Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Season 3, Episode 10: The Alternate Side

“These Pretzels are making me thirsty.” – Pretty much everyone for a total of 10 times

Even though The Alternate Side is unquestionably most famous for that oft repeated line from a non-existent Woody Allen movie, there are several other gems scattered throughout the 22 minutes in this episode, though they are sadly left out when most people recall The Alternate Side. So powerful in our collective minds are those 6 words -these pretzels are making me thirsty- tattooed to the episode that we disconnect completely the other subplots from it.

Rewatching these early seasons I am finding that despite the various plots of an episode being linked rather cohesively, and I can recall each one individually from my past viewings, I am often surprised when two of them are part of the same episode. There’s that “oh, yeah” moment when I link them together as I’m watching it. In The Alternate Side it’s the scene at the rental car agency. I love quoting –sometimes misquoting- Jerry’s rant from that scene in my daily life but it never crosses my mind that it’s from the same episode as “these pretzels are making me thirsty.”

The episode opens with Jerry and George walking into the apartment. Kramer enters a minute later. Jerry’s car has just been stolen. Jerry’s going to call the car phone company to cancel his service. “Maybe you should call your car phone,” George jokingly says. But Jerry does call the car phone and the car thief (voiced by Larry David) picks up.
“Hello, is this 555-8383?”
“I have no idea.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Did you steal my car?”
“Yes, I did.”
Jerry learns that the thief didn’t break in to it, the keys were in it. Kramer asks for the receiver. With a rather irritated look in his eye, Jerry hands it to him. Kramer asks the thief if there is a pair of brown gloves in the glove compartment (there is) and if the thief can mail it to him.

George learns about Sid, a rather straight talking, salty older black gentleman who moves the cars on Jerry’s street from one side to the other so they don’t get ticketed. I guess there are no garages near by. George is still out of work and is a little envious of someone who can make so much for so little work. Sid comes by to apologize and informs Jerry that he’ll be out of town for a week. George leaps at the opportunity to take over for him for the week. We also learn here that Woody Allen is filming on the block and that Kramer is an extra.

Jerry takes Elaine to get a rental car. He has a reservation, but, of course, they don’t have a car and Jerry gets into it with the rental agent. “I don’t understand, I made a reservation. Do you have my reservation?
“Yes, we do. Unfortunately we ran out of cars.”
“But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.”
“I know why we have reservations.”
“I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation. You just don’t know how to hold the reservation. And really, that’s the most important part of the reservation: the hold. Anybody can just take them,” Jerry says, wildly grabbing invisible reservations out of thin air.

Elaine fleshes out her boyfriend situation with Owen, a 66 year old writer, to Jerry while in line at the rental agency, and wonders if he is too old. “If you enjoy being with him, that’s what’s important,” Jerry reassures her.
“I love being with him…” Elaine rationalizes, mostly to herself. “I mean, I like being with him… It’s okay being with him…” The scene jump cuts to Jerry’s apartment. “I just don’t enjoy being with him.”

Elaine wants to know if she can get out of breaking up with Owen face to face if she only went out with him 7 times. Jerry says it should be face to face unless there was no sex to which Elaine simply sighs, “Hmm…”

George, meanwhile, is in over his head with the car parking and Kramer’s walk on part in the movie is now a speaking role after he took a pratfall in his scene which made Woody Allen laugh. Everyone else, George especially, is in disbelief. Kramer plays out his scene; he turns to Woody Allen and speaks the most famous lines from a non-existent Woody Allen film, “These pretzels are making me thirsty.” The other three coach Kramer on how he should say the line, each taking a different approach to it. Kramer decides that none of them would make good actors.

Later on, Elaine brings an unconscious Owen to the apartment. Elaine wasn’t able to break up with him before he suffered a stroke. Jerry calls an ambulance and debate what they should do to Owen to help him. Inexplicably, they settle on force feeding him a cookie. As the sirens approach they’re interrupted by screeching tires and a crashing of metal on glass.

The paramedics eventually reach the apartment after the crash. Jerry learns from one of them that the car that hit them was his rental car, driven by George.

News of Owen’s stroke is big enough that it makes the newspaper. Also making the newspaper article; George’s accident possibly making Owen’s stroke worse and causing delays in Woody Allen’s production leading Allen to “wonder if his days of filming in New York were over.”

Jerry returns to the Rental agency only to learn that the insurance doesn’t cover the accident because he wasn’t driving the car and the insurance doesn’t cover “other drivers.” “Other drivers? You’re whole business is based on other drivers.” Jerry doesn’t win this argument leading him to exclaim, “These pretzels are making me thirsty!”

Elaine breaks up with Owen while spoon feeding him his lunch like a baby. The awkwardness of breaking up with a stroke victim leads Elaine to stammer, “These pretzels are making me thirsty.”

Kramer loses his part in the Woody Allen movie the same way he got it; by being Kramer.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Season 3, Episode 9: The Nose Job

“You’re as pretty as any of them. You just need a nose job.” - Kramer

Jerry and George are standing at a newsstand discussing their respective girlfriends. Jerry’s new girl, Isabel, is a very attractive actress with a very pedestrian mind that he met in an elevator, which is a very unlikely place to meet a person. “You’ve got less than sixty seconds. That’s like dismantling a time bomb,” George exclaims, impressed by Jerry’s quick work.

George’s girl, Audrey, is a smart, intelligent and attractive woman with one distinct physical flaw – her oversized nose – and it’s a characteristic that George isn’t sure he can over look. But for once, George is completely aware of his shallowness and his own physical shortcomings, and is even attempting to overcome it. “I should be grateful that someone like her even looks at me.” If only George could have harnessed this semi-enlightened thinking for more than 30 seconds he could have been a semi-successful individual instead of… well, George Costanza.

Later, our fearsome foursome and Audrey are at Jerry’s apartment. Kramer is still trying to get that jacket with magic-like properties (Kramer thinks women find it irresistible) back (see the previous 4 episodes for that sub-plot). He’s concocted another Mission: Improbable plot to get it back, this time with Elaine impersonating the jacket owner’s daughter and Kramer playing her fiancée, Peter Von Nostren. George’s response to this preposterous plan: “Why don’t you just commit yourself already?”

Audrey notices a stamp on Kramer’s hand. Kramer explains that he was at a nightclub the previous night and plans to go back tonight, but doesn’t want to pay the cover charge. “You wouldn’t believe the women at this club,” he tells Jerry. Audrey mentions finding the amount of attractive women in New York intimidating to which Kramer casually says, “You’re as pretty as any of them. You just need a nose job.” This sets off the other three, especially George who’s embarrassed and nearly chokes on his pizza, and Elaine who’s offended. Audrey, obviously aware of her own body, seems to take it in stride.

Audrey discusses the nose job with George who downplays his own interest in her getting the surgery, not wanting to come off as superficial. But after thinking it over, Audrey decides to get rhinoplasty surgery, and makes the big reveal in Elaine’s apartment with all four characters present. When she removes the bandages, Jerry, Elaine and George all recoil their faces and through gritted teeth proclaim their approval. Kramer, however is the only one to make an honest assessment. “You got butchered.” Audrey runs off to the doctor. Kramer gives her a ride.

Meanwhile Jerry is having his own issues with his girlfriend, Isabel, the attractive but simple actress. “I’ve never been so repulsed by someone mentally, yet so attracted to them physically at the same time. It’s like my brain is facing my penis in a chess game. And I’m letting him win.”
“You’re not letting him win,” George comes back. “He wins ‘til you’re forty.”
“And then what?”
“He still wins, but it’s not a blowout.”
Jerry’s solution is to have Kramer throw out Isabel’s number for him but later begs Kramer to give him the number back. Kramer throws the ripped up pieces of paper with the number on the floor. Jerry gets on his hands and knees desperately trying to pick up all the pieces and fit them together as Kramer berates him. “Look at what you’ve sunk to. Look at what you’ve become. Look in the mirror, because you need help, Jerry. You need help, because I can’t stand by and do it anymore. It’s turning my stomach! I can’t stand around here watching you destroy yourself!! It’s eating me up inside!!!” Kramer puts the exclamation point on this scene by slamming the door shut behind him as he walks out only to come back in 3 seconds later, retrieve the bowl of cereal he came for to begin with, and walk back out again.

Audrey breaks up with George, who has become even more obsessed and uncomfortable around Audrey’s nose after the botched surgery.

Jerry, caught in a chess battle between his brain and penis, suffers through rehearsing a scene from a play with Isabel and a really bad southern accent. Eventually, Jerry’s brain wins the chess game and Jerry breaks up with Isabel.

Kramer and Elaine go to retrieve the jacket posing as the jacket owner’s daughter and fiancée. Kramer is in full Kramer mode here accessorized with a pipe and checkered jacket. The mission is going successfully until the landlord mentions Kramer’s mother and says some less than flattering things about her. Kramer’s facial expressions slowly change from upset to anger to rage after each comment from the landlord until he can no longer take it any more.

Kramer and Elaine recall the rest of the scene from Monk’s. Kramer grabbed the landlord by the collar and Elaine pulled him off. But Kramer ends up with the jacket…and Audrey…and Audrey’s new nose, courtesy of Kramer’s doctor.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Season 3, Episode 8: The Tape

“Does she know?”
“How did it happen?”
“I can’t say.”
“Well, why can’t you say?”
“Because I promised her.”
“I thought you just said she doesn’t know.”
“She doesn’t.”
“So how can you promise her?”
“Because she asked me too.”
“What is this, an Abbot and Costello routine?” - George & Jerry

After watching a special on CNN, George is interested in a hair growth product from China, and calls, long distance, the clinic responsible.

Kramer enters with a video recorder his friend Specter gave him. “He’s becoming a minimalist.” George asks and Kramer confirms that Specter is his friend who likes fat women. “Doesn’t the fat fetish conflict with the minimalism,” Jerry points out.

Jerry, while listening to a recording of his stand up act the previous night, discovers an erotic message left by one of his audience members on his tape recorder. George and Kramer listen to it as well. George is especially enthralled by it. “This is like a Penthouse letter.”

Jerry and George meet Elaine at Monk’s. George let’s slip about the mysterious woman on Jerry’s tape recorder. Jerry gets called to another booth by a friend of his leaving Elaine to pester George about the message. “She had this throaty, sexy kind of whisper,” George tells her. He puts his menu up to his face completely obstructing his view of Elaine.

“Really? Like, uh… Jerry, I want to slide my tongue around you like a snake,” Elaine moans. George slowly peers over his menu at a grinning Elaine. Elaine tells George not to tell Jerry that it was her. George suddenly becomes attracted to Elaine (and really, why wouldn’t he? Julia was pretty sexy). “So what about this bald thing?”

“Oh, some bald thing, I don’t know,” George mutters.

George finally gets in touch with the hair restoration clinic in China but not speaking any Chinese (the episode uses the word Chinese, not Mandarin for the language) he has difficulty communicating his desire to buy the product. Luckily, Kramer has ordered Chinese food and they have the delivery boy translate. Kramer also has his camera and films the gang, pretending that he’s filming a documentary on Elaine, an adult film star. Elaine hams it up for Kramer’s camera and using her sexy voice talks about costarring in a movie with George. This both flusters and arouses George, compounding his attraction to Elaine.

George’s cream arrives but there’s one problem: it smells bad. George wears it for a few minutes (he’s supposed to wear it all day) but takes it off when Elaine says she’s coming over. A few minutes later she cancels and George rushes into the bathroom to put the cream on.

Jerry thinks he’s found the woman on the tape and arranges a meeting but comes back disappointed when she wasn’t receptive to his advances. George, wearing a ten gallon hat to hide the cream he’s wearing, eventually breaks it to Jerry and Kramer that it was Elaine on the tape after also telling him that he’s become attracted to her. Knowing this they all listen to the tape again. Elaine comes over and confesses to Jerry it was her. “I know, George told me,” Jerry says without missing a beat. George confesses to Elaine that he is attracted to her. All three guys stare at Elaine. Creeped out, Elaine leaves.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Season 3, Episode 7: The Cafe

“Maybe the test was gender biased. You know, a lot of questions on hunting and testicles.” - Jerry

After two rather unconventional episodes we see a return of the familiar formula. George’s story is about his new girlfriend’s IQ test that she’s created and wants to try on George, which he is not enthusiastic about because she’ll find out he’s a moron. “People think I’m smart, but I’m not smart.”

“Who thinks you’re smart?” Jerry asks. His story is an obsession with a new restaurant that’s just opened up in the neighborhood run by Babu Batt. Jerry, in a fit of compassion, is troubled that he’s never seen anyone go into Babu’s establishment.

Kramer, meanwhile, is hiding from a man whose jacket he’s been wearing for the last two years. In fact, he was wearing the jacket in the previous episode, The Parking Garage. The story here, as explained in The Parking Garage, is that a man left it at his mother’s house and Kramer took the jacket.

Elaine, explaining that she has a high IQ, helps George cheat on the IQ test.

This is another episode that is a lot funnier than I remember it being when I was younger.

So Jerry watches Babu’s from his apartment through binoculars, like a scene out of Rear Window. Elaine asks why he’s obsessed with this restaurant. Jerry likens it to watching a “spider in the toilet struggling for survival.” George enters with an SAT book. He’s still nervous about the IQ test and what it will mean for his relationship with Monica. After Jerry reminds George of a time in college when he cheated on a test and Elaine mentions her high IQ, George gets the idea to cheat again via the same method. He’ll pass Elaine the test out of a window.

Jerry has lunch at Babu Batt’s Dream Café. He’s the only one there. Jerry, thinking he’s great guy helping out a struggling restaurateur, dishes out superlatives and heaps praise upon Babu to make him feel better. He even has an internal dialogue about how no one else does things for other people.

George started the IQ test with Elaine pacing back and forth outside the window waiting for George to pass her the test. After Monica leaves the room and George locks the door he passes the test to Elaine who takes it to Babu’s. Then Kramer joins them and explains his situation. He doesn’t want to give it back. “Anyway, it’s been two years. Isn’t there a statue of limitations on that?” he asks.
“Statute,” Jerry says with emphasis on the ending of the word.
“Statute of limitations,” he elaborates. “It’s not a statue.”
“No. Statue.” Kramer is sure.
“Fine, it’s a sculpture of limitations,” Jerry concedes.

Kramer bothers Elaine about this. “Statute,” Elaine says. “Well, I really think you’re wrong.” Kramer continues to bother her about the IQ test, not really understanding why she would take a test for George. George meanwhile reads The New Yorker as he waits for Elaine. She comes back with the test but it has pasta stains all over it from Babu spilling the plate on Elaine’s table. When Monica comes to collect the test George concocts the best George story ever. Monica asks what happened to the test. George, in the most smooth and casual manner, answers, “Oh, I spilled some food on it.”
“Food? What food?” Monica asks.
“What are you talking about?”
“Where did you get food?”
“From my pocket.”
“From your pocket?”
“I had a sandwich in my pocket.”
“And coffee?” she says examining the paper.
“Yes, had some coffee,” he nods.
“Where did you get the coffee?”
“Where did I get the coffee? Where do you think I got the coffee? At the grocery store.”
“How did you get there?”
“I walked.”
“How did you get out of the apartment? I didn’t see you leave.”
“I climbed out the window.”
“You climbed out the window?”
“Of course.”
“Why didn’t you go out the door?”
“The door?” he asks as though only a lunatic would think to do that. “The window’s right here.”

Jerry tells Babu that he might have more luck with the restaurant if it were Pakistani themed. He’d be the only authentic Pakistani restaurant in the area, an idea that appeals to Babu and he agrees to renovate immediately.

Turns out all the distractions led to a poor test from Elaine, George’s IQ is only 85. Elaine agrees to cheat again to prove the first test was a fluke. “You should have seen her face,” George says of Monica. “It was the exact same face my father gave me when I said I wanted to be a ventriloquist.”

Elaine takes the second test at Jerry’s while he eats at the new Babu’s. Jerry doesn’t catch on at first but Babu is not pleased to see Jerry; he stares a hole through him while he’s eating. After Jerry mentions his shrimp is stringy. This sets Babu off who blames Jerry for the restaurant failing. He hasn’t had any customers since he rebranded as a Pakistani restaurant. “You bad man. You very, very bad man.”

While Elaine is taking the test Kramer bursts in and locks the door behind him. The man who used to own his coat has found him and won’t leave until Kramer returns it. Elaine has to get back to George but Kramer won’t let her leave. Her tardiness causes Monica to catch the two of them cheating on the test and when Elaine finally arrives Monica is waiting for her. “Let’s hope you do better the second time.”

The gang watches Dream Café shut down and we see where they’ve ended at. Kramer doesn’t have his jacket. Elaine’s IQ is 151. They discuss where to have dinner. Mexican? Italian? Chinese? Jerry finishes with, “you know what’d be great…”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Season 3, episode 6: The Parking Garage

“There’s elevators all over. Everything looks the same! We’re like rats in some experiment!” - George

The 3rd season has gotten off to a great start with classic after classic and the trend continues with The Parking Garage. This was the second straight episode of the production order to take place entirely outside Jerry’s apartment (although they didn’t air back-to-back). That was done so they wouldn’t have to take down and put back the set for Jerry’s apartment twice.

Similar to The Chinese Restaurant from season 2, The Parking Garage takes place on a single set, though not in real time, and is essentially the same in structure: a loose plot which follows our characters as they encounter other people within the setting, almost vignette style. In order for there to be some sort of motivation to find the car, Elaine has Goldfish which can only survive in their plastic bag for so long, and George needs to meet his parents for their anniversary. Jerry has to go to the bathroom, and Kramer is carrying a heavy air conditioner (and he really was per Michael’s method acting policy).

I won’t bother recapping every encounter but I’ll go over the best ones (completely out of sequence). The first is George coming across a convertible parked across 3 spaces and wanting to spit on it. Jerry dares him to do it and he’s about to when the alarm disengagement goes off and the owner gets in the car.

“Jerry, are you aware that adult diapers are a $600 million dollar a year industry?” That’s just one of the things Kramer tells Jerry to goad him into urinating behind a car. Jerry does, gets caught and leads to the great uromysotisis explanation: “Why would I do it unless I was in mortal danger? I know it’s against the law. Because I could get uromysotisis poisoning and die, that’s why. You think I enjoy living like this? The shame; the humiliation.”

I also really enjoyed Elaine’s repeated attempts to ask other people for help and being rejected every time. It deals with the selfishness of humanity in a completely honest way. Everyone she talks to could help her, but they don’t. Why? Because they don’t feel like it. There’s no reason for it. They just don’t. And that’s how the world is. People could help strangers, but they never do.

As much as I love this episode – its position in my top 10 is almost assured – the best material was left out, and it may be nitpicking, but it kind of bothers me.

At the very end when Kramer returns with the air conditioner, he slams it in the trunk of the car and cuts his lip. Jerry and Julia start laughing and turn away from the camera. Michael never breaks character and says, “I really hurt myself, Elaine.” All of that was taken out of the final cut. After Kramer slams the air conditioner in the trunk it cuts to Kramer asking about Elaine’s fish, from a different take.

Then, after they get in the car and it doesn’t start, you can only see Jason start to laugh for a split second before cutting to a long shot of the lone car in the parking lot, leaving out a sequence where Michael tries to start the car a second time, fails, gets out of the car, leans on the door, looks off into the horizon and gets back in the car.

It’s a fine ending as they left it, but 20 extra seconds on those two things could have lifted it even further in the pantheon of great Seinfeld endings.