There is probably no episode more iconic than the “Tea at the Treedome,” which is the debut episode for Sandy Cheeks, a mainstay in the SpongeBob franchise and one of the most beloved characters ever created from the mind of Stephen Hillenburg.
“Tea at the Treedome” is the third part of the first episode in Season 1 of SpongeBob SquarePants. It initially aired in the US in 1999. It follows SpongeBob thinking that he doesn’t need air to spend time with a newly made friend. But can a sponge survive without water? Read on to find out more!
Bottom Line up Front
This is the very first episode of SpongeBob SquarePants to air, and what an episode it is. It sets the tone for the entire series as a fun, light-hearted comedy about embracing yourself for who you are.
Meet the Land Squirrel
The episode starts with SpongeBob in an open field, following a jellyfish with his trusty net and thick brimmed glasses. He marvels at its quadruple stingers as he attempts to catch it in his net, only to entangle himself. The jellyfish floats away undisturbed.
Soon after, he hears a commotion in the distance. He runs over to the cliff’s edge to see a strange creature wrestling with a giant clam. Wondering what kind of creature it is, SpongeBob whips out his handy blue ‘Field Guide.’
He flips through the pages to discover that it’s an ordinary land squirrel. He witnesses the giant clam swallow the squirrel whole and springs into action, sprinting towards the clam to save the land squirrel.
SpongeBob quickly starts displaying his karate prowess with a flurry of random maneuvers, none of which seem to land on the giant clam. In a final desperate attempt to free the poor land squirrel trapped inside the clam, SpongeBob climbs on top of the clam and attempts to pry it open. To his surprise, the move seems to work as we see the clam inching open slowly.
Soon, however, we realize that the squirrel trapped inside is the one exerting her strength to push open the sealed clam to free herself. SpongeBob is initially flung away from the pair and runs back to fight the clam. In doing so, he finds himself in the erstwhile position of the squirrel – trapped inside the giant clam.
The land squirrel quickly jumps into action as it rushes to save SpongeBob. With a flurry of swift punches and kicks, the squirrel makes quick work of the clam, releasing SpongeBob from its captivity.
The released SpongeBob remarks that the land squirrel likes karate too, just as he does. He demonstrates a few moves as he asks her name. The squirrel tells him that her name is Sandy as the two go back and forth, displaying their karate moves while introducing themselves.
SpongeBob then asks her what she’s wearing on her head. Sandy explains that it’s her air helmet. SpongeBob asks her if he can try it on, to which Sandy tells him that she can’t possibly give it to him as she needs it to breathe.
In an attempt to impress his newly made friend, SpongeBob brags that he loves air and that air is his middle name. Sandy then invites SpongeBob over to her treehouse for some tea and cookies as she hands him a map to reach her place.
Air? What’s Air?
After his brief interaction with Sandy, SpongeBob rushes to Patrick’s house in a frenzy. He sees Patrick sunbathing with his shades on. He tells Patrick that he met a girl who wears a helmet full of air.
A confused Patrick enquires whether he means that she puts on airs. He explains that it’s just fancy talk and that if SpongeBob wants to be fancy, all he needs to do is hold his pinky finger up. The higher he holds it, the fancier he will be.
SpongeBob demonstrates an attempt to be fancy by outstretching his arm and pinky above his head. An impressed Patrick dubs him as SpongeBob FancyPants.
What Happens When You Put a Sponge Out of Water?
We then see the pair making their way to Sandy’s Treedome, with SpongeBob, flowers in one hand and his pinky still held high on the other. Patrick offers his encouragement as SpongeBob enters the airlock to the Treedome.
Inside the Treedome, we can see the following;
- The floor is made up of lush green grass with acorns littered about
- A hamster wheel
- A Treehouse
- A picnic table
- A birdbath
Soon after entering, SpongeBob notices that the water around him starts to drain away, and he starts to shrivel and flop like a sponge out of water. He panics as he realizes that there’s absolutely no water around him.
Sandy confirms his suspicion that there’s nothing but air in the Treedome. Although SpongeBob has extreme trouble breathing, he doesn’t admit it in front of Sandy. Au-contraire, he boasts about how that’s how he prefers his air as he performs an elite-level karate chop.
Soon though, we can see that SpongeBob is having trouble adjusting to the fancy thing called air as he inches forward, slowly and deliberately, inside the Treedome. Sandy gives him a tour around her Treedome as she explains that it has the ‘driest, purest, most airiest air in the whole Sea.’
As Sandy explains more about her unique Treedome in the middle of the Sea, SpongeBob makes a beeline towards a nearby birdbath and dives right into the shallow puddle of water, only to be punched out by the resident bird of the birdbath.
We see Patrick looking inwards from outside the Treehouse, cheering SpongeBob to keep his pinky up. We then see a disheveled and dried-up SpongeBob attempting to hand over the flowers he brought (Pinky still held high) to Sandy, who has to pry them away from his now dehydrated digits.
Sandy asks him if he’s okay. “I’m Okay,” mumbles SpongeBob. As soon as Sandy leaves to grab a vase for the flowers, SpongeBob sprints towards the exit of the Treedome but soon finds the courage to go back, Pinky held high, proclaiming;
“I don’t need water! Water is for quitters! I don’t need it! I don’t need it! I don’t need it!”
As soon as SpongeBob, with newfound confidence and zeal, walks back to the picnic table where Sandy left him, his resolve is tested yet again as Sandy brings back a vase full of ice-cold water.
As Sandy attempts to make conversation with SpongeBob, all he can focus on is the vase full of water and the condensation dripping down from it. We can see the absolute pain and agony that this dehydrated sponge is going through.
Although Sandy senses that something is off with SpongeBob, she hears her timer go off and leaves to get cookies. SpongeBob initially holds strong as he stares at the vase full of water as tells himself that he doesn’t need it. Soon though, we realize that SpongeBob is truly feeling the aridity on his pores as we get a close-up view of the anguish in his eyes.
The valiant Sponge can, however, hold on no longer as he yells, “I need it!” and jumps on top of the picnic table to consume the water within the vase.
A worried Patrick, still looking from outside the Treedome, yells at SpongeBob, reminding him to keep his pinky up.
SpongeBob yells out that he’s a quitter as he attempts to leave the Treedome. In an attempt to help his seemingly nervous friend out, Patrick himself enters the Treedome to offer some words of encouragement.
“Air is not good, Patrick, air is not good!”
Patrick reassures him that he’s just being shy and, like a good buddy, scrapes his dry body off the glass and carries him towards the Treehouse as he tries to comfort him by telling him that he’s doing perfectly fine and that he won’t let him blow this.
Patrick assumes that SpongeBob is merely being a shy sponge and trying to escape due to his nervousness. From the first episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, we can see the beautiful and selfless friendship between the two, which only blossoms further with time.
What Happens When Patrick Realizes There’s No Water Around?
Patrick starts carrying SpongeBob back to the Treehouse but only a few steps in, he starts feeling the changes;
- He starts to slow down
- He begins panting and sweating
- He can no longer hold up SpongeBob
- He falls to his knees and begins crawling on all fours
- He starts choking on this newly discovered thing called ‘Air.’
Patrick looks around him and bellows out, “What kind of place is this!?” as he runs back to the entrance of the Treedome. SpongeBob is quick to follow suit as they attempt to escape this hellish landscape once and for all.
“There’s no water in here!” exclaims Patrick as SpongeBob tells him that he tried to tell him this. They keep trying to open the airlock to the entrance but are unable to do so.
So, Is It Over for Our Lovable Sponge?
We then cut to a shot of the blistering sun, drying up everything that its rays touch. Sandy returns with a tray of Texas tea and cookies.
To her utter shock, she sees a dried and shriveled sponge and starfish duo lying on her grass, barely holding on to life.
Soon though, we see that Sandy has put fishing bowls on top of SpongeBob’s and Patrick’s heads and is pouring water into them. We can see the relief wash over the two as they realize that Water is absolutely essential to sea critters. Who knew!
“If ya’ll needed water, you should’ve asked.” Sandy says as SpongeBob and Patrick look sheepishly at each other, embarrassed.
She then fetches her tea and proposes a toast;
“To new friends.”
SpongeBob and Patrick raise their glasses up high but cannot take a sip due to the glass bowls on top of their heads. Sandy sees this and takes the teabag out of the glass and puts it directly into their head-bowls, as SpongeBob and Patrick raise their pinkies one final time as they sip and enjoy their tea and the company of their newly made friend.
Making friends is never easy. It’s daunting as we are always trying to put our best foot forward to impress others. And in doing so, we sometimes try to emulate what the other person might like instead of being true to ourselves.
That’s not sustainable in the long run. The best way to go about it would be to be honest and open right from the get-go and let the other person be friends with you for who you are, not who you’re pretending to be.
This episode exemplifies this in a much simpler, parsable way. Perhaps we can all learn a thing or two from these lovable sea critters.
Takeaways From the Episode
There are quite a few vital takeaways from this episode;
- To be fancy, you need to hold your pinky up high.
- Sea critters and air don’t mix.
- Most importantly, you don’t have to pretend to be someone else to be liked. It can lead to more harm than good.
FAQS About “Tea at the Treedome”
Answer: Sandra Jennifer “Sandy” Cheeks is a land squirrel that made her debut in Episode 1c of Season 1 of SpongeBob SquarePants.
Answer: The first episode of SpongeBob SquarePants to be broadcasted was “Help Wanted,” along with its sister episodes “Reef Blower” and “Tea at the Treedome” in 1999.
Answer: The very first time that we see SpongeBob and Patrick get close to their mortal demise is in Episode 1 of Season 1, “Tea at the Treedome,” where the two presume that they can live without water and almost dehydrate and choke themselves almost to the point of no return.
For more interesting reads, check out:
- SpongeBob Rock Bottom Guide
- SpongeBob Mid Life Crustacean Guide
- SpongeBob Villains Guide – More Than Nautical Nonsense