Skip to main content

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.


Seinfeld
2.9: The Stranded

The Premise

George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Observational

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.

Quotable

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.
Gwen: What?
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.

Verdict:


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

Whoever comes, I'll kill them. I'll kill them all.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) There’s no guessing he’s back. John Wick’s return is most definite and demonstrable, in a sequel that does what sequels ought in all the right ways, upping the ante while never losing sight of the ingredients that made the original so formidable. John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the minimalist, stripped-back vehicle and character of the first instalment furnished with an elaborate colour palette and even more idiosyncrasies around the fringes, rather like Mad Max in that sense, and director Chad Stahleski (this time without the collaboration of David Leitch, but to no discernible deficit) ensures the action is filled to overflowing, but with an even stronger narrative drive that makes the most of changes of gear, scenery and motivation.

The result is a giddily hilarious, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride (don’t believe The New York Times review: it is not “altogether more solemn” I can only guess Jeannette Catsoulis didn’t revisit the original in the interven…

No time to dilly-dally, Mr Wick.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
(SPOILERS) At one point during John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, our eponymous hero announces he needs “Guns, lots of guns” in a knowing nod to Keanu Reeves’ other non-Bill & Ted franchise. It’s a cute moment, but it also points to the manner in which the picture, enormous fun as it undoubtedly is, is a slight step down for a franchise previously determined to outdo itself, giving way instead to something more self-conscious, less urgent and slightly fractured.

Isn’t Johnnie simply too fantastic for words?

Suspicion (1941)
(SPOILERS) Suspicion found Alfred Hitchcock basking in the warm glow of Rebecca’s Best Picture Oscar victory the previous year (for which he received his first of five Best Director nominations, famously winning none of them). Not only that, another of his films, Foreign Correspondent, had jostled with Rebecca for attention. Suspicion was duly nominated itself, something that seems less unlikely now we’ve returned to as many as ten award nominees annually (numbers wouldn’t be reduced to five until 1945). And still more plausible, in and of itself, than his later and final Best Picture nod, Spellbound. Suspicion has a number of claims to eminent status, not least the casting of Cary Grant, if not quite against type, then playing on his charm as a duplicitous quality, but it ultimately falls at the hurdle of studio-mandated compromise.

She worshipped that pig. And now she's become him.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)
(SPOILERS) Choosing to make The Girl in the Spider’s Web following the failure of the David Fincher film – well, not a failure per se, but like Blade Runner 2049, it simply cost far too much to justify its inevitably limited returns – was a very bizarre decision on MGM’s part. A decision to reboot, with a different cast, having no frame of reference for the rest of the trilogy unless you checked out the Swedish movies (or read the books, but who does that?); someone actually thought this would possibly do well? Evidently the same execs churning out desperately flailing remakes based on their back catalogue of IPs (Ben-Hur, The Magnificent Seven, Death Wish, Tomb Raider); occasionally there’s creative flair amid the dross (Creed, A Star is Born), but otherwise, it’s the most transparently creatively bankrupt studio there is.

I mean, I think anybody who looked at Fred, looked at somebody that they couldn't compare with anybody else.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018) 
(SPOILERS) I did, of course, know who Fred Rogers was, despite being British. Or rather, I knew his sublimely docile greeting song. How? The ‘Burbs, naturally. I was surprised, given the seeming unanimous praise it was receiving (and the boffo doco box office) that Won’t You Be My Neighbor? didn’t garner a Best Documentary Oscar nod, but now I think I can understand why. It’s as immensely likeable as Mr Rogers himself, yet it doesn’t feel very substantial.

I think, I ruminate, I plan.

The Avengers 6.5: Get-A-Way
Another very SF story, and another that recalls earlier stories, in this case 5.5: The See-Through Man, in which Steed states baldly “I don’t believe in invisible men”. He was right in that case, but he’d have to eat his bowler here. Or half of it, anyway. The intrigue of Get-A-Way derives from the question of how it is that Eastern Bloc spies have escaped incarceration, since it isn’t immediately announced that a “magic potion” is responsible. And if that reveal isn’t terribly convincing, Peter Bowles makes the most of his latest guest spot as Steed’s self-appointed nemesis Ezdorf.

Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict... breeds catastrophe.

The MCU Ranked Worst to Best

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).