2.1: The Ex-Girlfriend
George summons up the courage to break it off with a girlfriend. Jerry debates whether to go out with her.
If the plots haven’t yet become finely crafted jewellery, you can already see how Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David have honed their approach in the wake of the brief first season. The central premise is a solid one, but the concurrent storylines take place off-screen.
George’s worry and prevaricating is typical George, while Jerry’s blasé approach to matters of the heart (“Just do it like a band aid. One motion. Right off”) is of a piece. George’s nonchalance at Jerry wanting to go out with his ex, even given that he is surprised by his lack of concern (“You’re a fine person. You’re a humanitarian”), is probably not something the writers would have gone for in later seasons (the consequent neuroses would have proven irresistible).
And Tracy Kolis’ broad southern gal Marlene is very funny, duskily sexy and unsettling at the same time. The answer phone message she leaves Jerry is hilariously batty (“Jerry, have you ever taken a bath in the dark? I’m not talking into the soap right now. Call me back”) and her vacant delivery shows fine comic timing. If there’s a criticism it’s that the pay-off seems rather an obvious one with the benefit of hindsight; she doesn’t like his comedy act and won’t go out with someone she doesn’t respect.
If George’s casualness over his ex is a surprise, he makes up for it elsewhere, It’s his sense of his own weakness that pushes Jerry towards Marlene in the first place (George persuades him to pick up some books he left at her apartment, too cowardly to do it himself). His conviction that chiropracty is a racket provides a great running gag (“They don’t do anything!”) and then there’s his reaction to the bill (“What, am I seeing Sinatra in there?”) George’s penny-pinching will also become a series constant; he only pays half the bill for his treatment, and Jerry picks up the rest of the tab. Likewise, he will regularly be confronted with lurking doubts over the mettle his heterosexuality. He also swallows a fly (“What should I do? What can happen?”)
Elaine has an issue with a neighbour who used to say hello everyday but now ignores her (“He went from nods to nothing”), and is persuaded to confront him. The scene where she recounts what happened is a great example of the energy Julia Louis-Dreyfus brings to the show, but she and Michael Richards are definitely pulling the rear-guard action in this one. Kramer’s particularity over fruit gets an early innings as he tries to persuade Jerry of the wonders of his cantaloupe vendor. Of course, Jerry buys from his own seller (“See, that stinks!” exclaims Kramer).
Nothing much to write home about on the monologues front; discussions of road lane experts and women needing to like the job of guys they’re dating.
Elaine: I think you’re a little afraid to sit next to a man. You’re a little homophobic, aren’t you?
George: Is it that obvious?
George: I think you absolutely have to say something to this guy. Confront him.
Elaine: Would you do that?
George: If I was a different person.
Jerry: I don’t return fruit. Fruit’s a gamble. I know that going in.
George: I left some books at her apartment.
Jerry: Did you read them?
Jerry: So what do you need them for?
George: They’re books!
George: You paid that crook? He didn’t do anything, Jerry! It’s a scam!
Marlene: I can’t be someone if I don’t respect what they do.
Jerry: You’re a cashier!