Carrie: ‘Great love, what does that even mean?’
Charlotte: ‘It means a love that changes you, that shakes you to your core, after which you’re never the same.’
For many women of a certain generation, Sex and the City was a ‘great love’ – and, it can be argued, we were never the same. The show first came into my life when I was the impressionable age of 16. I wanted to be a writer, had no idea about boys and spent all my money on the latest boob tubes and pedal pushers to hit Miss Shop.
Sex and the City spoke to me, which, now that I think about it, was part of its problem – teenagers could relate to Carrie and, to a certain extent, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha. I can’t help but wonder what 30 something women thought of them back then.
These days, some of us talk about SATC like an ex that disappointed us but still holds a place in our hearts. So here, like a mix tape, is my inconsistent, messy and completely subjective list of every SATC episode ranked from worst to best, chronicling my love-hate relationship with a show that both influenced and infuriated me.
94. Ring a Ding Ding
Also known as the episode where Carrie has money problems, this is the one I love to hate. Following Carrie’s break up with Aidan, he gives her 30 days to come up with the money to buy her apartment. She suddenly realises she’s spent $40,000 on shoes and, after failing to get a bank loan, visits Big.
In other words, she goes to her ex – the very reason for her most recent break up – wearing what the Instagram account ‘Every Outfit on SATC’ informs me is ‘head-to-toe Chanel’ to childishly and helplessly say, ‘You know money, I want you to teach me what you know about money.’ I’m not exactly on top of my finances, but even I know the basic principles of saving and that spending $400 a pop on 100 Manolo Blahniks equals $40,000.
Kate Erbland articulates her rage at this episode a lot better and in more detail than me in her article for Film School Rejects. If you have a similar opinion, I suggest you check it out.
On a side note, wouldn’t Richard’s personal shopper have been fired anyway for writing ‘Love Richard’ on the card?
93. Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little
Carrie’s squealing is super annoying in this episode. However, she is outshone by Berger in the insufferable stakes due to his reaction to Carrie’s minor criticism of his book – the scrunchie. Berger, don’t ever read internet comment about your work – it’ll tip you over the edge.
What’s good about it?
Sam and Smith’s game of secret service sluts and Miranda’s date telling her that he has diarrhea.
92. Great Sexpectations
Did TIVO sponsor this episode? The way Miranda gushes about its benefits foreshadows her role in Sex and the City 2 as Abu Dhabi travel guide reader-outer.
What’s good about it?
It’s the first appearance of Smith, arguably one of the best Sex and the City men of all time (not counting Stanford).
91. To Market, to Market
Carrie is in her late 30s and still acts neurotic before her Berger date. Who buys six outfits before a date? Who is so irresponsible that they oversleep on the morning they have the honour of ringing the bell at the Stock Exchange? The woman gets to sleep in every day!
Okay, maybe I’m a little bitter that SATC portrayed the life of a freelance writer as one where you could work occasionally while starting wistfully out of your window, have time to wander the city on a weekday and be in a position to buy a gazillion designer outfits.
What’s good about it?
Miranda’s awkward answering machine message to Steve. Comedy gold.
90. Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl…
What’s with Carrie ditching her boyfriend without saying goodbye after Alanis Morissette kisses her at the spin the bottle party? And for all of Sex and the City’s open mindedness, this episode sure is judgemental of bisexual people. It promotes the idea that bisexuality doesn’t really exist, that ‘it’s just a layover on the way to Gay Town.’
Charlotte is infuriatingly judgmental and ignorant when she says, ‘I’m very into labels. Gay, straight, pick a side and stay there.’ It’s excruciating to watch this episode.
What’s good about it?
Miranda expressing her fears about Steve moving in and seeing all her flaws when a jar of marinara sauce splatters over her perfect floor.
89. Hop, Skip and a Week
Carrie gets jury service. Berger acts insecure and mopey. It’s pretty much a relief when Berger breaks it off at the end of the episode. Yes, admittedly it’s on a post-it, but that sets the scene for one of the best episodes of Sex and the City, which we’ll get to later…
What’s good about it?
In the new world of Tinder dating, who hasn’t made a joke about using Charlotte’s exit strategy for a bad date – ‘Something bad happened?!’
88. The Perfect Present
Yet another episode about Berger being angry.
What’s good about it?
Jennifer Coolidge yelling at her party guests that she cut up her bedspread to make her handbags.
87. Lights, Camera, Relationship!
Berger is insufferable yet again. However, this episode redeems itself when a naked Smith delivers a monologue on stage and Samantha starts to see him in a different light – he’s exposed to her in a way that’s more than purely sexual.
86. Sex and the Country
Carrie is dragged practically kicking and screaming to Suffern New York – it’s only, like, an hour from the city. She unsurprisingly yet still infuriatingly wears heels.
What’s good about it?
Miranda yelling at Steve to get proper treatment for his testicular cancer.
85. Belles of the Ball
Carrie invites Big to Aidan’s country house and tells Miranda that balls come in pairs, like earrings – how insensitive can you be?
What’s good about it?
Samantha telling Richard Wright where to go when he doesn’t hire her.
84. Baby, Talk is Cheap
This episode shows Carrie at possibly her most irritating and selfish. When she decides she wants Aidan back, she orchestrates a double date with Miranda and Steve with no regard for how Steve might feel led on or how Miranda might feel uncomfortable.
I mean, sure, Carrie has a good point when she says that when a man attempts a bold gesture it’s usually considered romantic but when a woman does it, it’s considered desperate and psycho, but Aidan’s 180 turn at the end of the episode – his willingness to give things another shot – is hard to understand. Yes, he does act distant in the next episode but after this episode, it’s surprisingly hard to root for Carrie to get Aidan back.
While we’re at it, she acts like a moron when she thinks Aidan can see her over email, which really gets me frustrated at Carrie’s phobia of technology – her refusal to get a cell phone, back up her work or check her email.
And while I’m on this rant, let me say something about the first SATC movie. If all it takes for Carrie to take Big back is to actually check her emails and see that he’s copy and pasted other people’s poetry, I’d be monumentally pissed off if I was Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte. After all the time, energy and support they gave to Carrie, they get a phone call from Big to come to a wedding she didn’t invite them to. Grrr.
What’s good about it?
Here’s the thing – while this episode shows Carrie at her worst, it also shows Charlotte at her funniest. A friend of mine who isn’t really a SATC fan still laughs when he recalls the scene where the girls – Sam included – say that they would never do ‘tucuslingus’ to a guy and Charlotte asks, ‘You wouldn’t?’
It’s also pretty funny when Carrie misunderstands Aidan’s question about what her email said and she starts telling him about her welcome email from AOL.
83. The Big Journey
Carrie’s refusal to accept most forms of mainstream technology leads to her wasting Samantha’s time on a train ride to San Francisco. And for the whole trip she moans about a pimple – note what I said earlier about teenagers being able to relate to Carrie.
82. Drama Queens
The fact that Carrie and Charlotte both acknowledge that Carrie shouldn’t obsess over her perfect relationship with Aidan doesn’t lessen how frustrating it is that she does. Also, Charlotte acts nuts toward her married friend when she suspects him of deliberately trying to keep her and his single friend Phil apart.
81. The Cold War
This seems like a filler episode, a way to kill time before we get to the main event – the finale. Charlotte’s dog gets her period at a dog show, Sam makes a sex tape after she’s called a fag hag and Miranda adjusts to her new life in Brooklyn.
80. Let There Be Light
The episode where Carrie takes Petrovsky as a ‘luvah.’ It’s a of a bit ho-hum episode, except when it shows Samantha’s guilt over her treatment of Smith. Rather than let Sam come across as an arsehole, Kim Cattrall manages to make us sympathise with her.
79. The Domino Effect
One of a handful of episodes that touches on mortality, Big has an angioplasty. Cue some over the top crying from Carrie and the appearance of a ridiculous Candy Striper outfit that I can only imagine would do more harm than good for Big’s heart?
78. What’s Sex Got to do with it?
Carrie’s having hot sex with Ray, the jazz musician with ADHD, and gets annoyed when Samantha trumps her news of having the most intense orgasm of her life with her own news – that she’s in a relationship with a woman.
It’s interesting to see Samantha explore the unknown – not only of lesbian sex but also of a relationship, period. However, we have to endure yet more screen time given to Charlotte and Trey’s sex life and Miranda doesn’t have much to do except eat chocolate cake.
77. Games People Play
Carrie obsesses so much about Big that her friends send her off to see a shrink. I laugh out loud when Charlotte admits that ‘it’s out of our league.’ Carrie ends up having a pretty obvious epiphany that she picks the wrong men after she sleeps with Jon Bon Jovi.
What’s good about it?
We see Miranda’s nipple in a game of peek-a-boo with a guy in the building next door. We feel her humiliation when she realises that she was playing peek-a-boo alone.
76. The Power of Female Sex
I vaguely remember that this episode was promoted as the first time the ‘c’ word was said on television. It comes out of the mouth of artist Neville Morgan, who paints Charlotte’s vagina for an exhibition.
The episode is mildly disturbing because Carrie becomes an accidental prostitute, but it does lead to an interesting discussion about sex and exploitation from Miranda and Samantha’s very different but both matter of fact viewpoints.
What’s wrong with it?
The cringe worthy moment when Carrie floats in the air. What’s up with that?
75. Plus One is the Loneliest Number
After all Samantha and Carrie went through in the episode ‘Cover Girl,’ Carrie still says some mean things to her when she shows up to Carrie’s book launch party fresh from a chemical peel.
Samantha: ‘Women shouldn’t have to hide in the shadows because they’ve had cosmetic surgery, which society nearly demands of them.’
Carrie: ‘Make that political statement elsewhere. This is my party and you’re scaring people.’
What’s good about it?
Miranda giving in to the fact that she and Brady come as a package deal.
74. The Catch
There’s a lot of commentary on the internet about how Carrie is a horrible friend and yes, I often agree with that, but man, she’s a good one to Charlotte when she reminds her how lucky she is to be marrying a great guy like Harry. As for Carrie’s love life in this episode, well, Howie is the early naughties equivalent to a Tinder Nightmare – handling rejection by calling Carrie a bitch.
Samantha’s subplot deals with the little annoyances of living alone, such as not being able to zip up a dress or take off a bracelet. I find this relatable – I’ve had countless mornings where I’ve struggled to get a zip up on my dress and fleetingly questioned my singledom. It’s usually a weird moment of self-contemplation on an otherwise mundane and routine weekday morning, like when you catch a glimpse of your reflection in the bathroom mirror at work and suddenly notice the lines on your forehead or how tired you look.
Sorry, I’m off on a tangent – writing this list has made me a little contemplative. I guess that’s the power of Sex and the City. Even the littlest moments or throwaway lines can speak to you. As unrealistic and unattainable as these women’s fashion, careers or apartments are, the show speaks to some of the truths of everyday women, whatever those women’s truths may be.
What’s wrong with it?
Miranda’s nastiness towards Debbie, Steve’s girlfriend. She criticises her acrylic nails and candle gift and Samantha chimes in with the insult, ‘Women with candles have replaced women with cats as the new sad thing.’ Hey, what about the sisterhood?
73. Politically Erect
Samantha dates a short guy and Carrie dates the politician who’s into golden showers.
What’s wrong with it?
While I generally watch SATC appreciating the context in which it was made, I don’t really think it’s acceptable that Carrie’s not registered to vote.
72. Anchors Away
The first episode to be filmed after 9/11, this one is all about Carrie’s love/hate relationship with New York City. Despite the rudeness, traffic noise and garbage, love wins out in the end and I can’t help but think that my relationship with SATC is much like Carrie’s with NYC.
What’s wrong with it?
Carrie squeals like a banshee when she’s caught in the rain and it’s disconcerting to see Samantha acting insecure over Richard, papering her neighbourhood with flyers and listening to his voice mail over and over.
71. Cover Girl
This is the episode where years of Carrie’s subtle judgment of Sam at the brunch table comes to a head (pun intended) when Sam finally gets pissed off and confronts her about it.
It’s also great to see an episode that harks back to the old days of Miranda’s active and at times cringe worthy sex life BC (before child) by having her hook up with a guy from Weight Watchers who’s an overeater (in more ways than one).
70. Ghost Town
This episode features what’s probably the best fight between a couple on SATC (and that’s including Carrie and Aidan’s one in ‘The Good Fight’ about the Rogain and the Speedstick). ‘You want fireworks?!’ Maria roars. ‘Kapow!’
69. Defining Moments
‘Carrie likes a jaaaaaaaz man.’ Chris Noth plays Big in a way that’s charming and funny enough for us to understand why Carrie will always be hung up on him but also jerky enough to warrant Sam giving him a piece of her mind – much to Maria’s awe.
68. Escape from New York
67. Sex and Another City
As the disastrous Sex and the City 2 shows us, Sex and the City can fall flat when the girls go on an out of town caper. However, this two-parter, while not up there with the greatest episodes, isn’t too bad. This episode aired when the show was arguably at its most popular, evidenced by the rollcall of celebs that did cameos – Matthew McConoughey, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Vince Vaughan, Carrie Fisher and Hugh Hefner. The high point is Miranda ripping her shirt off on the bucking bronco.
What wrong with it?
Charlotte’s storyline about Trey’s impotence is a yawn-inducing downer, pun intended.
66. Easy Come, Easy Go
A lot happens in this episode. Charlotte gets engaged and Big tells Carrie that his marriage isn’t working, sparking the start of their affair. However, the episode will probably be best remembered as the one where Sam dates a guy with funky tasting spunk.
65. The Big Time
The worst thing about parties on boats? You’re forced to stay until the end. Carrie finds herself trapped on a boat not only with Big, but also with the head over heels Charlotte and Trey. When I rewatch this episode, I sometimes laugh out loud at Carrie’s joke that there’ll be a ‘man overboard’ situation if Trey tells the story of how he and Charlotte met one more time.
64. An American Girl in Paris Part Une
63. An American Girl in Paris Part Deux
In my mind, I can’t really separate this two-parter series finale, so here they are at numbers 64 and 63. No matter how gorgeous these episodes look, how incredible the fashion is and how moving Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha’s storylines are, why does a happy ending have to be synonymous with a conventional happily ever after?
SATC creator Darren Star, giving a Kindle Singles interview, sums it up best: ‘I think the show ultimately betrayed what it was about, which was that women don’t ultimately find happiness from marriage. Not that they can’t. But the show initially was going off script from the romantic comedies that had come before it. That’s what had made women so attached… At the end, it became a conventional romantic comedy.’
62. Just Say Yes
Aidan’s proposal is tainted due to the fact that Carrie, the girls and we know that her heart isn’t in it. Even the title of the episode has a ring of resignation to it – pardon the pun.
The storyline does have a comical twist when we learn that it was Miranda who picked out the pear shaped diamond ring that makes Carrie throw up.
What’s wrong with it?
Trey and Charlotte’s fertility storyline is tedious. We had just gotten over their never ending sexual problems and then we had to immediately endure this miserable plot.
61. No Ifs, Ands or Butts
This is the episode that addresses Carrie’s smoking head on. She stoops to her lowest point (literally) for the sake of her habit when she picks her cigarette up from the gutter. The way the show’s writers liken her quitting to a break up with a long-term boyfriend is cute and clever.
And who could forget Charlotte’s date with the bad kisser? We’ve all been there, am I right?
60. A Woman’s Right to Shoes
This episode treads territory already covered in the season 1 episodes ‘The Baby Shower’ and ‘Bay of Married Pigs’ – the cold war between single and married women. This time, it treads the territory in silver Manolo Blahniks.
59. What Goes Around Comes Around
Carrie can’t stand the fact that ‘someone in New York hates me that much’ – namely, Natasha – so she tracks her down to make amends. Not only does she crash Natasha’s lunch, she drinks from her water glass – the nerve!
What’s good about it?
The comic subplots save this episode from being an eye-roll inducing hour devoted to Carrie’s self-absorption. Think of how Miranda rips off the hot cop’s belt and roars, ‘I’m no Mena Suvari, but I’m great in bed!’ and how college student Sam Jones responds to Sam’s complaint that he’s getting all her fucking calls with, ‘If you’re getting all my fucking calls, that explains why I’m still a virgin.’
58. Luck be an Old Lady
This out of town caper works a bit better than the two-parter LA vacation because of two contradictory yet equally poignant quotes. The first comes from Sam, who gives Richard the best break up line ever – ‘I love you Richard, but I love me more.’ It was a line so good, in fact, that it was recycled in the Sex and City movie.
As the last of the girls hits their late-30s and ‘falls off the table,’ so to speak, the message of the episode is that what’s ahead for these four single women is hope and opportunity. In Sam’s case, it’s the opportunity to reclaim her sense of identity before she became insecure about Richard. In Charlotte’s case, it’s the hope that she’ll find someone to love, hence her refusal to be dragged down by Carrie’s cynicism.
As for Carrie, it’s not Charlotte’s impassioned speech about wanting love in her life that softens her. Instead, it’s the aforementioned second poignant quote of the episode. As she watches the sunset, she overhears an old woman articulate the beauty of everyday togetherness with the simple words, ‘You and your pink sky.’
What’s wrong with it?
The way Carrie implies that Charlotte looks like a whore when she dolls herself up for her thirty-faux birthday – she even calls her ‘Miss Atlantic Slutty.’ That’s rich coming from someone who wore a ‘naked dress’ on her first date with Big!
57. Boy, Interrupted
Carrie reunites with her high school boyfriend, played by David Duchovny, and finds irony in the idea that, ‘I broke up because I thought come on, there must be better guys out there. Turns out, there aren’t.’
There’s also a storyline about Miranda and Robert getting together, but this episode belongs to Stanford. His relationship with Marcus is finally given some meaningful airtime when he finds out Marcus used to be an escort. In the end, Stanford and Marcus rise above their detractors (well, Anthony) and reconcile.
I’m completely in love with the closing moments, where Carrie dances – alone and content – to the glorious song ‘If You Leave Me Now’ by Chicago.
What’s wrong with it?
Oh, Geri Halliwell! Are you really that bad an actress? On a sidenote, it always bugged me that they never explained what happened to Marcus. Stanford ends up with Anthony? WTF?
56. Out of the Frying Pan
Kim Cattrall manages to make Samantha’s cancer storyline watchable by portraying it with just the right mix of uncertainty and confidence. The episodes never veer into downright depressing territory, but this one comes pretty close thanks in no small part to Petrovsky bluntly telling Carrie, ‘My friend died.’
However, positive support and energy win when Smith gives Sam ‘the best head of her life’ by shaving his and she arrives at his premiere rocking the Li’l Kim look.
55. Four Women and a Funeral
This episode deals with how some single women can struggle with loneliness. Miranda buys an apartment by herself then almost chokes to death and has a panic attack. She worries she’ll die alone, but then – in a private, self-congratulatory moment – she raises her coffee mug and decides to get over it.
54. The Freak Show
The third episode of the second series is notable for the fact that it’s the last to have characters break the fourth wall and talk to the camera. A lot of SATC commentators see this as a blessing and talk about how dated the technique looks. I, on the other hand, am a fan of the talking heads approach. Maybe that’s because I was only 16 when I first watched SATC and I thought the technique was edgy and cool. But even now, I think it works. I mean, when the show started, it was about Carrie gathering research for her columns. It made complete sense.
So anyway, ‘The Freak Show’ is early SATC in its purist form – a stand-alone episode that focuses on the themes the show is known for: freaky men, New York, insecurity, ageing, bad dates and, of course, sex. Having a character called ‘Mr Pussy’ gives the episode its signature shock value.
53. The Fuck Buddy
While the show had by this time abandoned its talking heads approach, this episode, like ‘The Freak Show’, is for early Sex and the City purists. It’s simply about no-strings sex and bad dates. Plus, Miranda walking away from her verbally abusive boyfriend and telling him to ‘never, never’ call her again is awesome.
52. Old Dogs, New Dicks
An episode that deals with the age-old question – ‘Can you change a man?’ Sam finds out you can when she runs into an old boyfriend who now impersonates her.
The episode gets to a relatively high spot on this list due to Sam’s witty words of wisdom:
Sam: ‘Honey, no man is perfect.’
Carrie: ‘I’m not looking for perfection. I’m looking for slight alterations.’
Sam: ‘Be careful with alterations. If you pull the wrong thread, everything falls apart.’
What’s wrong with it?
Charlotte is pretty judgmental and horrible when she complains about her boyfriend’s uncircumcised penis. The fact that he acts like a jerk after he gets the snip doesn’t make up for it.
51. Unoriginal Sin
To be honest, I really did like season five because it didn’t feel the need to pair Carrie up with someone. Instead, it gave us a break from the Biggage and Aidan drama to focus on Carrie’s relationship with herself and the city, as well as her career.
Carrie’s acknowledgement that she’s becoming too cynical is a realistic landing spot for people as they get older – whether single or coupled up. However, as Charlotte demonstrates in this episode, being cynical can sometimes be the easier choice. It’s optimism that sets you up for disappointment.
What’s wrong with it?
Sam admits to the girls that she’s back with Richard and Carrie asks, ‘How about this for a column? Desperate women who will believe anything.’ It’s quite possibly the meanest thing she’s ever said to Sam (and this episode is before things come to a head in ‘Cover Girl’).
50. Are We Sluts?
Miranda finds out she has chlamydia and has to write down a list of everyone she’s slept with, but the real scene stealer is Charlotte’s boyfriend Alexander, who unknowingly shouts during sex, ‘You fucking bitch, you fucking whore!’ It’s a pretty funny episode if you ignore the disturbing parts, which I do.
49. Three’s a Crowd
Carrie learns that Big was married once before, Charlotte contemplates doing a threesome with some self-entitled manipulative jerk she’s seeing, blah blah blah.
The real entertainment value comes from Miranda, who sees her shrink because she’s upset that the girls won’t choose her for a threesome. The infamous line, ‘If your friends won’t go down on you, who will?’ sums up her trademark humour perfectly.
This episode deals with the issue of infertility in a more subtle and humorous way than it would in Charlotte’s future storylines. After Miranda finds out she has a lazy ovary, she considers freezing her eggs – something she defends in epic fashion to her date: ‘I don’t need to be lectured about science by a man who’s doing crop rotation on his forehead.’
47. A ‘Vogue’ Idea
In the season four episode ‘Time and Punishment,’ Charlotte hysterically demands that Miranda get behind her choice to quit her job for impending motherhood, to which Miranda responds, ‘You get behind your choice.’ In a way, ‘A Vogue Idea’ reverses the situation. This time, it’s Miranda who’s feeling insecure about impending motherhood and angrily lashes out at Charlotte, who is planning her baby shower. Charlotte ends up assuring Miranda that she’ll figure motherhood out just fine.
While I’m annoyed that Carrie winds up drunk the first time we ever see her enter an office to actually work, it’s refreshing that she takes steps to get out of her writing comfort zone and work on her skills with the help of her tough as nails editor Enid.
46. Oh Come All Ye Faithful
In the season one finale, Big can’t tell Carrie she’s the one. This lays the groundwork for the series six finale when he finally says the words she wants to hear.
45. The Monogamists
‘That would mean that everything he ever said that I interpreted as sincere is subject to interpretation. In that case, what I perceive as his feelings for me may only really be reflected projections of my feelings for him.’ Ugh! Carrie’s complicated Big obsession really hits its stride in this episode, which ironically ends with her simple question to him, ‘Don’t you wanna stand still with me?’
This episode is also about blowjobs – specifically, Charlotte’s refusal to ‘put it in her mouth.’ Sam’s disbelieving look, a forkful of food in her mouth, is iconic.
Meanwhile, Skipper receives a phone call from Miranda and instantly breaks up with his girlfriend while he’s still inside her. It just goes to show that even a loveable loser like Skipper, who’s heard every break up cliché in the book, can act like an arsehole when it comes to matters of the heart.
On a sidenote, Steve was a bit like Skipper 2.0, wasn’t he? I wonder what would have happened if the two characters had ever met.
44. The Caste System
Aka the episode where Carrie and Big say I love you. There’s a crystal duck purse involved, Carrie has straight hair and Sam dates a guy who has a servant.
However, the best part of this episode is how it deals with the issue of money between Miranda and Steve. Miranda laments the fact that ‘if a single woman has money it’s a problem to be dealt with.’ This leads to an awkward scene in a suit store and a break up.
Comic relief comes in the form of movie star Wiley Ford, who mistakes the gallery’s fire extinguisher for a piece of art. Another memorable scene is when Upper East Side hostess Sarina Bush doesn’t serve any brown food or drinks at her party.
43. The Drought
I tend to roll my eyes at this episode’s central dilemma – Carrie’s fart in bed. I mean, I appreciate that it’s not really about the fart. Rather, it’s about Carrie’s worry that Big won’t like the real her, warts, no makeup, imperfections and all. But it’s just so much drama and I certainly don’t think she should have flipped out so much when pouring her heart out to Miranda.
This episode is often prized as one of SATC’s standouts, but I think the episode ‘Attack of the Five Foot Ten Woman’ explores Carrie’s insecurity that she isn’t perfect in a more effective way.
42. My Motherboard, My Self
I usually avoid re-watching this episode because I don’t like shows that remind me of mortality. Yet I also think my refusal to re-watch is testament to how great an actress Cynthia Nixon is for giving us such a realistic depiction of grief. The episode cuts a little close to the bone for someone (me) who doesn’t want so much reality with her Sex and the City.
I really like how the storyline focuses on the two least emotional SATC women – on how death forces Miranda to deal with her emotions and inadvertently makes Sam deal with hers. And who didn’t choke up a bit when they saw Steve at the funeral?
What’s wrong with it?
The whole backing up, Sad Mac storyline of Carrie’s. She idiotically doesn’t back up her work and is ungrateful when Aidan gets her a new laptop that she can carry around like a purse. I wanted one of those so badly!
41. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
This is the episode where Charlotte and Trey get married and Carrie tells Aidan about the affair. Yet even with all this stuff happening, it still can’t manage to top the unforgettable episode that came before it – ‘Running with Scissors,’ where Natasha discovers the affair and cracks her tooth on the stairs.
However, let’s not forget that this episode gifted us with the phrase ‘See you next Tuesday’ and had Miranda posing as a stewardess at a speed dating event. ‘Do you have a boyfriend in every port?’ her date asks. ‘Every airport,’ she breathlessly replies. Oh Miranda, you have the quickest wit of them all.
While Carrie is introduced to the ‘Tom Cruise of families’ and deals with her boyfriend’s premature ejaculation problem, the real issue is between Charlotte and Samantha, two polar opposites of the group when it comes to their views on sex and relationships.
Sam sleeps with Charlotte’s brother Wesley, which causes Charlotte to cry, ‘Is your vagina in the New York City guidebooks? Because it should be, it’s the hottest spot in town. It’s always open!’ Of course, everything works out in the end and the two make up, however their clash in ideals would be further teased out later in the episode ‘Frenemies’. But we’ll get to that…
I’m not Charlotte’s biggest fan, but the way an Elizabeth Taylor documentary inspires her to put on a killer pink dress, hold her head high and go to Brady’s first birthday party after her miscarriage is very cool.
Said birthday party is where Miranda and Steve finally get back together. We also get to laugh at Carrie’s cringe worthy first phone call with Petrovsky and Samantha’s dyed pubic hair.
What’s wrong with it?
I feel sorry for Debbie and Robert, who are celebrating Brady’s birthday while Miranda and Steve are declaring their love for each other in the laundry room.
38. The Awful Truth
This has to be the funniest chapter in Miranda’s sex life, when she starts talking dirty with Spring Roll Guy. Can’t remember exactly what she says? Here’s an example – ‘A big, throbbing, rock-hard sausage!’
37. I Love a Charade
There are two words to describe this episode – funny and lovely. The comedy comes not only from guest star Nathan Lane, but also from Miranda. ‘There’s a pink suede elephant in the room’ is arguably the funniest line of the episode.
Miranda also gifts the episode with two of its lovely moments – when the sight and smell of lilacs entices her to sleep with Steve and, later, call him from the wedding. And while the wedding ceremony is surprisingly moving, the most surprisingly lovely line of all comes from Marcus. As Stanford and Carrie wonder why Bitsy is marrying Bobby, he casually muses, ‘Maybe he just makes her laugh.’
36. Ex and the City
Rather than keep Carrie reeling in shock or wallowing in depression over the news of Big’s engagement, this episode gives us a bittersweet ending where the girls joyfully sing ‘Memories’ and Carrie wistfully tells Big, ‘Your girl is lovely Hubbell.’ That’s the power of great friends… and Barbra Streisand.
35. Hot Child in the City
I think I’ll always see Kat Dennings as Bat Mitzvah brat Jenny Briar. This episode also gives us what I consider to be Carrie’s craziest outfit – those pink and purple leggings with the matching/clashing top, complete with bandana. Hey, remember when those triangle-shaped head hanky things were all the rage?
Laugh out loud moments come when Miranda calls herself a 34 year old nerd and a stoned Carrie throws chicken out of a bucket.
34. Attack of the Five Foot Ten Woman
I see this episode as an extension of season one’s ‘The Drought,’ where Carrie farts in bed and fears she isn’t perfect enough for Big. This same insecurity surfaces when Carrie reads about Big’s wedding in the paper. Through her tears, Carrie describes Natasha as ‘just… you know, shiny hair, style section… Vera Wang. And I’m the sex column they run next to ads for penile implants.’
This is the scene that I think puts the episode above ‘Ex and the City,’ an acclaimed episode about Carrie coming to terms with Big and Natasha’s engagement. Now Carrie is having to come to terms with their marriage and this episode deals with it by focusing on the fact that while a woman’s biggest enemy can be herself, it’s tragically often the woman she’s criticising or comparing herself to that brings out her insecurities.
The episode mixes sad and funny by picking up the humour in the second half, when Carrie attends a Women in the Arts benefit hoping to impress Natasha. The humour is decidedly black considering that the storyline exposes how women can act downright nasty to each other. Hell, Carrie calls Natasha an ‘idiot’ for her misuse of the word ‘their.’
Come to think of it, almost all of the women’s relationships outside of their core circle are problematic. Just listing some from the top of my head: Lainey (The Baby Shower), Charlotte’s old sorority sisters, Nina G, Charlotte’s lesbian friends… hmm… that may be an article for another time!
33. All or Nothing
This late season three episode shows how even a person as independent and confident as Samantha can feel lonely and hopeless – even though she has to be hit with the flu to experience it.
Despite this episode acting as the big lead up to Natasha’s discovery of the affair in the next episode, ‘All or Nothing’ belongs to Samantha. After she listens to Carrie’s confession, she winks and says it’s not her style to judge. It’s that one tiny facial expression that sums up what’s so great about her.
32. Change of a Dress
This episode is great for three scenes. The first of these is the ending, when Aidan and Carrie finish their relationship after she learns that he cannot trust her. The second is the scene in the wedding dress shop, where things turn from comical to concerning in the time it takes to rip open a horrible lace dress. Question – how the hell did Carrie do up all those tiny buttons on the back of the dress?
The third scene is the most touching. After a whole episode of Miranda faking an ‘it’s a boy!’ face with as much gusto as she faked orgasms with Josh in season two, we hear her gasp with genuine exhilaration when she feels her baby kick for the first time.
31. Critical Condition
The awesomeness of this episode comes from the storyline featuring Miranda and Samantha. Miranda is hurt that Sam has barely acknowledged that she had a baby, so Sam gives Miranda her hair appointment and babysits Brady. And we all remember how Sam’s new vibrator comes to the rescue when Brady’s chair breaks.
The reason this episode isn’t higher up the list is due to Carrie’s obsession with ‘the face girl’ Nina Katz. At least Miranda, Sam and Stanford call Carrie out on how self-absorbed she’s acting.
30. Valley of the Twenty-Something Guys
On the surface this episode is a seemingly frivolous one about how hooking up with a younger guy can seem so hot by night and so not in the harsh light of day. However, it’s also an episode where Carrie realises she has to move on to another stage in her dating life where the men are more mature and complicated, like a New York Times crossword puzzle. I’m a fan of the episode’s cute ending, when she regrets looking back as she walks away from Big.
Overshadowing all of this, however, is the fact that this is the infamous anal sex episode. The scene in which the the women offer Charlotte their opinions about what she should and shouldn’t do (based on their own values and personalities) is one that SATC is best remembered for.
At the time, this show was breaking new ground, so the taxi driver’s reaction through his rear-view mirror probably matched what many viewers felt – shock (to which Miranda incredulously responds, ‘Hello, you’re driving?’) and amusement that he was able to laugh and enjoy the hell of a show these women were putting on.
And so we jump from one episode about Carrie transitioning phases to another. ‘Catch-38’ brings up an interesting conundrum for Carrie, slightly different to the one she faces in ‘The Baby Shower’ when she thinks she’s pregnant and wonders if she’s ready. In this episode, Carrie is no longer in her early 30s. She’s 38 and, regardless of whether she feels ready to have a baby, decision time is now or never.
This episode epitomises what Richard Lawson, writing for Vanity Fair, articulates so beautifully about season six: ‘Carrie investigates the weight and worth of expectation and tradition as one ages, the expected options seemingly starting to wink out of existence while other, odder ones flicker into being.’
All that said, the star of this episode is the nun Samantha befriends in the oncologist’s office. What a heart-melter it is when Sam scores an appointment for her.
28. La Douleur Exquise!
While I admit that Carrie flinging the Big Mac is simultaneously awesome and heartbreaking, it overshadows a pretty great storyline happening elsewhere in the episode. Namely, Stanford’s frequenting of an underwear fetish chatroom as Rick9Plus. The storyline eventually takes a nervous Stanford to a real life underwear fetish club where he has a meet-cute with an adorable guy and offers to buy him a beer.
In a world where Stanford is surrounded by a whirlwind of other people’s sex lives – not just of those at the sex club, but Carrie’s too (at least in the early episodes) – Stanford’s unwavering sweetness and vulnerability make him one of my all time favourite characters. While I’ve changed my favourite SATC woman over the years, Stanford is forever.
27. Bay of Married Pigs
Carrie sees her married friend Peter’s dick in the hall of the couple’s holiday house. Later, over lunch, Sam asks how big it was and I haven’t looked at an oversized pepper grinder in the same way again.
SATC often flirted, pun intended, with the idea that Charlotte and Samantha are more friends by association rather than real friends due to their very different views about sex and relationships. Remember when Charlotte told Sam that she only made her a bridesmaid because she didn’t want her to feel left out? Burn! The fact that Samantha would have preferred not to be a bridesmaid in the first place was perhaps an even bigger burn. Think about it. What would they talk about if Carrie and Miranda weren’t there to bridge the gap between the polar opposite views they bring to the (brunch) table?
This episode lays that tension bare on said brunch table when Charlotte, frustrated at her lack of a sex life with Trey, gets angry at Sam for the way she talks about sex. Sam retaliates by saying, ‘That girl needs the stick out of her ass and a dick up her coochie pronto.’
This leads to a memorable scene where Charlotte ends up being the ‘Samantha’ of her old sorority clique. Meanwhile, Samantha meets Claire-Ann, whose offer to blow a stranger under a table in a restaurant brings out the ‘Charlotte’ in Samantha.
In the end, it’s pretty cool that the first phone call Charlotte makes after she and Trey successfully have sex is to Sam. I guess they do have something to talk about, after all.
25. Where There’s Smoke
Send the girls to an FDNY calendar benefit and give them too many Staten Island Iced Teas and here’s what you get – one of their funniest nights out. Sam’s attempt at making conversation with beefcake firefighter Ricky is hilarious and their sex scenes are wild.
Most of the episode wrestles with the idea that women secretly want to be rescued. The storylines meet this idea halfway. For instance, Miranda is physically incapacitated after surgery and therefore has no choice but to let Steve help her. And even though the politician Bill Kelley rescues Carrie from a night of wandering around Staten Island waiting for the morning ferry, she’s the one who knows the directions.
What’s wrong with it?
Okay, this whole equal rescue thing. I feel it went out the window by the final episode.
24. The Good Fight
Even though it’s essentially about couples fighting, this episode is one of SATC’s funniest. This is the episode of the cardboard baby, after all, as well as Carrie’s line, ‘You can stay here with your boxes of shit and your shoe eating dog and you can knock yourself out putting on the Rogaine and the speed stick.’
23. Models and Mortals
This season one episode has what I think is one of the best opening scenes of the series. Nick Waxler’s friends like to IQ test the models he brings to dinner by asking them which old movie stars they’d have liked to fuck when they were younger. Fed up with answers like Charlie Sheen, they tell Nick to stop with the models. Enter Miranda, who one of the friends clumsily describes as ‘so obviously not a model. In a good way.’
The episode gets bonus points for starring a young Gabriel Macht – aka Harvey Spector – as well as sharing this thought from Big: ‘But the thing is, after a while you just wanna be with the one that makes you laugh, you know what I mean? Okay, see ya.’ With lines like this (it’s almost up there with the famous ‘Abso-fucking-lutely’), it’s really not that hard to see why Carrie falls for him.
22. Was it Good For You?
Miranda gets cum in her hair at a tantric sex class. That’s enough to get this episode to number 22.
21. Secret Sex
Notable for the appearance of the ‘naked dress’, I like how this episode spends a bit of time on someone outside of Carrie’s core group – Mike, who is having great sex with sweet cheese shop assistant Libby but doesn’t want to introduce her to his friends. Wisely, Libby dumps him. You go girl.
20. The Cheating Curve
This episode effectively leverages the different morals and values of the four women to spark a healthy debate about what constitutes cheating. I think the reason I like this episode so much is the razor sharp wit and intelligence of the dialogue. Take this exchange, for example:
Carrie: ‘Someone’s definition of what constitutes cheating is in direct proportion to how much they themselves want to cheat.’
Miranda: ‘That’s moral relativism.’
Carrie: ‘I prefer to think of it as quantum cheating.’
Samantha: ‘The fact is, the act of cheating is defined by the act of getting caught. One doesn’t exist without the other.’
In a nice little twist on the episode’s theme, Carrie feels guilty that she’s cheating on her friends with Mr. Big, an affair that’s exposed when she memorably gets her diaphragm stuck and a newly manicured Samantha has to get it out.
19. The Man, the Myth and the Viagra
This episode focuses on ‘urban relationship myths.’ For instance, did you ever hear the one about the guy who couldn’t commit? The woman broke up with him and moved to Kansas. One night, she comes walking home in the rain (always, in the rain). He stands there in front of her door with an engagement ring. He says, ‘Marry me,’ and they live happily ever after.’
By the end of the episode, Carrie gets commitment phobic Big to finally meet her friends and Miranda and Steve actually play out their own little urban relationship myth. It’s the one where the cynical woman runs through the rain to get the guy.
18. They Shoot Single People, Don’t They?
What a difference punctuation makes, eh? Carrie’s ‘Single and Fabulous?’ magazine cover causes the girls to make some less than fabulous decisions. Sam lets herself get sucked in by a ‘we’ guy with bad intentions, Charlotte hooks up with her handyman and Miranda fakes orgasms with Josh. As for Carrie, she gets blind drunk and almost goes home with a young Bradley Cooper. While that sounds good in theory, Carrie realises that it would be the first time in her life she’d ever had sex to validate her life.
The good ol’ fashioned lesson? Don’t let society’s opinion of what you should and shouldn’t do dictate how you live your life. Let’s raise our Tartini glasses to that.
17. Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
Miranda’s pregnancy upsets Charlotte and causes Carrie to reflect on the abortion she had in her early 20s. However, what makes this episode so compelling is the way Cynthia Nixon portrays Miranda ultimately deciding to keep the baby.
What’s wrong with it?
Samantha and Lucy Liu coming to blows over a Birkin bag.
16. Twenty-Something Girls vs. Thirty-Something Women
I originally watched this episode when I wasn’t even in the twenty something bracket and loved it. Thirty seemed like a lifetime away, something abstract that I couldn’t even fathom. And now that I’ve just turned 35, I find that I still enjoy this episode.
A highlight is Nina G’s gloriously bitchy insult, ‘You stood in line at Studio 54. I stood in line at Studio 54… the movie!’ The fact that this movie is now considered retro means that, years later, the takeaway message of this episode is that everyone gets older. That’s the true common ground between Twenty-Something Girls and Thirty-Something Women. Can’t we all just get along?
15. All That Glitters
Aka the one where they go out to gay club night Trade. Being a woman who at one point made a living from being a woman in a world of gay men (I was an online editor for London’s GaydarRadio), this episode was, for many years, an inspiration, a validation and a mirror.
14. Sex and the City
The episode where it all began. I distinctly remember the shock and delight I felt when Miranda, in the scene where the four women are at a restaurant celebrating Miranda’s birthday, described ‘Linda Fiorentino f-ing that guy up against the chain link fence’ – complete with shoulder thrusts. It set the tone for the rest of the series.
13. Take Me Out to the Ballgame
In the season two opener, Carrie is obsessing over her break up with Big and going out with the new Yankee, Charlotte is preoccupied with her boyfriend’s habit of playing with his balls, and Miranda is fed up with her friends’ obsession with Big, balls and small dicks. ‘How does it happen that four smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends? It’s like the seventh grade with bank accounts. What about us? What we think, we feel, we know?’
And if you think that Miranda’s impassioned speech makes this episode great, it’s made even greater in the closing scenes where Carrie ends up at a payphone tearfully saying, ‘I know things are really weird between us right now, but I need to talk. Will you meet me at our place in 15 minutes?’ The big reveal is that it’s Miranda waiting for her instead of Big.
12. The Turtle and the Hare
‘We looked like the bitches of Eastwick.’ That’s how Carrie describes the iconic shot of her, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda dressed in black at the wedding of Brooke, a socialite who has settled with a man she once described as ‘more boring than exposed brick.’ Miranda’s deadpan answer, ‘Who cares?’ to Bernie Turtletaub’s question, ‘Do you think the pears in this tart are bosc or bartlett’ is Miranda at her classic best and Charlotte’s venture ‘down the rabbit hole,’ so to speak, with her vibrator is one of SATC’s most famous storylines – one that likely lifted the sales of vibrators everywhere and goes through the mind of women buying one to this day.
11. The Chicken Dance
From one SATC wedding to another – the one between Miranda’s house guest Jeremy and Charlotte’s interior designer friend Madeleine. The sheer pink dress Carrie wears is my favourite SATC outfit (big call, I know), but the best part of the episode is when Miranda gifts Jeremy and Madeleine with the hideous dancing frogs. It’s an even funnier gift than the pastel condoms she brings to Lainey’s baby shower.
10. Time and Punishment
This episode was languishing near the bottom of my list because of Carrie’s refusal to stop seeing Big at Aidan’s request and the way she repeatedly pleads with Aidan, ‘You have to forgive me.’ But when I remembered just how much the good bits overshadow the bad, this episode catapulted to the top ten.
The good bits – Aidan comes to Miranda’s rescue when she sprains her neck and can’t get up from her bathroom floor. Miranda then calls Carrie out on her bullshit when she comes over with the ‘good’ bagels (minus the cream cheese).
The best bit – things get heated between Miranda and Charlotte when Charlotte chooses to quit work to focus on motherhood. SATC had always used the four women’s differing attitudes towards sex, relationships and life choices to spark spirited, healthy debates, but this episode considers what happens when these different ideals clashed. The answer is not cut and dry, and lies somewhere in the notion that we have to learn to respect and support each other’s choices.
I understand that the death of Lexi is symbolic, that it indicates some sort of closure on the earlier chapters of the four women’s lives. My problem is with the fact that Lexi is portrayed as a tragic figure of ridicule. However, while I see this episode as both a turning and pain point in SATC’s legacy, I nonetheless hypocritically feel like it’s one of the show’s most powerful episodes.
Carrie and Miranda’s fight in ‘Splat’ showcases just how complex SATC can be. I agree with Emily Nussbaum, writing for the New Yorker, when she says that SATC’s real strength is ‘to let every side make a case, so that complexity carried the day. When Carrie and Aidan break up, they are both right. When Miranda and Carrie argue about her move to Paris, they are both right.’
This complexity is probably why I’ve put this episode at number nine on my list, but the two episodes that followed at numbers 64 and 63. This complexity is probably why you’ll have a different opinion to me about what episode should be number one and what should be 94. It’s why some people love Aidan while others don’t. It’s why we all have our own favourite SATC woman.
Aka the episode where Carrie and Miranda have their first real fight. While it’s a doozie, we know there’s no real danger that they’ll stop being friends. On the contrary, they respect each other’s opinions enough for their outbursts to actually hit home and maybe do some good.
It’s also the episode where, after half a season of acting enigmatic and stiff upper lipped, Trey finally talks to Charlotte about the fact that he didn’t really want to get married to anyone and that his impotence problems happened right after they got engaged. We knew (or at least hoped) there was more to the man than just an ‘alrighty.’
7. The Baby Shower
While ‘Bay of Married Pigs’ and ‘A Woman’s Right to Shoes’ deal with the idea of some sort of cold war between single and married people, ‘The Baby Shower’ does it better. How? By using the talking heads technique that I’m so fond of. Getting a glimpse into the past lives and secret thoughts of the mothers that live beyond the ‘invisible fence’ helps us see them as rounded out human beings rather than the Stepford drones Miranda makes them out to be, albeit hilariously.
The rivalry between Sam and Lainey provides a lot of the entertainment value thanks in no small part to Lainey’s smug nastiness. On a sidenote, I wonder what little Todd or Shayla would be up to to these days.
6. Running With Scissors
SATC never shied away from graphically portraying physical sex. After all, ‘sex’ is in the show’s title. It makes sense then, that when it came to an episode that dealt with how sex causes pain, they wouldn’t shy away from showing that pain in a graphic, physical way. Actual blood is shed over Big and Carrie’s affair and Natasha winds up in the emergency room.
Charlotte has an important role to play in this episode. She is Natasha by proxy, saying to Carrie, ‘They took vows. Vows he broke. I’m getting married in three weeks. How would you feel if someone did this to me?’
Charlotte humanises Natasha. She is no longer the ‘idiot stick figure with no soul.’ That’s what makes the consequences of Carrie’s actions all the more real.
5. The Ick Factor
Against a gorgeous autumn backdrop, Steve and Miranda get married and Samantha tells the girls she has breast cancer. I love how so much of the poetic poignancy of the episode comes from the connection between Miranda and Samantha with a simple line – ‘I expected more from you.’ The focus on the interaction between the two least emotional women out of the four friends makes for what is arguably SATC’s most touching episode.
What’s wrong with it?
Carrie being given a couture dress by Petrovski and how they waste the time of the McDonald’s staff member trying to serve them by dancing pretentiously under the golden arches. Blergh.
4. The Post-It Always Sticks Twice
This is, without a doubt, one of SATC’s funniest episodes. Think Carrie’s meltdown in front of Berger’s friends and the line, ‘The day I got arrested for smokin’ a dooooooobie.’
Seeing Miranda exude confidence in her skinny jeans is refreshing, while a stoned Carrie laughing when her jean buttons pop after too much banana split is gold. As we saw when Carrie was dating man-child Wade Adams, a stoned Carrie is a funny Carrie.
What’s wrong with it?
Charlotte’s first world problem that it’s inappropriate to make a big deal about her second wedding. The woman has a man she loves and doesn’t have to work. It reminds me of Chandler’s rant about Ross in Friends – ‘My wallet’s too small for my fifties and my diamond shoes are too tight!’ The older I get, the more Charlotte irritates me.
3. The Real Me
This episode has one of the best lines to ever be uttered on SATC and it’s delivered by one of the best characters – Stanford. ‘Oh my god, she’s fashion road kill,’ he exclaims as Carrie falls on the runway. Yet she picks herself up and high-fives Heidi Klum. It’s glitzy, glam, funny, fabulous and SATC at its shiny, self-empowering best.
2. I Heart NY
Big plays ‘Moon River’ to Carrie and recalls how, when he was a boy, he’d watch his parents get ready for a night on the town and mistook the lyrics ‘two drifters’ for ‘two twisters.’ This is the episode that gives Big a heart. It also gives Samantha more range and Brady a name. Just beautiful.
1 The Agony and the Ex-tasy
Maybe this episode is particularly poignant for me because I just celebrated my 35th birthday single and with lifelong friends. As Carrie sits in a restaurant thinking she’s been stood up on her 35th birthday, there is something very real about the moment when a woman at the next table shrieks, ‘25 – fuck, I’m old!’ The scene is relatable and universal. Women everywhere will at some point experience a moment that makes them contemplate their age – if they’re very lucky. Ageing is a privilege. As Sam says in this episode, ‘You’ve got to grab 35 by the balls and say, ‘Hey world, I’m 35.’’
And, of course, Carrie is not alone. She has her friends, who that night vow to be each other’s soulmates. The episode epitomises what is undeniably good about SATC. At its core, it’s about friendship. That’s why I’ll heart SATC forever.