At the Krusty Krab, Sandals purchases an order of coral bits, and an alarm suddenly blares out. Squidward assures the customer that "it is something stupid," and Mr. Krabs bursts out of his office and starts to dance with the dollar in his hand to intense celebratory music. Mr. Krabs informs everyone that he's received his millionth dollar, which is every crab's goal in life. He kicks out all of the customers, not even giving Sandals his coral bits, and tells SpongeBob and his friends that they're going on a trip to celebrate. Squidward asks if they are going to Fancy Springs, Pamper Island, or perhaps Bikini Bottom Folk Village, but Mr. Krabs states it is better than that.
It is then revealed that the three of them are going clam fishing on a cheap boat (humorously named the S.S. Cheapskate after its owner, Mr. Krabs) on a smelly lagoon, much to Squidward's disappointment. SpongeBob accidentally removes everything from the boat while he is casting his line, as well as Squidward's shirt and nose, which Mr. Krabs doesn't mind, until SpongeBob hooks onto the back of Mr. Krabs' pants, which had his one millionth dollar stitched on them, and rips it off. Once the dollar is set in the water, dramatic music begins playing, signaling an incoming clam attack, and SpongeBob begins reeling in the dollar as quickly as he can. He manages to reel it into the boat, and Mr. Krabs grabs the dollar. However, a blue-lipped clam then jumps out of the water, grabs the dollar out of Mr. Krabs' claw, and falls back in. Mr. Krabs gravely wails over this. This continues until Squidward, out of annoyance, states they will help Mr. Krabs get his dollar back. Mr. Krabs is happy to hear and this and gives everyone supplies so that they can prepare themselves for catching the clam. Mr. Krabs then starts keeping a lookout for the clam.
"The Team", consisting of SpongeBob, Squidward, and Mr. Krabs, then works for three days, but the clam does not come back. SpongeBob and Squidward have now become tired of waiting for the clam to come, so they attempt to make Mr. Krabs happy by giving him a dollar out of Squidward's wallet. It works at first, but after Mr. Krabs rubs the dollar on his butt like a towel, he figures out that it is not his millionth dollar. Mr. Krabs then nails a sandwich to a flagpole and states that will be the reward for the person who can get his dollar from the giant blue-lipped clam. He then tosses all the other sandwiches overboard to make it "the sandwich". Squidward doesn't care, saying that they have plenty more to eat, but he is interrupted when Mr. Krabs drops the whole fridge overboard. SpongeBob and Squidward now realize that Mr. Krabs has become insane, so Squidward whispers to SpongeBob that they should sneak over to the lifeboat quietly while Mr. Krabs isn't looking. However, they run for their lives to the boat while screaming. Upon entering the lifeboat, Mr. Krabs is revealed to have been secretly inside. He then throws SpongeBob and Squidward out while they are tied together. Mr. Krabs is angry that his own crew would betray him so hooks them to his rod as live bait. Soon enough, the dramatic music begins playing again and this begins to freak them out. The blue-lipped clam begins swimming toward the boat. Soon enough, the clam opens its mouth and it's then revealed that the dollar is lying on its tongue. Mr. Krabs closes the sliding doors to stop the music and the clam, then jumps onto the clam's tongue, grabs the dollar and celebrates with it. However, the doors open back up and the dramatic music returns, causing the clam to shut its mouth while Mr. Krabs is still in it. The clam then dives back into the water.
Thinking that Mr. Krabs is dead, SpongeBob and Squidward start crying (SpongeBob out of sadness from Mr. Krabs' "death", Squidward out of sadness that Krabs left while leaving him tied to SpongeBob), until he is seen at the surface of the water with the dollar. Mr. Krabs reveals that he and the clam fought until they made a trade. SpongeBob asks what did he give the white clam. Mr. Krabs hops onto the boat to reveal that he had given off much of his body to the clam though he claims that he gave nothing important was lost.
"Clams" was ranked #98 during the Best Day Ever event on November 9–10, 2006.
Even though boats are used for driving in Bikini Bottom, the boat in this episode is used as a real lifeboat would be. The initial use of boats on water was used in "SpongeGuard on Duty" and "The Inmates of Summer".
In more recent airings, the dramatic music that plays when the big clam appears is different.
Mr. Krabs breaks the fourth wall by acknowledging the existence of the dramatic music while SpongeBob reels his dollar in (an ostinato in D minor, played in 4/4). He then opens a double-door on the ship which reveals an orchestra playing the same music. Later, when he's using them as bait, SpongeBob and Squidward question why the clam would appear then when it wouldn't before. The camera pans to Mr. Krabs dressed as a conductor in front of the orchestra, revealing that it's the ominous background music that draws the clam's attention.
The boat is called the S.S. Cheapskate, referring to Mr. Krabs.
The orchestra is only seen when the boat is viewed from up close.
In some places, the scene where SpongeBob is wearing "Coral Blue #2 Semi-Gloss Lipstick" is cut; however the part where Mr. Krabs mentions the lipstick is there.
The last episode to premiere in 2002.
The storyboard special feature in the SpongeGuard On Duty DVD, there is a deleted scene where Mr. Krabs calls his parents to tell them about his millionth dollar. His parents, despite both of them appearing to be deceased in graves, even though his mother is still alive, can still communicate with him. The reason the scene was deleted is unknown, but possible reasons for it to be cut may have been for time or it must have been viewed as distasteful.
Given the fact that the giant clam seems to be attracted to the music, it seems odd that the trio did not use this to lure it in and retrieve the dollar earlier. Perhaps they did not know this at the time or Mr. Krabs was too distracted to think of it until later.
This episode is a spoof of Steven Spielberg's Jaws. The references to the film include the title card, the title, the musical score, and three main characters on a boat chasing a larger than normal animal. Mr. Krabs fills the role of Quint, who was portrayed by Robert Shaw in the movie. SpongeBob fills the role of Martin Brody, who was portrayed by Roy Schieder. Squidward fills the role of Matt Hooper, who was portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss. The theme music which plays throughout the episode is similar to the famous Jaws theme song.
The episode also features numerous references to Moby Dick, including Krabs' obsessive pursuit of the clam and nailing a sandwich to the mast of the ship.
When the curtains open in the Krusty Krab, it covers up the part of the wall where SpongeBob and Squidward work.
When Mr. Krabs is crying, there are puddles of tears. But when he's done crying, the puddles disappear.
When SpongeBob says: "Yeah, and I have to go home and feed Gary.", he has a beard and hair. The next shot shows Gary eating the couch, but when it cuts back to the ship, SpongeBob's beard and hair disappear. However, Squidward takes his off and throws it on the ground before it shows Gary, showing that they were costumes.