2.8: The Apartment
Jerry suggests Elaine rents the recently vacated apartment above him, but quickly regrets the idea.
This was Peter Mehlman’s first script for the series and, while you can see why Larry and Jerry instantly welcomed him into the fold, it’s a patchy affair. The two key plot threads are strong enough (the potential problems of having an ex living in the same building and the idea that a wedding ring is a chick magnet) but there is something of a standardised sitcom feeling to the structure.
Most evident is the awkward inclusion of Jerry’s landlord Harold (Glenn Shadix, of Beetlejuice and Heathers fame) and his partner Manny (Tony Plana). These scenes are clumsily constructed, with Jerry required to leave his apartment several times to engage in a stagey conversation in the hallway. This kind of interaction exposes Seinfeld’s shortcomings as an actor, and the scenes are heavy with dead air.
George’s subplot sees him in full miscalculating, misfiring mode as he decides to wear the aforementioned wedding ring (band) to improve his chances with the ladies (Kramer: You know, I don’t know why you’re fooling around with his ring. I’ve been telling you, get yourself some plugs – or a piece”). He gets to test his theory at a party hosted by one of Elaine’s friends, unsubtly waving his ring about (“Yeah, my wife couldn’t make it today”). Of course, he’s on the receiving end of a string of propositions, if only he weren’t married (“That’s too bad, because I really have a thing for bald guys with glasses”).
His back-and-forth with Jerry over how he is the world’s biggest idiot (“No one’s a bigger idiot than me”) displays classic George perversity; at least he gets to be good at something, even if it’s something not very good.
Elaine’s utters her first “Get out!” of the series as she pushes Jerry in response to the news that not only does she have an apartment but also it is dirt-cheap. Her jubilation over the death of Mrs Hudwalker (“She died!”) is just the kind of remote, empathy-free response the show will become famous for (and conclude with), as the characters put their selfishness front-and-centre without a semblance of moderation.
So Jerry’s reaction, which is underhand in the extreme, might be seen as justice if wasn’t aimed at one of the few people he might be expected to go that extra distance for. Getting cold feet over his idea (“I’ll be here all the time!” Elaine tells him), he is relieved to hear that the price has gone up (extoling a sudden, and brief, belief in a divine plan). Until Kramer volunteers him to lend Elaine the money.
Kramer: Wait, you didn’t want her in the building?
Jerry: No, I didn’t.
Kramer: Well, uh, why did you loan her the $5,000 then?
The solution arrives when Kramer finds someone will to put up $10,000. It’s pretty lowdown and remorseless (as far as we know, Elaine never finds out), and comes across as somehow different to the quartet’s usual misanthropy; his “I love Elaine but, you know, in the building” doesn’t really cut it. As it turns out, the guy who moves in above has regular band practice (Kramer: Oh, I love the one they do right after this one) so Jerry’s no winner (Elaine: Wow, you’re right. That is loud). But even that seems like pat sitcom justice, rather than something really clever.
Kramer is beginning to make more of a splash, putting his foot in it on Jerry’s behalf and then coming up with a solution that only makes things worse. He’s also sporting a different look (“I moussed up”). Jerry is quite ready to insult Kramer (“You see, you’re not normal. You’re a pod”) because he knows he won’t take offence; he really doesn’t perceive things the way everyone else does.
If the episode is a bit of shift down in quality compared to the last few, the stand-up bits are surprisingly good; Jerry’s explanation of why the bridge of the Starship Enterprise is the ultimate male fantasy (it’s the perfect living room, with a big screen TV in the middle), although the mistaking someone as pregnant is over-familiar. When the show actually does this within the story, with Kramer in the driver’s seat, it’s very funny, however.
Jerry: She died.
Elaine: She died?
Jerry: She died!
Elaine: SHE DIED!
Elaine: Get out!
Woman: What does she do?
George: She’s an entymologist. Er, you know. Bees, flies, gnats.
George: You have no idea what an idiot is.
Jerry: This is an idiot.
George: Is that right? I just threw away a lifetime of guilt-free sex and floor seats for every sporting event in Madison Square Garden. So please, show some respect. For I am Costanza, Lord of the Idiots.