Ten Bottle Episodes Your Favorite TV Series Should Make Happen Immediately
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Ten Bottle Episodes Your Favorite TV Series Should Make Happen Immediately

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | October 1, 2013 | Comments ()

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We were discussing last week on the Station Agents the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad, and Joanna suggested that — if Vince Gilligan had another episode to work with — how nice it would’ve been if he could’ve slowed it down and limited Walter White’s time in a New Hampshire cabin to a single bottle episode. While it might have slowed the momentum of the series down, it could’ve worked as a brilliant bookend to “The Fly,” and provided a slick way to contrast Walter White on his way up with Walter White on his way down.

Given where Breaking Bad ended up, it’s hard to argue that such an episode would’ve been necessary, but it would’ve been cool. In either respect, it got me thinking about ideas for bottle episodes on other television series and opportunities for the showrunners to slow down the action and let us get to know the characters better in situations in which they are forced to be intimate, conversational, or self reflective.

The following ten bottle episode ideas need to be written and executed as soon as possible.

Parks and Recreation — Ron Swanson is trapped in the locked lunchroom of the Parks department on a Friday night with no way of escaping. He’s stuck there until Monday morning, and the only food left in the refrigerator is the veggie burger Chris Traeger left behind. Can a starving Ron Swanson make it from 5 p.m on a Friday night until 9 a.m. on a Monday morning without eating the veggie burger? It’s the immovable object (his hunger) vs. the irresistible force (his anti-vegetarianism). WHICH WILL PREVAIL?


Doctor Who — This may have already been done at some point, or at least some iteration of it, but in the post-2005 era, I’d love to see an episode where the Doctor and his companion do not go on an adventure, but instead, the entire episode takes place inside the TARDIS (and I don’t mean the extended TARDIS; I mean, just the control room). Maybe there is a small, but fixable malfunction that the Doctor spends the entire episode fixing, while carrying on a philosophical conversation with his companion about time travel, the nature of existence, and maybe his favorite destinations in time and space. It would be a great early episode for D12: They could slow the pace down, and just let us get to know the new Doctor so that we feel more invested in his adventures.

Mad Men — I know it’s been done many times already, mostly in sitcoms, but given how much time is spent in an elevator on Mad Men, I think there’s plenty of dramatic potential in an episode where Don and Peggy are trapped in one for an entire episode. They’d be forced to confront their issues with one another, and Don would have no choice but to hear Peggy out. It would also be interesting to see, while trapped together, if an emotionally honestly moment unleashes any of the pent-up sexual tension between the two.

Masters of Sex — It’s early yet, and this would obviously need to be held until a second or third season of the series (should it go that long), but with two naked strangers who are about to have sex (FOR SCIENCE) trapped together alone in a locked observation room, there’s potential for an interesting morality play. The forced intimacy might provoke the two human lab rats to look into each other’s lives, and transform the clinical sexual experience into an emotional one. I’m a simple man who enjoys the power of small moments, and I could see such an episode ending with the two putting their clothes back on an opting to go on a date instead of having sex together. I also think that Masters and Johnson could learn as much about sex by listening to talk people talk about it, as they could in watching to people engage in the act.

Modern Family — Luke finds out that a female classmate likes Manny, but he’s sworn to secrecy. Manny finds out that Luke knows, and Manny ties Luke up in the basement and tries to torture the information out of him using a D-cell batteries and nipple clamps. The entire episode takes place in the basement, and at the end of the half hour, Luke manages to free himself. When Manny chases Luke up the stairs to prevent him from escaping, Luke kicks Manny back down them, killing him instantly. TA DA!


New Girl — If New Girl is going to sustain itself long term, I’m sorry, but Nick and Jess eventually have to break up. The show thrives on sexual tension, and without it, the sitcom cannot continue to be creatively interesting. I like the idea of Nick and Jess being trapped in, say, an ATM vestibule (“I hate doors!”) overnight, and being forced to talk their way through to the logical conclusion of their relationship. When a bank employee releases them the next morning, we are hit with a bittersweet conclusion: They are no longer dating, but they become even closer friends.

The Good Wife — Kalinda is trapped for three days in a hotel room with her ex-girlfriend, who works for the FBI and has been assigned to protect Kalinda from a death threat. All the ex-girlfriend wants to do is talk about what happened to provoke Kalinda into breaking up with her. All Kalinda wants is for her ex-girlfriend to shut up, so Kalinda can be alone with her thoughts. After a day of non-stop jabbering, Kalinda finally finds a way to shut her up. It looks something like this, and goes on for hours.


Scandal — Due to a terrorist threat, the President’s mistress, Olivia Pope, and the President’s wife, Mellie Grant, are forced into an underground bunker together. They enter as enemies who loathe one another, and they exit six hours later as sisters in solidarity against the President and his sexual and emotional manipulation.

The League — I’m actually surprised this one hasn’t already been done, but here’s the scenario. They’re in an 8-team league. Four teams go to the playoffs. It’s the final game of the regular season. The six main cast members all have the same record, and they each have games against one another. The three teams that win join Ted in the playoffs; the three teams that lose enter the Sacko Bowl. The outcome of every single match-up will e determined by players in the Monday night matchup between the Denver Broncos and the New Orleans Saints. The entire episode takes place in Andre’s man cave, in front of the television, and involves a series of side bets. It all comes down to one final play, with three fantasy players (Peyton Manning, Eric Decker, and the Saints DEF) deciding the fate of the entire season. It ends with three people celebrating their victories, and three suffering humiliating defeats.

Justified — Boyd and Raylan are tied up in a barn together by a common enemy, and left alone to chew the fat for 42 minutes while working together to come up with an escape plan before they are shot and killed. Best. Episode. Ever.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • kirbyjay

    Why does everyone think that couples have to break up to create tension in the show? Why does the show have to be about tension? Why can't they come up with day to day situations that are funny to fill the time? Was the show's original premise really about the sexual tension between Nick and Jess? I, for one, get kinda pissed off when my favorite couples break up, it's like happy couples can't exist in a show. How about trying something new and find some comedy in their relationship?

  • Green_Eggs_and_Hamster

    I agree 98.3% Leave them together. If you break them up and have some contrived situation where they are still roommates, That is what will ruin the show. They got together early in the shows run, leave them together. Do you want to break up Ben and Leslie just to manufacture "tension"? Maybe Mr. Huxtable should have cheated on Claire and broke it off with her. Sure could have gotten more comedy out of that situation. And while it is not a perfect analogy since the show did die off a bit, should we have broken up Pam and Jim? Screw you. Let love live. Nick & Jess 4ever!

  • Berry

    I mostly agree with this. On a related note, whenever someone mentions the fabled Moonlighting Curse these days, I have to wonder if it's not actually the show-runners' hysterical fear of the so called curse than the curse itself that ruins shows. Because when writers start breaking couples up for stupid reason just to avoid some half mythical "curse", that's often when things get tedious, repetitive and just plain dumb.

  • Xander

    Orphan Black. Can you imagine the performance Tatiana Maslany will give in a bottle episode? Especially with a talented partner like Charles Dance. Or Peter Dinklage

  • Berry

    Actually, what I really want is for Kalinda and Alicia to be locked into a room together and not come out until their beautiful friendship is restored to all its former glory. And okay, maybe it has to be said, but if they want to make out at some point, that's perfectly fine with me (sexuality is fluid, mmmkay?). If they don't, well, I guess I could learn to live with that too.

  • ttb

    Ugh. The Good Wife is a well-written show, with a host of interesting characters, and ALL this site talks about is the Hot Ethnic Lesbian. Kalinda is so objectified here it makes me cringe.
    There are a hundred interesting character combinations that would have made an interesting bottle episode in that show.

  • Emm82

    Thankyou - at least it's not just me who saw the gif & thought oh for fucks sake!

  • Xander

    You know it's kinda weird that you suddenly latch on the ethnic thing. Everybody here is all about just her hotness and we would have been okay with her no matter the color or her skin. But here you come and try to insert race in a discussion about hot awesome lesbians. Just seems weird man

  • ttb

    I understand your point, but the reason I dropped the ethnic thing into there is I think that it's part of the discussion. She's completely and utterly fetishized.

    But even if we remove the ethnic element, my point stands. It's depressing that the best this site can come up with for this idea is erotic fan fiction.

  • Xander

    Well that's pretty much what about 30% of Pajiba is about. Fetishizing celebs.

  • e jerry powell

    Dustin, admit it: you want to play one of the test subjects in that MoS episode.


  • Welldressed

    My favorite episode of nearly every show I watch is a bottle episode. It's when we see all the best actressin'. Bring em on, show runners!

  • Thor

    That Justified one would be amazing. The writers always get really good dialogue out of Boyd and Raylan arguing.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Boyd and Raylan on baseball, astronauts, first times, high school hijinx, and most of all Harlan History. Oh hell yes.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Can that Justified episode just be the entire season, please? Raylan and Boyd escaping hill-folk is still one of my favorite moments in an excellent season. They may actually be my favorite duo on TV.

  • Guest

    Sexual tension between Peggy and Don? I don't think it's sexual, I think it's more a classic protege/mentor rivalry sort of relationship. Which is what makes it so interesting. Sexual tension between them would be boring, and they put it to bed in the first episode, where Peggy touches Don's hand and he tells her not to be an idiot.

    Oh, but also, the Raylan and Boyd would indeed be the best episode ever.

  • TheOtherGreg

    New Girl: "The show thrives on sexual tension"

    HA hahahahahahahaha


  • Belphebe

    This seems a lot less like a seriously random list and more like a peek into Dustin's fan-fiction notebook.

  • Maguita NYC

    That Good Wife gif though...

  • You had to be there.

  • I would watch the shit out of that Modern Family episode. It's the only natural way for the show to end.

  • Temmere

    I like the idea, but it would require me to believe that a girl likes Manny, and that is impossible.

  • Allijo

    I read the end of the Justified one wrong and thought you were killing off Boyd and Raylan AND WE WERE FIGHTING. Then I remembered I know how to read correctly.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Boyd and Raylan could never stay mad at each other that long! There love is deeper than a few nasty words and the occasional gunshot.

  • The longer Parks and Rec goes the more I think Ron is an annoying asshole. But that would be a good bottle episode. More meat loving Ron, less faux-anarchist Ron.

    That's one of the hottest gifs ever. Apparently I've been missing out on The Good Wife.

  • blacksred

    yes, yes you have

  • Ryan Ambrose

    Didn't Mad Men have the same premise described earlier for a bottle episode in "The Suitcase"?

    Though Pete Campbell trapped in an elevator with Roger Sterling for an entire segment would make for one of the most quotable episodes in the series.

  • BWeaves

    "Doctor Who — This may have already been done at some point, or at least some iteration of it, but in the post-2005 era, I’d love to see an episode where the Doctor and his companion do not go on an adventure, but instead, the entire episode takes place inside the TARDIS (and I don’t mean the extended TARDIS; I mean, just the control room). "

    Yup, already done in Season 1, 1963. It was done to save money and make the cost of the TARDIS interior worth the amount of money they paid to build it.

    It's also the episode in which William Hartnell calls part of the TARDIS the "fornicator" instead of the "fault locator." Since videotape was expensive and they figured nobody would watch it again, they never retaped the scene. The other actors spend the rest of the episode over enunciating "fault locator."

  • Uriah_Creep

    It's NEVER a bad idea to have a fornicator in your TARDIS.

  • J.P.

    Classic Doctor Who did that at the very, very beginning with "The Edge of Destruction". It was only the third serial of the show and served exactly the function you described - getting to know the Doctor and his companions without the context of a huge adventure. At just two episodes, it's about as long as an episode of NuWho.

  • Tinkerville

    Doctor Who just did that in the episode "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS." Amazing premise, awful execution. I wish we could get a do over.

  • The premise in the article was specifically that they had to be stuck in the control room, not the whole TARDIS. I agree that that episode did not live up to its potential.

  • Pentadactyl

    Aww, I liked it.

  • That Modern Family pitch might actually get me to watch the show again!

  • LucyKlein

    Get rid of Manny and Claire and I'd be willing to give it another chance.
    The Good Wife gif has now made me interested in the show.

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