The episode starts at the Krusty Krab, where SpongeBob and Patrick see Mr. Krabs watching a classic crime movie. Mr. Krabs starts to speak out against thieves and stealing, but then SpongeBob and Patrick remind him of all the things he has stolen: a barrel from Salty Sea Farms, a towel from the Sizzling Spring Sauna, a Bikini Bell phone, Sandy's hedge clippers, Plankton's lawnmower, and Mrs. Puff's hair curlers. Mr. Krabs makes the excuse that he "borrowed" all those things, telling them that it is okay to borrow something as long as you give it back before it is missed.
Later that day, SpongeBob and Patrick spot a balloon stand. Since they do not have any money, they decide to follow Mr. Krabs' advice and "borrow" a balloon. They sneak away with it, and as they talk about all the fun things they plan to do with it, it suddenly pops. Realizing that they can no longer return the balloon, they concede that they have, in essence, stolen it. Fearful of the severity of their crime and believing themselves to now be wanted criminals, they leave Bikini Bottom.
That night, they camp in the middle of nowhere and lament that they will never see any of their friends or do any of the fun things they used to do again. However, they then begin to look at the positives, such as not having to live by society's standards and not having to return anything they borrow, and so convince themselves that being criminals can be fun. Patrick sadly remarks that they still don't have anything to eat until SpongeBob reveals that he has two chocolate bars, which he hopes they can survive on for the rest of their lives. However, Patrick eats his in two quick bites, and upon trying to take a third bite of it, discovers that it is gone.
When he sees SpongeBob's candy bar, Patrick accuses him of stealing it, and although SpongeBob tries to remind Patrick that he already ate his, he refuses to believe him. SpongeBob offers half of his chocolate to him, but Patrick says he doesn't want it unless SpongeBob admits that he took it. Having enough of Patrick's behavior, SpongeBob eats the whole thing himself. Fed up, Patrick decides to tell on SpongeBob to the police. SpongeBob aims to tell on Patrick first and the race to the police station is on.
Once there, they both confess their original crime together, and the officers confer with each other before locking them up. However, the two are immediately released, being informed that they stole the balloon on "National Free Balloon Day," much to the officers' amusement. SpongeBob and Patrick vow that they will never take anything without permission again and the officers give them lollipops for the trip back home. Once again, Patrick eats his immediately and accuses SpongeBob and the officers of stealing it. They all laugh together until Patrick says he means it.
Originally, this episode was titled "Partners in Crime," but it was later changed to this title while keeping the last word "crime."
When Krabs mentioned the phrase "forced to breathe air," it is a reference to the fact that sea creatures cannot survive without water.
In "Krusty Love" (the episode takes place after that episode), Mr. Krabs and Mrs. Puff meet for the first time, yet Mr. Krabs steals the hair curlers from her.
The original airing had SpongeBob saying "No more getting nailed," followed by Patrick hammering a nail into his head.
In all other airings, due to the word "nailed" being considered a sexual slang, SpongeBob's line was revoiced from that to "No more getting mail," and Patrick hamming a nail was reanimated from that to him sucking his thumb in his mouth. Patrick's part may have been edited to prevent kids from imitating this.
However, Patrick was allowed to nail himself in "My Pretty Seahorse," so it is possible this was edited because Patrick hammering himself (in the original airing, which was after SpongeBob's line, "No more getting nailed") would not make sense in context with SpongeBob's censored line ("No more getting mail").
The scene where a very fat Patrick says "You took my only food. Now I'm gonna starve!" is popular in some YouTube Poops. It has been called Morbid Patrick.
This episode premiered on John Rhys-Davies' 57th birthday.
In the Croatian dub, the episode name is "Zločinci" translating to "Criminals."
In the Polish dub, the episode's title is "Zbrodnicze życie" translating to "The Criminal Life."
SpongeBob and Patrick said "I don't know what do you wanna do today?" to each other several times consecutively. This mimics the Vultures' line "What we're gonna do?" from the 1967 Disney film The Jungle Book.
When Mr. Krabs says "Eel in the kelp," this is a reference to "Snake in the grass."
At one part of the episode where SpongeBob says, "take one last look," while looking at the town at sunset, the view angle is similar to Konami's Castlevania and Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden series.
The plot was very similar to the Hey Arnold! episode, "On the Lam," where SpongeBob and Patrick thinking that they stole the balloon on free balloon day is a crime and trying to avoid trouble is similar to Harold, Stinky, and Sid escaping the punishment after they thought they blew up the police station.
At one scene, the balloon is brown instead of red.
When Patrick first looks at the balloons, there is a brown one, but when Patrick looks again, the brown balloon disappears.
Because of the National Free Balloon Day, every balloon is going to be given away for free, which means the brown balloon was likely given to someone off-screen.
In one scene after the fire goes out when Patrick says "You took my only food! Now I'm gonna starve!" he is lit like the fire is still burning.
In some scenes, the red line under SpongeBob's mouth disappears.
When SpongeBob says "We can loosen our ties" and plays with his tie, it turns pink for less than a second.
The balloon man is voiced by Mr. Lawrence when he says, "Hi there!" But when he says his next line, he is voiced by Tom Kenny.