2.3: The Busboy
After George accidentally causes the firing of a restaurant busboy, he attempts to make amends. Elaine has an unwanted would-be boyfriend to stay.
An early example of mixing things up, as George and Kramer team together to visit the titular character. This also stands out as the first not to have a “Jerry” plot. And it’s an episode Larry David cites as inspiring his most successful structures; two (or more) disparate plotlines that converge in the final stages.
If Jerry is in incidental, somehow he still manages to get many of the best lines; perhaps because he’s even more reactive. This is particularly acute during the diner scene the day after the restaurant incident. Not only is he cheerfully flippant regarding the consequences of the busboy’s firing (“He’ll probably kill his family over this”) but he shows complete indifference towards George’s pangs of guilt (“Maybe I’ll try that pesto”).
There are the usual incidents of small talk (“Where was pesto 10 years ago?” spotting someone with a hair transplant) that probably didn’t make it into one of the improv bits (this time we begin with Jerry riffing on the bills placed in a book at restaurants). But the episode really picks up when Kramer sallies forth from his apartment for the first time to visit Antonio (David Labiosa). George’s nervousness and insecurity is perfectly mirrored by Kramer’s exuberance and unselfconsciousness.
The scene is all the more amusing because Labiosa makes Antonio such a dangerous presence; squat and pugilistic, glowering with anger. Michael Richards is on fire, launching into pigeon-Spanish (“Agua?”) and generally making matters worse for George and Antonio; he leaves the door open allowing the busboy’s cat to run off, then he breaks his lamp (and attempts to “re-fix” the broken ceramic). Then, when Antonio asks who left the door open, he makes eye gestures implicating the hapless George.
Elaine’s plotline is all prelude to a scene of magnificent physical comedy as she attempts to get not-boyfriend Eddie (Doug Ballard) packed and dressed so he meets his flight on time. She’s already detailed to Jerry how she can’t stand him, pretending to be on her period so she doesn’t have to sleep with him, with a misanthropic bent that epitomises the show (“He’s a wonderful guy, but I hate his guts”). Her berserk rampage in a huge nightie, attempting to get Eddie into his trousers and throwing his clothes randomly into his suitcase, is a tour de force (Louise-Dreyfus may tut that she could have done it better, but she’s just being picky).
The dovetailing conclusion occurs off-screen, as the now grateful Antonio (an exploding gas main at the restaurant means that George’s act of selfishness saved his life!) has an altercation with Eddie on the stairs to Jerry’s apartment. Jason Alexander plays George’s fear-then-relief that Antonio doesn’t intend to kill him perfectly, while Kramer’s giddy excitement captures his lack of awareness of the potential repercussions for George (“The busboy’s coming! The busboy’s coming!”) And, of course, George and Elaine must suffer the fall-out from the set-to (George has to look after Antonio’s cat, while Elaine is stuck nursing Eddie back to health).
George: I didn’t know he’d get fired.
Elaine: I said I’d never eat here again.
Jerry: I didn’t say anything.
Jerry: Kramer, George wants to know when you want to go look for the cat again.
Kramer: Well, it’s been a week. It’s up to the cat now.