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10 of TV's Best 'Spa Day' Episodes for a Little R&R

Clockwise from left: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Rick and Morty, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Futurama, and Xena: Warrior Princess.
Clockwise from left: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Rick and Morty, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Futurama, and Xena: Warrior Princess.
Image: Nickelodeon, Adult Swim, CBS, 20th Century Fox, NBCUniversal

Sometimes you’ve got to just treat yourself—especially when you’re stuck at home during covid-19 related social distancing. For me, that means doing more at-home spa days, something plenty of TV’s best characters have done from time to time. Of course, it usually doesn’t turn out so well.

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We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite “spa day” episodes or scenes from beloved genre shows, whether it’s the famous hot tub scene from Xena: Warrior Princess or that time Rick and Morty used a spa machine to literally suck all the toxins out of their bodies. Who knows, maybe it’ll inspire you to try a little at-home face mask or body scrub. Just make sure it doesn’t come with any unpleasant side effects...or surprise bills!

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Alexander takes a life lesson from Mama Troi.
Alexander takes a life lesson from Mama Troi.
Image: CBS

“Cost of Living” (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

There are plenty of great Star Trek spa day escapades—after all, when you have a whole holodeck at your disposal, what else would you do besides create a spot of pure unadulterated pampering? One of the most entertaining was The Next Generation’s season five episode, “Cost of Living.” Lwaxana Troi and Worf’s son Alexander bond over holodeck mud baths, with Alexander learning how to relax a bit more and Lwaxana gaining the confidence to stand her ground against her demanding fiancé. It’s one of the only episodes on this list that shows a spa day as a solution to character problems, instead of as a plot device for more conflict. It even ends with Lwaxana convincing Worf to give it a try, much to his chagrin.

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Toph and Katara use their bending powers to give themselves a nice steam.
Toph and Katara use their bending powers to give themselves a nice steam.
Image: Nickelodeon
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“Tales of Ba Sing Se” (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

Avatar: The Last Airbender’s standout anthology episode started with the story of Katara and Toph having some long-overdue bonding time at a spa. It’s considered a weaker part of the episode, but it’s actually one of my favorite stories because of how it focuses on two female characters who are extremely different finding something they can enjoy together. Toph gives herself the space to feel feminine on her own terms, while Katara learns to loosen up by pranking the girls who were mocking them for their makeovers. Of course, it doesn’t hold a candle to Iroh’s storyline in the episode, but very few things could.

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Tar baths are the new mud baths apparently.
Tar baths are the new mud baths apparently.
Image: 20th Century Fox

“Teenage Mutant Leela’s Hurdles” (Futurama)

Many spas advertise regimens that will make you look and feel younger, but probably not like this. In the Futurama episode “Teenage Mutant Leela’s Hurdles,” the crew take Professor Farnsworth to get “youthesized” at a fancy spa planet, but a searing hot tar treatment accidentally reverts all of them to their younger selves. Leela relishes the opportunity to be a normal kid now that she’s found her parents, but the others aren’t keen to live through puberty again—especially because the professor can’t rent ultra porn anymore.

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This episode is worth it just for those swimtrunks.
This episode is worth it just for those swimtrunks.
Image: CBS

“Captain’s Holiday” (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

There wouldn’t be a spa day list without Risa. Star Trek’s pleasure planet is the ultimate escape for characters and audience alike—even though every visit to the planet comes with shenanigans. For example, there was “Let He Who Is Without Sin...” from Deep Space Nine, where several members of the crew have to save Risa from a group of terrorists. But we’re going to ignore that one because Worf is an asshat in it.

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Instead, let’s highlight the stupendous “Captain’s Holiday.” This episode came on the heels of “Allegiance,” where Picard had been abducted and replaced with a doppelgänger, so the beloved captain needed a good rest. Instead, Picard found himself taking part in a high-stakes archaeological adventure with a time-displaced woman. It may not have been the spa day he thought he was getting, but it was one that was perfectly Picard.

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Grizz asks for the VIP treatment, which comes with all of this.
Grizz asks for the VIP treatment, which comes with all of this.
Image: Cartoon Network

“Spa Day” (We Bare Bears)

The bears spent an entire episode at a Korean spa, with Grizz opting for the VIP treatment while Polar played ping-pong and Panda tried to avoid an old man trying to give him candy. It was a cute and relatively low-stakes spa visit, with the biggest conflict revolving around how they were going to pay for everything (since Grizz didn’t have the right coupon).

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Donna (Catherine Tate) opts for the “hell no” approach to this week’s adventure.
Donna (Catherine Tate) opts for the “hell no” approach to this week’s adventure.
Image: BBC

“Midnight” (Doctor Who)

The spa day that may have saved her life. The Doctor Who episode “Midnight” took place on a resort planet that was constantly being bathed by lethal radiation. The Doctor tried to get Donna to join him on a tour of a sapphire waterfall, but she chose to stay behind at the spa. The story largely focused on the Doctor as he and a group of tourists were trapped on their shuttle by a mysterious entity, while Donna chilled in a bathrobe drinking cosmos and having a fantastic time. Goes to show you don’t always have to go on the grand adventures. Sometimes it’s better to sit back and take it easy.

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The spies take their moms out for a (deadly) spa weekend.
The spies take their moms out for a (deadly) spa weekend.
Image: Marathon Media

“Mommies Dearest” (Totally Spies)

This season two episode of Totally Spies introduced Sam, Closer, and Alex’s moms...with a catch. The three spy-friends are trying to figure out the perfect Mother’s Day gift when they come across a special offer for a luxury spa weekend. Little do they know that Tim Scam, one of their arch-rivals, set up the whole thing to enact revenge! Over the course of the weekend he kidnaps and brainwashes their moms, turning them into assassins who use the spa facilities to try and murder their daughters. The plan doesn’t succeed and the moms are eventually cured, but it made the spa trip a little extra awkward.

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Perfection comes at a price.
Perfection comes at a price.
Image: Adult Swim

“Rest and Ricklaxation” (Rick and Morty)

Spas often advertise ways to help you live as your “best self,” but this episode of Rick and Morty showed that best isn’t always good. Feeling exhausted after their latest adventure, Rick finally agrees it’s time for a vacation, so he and Morty head to an alien spa. While there, they use a machine designed to remove all the toxins from your body—what they don’t know is it’s literal. The toxic versions of Rick and Morty find themselves in a disgusting wasteland as the “purified” versions leave the spa in peace. The episode is all about how we shouldn’t ignore the more negative, or “toxic,” aspects of our personalities because they’re what help make us uniquely human.

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I mean, yeah.
I mean, yeah.
Image: NBCUniversal

“A Day in the Life” (Xena: Warrior Princess)

The hot tub sequence. That’s it, that’s the post. Oh, and, don’t forget the soap!

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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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DISCUSSION

There’s a distinct lack of anime, especially considering spa/hot spring episodes are a huge anime trope.

My personal favorite is Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu. Sagara, Chidori, and their classmates all head out for a hot spring trip as part of Tessa’s visit. Kurz plays the pervert who wants to take advantage of the situation, while Sagara goes over the top in preventing any spying on the ladies. Hilarity ensues

I think the most popular hot spring episode was from Outlaw Star, an episode that many people missed because Cartoon Network didn’t show it at first. Which made it a little confusing when Gene’s busting out powerful caster shells without any idea how he got them.