Amid rumblings (dare we say rumors?) of a King of the Hill reboot, we took the time to revisit the endlessly quotable (“Dammit, Peggy, I’m tryin’ to contain the outbreak and you’re drivin’ the monkey to the airport!”) series. Why do we love it? The immersive quality? The slice-of-life aspect? Relatable characters? Sheer hilarity? Boomhauer? It was tough to nail down, but we managed to agree on these as the best episodes of King of the Hill.
Season 1, episode 12: “Plastic White Female”
At the beginning of “Plastic White Female,” we see how Bobby views girls as scary monsters that he’s not allowed to be himself around. It’s sad that he overhears Hank yell at Peggy that she babies him. When Luanne brings home a mannequin head that she’s supposed to practice cosmetology on, Bobby is looking at it like he wants to have it for lunch. Bobby finds it so easy to talk to the head and to say anything to it, which he can’t do with a girl in real-life situations. Practicing on the head allows him to be more confident with the girls at school. Eventually, Bobby sees that the head is a crutch, but every lesson in life is one worth learning. The ending to this one is somewhat inconclusive but no matter, the premise is hilarious and we get to see the full character arc of Luanne’s bitchy beauty school instructor.
Season 2, episode 12: “Leanne’s Saga”
In “Leanne’s Saga”, Luanne’s mom is getting out of prison and needs a place to stay. Leanne promises to remain sober, and Hank and Peggy reluctantly take her in. Seeing lonely Bill, Leanne plunges deeply and quickly into the role of girlfriend. One of the things that makes this episode so cringe-tastic is Bill’s toe fungus and Leanne’s reaction to it. One other thing is the behavior of middle-aged Leanne when she starts drinking again. Luanne is heartbroken that it’s time for Leanne to disappear again, but the whole embarrassing episode strengthens the bond between Luanne and Peggy. Overall, a happy ending.
Season 3, episode 9: “Pretty, Pretty Dresses”
In another Bill-centric episode, “Pretty, Pretty Dresses,” it is Christmastime and Bill is re-living his wife Lenore leaving him. He gets a pet iguana and names it Lenore. In the darkest episode by far, bill gets obsessed with the iguana. When the iguana escapes, Bill “becomes” Lenore, wearing dresses and heels and speaking in a falsetto voice. The situation can only be resolved with some tough love from Hank.
Season 3, episode 16: “John Vitti Presents: Return to la Grunta”
Luanne gets Hank a gift card to swim with the dolphins at the country club where she works. It’s a gift, so he feels obligated to redeem it. Hank is traumatized by the experience of the lusty dolphin. Placing Hank in the role of the helpless victim of a suitor’s advances runs parallel to the experience Luanne has been having with the men at the club. The country club pays them off with gifts and Hank makes Luanne promise to never reveal what actually happened. By the end of the episode, Hank wins back his dignity and Luanne’s in the process.
Season 4, episode 2: “Cotton’s Plot”
As much of a cringefest as any episode featuring Cotton, “Cotton’s Plot” features Peggy recovering from being in a full-body cast after her skydiving accident. There is a subplot wherein Bill goes off and finds the discarded body cast (because he’s Bill) and uses it to make a Peggy of his own. In a hilarious turn of events, Cotton becomes Peggy’s physical therapist. In exchange for his help, Peggy agrees to help Cotton with his application to be buried in the Arlington National Cemetery. In this episode, we are blessed with Cotton’s origin story. When his application is rejected, Peggy shows up at the hearing and saves the day. The moral of the story is, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t keep Peggy Hill down.
Season 5, episode 10: “Yankee Hankie”
This is the episode where we see the true depths of Cotton’s narcissism. When Hank sees his birth certificate and it’s revealed for the first time that he was not born in Texas, the floodgates open for everyone to rib him for being a New Yorker. The plot thickens when it turns out Hank was born in the ladies’ room at Yankee Stadium. The victim of Cotton and his pals’ foiled plans to assassinate Fidel Castro, Hank finds himself abandoned at the Alamo in the middle of the night. He learns that the men who defended the Alamo were not born Texans. Forget the Alamo, remember Hank.
Season 6, episode 8: “Joust Like a Woman”
Mr. Strickland wants Hank to sell propane to a Renaissance fair. The participants take the concept a little too far — the women are subjugated, the idiot king takes his role literally, and everyone submits willfully to serfdom. Hank and Peggy reluctantly play along to make the sale. The vibe shift occurs when Peggy is punished for the subversive act of refusing to comply with the rules, and Hank is challenged to a joust. It is not going in Hank’s favor and a mysterious masked participant rescues him at the last minute (Peggy). Sometimes the best man for the job is a woman.
Season 6, episode 18: “My Own Private Rodeo”
Nancy and Dale are planning to renew their vows, and Nancy wants to invite Dale’s father, Bug, to the ceremony. Through flashbacks, we see that Dale cannot forgive his father for kissing Nancy on their original wedding day. But Nancy persuades the guys to go find him, where he is performing in a rodeo. Though obvious to the viewer, Hank, Bill, and Boomhauer do not realize that this is a gay rodeo. Full of great one-liners, the episode is notable because of the relationship between Bug and his partner Juan Pedro, which plays out in some of the funniest sequences in the show’s history. Bug is persuaded to make amends with Dale, and he explains that he is gay, which Dale takes to mean that his father is an FBI agent (?). Ever the rube, it takes some cajoling to convince Dale to accept the truth, take his father back into the family, and have him at his wedding. Never underestimate the power of the rainbow.
Season 9, episode 15: “It Ain’t Over till the Fat Neighbor Sings”
Bill, infinitely in his flop era, begs to join an a cappella group, The Harmonoholics. They accept him and he thrives. He realizes quickly, though, that the group demands too much of his time (and his money!). They expect their members to be completely devoted to the group. Unfortunately, so does the US Army. So, with the help of Hank, he understands that he must decide which to make a priority, and he chooses his job. Hank knows best.
Season 10, episode 14: “Hank’s Bully”
The new neighbors have an annoying son, Caleb. We all know a kid like this — he’s never been deprived of any impulse, and never been told “no”. Caleb focuses on Hank because he likes the reaction he gets from Hank. The problem is, his parents don’t stop his taunting behavior. We watch Hank get increasingly angry, until he enlists the aid of Bobby, who gives the kid’s parents a dose of their own medicine by being a brat while Hank looks on. The ploy works, and peace is restored on Rainey Street.
Season 11, episode 1: “The Peggy Horror Picture Show”
Peggy’s dream of finding attractive shoes to fit her comes true at Clarissa’s Closet, a large-size women’s clothing and shoe store. She fails to understand that “The ‘Closet” is where the local drag queens shop. She meets and befriends Carolyn, who “wears gloves.” By the time Peggy understands that Carolyn is also Jamie (a man), she has been rehearsing to perform with her. Peggy is heartbroken and her femininity insulted when she learns that she’s been mistaken for a man. What makes this episode memorable is the unsinkable Peggy Hill.
Season 11, episode 5: “Hank Gets Dusted”
Cotton is giving his Cadillac to Hank’s cousin, who is none other than Dusty Hill, the bass player for ZZ Top. When Dusty comes to pick up the car, Hank learns that he is the star of his own reality TV show, “Behind the Beard,” and the visit will be filmed, by an extremely heavy-handed crew. This is the final straw for Hank, as we see that he has suffered a lifetime of pranks by Dusty. To add to Hank’s disquietude, the producer decides to focus on making him mad. Dusty enlists the help of his bandmates to contribute to the practical jokes and the production quality of “Behind the Beard.” The abuse culminates with Dusty taking the Cadillac to a demolition derby, with the film crew focused on Hank’s reaction. In the end, Cotton’s now-restored Cadillac becomes part of Stanley Marsh III’s Cadillac Ranch, a fitting final resting place for the car that was such an important part of Hank’s childhood.
Season 12, episode 2: “Bobby Rae”
Bobby starts a campaign to single-handedly get rid of all of the soda machines around school after he learns of soda’s unhealthy formula. Unbeknownst to Bobby and the school body, the teachers stock the machines themselves, as they are saving up for a teachers’ retreat in Cancun. The machines are removed and Bobby is recognized as an activist, piquing the interest of Olivia, a writer for the school paper. His movement culminates in a walkout, which escalates to a riot. When Bobby realizes the situation is out of hand, he recruits Hank to help disperse the mob of kids. The whole incident becomes a bonding experience for Bobby and Hank, the teachers get to go on their retreat, and Bobby finds a pacifist girl.
Season 13, episode 7: “Straight as an Arrow”
Hank, annoyed that Bobby seems to be very lazy, decides to spearhead a local chapter of the Order of the Straight Arrow (a Boy Scouts-like troop), but it’s not exactly the way he remembers it. So he decides to go rogue and introduce the children to some more nature-centric activities. After a run-in with a concerned parent, Hank loses his co-scoutmaster. Now that the buzzkill is gone, Hank is free to run the troop his way, and teach the boys how to be self-sufficient — the original goal of the troop — and a fun time is had by all.