2.9: The Stranded
Another episode that doesn’t quite come together. It has an all-time classic moment (Elaine’s riff on Meryl Streep in A Cry in the Dark) and some reasonablt effective sequences (Kramer’s arrival at the party house, George’s indignation over being short-changed) but it’s front-loaded with all the good material and limps to the finish line. Larry David may well have agreed; he was responsible for delaying its airdate until the third season (it’s in the correct order on the DVD collection).
If George is going to win, he usually has to lose even more resoundingly. The trip to Long Island is at his behest, since he has a chance with work colleague Ava (hearing his apparent enthusiasm over a real estate deal does not compute, it must be said). And her forwardness unsettles him, first resulting in a randomly classical literature-sounding response (“I long for you”) and then desperation (“I can’t perform under pressure”). It gets worse when he realises the repercussions of dating a work colleague (“Every day is a date”) and he reaches the only decision he can in order to end the anxiety (“I have no choice. I’m quitting”). Cue out-of-work George (although his demise comes a couple of episodes later, in spectacular fashion), ripe for material and the introduction of his parents.
If he reverses out of that situation, his approach to dealing with the money he feels is owed is to dig his heels in. He attempts to steal medicine from the same store we saw in the opening (“I have to do this. It’s a matter of honour”) and ends up being arrested. But ending with George and Jerry swapping incarceration stories feels off (maybe if Larry Charles had written this one the exaggeration would play better). His reasoning for his date’s advances is a nicely self-deprecating, however (“I don’t know. Maybe a safe fell on her head”).
Jerry and Elaine’s boredom and frustration at a party where they have nothing in common with those they’re stuck talking to no one to talk to is skilfully sustained from the moment they arrive (“Yeah, this has disaster written all over it”). Jerry’s the one forwarding the anti-social ethos this time (“Have a bunch of strangers treat your house like a hotel room”) and everything goes wrong. Their attempts to signal each other when they get into an awkward conversation never connect, so they have to amuse themselves by taking the piss out of their co-guests. Jerry explains where he gets the inspiration for his material (“I hear a voice”) while Elaine confounds Gwen, who won’t stop talking about her fi-ancé in particularly shrill tones (“Maybe the dingo ate your baby”).
The dingo exchange is a delightful Elaine “crazy” moment, her getting worked up over the wearing of fur less so. Jerry’s “Pendant? Those bastards!” when he eventually does come to Elaine’s aid is gleefully over-the-top. We also hear about “the Code” from Jerry; George gets to take the car because he has scored. The duo’s pain as they attempt to pass conversation while their hostess is on the verge of evicting them is palpable.
So it’s a relief to have Kramer disorganised arrival, at 2am and having knocked on every door in the area (he knows the numbers of the address, just no what order they come in). He peers in through the window, causing the hostess to scream out in horror. And, although he comes to their rescue, since he couldn’t get the top on his convertible up both Elaine and Jerry catch a chill. Following this, Matt Goldman, David and Seinfeld are stuck for how to continue the story and fix on a bit of a stiff.
The Michael Chiklis plotline just doesn’t work. As Steve, the apparently meek and mild host of the party, it’s certainly something different from Chilkis’ work on The Shield, he turns up at Jerry’s apartment to indulge in his own bit of carousing. Even with Kramer around, there’s a dearth of real laughs and it leads to a weak conclusion where Jerry is arrested for solicitation.
George: You haven’t won. You may think you’ve won but you haven’t. You know why, because it’s not over. This is not over. I’m not forgetting what’s happening here. You have my ten dollars. I will get it back. It’s all right. It’s not over. I’m going now. Goodbye. I will be back. Ho-ho-hoo.
Man: Where do you get your material?
Jerry: I hear a voice.
Man: What kind of voice?
Jerry: A man’s voice. But he speaks German so I have to get it translated.
Gwen: Ellen, have you seen my fi-ancé? I have lost my fi-ancé, the poor baby.
Elaine: Maybe the dingo ate your baby.
Elaine: The dingo ate your baby.
George: That’s a lot of pressure. “Make love to me.” What am I, in the circus? I can’t perform under pressure.