Usually, I find that the idea of reviewing an episode of this show is very uninteresting, at least for me. That's because with most episodes, there's very little to say. If I like an episode, I find there's nothing to say except like "it was funny" or "it was entertaining" and so on. Even for most bad episodes, there's little I find interesting to say about it. But this episode in particular, was actually very intriguing to me. The concept, at its core, actually is good. I like the idea of Squidward being locked in his imagination. But they botched basically everything about it. This episode is honestly interestingly bad.
So first off, this is of course a sequel to Idiot Box. That fact already scared me when I saw the premise, because it would be super easy to defeat the point of the ep. Firstly, the box in that ep is...literally just a box. It's literally just a box. Its not actually anything special. Additionally, there's a mysterious vibe around the episode with how the box works. Does the stuff that seems to happen in the box actually happen to Spongebob and Patrick for real? If so, why does everything look normal when Squidward opens it? Or does Spongebob and Patrick just pretend that its happening, and somehow that creates sounds? Or what if Squidward is insane and is just hallucinating these noises that aren't actually happening? What if Spongebob and Patrick were just playing the sounds to fuck with Squidward for some reason? I feel like this was intentionally left vague, and that fits the episode very well, as it leaves the ep to your imagination. A sequel can easily mess that up.
And of course, it did. In many ways. Apparently, this box is an "imagination box", a type of box produced by a company(?) that will create whatever you imagine and make it real. First off, just the fact that they even gave an answer to Idiot Box's mystery by itself somewhat defeats the point of that ep's mysterious vibes. But also.......what? This is specifically an imagination box? That's not how it was in Idiot Box at all. They just took a regular box and played it in. It was not any sort of special box at all. One of the main jokes of Idiot Box was that it's just a regular box! Yet in this episode, its supposed to be a special imagination box? Huh? Also, how does Spongebob even still have the box? The box got thrown away and neither Spongebob or Patrick have any idea where it is. How would Spongebob even have the box to begin with? It makes no sense.
Another thing is that Squidward just has to do nothing but think about something (even to just a small extent; in one scene, his tea becomes rocks just because Spongebob and Patrick were playing rock music outside the box) for it to become real in the box. Doesn't that defeat the point of the original ep's message about imagination? The whole reason Squidward couldn't understand the box, and later couldn't actually create any different reality or sounds, is because of his lack of imagination, similar to The Paper (huh, never noticed that those two eps are pretty similar until now). You need to have a genuine sense of imagination to cause anything to happen in the box, which Squidward lacks. And yet...he just vaguely thinks of something and it completely turns into existence. That's not how it should work at all.
Something else that just occurred to me while typing this is that in Idiot Box, Spongebob and Patrick are visibly there whenever Squidward opens the box, and all the sound and everything just suddenly stops. Yet, in this episode, Squidward isn't there when the box is opened, and everything in the imagination world continues as usual. So that's another thing they got wrong.
So, this is a sequel ep to Idiot Box, and yet the episode just completely ignores the original ep's message and even basic plot points and facts of the ep. My fears of how a sequel ep to Idiot Box would work was proven right. They did exactly what I feared they would do. But there's more to talk about the ep too. Time to talk about the actual plot!
So firstly, for the second minute of the ep, Spongebob and Patrick go to the factory that created the imagination boxes to get it repaired. The owner of the factory says that the box is broken, and the part needed to fix it doesn't exist anymore. Therefore the box is likely permanently broken. Yet, all Squidward does is trip on the box (and then fall in) and that's enough to fix it somehow. So... what was the point of that scene? It was completely useless. It was clearly just filler, but....this is an episode about Squidward imagining things and them becoming real in the box. There's so many different things you could do with that! And they could have always expanded on something already in the ep too! This is the last episode that should have filler in it.
As for the main plot, the plot involves Squidward getting stuck in the box, and then being told things by Spongebob and Patrick that causes Squidward to, intentionally or unintentionally, bring that to existence inside the box. That's....a much lamer way of doing things. Instead of Squidward actually imagining things by himself, Spongebob and Patrick just tell him everything. I think he should have been able to just think of things by himself, things that he enjoys, but then unintentionally thinks of something that would ruin it. That would be a lot better than Spongebob and Patrick giving him all the ideas. I know I just said Squidward shouldn't be imaginative enough to be able to cause things to happen in the box, but in the context of this episode specifically, he clearly can cause things to happen anyway. And it's not like Spongebob and Patrick saying something to him would give him more imagination about that specific thing anyway.
Also, there's a lot of times where the episode just shows Spongebob and Patrick outside next to the box, talking to Squidward from the outside, and Squidward responding back. Why didn't they just keep the episode focused inside the box? The parts looking outside of the box are quite lame, and it would have looked much better (and been more immersive in a way) if they kept the episode inside the box. There's scenes inside the box where Squidward just hears Spongebob and Patrick talking and you don't see them, so its not like actually showing them was necessary. I guess maybe it was to reference how the original episode was, where you just see the empty box (or something else) but hear the sounds coming from it, but it doesn't work as well here. It works in Idiot Box, both because of the mysterious vibes I mentioned above, and because the episode was focused on Squidward going insane trying to figure out how the box works. Neither of those things are present here, and the episode is instead focused inside the box, so it doesn't work here.
Also, there just.....isn't many jokes in this episode. Most eps have moments I find funny, but I can barely think of any times where I felt like something was funny in this ep. It feels like Spongebob and Patrick mentioning something scary, therefore causing Squidward to imagine it and bring it to existence in the box, was the only joke in this episode outside of the ending twist. This episode just wasn't very funny.
Also, the animation quality felt very rough at times in this episode. A bunch of moments just looked bad, especially early on. It takes Spongebob like ten seconds to react to the urchins on him, and then when he notices, it awkwardly causes the stuff in his attic to fall over him in a strange way, and the way this appears in the next scene doesn't fit what was actually shown. What stood out the most to me in this regard though, was when Squidward fell down after the stairs disappear. The way his fall was animated looked unnatural and strange, and because the background doesn't change at all in the next scene where he finishes falling (which is shown in a different angle than the previous scene), it looks like the view never changed, which is clearly not the case. It felt poorly done honestly. Also, Tom Kenny's voice felt rough here. Spongebob sounds really off half the time, and you can tell he is struggling to do the voice now due to his age, which is really sad to see. This episode at times felt like watching the show decay in real time, and the poor writing and ignorance of the original episode didn't help this feeling.
Overall, this episode just shows why making a sequel to Idiot Box was just a bad idea. Making a sequel to an episode like it is extremely hard to due without ignoring the purpose of the episode, and it just doesn't work. The core premise of Squidward being locked in his imagination, and continuously thinking of bad or scary things every time he thinks of something good, is actually a neat premise. And I actually think that most of the imagined things in this episode were pretty neat! But to involve this with Idiot Box, you have to ignore key elements of that episode, and therefore making this a sequel doesn't work. Nothing about this premise is an issue without that context. Remember how I said Squidward just vaguely thinking of something and causing it to exist in the box doesn't make sense based on context from Idiot Box? Well, none of that would be an issue if this wasn't a sequel connected to Idiot Box. It would have been perfectly fine otherwise/ They could have gotten him trapped in his imagination some other way, and not connected this with Idiot Box, and it would've worked a lot better.
Overall, I'll give it a 3/10. Some of the imagined sequences were fun, and the core premise is very good, but they botched so many things that it kills the episode.