7 Best And 7 Worst Bar Rescue Episodes

Bar Rescue is not just trashy television. It's a cocktail of lessons in hospitality, small-business ownership, and relationships — garnished with just enough yelling and crying to provide that trash TV flavor.

The show, which has amassed over 200 episodes during its nearly decade-long run, according to IMDb, is hosted by "hospitality expert" Jon Taffer. An entrepreneur whose default modes oscillate between soft empathy and roaring, smashing brutality, Taffer looms over each episode as an almost-mythical bar savior.

With an ever-rotating team of culinary and drink-making experts to help him train clueless bar staff across America, Taffer's transformations range from impressive to unbelievable. He renovates the bar inside-out, fearlessly stamping wild themes on otherwise-bland joints. The show often features alpha-male owners who treat their employees horribly, drink on the job, and are failing their families. A big part of the draw is watching them cower before Taffer, listen to him, and ultimately redeem themselves (or not). Bar Rescue is so much more than a study in bar tactics.

When rounding up the best and worst episodes of the massive series, there's a lot to consider. From storyline to the success of bars post-Taffer, you could go many ways with evaluation. We decided to stick to pure watchability. Read on for some of the best and worst episodes that Bar Rescue has to offer.

Best: Hurricane Jon vs. Hurricane Sandy

The allure of this season 3 episode is simply in the way it breaks from the classic Bar Rescue mold. Instead of being up against a cranky, ill-equipped, or under-motivated owner, Bungalow Bar in Rockaway, New York is up against a more destructive natural force: weather. After Hurricane Sandy absolutely wrecked the once-hopping waterfront destination, the five owners threw everything they had into renovations – but even that wasn't enough. If they don't open before Memorial Day weekend, there's no way the bar will be profitable enough to reopen. When the episode begins, we're five days away from that point.

The stakes are high here, and not in a vague, semi-manufactured way. It's an earlier season, so Taffer's character feels more authentic than it does by, say, season ten, when he's really just playing a caricature of himself. It's refreshing to see him get livid at a literal natural disaster, to walk around screaming about how unbelievable flood damage is instead of criticizing the poor cook in the back or yelling about bar cleanliness. Plus, when it comes to the bar staff, there really isn't anything to get angry about. They're all competent and eager to have their jobs back. As major rebuilding cranks through the background of the episode and a countdown to Memorial Day ticks in the lower third, Taffer does the impossible, defying nature.

Worst: So We Meet Again, Mr. Taffer

It's common knowledge that reality TV is anything but real. Those who watch the genre are well aware that certain sound bites seem too good to be true. Those who work it know that they are.

The story in this season 6 episode is that Taffer returns to visit the couple who got engaged at the end of an episode in 2013. With their first bar rescued and running successfully, they've purchased a second. This time, Mark's fiancé Ozzie is in charge of the new location. It is believable that the series would want to check in with former characters, especially ones with a great story. But that's about all that's believable, here.

Mark is somehow never at Ozzie's bar to help her. What kind of fiancé does that? And even though they've been taught the Taffer tricks of the trade, Ozzie's bar is somehow a dump. How could that be when the other bar is so popping? The bartenders all somehow look like aspiring actresses, too, further making this episode just too much to believe, even knowing what we know about how an episode of Bar Rescue gets made.

Best: Things That Go Pahrump In The Night

This staple Bar Rescue episode currently sits as the second-highest rated of the entire series on IMDb. That's right: eleven stingy users have given it an average of 8.5 stars, which simply begs the question: what exactly are their metrics and how can we correct them? Frankly, this is a 10 out of 10 episode. 

"Things That Go Pahrump In The Night" elicits emotion beyond what you've come to expect from any reality TV show, let alone Bar Rescue. The season five installment takes Taffer to a town called Pahrump in Nevada — yes really. But the inevitable fun the show has with that name is only the beginning of what makes this episode a standout. When Taffer and his team arrive at the bar, they are tasked not only with their usual improvements but also with a more delicate consideration: the owner is going blind. Watching Taffer sort out his sensitivity alongside his usual sass is entertaining and heartening all at once.

Worst: Punch-Drunk & Trailer-Trashed

Typically the yelling is left to Taffer. He steps on screen in any one of his hotel-manager-esque outfits and, as he spits hard truths at the bar staff, his volume and volatility increase. It's part of the Bar Rescue formula. Taffer gets loud and problematic owners and staff shrink in silence. In that simple cause-and-effect there is pure, reality TV balance.

But the scales shift in this episode. Taffer visits O'Face Bar, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and struggles from the get-go with the family that runs it. Their arguments are so loud and mercurial that Taffer almost seems timid in comparison. When he does attempt his usual shtick, there aren't any quiet moments of reflection from the staff to counteract him. Ultimately, this episode just becomes a literal headache for viewers. Taffer couldn't stand the family — this was the first episode in the history of the show where he walked out without rescuing a bar.

Best: Crayons & Anger Lines

Lonie Walker is not just any female bar owner. She is one of the most unique characters Bar Rescue has ever featured: a hippie jazz bar owner from Chicago who has absolutely no reservations about being straight with Taffer.

Walker's vibe is pure artist, from her evocative name to her long, wavy gray hair, to the fact that she performs live jazz music at her bar. People walk out. Regularly. Yet, Walker keeps playing.

By the time Taffer intervenes in this season 4 episode, Underground Wonder Bar is over $515,000 in debt. It's struggling due to an unfortunate location move, but also due to the fact that Walker is way more invested in her artistry than she is in her bar's profitability. Walker is an unlikely match for Taffer, but boy does she meet him head-on. The two clash all episode, but their yin and yang nature makes their disagreements more fun than stressful to watch.

Worst: Breaking Brandon

This one raises a few serious questions, namely: when is a person's mental health too fragile for reality TV? And, when it becomes clear that we've hit that point, what's the most ethical way to proceed?

In this season 7 episode, bar owner Brandon runs Linda Lou's Time for Two in Layton, Utah. His mom, who is chronically ill with multiple sclerosis, has poured all her money into the joint in an effort to support Brandon, who spends much of his time helping her and his dad. "It's pretty hard to even get up in the mornings," Brandon says, in an early-episode confessional, "Cause, like, I don't want to."

What's the most ethical way to proceed? Maybe not including a montage of Mom struggling to walk. Maybe not including Brandon in the Taffer-tearing-the-bar-staff-apart session. Maybe not naming the episode "Breaking Brandon."

Brandon ends up leaving the said session and locking himself in the bathroom, where he proceeds to sob, "I can't do this anymore," until production sends in his long-time friend and employee to calm him down. They let him go home for the day and, when he later returns, Taffer changes his tone towards the poor guy. But considering his breakdown is still included in the final cut, the episode ends up feeling ghoulishly exploitative.

Best: Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Dumb

"This isn't a bar, it's a b-argh." With an opening quote like that, there's little chance this episode was going to end up anywhere but on a top-seven roundup of Bar Rescue favorites. The season two premiere shoots the series right out of the proverbial cannon to Piratz Tavern. As the name of the joint might lead you to believe, the bar is themed — very themed.

Watching this episode is up there with riding the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney. The owner Tracy might not be great at making money or being a bar owner, but she has true talent in transforming a space. Between the nets on the walls, the tropical drinks, and the entire staff's ornate pirate outfits, Piratz is just plain fun. 

The only thing better than the theme? Tracy's devotion to the theme. When Taffer goes ahead with his epic renovation of the space — he makes it a bro-y bar called Corporate — Tracy does not play along. She openly complains to guests during their grand re-opening, and her bar staff cries as they remove their pirate hats for what they can only assume will be the final time.

And ultimately, that's the best part of this incredible premiere episode: Taffer's sheer craziness in thinking that a group of people who willingly came to work dressed as pirates every day, would want to do anything but that.

Worst: All Blaze, No Glory

The problem is that "All Blaze, No Glory" tries to be both a typical Bar Rescue episode and a bland commercial for Jenny McCarthy's new line of booze at the same time. It does neither in a way that's particularly compelling.

Jenny is on screen for about two minutes, helping Taffer spy on the failing bar. Seven thousand people work at the Ford plant across the street, so the bar should be doing great business, especially (as Taffer oh-so-wisely notes) during lunch breaks. But sloppy owner Don, who doesn't bother to learn his female employee's names and instead calls them all "Rachel," is holding the whole place back. Jenny and Taffer watch as he drinks too much, leaves all the responsibility to his niece and employee Ray, and gives away copious amounts of free alcohol.

Instead of using Jenny throughout the episode and encouraging her to serve some of her own advice to the staff, she mysteriously disappears after the first scene. Her face makes a return appearance 40 minutes later, on the bottle of her alcohol that is not at all subtly placed within a shot. But overall, this product placement scheme is far from seamless, and the incredibly average story it's built into isn't enough to save the episode.

Best: Operation Puerto Rico

For reality TV fans whose tastes expand beyond just Bar Rescue, this episode is such a treat. Mark Cuban, the man who makes Shark Tank the iconic American staple it is, guest stars alongside Bethenny Frankel, of Real Housewives fame. The celebrity doesn't end there — Luis Guzman and NBA player J.J. Barea round out the crew.

But the dynamic guest stars are just the tip of the iceberg, here. This episode throws an extra 20 minutes our way and includes both a personal and charitable component. Taffer flies to Puerto Rico with his famous gang, actually returning to the place where he used to live. They work together to repair El K'Rajo, a beachfront bar that was completely demolished by Hurricane Maria.

Of course, with so much star power, the squad ends up doing more than just rebuilding the bar. They end up lending a humanitarian hand to the entire community, making this episode of Bar Rescue both unique and purposeful.

Worst: Two Flew Over the Handlebars

Ah, sisterhood. As anyone who has a sister knows, it is simultaneously the best of times and the worst of times. Which, incidentally, makes sisterhood a concept that's ripe for reality TV.

In "Two Flew Over the Handlebars", two sisters run a bar together in small-town Connecticut. As the episode's title may lead you to believe, the bar is biker-themed. Stephanie and Betsy are trying their best to keep things running, but at least one of them has a pretty significant issue with alcohol, impairing their ability to run anything smoothly.

Instead of leaning into the inherent drama that is sisterhood, the show outsources it. Taffer brings in a professional counselor to help the sisters mend their relationship. If any mending happens at all, it takes place largely off-screen. The episode leaves the audience with an unclear picture of the state of their relationship, and the renovated bar isn't much to talk about either. Taffer simply amps up the biker theme, sticking a giant motorcycle outside.

Best: Sticky Situation

Bar Rescue is no stranger to awful family dynamics. Borderline alcoholic bar owners? Awful staff? General managers without a semblance of business sense? That's just par for the course on Paramount Network's prized program.

It's not every episode, though, that you wind up with all three of those plotlines, plus an adult film. Yes, alas, "Sticky Situation" is named for its perverse undertones. In this season 4 episode, Taffer rescues a family-owned bar in San Francisco called Park 77 and discovers an all-too-graphic secret while in the process.

The bar is split between two brothers and one of the brothers' two sons. So, how many grown men does it take to keep someone from filming adult shenanigans on the bar's couch? Apparently, more than four. We watch Taffer discover the detail about the couch onscreen, but apparently, he wasn't the first to know. This bar's reputation has been shoddy ever since the movie was shot there. During business hours. In front of paying and un-warned guests. You can't make this up, but you do have to watch it unfold in this simultaneously gross and engrossing episode.

Worst: Struck Out at the Dugout

This episode loses points just because it gives airtime to a truly toxic man. Now, sometimes, bad behavior sells. But the bar owner in this episode, Ed, seems to go above and beyond to effortfully make the lives of all those around him miserable. Don't just take it from us — the entire Reddit community is fired up about Ed. As one user put it quite eloquently, "[The] owner is a complete ignorant s*** head and doesn't listen to John [sic] or his colleagues, the staff turns on him." Another chimed in that Ed "easily was the biggest a**hole that I have ever seen on this show and there are other a**holes as well, but he takes the cake."

A few of these fans argue that Ed's absolute awfulness makes for an engaging watch, and it's true that it's sometimes hard to look away. But when an out-of-control owner's inability to be an adult is costing his establishment $40,000 each off-season, the reality is not entertaining. It's sad, even for reality TV.

Best: Grandpa Got Run Over by His Grandkids

Did the world need a bacon-themed bar? No. Did we want it? Honestly, maybe not. But does it make for an absolutely decadent episode of Bar Rescue? One thousand percent.

This episode's greatness lies in its simple math: a little creativity plus a lot of one specific greasy breakfast side, and you can fix just about anything. After indulging for 45 minutes on this installment of the series, it seems not only possible but probable that bacon can save an entire bar. After seeing how Taffer transformed the formerly non-descript "Kerry's" into a must-see Vegas destination bar, you, too, might become a newfound believer in the power of bacon.

Taffer ingeniously made Bacon Bar "the spot" for bacon, beer, and "bloodies", or Bloody Marys. In classic Taffer style, he was so committed to this slogan that he painted it on the bar's exterior. The episode is light and fun and, most rewardingly, it seems clear that the bar's been set up for success.

Worst: Back to School

Complain all you want about the formulaic nature of Bar Rescue, but viewers and producers alike know that the formula, more often than not, simply works. When the show deviates too far from that norm, bad things happen. And by "bad things," we mean "bad episodes." Perhaps the worst in the entire series, this "back to school" episode is not even set in a bar! Odd indeed for a show called, you know, Bar Rescue. In this season 6 episode, Taffer is tasked with getting University of Nevada Las Vegas hospitality students "ready for the real world" mere days before they graduate.

This singular plot has plenty of holes. For example, it is simply not believable that students who are on the brink of graduating from a hospitality program would be so ill-equipped that they need a boot camp days before the commencement ceremony. While plenty of Bar Rescue episodes set in actual bars feel like a stretch of the truth, even the most contrived storyline doesn't touch this one.

Plus, since this "special" revolves around the UNLV students instead of the setting, it misses out on a huge part of the Bar Rescue draw: the bar. This episode has a lot of the hardest-to-watch parts of the show — namely, the shouting — without any of the fun bar renovation reveals or heartwarming redemptions to balance it out.