Bottle episodes to enjoy while self-isolating
By Cheryl Minns, Senior Columnist
If you’re feeling stuck inside due to social distancing and self-isolating recommendations, maybe it’s time to stop binging shows that feature worldly adventures and try something a little closer to home—like the “bottle episode” TV trope. This type of episode usually contains the show’s main cast confined to a single location for a specific amount of time. Some shows use the bottle episode trope as a way to save on budget, while others use it as a writing challenge to tell a gripping story with minimal locations and cast.
Here are three shows that used the bottle episode trope to keep their characters trapped at home, a feeling many people are becoming familiar with these days.
1. “Older and Far Away” Season 6, Episode 14—Buffy the Vampire Slayer
What could be more of an at-home bottle episode than the story of a lonely teenager wishing her family would stay home with her, only to have her wish granted by a magical being? Dawn’s wish turns Buffy’s birthday party upside down when she and her friends discover they can’t leave the house. Their trapped state forces the group to confront their inner demons and pour out their deepest feelings to one another—a common reaction for characters in bottle episodes. While the episode does feature new characters outside of the main cast, they quickly fade into the background when things get serious and the main characters need to come up with a plan to save the day.
2. “The One Where No One’s Ready” Season 3, Episode 2—Friends
For all of you trying to work from home and struggling with household chaos, this bottle episode about trying to get ready amidst everything going wrong will probably feel like your new Monday. As usual, Ross is up against a deadline that his friends don’t seem to appreciate. Monica obsesses over an old phone message, Joey and Chandler fight over a chair, Phoebe fusses over a stain on her dress, and Rachel can’t find anything to wear. Each character breaks down at some point, cracking under the pressure of trying to get ready in less than 30 minutes.
3. “Remedial Chaos Theory” Season 3, Episode 4—Community
Although house parties obviously aren’t happening these days, a bottle episode like this one can make that seem like a good thing. When the seven members of the Greendale study group get together for Troy and Abed’s housewarming party, Jeff suggests they decide who will get the pizza by rolling a six-sided die. With each roll, a new timeline is created in which a different character leaves to get the pizza and the other characters get into all kinds of trouble. This episode style—where the same scenes play out in slightly different variations—also makes it a reference to the film Groundhog Day, a film where the main character repeats the same day over and over again. Somehow amongst all of the comedic antics, the episode still manages to explore each character’s personal life and discover something new about them—a reoccurring theme in many bottle episodes.