The writers and producers of Seinfeld knew they’d reached a turning point in the show when they made “The Junior Mint,” the 20th episode of season 4. They’d gone from a show no one watched to a show everyone watched in earlier seasons; with “The Junior Mint,” they had become a show that could do whatever it wanted. And this was key to its legendary status: If you can make an episode about a Junior Mint falling into a body that’s sitting, cut open, on a surgical table, well, you certainly have a better shot at sitcom history than anyone else. (Whatever else you may try to critique in this episode, it is in no way cliché.) And let us not forget the also-cliché-free secondary plotline about Jerry forgetting the name of the girl he’s dating, his only clue that it rhymes with a part of the female anatomy. (“Mulva?”)

The writer responsible for this episode, Andy Robin, was new to the series when he landed this assignment, and he was traumatized by the experience, convinced he had “ruined” his favorite show. (He had particular quarrel with the “unsanitary” hospital conditions depicted.) In fact, he left the show after one season and took a while to recuperate before returning, this time with a writing partner to fortify his spirits and test his instincts. To this day, he hates the episode; and, coincidence or not, he eventually quit showbusiness to become a doctor. He presumably will never allow Junior Mints in his operating rooms.