Skip to main content

What is the big deal? We go in there. We’re in there for a while, then we come back out here.


Seinfeld
2.13 The Deal

The Premise

Jerry and Elaine resume an intimate relationship, but non-romantically. George scoffs at the idea that this can succeed…

Observational

Along with The Chinese Restaurant, The Deal marks the zenith of the second season. It’s also somewhat atypical of the series as a whole. Contained within are both serious exchanges between characters and heartfelt emotion, areas David and Seinfeld were sworn off (“No hugging, no learning” being the show’s mantra).

Larry David’s premise starts from a point not all that far from a Castle Rock (the production company that made Seinfeld) comedy released a couple of years earlier, When Harry Met Sally. In that movie, the question was posited “Can a man and a woman just be friends, or does sex always get in the way?” David pushes it one step further, and asks “Can a man and woman who are friends have sex and keep their relationship strictly on a friendship basis?” NBC had been making noises that they wanted Jerry and Elaine to get together, and David had no interest in bowing to their whims until he recalled an event in his life (doesn’t he always?) that gave the idea some mileage.

He’d tried the “friends who have sex” arrangement with an ex-girlfriend, and George’s ridiculing of the scheme (“Where do you get the ego? No one can do it. It can’t be done”) reflects a similar resignation to certain natural laws between the sexes as the Billy Crysal-Meg Ryan starrer. The result sees the series engaging male-female relationships with a new rigour. If Jason Alexander initially played George as a Woody Allen type, this is a plotline you could easily see that writer-director coming up with (some have accused When Harry Met Sally of being a fairly undisguised rip-off of Annie Hall, although I think that does it an injustice).

The episode concludes with Jerry and Elaine as an item (Kramer: Boy, I really liked the two of you much better when you weren’t a couple). David saw it as no big deal as he was convinced there would be no third season (he was scared enough at the prospect of coming up with the 13 episodes for this one, so the 23 commissioned provoked real tears of anguish). Seinfeld, ever the optimist, assumed that they would continue and therefore he and Elaine would remain an item. It was during the hiatus that he repeatedly heard audience feedback on the subject; a “resounding no”. Elaine and Jerry would have sex again, but under much less game-changing circumstances.

Rightly, the opening scene between the pair is regarded as one of the best pieces of scripting the series has seen. Discussion of a subject by omission would reach its most magnificent with the Season Four episode The Contest, where the wager revolves around the avoidance of self-gratification for as long as possible. Here Jerry and Elaine are channel surfing (Robert Vaughn in the fantastically titled The Helsinki Formula) when Jerry objects to watching naked people (Elaine: Been a while?) The trickle that begins the conversation (Elaine: What? What was that look?) soon becomes a torrent as the pair, having broached the subject (“We know the terrain. No big surprises”), interrogate the ins-and-outs of how they will make it work. They come up with a series of full-proof rules (no calls the day after, sleepover optional, no kiss goodnight), which quickly prove to be full of holes.

Jerry backpedals in the opposite direction from anything overt affection, such that he gives Elaine cash for her birthday (“What are you, my uncle?”) and writes an inappropriate greeting in her card (“Pal? You think I’m your pal?”).  Elaine in turn objects to Jerry up-and-leaving after intimacy. The resulting scene, where Elaine tells Jerry she can’t go back to just being friends, so forcing his hand, is distracting in its sincerity. It’s an anomaly for the show and, while it works, you can’t see this happening in anything other than a period when Seinfeld was finding its feet. Seinfeld and Louise-Dreyfus play both the comedy and heartfelt well (although the former has noted how out of his depth he felt, relieved that he wouldn’t have to go back there), but it can’t be denied that this is more the sort of breast-baring that you’d expect from, say, Friends.

Both George and Kramer are obviously less significant in this scenario, but they each get a great moment in the Sun. George’s vicarious interest in Jerry’s sex life is further indication of he hangs onto the coattails of his friend and covertly idolises him (as does his gift of money to Elaine, exactly half of Jerry’s present). This culminates in a furious outburst, demanding juicy details as he has nothing to live for.

Then there’s Kramer. For all his “pod” behaviour, he’s a lot quicker than his friend when it comes to crucial relationship details (“Cash? That’s like something her uncle would give her.”) Louise-Dreyfus singled out the Yeats quote (“Think where man's glory most begins and ends and say my glory was I had such a friend”) as summing up the show’s interactions but, like the ultimatum Elaine gives Jerry, this territory of earnestness is somewhat uncomfortable; in draw attention to such matters there’s the risk of negatively impacting the cynical exterior the series thrives on, and devolving towards the environment of that other show I just mentioned (I do like Friends, but they’re chalk and cheese on an emotional level). Fortunately, this would be a one-off.

Jerry doesn’t seem to suffer much of a setback from his root canal surgery, does he? I’m surprised they’d even throw dental problems at a character who prides himself on his personal hygiene and general finickitiness. This is the first appearance of Elaine’s flatmate Tina, who Kramer will have a memorable liaison with the following season. Siobhan Fallon does a great job of making her tremendously annoying, like nails on a blackboard.

Quotable

Jerry: Why shouldn’t we be able to do that once in a while if want to?
Elaine: I know!
Jerry: I mean, really. What is the big deal? We go in there. We’re in there for a while, then we come back out here. It’s not complicated.
Elaine: It’s almost stupid if we didn’t.
Jerry: It’s moronic!
Elaine: Absurd!

Jerry: The idea is to combine this, and add that.
Elaine: We just don’t want to take this and add that.

Jerry: And I don’t see why sleep got all tied up with that.

George: What’s the deal with Aquaman? Could he go on land, or is he just restricted to water?

Jerry: I slept with Elaine last night.
George: Oxygen! I need some oxygen! This is major!

George: You ask me here to have lunch, tell me you slept with Elaine, then you say you’re not in the mood for details? Now you listen to me. I want details and I want them now! I don’t have a job, I have no place to go. You’re not in the mood? Well you get in the mood!

Jerry: I may be getting too mature for details.

George: You see, you got greedy. I know less about women than anyone in the world, but one thing I do know is that they are not happy if you don’t spend the night.

Elaine: Cash? You got me cash?
Jerry: No good?
Elaine: What are you, my uncle?

Kramer: Cash? That’s like something her uncle would give her.

Jerry: What do you want?
Elaine: This, that and the other.

The Verdict:


Season Two Rankings:


1. The Chinese Restaurant

2. The Deal
3. The Statue
4. The Revenge
5. The Jacket
6. The Heart Attack
7. The Phone Message
8. The Baby Shower
9. The Busboy
10. The Pony Remark
11. The Ex-Girlfriend
12. The Apartment
13. The Stranded

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke (the answer is: Mad Max: Fury Road )? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

It’ll be like living in the top drawer of a glass box.

Someone’s Watching Me! (1978) (SPOILERS) The first of a pair of TV movies John Carpenter directed in the 1970s, but Someone’s Watching Me! is more affiliated, in genre terms, to his breakout hit ( Halloween ) and reasonably successful writing job ( The Eyes of Laura Mars ) of the same year than the also-small-screen Elvis . Carpenter wrote a slew of gun-for-hire scripts during this period – some of which went on to see the twilight of day during the 1990s – so directing Someone’s Watching Me! was not a given. It’s well-enough made and has its moments of suspense, but you sorely miss a signature Carpenter theme – it was by Harry Sukman, his penultimate work, the final being Salem’s Lot – and it really does feel very TV movie-ish.

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

Somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun.

The Sound of Music (1965) (SPOILERS) One of the most successful movies ever made – and the most successful musical – The Sound of Music has earned probably quite enough unfiltered adulation over the years to drown out the dissenting voices, those that denounce it as an inveterately saccharine, hollow confection warranting no truck. It’s certainly true that there are impossibly nice and wholesome elements here, from Julie Andrews’ career-dooming stereotype governess to the seven sonorous children more than willing to dress up in old curtains and join her gallivanting troupe. Whether the consequence is something insidious in its infectious spirit is debatable, but I’ll admit that it manages to ensnare me. I don’t think I’d seen the movie in its entirety since I was a kid, and maybe that formativeness is a key brainwashing facet of its appeal, but it retains its essential lustre just the same.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.