Season 4’s “The Contest” is widely regarded to be the best episode in Seinfeld’s nine-year run. The storyline involves all four characters firing on all comedy cylinders, with a delightfully absurd premise — the quartet entering a bet to see who can go the longest without masturbating — and a sharp, smartly written script by series co-creator Larry David to back it up.

TV Guide once ranked “The Contest” as the single greatest episode in the history of television, and it’s certainly a strong contender. From the introduction of Estelle Costanza to an appearance by John F. Kennedy Jr., “The Contest” is filled with iconic moments.

10 “I Was Alone…”

In the opening scene of “The Contest,” Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer are sitting in Monk’s, talking about whether the guards at prison camps do the prisoners’ laundry. George joins them with a humiliated look on his face.

His friends ask him what’s wrong and he says, “My mother caught me.” They still don’t get it, so he says, “I was alone…” He explains that he started leafing through a Glamour magazine at his parents’ house, one thing led to another, and his mother caught him.

9 The Bet

Having been caught by his mother, George swears off ever “doing that” again. However, Jerry doesn’t think he can make it. George thinks he can outlast him and they decide to put money on it.

Kramer gets in on the bet and, with 50% more money on the table (because the guys think that, as a woman, it’ll be easier for her to abstain), Elaine joins in, too.


8 “I’m Out!”

Shortly after making the bet, Jerry notices a nudist in a window across the street. Kramer takes one look at her, heads over to his own apartment for a few minutes, and then returns.

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He slams down $100 on the kitchen counter and says, “I’m out!” Jerry, Elaine, and George are flabbergasted. They’re stuck for words as Kramer says, “I’m out! I’m outta the contest!”

7 Sponge Bath

When George’s mother caught him flicking through a Glamour magazine, she was so taken aback that she fell over and ended up in the hospital. So, he goes to visit her at the ward.

While he’s sitting at his mother’s bedside, a nurse comes over to give a sponge bath to the patient on the next bed over. She pulls over the curtain and George witnesses a steamy scene in silhouette and is driven insane by temptation.

6 Kramer Sleeps Soundly

Throughout the episode, whenever day turns into night, there’s a montage of the characters in bed, trying to get to sleep. The ones who are out of the contest sleep soundly, while the others can’t seem to get comfortable.

After Kramer is knocked out of contention, Jerry, George, and Elaine all toss and turn in their beds while he sleeps like a baby.

5 Master Of Your Domain

When the contest has been ongoing for a few days, Jerry and George meet in Monk’s to discuss their progress. They ask each other the now-iconic phrase, “Are you still master of your domain?”

The great thing about Larry David’s Emmy-winning script for “The Contest” is that it skirts around a controversial issue, tackling it head-on in a totally inoffensive way, implied through the use of colorful euphemisms like “master of your domain.”

4 Queen Of The Castle

After Jerry and George establish that they’re still master of their domain, Elaine joins them and tells an exhilarating story about how she met John F. Kennedy, Jr. at her health club and shared a cab with him.

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They ask her if, after all this excitement, she’s still master of her domain, and she boldly declares, “I’m the queen of the castle!”

3 The Wheels On The Bus

While being in the contest and dating a virgin causes Jerry to lose his mind, he distracts himself from the sexual frustration by watching kids’ cartoons. He sings “The Wheels on the Bus” as Kramer watches the nudist across the street.

Apparently, Jerry Seinfeld had never heard “The Wheels on the Bus” before shooting this episode, and had to learn the words before filming.

2 Elaine Pays Up

When JFK, Jr. showed an interest in Elaine at the health club, she had a moment of weakness. The following morning, she walks into Jerry’s apartment, hanging her head in shame, and puts $150 on the kitchen counter.

Jerry tells George, “All right, Costanza, it’s you and me,” and George replies, “And then there were two.” The series finale would later reveal that George cheated in the contest.

1 Marla Sleeps With JFK, Jr.

One of the hallmarks of Seinfeld’s storytelling was dovetailing narrative threads, and “The Contest” is a prime example of that. All the storylines come together at the end of the episode for several hilarious payoffs in one.

Marla, Jerry’s girlfriend, is horrified to hear about the contest and leaves his apartment. She bumps into JFK, Jr., who leaves with her instead of Elaine. In the final scene, it’s revealed that they slept together.

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