plot continues despite the cliffhanger questions being answered. "Professor Chaos" continues to try to bring chaos to the world, but is constantly harassed by his sidekick, General Disarray (Dougie from 'Two Guys Naked in a Hot Tub') saying how the Simpsons have already done whatever he's planning. The subplot to this one involves Cartman ordering sea monkeys, under the impression they would take him away to a magical underwater kingdom. I always found the Professor Chaos elements to this two-parter great, but the subplots are relatively weak and forgettable.
#05 - Red Sleigh Down
While everyone else in the world has fallen in love with 'Woodland Critters Christmas', this one's actually my favourite Christmas episode of the series. Up to this point, they have been relatively innocent, but I swear this episode is Trey and Matt's answer to something like 'Die Hard' - only in the sense that it's a Christmas/Acton plot. It's otherwise clearly taking from 'Black Hawk Down' and 'Three Kings' (fitting, no?)
The plot has Cartman finding out that he's been such a bad kid. So bad that he basically has to do the best thing he can possibly think of in order to get presents. Not even curing Cancer would do the trick. His big idea - go spread Christmas cheer to the people of Iraq. With the help of the other boys, they head to the North Pole to find Santa and make it all happen. However, on the mission, Santa is shot down and taken hostage, and that's when the episode takes a brilliant dark turn.
In their desperation, the boys seek out Jesus to go save Santa, and it turns out that Jesus is actually a total badass. The episode is complete with a rather unexpected and surprising death. But what tops the episode is the tail end of it when, spoiler alert, Kenny comes back. I won't say how it happens, but it's kinda hilarious.
#04 - My Future Self n' Me
While the boys are playing in the woods, they find a joint some of the older kids left behind. No one wants to touch it to throw it away, however, because of all the PSAs they've seen on TV. Stan eventually gets the job done though.
Later that night, during a bad lightning storm, a strange man comes to the Marsh house. He claims to be Stan from the future, and tells stories about being in Juvenile Hall and being addicted to various drugs. Stan figures it all started when he touched that joint, and decides to be clean and study hard.
Stan asks Butters to tutor him, and upon going to Butters' house, he realizes that he too has a "future self" living with him. Soon enough, Stan uncovers the truth behind these future people, and, without saying too much, eventually it leads to Stan and Butters seeking revenge. I can't help but find the future people pretty damn funny through the episode, and there's a great gag at the end involving Cartman. Unfortunately, it's just one of those episodes where if I told too much of the plot, a lot of the humor is taken away from it. But check it out if you're a fan of the show. Stan and Butters actually end up making a pretty good contrast here.
#03 - Child Abduction is Not Funny
When Tweek has a run-in with a known child abductor, the parents of South Park become increasingly paranoid for their kids. With every fresh news report, the parents take on a new idea in order to protect their little ones, as they get increasingly more and more ridiculous.
In the meantime, the parents have Mr. Lu Kim build a wall in order to keep strangers out of town. In a very cartoonish subplot, he has to spend the whole time fending off an army of Mongolians. What I enjoy about this was that they straight up showed off in the beginning of the episode how Lu Kim is very much an admitted stereotype.
Cultural insensitivity issues aside, however, the best part of the episode has little to do with Lu Kim's wall. If anyone were to ask me to show them an episode of 'South Park' that illustrates the stupidity of the parents of South Park, it has to be this one. You just kinda watch them slowly get dumber and dumber as the episode unfolds, and their paranoia peaks.
#02 - Asspen
If you like 'South Park', and you have a particular love of 80's cheesiness, this is the episode for you! In an attempt to get away for a fun time, the boys parents take them all to Aspen for a ski trip. At this point, the fourth boy replacing Kenny is Butters.
Once there, the parents find themselves trapped in time share meetings where there seems to be no escape through the whole episode. As funny as that is, it's just the side plot. The rest of the episode acts as one giant 80's movie stereotype. Stan is harassed for no reason from a ski bully named Tad, and ultimately finds himself facing off against him.
For those of you who remember 'Team America' and the classic 'Montage' song, you can see it here first. Complete with that 80's montage, it takes place at a ski resort, it's a "save the rec center" story, the bully is over the top, and even the music that plays here and there consists of horrible versions of those 80's pop songs we all love. It's an episode I highly recommend to anyone looking for something a bit different when it comes to 'South Park', especially since it connects to nothing in continuity. It's practically 'South Park's answer to a bad 80's film.
#01 - The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers
Before I get into it, I should note that there is a bit of continuity between episodes that involves Kenny's (now dead "forever") soul existing within Cartman. It's not a bad idea to preface this episode with 'A Ladder to Heaven' in which we see how this works.
As far as this episode goes, however, it wins me over with the whole "kids playing like kids do" scenario. After watching 'Fellowship of the Ring', the boys get into it and start role playing. Stan's parents send them on a "quest" to bring the tape to the Stotch's so Butters can watch it. Unknowingly, however, the tape was swapped with a pornographic film called 'Back Door Sluts 9', known to be the "dirtiest porno of all time".
With all of the scenarios in place, the porno transforms Butters into a Gollum-like kid, who craves his "precious". The tape itself, if not obvious, takes on the role of the One Ring from the film. In the episode's own way, it plays out sort of epically, as it mimics so much from the three movies. Otherwise, it's just a lot of fun and somewhat nostalgic to the times you may have role played like this as a kid. It's definitely a personal favorite.