Today marks the 15th anniversary of the single greatest South Park episode of all time: "Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery." That's a bold statement on your correspondent's part but he means every word of it.
The episode, from the show's third season, featured a guest appearance from nu-metal act Korn at the peak of its controversy, a match made in heaven for the show that has generated more controversy than any before or since. Matt Parker and Trey Stone decided to portray the band as the exact opposite, a play off of the PG-rated crime solving Scooby Doo gang, complete with Hanna Barbera style-animations for the band members. The band must help the boys solve the case of the pirate ghosts that are terrifying the town's residents and preventing the annual Halloween Bash at the town's docks. Shenanigans ensue.
Korn would go on to premiere its track "Falling Away From Me" at the end of the episode (that's the musical news to take from this article, if any). Your correspondent is ready to defend his claims that this is the best episode in the show's history by presenting the best five moments/quotes, by his estimation. Feel free to weigh in on your favorite parts in the comment section...there are no wrong answers here.
05) "Oh I don't want to dig up my dead grandma because I'm such a goodie two-shoes!"
Cartman has always been an excellent character but we miss the days when he was less of a conspiracy theorist and just a fat a--hole. He taunts Kyle for not wanting to exhume his recently deceased grandmother for the purpose of scaring the fifth graders, an action that sets most of the episode's more disturbing plot points in motion. Cartman's childish nature continues throughout the episode, as he sings Christmas carols in anticipation of getting presents, mistaking his mother's Antonio Banderas blow-up doll as an early gift.
04) "What the hell is that thing?"
Officer Barbrady is the character we miss the most from South Park's early days, specifically for his talent at delivering simple sentences with hilarious intonation. The aforementioned line happens when Korn's bumblebee/bird hybrid friend Nibblet appears to help the gang capture the pirate ghosts. The bizarre organism fills the role of a Scooby Doo character and also steps up to ruin Cartman's day by popping "his" Banderas doll.
03) "I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter 'p'!"
Parker and Stone wanted to make sure viewers knew right away that they wouldn't get the Korn they expected (unlike Cure frontman Robert Smith, who appeared in Season 1's "Mecha-Streisand." He can turn into a giant moth in real life, just like the show). The band is crammed into a Volkswagon van curiously similar to the Scooby Doo gang's Mystery Machine. Like any good-natured nu-metal band, Korn is seen playing "I Spy" to pass the time in my van. Vocalist Jonathan Davis spies something with his little eye that begins with the letter "p" during his turn...our introduction to the episodes titular...PIRATE GHOSTS!
02) Grammar and Psychology with Korn
There are two moments in the episode where Korn comes across as way more intellectual than parents might assume from the band's lyrics. First, the group debates whether the spooks are "pirate ghosts" or "ghost pirates," based on the implications of each phrase. Are they pirates that became ghosts, or are they ghosts who decided to become pirates? Although no final answer is declared, David Silveria correctly points out that historical pirates existing in Colorado doesn't make sense, technically making the villains "ghost pirates." Later, when the group decides to split up, Davis probes the psyche of the characters by offering two alternatives: "Let's have everyone who enjoys having obstacles in their life which they can overcome go this way, and everyone whose insecurities sabotage their potential to overcome those obstacles go that way." The quote is both a humorous jab at the band's own emotive lyrics while referencing the vocalist's aforementioned "pirate ghosts" grammatical problems (he should have said "that they can overcome"...not "which").
01) The Cemetery Crew. Anything they say or do.
We tried awfully hard to find any quote from the Mt. Peaceful cemetery staff that was kosher for this article but none applied. The pair, which makes its only appearance in this episode, comes to Mrs. Brovlovski to inform her that her mother had been dug-up (by the kids of course) and that they suspect necrophilia is probable. That's as far as we can go in describing their role without getting put on probation at the office. Just understand that every line they deliver and every mayonnaise jar they carry is employed in "informing" the town about the morbid phenomenon through a series of horrifying anecdotes. Watch the full episode at South Park Studios if you want an example.