Honorable Mention - Ginger Kids
The episode opens with Cartman giving a presentation to the class. In the presentation, he talks a lot of hate toward "ginger kids"; kids with red hair, pale kin and freckles. Kyle, being a redhead himself, decides that Cartman has gone too far with his hate speech, and needs to be taught a lesson. This is done by Kyle, Stan and Kenny breaking into Cartman's bedroom, and making him up to look "ginger", himself.
When Cartman wakes up, he sees the resulting makeover. He then has to face the prejudices of his schoolmates, whom he convinced to hate "gingers" in the first place. Due to the prejudice Cartman is suddenly facing, he forms the "Ginger Separatist Movement". Of course, he ends up leading them not unlike Hitler would have, declaring the "gingers" to be a "master race" of sorts.
I tend to enjoy this one as more of a "Cartman getting his" episode, and it does end with a pretty good punchline. By this point though, we've seen him take on the controversial Hitler role already, and it's just become a bit too much of his character. It takes me out of it just enough.
Honorable Mention - The Death of Eric Cartman
The episode opens with the boys waiting at Stan's house for Stan's mother to come by with some KFC. Once she arrives, she asks them to help with the groceries. Stan, Kyle and Kenny head out in an effort to make the process go fast, but Cartman stays behind and eats every piece of KFC skin, leaving the actual chicken behind. Kyle, Stan and Kenny decide he's gone too far, and choose to ignore him from then on. They even manage to convince their classmates to follow suit.
Through a series of events, including people ignoring him, Cartman believes that the KFC skin killed him, and that he's become a ghost. Eventually, he runs into Butters, who doesn't ignore him as he doesn't know what the other kids have been doing. Cartman takes Butters as the only one who can see him, and uses him to try to make amends to the people he's wronged. Through a montage, we see some call backs to characters like Scott Tenorman and Sally Struthers.
The episode is punctuated by some hilarity with Butters. He ends up just spilling the beans on being able to see Cartman, and he's taken to get professional help. Some of the tests you see him subjected to are actually pretty horrifying and make no sense, but his general reactions are hilarious. Of course, this all ends with a funny punchline as well. It's a great episode, and would easily make a #6 if this list went any higher.
#05 - Die Hippie, Die
I have to appreciate the fact that this episode is a big call-back to Cartman's hatred for hippies. It's something that's been mentioned enough in past episodes, but we've never really seen anything come of it until now. Another interesting thing about this one is that it's one of very few that portrays Cartman as a hero of sorts.
In this episode, Cartman runs a pest control service. He goes door to door, checking the area for hippies in an effort to eradicate them. They are pretty much portrayed as cockroaches, as they're hard to get rid of, and slowly infesting South Park. Having studied hippies thoroughly in the past, Cartman, theorizes a massive infestation. This would come in the form of a music festival taking place in South Park, the likes of which the town has never seen. Meanwhile, Stan, Kyle and Kenny are informed by the hippies about corporate evils, and they end up joining in the hippies' cause.
In a parody of 'The Core', Chef, Randy and oddly enough, Butters' mother, Linda all eventually assist Cartman in his mission. I can't help but laugh out loud at some of the "hippy exterminations", as so many of them react in such a stoned manner. It's pretty clever, and in my mind, one of the better Cartman-centric episodes.
#04 - Best Friends Forever
The new PSP is out, and Kenny is the first kid in 'South Park' to get one. However, he seems to have a lot of trouble giving it a rest. He's constantly playing a game called 'Heaven vs Hell', never really taking his eyes off the screen. Once he reaches level 60, in old 'South Park' tradition, Kenny is killed by an ice cream truck. The difference is that here, we see the aftermath for the first time (I think) since the movie.
In a 'Last Starfighter' parody, it's revealed that God created the PSP in order to look for a "Keanu Reeves" (a chosen one). Kenny is needed by Heaven to fend off Hell's armies, using the video game he's become so good at. Upon accepting, Kenny is revived, but in a vegetative state. In Kenny's will, he begins to say what he wants done if he was ever in such a state, but the message is cut off. During this time, Cartman creates an elaborate scheme, claiming that he was Kenny's "Best Friend Forever". This is all in an effort to have Kenny's feeding tube removed so he can get his hands on his PSP. Meanwhile Stan, Kyle and Kenny's parents wage a media war against him, wanting the feeding tube to be left in.
It's another great Cartman scheme episode, much like 'Kenny Dies', but less hidden as far as what Cartman's scheme actually is. By this point, Cartman is definitely, mostly a manipulative and villainous character, so nothing could surprise us anymore. I also just love the homage to 'Last Starfighter', and when we see the big climactic scene, it's quite a laugh.
#03 - Trapped in the Closet
Who can forget the infamous "Scientology Episode"? This was the episode responsible for making Isaac Hayes quit the show after eight and a half years of being perhaps the closest secondary character the show had. Since then, Hayes has unfortunately passed away, but he's still remembered fondly as Chef; 'South Park's general voice of reason.
After taking a personality test, it's revealed to Stan that he's depressed, and that Scientology might be right for him. Using his bicycle savings, Stan pays to get the help he's told he needs. After a series of tests, Stan gets "high readings", and the President of Scientology deems him the reincarnation of Scientology's founder, L. Rond Hubbard. When a group of Scientologists surround the Marsh household, they seem convinced that this theory is true and have come to welcome Hubbard back. This includes Tom Cruise, who meets Stan in his room. Believing that he's talking to Hubbard, Cruise asks if he likes his acting. However, Stan tells him that his acting is just "okay", and Cruise locks himself in Stan's closet, pouting, and refusing to come out. The rest of the episode is about various celebrities attempting to talk Tom out of the closet, while Stan attempts to write a continuation of the Story of Xenu.
Hayes left the show due to their insensitivity toward the religion of Scientology. This was a fine line, because a lot of people thought Scientology was kind of a joke when it became so seemingly mainstream. Despite his valid points, it's hard not to find this episode funny though. It was further nominated for an Emmy, and reached several lists as one of 'South Park's biggest achievements. So I suppose I wasn't the only one who found it to be well done.
#02 - Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow
Stan and Cartman start the episode off, playing in a boat Cartman claims to belong to his uncle. While messing around, they end up losing control of the boat, and crash into the world's largest beaver dam, flooding the town of Beaverton. As one may imagine, this is 'South Park's answer to the Hurricane Katrina incident. However, its more a farce on people figuring out who is to blame for the disaster, and leaving actual assistance for the victims a secondary thought.
"Global warming" ends up being the main thing to blame for the flooding of Beaverton. As Randy and other scientists look at their data, it's claimed that the full effects of global warming will be seen "two days before the day after tomorrow" (in other words "today"). Of course, most of this episode ends of being a parody of 'The Day After Tomorrow', which in and of itself has pretty ridiculous misconceptions of how global warming works. In other words, you're not gonna be outrunning severe cold, and locking yourself in a room where it can't get you thanks to a little fire.
This is a very good Randy-centric episode, and he does a great job here of showing off his own stupidity. It's funny to watch things get so out of hand here, when all Stan has to do is fess up to what he did. Of course, Cartman spends the episode happy to be off scot-free. Once again, this episode ends on a hilarious note that highlights the overall stupidity and stubbornness of the adults of South Park.
#01 - The Losing Edge
This one's for all the Randy fans out there, as it's easily one of the best Randy-centric episodes. He ends up playing a combination of Rocky Balboa and that angry, obnoxious dad at any kid's sporting event.
It turns out that none of the kids on the South Park Cows actually enjoy playing baseball. Their only real reason for playing is based on their parents' enthusiasm for the sport, but they actually find it very boring. After the Cows win their final game, they become very enthusiastic at having the rest of the summer to enjoy themselves. However, coming first in their division, they are informed that they have to participate in the post season playoffs. As a result, the team discusses doing what they can to lose on purpose, as they really don't care much about playing and just want the break. The side plot to this involves Randy being a trash-talking dad, and it's where "I'm sorry, I thought this was America" comes from. The running gag is that he's constantly getting arrested after causing disturbances at the little league games.
As mentioned before, the Randy story line heavily parodies 'Rocky'. He comes across an even more obnoxious father who calls himself "Bat Dad", and hesitantly challenges him. All the while, his wife Sharon keeps trying to get him to calm the hell down, and some of the dialogue between the two is just hilarious. It clearly shows us Randy living in his own little world while Sharon remains perfectly sane, trying to be a voice of reason. It's the perfect episode to watch Randy go, what I like to call, "Full Randy'.